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McKoon courts lobbyist donors

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Amid the unveiling of a plan to cap gifts from lobbyists at $100, Columbus state Senator Josh McKoon is courting big donations from the same crowd the rule would impact.

State lawmakers are prohibited from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session, so eleventh hour funders are hardly surprising, but a Sunday report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution states that the Columbus senator is “seeking thousands of dollars from the people he’s trying to put the clamps on.”

The top level of donation in the campaign fundraiser invitation is $2,500, though it does include a note stating that $5,000 is the maximum level. State law allows maximum donations of $2,500 for both primary and general election funds.

For his part, McKoon defined campaign contributions as being “fundamentally different” in nature when pitted against the gifts he is seeking to cap with the recently released ethics reform proposal, noting that donation caps already exist for campaigns but not gifts during the legislative session.

“A campaign contribution assists me in delivering a political message to my constituents. A gift is something I consume for my own gratification and I think those are two different things,” he further stated.

But that logic hasn’t allowed McKoon to escape scrutiny on the topic.

Wayne Garner, a lobbyist for various interests in the state, asked him to “please explain to me how you won’t take $100 (in gifts), but you’ll take $5,000.”

Jet Toney, chair of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association, stated that such fundraising “speaks to inconsistencies in message.”

McKoon’s allies in his pursuit of ethics reform include a wide swath of groups, from Common Cause Georgia to Tea Party Patriots. Common Cause’s William Perry backed the senator’s explanation of the difference, dubbing campaign contributions an “expression of political will” and stating that “they are controlled in that they can’t happen during the session.”

-Brandon Howell