Georgia was recently ranked 50th in the nation when comparing all states' ethics laws. The study was performed by The Center for Public Integrity and took a look at such issues as political financing, public access to information, redistricting, and ethics enforcement. The person responsible for preparing Georgia's portion of this report was Jim Walls, a former AJC reporter now blogger for AtlantaUnfiltered.com.
The reaction of elected officials to the report was sadly predictable, as they chose to focus on the messenger instead of the message. The report led Rep. Mark Hamilton to take to the local Republican Party's Facebook group to state, "... the study was done by "journalists & academics", I am sure neither of those groups have any bias against honest Republicans - not! "
In Georgia, there is no limit on what a lobbyist can give to a legislator in an effort to shape and form policy. As a result, we see lunches, extravagant dinners and even vacation style trips purchased by lobbyists for the people we elect to represent us. And in certain cases, these gifts do not even need to be reported due to huge loopholes in the current law.
Our elected officials seem to be only attacking the messenger. No one seems to actually disagree with any of the findings in the report. They don't disagree because they can't. Our elected officials already know that the ethics laws in Georgia are deeply flawed and that the report is accurate. Their only hope is to question the source. But the real source for the information in the report are our laws, written by them. If our legislators wish to see Georgia improve on the list, they can, by taking action to correct what everyone sees as broken except for them.
But sadly, they refuse to do so, saying it should be left to voters to decide what is acceptable.Without a choice in candidates, it would be impossible for the voters to remove those from office that have no problem with accepting a hunting trip paid for by a lobbyists. Therefore the enforcement mechanism of what constitutes ethical behavior falls on us as voters. The record has been written and the choice is clear; move forward with a legislative agenda dominated by special interests or vote for someone that won't cater to the lobbyists and PACs.
I won't accept a penny from lobbyists in the form of gifts or campaign contributions, or any other form for that matter. It's just the right thing to do.