An ethics reform law passed in 2012 capped lobbyists' gifts to state lawmakers at $75. But giving hasn't slowed down for the University of Georgia and other public colleges and universities. That's because government employees are no longer required to register as lobbyists.
Since they're not officially lobbyists, the state ethics commission no longer keeps tabs on University System spending. But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed open-records requests with the schools themselves. The investigation found that they spent a total of $48,000 on legislators since last November and exceeded the $75 limit 20 times.
Here's a taste of the AJC article (online subscription required):
But the real currency for UGA’s lobbying effort is football.
Chastain was a solid source for UGA tickets in 2013 — before the “reforms.” That year, she reported giving out $5,350 in free tickets to public officials.
In 2014, when lawmakers knew she no longer had to report those freebies, Chastain was hit up for $6,110 in tickets, including some lawmakers who came back again, again and again.
Chastain’s best customers were House Appropriations Chairman Terry England; Reps. Carl Rogers and Chuck Williams, the chair and vice chair of the House Higher Education Committee; and Sen. Frank Ginn, who has no committee assignments directly related to UGA but is a graduate. Together they received at least $2,187 in meals, gifts, golf and football tickets from Chastain.
Ginn, of Danielsville, and Williams, of Watkinsville, both represent part of Athens in the General Assembly. England is from just down the road in Barrow County.