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Why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — not Speaker Will Weatherford — owns stadium deal death


Success has many fathers in the Florida Legislature. The Miami Dolphins-stadium deal is an orphan.

And it will probably stay that way, ironically, thanks to the man who wanted it most: Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner.

When the plan to use up to $380 million in taxpayer money to subsidize stadium upgrades died on Friday, Ross sent out a threatening-sounding statement that bashed House Speaker Will Weatherford, essentially accused him of lying and stopped just short of promising to campaign against him.

“I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come,” Ross said in a statement.

“I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami Dade and throughout South Florida.”

Just before the statement came out, I asked Weatherford what his reaction would be if Ross or his supporters threatened to spend money against him.

“Oh, wow,” Weatherford said in a voice that sounded anything but surprised or worried. “Good for them.”

Are you scared?

“No,” Weatherford smiled.

Coming from a billionaire and major Republican financier (Ross probably helped contribute and raise about $3 million to help Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign), Ross’s statement can’t be ignored.

But it was stupid.

Now the support the Dolphins had in the GOP-led Legislature has been damaged. Lawmakers don’t like it when special interests try to big foot them.

“Well, there are other billionaires,” quipped Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

Ross has made the Dolphins’ stadium effort politically personal.

House Republicans won’t support a measure that appears to undermine the honor of their speaker or institution. And Republicans in the more-moderate Senate, where support was once strong for the Dolphin plan, will be less inclined to back a bill that seems to challenge the conservative House and needlessly takes on a rising star of the party.

If Ross wants another shot, he needs to apologize to Weatherford and the House.

Already, though, he has shown little willingness to play by the rules of Tallahassee.

Heading into the session, Ross needed to do things the rich and powerful hate: Ask, beg, plead.

And he didn’t, especially when it came to the Miami-Dade delegation’s Republicans, a majority of whom opposed the measure. That’s a recipe for failure.

Ross needed to spend time with two key players who did more to kill the deal than Weatherford: Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo and New Port Richey Republican Rep. Richard Corcoran, who is slated to become House speaker in about four years and a master of behind-the-scenes political assassin.

Column here