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Daniel Ruth

Big-time banker in bib overalls

This could get real ridiculous and real ugly real fast.

It's entirely possible that by the time we reach Election Day in November 2010, to shore up her good ol' girl bona fides, Alex Sink will be traipsing around the state in bib overalls, corn cob pipe stuck in her mouth and sounding more like a Cracker than Lawton Chiles meets Minnie Pearl in her quest to become governor.

Sheesh, if you didn't know any better you might think Sink was campaigning for the role of Daisy Mae in a community theater production of Lil' Abner rather than to become the chief executive officer of the fourth largest state in the union.

So there was Sink the other day giving for all practical purposes the first major speech of her gubernatorial campaign before a group of Democratic Party supporters in which she waxed poetic about those lazy, hazy days as a child growing up on a farm in North Carolina.

There were wistful memories of freezing vegetables and watching her father paying the bills for fertilizer and animal feed and making her own clothes. Cue the Petticoat Junction theme. Sink also laid down her markers as a loving mother and PTA activist, which would be absolutely swell if Florida's current chief financial officer was vying for the Betty Crocker brownie bake-off.

Alas, nowhere in her remarks did Alex Sink ever mention her former occupation, which she certainly hyped as the raison d'etre to elect her to the state Cabinet gig back in 2006. Now if Sink had labored away as a lap dancer, or drug dealer, or Michael Vick's dog trainer, perhaps it would have been a good idea to insist that before she decided to become a pol, Sink had first spent some time in a gingham dress whipping up Apple Brown Betty for her tots and slopping the odd hog out there on her Thonotosassa estate.

Uh, not quite. Perhaps you might want to remove small children and the easily scandalized from the room. But in fact, long before Alex Sink threw her hoopskirt into the ring, she was — oh, the shame of it all!!! — a BANKER!

Until she retired some 10 years ago with a pot full of farewell money, Sink was a bare-knuckled, hard-charging, body-part-crunching executive who eventually rose to become Florida president of Bank of America. She knows her way around a boardroom as well as Rambo knows how to snap a windpipe.

And yet since she announced her gubernatorial plans, Republicans have tried to suggest by virtue of Sink's banking background she's responsible for the Great Depression, the Irish potato famine, the collapse of Zimbabwe's currency and the nation's current economic crisis.

That is even more disingenuous than blaming the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, for being complicit in the Guantanamo torture memos simply because he was a former judge advocate general lawyer as well as a congressman before he left office in 2001. After all, McCollum did suggest last month at a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting that he doesn't consider waterboarding to be torture.

Now it is understandable that Sink would want to introduce herself to voters as a doting mother and wife. But her decades in the financial community are also a significant part of who Alex Sink is as a person — the parent who may have kissed her son's boo-boo in the morning as well as the bloodless suit who cut the knees off a corporate foe in the afternoon. Think of June Cleaver morphing into Joan Crawford.

If the Republicans wanted to hammer Sink's financial due diligence they have a ready-made issue in the CFO's apparent failure to properly monitor the State Board of Administration, which filed a $682 million claim in the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy to recover lost investment monies, unbeknownst to the SBA's board of trustees, which includes Gov. Charlie Crist and Sink.

But the Republicans have a problem. There's a third trustee as well — McCollum in his role as attorney general. None of the trustees — all now candidates for higher office — were provided with a copy of the SBA legal action against Lehman and none of them ever asked for the paperwork. Oooops. So much for oversight. So much for transparency.

Neither McCollum nor Sink have been eager to talk about what they didn't know and when they didn't know it in their roles of being more of a rubber stamp over the SBA affairs than North Korea's Kim Jong Il's hairstylist.

With 17 months until the election for governor, perhaps the candidates will find the time between Norman Rockwellesque soliloquies on apple pie and Little League games and hanging Christmas stockings to explain the SBA embarrassment. But don't bank on it.

Big-time banker in bib overalls 06/11/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 12, 2009 7:27pm]
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