Friday, February 24, 2006

No Wonder Trial Lawyers Lost the Tort Battle

Check the following AJC article:

Speaker Glenn Richardson's slush fund? By Alan Judd for the AJC:

posted over at Blog for Democracy

If you vote. No, whether you vote or not. If you or someone you loves pays taxes, you have to read this today.

The Speaker has his own special bank account, somehow legal, where those who hope for favors can dump cash-with no restriction on amounts. Oh, I am sure that anyone can dump cash there, and I'm sure that the lobbyists who do the dumping and the groups that hire them expect nothing for their contributions. Yeah, and it might snow in Macon this year for Cherry Blossom. I'm trying to imagine my momma's reaction if I pulled a stunt like this. I bet she'd think a trip to the woodshed was more appropriate than a trip to the legislature!

Read this article, and then call your legislator and tell them to do something today to make this nasty, slimy, corrupt practice illegal in Georgia, or that you will punch them a ticket home in November.

Oh, and Georgia Trial Lawyers paid into the fund. I guess they'll be "Exhibit "A" in defense of the lack of relationship between contribution and benefit. What I'm trying to figure out is why they say they'll give again??? Frankly, if this is their best strategy, it's no wonder they lost the tort battle.

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Mary Todd said...

Amy, Amy, Amy....

You shyould post the follow up story from the AJC. Seems the Republican's fashioned the PAC from what they learned form the Democrats.

Where was your out cry of this slime?

LEGISLATURE 2006: GOP not first with lobby fund
Jim Galloway - Staff
Saturday, February 25, 2006

Republicans said Friday that a political fund associated with House Speaker Glenn Richardson, which accepted single checks from lobbyists for as much as $20,000, was modeled after a similar fund established by the speaker's Democratic predecessor.

The GOP just did it better, said an unapologetic Jay Walker, the current speaker's chief of staff. "We're not re-inventing the wheel," Walker said.

The fund was the subject of a front-page article in Friday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Many Democrats in the Legislature denounced Richardson's political action committee, which raised more than $175,000 in about a year, as a "slush fund" intended to strong-arm lobbyists. They accused Republicans of bringing Washington-style money politics to Georgia.

But state Rep. Terry Coleman (D-Eastman), whom Richardson toppled as speaker, wasn't one of the critics.

Coleman said he set up a similar operation shortly after he became speaker in 2003, and raised more than $32,000 from 27 donors. His top donation was $5,000.

"I had a Speaker's PAC, which we used to do some things, but [Republicans] have developed it into a fine science. My hat's off to them," Coleman said.

Asked if he was offended by the Republican fund, Coleman said, "I'm terribly offended --- that I didn't do that well."

Both speakers set the location for their funds in their hometowns.

Richardson's MMV Alliance Fund was based at his law office in Dallas, Ga. Coleman listed a post office box in Eastman, but the phone number included in his financial reports rang his business office.

Most of the money raised by Coleman went to Democratic candidates in 53 contested House races, as have most similar Georgia political funds.

Through a spokeswoman, Richardson declined to be interviewed or answer written questions about the committee's activities before the Friday Journal-Constitution article.

But Walker, Richardson's chief of staff, said Friday the GOP fund was started as a way to fund the transition period between the time Republicans won a majority in the state House in November 2004 and the beginning of the legislative session in January 2005.

Walker said the fund was used to pay his salary and that of other staffers until they joined the state payroll in January. Last year, the fund was also used to pay stipends to lawyers hired to look over specific bills --- a task now handled by law school interns, Walker said.

"We didn't want to pay for it with taxpayer dollars. We'd never done this before, and we wanted to make sure we had enough people to do what needed to be done around here," he said.

Walker acknowledged that the fund paid for a gathering of House chairmen at a retreat last year. "It's paid for a hotel room here and there, maybe to speak to the caucus, or someone who's doing political training," he said. The largest chunk was spent on new computers.

"The rest of the money will be used to bring back a majority --- to pick up seats in the House, and hold the ones that we have. That's the speaker's job. We make no apologies for that," Walker said.

But the large amount of money raised by Richardson did make some uncomfortable.

"I am concerned that the new leadership, of whom we expected a higher standard, is going down the same road as the old Democratic majority," said Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause of Georgia, a group that monitors the links between money and politics.

"The only underlying political philosophy that supports something like this is that lobbyists and others who have something to gain should be able to finance influential legislators without limit," Bozarth said. "Even though this may be within the letter of the law, it still smells."

Emil Runge, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Richardson's use of the money for purposes other than election campaigns was what qualified the MMV money as a "slush fund."

Coleman's fund "was not comparable. He was raising money for state House campaigns," Runge said.

Amy Morton said...

Given the history with Delay, Reed and others, I don't think that the Republicans had to look to Coleman to learn this trick. But the bottom line for me is this- I think that we need legislators-regardless of party- who understand that they are public servants and who will not be brought at any price. Don't you? I refuse to believe that it is not possible to impelment ethics reform that would make this more of a reality.

I think that we need serious ethics reform in elections and in government. I do not think that special interests should have a ready vehicle through which they can buy access and favor on critical legislation. I don't think this is good government regardless of the party. Where's your call for the speaker to dissolve this fund and sponsor legislation to make it illegal for elected oficials to have a PAC separate from their campaign accounts, or to at least make donations to those PACS subject to limits?