Monday, January 24, 2011

Can Anyone Name A More Corrupt State Than Florida?


Political back-scratching... in Florida of all places

Last week Michael Froomkin, a distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Miami put forward a discussion of whether the new super-majority Republican Florida state legislature is in the grip of nutbags.
Is the Florida Legislature an insane asylum run by high functioning mentally ill, or, is it a barely legal, criminal syndicate protected by corporate-run political action committees? Whatever, legislators and lobbyists are baying at the moon– these are the business interests– the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries and jack-ass-in-chief Barney Bishop, Big Ag ie. Big Sugar– promoting legislation that says, in fact, Florida has to live in the stinking mess it created; this sea of pollution that rings the state.

Florida Republicans are in the vanguard of the GOP plan to dismantle the EPA. As a letter from the League of Conservation Voters suggested a few days ago, "imagine if rivers were still filthy enough to catch on fire. If lead paint were still legal. If there were no national standards to make sure your drinking water was safe. It’s what our country once looked like-- and what it could look like again without the Environmental Protection Agency. And it's what radical right kooks like Eric Cantor, Joe Barton, Fred Upton, John Boehner and Paul Ryan are steering the U.S. towards-- and what the Florida legislature's Republican super majority has set it's little heart on entirely. Why? Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Sugar and... Big campaign donations.

And water and other kinds of environmental pollution aren't the only messes Florida is suffering right now. Big Corruption is what makes the state go round and round. Also last week TPMMuckraker reported that the criminal investigation into David Rivera has expanded. Alas, I think they got the story wrong... really wrong. Few observers doubt that violent right-wing woman beater David Rivera is one of the most corrupt figures in Florida politics.

Forget for a moment that Rivera, who gets $700 a month in subsidies for his government healthcare, just voted last week to repeal health care for the taxpayers who just elected him to Congress-- and into that shiny subsidized healthcare plan-- from Miami-Dade and Collier counties. Even forget that Florida's already hard-presed 25th CD stands to face denied coverage for as many as 361,000 individuals (including around 50,000 children) if Rivera's vote were to be enacted into law. Or that Rivera's plan shoves 8,000 seniors back into the "donut hole" and denies another 85,000 seniors in his district preventive care benefits or that Rivera just voted to increase the number of people without health insurance in FL-25 by 165,000 individuals, increasing the costs to hospitals of providing uncompensated care by $24 million annually. That's what voters chose when 53% of them picked him over Joe Garcia in November. And that information wasn't all that hidden. Rivera campaigned on a platform of repealing healthcare reform, even if he never quite said he would keep that same healthcare for himself. But what Rivera didn't campaign on was a record of breathtaking corruption, corruption that TPMMuckraker claims is the subject of "an expanding" investigation. Here's why, unfortunately, they're wrong:

Although the Miami Herald reported that Rivera is indeed under investigation for his over the top career of corruption and A.P. confirmed that the Miami-Dade Police Department is looking into Rivera's crooked financial dealings, what they just brush over is that State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, a GOP-run whitewash operation for political criminals, to take the lead in the investigation. Rundle's decision is bad news for anyone serious about rooting out corruption in Florida politics.
Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is dramatically scaling back the resources her office is dedicating to the investigation of Congressman David Rivera, CBS4 News has learned.

Late last week, Rundle ordered Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs removed from the case, even though Scruggs is the most experienced public corruption prosecutor in the office. She also sidelined Robert Fielder, a highly-respected investigator, and Christine Zahralban, a prosecutor who specializes in researching and litigating complex criminal issues.

Rundle has also decided that her office will no longer take the lead role in investigating the case--opting instead to turn the politically sensitive matter over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Her office would support FDLE’s efforts.

“It’s very disappointing,” said one senior law enforcement official. Another law enforcement source described Rundle’s actions as “disgraceful.”

...It is an amazing turn of events in a case that has been building for weeks.

As CBS4 News first reported, prosecutors have been investigating more than half a million dollars in secret payments from the owners of Flagler Dog Track to a company owned by Congressman David Rivera’s mother and godmother.

And this past Sunday, CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald reported prosecutors were widening their investigation to include Rivera’s campaign expenditures, including thousands of dollars that went to his mother’s firm and another $75,000 went to the daughter of one of legislative aides.

And yet just when it seemed that the Rivera investigation was heating up, Rundle has dramatically cut both manpower and resources. Late last week, Rundle ordered Scruggs, Zahralban, and Fielder off the case.

Scruggs has more experience prosecuting public corruption cases than anyone else in Rundle’s office. A former head of the U.S. Attorney’s public corruption unit he is responsible for some of the biggest cases in South Florida including the prosecution of Yahweh Ben Yahweh, Art Teele and Michelle Spence-Jones.

No one wants to say why. It's embarrassing. And, yes, it's very difficult to go after corrupt Cubans in South Florida-- much easier to go after African Americans-- especially when you're thinking about higher office. The DCCC smelled their kind of go-along-to-get-along shill in Rundle and have been courting her to run for Congress. And the prosecutor she assigned to the case is nicknamed... "Let Em Go Joe."

UPDATE: And Speaking Of Corruption In Florida

I just got a noteworthy-- if not terribly surprising-- statement from Rod Smith, new Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party reacting to Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and the House Republicans move to intervene in the lawsuits against the Fair Districts Constitutional amendments:
“Today, Speaker Dean Cannon and House Republicans went on the record opposing fairness as they seek to overturn the will of the people, who enshrined in Florida’s Constitution standards of fairness for the redistricting process.

“With over one million Floridians unable to find jobs during these tough economic times, it is especially disappointing that the Republicans are more interested in protecting their backroom dealings rather than focusing on putting Floridians back to work. Clearly the Republicans are more concerned about saving their jobs rather than creating jobs for Floridians.

“By using taxpayer money to intervene in the lawsuits against the Fair Districts constitutional amendments, Cannon and the House GOP are not only reminding Floridians that they are simply self-interested politicians who will do anything to hold onto power, but their action represent exactly what the people of Florida rejected when nearly 63% of voters supported the Fair District amendments last fall... “If the Republicans are afraid to run in fair districts, then shame on them.”

UPDATE 2: Despite Rundle, The Media Likes This One

Will Rivera be forced to resign before his term ends? Watch... Fox:

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At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Florida is the most corrupt, NJ and Texas are not that far behind.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger MyWillItsTruth said...

Yes I can, the four biggest offenders in our nation are Florida, Texas, California, and New York. All have well over 60+ in surpluses each at the state level while all of us are being told there isn't any money in the budgets. And they're partly right but only because they've turned it all into 'funded liabilities', not to be confused with unfunded liabilities like S.S, Medicaid, and Medicare. And that is just the state. There is well over 1200 municipalities in each all with the same story. It's the same story because all are unlawfully misappropriating funds, as well as stealing our means to produce and get ahead along with our birthrights. It's called a CAFR, comprehensive annual finanical report.


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