By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The Miami Herald reports that candidates in Haiti’s presidential election are spending more and more time campaigning in South Florida.
As if Haiti doesn’t have enough to deal with: Decades of political corruption. Deforestation. Erosion. AIDS. Earthquakes. And now, close contact with the Florida political system.
The same system that gave us Florida Scandal-Rama, otherwise known as the midterm elections of 2010.
Let’s start with the U.S. Senate race, which has featured some of Florida’s political elite: Republican Marco Rubio, the former Florida Speaker of the House turned darling of the Tea Party; nouveau-independent Charlie Crist, accommodating middle-of-the-roader and current governor; and up-and-coming African-American legacy, U.S. Rep., Democrat Kendrick Meek, the son of former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek.
Crist’s decision to go independent initially spawned speculation that it was all Republican subterfuge to assure a Rubio victory.
But after the allegations exchanged by the two over the span of two campaigns, it’s safe to say that rumor has been disproved – or else Rubio and Crist should be on stage and screen.
On the Democratic side, mind-numbingly-rich newcomer Jeff Greene entered the primary race, amid stories of globetrotting and partying with notorious former boxer Mike Tyson.
In a St. Petersburg Times piece, Times Political Editor Adam C. Smith wrote:
“Nobody batted an eye when a 2009 book, The Greatest Trade Ever, mentioned Greene’s Black Sea yachting adventure that summer:
‘Greene brought two Ukrainian strippers on board to make a cameo appearance and hired stewardesses from coastal towns to serve as his crew. Some doubled as massage therapists, which came in handy after a day of scuba diving, Jet Skiing or kayaking,’ wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman.”
And there were more stories about Greene’s suspicious real estate dealings in California, where he reportedly employed many of the practices that resulted in the collapse of the real estate market.
Just in case that wasn’t enough notoriety, after he lost the primary by 26 points, Greene sued the St. Pete newspaper, as well as The Miami Herald, which also ran the pieces.
For his part, Meek has had to deal with charges of being overly cozy with indicted developer Dennis Stackhouse, and receiving jobs and goodies for Meek’s mother and staff in exchange for support of Stackhouse projects.
Here’s the rest of the scoring for those of you trying to keep track (Know other spicy political peccadilloes that aren’t mentioned here? Let us know):
Rubio is one of several Republicans being investigated by none other than the Internal Revenue Service for misuse of state party credit cards. He has reimbursed the state’s Republican Party $2,417.80 for flights he said were accidentally charged to the party’s credit card.
Crist was also tainted by his close relationship with former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, the man who appears to be at the vortex of the credit card scandal.
Now, such juicy hijinks in a high-profile race would typically obscure any other race in the scandal ratings.
Not in Florida, where the governor’s race has been just as, uh, spirited.
By now, everyone knows that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott headed up Columbia/HCA — a health care organization found guilty of Medicaid fraud when Scott was its CEO.
His challenger for the Republican nomination, Bill McCollum, spent a big chunk of his $13.7 million campaign war chest reminding us.
And yet, Scott hammered McCollum at the Republican ballot box. Which either says something about Republican voters, or more likely, something about how much Scott spent.
Scott plunked down about $40 million – in the primary alone. Almost three times as much as McCollum.
Particularly effective was a $4.7 million ad blitz in the last week of the campaign that linked McCollum to the ever-popular former Florida GOP chairman, Greer.
Now, Scott is alleging in an ad that his Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, “funneled three-quarters of a million dollars in no-bid contracts to Bank of America,” her former employer. A claim that has been repudiated by FactCheck.org. Is it any wonder that, by the end of the campaign, the one person endorsing Scott in TV ads was…
And yet, despite being cast as the overseer of a greedy HMO, despite having to use his mom as a character witness, Scott is basically even with Sink .
Ad spending works, folks.
Which is why, in a midterm election fueled by the recent Supreme Court decision that placed campaign spending under the umbrella of free speech, $3.3 billion will be spent on ads this political season. Three and a third billion dollars. In a midterm election which is expected to have low voter turnout.
Imagine what things will be like in 2012.
Political ad spending might surpass the federal budget deficit.