1. Opinion

Ruth: GOP benefactors to return to scene of the slime

Published Jul. 18, 2013

You do have to wonder who is handling the Republican Party of Florida's image-crafting public relations machine these days. Paula Deen?

When you are already perceived as the party of the 1 percent, is it really such a bright idea to throw a megabucks soiree aboard a luxury cruise ship on a voyage to a tropical ATM?

How much does it take to purchase your Tallahassee-influence-peddler starter kit? It's $50,000 — mai tai umbrella optional.

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-The Capt. Stubing of Legalized Baksheesh and anticipated speaker of the Florida House in 2014, decided to get a jump-start on the pocket-stuffing by arranging for the party's benefactors to sail Aug. 1-4 to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream.

Guests who book passage on the SS Crisafulli-of-Cash will be feted to chichi staterooms that normally cost $3,000. But for $50,000 for a boat ride with a bunch of glad-handing pols with their palms locked in the outreach position, wouldn't one at least expect the Good Ship Put Up or Shut Up to drop anchor in France, the Greek Isles or maybe Hawaii?

Alas, no. Amid the frivolity and hail-lobbyist-well-met fellowship, the Disney Dream will make a port of call in the Bahamas. Oh, dear. Don't these people read the papers, or indictments?

As awkward optics go, the cruise to the land of gilt and money would be a bit like Quentin Tarantino complaining about too much violence in the movies.

Crisafulli, R-The Loot Boat, apparently doesn't remember or doesn't care that his party is just coming off one of the more embarrassing scandals it has endured in recent years when former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer was the social director of a Bahamian bacchanalian getaway/fundraiser for GOP big shots. It has been described as having all the class and dignity of a night on the town with Hustler Magazine's Larry Flynt.

During depositions in connection with Greer's criminal indictment on charges of money laundering and theft, to which the ex-chairman eventually pleaded guilty, testimony emerged that during an earlier Bahamian GOP event, disproportionate numbers of courtesans in golf carts were believed to be in attendance.

Now it is entirely possible all of this was merely a big misunderstanding. Perhaps Greer's GOP men's-only fundraising trip simply coincided with the Professional Association of Trollops annual golf outing. But when you claim to be the party of family values, it doesn't look very good to have under oath depositions ruminating about Jezebels in golf carts.

It was tawdry enough that the new GOP travel holiday appears to be nothing more than an opportunity for Tallahassee's schmoozing class to make generous $50,000 down payments to ensure a compliant Florida House once Crisafulli assumes the deposit slip of power.

But to have the Disney Dream return to the scene of the slime? How goofy is that?

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One would think a more prudent and less problematic destination for Crisafulli's Club Moola might have been someplace that doesn't conjure up reminders of painted women in golf carts. How hard could this be?

Why not Legoland Florida in quiet, charming Winter Haven? Why, it screams family values. And all the lobbyists and elected Republicans could spend their time making their own kingdoms out of little pieces of plastic.

Or perhaps the lobbyists and their legislative minions could have gathered at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to enjoy the fin-less Winter the dolphin as a symbol for what happens to you if you accept all that money but don't vote the right way.

But no, come early next month it's checkbooks away on the SS Grifter for a real life and very real money adventure with the Pirates of the Super PACS.