William Perry Launches New Watchdog Group, Partners With Atlanta Unfiltered
First, Georgia Ethics Watchdogs is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that will focus on filing ethics complaints against public officials who violate the law.
“It’s really difficult to be the good cop, bad cop, under one roof. You file a complaint against someone one day, then try to get their support for a policy change the next,” Perry said, referencing his former role with Common Cause Georgia, in a press briefing.
As previously reported by APN, Common Cause Georgia is going to be focusing more on lobbying, particularly around voter rights and democracy.
“I’m looking forward to being the one who plays the bad cop role and holds public officials accountable,” he said.
Perry said he intends to set a high standard for the types of ethics complaints he pursues.
“I’m not looking to be someone who files for any reason, a kind of ‘gotcha’ complaint,” he explained.
He wants to ensure that when wrongdoing is exposed, something is done about it.
“Often we expect that once something has that exposure, something will happen, but too often it dies. I hope to be that mechanism to follow up and keep it going,” he said.
Second, Perry is also launching Georgia Ethics Watchdogs Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that will offer resources and training to people who want to become citizen watchdogs.
Perry said that at any public meeting, “There’s always those dedicated folks there… who may lack resources to bring meaningful change.”
“We want to help them find an official track to get on to punish those who are violating the law,” he said.
To that end, Perry is partnering with Jim Walls, a retired investigative reporter and founder of the watchdog website, Atlanta Unfiltered.
“Really citizen journalists… are often the only people who can raise questions that other media doesn’t for various reasons,” Walls said at the briefing.
“It’s about taking back your role as a citizen in government,” he said.
Walls will compile resources for the new Georgia Watchdog website, starting with a 26-part series called “Georgia’s Ethics Loopholes from A to Z.”
Each part in the series will explain how a particular state ethics law falls short or isn’t enforced.
Walls cited scholarships for elected officials to attend meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as an example.
Georgia Ethics Watchdogs and Georgia Ethics Watchdogs Education Fund will be funded by small donors, whom Perry will continually seek out.
He said that grant funding from big corporations is likely off the table because they tend to have lobbyists supporting “people who we alienate.”
“There’s a lot of political backlash in this state,” Perry said.
He explained that a former Common Cause donor once told him they had stopped supporting the organization at the behest of “someone from the Mayor’s office,” referring to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office.
“This is going to be a very grassroots oriented group,” Perry said.
An official launch party will take place for Georgia Ethics Watchdogs and Georgia Ethics Watchdogs Education Fund at Manuel’s Tavern on September 28, 2015, at 7pm.
The organizations’ new website is available online, here: http://gaethicswatchdogs.org