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Florida Falls From First Place for Government Corruption

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Here's the good news: Florida is no longer the most corrupt state in the nation. 

Here's the bad news: We're still corrupt as hell. 

In the period from 2000 to 2010, Florida led the nation with the most federal public corruption convictions. But Integrity Florida has now reworked the numbers from 2003 to 2013 and found that Florida had 622 convictions in that period. During that same frame, Texas had 870 corruption convictions and California had 678. Which means we're now number three!

Of course, both California and Texas have bigger populations than Florida, and the numbers aren't adjusted for either total population or number of public officials in a state. However, the drop does indicate that public corruption is on a slight downswing in the state. 

Integrity Florida, which released the numbers, says that doesn't mean more can't be done. In fact, we might just now be doing a little bit more than the bare minimum.

Indeed, the state's grade for “Ethics Enforcement Agencies” went from an F in 2012 to a barely passing D- in 2015. 

With the reports, the watchdog group threw its support behind two ethics reform bills that have been filed ahead of the legislative session. One would expand the definition of public servants to include government vendors while also removing language requiring prosecutors to prove that defendants acted “corruptly” or with “corrupt intent,” thus, perhaps, making convictions easier to come by. Another is an omnibus bill full of small, sensible reforms including requiring elected city officials to file full financial disclosure forms. 

Integrity Florida says that since its initial report in 2012, the state has since enacted reforms like instituting a "searchable data base of financial disclosure forms, improving the collection process for fines owed due to ethics law violations and requiring ethics training for
elected officials."

Integrity Florida, however, would like to see the state go further than the reforms it has already enacted and those currently under discussion. Additional reforms the watchdog group would like to see enacted include: 

  • Creating an online, publicly accessible filing system for financial disclosure statements for state and local officials.
  • Allowing the state Ethics Commission self-initiate investigations. 
  • Doubling the maximum civil penalty for violating ethics laws to $20,000.
  • Requiring all elected officials to file full financial disclosure reforms.

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