Lobbyists spend more than $500K wining and dining Georgia lawmakers



If any lawmakers went hungry on the final day of this year’s legislative session, or thirsty afterward, they can’t blame their friendly lobbyists.

The lobby crowd at the Capitol spent almost $27,000 earlier this month providing breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and after-hours drinks to lawmakers and their staffs the day and night the legislative session ended.

That’s in the ballpark of what they spent in years past as well.

From cupcakes for the lieutenant governor's office to chicken wings, pizza, sandwiches and the after-session party at Bada Bings (which has a hamburger named after House Speaker David Ralston on its menu), lawmakers were well taken care of while they took care of the people's business on the final day.

In all, lobbyists reported spending $578,000 on the session, which ended April 2. That’s up slightly from last year, but well below what it was before a 2013 law limited what lobbyists could spend on individual dinners and outlawed them providing ballgame and concert tickets. Back in the day, lobbyists spent closer to $1 million a session.

Breakfast was provided by veteran lobbyist Trip Martin, whose clients include Delta Air Lines, which was hoping for a tax break that it didn't get, to the House Democratic Caucus for $775. The Georgia Telecommunications Association, which was interested in legislation to expand broadband services in rural Georgia, spent $327 paying for breakfast in the offices of Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville and Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

Lunch and dinner for lawmakers and staff, who worked late into the night, was provided by a who's who of lobbyists at the Statehouse. The Georgia Forestry Association spent $172 on lunches for the spouses of lawmakers. Comcast, which also was lobbying on the broadband bills much of the session, spent $71 on cupcakes for Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan's office.

Just as the big feed on Sine Die at the Capitol is a tradition, so are the after-session parties. One particularly rowdy House Republican post-session party in 2007 broke up in the wee hours after one lobbyist slammed another over the head with a beer bottle.

This year, the state's Realtor and hospital lobbies, both groups who regularly have big business before the General Assembly, listed spending about $1,000 for House Democratic Caucus receptions, while a long list of companies and lobbyists reported spending about $2,500 on after-session events, which they listed as everything from "fellowship" and "dinner and entertainment" to a "House Republican Caucus Sine Die celebration."

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