The Georgia General Assembly is once again going to debate ethics reform, at least create the appearance of a debate. It is remarkable that there is resistance to limiting what lobbyists can spend on our elected officials in order to “inform” and keep them abreast of issues. Recall that House Speaker David Ralston took his family to Europe during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010. Ralston defended the $17,000 trip, paid for by a lobbyist with an interest in transportation projects, by saying that he was there to look at different countries’ systems to provide some ideas for Georgia. Ralston responded, when asked why his wife and children accompanied him, by saying that he wasn’t going to spend Thanksgiving away from his family. I have always wondered what our American fighting men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan thought about Ralston’s hardship. But the best news stemming from this trip is that none of the cost of the trip and largess lavished on Ralston and his family had, or would have, any influence on his decision making. At least that’s what he said. Ralston maintains that the citizens should decide whether a legislator is being influenced and vote him out of office, but that no laws should limit how much is spent on legislators, who presumably do their best thinking over steaks, lobsters, lavish country clubs, sporting events, and the like.
Angela Spier, a former Public Service Commissioner, I presume would disagree with Ralston. She took money from no special interests whatsoever. If a lobbyist wanted to dine her, my understanding is that she would tell him to bring his bologna sandwich to her office, and she would bring hers, where the two would eat in and discuss issues. I wonder how many lobbyists took her up on that offer. Angela Spier represents the high water mark for ethics, and I hope that better judgment than David Ralston’s prevails at the capitol.