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Ruth: Sex, spies and intrigue in Tallahassee

By Daniel Ruth
SCOTT KEELER | Times Florida Capitol looking east, Tallahassee. FOR FILE.

Thereís an old joke that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger used to tell on himself.

Before the election of President Richard Nixon in 1968, Kissinger was regarded as merely a frumpy, rumpled Harvard University professor with an almost unintelligible German accent.

And then, as if by magic, once he joined the Nixon administration as national security adviser Kissinger found himself transformed into a Potomac stud muffin dating the likes of Jill St. John. No doubt his sexy views on the Marshall Plan proved to be irresistible to women.

It has been said that power is an aphrodisiac. And it is just as potent in Tallahassee as it is in Washington. So is revenge.

When our noble public servants in the Florida Legislature arenít burning the midnight oil reading the state budget, many of them seek comfort away from the pressures of the job. This can lead to Ö awkwardness.

The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureauís Mary Ellen Klas and Steve Bousquet reported that someone has been electronically spying on several legislators, first at the Tennyson condominium where several lawmakers live, and elsewhere around the city.

What did we learn? That the capital is a Peyton Place of the Apalachee Parkway. Let us not forget Tallahassee is actually an old Seminole word for Coo-coo-ca-choo.

Revelations concerning politicians behaving badly come in the wake of state Sen. Jeff Clemens, who was supposed to become the Democratic leader, announcing his resignation following the disclosure of an affair with a lobbyist.

Clemens noted he had sought the wise counsel of his close friend, Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, on how to deal with his predicament. Now grainy photos have captured Latvala kissing a Tallahassee lobbyist outside an Italian restaurant.

In a lengthy statement, Latvala decried the climate of character assassination pervading Tallahassee. Fair enough, but as a longtime lawmaker, Latvala is hardly a babe in the woods in the capital. A candidate for governor, he has encountered enough detractors to appreciate the charms of discretion.

Klas and Bousquet noted rumors abound as to who hired Gainesville gumshoe Derek Uman, the Philip Marlowe of whoopee, to plant cameras on the sixth floor of the Tennyson where several legislators resided. Some speculation has fallen upon defrocked Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, who was forced to resign his seat following accusations he had made racially inflammatory remarks toward fellow senators. For some reason Artiles vowed revenge toward his former colleagues because he was exposed as an imbecile. But thatís Tallahassee for you, which is an old Seminole word for, "Itís only wrong if you get caught."

Never one to allow a good scandal to go disingenuously unexploited, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Sackcloth and Ashes, offered some faux pious outrage toward his Senate brethren.

Corcoran darkly hinted the Clemensí affair with the lobbyist was nonconsensual and suggested Senate Republicans "had formed a wall of silence."

Itís probably merely a coincidence that Corcoran is also contemplating a run for governor. And since the speaker and Latvala loathe each other, anything that could undermine the senator would seem to be a win-win for Corcoran.

But Corcoran shouldnít be too eager to jump on the pure-as-the-driven-snow bandwagon, suggesting the House is comprised of the Vienna Boys Choir while those lusty senators are engaged in all manner of bacchanalia. Donít you suppose there at least a few House members who regard their marital vows in relative terms once they set foot in Tallahassee?

For any public figure in the backstabbing culture of Tallahassee with visions of randiness dancing in their minds not to realize that cameras may be whirring and drones may be droning constitutes political malfeasance.

As for Latvala, he might want to learn the art of the cordial handshake.