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Florida Is the Most Corrupt State in the Union, According to a Federal Tally of Convictions

| June 6, 2012

This way to the back room, ladies and gentlemen. (Derek Hatfield)

Florida may be the nation’s fourth most populous state but it leads the nation in the number of federal corruption convictions, a dubious honor that could be easily remedied, a government watchdog group said Wednesday.

Based on U.S. Department of Justice data, Florida led the nation in the number of convictions between 2000 and 2010, according to data compiled by Integrity Florida, a non-profit research group founded earlier this year by former Florida Chamber spokesman Dan Krasner and former Common Cause Florida executive director Ben Wilcox.

“We’re number one for our beaches,” Krasner said. “We’re number one for our sunshine, but it’s time we dust off our government in the sunshine laws and once again become number one in the world for government in the sunshine and open government.”

The data, which includes only federally initiated cases, shows that Florida had 781 convictions for various corruption charges for the 10-year period ending in 2010. Florida was followed by California (753), Texas (741) and New York (670.)

Most of the federal corruption cases involve local officials, who by their sheer numbers represent the largest segment of public officials.

The group outlined a series of changes that could be done within existing law while also calling on state lawmakers to make some changes in state statutes to put more teeth in anti-corruption laws.

Florida law does not allow the Commission on Ethics to initiate its own investigations, a restriction groups like Common Cause and others have tried, unsuccessfully, to change for years.
Last year, the commission acted on 169 complaints that were deemed to be valid. The group said even high profile cases are out of reach unless someone files a formal complaint.

“It’s like having speeding limits but no officers on the beat to catch speeders when they break the law,” Krasner said.

The Ethics Commission plans to meet next week to map out its 2013 Legislative agenda.

Among a list of recommendations, Integrity Florida said state lawmakers should give the commission more police powers while also raising the cap on allowable fines from $10,000 to $25,000.

The commission itself has asked for such powers in the past, suggesting it be allowed to initiate cases. Two years ago the commission also asked for a higher fine limit of $100,000.

Also in 2010, a statewide grand jury slammed Florida laws for being too lax on corruption, and made a number of suggestions, most of which were never implemented. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist called for that grand jury investigation in 2009 following a string of high profile arrests of public officials and political figures. He noted at the time that he had been forced to remove 33 public officials from office in less than three years as governor because of varying instances of wrongdoing.

Integrity Florida is also calling on lawmakers to expand the scope of state ethics laws to include private vendors who benefit from their relationships with public officials. Current law, Krasner said, only addresses one side of the transaction.

Other recommendations include garnishing wages from public employees who are fined and putting financial disclosures, Commission findings and investigations on line.

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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16 Responses for “Florida Is the Most Corrupt State in the Union, According to a Federal Tally of Convictions”

  1. Eileen G. Miller says:

    So what else is new..??? Not a surprise there…!!!

  2. Sad times says:

    Ah… perhaps this is one of the reasons why citizens don’t show up to vote…. who wants to get involved in voting… when statistics show that so many of our elected officials are not honest…. when they care only for their own interests…. and so often appear to ignore the needs of the electorate…. just a thought.

  3. ric says:

    This goes to the school board, city, county and civil servants and the unions that have always been underhanded and have ripped off the tax payers..

    • Corruption is Possible Anywhere says:

      @ric. It is surprising that supposedly intelligent people can make such narrow, absent-minded statements. Why stop there? The temptation to ethically go out of bounds, beat the system, use illegal tactics, bend the rules, self-serve at the expense of others etc., is always available by way of choice to invade every endeavor and activity known to man. Great artistic and literary themes from the beginning of time entertain and inform us of this fact. From Priests to CEOs, Demagogues to Quiet Embezzlers, Bamboozlers to our Neighbors….nobody is immune from the choices that lead to vice and corruption. Stop beating up on the government. There are equal and plentiful candidates anywhere and everywhere in our world that have never in their life stepped into a city hall or run for a school board who would in an instant steal the shirt off your back. Consider moderating your armchair opinions that government is always the underhanded culprit. And regarding unions? They wouldn’t need to be so severely managed if they weren’t so severely opposed. The rich 1% in this country is sucking up all the money from the rest of us. And Florida serves as the poster child of this phenomena, especially here in Flagler County. This country is presently screwed because of it. And those who support the 1% and their bleed-the-republic-dry policies call themselves patriots. Just follow the money. Where is all of it? Where is all the money here in the richest nation on earth? Overseas? Tied up in Trust? Why isn’t it available to rebuild our position in the world? Why can’t we fix all our roads, bridges, infrastructures? Why can’t our public schools be the best in the world? Wake up. The 1% is sucking the financial life blood out of America and then they refuse to contribute back to fix the mess they create. The 1% have a responsibility to fix this country, but they’ve conned everyone into acting as their “fence” arguing against taxes. They have a civilian army of pundits doing their bidding for them. They made their riches on the backs of Americans and now play hardball when it comes to paying the piper for their plunders. The money they steal from us poof-disappears and then reappears behind gated communities, foreign bank accounts and obscene tax shelters. True patriots care about truth, justice, middle class and working poor americans. You don’t need to be a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Objectivist or Socialist to see the facts here. Just follow the money and ask, why is there so much discontent, mistrust and hatred of each other in America? Apparently we have a long, long, way to go.

