Speaker Ralston’s European Vacation

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?

73 comments

  1. fishtail says:

    I don’t understand what’s the big deal here…foreign travel is expensive. It wasn’t like he was just flying down to Disney World to check out their rapid (not) rail system. Plus, Europe is nice in November and why shouldn’t the Speaker have his entire family with him, as they haven’t missed a Thanksgiving together ever. So everyone should just get a life.

    • rebelyelp says:

      Seriously? There are excuses and bad excuses. If the speaker doesn’t want to miss Thanksgiving with the family, there are a lot of other dates he could travel.

      What’s worse, you really don’t need to leave home to discover what a bad deal high speed rail is. It’s heavily subsidized, and inferior to air, car, and bus. Ralston should just stay home and read something like this:

      http://ti.org/antiplanner/?cat=4

      • John Konop says:

        Do you understand if rail riders hit the roads we would see gas prices soar ie supply and demand? And you do realize without public transportation that many workers could not afford to get to work?

        • AlanR says:

          This isn’t marta. All the riders on the proposed Atlanta to Chattanooga high speed line could hit the road tomorrow and there would be no net effect. I would like to see the analysis that suggests that this high speed rail line makes any sense — to anyone other than the construction company and the Korean company that will build the trains.

          • B Balz says:

            For high speed rail to be effective, it must compete with air travel. City to city.

            Connecting major cities MIGHT make sense, if money were no object.

            ATL to CHAT, ot so much. It would be a novelty.

  2. GOPObserver says:

    I don’t find myself in agreement with fishtail much, but today he (or she?) is dead on. Get a life people. David Ralston is a fine man and a great Speaker respected by both parties.

    • Comfortably Southside says:

      I have to agree with Fish and GOP on this. What spot in the US has the type of facility to examine this operation? Would the Tea Party prefer that the taxpayers of Georgia fund this? Do they believe that we just don’t need this? It is expensive sometimes to gain the knowledge it takes to make positive changes in the future for our state. I am sure the Speaker is aware of the dire need for Georgia to have an adequate mass transit system that stretches beyond the “Inside the Perimeter” limits. High speed rail is the future, I applaud him for taking the time to know something about it instead of just saying “Yeah we probably need to look at it”. Freight railroads do not want passenger rail on their lines. They are having enough problems trying to move the trains they do have. High speed passenger rail requires it’s own rail, own right-a-way and cannot have vehicle crossings intersecting the line. Cars must go above and below the rail. With this being said it is going to cost a lot of money to construct and trips like this are a neccesary evil to get closer to it becoming reality. The real dilema is should the line go Atlanta to Chattanooga, Atlanta to Greenville or Atlanta to Macon?

      Way to go Mr. Speaker…

  3. bowersville says:

    The $100 cap on lobby money seems arbitrary. I don’t know what the $100 limit is designed to prevent. Had a lobbyist loaded up the speaker and flown to Vegas or the Mississippi River for a gambling junket I could understand the hoopla.

    This appears to be a business trip, wife included, with no hanky- panky with a hot blond. Where in the United States could a Georgia official travel to familiarize oneself with high speed rail and how it’s integrated with highways and commercial development? Why should the taxpayers be stuck with the price of a business trip?

    I like what the Speaker reported he saw and experienced. Perhaps it could work here. I’m disappointed the lobbyist wasn’t from Greenville, SC or Charlotte, NC and lobbying for high speed rail up the northeastern corridor of GA. We could use the growth around the rail the speaker describes.

  4. DoubleDawg3 says:

    …And down will go Debbie Dooley and the Tea Party if she starts pulling stunts like that. See, pretty much every person I know that’s involved with the Tea Party is a Conservative / Republican, who felt at home with the Tea Party because it was focusing its energy on battling national Democrats. When they start attacking Republicans,ugh… I think their core membership is going to start having issues with the “gospel.”

      • Dagny says:

        The Tea Party wasn’t against the democrats; it’s against bad ethics and bad spending. When the GOP is in the game, the TP will call them out too.
        OUR Reps should listen to US not the lobbyist with the most money and best trips.

  5. Progressive Dem says:

    They must have staying in youth hostels.

    “Ralston’s spokesman Marshall Guest said the $17,000 cost, which included $14,709 for airfare and train tickets, and $2,570 for lodging, covered the six people on the trip.” AJC

    Do the math. 6 people, 6 nights for $2,570 on lodging? And where is the money for meals?

