Doral, Florida - The Tammany Hall situation in Miami-Dade County both reflects and supports the same situation in the state legislature based in Tallahassee, the capital of the only relatively-Free State of Florida. See “Tammany Hall” in https://miamiindependent.com/. Florida has become a reliably Red State, and its legislature contains a super-majority of Republicans, but mostly a conservative minority and RINO leadership.
Selected For Election
The Florida legislature is a top-down operation, with most individual legislators having only relatively little independence in legislating or anything else. These individual legislators are mostly selected by Republican leadership, who collect substantial donations from major lobbying groups, and use it to fund their selections in the primaries.
Republican legislative leadership in Tallahassee is based in its Senate Campaign Committee, chaired by the Senate President, and its House Campaign Committee, chaired by the Speaker. These campaign committees collect substantial donations from such major lobbying groups as: (1) Big Power, including Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy. (2) Big Sugar, including U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals. (3) Big Mouse has been a major player, but its management has become distracted promoting woke. (4) Big Developers, including Lennar Homes, Related Group and many more. There is nothing wrong with lobbying, and it is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, but we need to know what is going on. Follow the money.
These campaign committees use their funds to interfere in primaries with money, manpower, advertising and more. There they support one Republican candidate against other candidates who are also Republicans in good standing. See https://miamiindependent.com/conservative-challengers-find-rough-going-in-republican-primaries/. When they win their primaries, these selected Republicans have a hard time acting independently from leadership, who supported their election victories. See https://miamiindependent.com/rinos-money-and-guns-in-tallahassee/. They often depend on their legislative positions to boost their careers, and seldom practice an independent trade, business or profession, so that they are not independent from their political funding and career opportunities. Once these candidates win the Republican primary in their mostly-red districts, their victory in the general election is almost assured.
One example of how state legislators are beholden to leadership over their responsiveness to voters is that around 90% of Republican legislators have endorsed Governor DeSantis for President, but 50% of Republican voters tell pollsters that they support Trump.
Freedom Caucus Absent
Another example that RINO leadership determines the make-up of the state legislature is that Florida does not have a state chapter of the Congressional Freedom Caucus. The State Freedom Caucus Network contains 10 states, including Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, but not Florida. Several prominent Congressmen from Florida, including Matt Gaetz, Byron Donalds and Ana Paulina Luna, are members of the Freedom Caucus and have endorsed Trump for President. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Florida Congressmen have endorsed Trump, in accordance with the preference of grassroots conservative voters.
Election Integrity Legislation
An example of how Tammany Hall works in Tallahassee is the recently enacted S.B. 5070, addressing election integrity. In this new legislation, grassroots conservative groups estimated that we won 20% of our objectives, despite that 67% of Florida legislators are Republicans, and that the conservative Republican Governor won 59% of the popular vote. Instead, this legislation makes it harder for private-sector grassroots conservative groups to propose revisions to local election authorities, and does nothing to strengthen U.S. citizenship requirements for voter registration, roll-back automatic no-excuse Vote-By-Mail, or require continuous maintenance of voter rolls, as sought by conservatives.
The reason for this disconnect is that in the legislative process, we must first focus not on the legislative substance, but instead on the legislative process. The process determines the substance. When grassroots conservatives get in the legislative octagon, we must identify and understand the other fighters there with us.
The strongest fighter in the legislative process this session, on the election integrity issue, was the Florida Supervisors of Elections, Inc. (the “FSE”), a trade association. Each of Florida’s 67 counties has a Supervisor of Elections, provided for in the state constitution. See Article VIII, Section 1(d), of the Florida Constitution, and also Florida Statutes, Title IX, Chapter 98.015. They are elected in every county except Miami-Dade, and next year they start also electing theirs. They have formed this public-sector cartel to lobby for their interests, which are not necessarily the same as the interests of citizens, taxpayers and voters. They are staffed by unionized government bureaucrats and form part of the administrative state. They support progressive government by so-called expert technocrats with limited or no accountability to ordinary people - - We The People.
For example, conservative grassroots groups did not see the draft of the proposed bill until Easter week, when many were busy with visiting family, and that first draft contained many intolerable sections, including making it a third-degree felony for poll watchers to engage in so-called harassment of poll workers and campaign workers. This charge is part of a false progressive narrative, made up in response to the recent conservative upsurge in interest to ensure election integrity, but there it was in the first draft of legislation in the not so-Free State of Florida. The next draft removed this section, but it was clear that the first draft was produced by the FSE with the support of Senate leadership. This group kept the initiative throughout the legislative process.
The second strongest fighter in the legislative octagon is the Senate and House leadership, in this case especially the Senate, which has strong RINO preferences, and deferred to the preferences of the FSE. This alignment with the progressive left and the administrative state is consistent with other preferences expressed by the legislative leadership, including its selection of far-left candidates in the Republican primaries of Miami-Dade County.
Finally, the third strongest fighter was the Secretary of State, a veteran state legislator appointed by Governor DeSantis. Grassroots conservative groups had put a lot of faith in him, and thought that he would be our champion, but he seemed to be always a step behind the other fighters, so much so that these groups went around him to write directly to all the legislators, expressing their concerns and asking for modifications. When the bill was sent to the Governor for his signature, many grassroots conservative groups instead wrote to urge a veto.
Florida Supervisors of Elections, Inc.
Supervisors of Elections are provided for in the Florida Constitution and Statutes, and they are constitutional officers elected by and responsible to the people in the county that they serve, but they are not the same, and do not necessarily have the same interests, as those people. We need the administrative state to operate our elections, but we must recognize that, especially when organized collectively like the FSE, it has different interests than individual citizens, voters and taxpayers. As James Madison observed in Federalist Papers no. 51, quoted below, we need the administrative state to operate our elections, but we must guard against the administrative state using the power that we grant it to govern us, to instead constrict our liberty:
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
In any event, for election administrators to lead in the legislative process for election integrity, is like letting teachers’ unions lead in the legislative process for school choice. Of course teachers’ unions oppose school choice, and while election administrators may not oppose election integrity, they certainly do not want to be held accountable for their actions by ordinary people, and they have a more progressive bent than the majority of Florida voters. For example, many Supervisors of Elections are enthusiastic supporters of Vote-By-Mail, disregarding the risks of relying on the United States Postal Service, another component of the administrative state.
The FSE itself, however, is never mentioned in the Florida Constitution or Statutes. It is funded from three sources: (1) taxpayers’ money from its members; (2) in-kind and other contributions from their vendors, such as suppliers of voting machines and software; and (3) in-kind and other contributions from progressive election groups, such as the Center for Technology and Civic Life, and the Center for Election Innovation and Research. Their meetings and communications should be subject to public scrutiny and Florida sunshine laws. Their conferences should be open to the public, and their speakers should reflect diversity of opinions.
The FSE represents the type of faction that Madison and other Founding Fathers warned against. It is a public-sector union of the type opposed by President Franklin Roosevelt and Mayor Fiorello Laguardia in their New Deal programs. The power of the FSE is further evidence of the top-down structure of the Florida legislature. If Florida is to retain its newly-proclaimed title as a Free State, then its administrative state must be reined in and limited, especially in matters of election integrity.
Don’t Tread On Me!