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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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  • Friday, February 26, 2010

    ALEX SINK'S PLAN TO STRENGTHEN ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR FLORIDA

    From Alex Sink's website:

    Too often, Floridians place their trust in career politicians in Tallahassee, only to wake up in the morning and find another ethics scandal slapped across the front page of our local newspapers. Alex Sink is resolved to fight for common-sense reforms that will help bring more transparency and increased accountability and greater integrity to state government. When we restore faith in state government, we restore Floridians' confidence that decisions in Tallahassee are being made in the people's best interests.

    Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of the plan.

    FIGHT CORRUPTION & INCREASE ETHICS STANDARDS

    * Ban Gifts from Vendors to State Agency Employees. Under current rules, some state employees can currently receive an unlimited number of gifts up to $100 in a calendar year. There should be one rule for all state employees: no gifts from lobbyists trying to get contracts or favors. There could be limited personal exemptions along the lines of the more stringent federal reforms.
    * Mandatory Ethics Training for State Employees and Officials. Florida should require and provide ethics training for all state employees and officials. Additionally, all state employees and officials should certify annually that they are familiar with the state’s ethics requirements and will abide by them.
    * Code of Conduct & Greater Disclosure for State Contractors. State contractors should sign a code of conduct affirming that they are aware of state ethics laws, will abide by them, will maintain accurate internal records, and will cooperate with any government audits or investigations. In addition, all state contracts should be listed on a central website -- currently, contracts are listed by the agencies that award them, creating a difficult to navigate patchwork of disclosure for Florida’s citizens.
    * Empower The State Ethics Commission With Greater Authority To Initiate Investigations & Toughen Penalties To Deter Corruption. The State Ethics Commission must have the authority to initiate investigations based on reliable and publicly disseminated information, like newspaper reports, without waiting for a formal complaint to be filed as the law now requires. In addition, the maximum civil penalty the Commission can assess should be increased to $25,000 to give the Commission greater power to deter the spread of corruption.

    SHINE THE LIGHT ON POLITICAL PARTY FUNDS

    * Require Full Disclosure Of State Party Credit Card Spending. The Board of Elections has allowed Florida’s political parties the discretion over whether they submit actual credit card statements, or just an itemized list of expenditures, leaving out who was using the credit card. Political parties should be required to submit images of their credit card statements along with their filings so that the public is fully informed about how parties are spending their money and who is spending it.
    * Political Parties Should File Financial Disclosures On Same Schedule as Political Candidates. Currently Florida’s political parties only have to file quarterly financial disclosure reports, as opposed to the more transparent pre-primary and pre-general schedule of financial disclosures required for Florida candidates. This means that parties do not file any reports from August until October 31, just days before the election. Political Party Executive Committees should be required to disclose their financial reports on the same schedule as candidates to allow Floridians to see who is giving to the parties in the final crucial months before the election.

    END CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

    * Require All Statewide Elected Officials To Put Holdings In Blind Trust Or Mutual Funds. Blind trusts provide a proven way for state officials with investments to remove the possibility of financial conflicts of interest. Removing politicians' power over their investments promotes decision-making based on the public interest, not personal financial gain. Florida’s five statewide officers should be required by law to place their equity investments into publicly traded mutual funds or qualified blind trusts.
    * Stop Conflicts of Interest in Voting. At present, our ethics laws permit state elected officials to vote on matters in which they have a private financial interest as long as they disclose that interest after the vote. State officials – both appointed and elected -- should be precluded from voting when they have a conflict of interest. All public officials who have a conflict that requires them to abstain from a vote must also be prevented from attempting to influence staff or other officials about the matter, use staff to influence the matter, or attempt to influence the decision in any other way.
    * Ban No-Bid Contracts to Campaign Consultants and Campaign Staff. Elected officials at state agencies should not be allowed to grant no-bid contracts to their campaign consultants or campaign staff, past or present. Granting no-bid contracts to campaign consultants presents a clear conflict of interest for both the official and the consultant.

    STRONGER WHISTLEBLOWER AND WATCHDOG PROTECTIONS

    * Expand The Whistleblower Act To Cover Disclosures To The Media. Florida’s Whistleblower Act must be strengthened to cover government employees who disclose government wrongdoing to the media. Currently, whistleblowers can only report violations within the government, which can hamper efforts to uncover corruption if supervisory authorities have a conflict of interest or are the source of the corruption. At least eleven other states already offer similar protections to whistleblowers.
    * Greater Independence for Government Appointed Watchdogs. The authority to appoint Inspectors General for each state agency needs to be transferred to Florida’s Chief Inspector General. Currently, each agency’s Inspector General is appointed by the agency’s head, which presents a clear conflict of interest. In order to strengthen public trust in government, increase accountability and reduce waste, fraud and abuse, each agency needs an independent Inspector General.

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