    • macho says:

      If it’s an important issue for you, why don’t you just vote against anyone who has more than $100 spent on them?

  6. macho says:

    Whether it’s a rail line, a school or a hospital, I guess when the time comes to check-out another state or country, that is doing it differently than Georgia, nobody will go; since State travel budgets have been slashed.

    I have enough faith in Speaker Ralston to know that he’s going to listen to a lot of different groups on this thing. It’s one group’s perspective; he’s smart enough to know that.

  7. Mama_grizzly says:

    How many commenting on this thread work for the speaker(Marshall) or work for House members?

    This is the culture of corruption Bob Irvin referred to. Listen to you guys defend Ralston. Would you be defending a Democrat in the Barnes administration if they did that?

    The GOP controls state government just like the GOP controlled both house of Congress and the Whtehouse under W. Corruption set in and this type of thinking set in that I see from people like you and Ralston. If the GOP continues on this same path, it won’t be long before they, too, are thrown out of power. You guys disgust me with your comments. You are a bunch of lackeys for the GOP.

    Double Dawg, the tea party has been saying it is non partisian and no one believed them. Bet they do now. Your statements indicate the tea party should just go after Democrats and not Republicans when they do wrong. Speaker Ralston is wrong. The trip was wrong.

    I applaud Ms. Dooley for standing up for the citizens. I am sick of bullsh!t like this and the fact people like you believe we should ignore wrong doing if they are a Republican. I am outraged by the attitude of Ralston and I can assure you that the average citizen is too. I will be at the tea party in Ralston’s district on the front row. You guys are the ones out of touch.

    Ralston’s comments were also arrogant. I don’t believe that Thanksgiving was the only time he could have gone. He saw a chance to take his family on a lobbyist funded vacation and jumped at it. They did conduct a small amount of business in order to justify it. People are outrage over this.

    He has received over $ 22,000 in gifts from lobbyists since 11-02, yet that does not seem to bother you guys.

    • DoubleDawg3 says:

      For starters, I hope that your screen name isn’t an indication that you have a great deal of respect for Sarah Palin – in case you haven’t caught on yet, she’s probably the most self-serving politician going in the entire US right now. Look at how much her wealth has increased – fueled by “special interests” that pay her to be a sponsor and pay her to come speak, because she can draw a crowd.

      As for the Tea Party – I get/understand that the Tea Party’s “platform” is non-partisan – but if you’ve ever taken a realistic look at the membership of most tea party organizations, especially those in the smaller counties, 90% of the membership are staunch Republicans and they latched onto the Tea Party b/c it was the vogue outlet for Conservative individuals to battle the Dems. When you start attacking Republicans for something like a trip to Germany, which did have an actual purpose, on which no state/public funds were spent – you’re going to see any “capital” that the Tea Party has accumulate spent really quickly.

        • DoubleDawg3 says:

          Oh…can’t wait to read the comments in response to this, but here goes…

          Honestly, I think Sarah Palin’s got some true positives, but you’re blissfully ignorant if you aren’t willing to acknowledge the fact that she’s using both the Tea Party and the same organizations/corporations that the Tea Party rails against as “insiders” and “influencers” to make herself rich. There’s not a lot of difference between what she does and what a lobbyist does – they’re both influence peddlers (Palin uses her name/brand to sell her candidates in elections – who in turn support her and help her keep her name in the limelight). I don’t dislike her for that, I just see her for what she is (which is currently making hay while the sun shines).

          As for the Tea Party – someone else, Gerald I believe, on here summed it up well…the Tea Party is not practical. Good intentions, yes, …good game plan, no. The organization doesn’t have a sustainable goal…you can’t keep people “interested” in being a watchdog 24/7 for 10-20 years…won’t happen. Not trying to rain on the parade, it’s just impossible to keep people motivated that long. Once Obama loses, I think the Tea Party participation is in serious trouble.

          I also find it funny that the “leaders” of these different Tea Party organizations now find themselves with power/fame, and want to interject their “my way or the highway” opinion into the political picture….they basically are angered at the power of the establishment Dem/GOP leaders, so they are trying to raise themselves to that level. Honestly, I think there are more egocentric personalities involved in the movement than the followers would like to admit. Some will just view it as good leadership…I have a more cynical view, I suppose.

  8. Zinc says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Funny how conservatives applaud a lobbyist picking up a $17,000 tab for Mr. Speaker. Think about that…$17,000.

