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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 9 years ago

OUR VIEW: The attack plan failed


The saying goes, “All is fair in love, war and politics.”

But as we have witnessed in this year’s Republican gubernatorial election, “fair” does not equate with right and proper, and it certainly doesn’t equate with integrity.

Republican candidate and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum did not deserve to win the nomination. His behavior and campaign tactics against Rick Scott demonstrated the type of person he really is — the stereotypical narcissistic politician who would stoop to any level to destroy his opponent’s character with twisted words, accusations and lies for the sake of his own ego and lust to hold an elected office. Not all of the words came from McCollum’s mouth; they came from his advertisements. But as the tag line said: He approved the message.

These are the behaviors that so thoroughly nauseate the American electorate and have been fueling the incumbent backlash throughout America.

McCollum railed about Scott’s character. But flip the coin. What about his?

McCollum, for instance, never fessed up to who was behind Florida First Initiative Inc. or the multiple other “527 organizations” that funded his campaign. He played the innocent and the innocuous.

Sure, Scott spent an amazing amount of his own money in what many cynics describe as his buying of the nomination. But at least voters had no doubts about who was behind Scott’s money. Certainly not special interests.

Now contrast that with McCollum.

Go down his list of big contributors, and you’ll come across such “527s” as Florida First Initiative Inc., based in Tallahassee; the Freedom First Committee Inc., based in Newberry, near Gainesville; the Florida Liberty Fund, in Tampa; and the League of American Voters, in Washington, D.C.

Now dig a little deeper: Who is behind The Florida First Initiative? Its state incorporation documents show three officers, only one of whom lists his first name: D. Hill, J. Nottingham and Ken Cleary. Cleary turns up as vice president and director of operations at Pro-Steel Buildings Inc., in Tallahassee.

And when you look up the Tallahassee address for The Florida First Initiative, it’s a Pak Mail location.
But those hiding behind the veil know who was directing the fundraising ($5.8 million in contributions) and the spending, mostly on negative advertising ($5.7 million). And none of them came forward to claim their dirty work.

All of this “legal” secrecy provided a nice cover for a long list of special interest groups, which, as standard politics go, are compelled to make contributions (payoffs) to old-line, traditional candidates like McCollum to protect their special benefits.

That’s the way the bribery-and-shakedown system works in Tallahassee and Washington.

But when Scott became a serious candidate who might disrupt the old-boy, push-peddlers’ system, McCollum turned to more insiders for some tough, Black Ops help. This is when The Florida First Initiative engaged the services of the Washington political consulting and advertising hit squad of McLaughlin & Associates. These guys are cutthroat; they go for the jugular.

And they’ve had a lot of experience. Brothers John and Jim McLaughlin and their associates have handled the campaigns of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Forbes, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, U.S. Sens. John Warner and George Allen, Congressmen Phil Crane of Illinois, Peter King of New York, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Eric Cantor of Virginia.

They were the strategists and crafty creators behind McCollum’s incessant portrayals of Scott as an untrustworthy Medicare crook.

The leaders behind The Florida First Initiative thought so highly of McLaughlin & Associates’ work that they paid the Washington political strategists $2.9 million in 90 days (great work if you can get it) to destroy Scott’s character. Never mind the issues.

And McCollum, previously regarded as something of a milquetoast politician, let the smearing go full throttle. That’s in the mission statement of The Florida First Initiative: doing “any and all things necessary” — whatever it takes — “to further the purpose of the organization” (see below).

This was more important to McCollum than maintaining his integrity. Whatever it takes to win.

The gamble and the “527” money did not pay off.

Thank goodness Florida Republican voters saw through it, did not fall for it and sent a strong message. They’re sick of the narcissistic insiders.

+ A roundabout success!
The Five Points roundabout in downtown Sarasota is a success. Although it would be nice if the contractors would smoothen the transitions areas. They’re bumpy.

+ Predictions …
1) It’s going to be difficult to find a highly qualified outsider to become interested in taking the city of Sarasota’s vacant police chief job.

2) It’s likely to end up being one of the senior officers already on the force.

3) This issue may become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back of City Manager Robert Bartolotta.

Reading between the lines of last week’s news report on the meeting of the Police Advisory Panel members (i.e. Chief Susan Chapman), police department commanders and Bartolotta, it’s evident that Chapman, a crony of Mayor Kelly Kirschner, is going too far in pushing her agenda into the management and operations of the police department.

At some point soon, this will reach a climax. Bartolotta will take a stand: Either let him manage and run the department or he’ll go elsewhere.

Until this struggle is resolved, there’s not a smart police chief in America who would want to walk into this political mess.

Florida First Initiative Inc.
This is the “527 organization” most closely associated with Bill McCollum’s campaign.

The term “527 organization” refers to groups claiming tax-exempt status as “political organizations” under section 527 of the federal tax code, but they do not register as “political committees” subject to contribution restrictions and rigorous disclosure under federal campaign finance laws.

When you go to Florida First Initiative’s website, it lists only a few items — its mission statement, its association with McCollum and a tab showing its contributors and expenditures.

Here’s the mission statement:

“ … to identify candidates [who] have exemplified themselves as experienced conservatives and innovative thinkers. To achieve this purpose, the Organization is empowered, subject to applicable federal and state law, to solicit and accept voluntary contributions; to expend such contributions to further these principles; to employ such persons as necessary to further the purpose of the Organization; and to do any and all things necessary or desirable for the attainment of these purposes.”

To be sure, it lived up to it mission statement all right — to do “any and all things necessary.”

Sampling of Florida First Initiative contributors

• Dennis & Graci McGillicuddy, Sarasota, $5,000
• Gunster Yoakley, Sarasota, $10,000
• Laurence R. Saslaw, $2,000
• Wilfred Templeton, Ann J. Templeton, Sarasota, $1,000
• Site Equity Realty, LLC (Dr. David Shoemaker), Venice, $10,000


• Freedom First Committee Inc., Newberry, $866,200
• League of American Voters, Washington, D.C., $1.1 million
• Committee For Florida Justice Reform, Tampa, $90,000
• People For A Better Florida Fund Inc., Tallahassee, $100,000
• Florida Liberty Fund, Tampa, $248,000

• Norman Braman, Miami, $25,000, auto dealer
• Thomas Pepin, Tampa, $15,000, beer and beverage distributor
• Rummell Company LLC (Peter Rummell, former CEO of St. Joe Co., Arvida), Jacksonville, $5,000
• Huizenga Holdings Inc. (Wayne Huizenga), Fort Lauderdale, $20,000
• Edward C. Droste (Hooters founder), Clearwater, $2,000
• Tom L. Rankin (former CEO, Lykes Brothers), Tampa, $5,000
• John D. Baker II (CEO/director of Patriot Transportation Holding Inc. and former CEO of Florida Rock Industries), Jacksonville, $10,000

• Lincoln Diaz-Balart Campaign Account, Miami, $5,000, U.S. Congressman
• Mario Diaz-Balart, Miami, $2,000, U.S. Congressman
• Friends of Connie Mack, Washington, D.C., $5,000, Committee
• (Ander) Crenshaw For Congress, Jacksonville, $5,000
• Bilirakis for Congress, Tarpon Springs, $2,000, Committee
• Rooney for Congress, Stuart, $5,000

For a complete list of contributors, go to

Source: Florida First Initiative Inc.


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