In 2011, after years of debate and after the resignation of a Georgia House speaker, members of the state General Assembly still don’t know how to say “no” to gifts from the companies and special interest groups they regulate on behalf of all Georgians. They are still accepting gifts, and they’re accepting them by the bucketful.
A recent report indicated that lobbyists spend upwards of $250,000 on the men and women we elected to represent us in Atlanta. And that’s just in January. The 40-day lawmaking session has only just begun.
That’s quite a sum of money, especially during supposedly austere times and especially when Republicans are vowing to clean up government. After years of accusing Democrats of harboring lax rules when that party held the majority, members of the GOP are doing nothing to change it as the new rulers of the House and Senate.
It might be different if gifts from lobbyists, hired mouthpieces for companies and utilities, weren’t an issue. But they are. They have been for decades, particularly during election campaigns. It seems promises made during the courting of voters are quickly forgotten when lawmakers are seated under the Capitol Dome.
It is unlikely that many voters, if indeed any at all, actually believe that a state legislator’s loyalty can be bought so cheaply, for a few free tickets to a professional football or basketball game. But the perception it casts is negative nonetheless, regardless of how a lawmaker tries to explain it away. In fact, an official elected to state government really can’t “explain it away,” not face-to-face with honest constituents.
Come on, Republicans can do better. They have tightened the rules since taking over by a touch or two, but thousands of dollars in free gifts are still flowing easily into eager and outstretched hands.
During a time when voter distrust in government is at an all-time high, it’s time to slam the door shut on freebies.