Although Gov. Rick Scott and other top Florida Republicans frequently complain about government spending, they themselves have been quietly spending astronomical amounts of money, more than $237 million, on private lawyers in order to advance and defend their agendas.
And the burden of reimbursing that has fallen at the feet of Florida taxpayers; to date, they have reimbursed “nearly $16 million for their opponents’ private attorney fees. That means an overall $253 million has been spent on legal fights in the last six years, including a water war with Georgia and losing battles to test welfare recipients for drugs, trim the state’s voter registration lists and ban companies that do business with Cuba from bidding on government contracts.”
And if you are wondering, yes, a quarter of a BILLION dollars is a LOT of money. A. Lot.
- Fla. Gov. Scott’s undisclosed interest in Zika mosquito control company
- This Goes Well Beyond Florida: Gov. Rick Scott Authorizes $25 Million in State Funds for Zika Vaccine
- Miami Herald: Fla Gov. Rick Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed
- Gov. Rick Scott’s Huge Financial Stake in Zika Spray, Florida Fracked Pipeline & Corp With Radioactive Water Disaster
- Sabal Trail Pipeline In Florida Causing Uproar (and Gov Rick Scott bought stock in the company!)
But there’s more: the majority of the state’s legal spending won’t even show up in their $82 billion budget. Pam Bondi, Attorney General, oversees their legal budget of almost $309 million a year (it helps pay for the state’s 450 lawyers) but state leaders aren’t using what’s budgeted for- instead they are hiring private attorneys and no one in state government is closely tracking what their hourly rates add up to. But not only do they not have that info, they don’t have a way to track it.
Enter the Associated Press. They came up with a specific figure by analyzing budget documents and the results of public records requests. Their review found that Florida has spent more than $237 million on outside lawyering since 2011 (that averages to almost $40 million a year, plus nearly $16 million for reimbursing private attorney fees on opposing sides).
The biggest “waste” of taxpayer money thus far as been the state’s water war against Georgia, at more than $41 million in the last 18 months. While it is true that Florida’s water rights are important, it’s high time someone start asking “Are we overpaying?”
From the article:
“A spokeswoman for Scott, Jackie Schutz, sought to downplay the outside legal costs during Scott’s administration, saying that private law firms are sometimes necessary.
‘When there are complex legal matters or specific expertise needed, including defending laws passed by the legislature, we utilize available resources and, as required by statute, get approval from the Attorney General’s office, Schutz said.
‘It’s no surprise that our office vigorously defends the laws we sign,’ she said.”
For the Georgia case, Florida hired one of the world’s most prestigious firms, Latham & Watkins. Their lawyers charge up to $825 an hour. Just let that sink in. But that guy Scott, who is an attorney and multimillionaire businessman, has obviously backed the use of taxpayer money (and this isn’t the first time) to hire private attorneys regardless of the costs.
But again, no one is keeping track of the overall spending. As a resident of the great state of Florida, that makes me angry and it should make you angry too.