      • Liana G says:

        I ‘liked’ both ric and your comment for the reasons presented. Two things are worth mentioning here.

        1. Those elected officials in top gov’t are part of the 1%. That’s how they got there. Be it nationally or locally. And if they know getting someone else elected would better serve their interest, they do that too.

        2. Gov’t will always be to blame because they are elected and paid quite handsomely to serve the interest of the taxpayers. Selling out the taxpayer is a disgrace to public office.

        Good people do not generally for public office. And it’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they do care, very strongly. I was surprised to actually find articles on this. People who get involved in politics are either inherently evil, naive, or both. George Bush spent $13,000,000 to finesse his ‘dumb image’ for the public. That man is no idiot. We may find ourselves dumbfounded by the unethical, evil, and dumb things people in politics do. But for them, it’s all politics; political naïveté notwithstanding

  4. elaygee says:

    Maybe we’re just better at finding and prosecuting and convicting corruption than other states?

  5. JL says:

    Well, of course we’re only counting those that were caught. Of course, we know how many officials haven’t been caught or convicted yet. I truly believe New Jersey and Pennsylvania should be at the top of that list. Anyone who has ever lived in or near Philadelphia, knows how corrupt their officials are. Somehow they just don’t get convicted.

  6. Jojo says:

    I believe Chicago had that dubious distinction for years but we, the voters have to do a better job of scrutinizing candidates for political office. Take for instance Rick Scott – how he escaped prosecution and jail time is beyond me. The largest Medicare fraud scheme in U.S. history. Then, spends 300 million dollars on an ad campaign to get elected and wins. Shame on us not Scott.

  7. Dudley Doright says:

    Gee, I wonder where Flagler County/Palm Coast politicans (present and past) would stack up if we did a Florida county by county tally? Of course, the old saying tha t” its not a crime if you don’t get caught” would apply. Just saying!

  8. Gia says:

    Ha..ha…ha…NOTHING NEW…………just a reminder

  9. Geezer says:

    It starts at the top – just look at what Floridian fools elected for governor!

    If it snowed heavily in Florida one day, I wonder how many would get the drift.
    The people we elect are a reflection of us as a whole, collectively speaking.

    We don’t investigate political candidate qualifications – we vote for party affiliation.
    (most of us) Something so important, a privilege wasted.

    Just look at the people we’ve elected, Start in Flagler and work your way up to
    Governor Skeletor in Tallahassee. You can then tell me if a healthy bit of soul-searching is in order.

  10. pam strohm says:

    with a convicted company that bilked Medicare and we elect the President of that company because he “knew nothing about it” really people????? You voted Rick Scott in as Gov? And now no one understands why? He won’t even follow the sunshine laws of the state. ie he destroyed all his e-mails PLEASE With a man like this at the helm what do we expect?????? I don’t think he knows how to spell honesty esp. w/ the insurance companies in his back (or is it front) pocket. You were expecting Capt. Kangaroo? lol

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Never mind the whole state. Lets be concerned about Flagler County old issues and maybe can be learned enough not to make the same mistakes again at the ballot box:
    http://www.flaglerchat.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5911
    http://staugustine.com/stories/010507/news_4316581.shtml
    scroll down for Flagler County on the next Link:
    http://www.brechner.org/cnty%20issues%201999-2010.asp

  12. David says:

    I can understand why Florida leads in this statistic, especially here in Flagler County where most of the population are not native Floridians, and come here from different states. It seems that most of these people in elected offices are trying to run our county like the way it was done from where they are originally from. But it does not work that way here. We are Floridians, with a whole different culture, lifestyle, and pace of life.If you want to be a Floridian, you have to think like a Floridian. Just my opinion.

  13. David says:

    Their’s an old saying here in Florida that says the further North you go here in Florida, the more enriched you are in “Deep South” tradition, and the further South you go in Florida the more you are enriched in the “North” style way of life. I love Florida my home state, and wish our politicians would get rid of their “big city” attitude of running our county.

  14. Rainey McGuigan says:

    Miami-Dade has had more than its share of spectacular political corruption in recent decades. Former Miami City Commissioner Humberto Hernandez pled guilty in 1997 to charges he raked in $8 million in mortgages by over-inflating property values. He was also charged with voter fraud after a comfortable election win.

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