I stepped in it last night. I started discussing (in 140 characters or less) the Rep Sansom case with two of Florida’s best political reporters who buy ink by the barrel.(Matt Dixon & Marc Caputo)
Word of advice: don’t do that! I immediately regretted attempting to have a discussion in a twitter format.
The Criminalization of Politics
In 2007, a former Florida Speaker Ray Sansom put in a budget allocation for a supporter. The entire saga leading to the speakers resignation is detailed in the following places:
Now, after settling the case, Ray Sansom says the State of Florida should pay his legal bills, and I agree. The State of Florida should pay Rep. Sansom’s legal bills.
Here is the key quote from the Miami Herald article:
Simpson reminded Judge Lewis that he already established it was not a crime for a private citizen to petition the government for help. And he noted the $6 million was put in the budget and approved by the Legislature and governor. Miami Herald
I have no interest in rehashing every detail of the case, but I will say this is an example of the criminalization of politics and why it is wrong.
We all play a political game, we play it hard. This game is no different than you and your taxes. If there is a line, we all will all run right up to it, especially with this much money, this much power, this much prestige sitting on that line.
I think one could argue even the State Attorney was playing a political game.
You change the law.
You use the ‘egregious’ actions of politicians that you disgree with as reasons to change the law.
You vote the person out of office.
Let me state very clearly, the criminalization of politics is different than fraud. Fraud, by definition, is a crime and should be prosecuted.
The point is, just because you do not like the political process or you do not like the judgement shown by political leaders, does not make their actions a crime.
Rep. Sansom put an item in the budget that was passed by the legislator and signed by the Governor Crist. (who only in hindsight said if he knew he would have vetoed it) That is the process.
The operations of 527s and their political advertising may disgust you, but that is the process.
Reading polls, a large majority of the public currently find the entire political process disgusting, and at times I agree with them, but that is still the process.
Funny thing is, the system ‘worked.’ The public and press were watching, his fellow Legislators were watching, his constituents were watching.
You may argue that Rep Sansom showed poor judgement & hubris, you may argue that it was done in the dead of then night, you may argue it was a complete waste of taxpayer money, you may argue that all politicians are scummy – but in my opinion, you must stop arguing it is a crime.
Politics is not a crime.
You will have to change the laws for that.