    And they had to go to Europe to get a better understanding of the rail system? Give me a break. That is a lot of money to attend a few sales pitches from European companies.

    With the budget woes, education failing, etc, how is a high speed rail such a high priority right now?

    Culture of corruption. That is what it is. And it amazes me that people are defending the guy. How about you don’t drink the kool-aid during the short periods of time that you head isn’t in the sand.

    • AlanR says:

      The important thing is disclosure. Ralston has done nothing wrong ethically. If his constituents don’t like it, the next primary is not far off, and everyone is invited to contribute to his opponent.

      The tea party has demonstrated very convincingly that this can be done.

      The improvement I would suggest is that the reporting be within days and posted at the ethics website.

      • rebelyelp says:

        Do you actually mean to say that Ralston has not violated House rules and GA ethics laws? Or that you don’t believe what he did is unethical? In the first instance I agree with you, in the second not so much.

  9. BillMiller says:

    I read today’s AJC article and just don’t understand the worry. We need our representatives to be able to go out and see other projects, both failures and successful, in order to bring success to us.

    If the state had paid for the trip then everyone would scream and since a company paid they scream. How do we expect our leaders to go out and get the best of the best and bring it home?!? I’d rather a company foot the bill and we get the benefit.

    All these ethics watchdogs just don’t seem to get it and to me appears to be based on pettiness and jealousy. They seem to think that elected representatives should not get paid nor derive ANY benefit from the sacrifices they make. I am not implying pay-offs and such are acceptable so forget about going there.

    Let’s see if we can’t make it so difficult and punitive to serve so we reduce the pool of folks that want to serve. Pretty soon nobody of any worth or caliber will want to run for office.

    So keep it up – and don’t complain when you only have a bunch of worthless, unemployable idiots running the show.

    • rebelyelp says:

      1. David Ralston does get paid:

      “When Rep. David Ralston takes over as expected next month as Georgia’s next House Speaker, he’ll get about a $100,000 salary, a prime suite with staff, a security detail with a car, and a Capitol full of supplicants hoping to win his favor.”

      http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/new-house-speaker-seen-249846.html

      2. High speed rail is a government boondogle and we should be mad that Ralston is even sniffing around the idea.

      http://ti.org/antiplanner/?cat=4

      • bowersville says:

        The antiplaner website you link to offers statements as fact without any data to back the statements. I for one would like to see the data backing up the statements that high speed rail isn’t cost effective in Communist China. Care to provide it?

        I had rather Ralston begin by examining the feasibility of what works and what doesn’t work than take the word of some unknown blogger stating in a three paragraph statement that high speed rail in France and China doesn’t work out economically.

        It’s called common sense.

        • bowersville says:

          One other thought. Ralston traveled to Germany and the Netherlands. Not Communist China nor France. Give us the numbers and data from Germany and the Netherlands and quit comparing apples to oranges.

            • John Konop says:

              What about Dallas?

              How light rail pays its way in Dallas – Dallas, Texas plans expansion of its light rail transit system

              Thinking outside the farebox, this southwestern metropolis is reaping big rewards from a fast-growing LRT system.

              The $1 fares that 37,500 riders a day pay to board light rail trains in Dallas, Tex., cover only about 17% of the cost of their rides. Rail transit’s think-tank critics call it highway robbery. Dallas calls it something else.

              The fact is that the light rail service introduced in this sprawling southwestern metropolis five years ago is widely viewed as a solid success, not only by the people who ride it but by a business community that has benefited hugely from its stimulus…….

              http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1215/is_2_202/ai_71634659/

              • rebelyelp says:

                @johnkonop: That article is from 2001. Dallas opened a new light rail line in 2002. Want to know how that is working out?

                “In 2002, Dallas opened a new light-rail line, doubling the number of miles in the city’s light-rail system. The new line attracted some rail riders, but the region lost more bus riders than it gained rail riders.”

                http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9958

                So basically tax payers have subsidised expensive rail lines that result in fewer people using public transit and that hurt the people who depend on public transit the most.

                And just in case you are wondering, those rail lines aren’t “high speed”. In Dallas, they average less than 24 mph.

              • rebelyelp says:

                @johnkonop: I left this part out:

                “Dallas invested $550 million in light rail and the cost per year per passenger is $12,250 – enough to buy every passenger a car of their own and eliminate light rail, O’Toole said. In Austin, Texas, the bus system was operating in the black and had $200 million in the bank when it started a commuter train system.”

