Speaker David Ralston was a guest on a $17,000 lobbyist-funded trip to Europe over Thanksgiving.
House Speaker David Ralston and his family spent part of Thanksgiving week in Europe on a $17,000 economic development mission paid for by lobbyists interested in building a high-speed train line between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
Commonwealth Research Associates, a D.C.-based consulting firm, paid for the trip, which also included Ralston’s chief of staff Spiro Amburn and his spouse, to Germany and the Netherlands the week of Nov. 21-27, according to records filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission.
The trip was the most expensive single expenditure reported by a lobbyist since at least 2005.
Ethics enthusiasts are furious.
No matter what Ralston learned on the trip, it is still an affront to taxpayers, members of the newly formed Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform said Friday.
“This is a prime example of the need for our ethics proposals,” said William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government watchdog group. “The public is tired of the perception of the luxury lifestyle of legislators.”
Common Cause this week joined with the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, consumer watchdog Georgia Watch and gubernatorial candidate turned watchdog Ray Boyd to form the alliance. Among their proposals released this week is a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists.
Debbie Dooley, a state organizer for the Tea Party Patriots, said Ralston’s trip was not a purely working trip. Dooley said the Tea Party would be scrutinizing trips and other gifts from lobbyists and if Ralston blocks ethics legislation this year, the group will throw a tea party in his North Georgia district.
“That would be the type of trip that, even though on the surface was for business, they’re never going to say it’s a pleasure trip,” Dooley said. “But with them taking family along it sounds like it’s more like a pleasure trip than a business trip.”
Pleasure. Business. Lobbyists. Turkeys. Where you do draw the line?