Jack Latvala's Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do Ethics Bill

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 3, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

The ethics guru of the Florida Senate is unlikely to promote a bill that would put himself out of business, but in all good conscience, he should.

Jack Latvala's SB 846, which just passed the Senate, expands Florida's ethics laws to promote transparency, accountability and ethical behavior among lobby-minded officials in local governments.

Among everyone, that is, but himself.

The bill doesn't extend to any area of government where Latvala would have to comply.

Jack Latvala

Jack Latvala

Yet, federal disclosure documents show the Clearwater Republican was paid more than $600,000 over the past six years to lobby for defense appropriations for a pair of nonprofits -- a diabetes-research institute and the fundraising arm of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. That includes the years since his re-election to the Senate in 2010. (See Latvala documents from OpenSecrets.org here and in the attached spreadsheet below.)

Latvala would be the first to tell you there's no law against legislators working as federal lobbyists.

A year ago Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee bureau chief for the Orlando Sentinel, wrote in considerable detail Latvala's lobbying story, "Senator backing lobbyist restrictions is lobbyist himself." So, this isn't exactly breaking news.

At the time the senator told Deslatte, "There's no prohibition I'm aware of on making a living while I'm up here. It [Washington lobbying] doesn't have a darn thing to do with anything I do up here."

But it has plenty to do with what Latvala does in Tallahassee. And here's the connection the Sentinel story didn't make: 

Latvala, who served in the Senate from 1994 to 2002, returned again in 2010, just in time to win appointment to the Senate Redistricting Committee. In fact, he chaired it. As such, he had a huge public role in redrawing Florida's congressional districts.

"I guarantee you, these Congress people come into the committee's offices begging and pleading for redistricting considerations," a South Florida political consultant told me Wednesday." Jack Latvala would have had a very public role in the future of each member of the Florida congressional delegation."

The same Jack Latvala who would turn around and lobby these "begging and pleading" members of Congress again as soon as Tallahassee business ended.

You think it's never dawned on him that this is a conflict of interest? Or, at least, the perception of one?

While the Florida senator -- 2013 and 2014 chairman of his chamber's Ethics and Elections Committee -- did disclose his income and contracts on his state financial-disclosure form, he has certainly kept the "L" word under wraps as it relates to himself.

His state financial-disclosure form filed in 2012 lists his direct-mail printing business, GCI Printing Services; his political consulting business, which helps manage campaigns for fellow Republicans; and Jack Latvala Inc., as his primary sources of income that year. The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis is named as a client, but nowhere does it state Latvala is a lobbyist for the fund.

And, oddly, Latvala skips right over the lobbying career -- a big part of his life --  in his Wikipedia bio.

The reason I bring this up now is because of an interview Integrity Florida's Dan Krassner gave to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers last week. It made me think how crazy the Latvala situation is.

In assessing the senator's ethics bill, SB 846, the executive director of the government watchdog organization, said, “The current proposal is a one-way ban."

He said, "If legislators want a lobbying ban on local officials, they should apply the same rule to themselves. If it’s unethical for a local official to lobby the Legislature, then lawmakers should lead by example and put the same restrictions on themselves. Lawmakers should be consistent and fair. There shouldn’t be a different rule for the Legislature.”

Krassner is so right. SB 846 has passed the Senate. But, frankly, it needs more work. To be fair and ethical, somebody needs to save Latvala from himself. This is a bill that needed one more amendment.  

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. en.


Comments (2)

Jack lee
4:58PM APR 3RD 2014
We the people of Pinellas county need to VOTE OUT SENATOR LATVALA !!! He does not prepubescent us !!! He Represents ILLIGAL ALIEANS !!! Vote out this R.I.N.O we will organize and do everything we can to end this REPUBLICAN IN NAME ONLY POLITICAL CARRIOR !!!

Senator Latvala is another Charlie Crist he has to go !!!
7:34AM APR 3RD 2014
Another "outing" of a true HYPOCRITE! Great job Nancy. Seems Mr. Latvala places himself upon the highest of pedastals, well out of reach from the very short arm of the law, although in Tallahassee one could say, "What law?" Mr. Latvala continues to make sure that HE is covered and the citizens? Oh, that's right, he's supposed to represent the PEOPLE, instead, lining his pockets with whatever trinkets his greedy hands could grasp. He, like many others in Tallahassee (and party affiliation means little when it comes to greed) tend to fatten themselves up with lucrative offers of post legislative employment, investments, or whatever they might get their greedy paws on! Oh how things have changed. From local politics to Tallahassee, the greed has expanded well past those law abiding taxpayers who desperately wait in the wings for justice to tip the scales, even just a slight tip, to favor those waiting and hoping.
Having someone such as Mr. Latvala as an elected official, allegedly representing taxpayers of this state, is nothing more than an insulting slap in the face to all of us. Will it ever become better? Most likely not. But hope springs eternal!

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