Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Florida Way, Corruption

May 8, 2011

When people think about political corruption they think of places like Chicago and New York but the number one state for corruption in America is Florida.  Florida has had more public officials found guilty of corruption than any other state in the last decade, a staggering 824 politicians. These are just the ones who got caught.
But the savvy politician does not have to break the law. They can simply set up a consulting company and circumvent every campaign law. It has become the Florida Way.

State Senator Mike Fasano

Consulting fees are nothing more than buying access to elected officials and obtaining political favors. Why do lawyers, engineers, and doctors give up their careers to make $30,000 a year as a legislator in Tallahassee? We hope this is a public service but for many they make more money as politicians than in the private sector.

 Let’s say you are a certain transportation company seeking legislation that will help your bottom line. Campaign laws limit the amount of money you can give to a political campaign, but in Florida you can hire elected officials as “consultants” and pay them whatever you want. There are numerous examples of powerful elected officials being paid tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees or to perform marketing studies despite the fact they never performed those services before they held elected office.

The average taxpayer does not have a fighting chance when powerful special interests throw millions of dollars at elected officials. If an elected official has a choice between feeding their family or serving the taxpayer they will chose their family every time.
State Senator Mike Fasano proposed an ethics reform bill this year. The problem is Fasano accepted a job with a powerful company just weeks after approving Sun Rail that helped his new employer. Ethics reform should prevent elected officials from taking consulting fees or jobs from companies that do business with the State of Florida.

We currently have elected officials employed in “government affairs” with companies who benefit from their work. If an elected official has a job with a company that does business with the State of Florida, that representative should be barred from voting on legislation that affects their company. These public servants are not serving the public at all. They put themselves in a position of power to help their employers.
Corruption is no longer cash in a brown paper bag. The corruption now comes in the form of consulting fees and jobs that influence public policy to the benefit of special interests. Florida desperately needs a major ethics reform law that bars elected officials from putting the interests of special interests above the citizens of Florida.

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