Originally created 02/20/00

How much is too much?



How much should Georgia legislators be allowed to accept when lobbyists pay their way to a convention?

To clarify the situation for himself as well as other lawmakers, state Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, is requesting that the State Ethics Commission rule on how much is too much. This would essentially be a legal ruling which, we think, is overdue.

The representative is doing this because he and five members of his family attended the Medical Association of Georgia's convention last summer in Amelia Island, Fla., at a cost of $3,329 -- a fact he properly filed in the appropriate disclosure form.

Not just legislators, but the public as well, need a bright line to know when lobbyists' gifts and contributions go over the line. Right now that line is blurred, leaving elected officials in the dark about how much they can accept.

A Commission cap, imposed or suggested (based on the number of family members who are also invited), would at least remove any legal cloud.

Incumbents would still have to calculate how much political capital they can afford to spend for speaking at conventions or accepting trips from lobbyists. After all, "freebies" would still be a legitimate issue for any challenger to raise at election time.