Tag Archives: Ethics open records and disclosure laws

Georgia gets F on anti corruption measures, GA courts prove corrupt in Obama ballot challenges, State Integrity Investigation, Ethics open records and disclosure laws

Georgia gets F on anti corruption measures, GA courts prove corrupt in Obama ballot challenges, State Integrity Investigation, Ethics open records and disclosure laws

“Why has Obama, since taking the White House, used Justice Department Attorneys, at taxpayer expense,  to avoid presenting a legitimate birth certificate and college records?”…Citizen Wells

“Why is Obama now employing private attorneys to keep his name on state ballots, despite compelling evidence that he is not a natural born citizen?…Citizen Wells

“The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.”…Charlie Daniels Band

We already knew that Georgia is a corrupt state. We learned this during the recent handling of the Obama ballot challenges in GA by the behaviour of the Secretary of State, other election officials and the GA courts. We now have independent confirmation from a recent study of state ethics, open records and disclosure laws.

From State Integrity Investigation.

“The tales are sadly familiar to even the most casual observer of state politics.

In Georgia, more than 650 government employees accepted gifts from vendors doing business with the state in 2007 and 2008, clearly violating state ethics law. The last time the state issued a penalty on a vendor was 1999.”
“The stories go on and on. Open records laws with hundreds of exemptions. Crucial budgeting decisions made behind closed doors by a handful of power brokers. “Citizen” lawmakers voting on bills that would benefit them directly. Scores of legislators turning into lobbyists seemingly overnight. Disclosure laws without much disclosure. Ethics panels that haven’t met in years.

State officials make lofty promises when it comes to ethics in government. They tout the transparency of legislative processes, accessibility of records, and the openness of public meetings. But these efforts often fall short of providing any real transparency or legitimate hope of rooting out corruption.

That’s the depressing bottom line that emerges from the State Integrity Investigation, a first-of-its-kind, data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states. Not a single state — not one — earned an A grade from the months-long probe. Only five states earned a B grade: New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Nebraska. Nineteen states got C’s and 18 received D’s. Eight states earned failing grades of 59 or below from the project, which is a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.

The F’s went to Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia.

What’s behind the dismal grades? Across the board, state ethics, open records and disclosure laws lack one key feature: teeth.

“It’s a terrible problem,” said Tim Potts, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Democracy Rising PA, which works to inspire citizen trust in government. “A good law isn’t worth anything if it’s not enforced.””

“Using a combination of on-the-ground investigative reporting and original data collection and analysis, the State Integrity Index researched 330 “Integrity Indicators” across 14 categories of state government: public access to information, political financing, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, pension fund management, ethics enforcement, insurance commissions, and redistricting.

Indicators assess what laws, if any, are on the books (“in law” indicator) and whether the laws are effective in practice (“in practice” indicators). In many states, the disconnect between scores on a state’s law and scores in practice suggest a serious “enforcement gap.”

In other words, the laws are there, just not always followed.”
“While there are many examples that highlight a lack of resources, others assert that political factors may also be at play.

Georgia’s legislature slashed the ethics commission’s budget, eliminating all investigative positions and eventually forcing out its two top staffers. The former executive director claimed the funding cuts came with ulterior motives; at the time, the agency was pursuing an investigation against Governor Nathan Deal for improper use of campaign funds and exceeding campaign finance limits. Deal said the cuts were in line with what happened to other agencies. The state’s inspector general followed with an investigation, but found no evidence to support the claim of the commission’s former executive director.

Political loyalties can be a potential problem, especially since many ethics agencies are staffed by gubernatorial or legislative appointments.”

“For state judges, it’s a similar situation. Nearly all states have rules, codes, or regulations outlining recusal requirements, but again they leave it up to the judges to decide their own impartiality.

“There’s a longstanding principal that no judge should be the judge in his or her own case,” said Charlie Hall, director of communications for Justice at Stake, a national organization that promotes a fair and impartial court system. “There’s a strong sense by many that if one party asks a judge to step aside, there’s something not satisfying by the judge saying, ‘I think I can be impartial. I can make the decision.’”

Nine states don’t require judges to disclose outside assets, making it almost impossible to determine if a judge has a conflict at all. And in states where judges run for election, the potential for conflicts to arise is even greater.

“Special interests have discovered judicial elections and the money is pouring in,” Hall said.

Spending on judicial elections more than doubled in the past 20 years. From 2000 to 2009, special interests funneled about $206 million into court elections, up from about $83 million in the previous decade.”

http://www.stateintegrity.org/state_integrity_invesitgation_overview_story

From above:

“In other words, the laws are there, just not always followed.”

Georgia!

Recent judicial corruption in Georgia.

“Corrupt Georgia Superior Court Dismisses Legal Appeal Of Obama Eligibility Ruling”

https://citizenwells.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/georgia-superior-court-dismisses-legal-appeal-of-obama-eligibility-ruling-ga-superior-court-clerk-office-corruption-the-devil-went-down-to-georgia/