Corruption in Southeast Florida

28 01 2009

by Kartik Krishnaiyer

Recently we’ve seen three Palm Beach County commissioners of note arrested and charged with serious crimes. Mary McCarty the latest to fall was not only a powerful county commissioner but had been the chair of the local Republican Executive Committee as recently as the 2002 election cycle.

Palm Beach County is an area I’ve worked in extensively. I’ve also worked in every other corner of the state at some point or another. But from my vantage point Palm Beach County as well as Broward  County have been exceedingly corrupt when compared to the rest of Florida for a few key reasons.

1- Lack of ideology. Most everyone in southeast Florida is a Democrat. Those who are Republicans are willing to a large extent to act like Democrats when they need to.  Broward County in particular has suffered from being a one party area where the Democrats are more corporate than liberal. What has happened is that in competitive two party areas the Democrats are a liberal party and the GOP a conservative one. But in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, the Democrats have become more of a big money party than anything. Primaries in this area which are tantamount to election are often decided by personality or likability rather than on any pressing issue.

2- The influence of developers who worked through political channels to overbuild the area. Their greed and desire for access has made Democratic politicians approve developments and commercial projects that true liberal democrats would reject. Suburban counties run by Republicans like Seminole County and Martin County have held development in check for years despite pressure from developers. Yet urban Broward and Palm Beach run by ostensibly liberal Democrats have built their counties out.

3- Urban Politics. Most politicians in Broward and Palm Beach County came from the Northeast where corruption is tolerated and good ole boy networks are actually worse than the South. (Despite the media perception: let’s not forget the major media outlets save CNN are all based in New York and tend to glorify that area and its public officials.)

One wonders why Democrats have been so tentative about confronting Speaker Ray Sansom. Those who have challenged him have been from outside south Florida like Senator Charlie Justice or Representative Scott Randolph. The bottom line is Sansom’s behavior which may be considered a conflict of interest in micropolitan Northwest Florida, is typical in urban south Florida.

The Palm Beach County Commission in fact protected Mary McCarty for years while she engaged in more blatant conflicts than Sansom has. Democrats and Republicans alike on the commission did not blow the whistle on something that was painfully obvious to outside observers and I had conversations about with Democratic leaders as early as 2000. But it seemed while some Democratic leaders genuinely were concerned others had allied themselves with McCarty’s South PBC Republicans, who could be best described as “Democratic Lite.”

You’ll find in Palm Beach County more Democrats who publicly support Republicans in contested elections and vise versa than in any other area of the state. Political deal making between members of the two parties is a regular occurrence. Party labels are blurred and ideology is non existent. If you’re looking for a playbook to create an environment for corruption, Palm Beach County and to a lesser extent Broward County have followed it. It’s little wonder the rest of the state wants little to do with the area.

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12 responses

28 01 2009
What about sugar?

Let’s not forget the corrupt politicians with connections to Big Sugar. (Back to your piece on Rod Smith, their pawn)

It’s funny how the Republicans in Palm Beach County like Karen Marcus are the ones that are pro-environment.

One more commissioner to go to jail!

28 01 2009
T Rex

What about all the North Florida Democrats who supported Marti Coley for the House?

What about all the Democrats who supported Mel Martinez for Orange County Chairman?

What about all the North and Central Florida Democrats including the current president of Florida State University who supported Jeb Bush?

Democrats supporting Republicans is not limited to Broward County or based on corruption.

Most of all, what about BOB CRAWFORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

28 01 2009
Proud Florida Liberal

This is a bit of over simplification.

Broward and Palm Beach has its share of scummy pro biz Ds

But what about the likes of Ari Porth, Evan Jenne or Kelly Skidmore in the house now? They don’t fit this pattern you describe.

I think it more has to do with Florida Senators and their deal cutting. The House is still pretty clean.

28 01 2009
Marshall

PFL –

I think the 3 you mention in the House are good as well, but there are some D’s who are not. I won’t name names, but there is one D from Palm Beach that is in bed with sugar and other lobbying groups for sure. And in Broward – look at the cushy job a certain D just got with a lobbying firm. There are always good and bad, and we certaibly have our share of both in the House and Senate.

28 01 2009
Anonymous

The Dems in sofla mare incredibly corrupt. Just like the urban machines the article mentions.

28 01 2009
Anonymous

The Democrats need to call out their own. I notice as courageous as this article is in some ways, you’ve avoided naming obvious culprits like Stacy Ritter and Lori Parrish for fear of losing access. That’s fine: this is at least a way to get the debate rolling!

28 01 2009
GOP Operative

Et Tu Kartik?

Seriously, great piece.

I thought you had gone native on us, since I’ve always respected your thoughts and political acumen. Sure you’re a lefty but you were always fair.

This is a return to the Kartik I knew. Good Stuff!

Your Republican Friend

28 01 2009
Roger

Can anyone say Stacy Ritter?

28 01 2009
Anonymous

Karen Marcus another Republican in Palm Beach County is in deep trouble and could be headed to the pen next.

29 01 2009
Msbarg

south Florida Democrats are waaaaaay tooooooo comfy AND

they have their own self contained subculture

some are good but many are simply dems out of political convenience.

29 01 2009
Anonymous

A reasonable article that should be pinned up across the capitol.

29 01 2009
Anonymous

Franklin Sands pay for play scandal is typical slimy borward county politics if you ask me.

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