A guide to help mon­i­tor who is spend­ing what on our leg­is­la­tors

The Covington News - - OPINION - DICK YAR­BROUGH COLUM­NIST You can reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@ bell­south.net or P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ga. 31139.

This could be a very im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion I am about to share with you. Whether it is or not is up to you. It de­pends on how much you care about the money be­ing spent on our state’s politi­cians. If you don’t care and want to cop the “it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence” at­ti­tude, then I sug­gest you blow the dust off the ol’ Funk & Wag­nall and look up the word “ap­a­thy.” Or go kiss a goat. It’s your choice.

The rest of us know we can make a dif­fer­ence.

The Gen­eral As­sem­bly didn’t pass ethics re­form in last year’s ses­sion be­cause they were bored and look­ing for some­thing to do be­tween the base­ball sea­son and bird hunt­ing. They felt the heat from many of you, dear read­ers.

Our in­trepid pub­lic ser­vants have put a coat of white­wash on the mat­ter of ethics re­form and want us to con­sider the is­sue done. It’s not. There are loop­holes ga­lore.

Re­mem­ber, this is an elec­tion year. You will likely get your mail and phone calls re­turned this year — un­like last year when a num­ber of you sent notes telling me you were be­ing ig­nored or, worse, lec­tured like 5-year-olds by some huffy politi­cians.

The in­for­ma­tion I am giv­ing you comes via the clum­sily-named Ge­or­gia Gov­ern­ment Trans­parency and (in­hale) Cam­paign Fi­nance Com­mis­sion, which is re­ally the State Ethics Com­mis­sion. No mat­ter what you call the group, they are a mess th­ese days and our state’s pol­icy mak­ers should be an­gry and em­bar­rassed at their dys­func­tion. Pre­dictably, they will pub­licly de­cry this car wreck of a com­mis­sion. Whether they do any­thing sub­stan­tive or not re­mains to be seen. I was a mem­ber of the State Ethics Com­mis­sion from 1997 to 2002, ap­pointed by Gov. Zell Miller. We had lim­ited au­thor­ity, lit­tle money and a small staff but we were an orn­ery bunch, thanks to a strong chair­man, Mike McRae, a Cedar­town at­tor­ney, and a feisty ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Teddy Lee, who didn’t care on whose self-im­por­tant toes he stepped in get­ting to the truth.

We nailed some pow­er­ful politi­cians who pre­sumed they were too im­por­tant to fill out the re­quired cam­paign dis­clo­sure forms on time. We were not beloved un­der the Gold Dome and wore the re­sent­ment like a badge of honor. We were the mouse that roared.

That is why eth­i­cal be­hav­ior in pol­i­tics is up­close-and-per­sonal with me and why I harp so much on the sub­ject in this space. In pol­i­tics, money talks and you and I need to be lis­ten­ing in on the con­ver­sa­tion. I hope you will save this piece or book­mark the in­for­ma­tion on your com­puter and will check reg­u­larly on what in­nocu­ous-sound­ing spe­cial in­ter­est groups are spend­ing how much money on which politi­cians. One hint: Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is­sues gen­er­ate big bucks be­cause ed­u­ca­tion is big busi­ness and a lot of out-of-state groups want a piece of the ac­tion. School teach­ers need to be on the alert. No mat­ter what the law­mak­ers tell you, money does buy in­flu­ence in the po­lit­i­cal process. Oth­er­wise, why would spe­cial in­ter­est groups shell out all that money? If your leg­is­la­tors claim oth­er­wise, throw up on their shoes.

Find­ing the in­for­ma­tion on who is giv­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to our leg­is­la­tors and who is en­ter­tain­ing them is not easy. I sus­pect that was in­ten­tional. I hope this will help:

First, sign on to the State Ethics Com­mis­sion web­page: (http://www.ethics. ge­or­gia.gov/)

• Hit “Search Re­ports and Records”

• Scroll down to “Can­di­date Re­ports”

• Scroll over to “Cam­paign Re­ports”

• Un­der “Can­di­date Search” type in name

• Hit “Search for Can­di­date” • Hit “View” • Hit Blue Bar: “Cam­paign Con­tri­bu­tions Re­port (E-Filed)” • Hit “View Re­port” • View “Con­tri­bu­tions” To see who is pro­vid­ing them en­ter­tain­ment:

• Hit “Search Re­ports and Records”

• Scroll down to “Lob­by­ist Re­ports” • Hit “By Ex­pen­di­tures • Type in name of pub­lic of­fi­cial • View ex­pen­di­tures. If I haven’t given you a se­ri­ous case of eye-glaze, I hope you will let me know if you have any ques­tions or prob­lems nav­i­gat­ing this maze and if you have any spe­cific re­ac­tion to what you see while you are there. And don’t for­get: You are the ul­ti­mate judge of what con­sti­tutes eth­i­cal be­hav­ior un­der the Gold Dome. That is the way it should be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.