Connie Mack, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Other Florida Politicians Chided by Watchdog Report

Fudge your expenses at work and you could get fired. Fudge them when you're in Congress and you'll probably get away with it.

A new anti-corruption report spells out how hundreds of U.S. representatives use their positions to enrich themselves and their families. According to the report, those engaged in shady (but legal) spending include local legislators Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Connie Mack, and Alcee Hastings.

"Millions of dollars... flow through campaign accounts with little oversight and sporadic scrutiny from the toothless FEC," according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "Because of the potential for abuse, this report highlights members with unusually large amounts of reimbursements, some of which raise questions of whether members of Congress are converting campaign funds to personal use."

The report examines spending by U.S. House of Representatives over the past four years.

On a national level, the most notable name mentioned was Republican presidential aspirant and eternal bitter beer face Ron Paul, who paid six members of his family more than $300,000 since 2008. So much for fiscal prudence.

CREW also puts 18 Florida pols on blast for their financial affairs: 14 Republicans and four Democrats. Here are the highlights:

  • Miami-Dade representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) was reimbursed a whopping $51,551 for travel, events, and meal expenses during the 2010 election. That same election, her father, Enrique Ros, received $271 in reimbursements just for taking photos.

  • Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV -- AKA Connie Mack (R-Fort Myers)-- may be a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (and frontrunner for the Senate), but he ain't squeaky clean. In addition to punching major leaguers in the balls as a youth, Mack served for seven years in the House at the same time that his former senator dad was a federal lobbyist.
  • Not to be outdone, John Mica (R-Winter Park)'s entire family is practically full of lobbyists. His son is the president of something called the Fertilizer Institute, his brother a lobbyist for the Florida Petroleum Council, another brother and his nephew lobbyists for the Credit

    Union National Association and the National Cooperative Bank, and his daughter runs a PR company whose biggest client received $13 million earmarked by her father.

  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, (D-Miramar) paid his girlfriend $622,574, the most in salaries or fees paid by any representative to a family member. Of course, the House Ethics Committee also investigated Hastings for alleged sexual harassment against an employee.

  • The CREW report also takes a dig at members of Congress who have been whining about federal waste while splashing cash on themselves and their families.

    "It is worth noting that many members of the House have been vociferously decrying >government spending and calling for greater transparency and accountability in federal outlays," the report adds. "Members should apply the same standards to their own campaign spending, which frequently is opaque, confusingly or improperly reported, and subject to only limited oversight."

    Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

    KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
    Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.