Gov. Scott had a busy day on Wednesday. He properly vetoed the controversial alimony reform bill that could have upended the terms of divorce settlements that have already gone through the judicial system. And he signed bills that will supposedly tighten ethics for Florida politicians while also loosening limits on campaign contributions.
Jeez, I can’t tell you how many people I know are happy that polticians voted their campaign war chests a raise. Some of the politicians actually cited inflation as a reason too, saying the campaign contribution limits haven’t gone up in a generation. (Gee, tell that to the teachers and other public employees who’ve seen their take-home pay stagnate and decline thanks to wage freezes, furloughs and hikes in insurance premiums and pension contributions).
Under the old rules, the maximum contribution for most Florida politicial candidates was $500. Under the new rules, that will double to $1,000, while candidates for statewide office can collect up to $3,000.
I suppose you can call this the Hand Cramp and Arthritis Prevention Act, since the biggest practical effect is that “bundlers” -- individuals and their associates who wrote lots of different checks from lots of their various business entitites -- can write half the volume of checks and still give the same amount as before. Or they can just give a lot more, thereby buying even more influence in a process that has already been heavily corrupted by money.
Here’s the reaction from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters: “The League is disappointed that the Governor approved the campaign finance bill (HB 569), which represents a poor bargain for Floridians. By increasing campaign contribution limits, HB 569 opens the door for even more political spending and undue influence of our democratic process. Gains in transparency and reporting were minimal, as new channels were created for ever-larger donations. Main Street Florida lost on this bill, while incumbents and deep-pocketed donors were the big winners.”
Oh well, at least an “ethics reform” bill passed too. But here’s the thing about so-called “ethics reform” bills. There are always loopholes. So just because they shut down one gravy train – the slush funds that Tallahassee polticians controlled known as CCE’s (committees of continuous existence) – there’s always another opportunity for politicians to feast off OPM (other people’s money).
Which is where the new campaign limits will come in handy.
Because here’s the thing about campaigns – they can pretty much be permanent. So politicians can tap into these funds whenever they want (for a “strategy meal” at a nice restaurant or a “campaign retreat” at a fancy hotel, or to hire some crony as a high-paid consultant), even if the next election cycle is a year away and they have no opponent.) It sure would be nice if there were some restrictions on the use of campaign funds, like they can only be used within 3 months of an election.
Not when OPM is out there for the spending.