Lobbyists give Georgia lawmakers a $400,000 buffet


Lobbyists spent more than $400,000 on group events over three months during the 2017 legislative session which ended in March.

Those group expenditures ranged from large, open-invitation buffets at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot across from the Capitol to dinners hosted at some of Atlanta’s best restaurants, where entire committees were feted by special interests.

While individual gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers are capped at $75 per gift, many such group events have no cost ceiling. That loophole was written in the 2013 ethics reform bill lawmakers passed after years of voters’ clamoring for change.

This year, a group of lobbyists to host a private dining experience for the Senate Regulated Industries Committee at Wisteria, an Inman Park restaurant. The cost for the 14-member committee was reported as $5,315.

While lobbyists consider a private meal with an individual lawmaker the most effective, group meals are efficient. As a result, lobbyists spent $4 on group events for every $1 they spent on an individual lawmaker.

The 2013 reforms made an effort to rein in spending on groups, but it’s not clear that is happening. For instance, the law requires the House and Senate ethics committees to approve a list of caucuses eligible to partake in lobbyist-sponsored dinners and limit lobbyists to hosting a single dinner per committee. This year, the Senate failed to approve any and the House committee did not issue its list until six weeks after the session began.

Nonetheless, lobbyists filed expenses for at least 54 such group events without the House committee’s blessing. An Atlanta expert on political law says that unless the per capita cost exceeds $75 per person, such events need no further permission and lobbyists aren’t required to report individually the lawmakers who attended.

Do the 2013 limits on lobbyist spending work? For more read this week’s AJC Watchdog column here.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Georgia Senate meetings will be live-streamed after Thanksgiving
Georgia Senate meetings will be live-streamed after Thanksgiving

Beginning the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, Georgians who are interested in watching state senators at work can live-stream committee meetings being held in the statehouse. Members of the Georgia Senate on Friday held a mock committee meeting led by Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, to test out the new wiring and equipment....
Atlanta mayor under fire amid debate over illegal immigration
Atlanta mayor under fire amid debate over illegal immigration

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is drawing fire from multiple sides in the hot-button debate over illegal immigration after recently announcing the city had joined a nationwide effort in finding legal help for immigrants facing deportation. When Reed announced the city’s new policy this month, he called Atlanta a “welcoming city that stands up...
The Right points to Franken as a symptom of the Left’s hypocrisy
The Right points to Franken as a symptom of the Left’s hypocrisy

The Right has always questioned Franken’s qualifications for the Senate. The revelations of sexual misconduct by the Minnesota  Democrat have added fuel to the fire. A roundup of editorials Friday takes a look at the issue. From The Boston Herald: It’s “physician heal thy self” when it comes to sexual harassment in Congress...
In the light of the news about Al Franken, will the Left own its own sexual misconduct issues?
In the light of the news about Al Franken, will the Left own its own sexual misconduct issues?

Will Sen. Al Franken’s conduct call into question Democrats’ commitment to championing women who have been sexually harassed? A roundup of editorials Friday takes a look at the issue. The Week: Do the Democrats take sexual harassment seriously? We’ll see. From The New Yorker: As the two apologies from Franken show, men still need...
The Week: A Moore win in Alabama could thrust Isakson into spotlight
The Week: A Moore win in Alabama could thrust Isakson into spotlight

If Republican Roy Moore wins Alabama’s special election to the U.S. Senate next month, and if fellow senators choose to expel him from the chamber over accusations of sexual misconduct involving the candidate and teenagers when he was in his 30s — so a couple of huge “ifs” — Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson could be a...
More Stories