Sunday, March 14, 2010

Senate Democrats Call "Transparency" Sales Pitch Smoke and Mirrors

Appalled by what they see as a blatant attempt at an end run around the public’s ability to track the influence of money in elections, Senate Democrats on Tuesday condemned Republican-led attempts to steamroll legislation resurrecting so-called “leadership funds.”

“This bill opens the floodgates to special interest money and the influence it buys,” said Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston), one of three Democrats to vote against SB 880 in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, and the incoming Senate Democratic Leader.

At issue is the attempt by bill proponents to market the legislation as greater “transparency.” While the legislation would enact new reporting requirements for Electioneering Communication Organizations, or ECO’s, as well as show how the leaders were raising money for their resurrected leadership funds, it would concentrate an enormous amount of power into the hands of just four individuals with direct control over the legislative process.

Legislative leaders’ fundraising prowess would also mean they could force lawmakers into line on key votes by threatening the use of those funds to influence political futures.

These funds would also allow legislative leaders to skirt contributions and spending requirements within the current 10-day reporting requirement, and make them subject to only quarterly disclosure requirements.

“Under current law, we have a faster ability to track who gives the money and where it ends up,” said Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa), who also voted against the bill. “This new bill can take the money on a last-minute scenic route you’d need a GPS device to follow.”

Senator Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersburg), the third Democrat to vote ‘no’ on the bill, agreed. “The last things we need are more campaign committees and more direct involvement from legislators on these committees. More money is not the answer for what troubles Florida’s campaign finance laws.”

“This isn’t power to the people. It’s power to the leader,” said Sen. Rich. “And even as someone who’s going to be the next Democratic leader and could potentially benefit from this newfound power, this is not a direction that benefits the people or the state.”

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