A Florida lawmaker who says he believes in “smaller government” spends $8,000 a month for daily briefings of television and newspaper stories for members of the state House, even though many of his colleagues in the body do their news gathering online for free, reports the Associated Press.
“I have a firm belief in less taxes, smaller government, and more personal freedom for all Floridians,” boasts Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd in a welcoming message on the House website.
Despite this assurance of fiscal responsibility, Byrd contracted with two companies this year to provide the reports, which cost nearly $94,000 a year, according to the Associated Press.
The Republican lawmaker, who represents District 62, told the AP he didn’t know the details of the contracts.
“Somebody just put it on my computer,” the AP quotes Byrd as saying. “I don’t know. It just shows up.”
According to the Associated Press, Byrd authorized a 12-month contract in March with a New Hampshire company called CustomScoop to provide all 120 House legislators and their staff, daily e-mails. The cost of the service is $7,798.70 per month. Byrd also signed a three-month contract with Video Monitoring Services in Miami to provide transcripts of television news stories at a cost of $1,000 a month. That contract expired May 31.
The contracted service comes in addition to a taxpayer-funded House Communications Office, which Byrd created, to “provide information to Floridians as an alternative to news ‘filtered’ by TV stations and newspapers.” The 13 office employees collectively make $600,000 a year, according to the AP.
It is unclear how many lawmakers benefit from the costly news gathering. Many already routinely monitor news coverage themselves from newspapers’ websites or from a free website called the Sayfie Review that reviews the daily newspapers and provides links to political stories deemed relevant.
Although a letter was sent out advertising the availability of the daily e-mails in March, Reps. Bob Henriquez, D-Tampa, and Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, told the AP they didn’t know about the service.