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Bill Shipp - 05/10/09
THE HONESTY FILE

Gary Horlacher has hit upon an idea that every Democratic and Republican political candidate ought to applaud. Let every statewide candidate submit to a lie-detector test to prove he or she is morally ready for public service. OK, so I didn't hear a single clap or cheer; it's still a worthwhile notion.

If the state requires voters to prove their legitimacy with picture IDs and proofs of birth, why should it not also require candidates to prove their honesty and morality?

When Horlacher, an Atlanta attorney and Democratic campaign strategist, announced for secretary of state a couple of weeks ago, he also took a lie-detector exam. A certified polygraph operator grilled Gary. The operator said Gary passed the polygraph exam with "a score twice the minimum passing score," which I assume means Gary was lying very little.

Gary also swore in an affidavit that he had told the truth in answer to several key questions that would make a contender for dog catcher think twice about running.

If a Horlacher-like affidavit somehow became law and a requirement for holding office, the state Capitol might suddenly have three floors of vacant offices.

Horlacher, the only announced Democrat in the secretary of state race, says he's taking polygraph tests and publishing affidavits to draw attention to the need for state government to adopt standards for high ethical and moral conduct - a noticeable deficiency in the past seven years. Horlacher is particularly critical of Karen Handel, the present secretary of state, who is running for governor as a Republican. He says she was too partisan and unfair in managing the state's elections. Obviously, however, Horlacher has aimed his ethics spear mostly at the Legislature and the governor's office, though he does not name names.

Take a look at a sample of Horlacher's certified truth-telling document, and then make a list of politicians you believe could pass it.

In a declaration tailor-made for some of our legislative leaders, Horlacher swears:

"During my marriage of over 31 years to Teresa, I have never engaged in any type of sexual activity with another person."

"I have never used any illegal drugs," Horlacher vows in a second statement that would eliminate a battalion of potential officeholders and candidates.

Another politician-killing declaration: "I have never personally knowingly filed any incorrect ethics disclosure reports for lobbying or campaign efforts, (and) I have never knowingly filed a state or federal income tax form that contained false information or withheld income."

Then the capper: "Throughout my career, both in the private sector and in public service, I have never engaged in any illegal or unethical activity, whether for quid-pro-quo payment to myself or others, or to further the interest of a client or business."

I don't know precisely what that last declaration means, except I would certainly run it past the governor's office before asking the Legislature to approve it.

One mean-spirited reporter noted that despite his goody-goody affidavit, Horlacher was arrested for DUI in 1999, a charge that caused him to resign his brief tenure as former Gov. Roy Barnes' press secretary. The charge was later reduced to reckless driving, and Horlacher went on to aid Shirley Franklin in her 2001 election as Atlanta mayor.

Until recently, candidates had trouble gaining traction with anticorruption platforms, and requirements for ethical conduct are certainly low-priority items in the Gold Dome.

Whether Horlacher can translate his good-behavior campaign into votes remains to be seen. Still, his gimmick beats sitting on a tower for days, as one candidate for the Senate tried without success last year. It also may make some corporate lobbyists think twice as they twist arms and hand out plain envelopes at the next session of the Legislature.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.