                “Then they went broke, using up the entire reserve,” O’Toole said. “The director resigned in disgrace.”

                  • Three Jack says:

                    thanks for clearing up the dallas debacle rebelyelp. and still there will be those who think ‘all ideas need to be on the table’, even those ideas proven time and again to be a useless waste of taxpayer money.

        • rebelyelp says:

          FYI, the “Antiplanner” is not some “unknown” blogger. He’s Randall O’Toole, a fellow at the Cato Institute

          Watch his 45 minute presentation on the subject at hand here: http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=4236

          And yeah, he talks about the highly subsidized French rail system in the presenation. Going on memory I believe the avg. frenchie drives about 20x more miles than they ride on high speed rail, there whole high speed system cost more than our interstate highway to build, and it’s operating costs are highly subsidised from taxes, while our highway system is paid for with user fees.

          There are several hundred reports with all the data you want throughout the website if you are interesting in learning something about the subject.

          There are a few hundred “reports” linked throughout the website.
          Read the report here:

      • DoubleDawg3 says:

        So, Ralston gets paid $100K a year to be a “Corporate Exec” of the State of GA — do you think that’s a lot? My guess is that he could quit right now and easily earn far more than that as an attorney, devoting all the hours spent in session and post-session meetings and speaking engagements to billable hours.

        As for the high speed rail – have you ever traveled through Europe? The high speed rail is fantastic – not simply for the fact that it greatly eases business travel (and provides realistic competition to airlines – which continue raising fees & ticket prices in the good ole USA, if you haven’t noticed), but it also serves rural areas that aren’t feasible for an airport but do have the benefit of having a rail line running through the area, so it makes travel much easier.

        • rebelyelp says:

          What I’ve noticed DD3 is that high speed rail is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation. This is because projects always cost far more than planned and far fewer people end up riding the trains than projected. And they don’t go where people actually live and work.

          High speed rail is a failed socialist idea, and I’m horrified to find Republicans like David Ralston and Jeff Mullis in bed with the Obama administration on this subject.

  10. John Konop says:

    The issue:

    One of the darkest clouds we face is fuel prices going up.

    1) Most of the money goes out of our country adding to trade deficit a job killer and the money fuels many rouge countries.
    2) Real wages are falling and inflation would be tough pill for people to swallow in this economy.
    3) Public transportation project like would not create direct and indirect jobs and it would also help offset the issues above.

    Speaker David Ralston looking into rail seems like the adult thing to do.

    • John Konop says:

      Most experts estimate gas will up to 3.75 a gallon by spring and some think we could see 5 buck gas soon. We need to look at many short term plans as well.

      1) 4 day school week and or fuel charge for students
      2) Major incentives for fuel efficient products
      3) More public transportation routs if gas prices get high enough that workers cannot afford to got to work
      4) Increase local farmer markets decreasing transportation cost of foods. A city could use public property for the vendors.

      I am sure there are many more ideas. This will be a real problem and doing nothing is not rational.

  11. Atticus Grinch says:

    In the words of Pete Townshend and The Who:

    “Meet the new boss … same as the old boss”

    from the aptly titled “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

  12. Gerald says:

    I don’t like this, but I don’t hate it either. Yes, were it Kasim Reed taking this trip, the typical crowd would be cutting him apart, the way that they did when Reed took a trip to England. Yes, this same crowd is filled with double standards, such as hammering Obama for allegedly pandering to India, China and Saudi Arabia when George W. Bush spent 8 years jet-setting and doing the same thing. (Where was Rush Limbaugh when Bush secured final entry for China into the WTO?)

    But apart from the partisan hypocrisy, trips like these happen ALL THE TIME, and usually at taxpayer expense. If the elected officeholder himself doesn’t go, he sends an appointee instead. The truth is that state and city governments send people on foreign junkets to try to drum up economic opportunities and get new ideas all the time. This is news because David Ralston went, and not some “officer of economic development” in the Deal administration, or some member of GRTA or ARC who take these sorts of trips routinely, and again it is normally at taxpayer expense. Sure, maybe these guys don’t sponsor legislation or veto bills, but they certainly influence legislation (state departments interact with the legislators all the time) and even more directly influence regulations. So, making a big deal out of this reflects a certain naivete when it comes to how politics and government actually works. You see, Ralston made this trip and his expenses a public record … everybody knows about it, and if they don’t like it, they can hammer him for it, and he will suffer the political consequences. By contrast, the MANY such trips taken by appointees and unelected bureaucrats – and again usually on the taxpayer dime – no one ever knows or hears about it.

