What do Florida Republicans do when they are challenged? They launch desperate and angry attacks against the opposition, be it the Democrats, unions, the media, or the Judicial Branch. Friday, we learned of a particularly despicable mailer sent to residents of HD-30 by a group known as Committee to Protect Florida. Karen Castor-Dentel has been slandered by this electioneering effort by Republican Party operatives.
The arrogance of the Republican leadership in the state has for years known no bounds. The Committee to Protect Florida is funded by GOP House leaders in a clear “pay to play” type manner. The list of the organizations donors reads like a who’s who of direct beneficiaries from the Republican controlled legislature as well as direct contributions from the leadership PACs of Speaker Designee Will Weatherford and Rep. Richard Corcoran. The Orlando Sentinel estimated last night that 86% of the committee’s funding has been raised by Weatherford.
Last night, Weatherford distanced himself from the mailer. The Speaker Designee is a decent human being and we are confident he would not authorize such a tasteless attack. However, the forces that Republican House members unleashed following the Citizens United ruling are directly responsible for this shameful mailer. That means Speaker Designee Weatherford is directly responsible for this whether he likes it or not, considering he has raised at a minimum 86% of the funding for this entity. Scott Plakon, the beneficiary of the mailer is more than likely NOT RESPONSIBLE for the mailer though he may have been knowledgeable that he was being helped by an outside group. Plakon is an arch conservative but is someone who has a great deal of personal integrity and unlike most Republicans he has a consistent ideology.
However, Weatherford as well as Corcoran must step forward and accept full responsibility for the mailer and apologize directly to Castor-Dentel who may well be a House member they deal with at the Organizational Session on November 20th.
The forces Weatherford and his leadership have unleashed are angry attack dogs that don’t differentiate between subtle attacks, personal attacks and slanderous attacks. The money raised for this superpac were being raised specifically to impact close legislative races with sensational mail pieces late in the game. Weatherford and Corcoran we are confident knew exactly what this organization was planning and what races they were aiming to impact. While it is almost certain Weatherford probably did not know the content of the piece (Corcoran on the other hand is more of a political brawler and quite possibly knew more about the groups messaging in this race) he probably thought whatever negative pieces were sent, no consequences would be felt. Why? Because the GOP leadership never faces consequences for bullying and cajoling its own members, voters, lobbyists or special interest groups. The Democrats have been an impotent and even a complicit opposition party for years and the media has been largely neutered or marginalized by a combination of declining newspaper circulation and a hostile Republican leadership that attacks any reporter that writes a negative story.
Florida Republicans don’t believe in democracy and the right of citizens to express themselves at the voting booth, as demonstrated again this week by the unwillingness of Republican officials to extend early voting hours. The party also proved this in 2000 when knowing the likely outcome of a full statewide recount, the party led by Jeb Bush did all it could to prevent Democracy from having its day, and in the end they won. That increased the sense that they could do what they want, when they want in defiance of the rule of law, the citizens of the state, the Federal Government and common decency. Voters are only legitimate if they have some possibility of voting Republican. Democracy should only be the province of the chosen elites, and the privileged in the world the Florida GOP has created. When the voters may actually make an informed decision, they must be tainted by misinformation, and borderline libel as Castor and Senator Maria Sachs have faced this week.
Florida’s Democrats have after many years finally been aggressive in its messaging efforts in legislative races. This has forced the GOP to react like a cornered animal, lobbing nuclear missiles indiscriminately against the opposition. We had high hopes for Will Weatherford’s Speakership as his moderate personal temperament resembles Alan Bense, quite possibly the best Speaker of the Republican era of hegemony. But the types of campaigns being run by the House Republicans and associated allies has dampened our enthusiasm for his imminent leadership tenure.