Friday, March 27, 2009

Worst-Kept Secret in Florida

Former Congressman, now State Attorney General Bill McCollum is getting face-time on TV in Florida with a public service announcement warning against the dangers of cyber-sex. How noble. But it’s drawing the ire of Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer for spending over a million dollars on a no-bid contract for the ad made by one of Mr. McCollum’s former campaign consultants.

McCollum has already dropped about $1.4 million in state funds on public service ads about on-line predators, and he asked for Sink’s ”continued support.” She said she backs the message, not the method.

”I was disappointed to learn that you intend to continue your no-bid contract to Chris Mottola Consulting, instead of going through a competitive bidding process,” Sink wrote in response. ”Also it is important to note that these funds are public funds — they belong to Florida’s taxpayers.”

Sink asked for more documentation on the contract but her office has said she can’t stop payment if McCollum complies with state law. He called her actions ”hypocritical” and accused her of standing in the way of public safety.

”This essential program’s only purpose is to protect Florida’s children,” McCollum wrote back. ”CyberSafety is not a political issue — our children’s safety hangs in the balance.”

This kerfuffle is, of course, the opening salvo in the pre-primary for higher office for both Mr. McCollum and Ms. Sink, both of whom have done a really bad job of keeping their ambitions under wraps. Mr. McCollum is planning to run for governor if Charlie Crist decides to go for the open Senate seat in 2010, and his likely opponent will be Ms. Sink. (She has said as recently as January that she’s not running for governor or the Senate. But things can change.) The difference is that while Ms. Sink would have a pretty clear road to the Democratic nomination, Mr. McCollum will have to take on just about every Republican with a pulse and a Rolodex in the state to get on the ticket.

Mr. McCollum is a perpetual candidate, having gotten a flicker of national fame when he was one of the impeachment shriekers against Bill Clinton when he was in Congress. He made his bones with the wingnuts and tried to capitalize on it during his last statewide campaign, a losing bid for the Senate in 2000. He’s also a bit of a blue-nose, and this kind of boogedy-boogedy campaign about the dangers of perverts on the web is right up his alley; if you can’t make the case on the issues, always go with “think of the children.”

Ms. Sink is probably glad for the distraction, given the lousy state of the Florida economy and her position as the state’s CFO. As a Democrat in a Republican administration (CFO is an elected position), she can run with the meme that she was the lone voice of sanity in a roomful of wingnuts.

This is just the opening round. Stay tuned.