Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida Democrats struggle to disclose their finances

A quarter of Democratic state lawmakers failed to comply with a law that requires they disclose their finances, compared to only 3 percent of Republican lawmakers.
Annette Taddeo
Published Aug. 12

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s Democratic lawmakers are proving to be much worse than their Republican colleagues in complying with a state law that requires they disclose their finances.

More than five weeks after the July 1 deadline and more than a week after late notices were sent out to lawmakers, 25 percent of the 64 Democratic state senators and representatives failed to comply with the law, compared to only 3 percent of the 96 Republican lawmakers.

Florida requires its elected officials to file financial disclosure forms with the Commission on Ethics that calculate their net worth by listing assets and debt. They must also list all sources of income. By law, the forms had to be at least postmarked by July 1, but the state gives officials a grace period before automatic fines kick in. If the forms still haven’t arrived by Sept. 3, the state will begin fining officials $25 a day up to a maximum $1,500.

“They shouldn’t give us the grace period, because we all take advantage of it!” Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo said with a laugh when a reporter corrected her that Sept. 3 was the end of the grace period, not the deadline to avoid breaking state law. “I will get it in today.”

Taddeo, one of five Democratic senators whose forms hadn’t been received by late last week, said she was delayed in part because she was still trying to figure if she had a state retirement fund to report. Three hours after the phone interview, she texted, “Update, I have zero to report on fl retirement because I’m not yet vested ... I’m submitting form now.”

Of the three Republicans and 16 Democrats who hadn’t filed their forms, only Republican Sen. Tom Lee asked the commission for an extension. He explained in a telephone interview that he is a partner in a limited liability company, which has until September to file its federal tax return, so until that’s filed, he’s not exactly sure of his income.

“What I wanted the ethics commission to understand is that I had a real problem answering the questions on the financial disclosure related to my income,” Lee said, adding that other delinquent lawmakers “know, as I do, that there’s a grace period. But that’s not what’s going on here with me — ignoring a deadline because I know there’s a grace period.”

The only one of the 73 House Republicans who hasn’t turned in his financial disclosure is Juan Fernandez-Barquin. He said it’s because his accountant is being treated for pancreatic cancer.

“I haven’t really been hounding him about my finances,” he said. “I’m going to turn them in before I get penalized.”

But he said he was amazed to hear that 11 of his 47 Democratic House colleagues still haven’t filed the forms.

“That’s a pretty outstanding number,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer said the trend along party lines is probably just coincidental.

“My guess would be if you looked over a number of years, you’d probably see some years more Republicans and some years more Democrats,” he said. “We all want to do it. None of us want to be subject to a penalty or fine.”

He too, is one of the late filers. Like Lee, he said it’s a matter of waiting for a corporate federal tax return to be filed.

“My corporate return is not finalized. That has to be finalized for my personal return to be finalized. I’m expediting that now and I intend to have everything filed on or before Sept. 3,” he said.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Donald Trump speaks during the Israeli-American Council’s annual summit at The Diplomat Resort & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday, December 7, 2019. DANIEL A. VARELA  |  Miami Herald
    The president helps the Republican Party of Florida raise millions and speaks at a national conference on Israeli-American relations.
  2. President Donald J.Trump waves to supporters as he steps out of the Air Force One at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner at the  JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa and later to the Israeli-American Council Summit 2019 on Saturday. PEDRO PORTAL  |  Miami Herald
    The state party raised $3.5 million at the dinner where the president spoke.
  3. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  4. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  6. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  7. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  8. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  9. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes
  10. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement