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One Man, One Rule, One Crist

Florida's ddecider

On Oct. 11, a Palm Beach Post investigation revealed that the state legislature, in concert with Gov. Charlie Crist, has been busy removing one of the most essential checks on executive (or legislative) abuses of power: “Two safeguards on a secretive process that turns tax dollars into cash incentives for private corporations were quietly removed in the final days of the 2009 legislative session.”

The aim in this particular case was to secure $20 million for an animation company based in Jupiter. “An amendment gave Gov. Charlie Crist's office, which helped craft the language, sole authority to award $42 million in economic development money. As a result, nine companies, each identified only by a code name, were awarded shares of the money within a week this summer.”

State law unfortunately allows state or governments to keep secret the identity of companies they’re luring—until money changes hand. It is (or was) illegal for governments, state or local, to approve spending public money on economic incentives without making public all amounts, recipients and purposes of the incentives. The more recent legislative sleight of hand allows some state-subsidized private projhects to remain classified for two years.

On Oct. 13, Crist released a memo showing that he’d informed House and Senate leaders about five projects worth $29 million. But there’s nothing in writing regarding an additional $13.5 million Crist handed out unilaterally. The governor claims he approached the House and Senate leaders “informally” regarding those. "I regretted that," Crist said. “It's important to have both branches involved.”

But the deals are done.

 
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