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A bipartisan case for cynicism about government

POSTED: November 28, 2011 10:27 a.m.

Two state officials, two states, different political parties. Their sins are of vastly different degrees of seriousness. But they both illustrate vividly why citizens, who are supposed to be responsibly represented by people who allegedly serve at our pleasure and on our behalf, have become so cynical and exasperated.
Worst things first. A one-time state representative is the latest figure in the spreading and increasingly malodorous Alabama gambling scandal. Former Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba, pleaded guilty recently to accepting bribes from a casino developer and lobbyist while he was still serving in the state Legislature. Spicer admitted to a federal prosecutor that he took up to $3,000 a month, got $9,000 for a ski boat and went on a family snow-skiing vacation thanks to the, er, generosity of lobbyist Jarrod Massey.
Spicer also admitted soliciting $30,000 in campaign contributions from casino magnate Ronnie Gilley.
(Georgians take note: This is the kind of story you can get used to if the push for casinos and racetracks begins to get political traction.)
Meanwhile in Georgia, a far less serious but still irksome political abuse comes courtesy of no less a dignitary than Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Unlike Spicer, Cagle has broken no law — which might be part of the problem. All the lieutenant governor did was enjoy more than $5,000 worth of largess from health-care lobbyists in the form of entry fees for a PGA-sponsored pro-am golf tournament and accommodations at the five-star Cloister resort at St. Simons, with attendant wining and din-
ing, etc.
The lobbyists who footed the bill represent Illinois-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which is building a facility up the road in Newnan thanks in large part to a 2008 law allowing out-of-state medical providers to do business in Georgia.
Cagle, unlike Spicer, doesn’t have to answer to anybody for this junket except the voters: Georgia has no cap on gifts to public officials from private interests.
That ought to irk every citizen and taxpayer; it definitely irks the director of Common Cause, William Perry, who observes that Cagle’s trip “doesn’t do anything to benefit the people of Georgia. It doesn’t educate him on public policy, it doesn’t provide anything about working in the state Senate. It’s only about currying favor for the lobbyist.”
Again, the distinction is not trivial: Terry Spicer is a criminal, and Casey Cagle is not. But both, in very different ways, help make the case of those people who suspect public service is the last thing on the minds of too many public servants.

— Columbus Ledger-
Enquirer
Online: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com

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