Governor Nathan Deal just used the holiday weekend to hide a questionable decision: the state ethics commission will now be headed by a woman closely tied to him and his office.
This is the same ethics commission that has been mired in controversy and lawsuits, some directly involving concerns about Deal’s behavior while in Congress and while running for Governor.
The state had to pay over $3 million to settle multiple lawsuits after several ethics commission employees were inappropriately fired for trying to investigate Deal’s campaign.
Tricia Pridemore has been on Deal’s radar at least since she backed his campaign while serving as the head of Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project. (Because in this state, leading a movement based on Glenn Beck’s inflammatory, garbage politics is enough to get you noticed and not shunned.)
She was Deal’s top choice to lead the Republican Party after his election, although ultimately the party opted for someone else. Deal then appointed her as head of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, “and worked to dramatically increase the agency’s budget the next year,” the AJC reports.
The ethics commission — officially the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission — has been mired in problems for years, beyond the lawsuits over wrongful termination. Budget and staff cuts have done this body no favors, and several years ago significant computer glitches resulted in lawmakers being charged fines they did not owe. That issue still hasn’t been resolved.
As of January of this year, the commission is dealing with $7.7 million in unpaid fines and late fees from more than 7,000 lobbyists and lawmakers. They only have the staff to investigate a fraction of the reports they receive, and if you’ve ever spent time shuffling through campaign disclosures you know what a mess they often are. And checking that ALL campaign disclosures are filled out correctly is one the commission’s statutory mandates.
Without adequate funding or staff, and with a political appointee taking the reins, it’s hard to imagine an ethics commission actually able to independently and adequately do their job.
The ethics commission should be a tool that allows the public to better track and understand the influence of lobbyists and PACs on lawmakers. Instead it’s being handed over to someone blatantly and clearly aligned with the powers that be.
Georgia, of all places, needs a functioning ethics committee. Now we’re just getting the same insider politics, protect the politically powerful as always.