House Members Call Foul Over Members With Back Taxes Due Pushing Ethics Reform

Majority Whip Ed Lindsey notes the following of his peers with respect to their unpaid taxes:

On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published a detailed list of House and Senate legislative candidates who have serious outstanding federal, state, and local tax liens assessed against them. The size of the list and the amount of money owed is disturbing. I am sympathetic — particularly in these times — of folks who are in financial dfficulty. However, I have always believed that before you go into politics you make sure your Faith, Family, and Finances are in order because all three will be tested and possibly strained in the political meat grinder of our system of government. It is just the way it is.

House Ethics Chairman Joe Wilkinson takes the message and puts a finer point on it:

It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws. These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”

“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”

“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”

“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.

Attached with this electronic release is a list obtained from the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission of candidates offering for the office of state representative this year who signed the cap pledge but are in violation of state laws. Also attached are the code sections regarding the reporting requirements.

Note that opposition to the gift caps has mostly come from the state house.  Note that many in the House feel that some Senators are now grandstanding over the issue given that they believe Speaker Ralston will stop any gift cap that they vote for (while they continue to enjoy gifts over $100).  Note that the “Ethics Express” is still in the vacinity of Blue Ridge Georgia, home of the Speaker to whom the two men above report.

With all those notes, you can sing your own tune as you draw your own conclusions.

23 comments

  1. I take a different view of this than my friend Charlie. You all know my opinion of the $100 gift cap. I don’t think it improves ethics in this State one iota. I realize my view is in the minority by a huge margin. The gift cap train has probably gathered enough steam that it’s going to pass. But remember you heard it hear first, a $100 gift cap will change nothing and when voters figure that out they’ll be even more ticked off than they are now.

    I think the fact that 49 candidates (see the names here) were willing to sign a pledge and unable for one reason or another to comply with existing law is a big deal. If you want tougher ethics laws you ought to be following the laws we have now. I might be in the minority on that issue as well – I guess we’ll find out next Tuesday.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        Evidently our entire future depends on one rep. from Osilla, ga who is in charge of transportation spending and whether it goes to roads to no where or actually helps Atlanta.
        Perhaps we should hall send him $100 and vote no on TSPLOST.

    • Calypso says:

      “I realize my view is in the minority by a huge margin.”

      Yeah, 236 to 9,815,210 is a pretty wide margin.

      Buzz, would a gift cap of $zero change your view on the efficacy of this restriction (disregarding the issue of those with past due taxes)?

    • Baker says:

      “If you want tougher ethics laws you ought to be following the laws we have now.”

      You’d think so, but apparently if you are a Ga Repub on a Senate leadership committee you can do pretty much whatever you want.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        Just stop the talk. There is no accountability in a one party state. ZERO
        The only prayer we have is if the Federal Government comes in to investigate corruption.
        Like in Gwinnett. Other wise its do as they please.

    • Three Jack says:

      I agree with you Buzz. The $100 cap is a red herring, but the referendum will win with north of 80% support. Georgia voters are basically stupid, and this ballot caters to the most ignorant among us whether it be the TSPLOST preamble, this referendum or the personhood non sense.

  2. greencracker says:

    I wonder how much of the general public ever has a tax lien?

    Are legislators and wannabes more tax slack, or is it actually a rather common thing?

    • Calypso says:

      You’re right, Josh. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Josh, while you’re here, I have a question for you. Why didn’t you just go for the whole enchilada and strive for NO gifts to legislators instead of the $100 cap? There’s too much weasel-room with the $100 limit.

  3. seekingtounderstand says:

    In Georgia, a lowly clerk who gets caught goes to prison. The higher ups not so much.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    Am I missing something? The reporting laws Chairman Wilkerson cites concern transparency, not ethics.

    I agree the $100 gift limitation will largely be meaningless, but it’s worth supporting just to hear representation argue that lobbyists and their colleagues, never themselves of course, are at heart cheats that can’t be trusted.

  5. CobbGOPer says:

    Ethics has nothing to do with whether or how a person pays their taxes.

    I would like to pay as little in taxes to the government as possible. Does that mean I’m un-ethical?

    This is simply a case of misdirection by Mssrs. Lindsey and Wilkinson.

  6. JRM2016 says:

    I think the House Ethics Chair should have his facts straight before making these accusations:
     http://m.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/house-ethics-chief-labels-1485481.html

    But I hope we can stay focused on the merits of this issue rather than get distracted by these ad hominem attacks.

    • Calypso says:

      Josh, would you be so kind as to reply to my question to you above dated July 24 at 7:08pm?

      Thanks

  7. JRM2016 says:

    I believe a $100 limit is good policy and will eliminate the extravagant spending that is taking place under the current “anything goes” system. Even if every legislator received $100 per day in gifts every day of the session it would cut lobbyist spending by more than 50 percent. Many other states have had success with a gift limit and I think this would work well in Georgia.

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