Legislative leaders maintain there isn’t anything there, a nothing burger in current parlance, when asked about a story
in The New Yorker
describing National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer’s influence throughout the Capitol, particularly her sway in helping write and dictate language in bills.
But the story has Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, prepared to undertake a one-man investigation, if necessary, to determine how much Hammer’s influence reaches into the staff ranks.
“I’m deeply troubled by what is included in this article in terms of the relationship of Ms. Hammer with legislative staff,” Richardson said during a House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meeting Monday. “There are comments concerning her introduction of language directly with staff, outside of member participation, and I think this is something that needs to be investigated.”
In the lengthy article
, author Mike Spies noted that “Hammer is not an elected official, but she can create policy, see it through to passage, and use government resources to achieve her aims. These days, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature almost never allows any bill that appears to hinder gun owners to come up for a vote.”
Richardson, a certified public accountant, said he would undertake his own investigation if he is unable to get the House committee to look into the report, similar to how the committee has started to review circumstances surrounding the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
“If that means that I have to issue public records requests to get to this data, then I intend to do so,” Richardson said.
The House hasn’t responded to questions if it would go along with Richardson’s request. But Fred Piccolo, spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, said Hammer “doesn’t write bills or dictate language any more than the Teachers Union does for Dems.”
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, said that while senators and professional staff get input from a variety of sources, they are the only ones with the authority to file bills and amendments that carry the names of elected officials.
“Senators make the final decisions with regard to all bills and amendments filed under their names,” Betta said.
Hammer responded to the allegations of her having free rein over legislation as, “Not only is that nonsense, it is a deliberate distortion.”
“Lobbyists provide legislative language to legislators all the time, it's part of the service we provide,” Hammer said in an email. “Sometimes staff members forget they are not legislators and take great liberties without authorization, so if lobbyists are asked to straighten out language that a staffer has messed up, we do what the legislator asks us to do.”