Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

Anti-light rail tea party advocate has her own conflict, transit tax supporters say

In the wake of conservative activists' call for the leader of Pinellas' pro-transit campaign to resign, mass transit advocates are accusing the group of applying a double standard.

At the center of the debate is an ethical question: Is it wrong for the board member of a public agency to also work for a political advocacy organization that tries to influence policy on the same topic?

Earlier this week, the group Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation sent a letter to the board of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, criticizing its chairman, Ronnie Duncan. Duncan leads the "Yes for Greenlight" campaign, an advocacy group that's raising money to support an upcoming transit tax referendum that TBARTA has endorsed.

The group has formed a 501c4, a designation that allows it to collect donations while keeping its funders' identities secret, a step that angered COST spokeswoman Sharon Calvert.

On her blog, Calvert wrote: "There is a problem when the chairman of a state agency serves as chairman for a private organization whose anonymous big dollar donors are hiding behind a 501c4, whose true interests are as hidden as the donors."

On Wednesday, referendum supporters shot back, arguing that one of Calvert's allies, Karen Jaroch, is guilty of the same thing.

Like Duncan, Jaroch was appointed to the board of a public agency, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART. She also works for Heritage Action, a 501c4 that functions as the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation that doesn't release its donors' names.

If Calvert's group followed her own reasoning, Jaroch would have to resign from one of the two organizations, said Kevin Thurman, executive director of the pro-transit group Connect Tampa Bay.

"If Sharon Calvert and Karen Jaroch, the co-founders of the Tea Party in Hillsborough County, want anyone who works with advocacy nonprofits to resign from public service, then Karen Jaroch should lead by example," he said in a statement, adding that he believes Jaroch and Duncan have the right to serve in both roles.

Jaroch said the circumstances are different in Duncan's case. Her work with Heritage focuses on federal issues, she said, while Duncan is playing two parts in one local transportation debate.

"I'm not raising money for the opposition, I'm not going out and speaking on their behalf, I don't see any parallel at all," she said.

It's a flimsy distinction, Thurman argued. Heritage Action opposes public spending on light rail, a view that Jaroch championed before joining HART's board and continues to uphold.

"When Karen is on the HART board and advocating against light rail while being paid by an organization that also advocates against that, it is a conflict as far as the standards they set," he said.

Comments
Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

I may have cracked the code. Found a way to sell doing the right thing. Discovered a method of persuasion in certain matters of fairness, conscience and the greater good.Like giving our fellow Americans a second chance.When morality-based arguments d...
Published: 05/26/18
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18