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25 June 2010

Mississippi Governor Takes Advantage Of Georgia's Lax Ethics Laws

Thursday, Politico reported on the dealings of possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour.

As Haley Barbour continues brushing aside speculation about his presidential prospects, the Mississippi governor is discreetly building a complex political operation rivaling those of any other 2012 GOP presidential prospects.

His apparatus, which has socked away hundreds of thousands of dollars this year alone, will get a major boost — as will the Barbour 2012 buzz — when the governor takes some time away from the Gulf oil spill threatening his home region’s shorelines to attend a big fundraiser Thursday for one of his three political action committees.

Sources said the event is expected to raise as much as $60,000 for a political action committee Barbour established last year in Georgia, which allows such committees to accept the huge corporate checks barred by more restrictive campaign rules at the federal level and in the two-term governor’s home state of Mississippi.

Vogel, Kenneth P. and Cheney, Catherine (2010-6-24). Haley Barbour's fundraising takes off. Politico. Retrieved on 2010-6-25.

What the Politico article doesn't reveal is that PACs in Georgia have no limits on the amount of money they can accept from a contributor or corporation. Even worse, these PACs don't have to include the traditional "paid for by" disclaimer on any communication sent out to the voters.

Politicians and special-interest groups don't have to tell you that they're the ones filling your mailbox with campaign propaganda this election season.

Under little-noticed legislation passed on the final day of the 2008 session and signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue, candidates and "independent" groups backing candidates no longer have to disclose who they are on their mailings.

The law that took effect July 1 lets candidates for state and local offices, and groups trying to influence races, send out attack brochures with relative impunity.

Salzer, James (2008-7-31). Quiet change in law opens door to anonymous attack mail. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-6-25.

Almost every Democrat in the Georgia General Assembly at the time this bill was passed voted for it -- including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman [SOURCE: Georgia House Vote #1051; Georgia Senate Vote #946].

In fact, the only Democrat in either legislative chamber to vote against the bill was none other than 12th district congressional candidate Regina Thomas.

To date, this law has not been changed and that is a shame.

Here's why these two laws combined are dangerous:

An individual or a corporation could come come into Georgia, set up a PAC (which is incredibly easy), accept a $1,000,000 contribution, then turn around and influence every election in the state with mail pieces, flyers and billboards without ever having to tell anyone that they were responsible.

PACs that have no individual or corporate contribution limits are not ethical. Loose laws that allow a governor from another to state to fund their political ambitions with little oversight are not ethical. PACs that do not even have to disclose who they are on campaign communication are certainly not ethical.

Every Georgia gubernatorial candidate claims to be for ethics reform and even stronger ethics laws.

If Georgia's gubernatorial candidates are serious about strengthening the ethics laws in this state, they will pledge today to put contribution limits on these PACs and restore the law that required full disclosure on all election-influencing literature.