The Left and Ethics, Florida-Style
Around the State
Whenever liberals want something done, they pass a law telling others what they must or must not do, or how to do it. Unlike King Canute, when they command the waves to be still they expect it to happen. (We’re still waiting for Barack Obama to stop the oceans from rising, but I digress.)
Recently, an outfit called Integrity Florida declared Florida to be a wicked place, leading the nation over the past 10 years in corruption.
I looked at the numbers and found California to be slightly worse, and one wonders whether the number and complexity of a state’s ethics laws might produce more corruption, but let’s not quibble.
The subliminal message, of course, is that since Republicans are predominant in state government, the alleged corruption can be attributed to them.
Yet the cases are highly concentrated in South Florida -- not exactly a hotbed of conservatism.
Also, if a story in the liberal media doesn’t identify the offender as “Republican” in the first paragraph, that usually is a tipoff.
The Tampa Bay Times (formerly known as the artist St. Petersburg Times) named six errant politicians, identifying one as a Republican. Maybe the others belonged to a different party.
We need more ethics laws, the crusaders say.
There is a surfeit of laws already. And we have the Florida Commission on Ethics, which hears complaints about wayward state and local government officials and prosecutes in administrative courts, which issue civil penalties. Other fines are incurred automatically for missed paperwork.
Ten years ago, the commission found a Jacksonville politician did not file paperwork properly and fined her $4,000. She was so impressed she didn’t attend her own hearing and hasn’t paid the fine, now $4,561.38 including interest.
One problem is that if an official can ignore them long enough, some fines expire.
Apparently a number of others have stiffed the state as well. More than $1 million that was owed from automatic fines has been written off as uncollectable, and a like amount collected.
The attorney general’s office is trying to collect fines from civil penalties, which tend to be larger.
The left is all over this, with one editorial raving about “The Corruption State,” and tying the study of federal corruption convictions to the state ethics laws, most of which involve not filling out forms correctly or letting a lobbyist pick up your lunch tab. The Teapot Dome it is not.
Matt Carlucci of Jacksonville, one of the newer ethics commissioners, said he hopes to persuade legislators to give the commission greater leeway to place liens on property.
That might help collect what is owed, but piling on even more requirements and higher fines, as liberals advocate, seems futile. Better to just elect ethical people.
Chances are that if you aren’t ethical enough to pay a fine for not being ethical, another heap of ethical requirements is not likely to increase your ethicality.
Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.