Jim Walls, former AJC editor and publisher of Atlanta Unfiltered, has the following suggestions to help the House and Senate close that little gap they’re having at the 11th hour over what they are calling ethics reform. Walls has probably dedicated more time than any person I know going over the information that has been made available through disclosures. As such, his advice below is based on the experience of someone who routinely reads the incomplete disclosures of events that are only tangentially related to official duties. Click here so his advertisers know he’s doing good work; his first list of suggestions is below:
1) Limit lobbyist gifts to $25 per day, with a limit of four per year.
That allows them to buy you a meal and a beer, but not the bottles of wine
that really drive up the cost up of these $100 meals. And no gifts for
spouses. Pay for those yourselves. Suck it up.
2) Make all legislators post all gifts from organizations with an interest
in legislation, regardless of whether a lobbyist paid for them, on their
official House or Senate website. If the American Legislative Exchange
Council gives you a scholarship to attend a meeting, all you have to do is
disclose it. Transparency doesn’t hurt.
3) Allow lobbyists to pay for your travel, lodging etc. only if you are
required to attend because of your public office. Current language in your
bills regarding expenses “related to official duties” is much too vague.
How many times does the top leadership in the House (Mark Burkhalter, Jan
Jones and Ed Lindsey so far) have to visit Southern California to see
Georgia State University’s telescope? If those guys can’t take good notes
to share with the rest of you, stop letting them go.
4) Ban lobbyists from giving you tickets to state universities’ athletic
events. Instead, let them give you tickets to university lectures,
academic competitions, art galleries and the like. If you wanna see the
Dawgs on Saturday, pay for it yourself. With your own money. Just like
5) Prohibit lobbyists from buying you any meal or other gift unless they
disclose the specific bill, regulation, contract or policy issue to be
discussed. At least 90 percent don’t do that now. And make them attach a
client’s name each time, which they don’t have to do now, so they can’t
just say the gift was on behalf of their lobbying firm. All other gifts
would be illegal. You can still have lunch with your old legislative
buddies now that they’re making the big bucks trying to talk you into
something. You just gotta go Dutch.
It’s a good start. It’s also likely to fall on deaf ears.