February 13, 2012

Amid Reports Of Lavish Parties Thrown By Lobbyists, Georgia Republican Sponsors Reform Bill

The Atlanta Constitution-Journal reported yesterday that many corporate lobbyists in Georgia have flouted the already weak ethics laws in the state. There is no limit on the amount lobbyists can spend on travel and events for lawmakers, and the rules only mandate disclosure. However, since the disclosure rules do not require receipts or any documentation, many lobbyists simply refuse to file reports of their gifts with the state.

The loose law has resulted in an orgy of corporate-sponsored parties and travel for Georgia lawmakers. ACJ notes that lobbyists for Coca-Cola, AT&T, Georgia EMC, and other firms sponsored a nonprofit that hosted a $16,393 “Wild Hog Supper” for members of the legislature. Similarly, the Georgia Charter Schools Association sponsored a recent movie reception for lawmakers amid a fierce lobbying drive to authorize charter schools. Neither the lobbyists behind the Wild Hog Supper or the charter schools bothered to disclose their gifts.

Last week, Joshua 
McKoon, a Republican state senator, introduced a package of reforms to curb the lobbying free for all. McKoon’s legislation would “cap lobbyist spending at $100 per event and require legislative approval before a lawmaker could accept a trip costing more than $750.”

“I think that the majority of Georgians would say there is a point at which they would become uncomfortable with a legislator receiving a certain dollar amount of value by one interest group,” he told the ACJ.