Without integrity, leadership is tyranny waiting to strike.
As I met with hundreds of voters during the 2016 election, one theme was repeated over and over to me: that Florida political system is corrupt. Further, many felt that changing the system would be difficult, if not impossible. I both agree and disagree. Yes, Florida politics are corrupt; changing the system will be difficult, but not impossible.
First, there is too much special interest money being given and spent by Florida politicians. While individual persons are limited to contributing $1,000 per candidate per election cycle, contributions to a political action committee (PAC) have no such limitation. Further, while both candidates and PAC must initially disclose the identity of contributors, politicians and lobbyists transfer funds amongst their PACs and, in the process, hide the true identity of donors. Many PACs are connected to individual candidates and they are able to raise and spend large amounts of secret money through this artifice.
Second, special interest lobbyists have cultivated a cozy relationship with members of Florida’s legislative and executive branches. This, combined with all of the special interest money schloshing through the system, makes it difficult for our elected officials to resist the bidding of their special interest donors.
Third, while there is a place in the system for lobbyists, there is a revolving door between legislators and the lobbying industry in Tallahassee. Once they have completed their service, legislators march out of the Capitol to become “government relations specialists” who lobby their former colleagues.
Fourth, legislative action in Tallahassee often skirts the requirements of or Sunshine (Open Meeting) laws. This is apparent in the backroom deals at the end of the 2017 session.
The bottom line is that our elected officials eventually and typically adopt views that benefit the special interests, not the voting public.
Further, this disfunctional and corrosive system has gone on for so long that, to many, both in and out of state government, it has become the “new normal”. This must change!
What needs to be done?
First, I would eliminate all PACs in Florida. Donations to political campaigns should only come directly and transparently from living, breathing human beings. I pledge to not accept any PAC money from PACs representing corporate interests.
Second, I would prohibit legislators from directly or indirectly lobbying the legislature for ten (10) years after leaving office. Legislators serve the public; they should not be able to profit from their service.
Third, many legislators are attorneys. Some work for law firms who lobby the legislature. In these latter cases, legislator-lawyers should be required to recuse themselves in matters where a client of their firm would directly or indirectly benefit.
Fourth, while I disagree with term limits in general, if we are going to have, they should be meaningful. Legislators should only be able to serve eight years in the House or Senate. Period. And not both. No professional legislators.
Fifth, we must be sure that all of the proceedings in Tallahassee are completely transparent, above board and in compliance with the Sunshine Law. No more backroom deals!
Finally, I believe that many decisions of government are best made at the local level, i.e. by counties and cities. Nonetheless, our legislature tends to gather more and more power unto itself, and to the special interests controlling it, through a process known as preemption. This must be curtailed. Localities know best how to serve their residents.l.