Here are two more examples from Tallahassee and Washington last week that illustrate how piles of money corrupt government and tilt the playing field in favor of special interests with fat checkbooks.
Slush fund revival
The Legislature shamelessly overrode former Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a bill, HB 1207, that will allow legislative leaders to re-establish slush funds that were banned more than 20 years ago. This is not about reform or transparency, as supporters such as Sen. Jack Latvala. R-Clearwater, and others tried to claim. This is about giving legislative leaders unfettered ability to raise gross amounts of money from special interests with business before the Legislature. Then those leaders can dole out the money to their favorite candidates, who will be beholden to those leaders and their benefactors instead of to their constituents. And there will be less transparency, not more. At least separate committees controlled by powerful legislators now have to post all contributions and expenses on their websites within days of each transaction. That won't happen with these new slush funds.
To call this reform is laughable. Legalized bribery would be more accurate.
Amount of money legislative leaders can raise for new slush funds
Amount slush funds can give to legislative candidates
Amount slush funds can give to statewide candidates
No wonder AT&T wanted to keep its bid to buy T-Mobile USA secret for as long as possible. The combination of the nation's second- and fourth-largest wireless carriers would reduce competition and is expected to wind up raising prices for customers. Consumer advocates are raising questions, and the Justice Department's antitrust division has vowed to be more aggressive in reviewing proposed mergers.
Don't hold your breath. AT&T has invested heavily in Washington. It is the top corporate donor to members of Congress, uses an army of lobbyists and often gets its way.
AT&T campaign contributions to members of Congress since 1989
AT&T's lobbying expenses in 2010
Number of AT&T lobbyists
Sources: Florida state records, Center for Responsive Politics and the Wall Street Journal
2011 St. Petersburg Times.
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