    As for the Tea Party folks going after this … on one level I applaud their consistency, but on another level, this shows that the Tea Party is a populist movement that has little interests in the actual details of government. They are all for denouncing corruption, runaway spending and the ballooning size of government, but they have few concrete ideas, or any actual realistic political strategies on how to implement them. Evidence of this is their emphasis on earmarks (which conveniently allows them to ignore the very difficult policy questions and political fights over MediCare and Social Security) and their champions are Sarah Palin (who talks a good reform/small government game, but her actual record as governor of Alaska was totally different) and Ron Paul (who has no interest in actually working to see that his idea ever actually become law … for all the fascination with Paul, the truth is that Dick Armey, Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms were far more effective legislators, politicians and leaders).

    I also resent the fact that a lot of the opposition to this is mainly just opposition to public transportation. If BP, Texaco or Halliburton lobbyists had sponsored a $35,000 trip to visit some oil field somewhere, and if it had been proven that Ralston never actually did any work or taken his family, but instead had spent the whole time partying with women that aren’t his wife, folks like rebelyelp would be congratulating Ralston for standing with the private sector instead of casting his lot with those European socialist trains.

    Look, ethics issues are ethics issues and policy issues are policy issues. People who use ethics issues to go after folks that they disagree with for political or ideological reasons are part of the problem, not the solution. And that gets even worse when folks who used ethics or character issues to go after the other side have blatant double standards when it comes to worse ethical or character issues from their own candidates. We see that right now in Georgia where a long line of skunks, philanderers, crooks and incompetents get elected time and time again because they have an R) behind their name, and the people who support and apologize for them hypocritically talk about the ethics issues of the other side.

    Again, I don’t LIKE the fact that Ralston took this trip. I really don’t, and I really wish that he hadn’t. But better Ralston taking this trip and fully disclosing it than some unknown unelected state bureaucrat doing it, and influencing a state agency’s regulatory or budget requests to the state legislature based on it, and our never finding out about why this state agency asked for a regulatory change or a bill designed to benefit a certain company or industry. Trust me, the latter is A MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM than the former.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      “You see, Ralston made this trip and his expenses a public record…..”

      “But better Ralston taking this trip and fully disclosing it…”

      I don’t think Ralston even reported the existence of the trip, let alone trip expenses or findings. The expense report was submitted by a lobbyist. The findings were Ralson responding to the media calling him out on a junket.

      No real difference here from your anonymous bureaucrat taking similar trips. Records can be examined and results publicized.

  13. debbie0040 says:

    Ralson did not report the trip. The lobbyist did as required by law. Legislators figure that most voters will not search through all of the lobbyists disclosure forms to find out if the legislator received gifts from lobbyists. That is why they keeps stressing that there is not need to ban gifts but to just have lobbyists disclose them. Kind of like sleight of hand trick that magicians use.They are wrong in this day. Especially when Ralston is trying to block tough ethics reform in the House. We are going to be looking and reporting gifts, contracts, etc like this on a web site . Especially looking at legislators opposing tough ethics reform.

    Clear to see why Ralston opposes tougher reform. We are not trying to block trips for legitimate business. Just trips supposedly for business that is actually a paid vacation like this one was. You that think it is acceptible are clearly out of touch with the common voter. You would all be screaming if a a Dem pulled this stunt.

    I have received hundreds of emails this morning from people thanking us for standing up for them. The emails came from urban areas, rural areas and many from Ralston’s district. Did not realize so many people in his district were upset with him because of other decisions he made. Most emails came from lifelong Republicans that are sick of the way the GOP behaves when it has unlimited power.

