Julianne was a guest on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR to discuss Speaker Boehner’s resignation. She joins Byron York, Susan Davis, and Norman Orenstein. Click on the link below to listen.
Ethics Reform Will Restore Trust
February 22, 2012
We all know that perception is everything. There is no other place this is more apparent than in politics.
Overspending, overtaxing and the destruction of liberties in this country have led the average resident to question whether there is any such thing as good government. Many people believe the ability of high-dollar special interests to spend unlimited amounts of money on lawmakers who represent them has been the root cause of bad legislation and a serious lack of public trust.
I believe we have some of the best legislators in America leading Georgia. We have supported them, campaigned for them and stood by them, providing the driving force to take them from being the minority party in the General Assembly to having a Republican-controlled House and Senate.
The “we” I speak of is the conservative activist, the base of the Republican Party.
Conservatives throughout Georgia have encouraged legislators to pass two ethics reform bills. These bills offered by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, and Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Nicholls, put a cap on the amount lobbyists are permitted to spend on legislators.
We strongly believe that passing these bills will go a long way toward restoring public trust. Yet few lawmakers have agreed to take up the mantle of ethics reform.
When we first called for ethics reform, we heard complaints from some legislators that we reached across party lines to form a bipartisan alliance, so we presented a letter to Republican legislators signed by leaders of more than 30 conservative organizations in support of these ethics reform bills.
This letter included signatures from tea party leaders, as well as long-standing social conservative groups. Yet both bills remain stalled, not allowing a floor vote or even a committee hearing.
Georgia is one of only three states in the nation that allow unlimited gifts to be showered on elected officials. A recent AJC poll shows that 82 percent of Republicans support a cap on lobbyist gifts. All of Georgia’s surrounding GOP-controlled states have caps that range from $50 all the way to $0.
Ethics problems were rampant in states such as Alabama and Louisiana, and legislators heard the outcry of the public and enacted ethics reform in their states. Problems in these states reported on in the past year happened before these caps were put in place.
Over the past week, we spoke with state officials who confirm that caps on gifts have made an extraordinary difference in ethics and accountability in their states. Again, we call on Georgia to do the same.
What we keep hearing time and again from some under the Gold Dome is that Georgia has “full disclosure,” which should be enough. Residents are calling foul because they know full disclosure is a myth. Legislators are not required to disclose one dime, only lobbyists are; many never do.
According to a recent AJC story, more than half of the cost of the Wild Hog Supper was not disclosed because several lobbyists formed a group called the “Friends of Agriculture Foundation” to pay the majority of the $16,393 tab. Of that amount, only $7,677 was actually disclosed. This example represents why residents believe they cannot trust government.
There is a way to change that perception. Put the burden on yourselves as leaders. Pass the ethics bills sponsored by McKoon and Smith. It is the right thing to do and it will restore public trust.