We the unwashed get hosed again
I am struggling to come up with just the right word to describe the trip two lameduck politicians and their posse took to Europe this past November on your and my dime (aka, taxpayers.) Boondoggle, which is defined as “an activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value,” is about the best I can do at the moment. But “arrogant” and “insensitive” wouldn’t be far behind.
It seems that before leaving office, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who chose not to run for reelection, and Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, president pro tem of the state senate, who ran to replace Duncan and lost, decided they needed to go on a weeklong economic development trip to Germany and the United Kingdom as part of a special Senate Committee on Economic Development and International Relations. The committee, by the way, was created at the end of the 2022 legislative session under the watchful eye of — guess who? — outgoing Sen. Miller. Knock me over with a feather.
The entourage included 14 people: Duncan, Miller and state Senators Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville; Emanuel Jones, D-Ellenwood; Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta; and Clint Dixon, R-Buford, as well as the state senate’s PR guy and two members of Duncan’s security detail. (Why does Duncan need a security detail when most people in Georgia couldn’t tell you who the Lt. Governor is and likely nobody in Germany or Great Britain would know or care?)
I am sure all the Brits and Germans they met were polite and accommodating but were no doubt aware that these two guys have zero power now. They couldn’t pass gas.
Some of you may recall the Thanksgiving turkey of a trip the late Speaker David Ralston made in 2010 to Germany and the Netherlands with his family and his chief of staff and spouse, courtesy of a Washington- based lobbying firm, to look at highspeed rail service between Chattanooga and Atlanta. Why you had to go to Europe over the Thanksgiving holiday to talk about running a train from Chattanooga to Atlanta was never explained to me satisfactorily. What I did understand was that boondoggle cost We the Unwashed $17,000.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. A boondoggle is still a boondoggle. Only, in the case of this particular boondoogle, we don’t know what it cost us. That is because our intrepid public servants and their bureaucratic minions under the Gold Dome won’t tell us.
The Atlanta newspaper found out about the trip and asked how much it had cost. Although the paper estimates the cost to taxpayers to underwrite the boondoggle as being in the “tens of thousands of dollars,” the General Assembly’s legislative counsel, Rick Ruskell, told the paper to go suck an egg. “The Georgia General Assembly and its members, staffs, committees and offices are not subject to Georgia’s open records laws,” he wrote. So there.
It seems that the people who pass our laws feel no need to abide by them. Legislators will tell you that conversations with constituents should remain private. I have no problem with that. But when a gaggle of politicians and their PR flack and security detail bop off to Europe on a meaningless sightseeing trip, you and I have every right to know how much it cost us. It is, after all, our tax dollars.
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel. The Atlanta newspaper reports that in a rare moment of bipartisanship, current Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy, R-Macon, and Senate Minority Caucus Chairwoman Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, are wondering aloud themselves about the trip and say they plan to look into the matter as to why and how much.
Lt. Gov. Jones and Sen. Kennedy issued a joint statement, saying, “We are taking this issue very seriously, and our offices will investigate this process and ensure more transparency for hardworking Georgians.” Sen. Parent said, “There should be a level of transparency and accountability to the public.”
Talk is cheap (certainly cheaper than the boondoggle.) Let’s see what if anything comes of this. I’m sure former Lt. Gov. Duncan and former state Sen. Miller are losing no sleep over it. They got their free trip in, thanks to us, and feel no obligation to tell us what their excursion cost taxpayers. The only thing we know for sure from this unwarranted boondoggle is that once again We the Unwashed got hosed by our intrepid public servants. So, what’s new?
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at [email protected]; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ dickyarb.