Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bills race through Legislature to revive once-outlawed 'leadership funds'

TALLAHASSEE — Legislative leaders are swiftly carrying out one of their priorities by bringing back once-reviled "leadership funds," unlimited soft-money accounts under direct control of a few influential lawmakers.

Reform-minded legislators outlawed the funds in 1989 amid a growing perception of "pay to play" politics. Special interests donated vast sums to powerful lawmakers (Democrats at that time) right before or during the legislative session, and lawmakers unopposed at election time would funnel their unspent campaign money into a leadership fund, only to be handed choice committee chairmanships.

In reality, the leadership funds never really disappeared. They functioned underground as part of the two political parties' vast fundraising apparatus, with big-money donors being asked to write checks to "House Victory" or "Senate Victory" funds. But the cash was homogenized into the parties' bottom lines.

Now, Republican lawmakers are packaging the re-creation of the funds as an act of "transparency" intended to reinforce the "who gave it, who got it" principle of Florida's campaign finance laws. A secondary motive for the funds' resurgence was revelations of lavish spending by Republican Party ex-chairman Jim Greer.

"The public will be well served if we bring back transparency to the process," said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. "Under the current system, there's no way to see how much money they have raised or see from which interests they have raised that money."

SB 880 cruised through the committee on an 8-3 party-line vote Tuesday. With the outcome preordained, Democrats did not bother even debating against the bill.

Democrats called the "transparency" argument a cynical ploy by Republicans that will actually result in less transparency than currently exists. The leadership funds, which would called Affiliated Party Committees or APCs, would report donations and expenditures quarterly, the same as political parties, and would not required to have Web sites and report transactions within 10 days, as other lawmaker-controlled committees must.

The four lawmakers who will control the funds are the incoming Senate president and House speaker and the Democratic or minority leaders of the two chambers.

Voting against the bill were Democratic Sens. Charlie Justice of St. Petersburg, Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Nan Rich of Weston, the incoming Senate Democratic leader, who said: "This bill opens the floodgates to special interest money and the influence it buys."

The House version of the bill, HB 1207 by Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, will be considered today by the Economic Development and Community Affairs Policy Council.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Bills race through Legislature to revive once-outlawed 'leadership funds' 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 8:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The next step in a sex abuse survivor's recovery: Erasing her tattoo


    Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA — Even after 20 years, Sufiyah can't escape the memories of being sexually exploited by gang members as a teenager.

    The tattoo makes it impossible.

    Sufiyah, an aAbuse survivor, prepares to have a tattoo removed  at Tampa Tattoo Vanish  on Thursday. During her teen years, she was sexually exploited by a gang. The tattoo is a mark of her exploiters. 

Tampa Tattoo Vanish is a new tattoo removal business run by Brian Morrison, where survivors of human trafficking get free tattoo removal.  [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  2. Cridlin: Linkin Park's Chester Bennington had a wail that stood apart

    Music & Concerts

    For all the old-timers' talk about how they don't make singers like they used to, about how rock vocalists of the 21st century can't hold a candle to the frontmen of yesteryear, here's a fact no hater could deny:

    Chester Bennington could flat-out wail.

    Chester Bennington of Linkin Park  performs at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the 2014 Carnivores Tour. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  3. Police investigating shooting in north Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Police were investigating a shooting in north Tampa Thursday that left one person seriously injured.

  4. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  5. Team begins work to exhume Salvador Dali's body for paternity test


    FIGUERES, Spain — A forensic team on Thursday entered the Salvador Dali museum in northeastern Spain where the surrealist artist's remains are due to be exhumed to settle a paternity claim brought by a 61- year-old woman.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. Work has begun to exhume his body for a parternity test. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]