No sympathy

Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 10:43 p.m.

Last year the Florida Legislature prohibited lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers. It also required lobbyists to disclose how much they are being paid for their services.

Lobbyists took exception and went to court, claiming an invasion of their privacy. But last week, U.S. District Judge Stephen Mickle threw that suit out. People who influence legislators for a living, Mickle reasoned, "cannot reasonably argue (they) are similarly situated with other citizens who petition the government."

That was an important victory for ethics reform. Lobbyists are so influential in Tallahassee that they have sometimes been referred to as the "third house" of the Legislature. So Floridians have "a compelling interest in imposing regulations on paid lobbyists," Mickle wrote.

"The judge clearly did not have any sympathy for lobbyists, and obviously believes the Legislature can legislate anything they want against lobbyists, regardless of its fairness," Ronald Book, one of Florida's most successful lobbyists, told reporters after the decision was handed down. Perhaps Judge Mickle's sympathy was for citizens and taxpayers who must live with the sometimes ugly results of the influence peddling game.

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