You've probably heard that Gov. Scott's hand-picked Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll resigned yesterday amid a federal racketeering probe. What you may not have heard is that the legislature is working to pass "ethics reform" that will do little to stop the culture of corruption that's consuming Florida.
Now more than ever, we need real ethics reform that will stop the worst abuses of the public trust that pervade our government.
Ethical scandals have always been a part of politics, but corruption has reached epidemic levels in Florida. Between 2000 and 2010, our state led the nation in federal corruption convictions.1 Gov. Scott's administration has been no stranger to scandal either, with Chief of Staff Steve McNamara resigning under a dark cloud in 2011.2 Just this week, a news investigation revealed that a handful of GOP state representatives helped set up a fly-by-night company which a state auditor said should never have received public funds.3
The Florida Legislature's response so far? A watered down, half baked bill that conveniently ignores key recommendations from Florida's grand jury on public corruption.4 The Florida House's version of "ethics reform" would amazingly allow even more money to flood our political process, with all the special interest influence peddling that goes with it. The legislature's ethics reform plan only seems to protect politicians, not the people. Real ethics reform begins with adopting the main components of the grand jury's recommendations:
- When a public official's conviction is over a violation motivated by money, the public official should be charged with a felony.
- The maximum fine for an ethics violation should be raised to $100,000, above the current limit of only $10,000.
- The state ethics commission should be able to launch independent investigations of its own. Currently, a citizen must file a complaint in order for an investigation to be launched.
There's a lot more to be done, particularly with tackling the suffocating power of corporate special interests, but this is where we need to start.
Florida has seen too many pay to play scandals like Lt. Gov. Carroll's. Sign our petition to the legislature and demand real ethics reform.
Gov. Scott and his allies in the Legislature won't enact real ethics reform because it's the right thing to do. Real ethics reform will only happen if Floridians like you demand it.
A government without trust is a government that threatens the integrity of democracy itself. Sign the petition for real ethics reform, and let's demand a better Florida.
Mark, Jon, and the Progress Florida team
1"Study ranks Florida No. 1 in government corruption" Tampa Tribune, 5/31/12.
2"Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff Steve MacNamara resigns" Tampa Bay Times, 5/12/12.
4"Rick Scott promised big ethics reform, but nothing has happened" Miami Herald, 3/7/13.