    The GOP legislators think they are safe because there is strong sentiment against President Obama and his leftist agenda. The Presidential election is in 2012 and President Obama will be gone after he is defeated. The focus will then turn back to the GOP and what they are doing. If you think the GOP has a solid foothold on Georgia for years to come because they control state government, then you have a very short memory. At one time, the GOP controlled the Presidency, Senate and House. They were booted out of power, due in part to their unethical behavior. The Dems in Georgia are just sitting and waiting for that to happen in Georgia. They are waiting for more and more unethical behavior to be exposed like the trip Ralston took. In the Dems eyes, it is just a matter of time and some GOP legislators are playing right into their hands…

    On the other hand, we have received very positive response from the Senate and the Senate leadership on our ethics bill…

    We are not going to stop what we are doing. We need tougher ethics reform in Georgia. Do you realize that when Mississippi Haley Barbour formed his PAC, he formed it in Georgia? We need ethics reform desparately. Activists are tired of excuses…

    I want to make one thing perfectedly clear to Double Dawg3 and anyone else that thinks the tea party should ignore the bad behavior of Republicans and just point out Dem bad behavior. The purpose of the tea party is not to look out for and blindly support GOP elected officials. The purpose is to look out for the American people and tax payers. If you don’t like it, then stay away from tea parties, you will not be missed.

  14. debbie0040 says:

    Sky’s the limit for Ga. PACs

    http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/skys-the-limit-for-675135.html
    Mississippi Gov. and potential presidential candidate Haley Barbour this summer more than doubled his Jackson-based political committee’s bank account. Haley’s Leadership PAC, which collected $148,000 in the previous nine months, pulled in $231,000 after July 1.
    Barbour reported the donations not in Jackson, but in Atlanta, where state law allows unlimited corporate contributions to PACs, the common term for political action committees.

    Mississippi law caps corporate donations to PACs at $1,000. The sky’s the limit in Georgia, where Barbour’s committee is registered. Barbour’s PAC pocketed seven checks of $20,000 or $25,000 from businesses in his state just in July and August.

    There, in a nutshell, is why political action committees love Georgia.

    • DoubleDawg3 says:

      Correction, I didn’t say that the Tea Party, if it holds to its true principles, shouldn’t “oppose” Republicans…no, I simply said you need to look at the vast majority of your membership, especially in areas like North GA, and realize that the vast, vast majority of your members are in fact Republicans, have been long time Republicans, and when you start bashing Republicans, you’re going to start having some of the people fading away.

      My problem with the Tea Party is this — if you’ve got an issue with David Ralston, or Harry Reid, or whoever, step up and challenge him/her in a primary – that’s the recourse available. When you do that, the points that “sonofliberty” made become evident – you’ve got to have actual IDEAS to govern, not just some position as a knight on a white horse riding in to save the masses from corruption. When a legislator uses private resources that are available to him to learn more about an issue that could benefit Georgia, it should be encouraged – not discouraged – because it means we’re not using State of GA Economic Development money or other state funds to gather that info. NOW – WHEN THE SAME LEGISLATOR STARTS GETTING BILLS PASSED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF PEOPLE THAT PAID FOR TRIPS OR PAID HIM/HER A SALARY, then… you have an issue. When that happens, let me know. …And if the Tea Party is so concerned about this, it ought to be more careful who it associates itself with — there have been some questionable “retired” State politicos that had ties to introducing legislation that would have direct financial benefits for them speak at Tea Party meetings / events (one or two weeks ago from one meeting notice I saw, ring a bell?), but that’s okay I guess (they like you, so you like them — just like the good ole boy politics).

      I would put this question out to the Tea Party leaders, since we in GA are fortunate to be the birth place of the movement. Disclose what salaries are paid from the organization, what travel or costs have been paid for by the organization for your (the leaders) benefit? I mean, Mother Jones (which I really hate to give them credit for ANYTHING) did a nice little article on the private jet that some Tea Party leaders were flying around in — but that’s different right, it’s not “your” money being spent on their benefit (just like Ralston’s was private money too)?

      From Mark Davis’ AJC article on May 9, 2010, one Tea Party “leader” gets $6,000 per month salary (and where does that money come from?), and has the organization cover certain costs of travel (See private corporate jet, afore mentioned). I’m sure Mr. Meckler isn’t doing it for free anymore – can’t find any full disclosures, but did see a reference to $7500 one time payment for “petition circulation management”.

      It’s not my intent to attack any individual – they put in time, they should get money – but practice what you preach. Give us the full disclosure on where the Tea Party gets its money, how it spends it, etc, if you’re going to venture down this path of criticizing LEGAL activities.

    • DoubleDawg3 says:

      I’ve also got to clarify here. I, for one, am glad that Haley Barbour has set up shop here – if he should win the Presidency, maybe that means he’ll have a greater appreciation for Georgia.

