Florida Democrats have some embarrassing questions to answer after the Palm Beach Post published the voice mails left by a state legislator linking committee assignments to fundraising. It’s the third pay-for-play scandal for Democrats in a week, after the Blagojevich arrest and the grand jury proceedings in New Mexico. This example at least has some subtlety to it:
The top Democrat in the Florida House considered the amount of money lawmakers gave to the state Democratic Party and their willingness to contribute in the future before he recommended who should sit on some of the state’s most powerful legislative panels.
“There may be three or four people that raised money that had (top) ranking positions, but that was not really a major consideration,” Minority Leader Franklin Sands said Monday. …
But Sands’ top lieutenant, Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando, left several lawmakers cellphone messages, including one obtained by The Palm Beach Post, explicitly describing Sands’ committee recommendations as a reward for top fund-raisers.
“I’m calling members because we have to identify ranking members on various committees,” … “And, um, I wanted to know because we want to take into consideration what kind of financial or other contribution you have made to the Florida Democratic Party and whether you are available to doing that in the future. Would you give me a call?”
Listen to the audio yourself here. It certainly sounds as though the Democrats want to make committee assignments based on personal contributions to the state party. Those monies would normally come from election coffers, not personal money, but either way it amounts to a patronage system of committee assignments.
However, unlike the Blagojevich scandal, Thompson didn’t try raising money for her own personal use. And unlike the allegations in New Mexico, it doesn’t involve the sale of state contracts to donors in exchange for contributions to political campaigns, which is basically a money-laundering system to use taxpayer money to generate cash for the party in power.
This message, while grubby and embarrassing, doesn’t appear to cross the line into corruption or fraud, although it says plenty about the values of the Democratic Party — and of the intelligence of Thompson for leaving a voice-mail message like this. I’d bet dollars to donuts that Thompson gets assigned something less intellectually taxing for the Democratic caucus in the Florida legislature after this.