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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lobbyists no longer have to disclose gifts, dinners, other ridiculous perks given to state employees

Bad news, ethics watchdogs. The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission — once known simply as the "State Ethics Commission" — begrudgingly said today that, according to its reading of the law regarding lobbyists' gifts, lobbyists no longer have to disclose all the lunches and treats they sprinkle on state bureaucrats and employees. Via Chris Joyner at the AJC:

Stacey Kalberman, executive director of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said her reading of the law would allow lobbyists to withhold information about what they spend on public employees, even though they must disclose what they spend on elected officials and their family members.

“We’re not a court,” she said. “We interpret the act, but we don’t have the right to go as far as a court can.”

State employees are the ones who implement and interpret the laws and regulations passed by the Legislature and often can have a significant effect on the interests of lobbyists and their clients.

William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, called the situation “a mess.”

“A lot of money is spent on staff,” Perry said. “It’s a loophole that needs to get fixed.”

Unless some interesting sleight of hand is played with amendments to existing bills, it's probably going to be very difficult to do that prior to Sine Die, the 40th and final day of the legislative session. Lawmakers return from hanging out at Augusta National for the Masters their spring break next week.

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