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.
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.