Legislators ignoring Florida's rampant corruption cost you money

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Scott Maxwell

Published June 6, 2011


To see how bad political corruption in this state is, look no further than the Tallahassee Democrat.

Not the news pages though there's plenty of evidence there, too. No, I'm talking about a front-page ad that the FBI took out not long ago.

"Dishonest government officials aren't just wasting your tax dollars," the ad said. "They're betraying your trust. Report public corruption to the FBI."

That's right. Crooked officials are so rampant in Florida, we actually have the feds taking out front-page ads in the state capital, appropriately enough.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Last year, a grand jury studied Florida's heinous record and found that more than 800 public officials had been convicted during a 10-year period the highest total in America.

We're talking about everything from bid-rigging to cash payouts.

And that says nothing about all the improprieties we read about that never get prosecuted.

The statewide grand jury had demanded action. It called for major reforms, tougher penalties, greater disclosure and stronger teeth in the state's anti-corruption efforts.

Yet can you guess what legislators did to address this issue last month?


Oh, sure, there were bills filed and reforms proposed. But they all died.

When the Sarasota Herald-Tribune asked Senate President Mike Haridopolos why reform didn't happen, he responded: "I think it should have."

Um, but you're the president of the Senate, Mike. You're kind of in charge. Saying you think it should have passed is like you blaming your bad breath on somebody else not putting a mint in your mouth.

Haridopolos, by the way, was recently admonished by his own Senate for not disclosing his income sources.

Oh, but the blame can be spread far and wide and throughout both political parties.

Few legislators wanted to crack down on public officials betraying the public trust. And the excuses were downright laughable.

State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, argued that if we criminalize more political misdeeds, it might crowd the prisons. (Under that logic, we should probably stop arresting murderers, too.)

State Rep. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, argued: "You can't legislate morality." (What's the point of any criminal law, then?)

We even had State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, argue that legislators needed more free meals and gifts from lobbyists. Whined Detert: "We can't even eat with our own friends if they belong to an organization that employs a lobbyist, and I think that's a problem." (Nancy, you can dine with anyone on God's great, green Earth. You just have to do what most of America does: pay for it yourself!)