Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Double Dipping in Florida
Dennis Barlow has a business that would benefit from the construction of a new highway. But some folks are opposed to the highway. In a democracy, you'd think that the way to resolve this would be for everyone to say their piece, and then do whatever the majority decides. Well, not in Florida.

Instead, Barlow decided that the way to get what he wanted was to spend big money trying to elect politicians who agree with him. Florida election law allows him to give $500 to a candidate, much more than most of us could afford -- especially if we don't expect to make some big profit off some government project like Barlow does.

But even this advantage wasn't enough. He wanted to give $5000, ten times the legal limit. He was able to do it because his politician of choice, Senator Lee Constantine, has both a campaign committee, and a double dipping account called a "Committee of Continuous Existence."

Constantine says there's no problem here. You see, he isn't influenced by the contribution, he already supports the highway. I don't do things for someone because somebody supports me," he quips. But, he happily admits that he needs the money in order to become Senate president. This would no doubt help him get things like this highway approved. "If you're going to run for a leadership position, the rules have changed," Constantine says. "To win or be a player in this thing . . . you have to be in the game as everybody else is."

Constantine can then use this double dipping money to help elect fellow politicians who will both support his bid for Senate president and support his highway idea.

So, according to Constantine, the rest of us are supposed to be comforted in the fact that big business interests can get their allies into legislative leadership posts by virtue of big money.

Or, maybe we should change the rules back, so that regular people matter more than money.

Details can be found here in the Orlando Sentinel.

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