Last week, as these things tend to happen occasionally, two bits of news came out with disturbing synchronicity.
First, a study by the Center for Public Integrity showed Georgia as being the most vulnerable state to corruption in America, based primarily on its failing scores on transparency, gerrymandering, legislative accountability, campaign finance and lobbying disclosure.
The dubious honor came as no surprise to anyone who's followed Georgia politics over the last couple of decades, with its good ol' boy cronyism, its one-off tax breaks for the politically connected (cough, Sonny Perdue, cough), its revolving door of politicians-turned-industry lobbyists, and its near-total obeisance to Georgia Power's iron-fisted monopoly (for more on that last point, see Stacey Kronquest's piece this issue).
Wrote reporter Jim Walls of the study, "executives of insurance companies, public utilities and other regulated entities have become the largest single source of campaign money for regulators running for re-election."
My friends, when you're potentially more corrupt than Louisiana and New Jersey - the latter scored surprisingly well, actually - you are well and truly corrupt.
Bringing the entire issue home was a bit of related news, when a court ruled last week that the group Ogeechee Riverkeeper has "no standing" to sue to find out what happened in a closed meeting discussing how to punish King America for its toxic abuse of the Ogeechee River over the last five years - a craven record of irresponsibility that resulted in a massive fishkill and various human effects, with likely many more to come in future years.
What was King America's punishment? A mere million dollars worth of mitigation.
Not even a fine!
But in a ruling which defied belief and had legal tongues wagging all over the state, Judge Lois Oakley said a group comprising people who live on the Ogeechee River had no right to question the company that nearly destroyed their river, and no right to challenge the state which allowed the abuse - and indeed, even encourages such abuse through its lax oversight.
It's not that the judge said Ogeechee Riverkeeper shouldn't or couldn't win, mind you - but that the group didn't even have the right to fight and lose!
It was a decision stunning not only in its obvious unfairness but in its brazen "what are you gonna do about it" style of corporatist intimidation.
Even Savannah Morning News columnist Tom Barton, who has rarely missed an opportunity to cheerlead the wholesale dismantling of state regulatory oversight since his beloved Republicans came to save the day in 2002, thought, rightly, that the decision was "an insult."
While the ruling is being appealed as we speak, the message was clear: Georgia remains strictly pay-to-play. Apparently, the purpose of taxpayers here is to fund special deals between special players, and the purpose of voters is to put a formal seal of approval on the corrupt machine that takes their money and their rights and gives little in return.
When Perdue and the Republicans finally ousted the age-old state Democratic machine - itself no stranger to corruption -we heard much rhetoric about how the new guard would restore honor, accountability, and transparency to state government.
It's been ten years. Clearly they overpromised and underdelivered, to put it charitably. We didn't need a study to tell us that.
So: What are you gonna do about it, anyway?
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