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Liberty City project could hurt more political careers

What do Kendrick Meek, Mike Haridopolos and Adam Hasner have in common? Besides their ambition to be elected to the U.S. Senate?

Each of them tried to steer millions of dollars in public money to the failed Liberty City redevelopment project by Dennis Stackhouse, who is now awaiting trial on charges of stealing nearly $1 million in project funds.

In 2007, Haridopolos and Hasner sought to appropriate $20 million in state funds toward the Poinciana Biopharmaceutical Park in Liberty City, which at one point was being hailed as the next Scripps Research biomedical economic development coup for Florida. Five months before they made the request, Stackhouse used project funds to contribute $10,000 to the Florida GOP, and two months after they submitted it, he gave the party another $5,000.

The developer's lobbyist, Frank Tsamoutales, has donated both to Hasner and Haridopolos, and represents another client, Appliance Direct, that paid Haridopolos more than $180,000 in consulting fees since 2007.

The earmark project never did make it into the budget, and the project was already in trouble by the time they tried to get the funding. The Miami Herald wrote a blistering expose that summer, and the issue caused significant problems for Meek's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.

His mother, former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, received a car and tens of thousands of dollars from Stackhouse, while Meek sought federal funding for the project.

"It wasn't that it was a bad idea, it was just pushed by someone who turned out to be a bad guy," Hasner said of the project.

Haridopolos declined comment.

A lot of people were hoodwinked by Stackhouse, and there's no sign Haridopolos or Hasner is as vulnerable on the issue as Meek. Still, it's ripe for a direct mail piece: "Hasner/Haridopolos tried to funnel $20 million to corrupt developer!!"

GOP apologizes for language in e-mail

On the campaign trail, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had an uncanny ability to throw red meat to tea party Republicans petrified over President Barack Obama's agenda without veering too far into Crazy Town. He managed, for instance, to imply Obama had a socialist agenda without ever to our knowledge using the "S" word.

So we were a bit surprised to see a Republican National Committee fundraising e-mail from Rubio recently fuming about "the damage the socialist Democrats have made." We noted it on the Buzz blog, and promptly heard from the RNC.

"The RNC asked Sen. Rubio to help with a fundraising letter. During our internal process, a mistake was made and an unapproved version was sent out," said chief of staff Jeff Larson. "In fact, Sen. Rubio had expressly edited out the use of the words 'leftist' and 'socialist.' The RNC takes full responsibility for this unfortunate incident."

Kriseman gives the Democratic perspective

State Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. He discusses everything from teacher tenure to recalling politicians to the impotence of Democrats in Tallahassee this year.

Suffice it to say he's not a huge fan of Gov. Rick Scott: "I can't think of any politician that I know of that would tell people 'I'm interested in what you have to say unless you don't agree with me.' "

Bill would increase cap on contributions

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, has an interesting bill (SB 1390) to dramatically increase Florida's 20-year-old $500 political contribution cap that many people think is a relic. It would basically go back to the tiered approach Florida had in place before 1991: up to $10,000 for gubernatorial candidates and political action committees supporting or opposing them; up to $5,000 to candidates for statewide office other than governor and for PACs supporting or opposing them; up to $2,500 for legislative or multi-county candidates and PACs supporting or opposing them; and up to $1,000 for candidates running for countywide or less than countywide offices. A political committee supporting at least two candidates subject to different contribution caps would be restricted to the lower cap.

Winners
of the week

Paula Dockery and Jeff Kottkamp. New census data on Florida population shifts suggest the state senator from Lakeland and the former lieutenant governor from Fort Myers should be sitting pretty as legislators carve out new congressional districts next year.

Loser
of the week

Pinellas County. One of only two Florida counties that lost population over the past decade, Florida's ultimate bellwether county looks likely to lose at least one state House seat in redistricting.

Liberty City project could hurt more political careers 03/19/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 2:36pm]

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