“There needs to be some wide-sweeping changes in terms of lobbying and ethics reform.”
– Markette Baker (R), Solicitor General, Troup County, Georgia
It’s an uncomplicated, no-brainer, and although Ms. Baker was referring specifically to the State Assembly of Georgia, her concerns about the integrity of government are echoed across this nation, everyday.
Lobbyists are stealing our representatives from us. They steal the lawmakers’ time from us, steal their attention from us and stake claim to their political will. We have come to expect those we elect to pay more attention to the lobbyists who take them to Europe and pay their greens fees at posh golf resorts, than they do helping us stay in our homes, put food on our tables, have reliable inter-city transportation, and insure our kids get a valued and affordable education.
“There are only two things that I believe voters expect out of their government: they expect their government to be competent, and they expect their government to be honest,” said Georgia State Sen. Josh McKoon, (R-Columbus), “and demanding honest government, and demanding a standard of excellence in your elected officials, it’s not a Republican value; it’s not a Democratic value; it’s an American value.”
“Our government is a free for all,” says John Pezold, a candidate for Georgia House District 133. He says those who govern, like those who run a business, need to build trust in their dealings with the public.”If we don’t have the trust of the people we serve on a daily basis,” he warned his political colleagues, “eventually they’re going to go somewhere else.”
Pezold signed the Lobbyist Gift Limit Campaign Pledge, Wednesday, during the Ethics Express bus tour around Georgia. The pledge, signed by over 130 other incumbent and challenging candidates for seats in the Georgia Legislature this year, is a way to let Peach State voters know that if any of the signers are elected, or reelected, in November, they promise to push for lobbyist limitations of $100 dollars a day in the 2013 legislative session. It has been signed by progressive Democrats, like Atlanta’s Nan Orrock and Vincent Fort, as well as by conservative Republicans, like Waycross’ Mark Hatfield and Macon’s Cecil Staton.
The 4-day Ethics Express bus tour was conceived to bring attention to a non-binding question on both parties’ ballots for the primary election on July 31, urging the state legislature to approve such a measure.
McKoon, who was instrumental in getting the question on the ballot, explained his reason for supporting the measure at a stop of the tour in Albany, Georgia, Wednesday. “It is an obscene practice to see ever more lavish gifts showered on members of the [Georgia] General Assembly, year after year,” he said. “That practice is not defensible. That practice must end.”
Earlier in the day, at a stop in Macon, two signers of the campaign pledge, the incumbent Staton and his rival in next Tuesday’s Republican primary, Spencer Price, both stood with the Ethics Express participants on a hot sidewalk outside the Bibb County Courthouse, to show their support for the lobbying cap.
“The gifts that lobbyists are able to offer, there is no way around the idea or the notion that it’s influence peddling,” explained Price. “It’s too much a conflict of interest,” he added, “it’s easy math.”