Chapter one: A legislator's war chest can be a good indicator of the policies they're involved in
There is a lot of money in Georgia politics.
Go to Chapter 2 to see finance reports from Central Georgia's lawmakers.
"In 2017, that special election in Atlanta, estimates are at least $60 million, some people say as high as $70 million," said Professor Charles Bullock. "This is for one congressional district."
The University of Georgia political expert says that was a big federal race and included big spending from political action committees that's hard to track.
"Some of them don't have to file anything and some of them don't have to disclose where the money comes from," he said.
That's less common at the state level, but there's still plenty of money flowing at the statehouse.
A close analysis of dozens of campaign finance reports show most of Central Georgia's legislators have amassed war chests worth tens of thousands of dollars or more.
That's not to say it's all bad. It's undeniable that it takes cash to campaign.
"You have to have money to get there, you have to travel, you have to go meet them," said Macon State Senator David Lucas.
Still, understanding who and what is funding a legislator can give a better understanding of what their legislative focuses are.
For instance, Lucas sits on the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
Bills on online sports gambling as well as many other types of gambling have to pass through that committee before the full legislature can vote on it.
Industry groups affiliated with online sports gambling, as well as coin-operated gambling machines commonly found in convenience stores donated 11 times to Lucas since October 2019, totaling more than $11,000 in contributions, campaign finance reports show.
We asked him if that money sways the way he votes on certain issues.
"Not really, when you see that, that's because I've supported the amusement industry," he said.
Lucas added he doesn't always support the industries that give to him.
"At the end of the day, I've got to sleep with myself," he said.
Warner Robins State Representative Heath Clark is in a similar spot. He sits on the Insurance Committee and has gotten 7 donations from healthcare groups since November 2019, totaling about $4,000 according to campaign finance reports.
However, like Lucas, he says it doesn't sway his decision-making.
"I don't really think about who's given me money and who hasn't, I try to remain true to who I am and the promises I made when I was campaigning," he said.
It's also worth pointing out that, while the word "lobbyist" has taken on an ugly connotation in some circles, Professor Bullock says, at the state level at least, they serve an important role.
"The lobbyists play a tremendous role in terms of providing background information," he said. "In DC, you've got a Library of Congress, you've got a staff of, on the Senate side, dozens of people. If you need to know about an issue, your staff can root this out, but in Atlanta, you don't have that."
He says most Georgia state legislators have to share a single legislative aid with multiple colleagues.
So why pay attention to this stuff at all?
"I think...it's really important to find out," said Lucas. "What you look at is policies that affect you."
Chapter two: Central Georgia lawmakers' finance reports
Want to know who's giving to your legislator and how much money they've raised?
Find him or her on this list of the most current campaign finance disclosures and take a look for yourself. And if you want to keep track for yourself in the future, it's easy to do.
For federal legislators, just head to this page on the FEC's website.
At the state level, look for this page on the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.
Rep. Sanford Bishop D-Columbus, 2nd Congressional District
Follow this link to see his individual donors.
Rep. Austin Scott R-Tifton, 8th Congressional District
Rep. Jody Hice R-Monroe, 10th Congressional District
Rep. Rick Allen R-Augusta, 12th Congressional District
Senator David Perdue R-Georgia
Senator Kelly Loeffler R-Georgia
Governor Brian Kemp R-GA
Senator Ed Harbison D-Columbus Senate District 15
Senator John F. Kennedy R-Macon Senate District 18
Senator Blake Tillery R-Vidalia Senate District 19
Senator Larry Walker R-Perry Senate District 20
Senator Jesse Stone R-Waynesboro Senate District 23
Senator Burt Jones R-Jackson Senate District 25
Senator David Lucas D-Macon Senate District 26
Rep. Trey Rhodes R-Greensboro House District 120
Rep. Mack Jackson D-Sandersville House District 120
Rep. Susan Holmes R-Monticello House District 129
Rep. Patty Bentley D-Reynolds House District 139
Rep. Robert Dickey R-Musella House District 140
Rep. Dale Washburn R-Macon House District 141
Rep. Miriam Paris D-Macon House District 142
Rep. James Beverly D-Macon House District 143
**Beverly reported zero contributions from the latest filing period. As a result, a breakdown of his donors is not available
Rep. Danny Mathis R-Cochran House Disstrict 144
Rep. Ricky Williams R-Milledgeville House District 145
Rep. Shaw Blackmon R-Bonaire House District 146
Rep. Heath Clark R-Warner Robins House District 147
Rep. Noel Williams R-Cordele House District 148
Rep. Jimmy Pruett R-Eastman House District 149
Rep. Matt Hatchett R-Dublin House District 150
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