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Politics

Is Florida the national champion in public corruption? Study to say yes

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:07 PM

An upcoming study by the new Integrity Florida watchdog group that analyzed federal prosecutions for public corruption says Florida leads the nation in that category.

The study will be the second major production of Integrity Florida, a new public interest watchdog group that’s trying to get off the ground in Tallahassee.

According to executive director Dan Krassner in a Tampa Tribune editorial board interview, it will show Florida led the nation with 781 federal corruption convictions in 2000-10.

In 5 of the last 12 years, the study will show, Florida had the most convictions.

"We’re the fourth largest state, soon to be the third largest state, and it makes sense that we’d be up there," Krassner said, but the numbers still are disproportionate.

Florida’s closest competitors in numbers of cases, he said, are the two largest states, California and Texas, which each led in three of the last 12 years.

The study looked at convictions by the Public Integrity section of the U.S. Department of Justice, where the researchers could find a centralized data source comparing states.

Most of the cases involved local government officials, who vastly outnumber state government officials. They involved elected and appointed officials and staff.

The recent conviction of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White on bribery and corruption charges is an example of the kind of cases involved, although it’s not included in those figures because it’s too recent, Krassner said. The figures do include the convictions of four Palm Beach County commissioners on corruption charges from 2006-10, events that earned the county the title of "capital of Florida corruption" from Time magazine.

A University of Illinois study recently ranked Florida fourth in the years 1976-2010, but there’s apparently been a recent upward trend, Krassner said.

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