Last year, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston R wrote an ethics reform law he claimed would completely ban lobbyist gifts to state legislators. But a 2013 fundraising letter he authored took advantage of a loophole by asking for businesses and lobbyists to contribute to a “scholarship fund” to pay expenses for legislators to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council’s ALEC pro-corporate conferences.
In 2013, Ralston wrote the state’s ethics reform law and eliminated all direct gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers. At the time, he said it was “vital that we as public servants always strive to earn and hold the trust of the public,” adding, “We do that by enacting true and complete reform of our ethics laws, and avoiding gimmicks cloaked as reform by those that seek a platform and relevance.”But his law left a loophole allowing lobbyists to give money directly to a tax-exempt pro-corporate group like ALEC — and for ALEC to then spend the money providing travel expenses “scholarships“ to legislators.
And months after claiming his bill would “avoid gimmicks,” Ralston asked the state’s business community and lobbyists to do just that. His fundraising solicitation, sent out on ALEC letterhead, asked that they contribute to the group’s Georgia Legislative Expense Reimbursement Fund.