15 DEC 09: 25-Dollars Fine?
The ads like to say we're in a "season of giving" - but a woman came to Columbus Monday suggesting sharp limits be put on gifts. And amazingly, that woman's name was NOT Suze Orman....
Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel talked about giving, as she made a campaign appearance in Columbus. Handel is a Republican running for Governor - so of course, she was expected to talk about giving Georgians as many tax cuts as possible.
But Karen Handel's current top issue involves something else - ethics reform in Georgia government. The Secretary of State announced her ideas last week, after House Speaker Glenn Richardson announced he would resign. Before then, Republicans focused any talk of "ethics reform" on anyone connected with Speaker Tom Murphy.
WLTZ caught my attention with one of Karen Handel's ethics proposals -- a 25-dollar limit on gifts to Georgia's elected officials. Handel's online news release says a ban on bigger gifts would eliminate "steak dinners" lobbyists offer lawmakers. First of all, Handel needs to stop by a Waffle House -- because you can get a nice steak there for much less than 25 dollars.
I'm not sure where Karen Handel came up with the gift limit. But let's be honest here -- if you're buying gifts for close friends right now, are you limiting the amount to 25 dollars per person? If I stayed in a guest room of one of my nieces and her family, I'd feel cheap and guilty to leave a gift card worth less than 40.
To be honest, there are times when I've probably been a cheapskate giver without realizing it. Several years ago, I won a radio giveaway for two Atlanta Thrashers hockey tickets. I took a date. I drove the car to and from Atlanta. I think I even bought popcorn for us at the game. Since she had me stop at an ATM on the way, shouldn't I have expected a nice gift in return?
But I digress: Karen Handel's 25-dollar gift limit raised a question in my mind. Is she applying the limit to herself - as in her own campaign for Governor? Not if you check her "donate" page. It suggests 25 dollars as the minimum contribution -- and under Georgia law, you can go as high as $12,200. That odd number must allow for a $200 credit card processing fee.
A review of Karen Handel's latest campaign report shows two donations this year from people identified as "lobbyists." Both of them gave much more than 25 dollars - and one actually donated $3,000. That amount is way above "steak dinner" range. That might cover two entire families dining at Ruth's Chris Steak House.
(By the way, that report from the end of June shows NO Columbus addresses donating to the Handel campaign. Yet there are a couple of large donations from Americus. I'm assuming those are from people who didn't want Jimmy Carter's name put on the airport.)
Here's my point in all this: is it really "ethics reform" to put a 25-dollar limit on gifts to elected officials, when some lobbyists donate thousands to help those officials get elected in the first place? Lawmakers don't need to be reminded of "friends" with T-bone steaks - as an e-mail address book should be enough.
Karen Handel made her Columbus campaign stop at the River Mill events center, and apparently only one TV station covered it. Another Republican candidate for Governor would have gained more attention in that same area. John Oxendine simply would have walked around the Bibb Mill fire damage first, in one more search for clues.
Let's see what else fell our way Monday, besides the rain....
+ Another line of storms moved through Columbus, bringing at least 1.5 more inches of rain. Georgia state climatologist David Stooksbury told GPB Radio Columbus is the big winner in 2009 rainfall, with 155 percent of its annual average. But it's a bit like Alabama playing Chattanooga in football - a big win is still only one win.
(As of Monday night, Lake Lanier was one foot ABOVE full pool. That has to stun the doomsayers, who didn't expect that to happen again -- and it has to frustrate Atlanta city officials, because they might get in trouble for touching any of that extra water.)
+ Uptown Columbus offered a $1,000 reward for information in a recent graffiti-spraying spree. WXTX "News at Ten" showed graffiti on a support pillar for the 13th Street Bridge, which appeared to be surrounded by fencing. Someone needs to tell Fort Benning soldiers to leave paint cans at home, if they're going to drink a lot downtown....
+ Lee County School Superintendent Stephen Nowlin told WTVM about a plan to update the district policy on cell phones. They're allowed in schools for emergencies only - which is different from Muscogee County, which has a serious case of cell-block.
(Stephen Nowlin admitted a few teachers have been caught using cell phones to check Facebook pages during class. They'd better not be playing "Mafia Wars....")
+ Lee County Humane Society director Heather Meadows began the annual "no more wasted lives" fundraiser. Meadows is locked in a giant outdoor metal cage with a dog, until $24,000 is raised. Once the money is in, I assume that cage will be moved to Phenix City for a pro wrestling main event -- dog optional.
+ A Birmingham News survey found 80 percent of Alabamians think Auburn football coach Gene Chizik was a good choice for the job. One year ago, the number was 15 percent -- and if the Tigers miss a bowl game next season, that number probably will come back.
+ Instant Message to anyone who expected Carlton Gary jokes: Unh-unh. Sorry, I'm listening to the blog readers - the ones who say I lack compassion and sensitivity when it comes to death [10 Dec]. I'm trying to repent, and avoid any jokes which might be connected in some way. In fact, I may have to stop writing about churches - since most of them are based on a dying Savior.
COMING SOON: Is something missing downtown? We're waiting for an answer to an e-mail....
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