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Saturday, 04 April 2009 23:00

Expressway Authority Political Contributions

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Today's Orlando Sentinel (Sunday, April 5, 2009) has a good article about an investigation into political financing that may have been extorted from vendors of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. According to a 2006 grand jury investigation, vendors who supply services under contract to the authority contributed more than a quarter-million dollars to just three Florida politicians between 2002 and 2006.  US Senator Mel Martinez got more than $185,000; then-Representatives Rick Keller and Tom Feeney got $84, 880 and $58,525, respectively.  Although the grand jury investigations were completed in 2006, actions have been delayed by legal appeals from former Authority Chairman Allen Keen. The grand jury decided that Keen had presided over a "culture of corruption" and an "organized shakedown" of Authority vendors to fund political campaigns - a total of $468,000 for 18 candidates.
 
This extra money paid out by the vendors has to be made up somewhere. We must assume that it comes back either to the expressway users in terms of higher tolls or reduced services, or to Florida taxpayers in some other form. While it is illegal to shake down companies for money - presumably in exchange for preferential treatment on contract awards or to protect their ongoing contracts - it is not illegal for the above mentioned politicians to accept the money, assuming they are not directly involved in any crime. Bad for voters and taxpayers, of course, but not illegal.  In fact, because of our privately financed political system, the politicians are in the position that they must collect money to run their campaigns.  This kind of shady fund-raising would not be necessary under a Clean Elections system such as that proposed by the new Fair Elections Now Act legislation in Congress.  In a Clean Elections system, politicians who accept private contributions, whether from a shady source or not, put themselves in a bad light when compared to their "Clean" financed opponents.

Support the Fair Elections Now Act recently announced in the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives. It provides a system that makes privately financed election campaigns unnecessary and will go a long way toward cleaning up the operations of our public institutions such as the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

Fred Markham
5 April 2009

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 19:14
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