Georgia politicians, officials score with free Rose Bowl tickets

Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, reportedly reimbursed the University of Georgia for his two Rose Bowl tickets. (Staff/File)

ATLANTA | Rose Bowl tickets were pricy and scarce for common football fans, but not for several Georgia politicians.

 

Organizations affiliated with the University of Georgia gave free tickets to several state lawmakers and officials, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

The Georgia Legislature passed a bill in 2014 that prohibited public officials from accepting free tickets, golf games and anything of value over $75 from lobbyists.

However, colleges and universities don’t have to register as lobbyists.

The newspaper reports that the university invited about 180 people to the Jan. 1 game between Georgia and the University of Oklahoma. The tickets were paid for by the UGA Foundation and the UGA Athletic Association, both nonprofits.

UGA spokesman Greg Trevor could not say whether either group paid for travel for elected officials or Regents members to the game in Pasadena, California, the Journal-Constitution reported. In an email Friday to The Associated Press, Trevor said he did not have that information.

Under Georgia’s open records law, the Journal-Constitution obtained a list of officials who scored the free tickets. It includes U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler; Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge; and state Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

Cowsert told the newspaper that he reimbursed the university for his two tickets to the game.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr was listed as a guest of his wife, Joan Kirchner Carr.

Also on the list were several top higher education leaders, such as University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, his predecessor Hank Huckaby and eight current Georgia Board of Regents members.

Many names on the list were University of Georgia administrators, led by president Jere Morehead. Several have relationships with political leaders or have served on state agencies.

Rick Thompson, former state ethics commission executive director, said he had several questions, such as the justification for elected officials to accept the tickets and how the tickets were distributed by the foundations to the university.

 

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