Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Gambling lobbyist extols (wink-wink) Tom Lee

Please forgive me if a bit of my Chicago is showing, but I have to admit a guilty hustings pleasure. When performed with great skill and an unwavering commitment to duplicity, there indeed is something to be admired about a truly well-crafted and expertly executed political dirty trick.

And thus how can one gaze upon the handiwork of Tallahassee gambling lobbyist Marc Dunbar and not compare his deliciously devious effort to undermine the Florida Senate candidacy of Tom Lee to, say, standing before DaVinci's Mona Lisa and not being overwhelmed by the deft flourishes, the subtle strokes of understatement, the unspoken insouciance of it all?

Excuse me for a moment, I'm getting a bit verklempt.

Lee is locked in a competitive Republican primary fight to win back his old east Hillsborough Senate seat against state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Who's the Fairest of Them All?

So it was that Dunbar rode to Burgin's rescue by penning a letter extolling Lee's winning charm and solid support for gambling interests around the state.

And yes, you might want to insert a "huh?" here.

But therein lies the craftsmanship of Dunbar's scamming with faint praise.

Lavishing superlatives on Lee for his advocacy of gambling in this particular Senate district would be like a lobbyist praising a pol for his commitment to introducing scores of saloons in Ryadh.

This was more than an air kiss from Dunbar to Lee. The kiss of death is more appropriate.

In reality the two men clearly don't laugh at the same jokes. For it was Lee, as the then Senate president, who ordered a 2005 ethics investigation into a cushy $48,000, two-day all expense paid for junket the lobbyist had greased for some Florida senators to observe gambling activity in Canada.

You might well think Dunbar adores the casino ground Lee walks on, describing him as a friend of gambling concerns and encouraging other gambling executives to feel free to give early, often and generously to Lee's campaign.

And just to round out the image of Lee as one of those ooey-gooey politicians who will stoop to new moral lows by actually speaking to the party opposite, Dunbar took pains (and no doubt some joy, too) in noting that the candidate often was willing to work across the aisle with liberal Democrats like Steve Geller and (quick, get the garlic and the wooden stake) Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Dunbar might as well have suggested Lee was palling around with Toyko Rose, Lord Haw-Haw and Jane Fonda.

It is noteworthy that Dunbar's manifesto of mendacity clearly is attempting to scuttle Lee's campaign inasmuch as it includes the word "gambling" no fewer than 15 times. The industry prefers the more benign sounding "gaming" to describe itself, because if it actually employed the term "gambling," it might cause people to think these folks were promoting "gambling." No good can come of this.

Why would a lobbyist like Dunbar go to such lengths to inaccurately link Lee with the expansion of gambling in Florida? It's simple really.

Dunbar is betting the body politic is dumber than a sack of dice. He's betting gullible voters will accept at face value that Tom Lee is really the Cincinnati Kid in a Republican plain cloth coat.

And the sad thing is Dunbar's wager is probably pretty much on the money.

But that doesn't make it any less a stump stunt thing of beauty.

Comments
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18