Posts Tagged ‘lobbyists’

Legal, Just, and Fair Aren’t Always the Same

July 30, 2012

“It’s perfectly legal” is a phrase that can be maddening.  You just got screwed by some organization and that’s their come back. And when you investigate, the odds are very high that they were right. That’s because too  often the laws aren’t written to protect you. They are written, in my view, too often to protect the people who spent the money via campaign contributions or in other ways to influence the people who write  the laws.

Once when I was in Washington covering representatives from the Columbus area, I was amazed at the throngs of men in black suits carrying briefcases walking up and down the corridors of the Capitol building.  Turns out they were lobbyists.  It also turns out  that they often either write or influence the writing of those laws that affect their vested interest. When I asked one congressman about that, he pointed out that there was no one better qualified to write the laws than the people who are engaged in the organization who know all about the subject.  That may be, but it boils down to “putting the rabbits in charge of the lettuce” as my friend retired South Carolina state legislator, appeals court judge, and college president Alex Sanders use to say.

What can be done about it?  For one thing, stop voting against your own self interest by putting the sold-out legislators in office.  How do you know that your man or woman is a political whore? Now, that’s not easy. It’s takes dedicated watchdog media types to find out. They appear to be in short supply.  Why?  Simple. Media corporations have to be willing to employ skilled watchdog reporters. Some few do. Why don’t others? What do you  think?

Sometimes political rivals will blow the whistle on a political hooker when it’s suits their purposes. But, you can’t count on that.

By all means, when you vote tomorrow, let me urge you to vote in favor of limiting lobbyists’ gifts to Georgia legislators to $100. We can thank state Sen. Josh McKoon for getting that on that on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots.  It won’t  become law but it will tell Georgia state legislators that’s what the people want.

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Voters Beat the Lobbyists Again on the Billboard Bill

April 4, 2009

The bill that would give billboard companies more power to cut trees on public property didn’t make it through the House.   It had been defeated earlier in the week but the House agreed to a recall;  however, that didn’t happen.  The legislative session ended and SB 164 is dead for now.  Its proponents promise to bring it up again in the next session.

The big lesson here?  Massive numbers of voters contacting their representatives can overcome powerful, well-financed lobbyists for vested interests.  It took a tremendous effort by environmental groups to block this measure again,  but that effort paid off.

Now, we have to stay alert because the billboard industry lobbyists will not give up.  It is a pretty safe bet to say they will be back next year.  But,  folks who want to keep our highways green and beautiful have shown for two years in a row they can put up a good fight.

By all means,  please thank your representatives for being responsible enough to kill the bill for another session of the legislature.

Josh McKoon on Why We Should Support New Ethics Legislation

March 21, 2009

I don’t know when public confidence in state and federal representatives and senators has been lower than it is right now. Perhaps lawmakers can turn this around if they enact some tough ethics legilsation that effectively stops the buying of our  Congressional and state legislators.  Josh McKoon,  attorney,  former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party and a member of Common Cause Columbus,  told me he is seeking support for a new, thougher ethics bill  pending in the Georgia legislature. SB 96 passed unanimously in the Georgia Senate and now is before the Georgia House. I asked him to tell me why he thinks we should support the measure.  He sent this explanation:

SB 96 is legislation that accomplishes several important goals.
 
First, it provides for training for registered lobbyists by the State Ethics Commission to insure full compliance with the new reporting requirements for provision of meals, etc. to legislators.
 
Second, it tightens up the definition of lobbyist to make sure it is inclusive only of those paid to lobby and does not require grassroots activists to register.  For example, under the current law you could argue that your piece and Bob Hydrick’s comments about the Billboard legislation amount to lobbying and that the “compensation” received is keeping highways free of clutter.  I agree it is absurd, but the way the law reads it could certainly be interpreted that way.  The new revised langauge will resolve that issue.
 
Third, it beefs up reporting requirements for lobbyists.  I don’t dispute the idea that anyone who wants to pay for lobbyists in Atlanta should be able to do that, but we need a more transparent accounting of what is being received by our elected representatives on their behalf.
 
Finally and most importantly in my view, it establishes ethics panels to review and dispose of ethics complaints against local elected officials.  This is an important check on the power of our elected representatives and protects against violations of the ethics law which the State Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over nor the manpower to handle.  These panels will fill a gap in current law where there is no remedy, short of filing a civil lawsuit in Superior Court, to handle matters where elected officials abrogate or ignore the law.  We have seen what happens when this is allowed to go on in Clayton County among other places. 
 
Critically, these panels will be composed of unpaid volunteers so there is no growth in the size of government.  Also the panels are empowered to fine frivolous complainers to the tune of $1,000.00 per complaint, to weed out those who would use this mechanism to harass elected officials that are not violating ethics laws.

If you agree with Josh, please contact your Georgia state representative and let him or her know.   At first blush,  the bill sounds good to me, but I am not sure it is strong enough to actually cut down on the influence of lobbyists for vested interests on our legislators.  At least  it’s a step in the right direction.

I Think That I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree

March 8, 2009

As we knew it would, the billboard industry once again is lobbying the Georgia legislature to pass a bill that will allow clear-cutting of public trees that block views of billboards on private property.  To probably no ones surprise, the Georgia Senate has given those lobbyists what they want.  Now,  it’s up to the House to again protect our public trees from the billboard company’s saws.

I have nothing against billboards,  especially if they are entertaining – almost none are – but,  I don’t think they should take precedence over the trees that beautify our highways and supply us with oxygen.   Because business lobbyists usually get what they want from the legislature,  it takes a huge public effort to counter their influence.  That’s what happened last year and now it needs to happen again.  Contact your state representative and let him or her know that you don’t want our public trees cut so that billboard company’s can make more money.

Also contact Vance Smith of Pine Mountain whether he is your district’s representative or not, because he is the chair of the House Transportation Committee that is considering the bill.  Let him know that you prefer trees over billboards, especially trees that are owned by the taxpayers of Georgia.   His email address is anvance.smith@house.ga.gov and his telephone number is  404.656.7153.

Trees Columbus Inc. provides these talking points.

  I urge you to vote NO on SB 164, a bill that will give billboard companies the ability to cut trees along Georgia rights of way.

  • As a taxpayer, I help provide for the roadways and the trees along rights of way. A new survey by American Viewpoint finds more than 70% of Georgia voters oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property.
  • These trees make travel in Georgia more pleasant for Georgians and visitors alike, thus enhancing tourism and its related economic benefits. The trees that will be cut now provide cooling, create oxygen, consume carbon dioxide, protect against erosion and reduce sediment in our streams.
  • I ask that, instead of giving preference to special interests, you vote in favor of the public interest by voting NO on SB 164
Contact  members of the subcommittee at these addresses and phone numbers:
 

Representative Tom McCall – Chair  – 404.656.5115 – tommccall@bellsouth.net

Representative Tommy Benton – Vice Chair – 404.656.0177 – tommy.benton@house.ga.gov

Representative David Ralston – 404.656.0213 -dralston@etcmail.com

Representative QuincyMurphy – 404.656.0265 – quincy.murphy@house.ga.gov

Representative Barry Loudermilk – 404.656.0152 – barry@barryloudermilk.com

Representative Mark Hamilton – 404.656.0188 – mark.hamilton@house.ga.gov
Please forward this web address, dicksworld.wordpress.com,  to your friends so we can get as many calls and emails to our Georgia state representatives as possible.  (Not to mention how much it will help increase hits to my site!)