Lobbying reform: Cagle must carry through on pledge
by The Athens Banner-Herald
April 13, 2012 12:00 AM | 1378 views | 3 3 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s hardly surprising that, in the wake of a state legislative session where lobbyists — including, it must be noted, representatives of the University System of Georgia — came close to spending $1 million in lavishing lawmakers with meals, event tickets and other inducements, that a state official is promising to convene a committee to “study lobbyist spending and develop recommendations for 2013,” according to the Atlanta newspaper.

That announcement, made by a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, certainly sounds like a principled response to the news from a newspaper analysis showing that lobbyists spent $866,747 on state lawmakers during this year’s legislative session.

The Atlanta newspaper notes that the total of lobbyists’ spending translates to an outlay of $9,525 per day, but it might be more instructive to translate it into an average expenditure on each of the state’s 236 lawmakers, which produces a figure of $3,672.66. Those are alarming figures, to be sure, but it’s far from certain that Cagle’s trumpeting of his intent to convene a committee to look at lobbyists’ spending will mean anything at all.

One of the first rules of politics is that creating a study committee is a handy way of appearing to have serious intent to address an issue, without ever necessarily having to do anything about it. In this state, one only has to look back at the considerable number of blue-ribbon panels convened to address educational funding and quality issues — balancing that against the fact that Georgia students, on average, continue to perform worse than their peers in most other states — to judge the legislature’s seriousness over time toward actually addressing that important issue in a meaningful way.

That’s not to say that Cagle’s intent to form a committee to study lobbyists’ spending isn’t genuine, nor is it to say that he’s not necessarily sincere about having the committee come up with some recommendations for consideration in next year’s legislative session.

Given the legislature’s past history with various study committees — remember the blue-ribbon panel convened a couple of years ago to recommend changes to the state’s tax system, whose report was summarily ignored by lawmakers? — it’s likely that Cagle’s expressed interest in a lobbying reform committee will have to be spurred on by Georgians who want reform, and want it sooner rather than later.

Reform clearly is needed, not least because legislative leaders, as the Atlanta newspaper’s report notes, say there’s no need to ban or limit lobbyists’ gifts as long as there’s a requirement that those gifts be disclosed. Obviously, though, the people of Georgia would be better served in knowing there were some limits on lobbyists’ expenditures than in having to cull through reports trying to figure who’s trying to court their lawmaker, and for what purpose.

For now, Cagle deserves due credit for calling for some study of lobbyists’ spending on lawmakers, but no one in this state should take it for granted that he’ll follow through on that pledge.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Sad but true
April 13, 2012
Georgia government has become so morally corrupt

it's sickening. To allow votes to be bought and sold and do so legally is a true marker of our understanding of right and wrong in today's lifestyle. Our heads should be bowed in shame.
John Cook
April 13, 2012
Also keep in mind that the campaign contributions by these same lobbyists are made in addition to these figures, but are accounted for elsewhere.

Legislators tell us that this money does not influence their vote; lobbyists are willing to spend the money because it does!

Even though your legislator may not receive anything from a lobbyist is inconsequential. The leadership exert tremendous pressure on your legislators, and distribute campaign contributions to those who cooperate.

The motto of the leadership at the Capitol: "We protect our own." Legislators play the game or get replaced. And you thought you control elections with your vote. Most elections involving incumbents are bought with lobbyists' campaign contributions.
April 16, 2012
Everyone should read Mr. Cook's third paragraph..twice.
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