1. Opinion

Daniel Ruth: A speaker-to-be with forked tongue

Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, preaches fiscal conservatism, yet his personal finances are a shambles. The master schmoozer could well rise to the House speakership in two years.
Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, preaches fiscal conservatism, yet his personal finances are a shambles. The master schmoozer could well rise to the House speakership in two years.
Published Sep. 17, 2012

If it's been awhile since you found yourself in a whimpering fetal position, perhaps this will do the trick.

Unless voters in his state House district finally awaken to the realization they are represented by the political equivalent of DeLorean Motors, they will elect Chris Dorworth, R-Brother Can You Spare A Dime?, to another term in Tallahassee and clear the way for him to rise to the speakership in two years.

Say, you're going to need more Kleenex to handle all that drool.

This is a bit like turning over the keys to a Ferrari to Mr. Magoo.

Irony abounds. Dorworth, a Lake Mary Republican, is a credit-card-carrying member of the Atlas Shrugged wing of the GOP. These are stout-hearted souls who love to tout their fiscal conservatism, rugged individualism, and tightness with a buck that would make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Beyoncé in a Jimmy Choo store.

So how is it possible that Dorworth, R-If I Were A Rich Man, whose personal bottom line looks as though he uses Maynard G. Krebs as a financial adviser, is in line to become one of the most powerful politicians in Florida?

Dorworth has experienced several failed real estate deals. He has faced foreclosure on his home. He is up to his chins in debt. And, oh, yeah, he's in the middle of a nasty divorce. Outside of all that, his Republican family man bona fides for fiscal probity are rock solid.

During a meeting Monday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, decried the lavish spending on various state university edifices and the need for fiscal accountability. When Ahern was asked: A) How is it possible Dorworth, the Florida Legislature's answer to a Yugo, managed to wheedle his way into the speakership? and B) What assurances did he have that under Dorworth's management of the House, the speaker would more responsibly manage state finances than his own? he fell silent.

"I'm going to take a pass on that question," Ahern said.

Well, here is one possible explanation for how the Legislature's resident beefcake boy for red ink managed to become the Daddy Warbucks of clout.

While Dorworth may possess all the personal business acumen of a Saharan snow shovel salesman, he does do a pretty bang-up job of peddling his influence to anyone looking for a time share on a state representative.

Dorworth, R-Checks Please!, created one of those phooey-filled political action funds called Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy, which more accurately should have been named the Committee for Mr. Dorworth! Your Table Is Ready.

The future speaker has managed to pull in nearly $1 million to the fund, which is more about selling access and influence once he grabs the speaker's gavel. Does anyone honestly believe Disney Worldwide Services would fork over $155,000, or Automated Health Care Solutions would contribute $55,000, or Southern Gardens Citrus would offer up $32,500 because all these egalitarian corporations yearn to advance freedom and liberty and democracy for one and all?

This was not quite a Patrick Henry moment of altruistic largesse.

In fact, Dorworth's Committee to Shill for the Greater Political Welfare of Chris Dorworth has enabled him to travel extensively and enjoy catered meals while schmoozing every special interest in the state from the Internet cafe cartel to agriculture, to the insurance industry to the legal community.

Still, Dorworth has performed a valuable civic service.

The idea of someone, with all of 20 minutes in office, ascending to the highest levels of power in the state and whose personal finances are more imploded than the Haitian economy is yet another vivid example of the failure of term limits to lead to better government.

Dorworth's ability to raise unlimited gobs of money from special interests seeking a seat at the speaker's table speaks to the corrupting influence of money run amok in Tallahassee.

It's poetic irony that the symbol of what's broken in Tallahassee is broke himself.