Twenty of 38 incumbents and challengers for legislative seats from Cobb have agreed to sign a pledge to not accept lobbyists gifts worth more then $100, the Journal’s Jon Gillooly reported Wednesday. Seven others said they would not, while still others were undecided or didn’t respond. The $100-limit pledge is being pushed by William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia which has joined forces with the Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action trying to get legislators on board. So far more than 60 candidates for legislative seats across the state have signed the pledge, Perry says. He acknowledges it’s tough getting takers.
Non-pledge legislators and candidates in Cobb give various reasons for not signing. State Rep. Roger Bruce of Atlanta, a Democrat representing part of south Cobb, said he’s been in office 10 years, “and as a matter of practice I try not to say what I would or would not do until I see the piece of legislation that deals with whatever the subject matter is.” Is that a cop-out or what? What’s that got to do with pledging to not take gifts of more than $100 and supporting a bill to that effect?
Republican state Rep. Don Parsons of east Cobb took refuge in the disingenuous strategy of House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) by saying lobbyists gifts have to be reported and are available for viewing on the Internet. He said, “My pledge is to serve the citizens in my district as an effective legislator.” Okay. Fine. What’s the problem with agreeing to not accept any lobbyists gifts over $100?
Another Democrat, longtime Cobb state Sen. Doug Stoner, said “pledges substitute my own judgment with interests that may not prioritize the interests of citizens,” and he pointed out he has voted for and sponsored ethics reform bills. But again, what has that got to do with agreeing to a $100 limit on lobbyist gifts? Nothing.
Hunter Hill, one of three Republicans in a primary race for Stoner’s seat, declared the pledge is a gimmick. Existing laws “allow for individuals and businesses to contribute up to $2,500 in cash to each legislator per election,” he said. “Would a $200 dinner influence a legislator more than a $2,500 cash contribution? Not likely.” Mr. Hill, the point is that both influence a legislator but the job of lobbyists is to influence the votes of legislators. That’s what they get paid for. But, hello, there is a limit on campaign contributions which, of course, should be fully reported in the news media.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) agreed to the pledge, hitting the nail on the head with this comment: “I think that’s where the will of the people is.” Amen.