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Let's say it again: Florida's legislators are for sale

There is no state, no nation, no planet, and no universe where it should be legal to pay off a Legislature directly.

There is no government in which a sworn lawmaker should be able to take unlimited payoffs from those seeking favorable treatment.

And yet this is now precisely the law of Florida.

In Sunday's column I called the Florida Legislature "the Whore of Babylon" for passing a law last week that legalizes its own bribery.

But the topic cries out not to be forgotten. This is a turning point in Florida's history.

It is now legal in Florida for the leaders of our House and Senate, of both the Republican and Democratic parties, to operate what are laughably called "leadership funds."

If you are an interest group in Florida, a corporation, a lobbyist seeking favor, you go to these "leadership" funds run by lawmakers …

And you pay them.

They will launder the money into local elections around the state, to keep electing more obedient followers.

This is so astonishing a corruption that it defies belief.

The bill in question is House Bill 1207, passed in the 2010 legislative session.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. Last Thursday the Legislature overrode the veto.

The House vote was 81-39. The Senate vote was 30-9.

The twisted logic used in the Capitol, and what your legislator will try to tell you, is that it's better for the Legislature to be paid off directly.

See, they will write it down in a separate little report. So this is all about "informing the public" and "transparency."

If they try to give you this line, just ask this question:

"So, is it legal to make unlimited payoffs to 'leadership funds' that are operated directly by the leaders of the Legislature, or not?"

Yes.

People ask: What can I do?

You can call or e-mail. You can go to the House's website (www.myfloridahouse.com) or the Senate's (www.flsenate.gov) and find contact information for your legislator. (I beg you to be firm but civil, especially to the hard-working staff — the world is rude enough already, isn't it?)

But they are counting on you not to do anything at all.

Instead, here is what they are counting on you to do:

Re-elect them.

After all, those who voted for this last year overwhelmingly got re-elected in November. Some who voted against it were defeated by newcomers who just voted for it!

Area senators voting yes:

Charles Dean, R-Inverness; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg; Jim Norman, R-Tampa; Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.

Senators voting no:

Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

House members voting yes:

Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview; Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey; Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; James Grant, R-Tampa; Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa; Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; John Legg, R-New Port Richey; Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland; Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs; Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill; Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness; Greg Steube, R-Bradenton; Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; Dana Young, R-Tampa.

House members voting no:

Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Richard Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg; Betty Reed, D-Tampa; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.

Let's say it again: Florida's legislators are for sale 03/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:42am]
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