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Mailing from shadowy political group blasts Fasano's record

NEW PORT RICHEY — A shadowy political group with ties to a much-criticized utility has blasted state Sen. Mike Fasano's record in a flier that hit mailboxes Wednesday.

A Miami electioneering organization paid for the glossy attack, and its only contribution this year came from an Odessa company with links to Aloha Utilities and Roy Speer, founder of the Home Shopping Network.

Customers — notably Fasano — have complained for years about service by Aloha, a southwest Pasco water and sewer company whose majority owner is Speer's wife, Lynnda. Pasco County endorsed its purchase by a public utility agency this week, hoping to end years of troubled service by replacing the management and linking to county water.

"The only thing dirtier than Aloha's water is their politics," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Democrat Fred Taylor has previously acknowledged meeting once with Speer to woo support to unseat Fasano in the Nov. 4 election. But Taylor said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of the mailing and did not support it.

"I won't accept any money from him," Taylor said, disavowing the mailing.

Speer and officials with the Miami electioneering group, Tell the Public the Facts, and the Odessa company, Interphase Inc., did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Featuring a picture of a storm-devastated neighborhood, the mailing says, "Mike Fasano helped write the book on how to raise rates."

But it incorrectly claims that Fasano voted for a bill that raised property insurance rates in 2006, and it offers a distorted description of an insurance claims measure that he voted for in 2005.

In 2006, Fasano voted against the final version of the bill (SB 1980) that the Legislature passed. The measure allowed dramatic rate increases, and Fasano quickly criticized it.

In 2005, Fasano voted for another insurance bill (SB 1486). The mailer says the measure made it "easier for insurance companies to deny your claims." In fact, a report by the Florida Department of Financial Services said it prohibited companies from canceling coverage until 90 days after a hurricane-damaged home is repaired. It also barred cancellations during storms.

Fasano has raised more than $560,000 in his race against Taylor, who has received $75,000, mostly in-kind help from the Florida Democratic Party. Before his primary election victory, Taylor was hit by attack mailings by a medical lobby that backs Fasano.

Twice in interviews this summer, Taylor — who has blasted Fasano's contributions from interest groups — said Speer promised him no support. On Wednesday, he described the attack on Fasano as similar to the ones he faced.

As for Aloha's service to his home? "I've been here since 2002, and I've never had a problem with it," Taylor said.

The electioneering group is one of many shadow groups that move through Florida politics with few restrictions on contributions and spending.

On Sept. 26, Tell the Public the Facts received its only donation of the year, a $41,917 check from Interphase Inc. in Odessa, according to Florida campaign finance records.

Interphase is one of many businesses listed under the address for Speer's office on Success Drive in Odessa. A decade ago, Speer was its president, and he has slowly relinquished an executive role since, record shows.

Its only executive now listed in state records is Richard W. Baker, Speer's accountant and longtime business associate. They operate Roi's Bar-B-Q in Odessa off State Road 54 near their office. They even share a secretary's voice mailbox.

"I think most people will see through this," Fasano said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.

Mailing from shadowy political group blasts Fasano's record 10/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 7:03pm]
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