[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Commentary: Money, politics make ugly mix at Orlando airport"
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Commentary: Money, politics make ugly mix at Orlando airport
By Scott Maxwell
The Orlando (FL) Sentinel
As I read Sunday's story about the orgy of cash at Orlando International
Airport - with board members sucking up thousands of campaign dollars from
airport lobbyists and contractors - I was amused to see all the orgy
participants suggest nothing was obscene.
Are we taking campaign money from a business one week and then voting to give
that businessa $10 million contract the next? Well, of course. Why would anyone
consider that a problem?
I was trying to decide whether these people - mayors, board members, even the
airport attorney - knew they were hawking hogwash. Or whether politics and
money has become so hopelessly intertwined that they genuinely didn't know how
ridiculous they sounded.
Let's be clear, though: They do sound ridiculous.
It stinks when public officials take money from people who need things from
them. It taints everything.
Sure, it happens from city hall to the halls of Congress. But it's on
jet-engine-fueled boosters at the airport these days.
As Beth Kassab's weekend report detailed, the most egregious example was board
member Dean Asher, a Rick Scott appointee who financed his failed campaign for
the Legislature with nearly $100,000 from airport contractors and lobbyists -
about $1 out of every $8 he collected.
The Sentinel first took note of Asher's propensity for taking money from
airport contractors two years ago.
There was a baggage company that gave Asher a few thousand dollars one month -
and which then received Asher's vote for a lucrative contract at the airport
the next month. It also happened the other way around. Asher voted to award a
contract to an engineering company - which then gave Asher $1,000.
As I wrote at the time: "It doesn't matter which one comes first, the chicken
or the egg. It's all mixed up in one foul concoction of chicken a la stench."
Readers agreed. After all, they're the ones who pay the parking fees and
flights costs that help fuel the airport's $3 billion expansion.
But Gov. Scott didn't care. Airport officials didn't care. The check-cutting
lobbyists who were getting the contracts didn't care. So Asher just kept on
collecting the checks, until he got to an estimated $96,000 worth.
Asher notes he played by the rules. And he is right.
But A) The rules stink. And B) Just because something is legal, doesn't make it
It would be legal for me to use my column as a call for cash, promising
favorable coverage to anyone who paid. But it wouldn't be decent. Nor would the
Sentinel allow it.
Asher, who's hoping Gov. Scott will re-appoint him to the Greater Orlando
Aviation Authority any day now, notes that he's not the only board members who
takes campaign cash from contractors - that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs
and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer do it, too.
And he is absolutely right. The Sentinel found that Jacobs took at least
$38,000 from companies and lobbyists linked to the airport during her last
campaign, and Dyer took at least $45,000.
That stinks, too. Sure, Asher, a realtor and aspiring legislator, took more
than both incumbent mayors combined. But none of it inspires confidence.
Asher said many airport vendors and lobbyists gave to him simply because they
are longtime friends. Let's say we buy that. It's not a good excuse. It's a
reason Asher never should have been appointed in the first place. With 20
million people in Florida, how about appointing people who aren't best buds
with the contractors hoping to score paydays?
One of the goofiest parts of Sunday's story was the airport's attorney, Marcos
Marchena, defending the practice of contractors giving campaign cash to board
members. It was goofy because Marchena is an airport contractor himself - one
who ... wait for it ... gives campaign contributions to board members.
How shocking that he found no reason for concern.
At a minimum, this board should follow Jacobs' call for greater transparency
with the authority clearly disclosing donations that lobbyists and vendors make
to authority members.
Better yet, it should crack down on members accepting donations from active
In a perfect world, board members would simply decide themselves to stop taking
campaign cash from the companies whose fates they control.
But apparently that is too much to ask.
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at email@example.com