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Haridopolos steered money to college that gave him unusual book deal

When he bangs the gavel down on his first regular session as Senate President, Mike Haridopolos will already have sustained more public-relations blows and blunders than any of his predecessors in recent times. As a recently announced candidate for U.S. Senate, Haridopolos' tough job got even tougher.

Last week, Brevard Community College finally published what was supposed to be a "scholarly work," Florida Legislative History and Processes -- a book that revealed little about either despite the title. The $152,000 arrangement, which came amid budget cuts to colleges, has long raised eyebrows. But the prose and common sense advice (buy a computer, get a cellphone if you're a political candidate) produced snickers.

Turns out, Haridopolos helped his former employer when he could. He steered $3.1 million to his former employer according to state budget documents. The two projects: renovations in 2009, and a 2006 project that sought to help build a facility, connected to the college, to help turtle-nesting, manatee and whale and dolphin research. In all, he has accounted for about $42.7 million in hometown spending -- not a lot for a powerful senator.

Two weeks ago, his rules committee admonished him for failing to properly fill out constitutionally required financial disclosures -- forms that revealed, among other things, that he scored a consulting job with a local appliance company that lobbies the Legislature. 

Before all of this, Haridopolos also voted raise taxes by $2.2 billion. He had voted to cut taxes and spending by a far greater amount over his career, but the single tax increase that he anguished over two years ago could prove costly in a Republican primary. Add up all the ingredients -- the tax increase, the financial disclosures, the book deal, the money for the college -- and Haridopolos reputation as a fiscal conservative has taken some blows.

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Meantime, his colleague in the Florida House, Dean Cannon, looks like he's on autopilot. He's not an announced candidate, runs a more top-down organization and hasn't made as many missteps as Haridopolos.

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