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Integrity Florida Is Working to Make Sure State Leaders Make Good On Promises on Ethics Reform

Back in March, the non-profit watchdog group Integrity Florida put out a study that said Florida was number one in terms of being the most corrupt state in the U.S.

Their study found that a whopping 1,762 of Florida's public officials have been convicted of public corruption since 1976.

From 2000 to 2010, there have been an average of 71 convictions every year.

The year 2000 saw the most convictions with 107.

When Common Cause Florida was forced to close down in 2009, due to the poor economy, Executive Director Ben Wilcox found himself without a place to fight for open government. That's when Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida stepped in.

"Dan signed me up in March," Wilcox tells New Times. "And we spent the summer putting out resaerch reports and travelling throughout Florida to meet with groups about ethics reform."

Integrity Florida has met with groups like the League of Women Voters in Florida and tea Party groups.

The politics may be night and day, but one thing Integrity Florida is finding, it's that these groups find common ground in wanting to see corruption end.

"It's the one issue that crosses party lines," WIlcox says. "It's a no-brainer. With some of the scandals we've seen, people are hungry to see change."

In September, Krassner wrote that Palm Beach saw four of their county commissioners go to prison.

And, as a result of the group's efforts, Time magazine gave Palm Beach the "dubious distinction as the most corrupt county in Florida."

And Integrity Florida is encouraged to see the slate of government leaders openly speak of their support.

"In Sen. Gaetz press conference, he said ehtics reform is going to be his priority," Wilcox says. "And the in-coming speaker agrees with him."

Rick Scott has also come out and publicly stated his desire to see ethics reform (although he said the same thing as soon as he was elected into office).

Melissa Sellers, Gov. Scott's chief spokeswoman, said: "We look forward to working with the legislative leadership."

Scott's most recent appointee to the Ethics Commission, Matt Carlucci, said, "The Florida Commission on Ethics has proposed a number of important ethics reforms to the Florida Legislature."

And, in a letter from Scott's desk: "A commitment to ethics and integrity in government is essential to maintaining the public trust"

Of course it's the right and popular thing to come out and support ethics and call corruption bad. But, with Wilcox, Krassner and Integrity Florida traveling the state and meeting with folks from all sides, there's no doubt the big wigs in Florida are going to have to make right on these promises.

"People are passionate about this," Wilcox says. And then, as if to make sure guys like Scott are listening, he repeats. "It's a no-brainer."

Bottom line: The state is running rampant of elected douchebags doing douchey illegal things, more so than any other state. Shocking, we know.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph

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