      It’s fine if you don’t like the unlimited corporate donation to PACs…but don’t try to single out GA as being a “rare” exception. The last source I saw by the NCSL, which might be a little dated, had Georgia and all of these states in the same “unlimited” boat: Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa (Union Contributions to PACs unlimited, but not corporate – good state for a Dem Presidential PAC) Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington (with 21 day to election exception).

      So, out of all those states where Haley Barbour could have done the same thing, I’m actually kind of glad he picked Georgia.

  15. sonofliberty says:

    …maybe when Debbie takes a break from her love- in with liberal special interest groups, she will share her ideas for job creation and economic development with us…Otherwise, I suppose we can assume she is all about nothing but negative.
    …maybe we should all submit our travel plans to her so she can judge whether they are legitimate or not. .. Berlin in November…is luxury…? Maybe if you live in her trailer park…it is.
    …I know how long David Ralston has been a Republican. I don’t know the same about Ms. Doolittle……..

    • rebelyelp says:

      @son The liberal special interest group here is the rail lobby, and it’s people like Ralston and Jeff Mullis playing footsie with them, not the Tea Party. Their idea of economic development calls for reduced spending and lower taxes. Yours apparently calls for government subsidies to inefficient forms of transportation.

  16. debbie0040 says:

    DoubleDawg3, I do not receive one dime in compensation for any work I do on behalf of the tea party. Not one dime. I am strictly volunteer and always have been. I work a full time job in IT and would not give that up. I am a computer geek and love working with technology.

    We have also lobbied for legislation like the JOBS Act and Zero Based Budgeting.

    The company that took Speaker Ralston and his family on an Europeon vacation is looking for money from the legislature for an environmental impact study. That states of Georgia and Tennessee have received a 14 million dollar federal grant for the study but have to have local matching funds. According to DoubleDawg3, this trip was ok unless Ralston introduced legislation to fund this study. Do you realize how flawed that is? If someone pulls a gun of you, would you wait until they pulled the trigger to take action?

    Activists have met with Ralston and asked him to ban in kind gifts to legislators. Ralston’s response was that the legislators are under paid and are entitled to the perks. That is not something a public servant would say.

    sonsofliberty, which Ralston crony are you? Previously in other threads you have consistently advocated for the removal of Glenn Richardson and advocated for David Ralston to be Speaker.

    I have been active with the Republican Party off an on since 1976. I have participated in over 50 campaigns and grassroots initatives. I have attended every GA GOP convention since 2003. The GOP has always had a tea party element but we were just not called tea party. I got tired of the way the GOP lost their way after Reagan and began to complain very loudly and stopped donating. Like many tea party activists, I felt like the GOP had left Reagan principles and then the Bush administration escalated the move away from Reagan principles when the GOP controlled D.C.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Keep up the good work debbie. Don’t let anyone think that we can just go on ‘autopilot’ now that the Republicans are in the majority.

      Last time the republican party went on ‘autopilot’ with no one around to criticize (STOP) them, we ended up with multi-front, costly nation building adventures, corporate bailouts, and loss of habeas corpus and other essential liberties.

  17. Nugget says:

    This episode is nowhere near as bad as Richardson and his lobbyist girlfriend….or all the other affairs. Or, nowhere near as bad as Mark Burkhalter and his affairs that kept him from becoming Speaker. Or, Ben Harbin and his countless lobbyist girlfriends/affair plus a drunk driving arrest. Each of these individuals did all of this PLUS taking trips, tickets, dinners….. While the trip with family is questionable at least the taking was not on top of adultery with lobbyists.

  18. Mama_grizzly says:

    Oh joy! The taxpayer can take great comfort in the fact the Speaker may be on the take but he is not committing adultry.

    You just don’t know how that knowledge will make me sleep better at night…

    • Nugget says:

      Ralston on the take???? That seems to be reaching. Yes, it probably is not wise to load the family up on a state business trip plus have the Chief of Staff go, too. But, I doubt Ralston is for sale.

      On the other hand, Richardson, Burkhalter and Harbin……thet lied to the wives and family by having affair after affair. You think they would hesitate to lie to us – whatever the issue may be – if there is personal fun or gain to be had???

  19. Mama_grizzly says:

    Are you saying the tax payer should take comfort in the fact Speaker Ralston is screwing us instead of a woman that is not his wife? You just don’t know how comforting that is..

  20. shep1975 says:

    Let me add my $.02 worth.

