A former state representative said the Georgia Chamber of Commerce influences the agenda of House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), even though that agenda favors large corporate entities and sometimes frustrates average Georgians’ best interests.
As The Georgia Star News reported last week, former State Rep. Jeff Jones said “the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is not the friend of the average Georgia citizen.”
“Here lies one of the fundamental problems with the Georgia House side is [that] so many members are more interested in being on the inside [and] being under the good graces of Speaker Ralston, getting their committee chairmanships, and being included on the inside of the power structure, more so than they are interested in doing the right thing by the people in their districts here in Georgia,” Jones said.
Members of Ralston’s staff did not return requests for comment Monday.
The Star News asked Jones to what degree he believes the chamber influences Georgia General Assembly members.
“Huge. Look at Speaker Ralston’s [political] contributions. What kind has he gotten from the Georgia Chamber and from some of the larger corporate interests in the state?” Jones asked.
“That is a tell in itself. I personally believe that Speaker Ralston’s decisions on legislation and initiatives — that he allows to move through the legislative process — are influenced greatly by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.”
According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website, the Georgia Chamber, through its Political Affairs Council PAC, has donated $3,200 to Ralston in the past 12 months. Members of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce have donated $4,800 during the same time span.
As The Star News reported last month, Georgia’s chamber of commerce interests have donated $4,250 to Georgia State Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) since 2018, shortly before she took office.
As reported this week, Georgia State Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) said she suspected members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber are working behind the scenes to kill Byrd’s Voter ID legislation. She said Rich is working to block Byrd’s legislation in a Special Committee on Election Integrity subcommittee.
Byrd said last week she believes that Georgia Chamber members dislike her Voter ID legislation because it would try to stop non-citizens from voting. She went on to say that “they think it will stop Green Card people from coming into our state to work.”
Members of The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber have not returned repeated requests for comment on these matters.
Jones said Georgians’ who lack wealth or political clout at the state legislature have options.
“What always works to varying degrees, depending upon the representative, is to burn up the phone lines versus email, but email [works] as well, [although] it is easy to ignore email. Phone calls to the offices and district offices if the numbers are published on the House website. They are very effective and, to the extent they influence election integrity legislation, call the offices,” Jones said.
“The State House is in session from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. As the session wanes on, they may go later. Most of the diligent members are in their offices from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. before they cross the street and go to the House chambers. Committee hearings sometime happen in the morning, but call and politely insist to the administrative assistants that they speak to their representative and tell the representative to call them back.”
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