Sunday, May 20, 2018
Opinion

Gaetz's olive branch looks like a spear

There's an old line that says if you are going to plot to kill the king, you darn sure better pull it off. Otherwise, unpleasantries ensue.

And that probably explains why longtime Tallahassee lobbyists Jack Cory and his wife, Kenya, are about to discover they'll have an easier time gaining access to Thomas Pynchon than to Florida Senate President Don Gaetz.

The Corys attempted to undermine Gaetz by supporting Senate candidates he opposed. They failed. Think of them as the collective Fredo Corleone of Tallahassee.

Gaetz was about as subtle as a dropped anvil when he called out the couple during a recent gathering of Associated Industries of Florida, where he was receiving an award — presumably for being such a sweetheart pal of the powerful lobbying group.

Let's leave aside for the moment the dubious honor of being recognized by the state's most prominent checkbook of influence-peddlers for being one of their favorite politicians. Gaetz took the plaque and then proceeded to slap AIF and the Corys around with it. Let's put it this way. Gaetz is a sore winner.

Gaetz was miffed that during the recent state Senate primary, the Corys had thrown in their lot with state Rep. Rachel Burgin rather than the Niceville Republican's preferred candidate, former Senate President Tom Lee.

Not only did the Corys support Burgin, they launched a smear campaign against Lee, taking note of his 2001 divorce and hinting the candidate had been a less than faithful husband. The image was in sharp contrast to their efforts to cast Burgin as a sort of Mother Teresa, only with better makeup.

Although he won the Republican primary over Burgin, Lee was not amused. Neither was Gaetz.

Lee ran afoul of the AIF and for that matter much of Tallahassee's lobbying corps because during his tenure running the Senate, he enacted tougher rules banning gifts and requiring the gladhanders to disclose some of their fees.

Really now, where is the joy in arm-twisting lawmakers to do your will if you can't lather them up with geegaws and cocktails? Feelings were hurt.

Still, it was a political miscalculation for the Corys to believe they could defeat Lee, who is still popular among his former Brandon constituents.

The lobbyists also supported some other folks over Gaetz's favored candidates. But the personal attack on Lee was particularly galling for the incoming Senate president.

And now — there will be blood. This ought to be fun.

Gaetz made it clear during the AIF event that henceforth (read: the next two years of his Senate presidency) the Corys will be less welcomed in his presence than a replacement NFL referee in the Green Bay Packers locker room. Who knew it could reach subzero temperatures in Tallahassee?

Some people might suggest Gaetz is being a little brusque in his treatment of those who might oppose him. Maybe they are right.

But what's the point of having all the juice conferred on the president of the Senate if you can't abuse it from time to time?

Gaetz has made it pretty clear he doesn't plan to tolerate much dissent within his ranks under his rule — or disloyalty.

It certainly promises to be a vastly different Senate under Gaetz than how the chamber operated with outgoing President Mike Haridopolos, R-Boo!, a man who instilled about as much fear among recalcitrant legislators as Barney Fife.

Indeed, the Corys and their fellow swizzle sticks at the AIF may have performed a valuable service for Gaetz, providing the Senate president a perfect opportunity to publicly berate an influential couple to demonstrate his authority.

One of the things that irritated Gaetz and his leadership team (which, by the way, is sure to include Lee) was the annoying habit of AIF of making political contributions directly to GOP candidates rather than going through the state Republican Party apparatus.

Burgin's loss to Lee and the sight of the Corys being served up as if it was Mel Gibson's unsightly demise in Braveheart ought to put an end to such misadventures. And in the spirit of comity, Gaetz insisted his impaling of the Corys was merely meant as an extension of an olive branch in effort to "repair relations" with the AIF.

Whew, that was close. Imagine how things might have unfolded if Gaetz had been really peeved.

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