    Being married to a German whose parents, grandparents, sister, aunts, uncles, etc all still live in Germany means I have been over there numerous times. Late November is not exactly “tourist season” over in northern Europe. The weather is cold, typically overcast, and starts getting dark around 3:30PM. It is too soon for the Christmas Markets to be open and Thanksgiving isn’t exactly a big holiday in Germany and the Netherlands.

    A lobbyist can sit there and tell you how well a high speed rail system would work, or take you somewhere where high speed rail is used day-in-and-day-out.

    To assume it was not purely business because the Speaker and Spiro took their wives is ridiculous. Is the rule that a trip is allowed if the government official goes alone and is sequestered except for the actual business and all other times confided to the cheapest youth hostel the lobbyist can find so no non-business sightseeing happens?

    As for banning gifts, I doubt this would qualify as a “gift” in that the purpose was study the use of rail in Europe.

    I have no problem with banning true gifts like tickets and meals, but, most of our elected official are not expects on high speed rail, mag lev, or a host of other issues. Trips like these do help members gain knowledge of how to tackle issues the state faces. They also provide the opportunity to build relationships that can result in foreign investment in Georgia.

  21. bowersville says:

    These quotes were in the Macon Telegraph from spokes persons from the Tea Party. The capitalized emphasis is mine.

    “…with them taking family along it SOUNDS LIKE it’s more like a pleasure trip than business.”

    “The public is tired of the PERCEPTION of the luxury life style of lawmakers.”

    SOUNDS LIKE and PERCEPTION is all that’s needed for proof of being on the take and screwing taxpayers?

    THIS ATTITUDE = LYNCH MOB MENTALITY.

    • rebelyelp says:

      The 17,000 dollars are fact based reality, not perception. The family going along on Thanksgiving vacation is fact based reality, not perception. That high speed rail is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation that is built only when corporate cronies lobby for heavy subsidies is a fact.

      What looks like a “lynch mob mentality” to me are the folks like you who respond to facts by ignoring them and calling names.

  22. Mama_grizzly says:

    Ralston, “We are not going to ban gifts because we are under paid and are entitled to the perks.” =on the take

    If a Democrat had said that , you hypocrites defending Ralston would be condemning it.

    Company looking for 7 million dollars in state matching funds takes Ralston and his family on a vacation at Thansgiving. Ralston feebily explains that Thanksgiving was the only time he could go.=On the take.

    Ralston opposing ethics reform that would limit these types of trips=on the take.

    I hear Ralston may have opposition in the GOP primary in 2012. I will be the first to contribute.

    Ms. Dooley made it clear that they were going to scrutinize Ralston very closely . Pretty sure this is the tip of the iceberg.

  23. Mama_grizzly says:

    He took his family with him at Thanksgiving. $ 17,000 Mr. Shepherd, if that is your attitude, I am glad you lost your election to the state house. We don’t need more with your cavalier attitude toward gifts in the legislature.

    Common Cause and Ms. Dooley mad it very clear that their ethics legislation would have banned this.

    The corruption under the Gold Dome is well known to the average citizen.

    It is just a matter of time before the GOP loses power because of their unethical behavior..

    You people defending Ralston are hypocrites. If a Democrat was Speaker of the House would you still be defending the trip? I think I will go research the AJC archives for what GOP legislators were saying when the Dems were in charge and point out the hypocrisy..

  24. debbie0040 says:

    Rep. Wilkinson stated, “A national organization says Georgia has one of America’s toughest ethics laws.”
    Joe Wilkinson on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 in a newspaper article

    Not true.
    http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2011/jan/25/joe-wilkinson/ethics-claim-leaves-out-key-detail/

    “True, perhaps. The center’s 2009 report supports that viewpoint. But financial disclosures are only one area of ethics guidelines. Carpinelli said the center plans to conduct a state-by-state review of ethics laws, starting this spring. The research will take about a year, Carpinelli estimates.

    We followed up with Wilkinson about what the center told us. He said financial disclosure is a “major part” of a state’s ethics package.

    “That’s the heart and soul of ethics,” Wilkinson said.

    Wilkinson would get high marks on the Truth-O-Meter if he had said Georgia has some of the toughest rules on financial disclosures in the nation. That’s correct, but it’s not what he said.

    Wilkinson’s comments about the Center for Public Integrity’s report may give some people the wrong impression about what the organization was studying. They reviewed financial disclosures, not the entire scope of ethics guidelines. We rate his statement as False.”

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