With a March 15 deadline for action, Common Cause Georgia is calling on the Senate to quickly approve SB 580 and send it to the House.
The bill would prohibit legislatively-affiliated political committees from raising money during a legislative session. Legislators’ campaigns are already prohibited from fundraising during the legislative session; this bill would extend that restriction to legislative leadership committees.
The bill comes in the wake of last year’s SB 221, which authorized the creation of “Leadership Committees” that can raise unlimited amounts of money, including during legislative sessions. A “leadership committee” affiliated with Governor Brian Kemp reportedly raised about $355,000 during the first month of this legislative session – with “several of the contributions” coming “from Capitol interests,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Other “leadership committees” can be created by the political party caucuses of the Georgia House and Senate. Under current law, legislative leadership committees can raise unlimited amounts of money even during the legislative session.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
Georgians deserve to be able to have confidence that our laws aren’t being bought and sold to benefit political committees.
Unfortunately, right now, there’s nothing to prevent an industry association looking for a tax break from making a six-figure donation to a legislative leadership committee. There’s nothing to prevent a corporation from donating lots of money and then seeking special treatment from the legislative leaders running these committees. There’s nothing at all about this system that protects the interests of Georgian voters and taxpayers – it just looks like it’s all for sale.
SB 580 would be a small step in the right direction. It doesn’t limit the money that a legislative leadership committee can raise from political donors; but it would prohibit raising money while the General Assembly is in session and acting on bills that donors may have an interest in..
We are heartened that the Senate Ethics Committee reported SB 580 out favorably this week. But the bill will die without a Senate floor vote by next Tuesday.
We urge the Senate leadership to do the right thing by Georgia’s voters, and pass this bill.
Read testimony about SB 580 from Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis here.