What do you want from the people you elect to public office?
Honesty? Candor? Fairness? Intelligence? Independent thinking? To listen to you, the people who voted them into office?
If only things were that simple. The problem is the noise. At least in Florida, legislators have a great many interests whispering in their ears and, so far, no shouting from constituents.
So, as the Florida legislature drafts, proposes and passes legislation for sweeping changes in the very best interests of the lobbyists whispering to them, let us take a look at the various interests gaining representative and senator attention:
$4.2 million – this is the amount of money spent just in 2011 by the top two dozen companies and special interests in order to court lawmakers.
$45 million – this is the amount of money poured into the 2010 elections by the 30 largest contributors to pick the special legislators we have today.
So, what have the special interests put on their shopping list?
- Walt Disney wants to maintain its tax advantages – bid, $188,010
- Universal wants tax breaks for its film company – bid, $181,549
- The Florida Association of Realtors wants a property tax cut – bid, $275, 500
- Health care and insurance groups want reforms to further improve their already plentiful bottom line – bid, $449,500 from just one of the companies
- Florida Power & Light, TECO, and Progress Energy want permission to tax customers to pay for solar plants – bid, over $748,000
- GEO Group, a private prison company wants, well, to run all Florida’s prisons – bid, $106,000
- Florida Chamber of Commerce wanted to get a very special Senator, John Thrasher, reelected – bid $1.5 million
- Florida Chamber of Commerce wants to better the bottom line of its corporate members, including Publix, Disney, land developers and other interests. They contributed even more to get our special legislators elected – bid $5.5 million
- Florida Chamber of Commerce did not want to lag behind in its efforts, so it continues to give in 2011 – bidding has started at $257,000
- AT&T wants a new phone bill (advantageous legislation) and so they gave and keep on giving – bid, $1.7 million on last year’s lobbyists, $1.4 million on last year’s campaign contributions and $177,847 so far in 2011.
These groups are not letting up either. It is reported that the Florida Chamber of Commerce has 30 lobbyists ram-rodding 65 bills.
It is no wonder that many lawmakers have warm feelings for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. As Rep. Mike Horner, a Kissimmee representative said:
“They are an invaluable ally. My door is always open to the Chamber, and they were very helpful during my election. But we ran on creating jobs. So, the idea that it looks like we may have a pro-business session shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
No, Mr. Horner, no one is surprised in the least. Business groups and corporations have paid well for what they have gotten. We voters just really expected legislators would represent Florida citizens, rather than foreign corporations.