1. Opinion

Ruth: Corcoran transforms from insider to reformer

Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses the Legislature as House Speaker Richard Corcoran, right, listens. The two are on a collision course over subsidies.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses the Legislature as House Speaker Richard Corcoran, right, listens. The two are on a collision course over subsidies.
Published Mar. 20, 2017

If Rick Scott has demonstrated anything, it is that just about anybody can get to be governor of Florida.

The people elected a hologram with little warmth. Then they did it a second time.

Little wonder all manner of aspirants are maneuvering to follow the C-3PO of Tallahassee into the Governor's Mansion. It's probably only a matter of time before Florida's swamp ape starts humming "Hail to the Governor."

Conventional wisdom argues Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the presumptive favorite to be the Republican nominee. As a former member of the Florida House, former member of the U.S. House and now agriculture commissioner, the Opie of Apalachee Parkway has experience, name recognition and plenty of money to be a competitive candidate.

That hasn't dimmed the ambitions of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. When he isn't feuding with Scott, he has been flitting about the state in what appears to be an effort to lay the groundwork for a governor's race in 2018.

And here's where things begin to get more hypocritical.

As speaker, Corcoran has attempted to rebrand himself as a Don Quixote-like figure of reform, roaming the moors of Tallahassee ferreting out corruption, cronyism and cash from the wicked hallways of government. Feel free to start chortling.

This is Tallahassee, which is an old Seminole word for "Tammany Hall with a tan."

Corcoran has pledged to bring greater transparency and openness to government — unless that conflicts with doing stuff he doesn't want anyone to know about. He has bemoaned the pernicious influence of money awash in Tallahassee's bordello of baksheesh, even while his own rise to power was largely dependent on rolling over like a beagle begging for a Snausage from the capital's financially gifted special interests.

The speaker's bogeyman du jour is Enterprise Florida and its incentive program designed to attract business investment in the state. Corcoran believes the agency is a waste of time and taxpayer money. And he might be right. What Fortune 500 company wouldn't want to move to a state with a lousy public school system, terrible public transportation and myriad laws making it easier for residents to shoot each other with abandon and very little consequence?

This has put Corcoran on a collision course with Scott, who believes Enterprise Florida is practically the Marshall Plan of the subtropics.

Scott is now airing ads aimed against Corcoran and his minions, noting: "Politicians in Tallahassee don't get it. They don't understand how jobs are created." But legislators, especially Corcoran, certainly do understand how their jobs are created by exploiting dubious flaps with a sitting governor to boost their bona fides as guardians of the public exchequer.

Corcoran has milked his populist cow to the fullest, attacking Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida as the Bonnie and Clyde of government waste that appease "all the insiders." One might think he was some poor waif walking down the street when he was dragooned off to Tallahassee and forced at gunpoint to become one of the state's most powerful political figures.

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But Corcoran ought to know an insider when he sees one. The speaker has been the ultimate Tallahassee insider, spending a better part of his adult life in a host of insider political jobs.

Perhaps Corcoran's greatest achievement in positioning himself as the great man of the people was a measure passed by the House that would ban former members from becoming dreaded lobbyists for at least six years after they leave public service, which sort of defies the whole reason for running for office in the first place.

It's just a guess, but what are the odds that during the six-year no-lobbying hiatus Tallahassee will see a dramatic increase in former members of the House promoting themselves as "strategic consultants"?

One man's drained swamp is another's Jacuzzi.