Steve MacNamara: Rick Scott's brass knuckles gatekeeper or shadow governor?
Steve MacNamara has officially become Tallahassee’s Wizard of Oz.
The lawyer-lobbyist turned university professor is the brass knuckles gatekeeper and omnipotent advisor to Gov. Rick Scott.
Since becoming the governor’s chief of staff last July, MacNamara has controlled access to the governor and his schedule, assumed authority over appointments and dictated press releases and policy memos. He has directed the governor’s message and reached into the bowels of agencies to remove people he doesn’t like and install favorites.
“No one gets in to see the Wizard. Not no one, no how,” reads the sign on the way into MacNamara’s office, an excerpt from the famous movie.
He played the same role as chief of staff for former House Speaker John Thrasher and for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, each time temporarily stepping aside from his teaching, law firm and lobbying work.
Now, nine months later, the governor’s relations with lawmakers have improved. Florida’s unemployment rate is down. Scott had a successful legislative session with a modest agenda and, while his approval ratings remain low, they are on the rise.
“I think he’s doing a great job,’’ Scott said.
“I don’t think there’s any question he’s made a difference for this governor,’’ said Thrasher, now a St. Augustine state senator.
Scott’s closest supporters and some Tea Party followers, however, say that the union between the newcomer governor and the wily insider is for them a Faustian bargain. Though they refuse to be quoted by name, several advisors to the governor — both inside and out of government — fear Scott is squandering his conservative credentials and his outsider brand by engaging in deal-making with special interests who have connections to MacNamara.
His critics call him Florida’s "shadow governor," noting that agency contracts have been redirected, gambling allowed to expand, and a policy to privatize state prisons, which Scott didn’t focus on during his campaign, has become an administration priority.
“I voted for the outsider and he has hired the consummate insider and he is acting like an insider now,’’ said Henry Kelley of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party. “It’s very disappointing." Story here.