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Identifying the dirt-shovelers

Florida's top Republicans and Democrats were in rare and welcome agreement on one, if only one, message from Tuesday's primaries. It was that the nastiest campaigns most often lost, especially when voters sensed that special interest groups, secretly funded and accountable to no one, were shoveling the dirt.

In Tallahassee, House Speaker-designate Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, promised that the next Legislature will require such slush-funded committees to disclose "early and often" where they get their money and how they spend it. Whatever is enacted must apply, of course, to all groups, including some closely identified with the leaders themselves that already report their spending but can legally contrive to hide their donors.

To Feeney's embarrassment, reporters pointed out that he and two other House GOP leaders were the advertised star attractions for a fundraiser scheduled Wednesday night at the Hollywood home of Alan D. Mendelsohn, a physician reputed to be involved in People for a Better Florida, one of the secretive committees that spent conspicuously on independent advertising prior to the primary. Feeney said he wouldn't be present, but Mendelsohn said that Majority Floor Leader Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Rep. Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, who hopes to become speaker in November 2002, would attend. Asked if he is in fact raising the sort of secret money Feeney said he deplores, Mendelsohn replied, "No comment."

For his part, Feeney said of the secret spending: "I don't coordinate it or tell them what to do." That's too bad, for there is one thing he could _ and should _ properly tell them:

Stop it. Stop it now.

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