A ‘common cause’ no more in Georgia

Bob Irvin ethics reform

Bob Irvin (center) waits to speak at an event of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, which Common Cause Georgia helped organize, February 2011. (AJC Photo / John Spink)

 

Watching a dog chase its tail is funny. Watching a watchdog chase its tail — and catch it, and gnaw on it until it draws blood — isn’t.

But that is what Common Cause did in April, ousting two members from the Georgia chapter’s board. Two more board members resigned last week in protest.

Nationally, Common Cause has long been nonpartisan in name but left-leaning in practice. The state chapter, however, for years had more independence. Common Cause Georgia’s board, meticulously balanced among Republicans, Democrats and independents, worked with the group’s mission of “holding power accountable” but didn’t endorse everything the national organization did.

“We built a different identity from the national organization,” says Bob Irvin, an Atlanta Republican who was kicked off the state chapter’s board. “And they let us do it. And I think they let us do it because they realized that was the way it had to be in Georgia.”

Last fall, under a new national president, Miles Rapoport, that independent streak came to be viewed as untenable. What’s more, Common Cause added “economic, social and environmental justice” to its mission. Those are loaded words politically.

“It is a very left-leaning agenda that national is promoting,” says Terry Taylor, a Smyrna Democrat who was also purged from the state board. “If I wanted to find a place to advocate for those things, there are plenty of places to go. I wanted desperately to have a place that was nonpartisan that could talk about good government and holding power accountable and transparency. That’s what I wanted Common Cause to do.”

In the past, the state board abstained from the national organization’s more ideological efforts. “It helped our organization to narrow our focus and speak with one voice to a larger constituency,” says John Sours, a Republican who served on the state board from 2003 to 2010.

But Irvin and Taylor say Rapoport made it clear that was no longer an option, for either the board as a whole or its individual members. They were removed from the board for refusing to accept the changes. Lucius Morton, a Republican from Columbus and the current state board chairman, resigned in protest, as did Phyllis Fraley of Atlanta, an independent.

Jenny Rose Flanagan, Common Cause’s vice president for state operations, describes the changes as an “issue of governance.”

“There are issues nationally that all of our state boards work on together,” she says. “We’re going to continue working in Georgia to make democracy as accountable and accessible to the people as we can.”

Count me as deeply skeptical this new Common Cause will remain effective here.

It was the state chapter’s political neutrality that allowed it to partner with groups from across the ideological spectrum, including the tea party, to push for ethics reform. Seeing diverse groups work together toward a genuinely common cause was a refreshing break from our polarized politics, and a credit to the broader organization. (Full disclosure: I accepted a “Democracy Award” from the Georgia chapter in 2012 for my columns about limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators.)

Of course, there were Republicans even then who dismissed Common Cause Georgia as just a bunch of liberals. Back then, they were wrong. From now on, unfortunately, it looks like they’ll be right.

Reader Comments 0

52 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Nationally, Common Cause has long been nonpartisan in name but left-leaning in practice. The state chapter, however, for years had more independence.

Independence is not something left-leaning activists support or encourage. They're control freaks. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

@FIGMO2 That explains why they use every adjective in the book for one word! 

MHSmith
MHSmith

Life is so sad, so unfair, everywhere someone looks.  


Hey Jude, don't make it sad, take a sad song and make it better.  







straker
straker

"Political neutrality" in Georgia apparently means turning a blind eye to "economic,social and environmental justice". 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Economic justice is two parties mutually agreeing to exchange one quantity for another.

The left fears real economic justice.  It means less control for them over the lives of other people.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Social justice environmental justice economic justice.... 


Where's Bernie Sanders when we need him.... right? 



The infamous "SAD DAY" happened when justice was no longer a "singular" word that had no plural definitions. 


Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@MHSmith Social justice environmental justice economic justice.... 


Where's Bernie Sanders when we need him.... right? 


More evidence. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@MHSmith  That some believes that “justice” refers only to one subject is unbelievable.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@MHSmith @MarkVV 

Then there are some people, who apparently do not even understand what they are talking about.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Don't Forget:  The scumbag Soros is a major contributor to this loony "organization".

MarkVV
MarkVV

There are two sides of the dispute described. It is helpful for a chapter of a national organization to have some independence to adjust its activities to local conditions, but there is also a natural right of the national organization to expect adherence to its goals. A national organization cannot accept a chapter to build a “different identity from the national organization;” what would then be the point of being part of that organization?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV

What's the point of an organization that is so out of touch with the citizenry as to be incapable of making any "progress" at all towards its goals?

TicTacs
TicTacs

Politics is a easy out for those who don't really want to solve the problem, just extend it or the truly ignorant who vote GOP based on emotion and not facts.  The same goes for the "D"s  their emotions have different motives, though.

MarkVV
MarkVV

It is a sad political world, in which “justice” becomes a dirty word.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV

What's sad is when partisans use code words like "justice" when they really mean "free stuff for Democrat voters paid for by people who work for a living".

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout @MarkVV  "Social justice," etc. are examples of the left doing the same thing. I don't know what there is to argue about here.


See what I mean Kyle 


Can you honestly read the above comment by LBB and think its our side that branded those words ?


Do you care to revise your statement ?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Its noted when shown a concrete example, just minutes later mind you, of a Republican equating Social Justice to free stuff, that you refuse to acknowledge it. 

