Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

Hudgens takes a page from Oxendine’s playbook

Ray Henry of the Associated Press, who has established himself as one of the sharpest reporters in Georgia’s mediasphere over the past few years, slapped around Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens in a choice, 774-word article sent out over the AP wire Wednesday.

Henry essentially reported that Hudgens has learned very well the lessons passed on by the former insurance commissioner, John “The Ox” Oxendine. During his 16 years in the regulatory post, Oxendine was the acknowledged master of shaking out contributions and free dinners from the companies he regulated and their lobbyists.

Hudgens evidently had a very short learning curve when it came to adopting Oxendine’s tactics. Henry reports that the money spent by insurance industry lobbyists on Hudgens and his staff members amounted to “larger-than-average lobbyist spending on executive officials. While lobbyists frequently splurge on those elected to office, it is less common for them to pick up the tab for staff regulators who set and enforce rules. One of the entertainment expenditures would be illegal when a new lobbying law takes effect next year.”

More insights from Henry’s AP dispatch:

Hudgens said it was not a conflict of interest to accept meals or gifts from people his office regulates. After being questioned about the spending, Hudgens said his staff will pay for their own entertainment at future gatherings and begin following a new law limiting lobbyist spending before it legally takes effect in January.

“I was in the Legislature 14 years,” said Hudgens, a Republican. “I never felt my vote was for sale, and I don’t think someone taking me out to dinner ever influenced my vote, yea or nay. And I brought that same feeling into the position as insurance commissioner.” . . .

More unusual was the spending on rank-and-file regulators, such as Steve Manders, who works as Hudgens’ director of insurance products review. He helps review insurance policies sold in Georgia and drafts rules governing the industry.

During one meal, Hagler spent $411 to cover the expenses of Manders, his wife and their two daughters, or just over $100 per head. Hagler also spent $123 to buy Manders a round of golf during the convention.

That golf expense would be illegal once a new law takes effect Jan. 1, setting the state’s first limits on lobbying expenditures. Other lawmakers attending the convention also received free meals and, in one instance, lodging.

Hudgens said he was uncomfortable that Manders’ children had attended one of the two meals.

Tags: free meals , insurance commissioner , insurance lobbyists , Ralph Hudgens

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