Amendment 12, which is on the ballot next month, would make Florida’s lobbying law the toughest in the nation, banning politicians from lobbying the government for six years after leaving office.
The amendment takes aim at some former top politicians have come under scrutiny for cashing in on their connections and making big money as lobbyists when they leave the Legislature, but experts say it can’t work miracles or completely put an end to the so-called revolving door of Florida politics.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is one of those politicians who some say may have benefited from the revolving door system, landing a new job in a big statewide law firm.
Rubio’s salary increased substantially after he served as Florida Speaker of the House.
Shortly after leaving state office, Rubio joined a law firm that, among other things, lobbied state government. His staff says he didn't work for the lobbying part of the firm and never lobbied anyone.
Rubio held that job before starting his own practice in 2009, shortly before he sought a seat in the U.S. Senate.
ABC Action News reached out to Rubio's staff to see how he plans to vote on Amendment 12, but his office didn’t respond to a request for comment by our deadline.
If voters approve Amendment 12, all elected and appointed state leaders would have to wait six years to lobby at the state house.
“I think it’ll make sure people are entering public service for the right reasons – not to profit,” said Ben Wilcox of the watchdog group Integrity Florida.
Wilcox says the amendment would make Florida’s lobbying laws the toughest in the nation.
“I think it’s always good for the state to lead in the area of lobby reform and ethics reform,” Wilcox said.
But Florida Tax Watch opposes the amendment.
“I think it’s embarrassing that we as a state would have to have a provision in our constitution that says elected officials can't use their elected office for personal gain,” said Bob Nave of Florida Tax Watch.
Nave’s group argues Amendment 12 would also diminish the pool for high-level appointed positions, like cabinet secretary posts, because the lobbying rules would also apply appointed officials.
USF Political Science Professor Dr. Susan McManus says the new lobbying rules aren’t a magic fix for the state’s ethical problems and current state and federal already prohibit politicians who personally benefit from office.
“You’re not supposed to, if you’re in office, take advantage of your position to gain financial benefits from it,” said McManus.
For example, former Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown, was sent to federal prison earlier this year after being convicted of stealing $800,000 from a scholarship fund she managed.
“Can it eliminate corruption?,” asked McManus. “No.”
After our story ran, we were contacted by Marco Rubio's spokesperson who said the Senator did not join a law firm that lobbied the legislature after he left the House. He joined a large firm that did state administrative work in 2004. He left the law firm in January of 2009 just two months after he left the legislature and opened his own firm and did NOT lobby the state or anyone.
The spokesperson did not indicate how Rubio plans to vote.
While Rubio worked for the law firm, its website said "The attorneys and lobbyists in our Government Relations Practice Group are committed to help our clients get what they need from a wide variety of governmental entities at the local, state and national levels."
Rubio was not listed as one of the five attorneys in the Government Relations Practice Group.
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