Brent Batten: Senate candidates dominate a dubious list

BRENT BATTEN

Florida assumes prominent and frequent mention on a lot of “lists.”

Most popular tourist destination, hottest city, most hurricane-prone coast lists teem with Florida mentions.

A new list has a distinctly Florida flavor and it is one likely to leave voters with a bad taste.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has produced “Crooked Candidates 2010.”

On it are all three major candidates for the U.S. Senate seat for Florida now held by George LeMieux.

“Eleven of the most rotten candidates in America have survived primary season, and will be moving on to the general election,” reads a CREW press release heralding the list.

Said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, “The American People deserve better. We shouldn’t have crooks, liars or frauds on the ballot and we shouldn’t have to worry that the most corrupt candidates will someday grow up to become the most corrupt members of Congress.”

Republican Marco Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist all made the list of candidates. Another Floridian, Republican candidate for Congress Allen West is also there. Democratic senatorial candidate Jeff Greene was on the list prior to his loss to Meek in the party primary last month. Only one other state, Missouri, has as many as two candidates on the list.

CREW cites Rubio’s entanglement in the Republican credit card controversy in which party leaders have been indicted for using party credit cards for personal expenses. “Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs, and grocery purchases,” CREW states. It also criticizes him for accepting an unadvertised, part-time professorship at Florida International University after helping the university gain $29 million in earmarks while serving in the Florida House.

Crist comes under fire for the Republican Party credit card mess as well. Additionally, CREW claims the former Republican failed as attorney general to fully investigate boy-band mogul Lou Pearlman who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for running a $300 million investment scam.

CREW is a non-profit group dedicated to holding elected officials accountable. While it makes no admission of political bias, its leadership skews heavily toward the Democratic side.

It’s seven-member board of directors has cumulatively donated more than $500,000 to Democrats and Democratic Party activities over the past 10 years while donating just $4,000 to Republicans during that period, according to the donation tracking website OpenSecrets.org.

The Crooked Candidates list, expanded to 12 names after the inclusion of Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell last week, lists eight Republicans, two independents and two Democrats. One of the Democrats is South Carolina’s Alvin Green, a surprise winner of that state’s party primary for the U.S. Senate and a political novice considered not viable in the general election.

The only established Democrat to make the list was Meek, who CREW describes as earmarking more than $1 million to a developer now awaiting trial on charges of grand theft and fraud. The developer, Dennis Stackhouse, gave money to Meek’s campaigns, employed Meek’s mother as a consultant and gave one of Meek’s staff members $13,000 towards the purchase of a house.

“The circumstances surrounding Rep. Meek’s initial election to Congress are questionable,” CREW continues. “Rep. Carrie Meek, his mother and (U.S.) representative for the 17th District, decided two weeks before the qualifying deadline for the primary election that she wasn’t going to run again, putting potential opponents at a disadvantage. She also announced her son would be running in her stead, essentially bequeathing him the seat.”

The good news, one supposes, is that there are 13 candidates running for the Florida Senate seat with either minor party nominations. Write-in candidates, anyone?

Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten

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