All Aboard the “Ethics Express”

No, really – Get 0n. The Bus.

State Senator (and fellow YR) Josh McKoon will lead a bi-partisan group of advocates on a statewide bus tour to 13 cities in four days.  According to the press release, Senator McKoon was the first of 130 legislative candidates to pledge to put a stop to unlimited lobbyist spending on gifts to legislators.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to join with leaders from across our state to highlight the opportunity voters have to send a message to the General Assembly that the time of unlimited gift giving is at an end,” said McKoon. “This new phase of the campaign to bring about ethics reform will allow ordinary Georgians from Dalton to Valdosta and from Columbus to Savannah to have their say on this critically important issue.”

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens.  Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

I’m torn on whether or not I think the $100 Gift Cap is a good idea, but I think the bus tour is pretty cool.  Candidate bus tours are common, but I can’t think of one for legislation or initiatives like this one – especially in Georgia.  Wonder if the order of cities is to make a point?  Gainesville, then Blue Ridge.

The pledge link gives the ability download files showing the status of those who have and have not signed.

p.s. Comically, I would’ve appreciated the irony of ProTSPLOSTers planning a bus tour and clocking the time it takes to get from stop to stop.  Hey, traffic here stinks – I don’t deny that.  My beef is with the jacked up project list.  But please remember this is an Ethics Thread in the comment section.

UPDATE: Speaker Ralston also discussed ethics yesterday.  I’d like to hear more about his plan of “giving the ethics commission or the transparency and openness commission the resources to do their job” instead of thinking in the back of my head it’s a case of Hit Dog Hollers.

Full press release below:

McKoon to Lead “Ethics Express”

Statewide bus tour will hit 13 cities in 4 days to encourage primary voters to vote “Yes” on gift cap ballot questions

Atlanta, GA – July 11, 2012 – State Senator Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the first of 130 legislative candidates to pledge to put a stop to unlimited lobbyist spending on gifts to legislators, will lead a bi-partisan group of advocates on a statewide bus tour the week before the primary elections.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to join with leaders from across our state to highlight the opportunity voters have to send a message to the General Assembly that the time of unlimited gift giving is at an end,” said McKoon. “This new phase of the campaign to bring about ethics reform will allow ordinary Georgians from Dalton to Valdosta and from Columbus to Savannah to have their say on this critically important issue.”

Senator McKoon and members of the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance will hold a press conference announcing the bus tour tomorrow.

What:    Press Conference Announcing Ethics Express Bus Tour

When:   Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Where:  In front of the Floyd Veterans Memorial Building (Twin Towers)

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens.  Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

The Ethics Express bus tour is open to all Georgia citizens and those in joining the tour should contact William Perry at 404-524-4598 or [email protected]. Further details will be released at the press conference.

Voters in both the Georgia Republican and Democratic Primary Elections on July 31 will have the opportunity to cast a vote on each party’s ballot to end unlimited lobbyist spending on gifts to legislators.  Georgia is one of only three states that has no limit on gifts from lobbyists to legislators.  The questions will appear as the second question on each ballot, just after the partisan offices and before the nonpartisan offices. Sample ballots are available on most county election office websites.

31 comments

  1. saltycracker says:

    While they are running around the state in a bus to encourage voters to tell them to limit or end gifts why not throw in a few others as they obviously need a conscience test:

    Should a legislator serve with past due taxes or tax liens ?

    Should a legislator hold a committe post while in litigation or unsettled judgements where there are overseeing duties or litigation or unsettled judgements involving any public agency ?

  2. saltycracker says:

    Betcha a few on the bus can’t identify the problem in this statement:

    “Backers of Rep. Greg Morris and Sen. Jack Murphy, and the legislators themselves, say their links to failed banks should not disqualify them from chairing the House and Senate banking committees, respectively, which weigh legislation involving Georgia banks and other financial companies. ”

    http://www.ajc.com/business/failures-familiar-for-banking-1476780.html

  3. Bob Loblaw says:

    Paid for by? Has a campaign been registered with the Commission to advocate for the passage of this ballot question? Cant’ seem to find one. If there are expenditures being made in advocacy of this political campaign, I hope they’ve gotten themselves registered with the Commission. Or, maybe this will be another “Slick Willie” Perry move like when he failed to register as a lobbyist and then said that he didn’t spend 10% of his time at work lobbying.

    This is no time for doubletalk!

    • Calypso says:

      Is not what they are promoting merely a straw poll asked in both R and D primary, as opposed to an actual, binding, you know, legal mandate question?

      Why would they need to register for that?

  4. JRM2016 says:

    Bob,

    Paperwork for Ethics Express, Inc. was filed this morning with the Commission. So far no money raised or expended, but we would love to have you be the first to contribute!

