During Mayor Shirley Franklin’s second term, Common Cause proposed a pay-to-play reform ordinance. Franklin refused to support the ordinance, and it went nowhere. In the last election cycle, Common Cause solicited commitments from the four of the leading candidates for mayor to support the adoption of a pay-to-play ordinance. All four candidates refused. One official told us that because of low name recognition, they needed those contributions to run their campaign.
The American people know that Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks, the coal and utility industries, and many other interest groups don’t spend millions each year in political contributions and the lobbying of key members of Congress with no expectation of reward. Likewise, no one believes that real estate developers, airport concessionaires, bidders for city contracts, their employees and family members make large political contributions in city elections far out of proportion to those from ordinary citizens because of civic pride.
Testimony by former airport director Angela Gittens during the Corey case told us that she had been instructed by former Mayor Bill Campbell not to put the advertising contract at the airport up for competitive bids because Barbara Fouch was a “friend.” This was one more example of the cronyism that has plagued Atlanta contracting for years, going all the way back to the Hartsfield administration.
Because city officials have refused to address the problem of cronyism and outright corruption in city contracting over a period of years, the city’s reputation has suffered and our already cash-strapped city and its citizens are now saddled with a $17.5 million judgment.
Isn’t it time for the people of Atlanta to demand that our elected officials put the interests of the city ahead of their needs for campaign cash from companies and individuals doing business with the city?
Emmet J. Bondurant , a partner in the law firm of Bondurant, Mixson Elmore LLP, is the former chairman of Common Cause Georgia.