Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause Florida and partners urge Governor DeSantis to veto new Florida ethics bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause Florida, and other partner groups and allies — nine total — submitted a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, urging him to veto House Bill 1597/Senate Bill 7014 (or the “Ethics Bill”) due to additional barriers it puts in place for members of the public calling for accountability and transparency from state officials engaged in potential wrongdoing.

The Ethics Bill passed by Florida’s state legislature on March 7 includes an amendment that would only allow ethics complaints to be filed by those with direct knowledge of potential wrongdoing. This is a major shift from past requirements, which allowed anyone to file complaints before the Florida Commission on Ethics — so long as the information they provided was truthful and factual to the best of complainants’ knowledge. 

Floridians deserve to have a hand in their democracy, and they deserve to fight for their right to know that their elected officials are putting the public good over personal gain,” said Kedric Payne, Vice President, General Counsel, and Senior Director of Ethics at Campaign Legal Center. “Ethics enforcement in the state of Florida has traditionally relied on the public being able to come forward and file complaints on potential cases of misconduct by officials. The Florida Ethics Commission is already limited because it cannot start an investigation itself without a complaint. Allowing only people with direct knowledge to file against potential wrongdoers is a major setback to transparency and accountability. Governor DeSantis should do right by his constituents and veto this bill.”
The coalition letter also notes that the standards for filing complaints under the new Ethics Bill are more stringent than basic legal principles that have been traditionally applied statewide, like for civil proceedings. Even if major news articles highlighted unethical behavior by Florida government officials, almost no member of the public would be allowed to call for an investigation by the Commission.
State ethics commissions are essential for maintaining an accountable and transparent democracy. Governor DeSantis should veto the new Ethics Bill so that the public can continue to assist the Florida Commission on Ethics with enforcement of the law, which is critical for building and maintaining public trust of government officials tasked with prioritizing the public interest. 

Read the full letter here.