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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dan Ruth on Haridopolos' ethics plea; RPOF subpoenas



From Dan Ruth's column on Tuesday's op-ed page in the St. Petersburg Times:

...In other words, he (Mike Haridopolos) pulled a Charlie Rangel, the former chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, who passed off the errors on his financial disclosure forms as nothing more than an inadvertent, simple clerical error...

Read full column here or below. 

Ledger sheet shows a shortage of scruples
By Daniel Ruth, Times correspondent

There's a Greek word, sometimes heard with regularity in our household, that would seem to apply to Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a man in full of himself: buffo.

You don't need to be bilingual to figure out the meaning: a bit of a ditz.

Somehow, the Senate president managed to forget about a $400,000 home and a $120,000-a-year consulting gig when he filled out his legally required financial disclosure forms - for four years in a row.

A few days ago the Florida Commission on Ethics, which has all the enforcement teeth of Barney Fife trying to arrest John Dillinger, found that Haridopolos had indeed committed a fairly serious breach of propriety by omitting nearly a million dollars of assets and income from his financial disclosure forms, the penalty for which includes some incredibly severe clucking, a rather highly indignant arched eyebrow or two and a withering glare of disappointment.

That's largely because the Ethics Commission has no authority to levy fines or impose very much of any sort of penalty against public officials who might be scruple-challenged. Instead the job of imposing sanctions on a pol with all the attention to detail of Wile E. Coyote contemplating a bomb fuse remains the purview of the Florida Legislature.

And thus the probability the Senate president's fellow senators will take any action against the very guy who holds power over them - from office and committee assignments, as well as determining which legislation will ever see the light of day - is about as likely as the Cleveland City Council approving a "LeBron James Day" proclamation.

Haridopolos claimed overlooking almost a million dollars in his financial disclosure reports was a mere boo-boo, a minor oversight, an ever so slight moment of forgetfulness.

In other words, he pulled a Charlie Rangel, the former chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, who passed off the errors on his financial disclosure forms as nothing more than an inadvertent, simple clerical error.

Haridopolos said he never bothered to carefully review the financial forms, simply signing off on them year after year. That is the public official who gets into a pickle's version of the dog ate my ethics.

Of course, the unspoken implication here is that Haridopolos is so busy, so important, so preoccupied with his duties as a big shot stable boy for Tallahassee special interests, he simply didn't have the time to do his due diligence with respect to his own financial paperwork.

Or put another way, if the Florida Senate president exhibited all the keen-eyed attention to detail over his own finances of Sgt. "I know nothing!" Schultz, what confidence can anyone have he even bothers to read the legislation drafted by lobbyists?

For while Haridopolos was insisting he was paying less attention to his financial disclosure forms than his mattress tag, fellow senator John Thrasher was claiming a federal subpoena for state Republican Party financial records was about as significant as getting an overdue library book notice.

Thrasher, R-"What, me worry?" blithely dismissed the subpoena as a slight inconvenience hardly rising to the level of, well, bothering to tell anybody about it. That meant ignoring that the feds showed up to deliver the paperwork on Election Day, when voters might have misread the arrival of government agents on the doorstep of the state Republican Party looking into financial hanky-panky as an indication something might possibly be amiss.

The state Republican Party is being investigated by a cadre of agents from U.S. Attorneys offices from Pensacola to Miami, plus the FBI and the IRS. The investigation into the party's finances apparently involves spending by party officials ranging from recently ousted and indicted chairman Jim Greer, to Haridopolos, to Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, to former Speaker Ray Sansom, who is also facing grand theft charges, and Sen.-elect Marco Rubio.

In the midst of this investigation, the state party headquarters is visited by folks with badges who are armed with a subpoena for various financial records. Yet Thrasher is acting as if the whole thing was akin to a bunch of Jehovah's Witnesses showing up at the front door on a Saturday afternoon.

So inconsequential was the subpoena in the view of Thrasher, R-Iceberg? What iceberg? that he didn't even bother to alert other GOP officials across the state that the party offices had more cops rummaging through them than an episode of Law & Order.

The party chairman says he can't wait to leave his post. He probably wouldn't get much of an argument on that point, since the politics of buffos seems to be in full flower on the Apalachee Parkway.


[Last modified: Monday, December 6, 2010 5:45pm]


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