Clear80° WeatherClear80° Weather

Turning the state Senate inside out

Nothing can be more irritating in a political campaign than to have powerful outside forces attempt to use their juice to sway the outcome of the race — especially when other meddlers come along to meddle in their meddling. • So there was lobbyist Jack Cory, one of Tallahassee's foremost purveyors of power, who was having a perfectly lovely time pumping wads of cash into the campaign of Republican state Rep. Rachel Burgin in her quest to succeed Ronda Storms in the state Senate. • After all, you can't put too high a price on good government. But the bidding starts at around five figures.

Cory was joined in his yearning for democracy to flourish under Burgin's leadership by some of Tallahassee's other deep-pocketed, multi-cellphoned, more wired than Robocop lobbyists, Ron Book and Guy Spearman. Between the three of them, they represent just about every special interest seeking freedom and liberty in the state.

Think of this as the Axis of Silk Stockings.

But life on the hustings can be so unjust at times. Burgin's opponent in the Aug. 14 Republican state Senate primary is former Senate president and Brandon developer Tom Lee, whose presence in the race is a major annoyance to Cory, Book and Spearman.

Think of this as the Troika of Testiness.

Lee is not a popular figure among the Capitol's lobbying corps, which thinks of itself as the fourth branch of government, only much more important. During his time in the Senate, Lee pushed for various reforms including requiring lobbyists to disclose their fees and a ban on buying meals and gifts for legislators.

You have to admit, they have good reason to be sore at Lee. Lathering up lawmakers with vittles, hooch and tokens of appreciation is what makes influence-peddling such fun. It's one of the reasons the state seal is a mai tai umbrella and a brown bag.

True, Lee may well be about as beloved among lobbyists in Tallahassee as LeBron James in Cleveland. But he does have admirers, most notably folks like incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who have rallied around Lee to help him raise money.

"For Tallahassee folks to be fooling around in this district is a mistake, especially when you've got a qualified candidate like Rachel," Cory complained.

Oh, the outrage of it all!

Cory, Book and Spearman have the common decency to take precious time out of their Tallahassee arm-twisting endeavors to fool around on Burgin's behalf in Senate District 24, only to discover Gaetz and his Tallahassee political associates also want to fool around in the campaign.

You would think there would be honor in calling out first dibs on the Burgin/Lee race. But alas, standards have been declining in our political life for some time.

This feud can't help the Burgin narrative as she seeks to position herself as the courageous outsider doing lonely battle against the allied insider forces of political darkness.

That sort of mavericky imagemaking doesn't come cheap. After all, Burgin already has served two terms in the House. Before that she was a longtime legislative assistant to then-Tallahassee hotsy-tot Trey Traviesa, who essentially handed Burgin her legislative seat.

So it's probably a good thing Burgin has the help of three of Tallahassee's most inside of insiders and the thousands of dollars they can wheedle out of other Tallahassee insiders to help to carefully craft Burgin's patina of Tallahassee outsidedness.

But perhaps what really steams the Trifecta of Expense Accounts Lost is that while Lee was all sanctimonious about forcing lobbyists to reveal how much money they make and how they spend it, the former Senate president is somewhat shy over revealing how he used his Republican Party-issued credit card while he was in office.

Lee hinted that he lives for the day, perhaps after Aug. 14, to release those records, but it breaks his heart to have to admit they reside just out of reach in repose within the innermost sanctums of the Republican Party of Florida, which is protected by a moat, ninja warriors and the diamond-melting glare of a Barbara Bush hologram.

This is an interesting matchup: an insider who is on the outs with the insiders, as opposed to an insider who wants to be an outsider, but can't reach that goal without the help of the mother of all insiders.

You could be forgiven if you feel upside down.

Turning the state Senate inside out 06/25/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 25, 2012 6:31pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...