As reported earlier, the conservative Georgia Tea Party Patriots united last month with the progressive Georgia Common Cause group to demand lobbying reform in the state that would require a $100 cap on the value of each gift given to legislators.
The $100 gift cap is a modest measure as it would still allow lobbyists to give unlimited $100 dollar gifts to lawmakers.
This left-right-center movement for a lobbyist gift cap comes as Georgia lawmakers are wined and dined by lobbyists and given all sorts of expensive gifts to influence them. (Slideshow: Here Are Some Of The Gifts Lobbyists Are Giving Georgia Lawmakers).
Nearly 70 legislators have signed a pledge of support for the lobbyist gift cap, a sign of momentum for the measure. One lawmaker who has opposed limiting lobbyist gifts to $100 is House Speaker David Ralston, who, despite tea party support for the measure, ridiculed a lobbyist gift cap as being pushed by “liberal special interest groups.”
Unsurprisingly, Ralston has been a huge beneficiary of lobbyist gifts. In 2010, Ralston and his family went on a lavish a $17,000 European trip funded by lobbyists seeking a rail contract. The Speaker represents one of the poorest parts of the state, North Georgia’s mountainous town of Blue Ridge. The median income there in 2009 was $27,464. That means lobbyists spent 61 percent of what his constituents tend to earn in a whole year on a single lavish lobbying trip for him.
It’s easy to oppose legalized corruption when it pays so well.
Zaid Jilani is a Senior Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Zaid grew up in Kennesaw, GA, and holds a B.A. in International Affairs with a minor in Arabic from the University of Georgia. Zaid has interned for Just Foreign Policy and was a weekly columnist at The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s official student newspaper. He is a co-editor at the Georgia-based blog Georgia Liberal and a regular on RT America’s The Alyona Show and The Thom Hartmann Show and has been a guest host on Al Jazeera English’s The Stream.