Commentary: Spending insane amounts on lobbyists

No other county in America fritters away money on Washington lobbyists like Miami-Dade. Forty-nine states spend less.

This is not news. Miami-Dade has held this inexplicable distinction for seven years. (Only three states, meanwhile, outspend the Broward County Commission, infamous lately for its own sycophantic relationship with the lobbying industry.)

But in 2010, with a $444 million budget shortfall and a property tax hike looming, the notion of Miami-Dade outspending all the counties and all the cities and all but one state seems beyond absurd.

It was certainly beyond debate. At Tuesday's meeting, discussion hardly broached the fiscal insanity of $2.88 million worth of lobbying contracts. Instead, commissioners worried whether they ought to divvy up the four-year deal among the top-three-rated lobbying firms. Or the top four. Or better still, the top five.

Nice thing about five -- that would include a couple of local firms who, however tepid their influence in Washington, have been very generous with campaign contributions. (The Miami-Herald's Martha Brannigan and Matthew Haggman noticed the generosity of firms Four and Five toward the commissioners most vocal about giving them a cut of the goodies.)

But the commissioners were mindful that awarding campaign benefactors $2.88 million for such ambiguous, hard-to-quantify, dubious work while simultaneously whacking constituents with a 14 percent tax hike is not wise politics.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.