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Greer is a symptom — here's the cause

The Florida picture:

• On Wednesday Jim Greer, the previous chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, was arrested and accused of stealing a piece of the party's contribution action.

• In an unrelated case, the previous speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Ray Sansom, is under criminal indictment and is awaiting trial.

• So many local officials have been removed from office around the state because of corruption or criminal charges, especially in South Florida, that the governor asked the state Supreme Court to convene a statewide grand jury to investigate public corruption.

• The grand jury that indicted Sansom issued a report blasting the influence of money in our state Legislature and called for reform.

• As my colleagues Lucy Morgan and Adam Smith now report, the names of at least a dozen political figures have popped up in five major ongoing federal investigations into Florida's "pay-to-play culture."

Look. There's something sick at work when you can fork over $52,000 to get your name in the biggest letters on the governor's birthday cake, as did the now-notorious donor Scott Rothstein of Fort Lauderdale.

The Legislature has created a Wild West of unlimited campaign money. The Legislature's leaders maintain their own networks of shadowy campaign committees with deceptive names that rake in that unlimited money from special interests. It is a vast money-laundering scheme.

It is not shameful to be paid off in Florida politics. It is a thing of pride. It shows how many "friends" you have.

When the grand jury that indicted Sansom issued a report critical of the Legislature, the reaction in the Legislature was resentment and total denial.

When Sansom resigned as speaker, even after revelations he had gotten an unadvertised, $110,000-a-year job from a community college to which he had steered millions in state dollars, the House gave him a standing ovation.

Before this year's session of the Legislature, the weak state Commission on Ethics asked for more authority.

The Legislature did not pass it.

There were proposals in the Legislature to strengthen Florida's laws on public corruption.

They did not pass.

The Legislature instead passed a law to loosen the rules on money in politics — legalized "leadership funds," or campaign slush funds controlled by the incoming leaders of the Senate and House. The governor vetoed that one.

Don't forget last year's scandal in which staffers of the agency that sets electric rates for Floridians, the Public Service Commission, were hanging out at parties and sharing private BlackBerry codes with utility executives.

This led to a no-brainer proposal to ban such contacts. But not only did that bill for PSC ethics fail — the Legislature instead removed two of the five PSC members for opposing a big electric-rate increase.

This is the culture that governs Florida. It is a culture of self-entitlement, rationalization and amorality.

So if you hear the governor or attorney general or party officials or leaders of the Legislature tut-tutting about Jim Greer now, remember that they and their system made Jim Greer.

He is the symptom, not the cause.

Greer is a symptom — here's the cause 06/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 9:53pm]

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