Yup its definitely words liberals defined in such a away conservatives cannot accept them. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV Talk to the people who politicized it in these cases, not those of us who merely recognize that they did.

MHSmith
MHSmith

@LilBarryBailout @MarkVV


Well, let's turn it around on the Libs, LBB...


Where is the blind eyed socialist decry of justice for, social responsibility, economic accountability and environmental accessibility?



Nah, they never change. They only want the injustice of  "equal results" in lieu of equitable rewards.



Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 What’s more, Common Cause added “economic, social and environmental justice” to its mission. Those are loaded words politically.


Pretty sad when those words are seen as "loaded"

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Contra your earlier assertion, I don't think the right has "branded" an approach the way the left has on this issue.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Do you disagree with the characterization? It has nothing to do with whether one values prosperity, the environment, etc. But that phrasing connotes a left-wing approach to the issues, does it not?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar But that phrasing connotes a left-wing approach to the issues, does it not?


Im curious. What terms would connote a right wing approach to those issues ?


Republicans are just better at branding things with their base. Things that should be seen as universal. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar To clarify: When folks on the left use the phrase "social justice," or "economic justice," or "environmental justice," what they mean is a left-wing approach to social, economic and environmental issues. The branding, as you put it, is that only their approach to the issues can result in justice.
This is, of course, nonsense. But that branding effort is why those specific terms are considered loaded.

Not that you didn't know any of that when you started trolling on this issue.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Not trolling.


And to note you don't have a right wing equivalent of those terms.


To me thats a pretty strong indictment that the right has branded those things as "liberal" ideas. 


Republicans do this all the time. They know calling the inheritance tax the death tax swings public opinion in their favor. They are masters of that game. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar So they've branded by not branding?

The death tax thing is a good example of a case where the right has branded a certain thing to swing the issue its way. "Social justice," etc. are examples of the left doing the same thing. I don't know what there is to argue about here.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@HeadleyLamar Well, in the spirit of Democrat/leftist redefinition of terms, let me take a shot at this for you:

1. economic justice = you get to keep what you earn

2. social justice = everyone receives equal standing under the law, no exceptions

3. environmental justice = the environment exists for everyone, NOT for politicians to sell (or sell access to)

notagain
notagain

Georgia without an ethics watchdog.Hope this doesn't peeve Gov.Deal

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@notagain It wont.


His march to take over all State Govt with zero accountability is well underway. 


Joe Republican's response. Thunderous applause. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Interesting read.  Most Georgians probably didn't realize that Common Cause Georgia wasn't as extreme and dogmatic as the far-left national organization (I did not).

Unfortunately the reality has caught up with the perception, and Real Americans will be the worse for it.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout Real Americans


This is one of those buzzwords Republicans are good at building up one way or the other with their base


Because as we all know, they are the " Real Americans"

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

You wonder whether Bob Irvin etal should've taken a grin n' bear it approach to the changes so they could remain on the board. Because you know what they'll be replaced with. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Bumper15

 you know what they'll be replaced with. 

People who don't find "economic, social and environmental justice" to be deal killer terms, I guess.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

While I appreciate the original-source reporting you've done here, Kyle, I have to ask about this:


Common Cause added “economic, social and environmental justice” to its mission. 


Could you elaborate just a bit about what, exactly, is so objectionable about those particular terms? I understand that they are, as you say, loaded. 

But what makes them incompatible with holding elected officials to ethical standards in a nonpartisan manner? Is it really the most productive thing for the more conservative members of the state chapter to abandon ship, just because (apparently) the national organization has added what seem like a few dog-whistle-y terms? It just sounds like more of an excuse than a valid justification, to these ears.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex It wasn't just the addition of those terms -- although they are, as you seem to acknowledge, associated with a particular ideology as they are typically understood in a political context (the emphasis there is important) -- which is bad enough for an organization that's supposed to operate beyond partisanship or ideology. It was also the national board's mandate that every single state board member support (I believe the phrase used was "work on") every single one of them.

And, what's more, they had to go ahead and commit to work on every single one of them even though the national board hasn't yet decided how they would be applied to Common Cause's work. That was a big complaint of Taylor's which I didn't have space to fit in the column (which ran in print Sunday). So they had to agree to support them, not just not to oppose them, and they still have no idea how Common Cause might decide they relate to "holding power accountable." As I wrote, in the past the state board and its members could remain silent about such agenda items if they didn't want to work on them. It was the sum of all this that the four board members here in Georgia found so objectionable.

The national board of course has the right to make these changes, and the state board members have the right to resign if they disagree. My problem is that, like these board members, I think such changes severely damage Common Cause's ability to work effectively in Georgia. And given that -- for now, anyway -- there is no other such nonpartisan, non-ideological, ethics watchdog operating here, that's a real loss.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex

And given that -- for now, anyway -- there is no other such nonpartisan, non-ideological, ethics watchdog operating here, that's a real loss.

Can't argue that.

I do wonder, though, how difficult it would be to work within the organization to define those terms in more conservative-friendly ways.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex They didn't get to this point after a week or two. They have been having this argument since at least December. The state board members were basically told theirs was not to question how, theirs was but to do, or ciao.

(Thank you, thank you, try the veal, tip your waitress.)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex She who is paid  $2.13 per hour and cannot qualify for expanded Medicaid because she lives in Georgia?  THAT waitress?


Kyle, read "Nickled and Dimed."