Saturday, January 31, 2009

Samson is Our Own Blago, but Florida is Not Illinois..

GOP leader Ray Sansom has only been House Speaker here in Florida since late November. However, his ethical lapses began immediately. Hours after he was sworn in, the Board of Trustees at Northwest Florida State College agreed to hire him to a part-time administration job that paid $110,000 a year.

There were no other applicants for the job and no advertisements. Sansom faxed his application from his office in the state Capitol.

The St. Pete Times noticed something fishy about that:

Soon after news crept out about the job, details began to emerge about a small college that had done unusually well in the annual budget roulette of Tallahassee. Sansom was the House's top budget writer during those years.

In 2008, Sansom accelerated funding for a student services building, taking what had been a $1 million appropriation and turning it into $25.5 million — the largest single appropriation for any college in the state.

This isn't even the first and only scandal--there are plenty of others that clearly show he abused his power to help himself and his buddies. It's just that this one got the most buzz and caused Ray Samson to step down "temporarily".

That's right. Samsom is planning to come back once his "name is cleared". Despite every major newspaper in Florida calling him out and asking him to step down, including his hometown paper, he is still expecting to come back and screaming that he had done nothing wrong.

That does sound familiar.

The difference is that Blago had no defenders in the Illinois legislature and they moved quickly to remove him from power. Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach and Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer said nothing about Ray Samsom--except to commend him for stepping down yesterday. There also seems to be no plans to choose a new speaker who can serve out his 2-year term.

I can't really blame Samsom. After all, according to the St. Pete Times, this behavior has permeated the Florida legislature:

  • Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican slated to become Senate president, earned $38,000 a year from Brevard Community, where he did not have to teach but only produce a book on the Legislature. He has since got himself a $75,000-a-year job at the University of Florida as a part-time lecturer.

  • Former House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami took a part-time job at Florida International University for $69,000.

  • And Sen. Evelyn Lynn of Ormond Beach helped create a reading center at Florida State University, and then took a $120,000-a-year job overseeing it, which she gave up once her employment hit the newspapers.

It's just business as usual.

The state GOP should learn from the mistakes of their national party. With complete control of all three branches of government not but two years ago, they quickly devolved into a culture of corruption that has led to the mess we are cleaning today. I remember talk of a "permanent majority" not too long ago--which lasted all of two years.

One would think the state GOP would be trying to avoid a similar fate.


  1. He will run for governor next year.

  2. Marco Rubio was hired AFTER he finished as Speaker. He works at a think tank (The Metropolitan Center) and teaches as part of that job. The other people mentioned are current office holders.