If you’re still no fan of term limits, then you don’t know Jack Latvala.
The resignation of Florida’s most entrenched state senator is the best evidence yet that politicians cannot be trusted with power for too long.
The allegations against Latvala all had a common theme: the 16-year senator thought his influence in Tallahassee meant he could get away with anything. That description came from a U.S. congressman, not an anonymous tipster.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Pensacola, said: “Jack believes that his power as a legislator gives him some special power with women. And, there are times when it’s clearly unrequited.”
Gaetz even provided an eyewitness account of Latvala, a Republican from Clearwater, harassing a young lobbyist.
Based on everything we know, it’s impossible to view Latvala’s hoarding of power and predatory attitude as separate issues. It is precisely his clout and status that came to convince the man he was untouchable.
One of his accusers agrees, saying: “He uses his power as budget chairman to either torture or reward people for their behavior. If you’re not in his good graces, he will kill your client.”
Latvala’s conduct also explains why he has always been Florida’s biggest opponent of term limits. Term limits bring the Tallahassee gravy train to a screeching halt, a painful thought for anyone abusing the job to reap rewards. Which is apparently a lot of them.
Just three months before he was outed for groping, Latvala told an audience in Sarasota that term limits were the root of the “rough session” in 2017 and should be totally repealed. He specifically complained that term limits allow individuals to accumulate too much power.
But does that make sense to anyone who’s followed politics for more than half a minute?
Were Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro so oppressive because their nations were awash in term limits?
Are term limits what allow Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to rule the U.S. Senate with an iron fist?
Of course not. Latvala’s bluster is phony and he knows it. Long tenure allows a member to create a monopoly on power. When Latvala carps about the session, he’s really whining because term limits have allowed members with a real philosophy to rise up and challenge the status quo. That’s sort of the entire point.
Nothing will totally prevent corruption in politics. But term limits on every office ensure it is the exception, not the rule.
NICK TOMBOULIDES, MELBOURNE
Editor’s note: Nick Tomboulides is executive director of U.S. Term Limits.