BREAKING: State Lawmakers Paid by Lobbying Firms

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Syndicated from The Ledger

Once viewed as an “inescapable” conflict of interest, some state lawmakers are on the payroll of firms that actively lobby the Legislature.

The law firm of Becker & Poliakoff has an extensive legislative lobbying practice that netted $1 million to $2 million in 2015.

The firm employs 10 registered lobbyists who represent dozens of clients, from hospitals to electric utilities, liquor stores and city governments.

The firm also employs state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota.

As an attorney, Steube is supposed to look out for the best interests of his firm’s clients. As a lawmaker, Steube is supposed to do what’s in the best interest of his constituents and the people of Florida.

The Florida Bar once viewed this dual role as an “inescapable” conflict of interest, an ethical conflict so “clear” that the Bar issued a formal ethics opinion effectively prohibiting lawmakers from working at firms that lobby the Legislature.

That ethics opinion was rescinded in 1999 and now at least six Florida lawmakers — including the speaker of the House — work for law firms that lobby the Legislature, according to a Herald-Tribune analysis.