Florida Politics Full of Corruption

A Florida grand jury releases a new report saying the state's political system is *full* of corruption. It recommends strengthening penalties for public officials who abuse their positions, but only the state legislature can do that.

To hear it from the grand jury, here in Florida, if you want to play, you have to pay. It may be unethical, even illegal, but in most cases, it's not a criminal offense.

The grand jury investigation was called for by Governor Crist a year ago. Over his four-year term, the governor's had to sanction more than 30 elected officials for different kinds of ethical violations.

One of the most common is bribery, and the grand jury says it happens all the time. Case-in-point: former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who helped steer taxpayer money to his hometown college and later was given a job at the school. But there could be a big hurdle to criminalizing many of the most common problems. Namely, a legislature that may not want to get tough on itself.

Rep. Alan Williams is all in favor of reform.

“When we're talking about this new government and this 'work together' and this 'let's get to work', well, let's focus on how we can make sure that our elected officials are held accountable,” he said.

The reform recommendations are nothing new. Many of them were introduced as bills during last spring's legislative session, but none of them were passed.

The grand jury also recommends eliminating so-called "three-pack" advertising. That's a strategy that lets political parties skirt campaign finance limits and offer unlimited help to their candidates of choice.

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