Look, you can keep calling it by the ridiculous name of “Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission” if you want to, but can you please, please give it a)some money to buy a decent computer system and b) maybe a little rule-making authority while you’re at it? The upcoming legislative session will no doubt include some serious budget cuts, but the State Ethics Commission needs to be funded at levels that show that Georgia is serious about running an open and honest government. That’s not “aspirational.” It’s not a “goal.” That’s not a “gee-wouldn’t-it-be-nice-to-have” element of government -that’s table stakes. Table stakes, as in, “you don’t get to play the game if you don’t have ’em.” It’s just basic.
You’re going to hear some talk, when the Legislature convenes on January 14, of lobbyist gift caps, maybe even a ban on all lobbyist gifts. There are some proposals floating around (a full-time salary for legislators, anyone?) indicating some possible high-level reforms. But to assure the voters and taxpayers of Georgia that those reforms are anything more than PR gimmicks, legislators need to step up.
Do you see that? The “ethics” commission is closed for maintenance over the holidays. Good thing there are no elections scheduled during that time! But of course, there ARE elections scheduled for January 8. And reports are due on December 24th. If you are one of the seven candidates seeking election to State Senate District 11 or one of the two candidates running in the Special Election in State Senate District 21, or one of the
6 five candidates running in the Special Election for House District 21 and want to file your reports on time, tough noogies! Use the grace period. Or break the law, and pay a $125 fine. It’s all “disclosed” -and we all know that “disclosure” is far more important than anything else, right?
Most Georgians don’t care what has already happened with the Ethics Commission. (You could write a novel about the budget cuts, salary reductions and never-ending game of musical chairs played with the staff at the place. It would be a fantastic reality show.) But they do care about what’s going to happen next.
If Georgia’s leaders are serious about restoring public trust in their State government, they’ll fund and empower the Transparency and Finance Commission at a level that demonstrates that. Yes, everybody’s going to get cuts. But don’t whine about budgets and expect any credit as honest elected officials. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Surely if State leaders can find the funding mechanism for a new stadium in their hearts, they can find an adequate budget for open and honest government as well.