We the Unwashed don’t find lobbying reform ‘silly’
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
July 04, 2012 01:48 AM | 2061 views | 11 11 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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Everyone seems comfortable with the relationship between lawmakers and lizard-loafered lobbyists except We the Unwashed. But, then, what do we know? Rep. Don Parsons (R-Cobb County), a seven-term member of the House, views the fuss over trying to curb unlimited lobbying expenditures as “silly.” Parsons has some serious competition in the Republican primary. I would have suggested he employ a more appropriate term. Most of us don’t find this matter to be silly.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), one of the prime beneficiaries of lobbyists’ largesse, believes the issue to be a left-wing liberal conspiracy. I don’t drive in the political fast lane, but I find that accusation a little confusing because a poll by the Atlanta newspapers found that 82 percent of Republicans who are registered to vote want lobbying limits.

A new poll by Round or Square Polls, a division of the Yarbrough Worldwide Media and Pest Control Company located in Greater Garfield, reports that 100 percent of the 82 percent of the Republicans who want to see expenditure limitations on lobbyists were surprised to learn they are left-wing liberals. As Junior E. Lee, the company’s general manager, observed, “You just can’t tell about folks these days.”

Ralston urges us to check his entertainment schedule on the Georgia Government Transparency and (inhale) Campaign Finance Commission website instead of fretting over limiting lobbying expenditures. So I do. Every month. And I will. Every month. Call it my gift to you.

On June 6, Arthur “Skin” Edge, of the lobbying firm, GeorgiaLink Public Affairs bought the speaker a $24.95 dinner. A week later on June 12, Christopher Downing, a registered lobbyist for UHS–Pruitt Corporation, a regional health care company, paid $105.42 for dinner for the speaker. The next day — or night, the commission report isn’t that transparent — Mr. Downing spent $16.51 on drinks for the speaker and then Downing bought the speaker dinner, a measly $21.81.

That brings David Ralston’s total for the month of June to $168.69 and for the first six months of 2012 to $4,145.21, courtesy of lizard-loafered lobbyists.

But wait, as the infomercials say, there’s more. Lobbyists and their well-heeled companies have also contributed mightily to Ralston’s re-election campaign fund, which stands at $317,897.28. That should be just enough to get him over the top, since he is running unopposed.

Why does this man need that much money when no one is running against him? The answer: He doesn’t. What he does is dole out portions of the fund to his minions in the Legislature for their own re-election campaigns. It is a great way to ensure loyalty to the speaker courtesy of the lobbyists, of course.

Longtime Georgia political observer and columnist Tom Crawford writes, “Although much attention is being paid to the dollars that lobbyists spend to entertain legislators, the really big money in Georgia politics comes in the form of campaign contributions, many of them made by lobbyists.” He is right on the button.

And then there is this: The unregistered lobbyist who took Speaker Ralston and his family and Ralston’s chief of staff Spiro Amburn and his wife to Germany on the $17,000 boondoggle over the Thanksgiving holidays in 2010 was fined a whopping $300 by the Transparency and Whatever Committee recently. Why such a little fine for such a big brouhaha?

The entourage says it was there to look at magnetic levitation trains (insert joke here.) State law only requires a person to register as a lobbyist if they are trying to influence pending legislation. Since no one had introduced a bill on maglev trains before or during this excursion, there was no official influence-peddling taking place, even though their host represents a company that sells these trains. Even Junior E. Lee is still trying to figure that one out.

I had high hopes when the Republicans gained control in Georgia from a group of Democrats who thought they ruled by Divine Right. I should have known better. Incumbency breeds money and money breeds arrogance and in politics, arrogance knows no party affiliation.

I give the current crowd one more election cycle to make a serious effort to understand our concerns about their nod-nod, wink-wink association with lobbyists and to do something about it. If they don’t, not even their suck-up relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity can save their careers. Legislators may find all of this silly, but We the Unwashed do not.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400

@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
(11)
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East Cobb Mom
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July 05, 2012
I think Representative Parson's comment about lobbyist's spending sums up exactly why we need new leadership. Personally, I will be voting for JoEllen Smith who, in my experience working with her, has proven she has the willingness to listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision and follow ethical and moral guidelines strictly.
JoEllen Smith
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July 04, 2012
The Speaker of the House and Don Parsons both say that "disclosure" is enough. OK, I'll play. Let's disclose the private "Consulting" companies owned by Committee Chairmen like Rep. Parsons. These companies allow Chairmen to "consult" for the same industries they oversee in their House Committees. Conflict of interest? Potential for corruption? You decide.

As for this lobbyist ethics reform bill, it is only asking for a $100 per event cap, not even a $100 per day cap! For anyone to call it silly is way too interested in lobbyist largess.
You Old Fool
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July 04, 2012
Instead of complaining and whining all the time about our Georgia state lawmakers, why don't you get off your rear end and run for public office? You could get that lady preacher you think so highly of to be your campaign manager.
J. Smith
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July 04, 2012
You said it!
BigChicken
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July 04, 2012
"You Old Fool" - Who are you asking to get off their rear end and run for public office? Who is the "lady preacher"?
anonymous
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July 04, 2012
--RE: I had high hopes when the Republicans gained control in Georgia from a group of Democrats who thought they ruled by Divine Right. I should have known better. Incumbency breeds money and money breeds arrogance and in politics, arrogance knows no party affiliation.--

Yep. The republicans are a grand disappointment...at the state and Fed level. And I am really lovin' this Governor who is hell bent on shoving TSPLOST down our throats.

At least the democrats don't pretend to be freedom loving, fiscally responsible and for limited government.

Sam For You
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July 04, 2012
If you are so unhappy with what party controls state politics, then get off your rear end and run for public office, instead of coming here and complaining and whining. We call it the American way, unless of course you are a far left liberal progressive who would rather complain.
A Big Joke
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July 04, 2012
@anonymous

You have no further to look than the current occupant of the White House to see how morally and spiritually bankrupt the once great Democrat party is.
Unrepresented
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July 04, 2012
Don Parsons is the poster boy for lobbyist influence. Until he had competition, Parsons has been absent from representing constituents.

Unless you are a lobbyist, you will not hear from him, see him or know who he is.
nobamamama
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July 05, 2012
Parsons is a nothing and keeps on getting re-elected because he is an incumbent. There are other candidates out there who need to be ousted as well (I'm thinking Post 5 school board member). Hope the people in this district will open their eyes, get involved and vote on July 31.
Charlie The Tuna
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July 04, 2012
They truly think we are stupid.
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