The issue of ethics and tightening standards on what gifts and perks legislators can receive from friends and supporters is once again making its annual appearance in the Georgia General Assembly.
The difficulty is, of course, this legislation-if one wants to use such a word to describe something that is born dead-comes out like a groundhog every year except it doesn't move as fast and has nowhere near the credibility of ol' Beauregard Lee.
The reason for non-action on any real ethics law is not terribly difficult to understand, but most citizens still marvel at how consistently nothing happens.
In attempting to bring clarity to this issue I have sought out and interviewed the one person who can explain it in simple terms: Mr. Lob B. Est.
After a couple of legislators ran from the table, I cornered Mr. Lob B. Est between bubble dances and posed a few questions.
This first question was easy: what exactly do you do?
"Well, me and my kind provide information to our legislators so they can make informed decisions regarding the well-being of the citizenry."
So this is a valuable service?
"Absolutely," said Mr. Lob B. Est. "How can we expect our elected officials to handle all the business put in front of them if there isn't someone telling them what is and isn't important."
And you make that determination?
"Well, someone has to do this, and if we don't, then some elected official might accidently vote the wrong way on an important issue."
So you are engaged in influence peddling.
"No, no, no. We just want to make certain a legislator has all the information needed before a vote is cast that happens to be in our favor."
Exactly where do you provide this information?
"Mostly at five-star restaurants, golf resorts, quail hunting plantations, cruise ships and sometimes even overseas."
"Certainly," said Mr. Lob B. Est. "There are times we need to present facts, and fact finding missions occasionally call on us to seek out those facts in places like the Bahamas or France."
And this is all legal?
"Of course it is! We have strict rules governing what we can and can't provide to our legislators to encourage them to examine our position fairly."
What kind of rules?
"We are not allowed to give any legislator a free elephant or octopus."
But everything else is OK?
"No, not really but the law is the law and right now there are enough legal loopholes that are so big an Italian cruise ship captain can sail through them without hitting the rocks."
Some might suggest it may be time for some serious changes in the law.
"Oh, we can't have that," Mr. Lob B. Est said, snarling up his nose.
"Fortunately the folks in charge of changing the laws are the ones who know and appreciate my mission so they have no desire to cut off their own gravy train, uh, I mean limit access of the people."
But isn't this a case of ‘the people' being the ones with big checks books and private planes who are interested in pushing their own agendas?
"Everyone pushes their own agendas," replied Mr. Lob B. Est. "As long as we stay within the rules what difference does it make if we try to encourage a legislator to vote in our favor while picking up a few tabs or offering a little perk here and there."
Then a few rule changes and maybe some seriously tough ethics laws that carried major penalties if violated would cause you consternation.
"It could damage the time honored manner in which we have done business in this state for years," Mr. Lob B. Est said grimly, "but fortunately we don't have to worry about that."
Before any more inquires could be asked, Mr. Lob B. Est excused himself and mumbled something about having to pick up a few people for a golf outing in Bermuda.
So, don't look for anything serious being passed by the General Assembly again this year regarding gifts, perks and favors being available to legislators from Mr. Lob B. Est.
It should be noted Plautus, the Roman playwright, said of ethics that, "It is customary these days to ignore what should be done in favor of what pleases us."
Plautus died in 184 B.C.
Nice to know the Georgia General Assembly appreciates the merits of the good ol' days.
Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.