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New Georgia political watchdog proposes naming, shaming ethics violators

'This is going to be a lot of fun for me'

With a statement that will make certain politicians nervous or unhappy, a former executive director of Common Cause Georgia says he’s starting a new political watchdog initiative that’s meant to both draw attention to ethics violations and shady dealings and teach the public to do the same.
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? “This is going to be a lot of fun for me,” said William Perry, self-styled “top dog” at a linked pair of new good-government groups: http://gaethicswatchdogs.org" rel="external">Georgia Ethics Watchdogs and Georgia Ethics Watchdogs Education Fund.
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? One of the first things Perry plans to bark about in the coming weeks is DeKalb County, where, he said, some issues "may require followup." (It's a long story, but law enforcement and a former state attorney general are sniffing around over there too. The word "rotten" has been used.)
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? Perry said that holding officials accountable will bring good public policy. For example, he cites the $75 cap on each gift lobbyists can give to lawmakers, passed in 2013. The measure was passed two years after state House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, first came under media and nonprofit scrutiny for a $17,000 trip to Europe, family in tow.
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? “That gift cap wouldn’t have happened if the speaker of the House in Georgia hadn’t been shamed into supporting that legislation,” said Perry.
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? Part of what the new group will do is try to make sure officials do the things they’re supposed to do, like filing accurate, timely financial disclosures, and filling open records requests. Perry plans to make noise when they don’t, with things like complaints to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, the state agency that’s supposed to police politicians’ doings with lobbyists, or to the state Attorney General’s office, which fields complaints about cities or counties not keeping their meetings or records open.
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? The Education Fund aims to teach other concerned citizens what the ethics rules are and how to build a case if they suspect crooked dealings. Many people follow politics, go to meetings, even blog or complain about what they see, but they “lack tools, resources or know-how to bring about change … we want to help them find the official track to get on,” said Perry.
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? In further bad news for the ethically challenged, as early as next week, Watchdogs will start publishing a series of articles by Atlanta Unfiltered editor Jim Walls entitled “Georgia’s Ethics Loopholes from A to Z.” Under “A,” Walls will file an look the relationship between ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial conservative think-tank and Georgia politicians.
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? Walls, a former investigations editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also authored the Georgia portion of a 50-state study by the Center For Public Integrity grading every state’s public accountability rules. Georgia got an “F” on that report.