    Best,

    Josh McKoon

    • saltycracker says:

      So is that peronsal time for the legislators – no state expenses, no work days ?

      And you want us contribute for a campaign to pay for our legislators in a rented (?) bus who will ask voters to ask them to chill out on the gifts ? And take donations off our taxes, too.
      Got it.

      • Calypso says:

        salty, I think Josh’s intention by this is to turn up the heat on the recalcitrants within the G.A. I think he’s doing not only a good thing, but a ballsy one.

        Best of luck, Josh. I just wish you were striving for ZERO gifts to legislators instead of a $100 cap.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      I had a feeling a good lawyer, even though he’s running with the wrong crowd, wasn’t going to let himself get caught up in an Ethics Complaint on the Ethics Bus. Thanks for the solicitation, Senator, but I’m not going to be your first contributor. While you’re road trippin’, ask your buddies just how much of a tax increase it will be when their overarching goal for taxpayers to fund political campaigns is implemented.

      Calypso! Hit up Odysseus for some coin so the Ethics Bus doesn’t run out of gas.

      • Calypso says:

        Why does it not surprise me that you would hope anything to do with the implementation of ‘ethics’ is stalled?

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          Bob Loblaw is all about ethics. Passed my ethics exam with flying colors. Just not sure that the term “ethics,” at law, is as limited in scope as those advocating capping spending on political advocacy. I wonder what the cap on the tax increase that Common Cause wants to implement in Georgia to fund political campaigns would be?

          • Calypso says:

            Yeah, and I’m sure Aubry Lee Price aced his accounting exam, but that didn’t keep him from absconding with $17million of others folks money.

            • Bob Loblaw says:

              If he aced his accounting exam he sure didn’t put that knowledge to use in the workplace. You can’t make fiction up as interesting as this.

  5. In addition to a per gift limit, perhaps there should also be a limit per year or term as well. Looking at the gift reports for Stan Wise, it comes to almost $14k in his current term – 2007 to present.

  6. Three Jack says:

    “Voters in both the Georgia Republican and Democratic Primary Elections on July 31 will have the opportunity to cast a vote on each party’s ballot to end unlimited lobbyist spending on gifts to legislators.” — False statement…voters will be able to express their opinion on $100 gift limit but nothing will necessarily result from expressing this opinion.

    Here is the ballot question — “Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?” Another less than accurate statement since the $100 cap is per instance which is not exactly limiting. Truly a gimmick as Speaker Ralston noted.

    Question should read, Do you even know who represents you in the state legislature? If YES, do you support limiting the amount of gifts your legislator may accept from lobbyists? If NO, please turn in your voter registration card because you are not qualified to be standing in this booth.

  7. bowersville says:

    I’m all for the zero gift cap limit. I love the entertainment value.

    As a kid at political events it was entertaining to watch as hundred dollar bills were stuffed into coat pockets, the big grin on the recipients face as he slipped a thick white envelop into his inner coat pocket and that not so secret hand shake laced with a hundred dollar bill. All that was out in the open.

    But what wasn’t in the open were the business deals with no cash involved simply because the man was an elected politician. There needs to be some serious ethic reforms but you better get some adults in the room. Your headed towards taxpayers giving the General Assembly a raise, PACs funding elections and legislative field offices payed for by tax payers. And guess who’ll get the rent money for that office…the man with the hundred dollar bills.

    If casino gambling comes to GA guess who’ll pay for electing the next Governor?

    • Simeon Barsabae says:

      I agree. I think creating a cap will just push a lot of what is already going on underground.

      Think about it.

      How many average citizens can name their representative/senator, much less identify them in a crowd?

      Are they going to post an “Ethics Officer” at every bar/restaurant/sporting arena/strip club in Georgia to enforce this?

      McKoon is a great Senator, and is going to have an amazing career in politics. I think his push to reform ethics in Georgia is a noble one and will make Georgia a better place. I think $100 per event gift limit is a great idea.

      Do I think it will make that big of a difference, nope.

      Do I think you will see roaming bands of lobbyists cutting up the check at every bar/restaurant/sporting arena/strip club when they want to show a Member a good time. Yep.

      I think this will lead to some pretty interesting bedfellows down at the Capitol.

      Pun fully intended.

  8. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “I’m torn on whether or not I think the $100 Gift Cap is a good idea”

    What’s not to like about the $100 Gift Cap? As instituting a gift cap of $100 per day would mean that our highly-esteemed State Legislators would be limited to only $36,500 in legal bribes per year ($36,600 in leap years).

    • One problem is that even without the gift cap, I’m hearing stories of certain elected officials in the PSC going on lobbyist / utility paid for hunting trips and golf trips that never end up on the gift reports. A cap certainly won’t work if they’re not going to report the trip.

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