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Last minute gift ideas from Georgia lobbyists

So you waited until the last minute to finish your holiday shopping? Never fear. The Gold Dome is filled with experts on showering those you love and/or need with gifts -- lobbyists.

In Georgia, lobbyists have to publicly report what they spend trying to influence public officials. At least registered lobbyists do, but more on that in this Sunday's newspaper. #nospoilers

In the past, they were free to give whatever they wanted, as long as it was disclosed, but a law that took effect Jan. 1 limits those gifts to $75 in value. That law has plenty of exceptions, but the effect of the reforms has been to chill the endless buffet of meals, trips and trinkets lobbyists have long given to state lawmakers.

Nonetheless, reports made to the Georgia ethics commission are filled with great gift ideas for the loved one in your life -- especially if that loved one sits on the House Appropriations Committee for some reason. So here are some ideas culled from actual gifts lobbyists gave this year to our governmental leaders.

1. A book is always a good idea. This summer, longtime insurance lobbyist Gould Hagler gave Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens each a copy of "Georgia's Confederate Monuments: In Honor of a Fallen Nation." The survey of statues in town squares is the first work written by Civil War history enthusiast ... Gould Hagler. Hagler lists his book as costing $45, but it can be had for less.

2. Empty calories. Junk food always is a good option. During the legislative session, lobbyists keep lawmakers' offices so filled with cakes, cookies, candy and other generic "snacks" that a Fitbit might be a good post-session gift for the lawmaker on your list. Among the lobbyists plying officials with sweets was the Delta lobbyist who delivered Biscoff cookies to various offices five times during 2014. Kind of European for the Georgia Capitol, but I guess Little Debbie doesn't make the same impact.

3. A vanity gift, properly packaged, makes a nice stocking stuffer. Former Secretary of State Lewis Massey, now a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ticketmaster, Comcast and others, probably understands politicians don't mind the sound of their own voice. This year he reported giving old friends Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, and Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Marietta, a recording of a TV appearance they made. At $1.75 in reported value, it's the thought that counts.

4. Personal hygiene kits. Listen, you have to be on pretty good terms with someone to give them something like this, but the Georgia Dental Association spent $6,500 on toothbrushes, floss and other oral hygiene items for every member of the Legislature, most statewide officials and dozens of staffers this year. I'm sure there was no hidden message there.

5. Booze. Nothing says Happy Holidays like some Christmas cheer. Lobbyists spent nearly $17,000 keeping lawmakers lubricated with beer, wine and generic "drinks." Much of that amount went to keeping several "hospitality" suites operating in hotels and condominiums around the Capitol. That figure does not include dozens upon dozens of dinners where drinks might have been on the menu.

These are just some ideas, and you still have a few hours left. If nothing else, you can always fall back on the old reliable tote bags, lapel pins, mugs and other trinkets lobbyists use to get the attention of their target legislator. Or you can take a look at the records for yourself. There are lots of good ideas in there from people paid to know what works.

Happy holidays and see you in 2015.


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About the Author

Joyner’s column, AJC Watchdog, investigates topics in your community and Georgia.