Sunday, October 21, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: An honest committee name? Floridians for a Greater Steaming Pile of Political Phooey

There’s a great scene in A Man For All Seasons when Sir Thomas More, on trial for refusing to express his loyalty to King Henry VIII, confronts one of his accusers who has just delivered false testimony against him in return for a royal title.

"Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales?" More asks.

On a somewhat more modest scale the same question might be poised to Lawrence McClure, the victor in last month’s nasty Republican primary to represent state House District 58. Why Lawrence, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Plant City?

To be sure, the public has many reasons to regard the quality of our politicians somewhere between a used shark salesman and a Nebraska Avenue trollop. And the sleazy District 58 race hardly improved upon that imagery.

McClure was opposed in the Republican primary by Yvonne Fry who, as Tampa Bay Times correspondent William March has reported, quickly became the target of an intense negative mailer campaign that accused her of all manner of GOP heresy.

The mailer carpet bombing landing at the homes of District 58 Republicans accused Fry of being a dreaded "liberal" who despised gun rights and adored high taxes.

We pause here for a moment a rationality. Does anyone really believe a Republican Party candidate running for office in a deeply conservative district would think to themselves: "You know what? I think I’ll run a campaign opposing gun rights and advocating for higher taxes on everyone. That’s the ticket! The fine Republican voters in Plant City will love it!" Brilliant, indeed.

But apparently it worked, proving that old adage that you really can fool most of the people, most of the time.

As March noted, the cheesy mailers, playing District 58 Republican voters for chumps, appear to have been tawdry handiwork of a maze of opaque political committees associated with McClure’s campaign manager Anthony Pedicini and Gainesville political consultant William Stafford Jones.

It seems Jones is something of a master of the dark arts of creating phony political committees with dubious names like "Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy," or "The Responsible Leadership Committee."

Or maybe perhaps, "Floridians for a Greater Steaming Pile of Political Phooey"?

These committees can receive unlimited amounts of money to pay for all the claptrap that was aimed at Fry, but they are not permitted to coordinate with the candidate they are trying to help. Insert a few wink-winks and nod-nods right about here.

Adding to the intrigue was March’s discovery that Pedicini’s 87-year-old grandmother has been listed as the chairwoman of at least 10 so-called political committees for a greater balderdash. Meet octogenarian Carmela K. Falcone — Florida political kingpin. Together these fake committees raised tens of thousands of unaccountable dollars that helped to pay for the attacks on that gun-hating, tax-raising, commie, liberal Yvonne Fry.

So much for Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment dictum that thou shall not speak ill of another Republican. Unless Plant City is the prize?

Although it certainly appears McClure’s campaign manager’s fingerprints are all over the dubious negative mailers attempting to portray Fry as the Jane Fonda of the Strawberry Festival, the candidate himself went into full Sgt. Schultz mode insisting he knew NOTHING! of the smear campaign against his opponent. Please, stifle your eye-rolling.

Of course, if McClure was so Bambi-esque innocent of having any connection to the negative mailers, he could have stood up for Fry and defended her against the false accusations, or perhaps sent out his own mailer condemning the attacks. But no. Too classy?

What happened to Fry as a victim of false allegations cooked up by gutless, hidden, unaccountable forces too cowardly to take public ownership of their underhandedness is why the public has so little trust of the political process.

And what does McClure figure to get out of all the duplicity? But for a leather chair in Tallahassee?

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