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Friday, December 11, 2009

Ethics reform is new political mantra

Nearly every day, another Georgia politician comes out calling for statewide ethics reform in the wake of the Glenn Richardson scandal and the ongoing shake-up in the state House leadership. Some of these folks are running for office and want to claim the moral high ground. Others are hoping the ensuing changes will weaken their political opponents. Still others are simply concerned that the hanky panky-as-usual mindset is undermining public confidence in our state government. Not that these motivations are mutually exclusive.

We'll start with the most recent shot across the bow by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur and House Minority Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin, who just happens to be running for governor. The two Democrats say they'll introduce anti-corruption ethics legislation in the upcoming session:

HB 890 lowers campaign contribution limits from $5,000 to $2,000 for a primary election, $3,000 to $1,000 for a primary run-off election, $5,000 to $3,000 for a general election, and $3,000 to $2,000 for a general election runoff. The bill will also limit contributions to political parties to $5,000. To curb the influence of special interest money, HB 891 sets a ban on gifts over $25 for state lawmakers. And lastly, HB 892 would establish public funding for judicial elections, which have seen an influx of partisan activity in recent years, threatening an impartial bench in Georgia.

Next, veteran politico Gary Horlacher, who's a Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, wrote an op-ed for Capitol Impact that outlines how Gov. Sonny Perdue gutted the already understaffed State Ethics Commission and GOP lawmakers took over the job of overseeing ethics for, well, themselves. We've seen how that turned out. Horlacher, who has made ethics a key platform in his campaign, concludes that Georgia must:

Amend the Ethics in Government Act by removing the partisan political appointments of The State Ethics Commission members by the Governor, the Senate Committee on Assignments, and the Speaker, and transfer the appointment authority to the Georgia Supreme Court. We must remove politics from Ethics enforcement.

The straight-shooting Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, has also made a call for ethics reforms. Although his suggestions are more procedural in nature — such as getting rid of the House "hawks" who can swoop in to enforce the leadership's will on legislation — the bottom line is a push for more transparency:

The Democrats are labeling us the culture of corruption and this is their planned approach in the 2010 election cycle. Therefore, we need to deal with ethical issues on an objective bipartisan basis. It has been suggested a code of conduct may be in order for House members. Bottom line, Joe Wilkinson and his [House Ethics] committee should be allowed to do its job with no interference from leadership.

Finally, Peach Pundit overlord Erick Erickson wrote an op-ed for the Macon Telegraph in which he calls for a wholesale head-lopping among the GOP top dogs in order to cleanse the ranks of corruption and conflicts of interest:

St. Augustine said, “Lord make me chaste, but not yet.” That has fast become the motto of Republican legislative leaders in Georgia. If you think the House leadership is bad, you have not heard the rumors about the Senate. The pathetic thing is that the rumors do not come from political enemies, but the solid political friends of those in charge who are worried about what is happening.

If Republicans don't clean house now, he warns, they could be cleaning out their desks for their Democratic successors next year.

Perhaps the second coronation of King Roy?

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