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Carlton: A case for Crist giving up privacy for politics

Does Carole Crist, who is absolutely not running for anything, have to disclose her finances? Absolutely, no. But in the end, the Crists should, Sue Carlton writes. [Times files (2013)]

Does Carole Crist, who is absolutely not running for anything, have to disclose her finances? Absolutely, no. But in the end, the Crists should, Sue Carlton writes. [Times files (2013)]

Don't you hate that?

You run this sharp political ad about how the other guy in the race for governor won't release his federal income tax returns: What is Charlie Crist hiding? the narrator asks, sounding worried for the fate of Florida should voters elect this sketchy-sounding character.

And then Crist goes and releases his tax returns. Thanks a bunch, Charlie, Gov. Rick Scott's campaign must have been thinking, there's a wad of re-election cash down the tubes. (Oh well. Millions more where that came from.)

But wait — there's more campaign fodder in this. What about the tax returns of Crist's wife, Carole, also pointedly requested in the ad? Shouldn't the guy who wants to govern Florida (again) show us those, too — even if Mr. and Mrs. Crist do file separately?

If you are in any way a private person, it's hard to imagine being married to a well-known politician like Crist in this high-interest, bare-knuckles and sure to be bitter to the finish race. I think I'd start worrying about what was in my grocery cart for the world to see or what I set on the checkout counter at the drug store. How might my NetFlix picks poking out of the mailbox be interpreted by the voting public? Okay, so TMZ's not camping out on their lawn, but you do sacrifice some measure of privacy.

But there are legitimate reasons to know the assets of a politician's wife or husband. Case in point: Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and former state Sen. Jim Norman and the vacation home.

Turned out a millionaire Hillsborough businessman and progrowth/antitax activist who was a longtime Norman political supporter bankrolled a $500,000 lakefront vacation home in Arkansas for Norman's wife — property that Norman said was her investment and had nothing to do with him. Even though, well, yes, he did attend the closing and had stayed at the place and all that.

So, yes, it makes sense to know the finances of those close to the people we elect.

Here is a problem for Crist in keeping matrimonially mum: Scott can portray himself as the candidate who "believes transparency matters," as the ad puts it. (It does not mention, however, he is also the candidate who once took the Fifth 75 times.)

And if I can point out another amusing moment: The ad refers to "Millionaire Charlie Crist," implying Mr. Moneybags, elitist rich guy who's not a regular working stiff like you, me and Gov. Scott. Except Crist's net worth was listed as $1.25 million to Scott's $132.7 million last year.

So does Carole Crist, who is absolutely not running for anything, have to disclose her finances? Absolutely, no. But in the end, the Crists should.

Points to him for being protective of her privacy, by the way. Those who believe the world has become far too nosy a place may even applaud this.

But it's a little like marrying someone who, say, collects big, ugly beer steins from around the world — shelves and shelves of them — something he did before he met you and he clearly loves. It's a little weird. It's not your thing, but hey, you love the guy, and it's part of the package.

The strongest argument for giving up a piece of privacy for politics is this: If Crist doesn't show he has nothing to hide — and she has nothing to hide for him — the other side gets to keep telling the world they surely must.

Carlton: A case for Crist giving up privacy for politics 06/26/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:39pm]

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