But while Doss and Whitefield clashed about tax and fiscal policy, the two agreed on the need for ethics reform.
Doss and Whitefield’s strong stance for ethics reform seemed right in line with what most Georgians think about the subject, according to the results of a recent Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. poll.
According to the Mason & Dixon poll:
Nearly two-thirds of Georgia voters support stricter reporting requirements and caps on lobbyist gifts to state officials.
An even higher number, 76 percent, want the state legislature to follow the same open government laws that bind other state and local government agencies. Seventy-two percent say they support limits on the value of gifts lobbyist may give state officials, and 73 percent support requiring lawmakers to report those gifts. The percentage of support was roughly the same for voters identifying themselves as Democrat, Republican or politically independent.
How do we get there, considering the present anemic state of Georgia’s ethics legislation? During his talk with Rome Tea Party members, Doss cited legislation proposed by the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform to limit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and boost campaign disclosure requirements.
The Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform is made up of groups that span the political spectrum, including Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Tea Party Patriots, the League of Women Voters of Georgia and Georgia Watch, and individuals that want to strengthen Georgia’s ethics laws. The group’s website, georgiaethicsreform.com, lists the following proposals to strengthen Georgia’s existing ethics laws:
Limit the amount of any one gift to $100 from a lobbyist for any public official, their immediate family members and staff. This limit includes travel.
Disclosure of gifts from lobbyists must occur within five days, punishable by a fine of $100 per day until the disclosure is submitted.
Rename the “Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission” back to the “State Ethics Commission”.
Restore the rule making authority of the State Ethics Commission.
Restrict the total of all transfers out of a candidate’s campaign account to other candidates, political parties, campaign committees and PACs to no more than $10,000 in any two-year election cycle.
Require PACs to disclose all expenditures.
Georgia public officials at the state and local level or their immediate family members cannot hold state, local or authority contracts.
No member of the General Assembly may serve as a lobbyist on any local, state or federal level.
The presence of undeclared money in politics is dangerous at both the state and local levels. How to regulate its influence is one of the questions that confront lawmakers and voters on a daily basis. These proposals by the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform are a first step to reforming Georgia’s ethic laws.
All of those are common-sense approaches to tightening up state ethics laws and would appear to answer some of the concerns that Georgia voters expressed in the Mason-Dixon poll, so it’s good to know that the candidates support them, as well.
But it is also an unfortunate truth that most candidates for political office say they are for term limits — at least up to the point that they themselves are elected to office.
The race between Whitefield and Doss provides a test case on ethics reform, at least for Floyd County voters. Both are on record to the Rome Tea Party as supporting strong ethics reform. Doss said he would introduce the Georgia Alliance for Ethic Reform’s proposal “on Day One.” Whitefield said, “it’s time to call (the General Assembly) to task.”
With both candidates on record as supporting the Georgia Alliance for Ethic Reform, it will be interesting to see what happens whoever the senator from District 52 ends up being.
It’s time to convert the political talk into action.