25 June 2005

It's the coverup, stupid!

Frankly, does anyone believe that a bunch of criminals breaking into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate Hotel was that big of a deal? No, not really. It was a crime, but not one worthy of bringing down a president who was probably not directly involved. Well, what about a president and an intern having a sexual affair? Also, not a big deal. CEOs at big corporations do that kind of thing on a regular basis.

In the first case, President Richard Nixon, who probably did not deserve to resign the presidency, did so because he had been caught in a lie. He had known of the Watergate break-in after the fact, but he said that he didn't. In the latter case, President Bill Clinton was also caught in a fib. He denied the affair, and then the blue dress surfaced. Fortunately for him, he was a teflon president and survived impeachment.

If there is one thing that any aspiring politician needs to learn, it is that if you screw up, admit it and move on. Don't lie about it and don't cover it up. Unfortunately, Scott Maddox never learned that lesson.

Maddox is on the ropes, and Democratic activists are already placing bets on whether his race for governor can continue. This week it surfaced that while Maddox served as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, the party failed to pay federal payroll and social security taxes. Including penalties, the party owed the Internal Revenue Service in excess of $200,000 and was eventually hit with an IRS lien. A member of the Democratic National Committee also alleged that $900,000 may have been missing from the party's bank accounts.

Democratic activists are expressing feelings of betrayal, and many of the state's editorial boards are demanding that Maddox abort his candidacy for governor. The Maddox camp is hoping that the issue goes away and that their candidate survives this dustup. Afterall, the state party, with the help of the DNC, has paid the IRS all of the money it was owed, and it turns out that the allegation about the missing money was made by a political enemy of Maddox. So, the problem is gone, right? Not necessarily.

Earlier this week when the story of the IRS first surfaced, Maddox issued a statement through a campaign representative that he unaware of the party's problems with the IRS and that the lien came as a "total surprise." When confronted with this statement, current party chairman Karen Thurman refuted it, instead saying, "I have in my possession documents that say that [Scott Maddox] was informed about this, but I am not ready to release anything." Just as Nixon and Clinton discovered, it may be the coverup that does the most damage.

What did he know and when did he know it? These are the questions that Nixon and Clinton had to answer, and sadly so will Maddox. It just depends on who will do the asking. Maddox's opponents in the race for governor, Congressman Jim Davis and State Senator Rod Smith, are wisely dodging the issue. They realize that there's no point in rushing over to hit a guy when he's down on the ninth count. The media, however, needs to ask these questions. There have been critical editorials of Scott Maddox by the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Online Journal, Lakeland Ledger, Buddy Nevins, and Lucy Morgan, but most have avoided this issue. They are instead focused on the former chairman's competence, or lack of it. When they eventually turn to the issue that most voters care about when choosing their politicians, honesty and credibility, that may just be the final nail in Maddox's coffin.

The primary issues at hand, the IRS lien against the party for unpaid taxes and the alleged "lost" money, are serious, but may simply fade away. The biggest problem for Maddox, however, may become his credibility. If Thurman does in fact have documents showing that Maddox had prior knowledge of the party's delinquency with the IRS, he should probably start packing up the campaign office. Voters can forgive incompetence; they rarely forgive dishonesty. Just ask Dick Nixon and Bill Clinton.

23 June 2005

Permanent Open Thread

As recommended, I have started a new open thread to discuss what one email described as "Maddoxgate."

Please post your new comments here!

22 June 2005

Poll puts Crist and Davis way out front

The latest Mason-Dixon poll has the leaders of each party's primary way out in front. In the end, the Republicans look likely to hold onto the governor's mansion in Florida.

In the GOP primary, Attorney General Charlie Crist is the big winner, leading Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher by a margin of 41 to 23 percent. Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings, who has not declared for the race, trailed at 7 percent. Undecided voters account for 29 percent. With Jennings out of the race, Crist leads by a 19-point margin, 43 to 24 percent.

On the Democratic side, Tampa Congressman Jim Davis holds a healthy lead in his party's primary, getting 23 percent over former Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox who registers at 12 percent and Alachua County Senator Rod Smith who distantly trails with 4 percent. The number of undecided voters dwarf those on the Republican side, accounting for 61 percent of the vote. The poll was done prior to yesterday's news that the Florida Democratic Party, under the leadership of Maddox, had failed to pay $200,000 to the IRS in federal payroll and social security taxes.

In the general election matchup, the Democrats fall short. Crist defeats Davis 41 to 28 percent, with 31 percent undedided. And Gallagher beats Davis 38 to 29 percent, with 33 percent undecided.

The poll should not be treated as gospel, and no candidate should yet be declared the winner. The sample size in the Mason-Dixon poll was small, 625 registered voters, so the margin of error is quite large. In the general election matchup, the MoE is 4 percent. In the primaries, where 400 Republicans and 400 Democrats were surveyed, the MoE is a whopping 5 percent. Additionally, polls this early are primarily a guage on name recognition. The only candidate who should be concerned by this fact is Maddox, who as chair of the state party enjoyed high media coverage and should have registered higher.

