Let the record and the history books show that no matter what else the 2011 Florida Legislature does, wise or unwise, it has done one thing utterly and morally despicable, and beyond any excuse or redemption.
With greed and lust and arrogance, on March 24, 2011, the Florida Legislature voted to legalize the direct bribery of the Legislature itself.
That is what the history books will show.
As of that date — for legislators rushed to make it the law immediately — it is legal for the leaders of the Democratic and the Republican parties in our Legislature to run so-called leadership funds to accept direct, unlimited payoffs from those seeking favorable treatment.
Such payoffs were part of Florida's corrupt past as late as 1989. They have been outlawed in this state for more than two decades.
There is no covering this up.
There is no justifying it. There is no denying it. There is no rationalizing it. There is no way to hide from the truth:
The people with the sacred power of writing the laws of our democracy with one hand now can legally hold out a money sack with the other.
Nothing is more devastating for Florida — not all the other bad laws, not all the profiteering and sloganeering, not all of the rest of what happens in Tallahassee.
And that is how this Legislature will be remembered.
This is the Legislature That Legalized Bribery.
It will hang around the neck of every legislator who voted for it. It will mar their reputations forever. It will be how they are remembered and judged by the passage of time.
Every Floridian who comes afterward will say of them, "This is what they did with the trust that was given to them."
I have read all of their excuses and the scripted justifications that they sent to citizens who tried to tell them they have done wrong.
I despair for the young legislators, the new ones, so utterly hopeless already, so seduced, amoral, lost.
As Upton Sinclair said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it."
His campaign-contribution payoffs, too.
This is black and white. It is stark. It takes a warped moral sense, an unspeakable perversion, to find any gray in it.
The Tallahassee spin goes like this: We are going to get money anyway. So you might as well pay us off directly.
The argument continues: See, this is actually better, more "transparent," because we will list the contributions in reports, and the public can see who is buying us.
And yet, even that much is untrue, because — the money is STILL LAUNDERED INTO LOCAL ELECTIONS.
Local candidates bought by these "leadership funds" will still have their pretty little brochures, and their TV commercials, and all the rest …
And the people of Florida will still not be able to match each candidate with the true source of his or her money.
I cannot tell you how many times, over the years, readers have suggested to me that legislators should wear sponsorship labels, just like NASCAR.
And, yes, it would be better, if every legislator had to wear a label saying, X percent from this or that industry, and so on. But that is exactly what this evil law does not change.
So here, now, is what the people of Florida ought to do.
Here is what I beg my brothers and sisters on the editorial page of the St. Petersburg Times to do, every day for the next two weeks.
Here is what the editorial pages of Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville and Key West and my excellent friends in Sarasota, whom I celebrate and congratulate for their Pulitzer Prize-winning service to Florida, should do.
Here is what the radio hosts of Florida should do. Here is what the bloggers should do.
Here is what you should do.
Here is what you should do right now.
Here is what you should do this morning, and Monday morning, and Tuesday morning, and every morning for the next two weeks.
You should tell them that they must repeal this wicked crime. They must repeal it before they are scheduled to adjourn and leave Tallahassee.
Their fellow church members should tell them. Their neighbors should tell them. Their own wives and husbands and sons and daughters should tell them. The citizens of Florida should accost them on the street and tell them.
Or else they should not come home at all.