The University of Florida, as it turns out, is not the only state institution of higher education that is vying for the affections of Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Mike Haridopolos. Long before he lined up the votes to become Senate president in 2010 and long before UF handed him a $75,000 job for which he is seldom required to report, Haridopolos landed a book advance that would make true academicians blush.
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, the $150,000 book advance came courtesy of Brevard Community College. Haridopolos had been a history instructor at Brevard before being elected to the Legislature, but he began missing so many classes that fellow faculty members complained. So in 2003 then-president Thomas Gamble offered Haridopolos about $38,000 a year for four years in order to write a "publishable work" of "historic value."
The resulting 175-page manuscript now sits somewhere on a shelf on the BCC campus, and a Sentinel reporter had to make an appointment to read it. The reporter described the six chapters as a "collection of political musings and advice to future political candidates." Among the manuscript's insights: "A cell phone will be essential." An early draft offered: "My advice, pick your favorite color and make your signs that color."
At this point, no one seems to be pretending that "Florida Legislative History & Processes" will actually be published. Gamble, now deceased, defended the contract in 2005 by actually admitting he relished the "access" to a senator.
In the real world of academic publishing, seasoned professors with Ph.D.s (a category that excludes Haridopolos on both counts) write manuscripts on their own time and then compete to get them published. As such, his phony book contract is precisely the kind of sweetheart deal that lawmakers generally use to berate government waste — that is, as long as the beneficiary is someone other than a future Senate president.
Haridopolos does offer comfort, in his manuscript, to candidates who run up against an inquiring media. "Critical stories . . . should rarely be cause for concern," he wrote. "Unless the story involves real scandal, most people merely glance at it and, in time, forget it."
That's surely what Haridopolos is counting on, again.