Will Integrity Florida's latest report move lawmakers to beef up disclosure requirements?

In conjunction with their report, Integrity Florida has put more than 600 documents on its website to see financial disclosure information about Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, as well as the Cabinet and every member of the 120-member state Legislature.

Dan Krassner, the group's executive director, said the report demonstrates that Florida needs more transparency involving the personal financial dealings of elected officials.

Speaking at CL's offices in Tampa Monday afternoon, Krassner showed us a copy of the disclosure form that every lawmaker in Louisiana must complete. It's nearly 20 pages long. Florida's? All of two pages.

"If you're an official in Louisiana, you're disclosing your spouse's financial interests and yours, which you don't in Florida. You're disclosing if you're receiving any income relating to government, or gaming interests or political interests," he says.

In Florida you can be on the payroll of a lobbying firm and serve in the Legislature. In fact, several legislators are (but they can't lobby their colleagues on specific issues).

In Tom Lee's extremely intense race against Rachel Burgin in the Senate District 24 race in Eastern Hillsborough County, it's become apparent that some lobbyists still hold a grudge against the former Senate President dating back to 2005, when he was able to pass SB 6B, 2005, which prohibits all gifts to legislators and legislative staff and requires all lobbying firms to report compensation on a quarterly basis.

But lawmakers are not required to disclose gifts that come from non-lobbying sources, such as foundations.

Krassner says that many Cabinet members and legislators do disclose those gifts, though, referring to conferences, plane tickets and meals provided to Attorney General Pam Bondi and Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll.

"Are these gifts being given because these folks are public officials, and do we have any issue about that?" asks Krassner, referring to such trips, entertainment tickets, or other items given to such legislators.

He adds that nine state lawmakers were flown to Taiwan over the past year, courtesy of the Taipei Economic and Cultural office out of Miami, for $7,000 apiece.

"Would these policy makers receive these gifts if they weren't in office?" Krassner asks.

So will this report have any juice in Tallahassee? Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz has said he expects ethics legislation to be brought up in 2013.

  • Ben Wilcox & Dan Krassner with Integrity Florida

On Monday, an Illinois appeals court denied a motion by former Illinois Governor George Ryan to overturn a set of convictions that might have granted him his release or at least a new trial in his imprisonment on corruption charges. Meanwhile, another former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, is just five months into his 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

Such incidents have placed the Midwestern state at the tops of some lists of the most corrupt states in the union, an achievement that used to be held by states like Louisiana.

But according to Dan Krassner with Integrity Florida, the disclosure forms that legislators must complete in Louisiana now are among the best in the country, something that his group believes would behoove Florida's lawmakers to embrace.

In a new report, his group also advocates that financial disclosures be put on online, that lawmakers disclose any conflicts of interest before they vote (rather than after the vote as is done now), and that the state Ethics Commission be empowered to perform random audits of lawmakers' forms.

It also reports that lawmakers and top state officials accepted at least $104,449 in gifts from non-lobbyists in 2012.

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