Lawmakers aim at limiting gifts from lobbyists

by: Lori Geary Updated:

ATLANTA,None - Efforts are under way at Georgia's state capitol to limit the amount of money lobbyists can spend on lawmakers.

But supporters, including members of the tea party, are going to have to do battle with Georgia's house speaker who said ethics laws in the state are tough enough.

Channel 2's Lori Geary spoke to the tea party Thursday who said they are gearing up for a showdown.

Geary got a rough draft of the bill, which would limit the amount of money lobbyists can spend on lawmakers to $100 per meeting.

But supporters are going to have to convince some powerful republicans the gift caps are needed.

Lobbyists at the Gold Dome are as common as lawmakers. They are the people in the halls waiting to meet with powerful state lawmakers and have come to represent the ugly side of the political system.

"I think the fact that lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts of money on us does affect legislation. It's nothing new," State Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Nicholls, said.

Geary down with Smith who is on a mission to crack down on the amount of money lobbyists can spend on lawmakers.

Right now, there are no limits for lobbyists who wine and dine lawmakers, pay for trips and tickets to concerts and sporting events.

"I've accepted tickets and gone to dinner. I think all that's good. We just want there to be a limit," Smith said.

This year Smith has the backing of the powerful tea party, which has joined with Common Cause and other government watchdogs groups to try to get the bill passed.

"Protect your state by doing this. Protect yourself by doing this," Bob Irvin from Common Cause Georgia said.

"Can't we agree there's a certain point at which we say, 'No more?'" State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said.

Not according to Georgia's powerful house speaker who told Geary he's against the idea because the current law is all about transparency.

Geary asked House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, "Common cause and the tea party of all folks are going to team up together and ask for a gift ban but you don't think that's the way to go?"

"I don't think that's the way to go. Unlike Common Cause, and I thought the Tea Party, trusted the people to make decisions apparently some of their spokespeople don't. But I trust Georgians to take that kind of info and to act appropriately on it," Ralston said.

"I'm not willing to accept that that door is closed, we're going to move forward and work hard to make it happen," Julianne Thompson from the Georgia Tea Party Patriots said.

"I'm just doing what I think is right," Smith said.



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