Brian Kemp Gives More Power to His Big Donors With “Pay to Play” Legislation

May 20, 2021

In early May, Brian Kemp signed SB 221, a GOP-backed law gutting state limits on political spending and opening the door for special interests to have more say in Georgia politics. With ethics watchdogs sounding the alarm, it’s no wonder Governor Kemp signed the bill in secret with no public notification from his office.

The law will allow:

  • Statewide elected Republicans facing tough re-elections next year to begin receiving unlimited contributions through fundraising committees
  • State legislators to take money during the legislative session from lobbyists who are trying to influence legislation

“Kemp and Georgia Republicans have opened the floodgates for unlimited money to flow into our political system because they are terrified of losing their upcoming elections,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Georgia voters – not special interest groups – should determine the trajectory of our state, which is why Democrats will focus our efforts on talking to voters instead of buying them.”

See what Georgia press has to say about this “pay to play” legislation:

Georgia Public Broadcasting“It’s essentially an “Incumbent Protection Act” because it will allow, in this case, Gov. Brian Kemp. . .and members of the leadership to set up these committees starting July 1 and start collecting unlimited amounts of money from people”. . .“It’s a long, running head start on fundraising.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: So contributors — typically lobbyists, industry associations or businesses interested in legislation or state funding — can give as much as they like. . .[An ethics watchdog] characterized SB 221 as “the Wild West” of politics, a “slap in the face and an end around” some of the most important tenets of campaign finance laws in Georgia. “It is throwing all the protections of our campaign finance system out the window,” he said.

Rome News-Tribune: Controversial legislation that opponents say will inject more dark money into Georgia politics quietly became law. . .The new normal for politics also opens the door for political fundraising during General Assembly sessions, a practice that is until recently was prohibited by state law to discourage lobbyists from seeking to influence votes on pending legislation.

Georgia Recorder: State lawmakers have been banned for decades from raising money during the three-month legislative session. . .to avoid the appearance of inappropriate lobbyist influence while lawmakers are voting. . .those donors could [now] give as much money as they like to the new leadership committees, including while the lawmakers are in session and voting on legislation that could benefit contributors. 

Flagpole: Up until now, state lawmakers have been barred from campaign fundraising during the legislative session to reduce the influence of lobbyists. . .But while many apparently believe voters can be swayed with a bottle of water, now they’ve created a loophole to accept unlimited campaign dollars while in session. Signed by Kemp, the law allows each House and Senate caucus to set up two “leadership committees” to receive such donations.

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