Huffpost Politics

Georgia Lobbyist Influence Fought By Tea Party-Progressive Alliance

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Tea Party and progressive activists in Georgia have bridged their ideological differences and banded together in an effort to fight the state's unfettered lobbying rules, which currently allow influence peddlers to give unlimited gifts to lawmakers.

As Republic Report points out, the bipartisan "Gift Cap Pledge Alliance" movement has been fairly successful, pushing a statewide effort to gather support for a $100 cap on such giveaways. At least 130 state lawmakers have already signed a pledge to support the new limits, and members of both political parties have agreed to place a non-binding question about ending the practice of unlimited gift-giving by state lobbyists on their primary ballots.

The "Alliance," which includes members from both local Tea Party groups and the progressive-aligned Common Cause 501(c)(3), recently planned the next phase of their campaign: a four-day, 13-city statewide "Ethics Express" bus tour that will start at the end of the month. Their goal is to convince Georgians to vote "yes" on the primary question by holding a number of rallies on the issue. Voters will head to the polls for state primaries on July 31.

The free-flowing nature of lobbyist-lawmaker interactions caused controversy in the state earlier this year, when a lobbyist was ordered by the state Ethics Commission to pay a $300 fine after purchasing a $17,000 European trip for GOP House Speaker David Ralston and his family in 2010. But that gift pales in comparison to an $88,000 seafood feast recently organized by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce for legislators and supporters.

Georgia is one of three states that currently has no restrictions on lobbyist gifts. According to the Marietta Daily Journal, lobbyists have been shelling out an average $9,525 per day on legislators in the 2012 session.

And while the $100 cap may seem strict considering the sheer extravagance of earlier lobbyist contributions, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that such a limit would still leave Georgia as one of the least restrictive states on lobbying.

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