AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Senate chairman open about his backing from big-money Capitol lobby

Legislative fundraising notices typically mention prominent guests or event chairmen ranging from the governor or a congressman to House and Senate leaders.

The money comes from statehouse lobbyists or special-interest associations, but in many cases, they aren't prominently mentioned in the invite. They are, however, the ones who are supposed to show up and write checks.

Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, who made headlines last year for seeking a Burke County judgeship at the same time he was running for re-election, took a more direct approach when announcing his fund-raiser this week.

He listed a who's who of prominent lobbyists and special interests as the host of his fundraiser at Fado Irish Pub in Buckhead.

Among those listed were lobby groups for the Realtors, bankers, gas stations, optometrists, beer distributors and trial lawyers,  several prominent lobbying firms with a host of business clients and top multi-industry lobbyists like Brian Hudson, who represents the gambling interests of MGM Resorts  and Jay Morgan,  who represents cigarette maker Altria, AT&T, Atlanta Gas Light and the trucking lobby.

Not a bad list if you want to raise a lot of money. The 17 lobbyists and lobby groups listed on Stone's host committee have plowed more than $1.5 million into state campaigns and parties since the beginning of 2014, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review.

But as a one-time wannabe judge, one name stuck out pretty prominently on his fundraiser's host committee. That would be Pete Robinson, a former Senate leader and fundraiser for Gov. Nathan Deal. Robinson is co-chairman of the state's Judicial Nominating Commission, which makes recommendations to Deal about who should be appointed to the bench. In other words, not a bad guy to have on your side if you want to be a judge in the future.

Hosts, by the way, are listed as $1,000 donors to Stone's re-election campaign.

Stone's fundraising notice may be part of a trend of openness. A notice for a recent fundraiser for Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville, listed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer as "honorary event chairs" at the top. But it also included a list of hosts that included a mix of local business types and statehouse lobbyists, including the state road contractors, big-time lobby firm GeorgiaLink and statehouse veterans Mo Thrash and John Haliburton.


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About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.