The poll is good news for Crist and Davis, because it is a tool that they can use to raise funds. Campaign contributions always come easier for a candidate who has a good poll to share with friends.

Katherine Harris may face fundraising scandal

She's been in the United States Senate race to challenge Bill Nelson for just about a week, but Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) is already under the microscope for possible fundraising irregularities. Her opponents have called her many names over the past few years. Now here's a new one: The Bundler.

Bundling is the practice of rounding up contributions from various contributers. The act is technically legal, but the loophole is frowned upon by those who seek real campaign finance reform in American politics. Both parties exploit the rule, but Republicans do it much more effectively. Corporate executives are in a much better position to coerce subordinates, who will then write checks to the candidate of the executive's choice. This firsthand report from the Washington Post explains the process well:

According to the Talking Points Memo, three former senior officials from a prominent defense contractor firm have described the process from which they were pressured to contribute money to Republican candidates. One of the employees described being rounded up along with other employees one afternoon in the company's Washington headquarters and told to write a check with the political recipient standing by. The company contributed to Katherine Harris, among other prominent Republicans, but this employee would not reveal the name of the specific candidate who was in the room. We do know that the company, MZM, Inc., did in fact make 14 separate contributions on March 23, 2004 in the amount of $2000 each, the maximum amount allowable under the law, to Katherine Harris' reelection campaign. The MZM PAC also gave large amounts of money to Republicans, including $10,000 to Harris.

These events would not be a major story except when you look at the story behind the story. Who is the CEO of MZM, Inc.? His name is Mitchell Wade, and he is known around DC as being a major political player. Recently Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) has been under the microscope for his dealings with MZM. Apparently, Cunningham sold his Del Mar, CA home to Wade for the inflated amount of $1,700,000. About one year later, Wade put the house back on the market and lost $700,000 in the sale. That's quite a profit for Congressman Cunningham. Following this generous sale to the Congressman, real estate records show that Cunningham paid $2.55 million in cash for a five-bedroom home at 7094 Via Del Charro in the upscale Rancho Santa Fe area of North County. Unfortunately for Congressman Cunningham and Mr. Wade, local law enforcement officers and the FBI are curious over this deal and are investigating the sale. We'll see what they find.

Ties to Harris? We don't know yet. We do know that she was one of the select few Republicans who met with Wade and took bundled funds from his firm. The Cunningham-Wade debacle is sure to blow up and take down some bad Republicans. But will Katherine Harris be one of them? She's close enough to the scandal, so only time will tell. Stay tuned ...

21 June 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Florida Democrats face IRS lien

Just when Florida Democrats thought things couldn't get worse ... they have gotten worse.

The Internal Revenue Service has slapped the Florida Democratic Party with a lien for unpaid payroll and social security taxes in 2003. Also according to a party official, the FDP is missing more than $900,000 from the past year.

News broke this afternoon that the Florida Democratic Party, under the leadership of current gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox, failed to pay approximately $200,000 in federal taxes. Additionally, a member of the party's Budget and Finance Committee, Jon Ausman of Leon County, has reported that over $900,000 may have mysteriously disappeared from the party's accounts during Maddox's tenure as chairman. Ausman, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee, has raised concern that the audits for 2003 and 2004, conducted by Carr, Riggs and Ingram, may have been flawed. Ausman also hinted toward possible legal action against the accounting firm in the event it is found at fault.

This latest news may not be the final nail in the party's casket, but the news is devastating. The possible repercusions of this report are unknown, but the news could potentially destroy the Maddox campaign. More significantly, the report could significanty limit the party's ability to raise funds due to the lack of confidence among potential donors. While current party chair, Karen Thurman, is not to blame for this debacle, she did inherit a party in crisis and contributors may hold her accountable by withholding money in the future.

20 June 2005

Recess appointment of Bolton is good for Democrats (AmericanpolitiX.com)

See my post on AmericanpolitiX.com regarding the Bolton nomination and President Bush's threat to exercise a recess appointment.

Read it here.

FDP blog closes shop

Farewell to the "Official Blog" of the Florida Democratic Party. Today Chris Sands, the IT Director for the FDP, announced the end of the party's official discussion site.

While it saddens all bloggers to see a fellow site fall by the wasteside, it is very understandable in this case. As Sands points out, anything with the party's name on it, like a blog, must be vetted by the party chair and cannot simply be a collection of interesting political opinions. Since blogs are popular due to their ability to post breaking news, the vetting process at the FDP made the blog unable to reach its full potential. It was a great attempt, but in the end, it just couldn't happen. Read the FDP's final post here.

Goodbye Mr. Sands ... and thanks for the plug!