Senate panel OKs revival of leadership funds
Without debate, a Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would re-establish leadership funds as soft-money machines controlled by the future leaders of the House and Senate. The bill (SB 880) passed the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee on a party-line, 8-3 vote.
Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the panel's chairman, praised the revival of leadership funds as a step forward for "transparency" -- the buzz word du jour in Florida's Capitol. Alexander said funds raised will be reported separately on a quarterly basis, on the same reporting cycle as political parties. But what the bill does not do is require lawmaker-controlled funds to establish web sites and disclose contributions and expenditures within 10 days as the current law requires.
"It's more transparent than it is today," Alexander said. "(Today) it's just commingled and raised and spent with other party funds."
After leadership funds were outlawed two decades ago, they simply went underground inside the two political parties and have operated as "victory funds" controlled by the incoming Senate president and House speaker. Leadership funds are in addition to lawmaker-controlled soft-money funds known as CCEs, or committees of continuous existence. The House version (HB 1207) by Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, will be considered in committee on Wednesday.