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A financial recovery plan only a legislator could love

If things go according to plan (insert wry smile here), by the end of 2014 the Florida House will be ruled by a chap who until recently was in worse financial shape than a fruit peddler.

Based on his prior business savvy, you wouldn't trust Speaker-Designate-Designate Chris Dorworth, R-Alms, who will be one of the most powerful politicians in the state, to manage sweeping up a parking lot.

But because of the Florida House's dippy rite of succession, which makes Britain's royal family look downright whimsically spontaneous, untested lawmakers who couldn't find their keisters with the help of NASA are tapped to ascend to leadership positions while they are still teething.

As a result, Floridians wind up with the likes of Dorworth, R-Tin Cup, who a mere two years ago was living off his $2,600-a-month legislative salary and had fewer assets than a monk. But that was then.

As the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell has noted, since becoming the Man Who Would Be Speaker last year after serving one term in Tallahassee, Dorworth has gone from being saddled with a $1.3 million legal judgment, his Lake Mary mansion in foreclosure and virtually no income, to holding a $713,000 ownership position in an out-of-state corporation (with no listed phone number) that paid him $72,000 in cash at about the same time he was picked to head the House.

Isn't coincidence a pip?

It is good to be the speaker-designate-designate, who will succeed current Speaker-Designate Will Weatherford, R-Eenie-Meenie-Miny-Moe, who takes the gavel in November 2012 and precedes Speaker-Designate-Designate-Designate Richard Corcoran, R-One Potato, Two Potato, who takes over in 2016.

Think of this sort of cronyism as Syria-on-the-Wakulla-River.

When one finds oneself on the speakership track, a cornucopia of blessings seem to fall out of the sky. It's like magic, which makes Tallahassee such a mystical place of wonder.

So there was Dorworth, a mere big lug of a glad-hander whose personal finances were so dire he made Greece seem like the Warren Buffett of countries.

But when Dorworth found himself a Laddie-in-Waiting, the burdens of life began to ease somewhat. And that's only fair. You can't have a future speaker living in a box down by the river, scraping the last morsels out of a tin of dog food, now can you?

So it's a good thing, as the Sentinel observed, that Dorworth's fortunes were aided by the patronage of two developers, with whom he has done business while also promoting their interests. You might regard this as a blatant conflict of interest. But there is something to be said for tidy efficiencies.

Sadly, Dorworth has refused to explain his windfall nor detail his relationships with his pals in the development business. One might argue it would be a good idea to come clean if one was slated to ascend to the speakership of the Florida House of Representatives of Those With Very Deep Pockets.

After all, if Dorworth, R-Slumdog Hundred Thousandaire, was merely one of the faceless elected drones robotically roaming the hallways of the Legislature, does anyone honestly believe all this moolah would suddenly drop into his rather ample lap?

The Florida House Republicans are able to anoint future speakers until the year 2068 if they want (there must be a politically upward mobile fetus out there somewhere) because they control the drawing of legislative districts, the flow of legislation and the flow of campaign cash. The odds that Weatherford, Dorworth and Corcoran will lose their House seats are about as long as the odds of Ron Paul upsetting Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency.

Elevating someone with all the financial acumen of an Irish setter, dependent on the mercenary kindness of others, is really an embarrassing tale about the pitfalls of Florida's misguided term limits for elected officials.

Without term limits, Dorworth would be little more than an at best mid-level apparatchik within the Republican House caucus.

But under the current system, candidates aspiring to rise up the political food chain need to make their ambitions known, often before they are even first elected. And once in the House, knowing their time at the trough is limited, members focus their attentions more on battlefield promotions and padding the coffers of their phony political action committees than serving the interests of their constituents.

And that is a breeding ground for mischief.

Dorworth was only in the House for about 20 minutes before he created his dubious PAC — Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy. And yet he has pulled in tens of thousands of dollars to support the goal of promoting "economic development." Don't laugh.

You can't deny that in Dorworth's case, his personal economic development seems to be working out just fine.

A financial recovery plan only a legislator could love 10/24/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 24, 2011 5:58pm]

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