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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Old ACORN funding request raises new questions for state Rep. Randolph



A Democratic state representative from Orlando tried to get $50,000 in state funding for the controversial group ACORN in the 2007 legislative session, the same time his wife was working as a lobbyist for the organization, records show.

4378Rep. Scott Randolph was seeking the money for the Central Florida ACORN Institute Financial Justice Center, which provides tax preparation for poor people. But the request died, as many do during the legislative appropriation process. His wife, Susannah Lindberg, registered as a lobbyist during the 2007 session.

Normally a funding request that old would disappear in history. But the widening national controversy over ACORN has renewed questions about the group's dealings in Florida, including bogus voter registrations forms. Some Republican lawmakers are demanding a review of any state connection to the group.

Randolph denied a conflict of interest, saying his wife did not push for the funding. "She wasn't lobbying on that issue at all," he said Friday."She didn't even come up to Tallahassee that much. I don't find anything wrong with that."

But overlapping interests have raised issues before. Most recently, Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, faced questions in her passionate bid to save the state mental hospital in her district. Her husband, who operates an assisted-living facility that gets patients from Northeast Florida State Hospital, engaged in lobbying-like activity in the Capitol.

Randolph filed the community budget issue request (CBIR) in January 2007 and his wife registered to lobby in late March. Lindberg could not be immediately reached Friday but Randolph said her role was mainly to bring up ACORN members to Tallahassee.

"She didn't push it," he said of the funding request, filed in the Senate by Gary Siplin, D-Orlando. "I didn't push it. I just had other priorities."

Randolph scoffed at the suggestion of impropriety.

"I'm still waiting for Republicans to put the statements out about reviewing (funding obtained by former House Speakers) Ray Sansom and Marco Rubio. I would support them 100 percent of reviewing every single entity that has gotten state funding. To single out one organization just shows the lack of sincerity."

He said his wife lobbied for ACORN not the affiliate.

The money would have gone toward a tax preparation center, which helps people who might not know they are eligible for certain breaks such as the earned income tax credit.

ACORN Florida director Stephanie Porta said Friday that about 4,300 low-income people in Florida got free tax help over the past two years, resulting in about $5 million in money in their pockets.

She called questions about Randolph's involvement with his wife "disgusting" and blasted Rubio's questioning this week of Gov. Charlie Crist, who has met with ACORN members to address the foreclosure crisis.

“For meeting with an organization that has fought to stop people from losing their homes and to get tax refunds and (one) has helped raise Florida’s minimum wage, that’s despicable,” Porta said.

Lindberg no longer works for ACORN. She now works in U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's office in Orlando.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:18pm]


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