As reported in your March 19 issue, the latest Republican shenanigan in the statehouse was another sad, low point for Georgia government.

The Legislature, along party lines, has done away with prohibiting campaign contributions during legislative sessions. It has set up “leadership committees” composed of those in power (presently the governor, lieutenant governor, and majority party legislative leaders) and those who are not (presently the minority party legislative leaders) and whoever the gubernatorial opponents might be to receive lobbyist money. And contributions are not subject to limits given to individual candidates.

Once Gov. (Brian) Kemp signs this into law, they will have effectively made legislative bribery perfectly legitimate. Something which was unlawful will now be corruption in plain sight.

Contributions made during legislative sessions were illegal because we did not want lobbyists to influence legislation by holding out bags of money.

Money, of course, is the great corruptor. The more you have, the richer you are and the nicer things you can get, and the more someone gives you, the more likely you are to treat them nicely in return. With politicians, it goes beyond ordinary wealth; money is critical to staying in power in these days of high-priced election marketing.

With the caps on donations to individual candidates gone, this makes the “leadership committees” even more powerful.

What is to prevent such committees blatantly suggesting to lobbyists or businesses that their contributions are not enough and squeezing every penny they can to fatten their political war chests? So much for Georgia’s reputation as a business-friendly state.

Similarly, the committees will undoubtedly keep close track of who in their respective caucuses voted the way the leaders have dictated. Those who don’t will get fewer funds from the committees come election time (or worse yet, money will go to a primary opponent who will toe the line). So much for encouraging legislators to reach across the aisle. So much for voting one’s conscience. So much for what people need, only party loyalty matters. Is this democracy?

So instead of bribery and corruption being illegal, the new law allows, if not encourages, openly visible bribery and graft without any repercussions. I am so ashamed of Rome’s legislators, Rep. Katie Dempsey and Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, who voted to remove the previous safeguards and legitimize this new version of political corruption. Their votes will be remembered when I cast my ballot. The 2022 elections will be here before they know it.

Paul Culotta


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