ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia state House on Thursday passed legislation that would allow for the creation of new “leadership committees” that could raise campaign funds without limits and coordinate directly with individual candidates, including during a legislative session.
Senate Bill 221 passed by a vote of 96-69, with Republicans generally in support and Democrats opposed. It now goes to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for consideration.
The bill would allow for leadership committees controlled by the governor, lieutenant governor, a political party’s nominee for governor or lieutenant governor, and by the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate.
Democrats argued the bill will lead to more money interests being injected into Georgia politics, while Republicans said the bill gives both parties equal opportunity to generate campaign funds.
“Currently these committees exist and are able to raise funds,” said Republican House Majority Whip Trey Kelley. “But when they go to expend those funds, they have to do it through an outside group if they want any direct coordination. This would eliminate that need.”
“This bill is full of transparency and sunshine,” Kelley said, a statement that was met with laughter from some Democrats.
Democratic Rep. Stacey Evans spoke in opposition to the bill and asked members a rhetorical question before the vote: “Do you really want to vote to give your caucus leadership, whoever they may be now and in the future, more power over your fate? To allow them to use unlimited campaign contributions and coordinate with your opponents if they think you’re getting out of line?”
Currently, lawmakers are not able to raise money during legislative session. That rule helps protect them from any perception that they may be accepting money from a lobbyist or special interest group in exchange for voting a certain way on a piece of legislation.
Under the bill, the leadership committees could raise money from those groups during session and then make a contribution to a lawmaker.
Democratic Rep. Matthew Wilson raised concerns that it could lead to direct quid pro quo.
“Just think about this: financial incentives from the leadership of these funds potentially for individual legislative actions taken by members,” Wilson said.
A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment.