House Speaker Ralston opposes lobbying gift cap; goes on $17,000 lobbyist-funded European trip

House Speaker David RalstonAs reported earlier, the conservative Georgia Tea Party Patriots united last month with the progressive Georgia Common Cause group to demand lobbying reform in the state that would require a $100 cap on the value of each gift given to legislators.

The $100 gift cap is a modest measure as it would still allow lobbyists to give unlimited $100 dollar gifts to lawmakers.

This left-right-center movement for a lobbyist gift cap comes as Georgia lawmakers are wined and dined by lobbyists and given all sorts of expensive gifts to influence them. (Slideshow: Here Are Some Of The Gifts Lobbyists Are Giving Georgia Lawmakers).

Nearly 70 legislators have signed a pledge of support for the lobbyist gift cap, a sign of momentum for the measure. One lawmaker who has opposed limiting lobbyist gifts to $100 is House Speaker David Ralston, who, despite tea party support for the measure, ridiculed a lobbyist gift cap as being pushed by “liberal special interest groups.”

Unsurprisingly, Ralston has been a huge beneficiary of lobbyist gifts. In 2010, Ralston and his family went on a lavish a $17,000 European trip funded by lobbyists seeking a rail contract. The Speaker represents one of the poorest parts of the state, North Georgia’s mountainous town of Blue Ridge. The median income there in 2009 was $27,464. That means lobbyists spent 61 percent of what his constituents tend to earn in a whole year on a single lavish lobbying trip for him.

It’s easy to oppose legalized corruption when it pays so well.

Zaid Jilani is a Senior Reporter/Blogger for at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Zaid grew up in Kennesaw, GA, and holds a B.A. in International Affairs with a minor in Arabic from the University of Georgia. Zaid has interned for Just Foreign Policy and was a weekly columnist at The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s official student newspaper. He is a co-editor at the Georgia-based blog Georgia Liberal and a regular on RT America’s The Alyona Show and The Thom Hartmann Show and has been a guest host on Al Jazeera English’s The Stream.