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Postcard stunt throws doubt on candidate's ethics

There he goes again. State Senate candidate Tom Hogan has roared back with another misleading attack on his political rival, District 4 incumbent Karen Thurman.

The latest gimmick: a postcard faked to look as though it had been sent by Thurman from the Kentucky Derby. On the front is a photo of Thurman in a Scarlett O'Hara hat and on the back, a handwritten note saying, in part, "Hi! Having a wonderful time at the Kentucky Derby .

.

. Wish you were here," and signed "Karen."

The phony card was sent to voters this week and is supposed to jab at two trips to Louisville the Dunnellon Democrat took in 1987 and 1988 to the races.

What it did, however, was reveal more about Hogan than it did about Thurman.

First, it shows that Hogan plays fast and loose with reality. He implies that Thurman did something unsavory by taking the trips, when, in fact, there is no indication the trips were improper. Also, there is clear evidence they were directly related to one of the largest industries in her district _ horse racing _ and she did everything within the rules of the Legislature, dutifully reporting as gifts the portions of the trip paid by someone else.

But more important is what the genesis of the fake postcard indicates about Hogan's credibility and independence.

Hogan has accused Thurman of letting outsiders manipulate her, but according to Hogan himself, some party functionary in the GOP state office thought up, designed, printed and perhaps even mailed the fake postcard before Hogan even knew what it said.

"They said they were preparing a piece on the Kentucky Derby," he said Wednesday. "That is the extent of what I knew about it. I said, "Fine.'

"

How's that for outside manipulation?

Is this a preview of how Hogan will conduct his office should he be elected? While his supporters are trying so hard to convince voters that Thurman is a slave to special interests with lots of money, they have left doubt about his ability to be independent should he get elected.

Clearly, Hogan was not in control of this little project. For example, the card says Thurman took 16 trips "at the expense of lobbyists." But when questioned later, Hogan himself was careful to say that it wasn't necessarily lobbyists but "special-interest groups" who underwrote some of the trips. Big difference.

The special-interest group, by the way, was in this particular instance the Florida Thoroughbred Racing Association _ a group that brings the ultimate in clean, upscale, environmentally sound prosperity to Marion County in the form of jobs, wide-open horse pastures and free-spending buyers. One might argue that a senator who represents the county that depends so much on horse racing might learn something and make important contacts at the world's premier horse-racing event.

The 1990 campaign has focused much attention on the need for reform of the system that allows legislators to accept gifts as long as they report them. And that reform is long overdue. Legislators should not accept any freebies. Period. But there is no evidence that Karen Thurman has abused the system.

Angrily responding to the latest GOP attack on Tuesday, Thurman asked the relevant question while waving one of the postcards: Hogan "wants to talk about ethics? This is ethical?"

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