Whoever said the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Florida this year could not get more absurd and less attractive was underestimating the participants.
Republican Congressman Connie Mack of Florida, who currently leads the race for the right to run against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in November, has shown what a loyal Republican and thoughtful conservative he is by asking Eric Holder's "Justice" Department to investigate Florida Republicans for possible criminal goings-on.
As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up. Mack says he wants the most leftist and aggressively political Justice Department in our history to muck around in the affairs of Florida Republicans looking for dirt. Does anyone doubt that Eric and his merry band, the same bunch who consider requiring photo IDs at the polls to be voter suppression, might just find or manufacture some?
On the frail basis of some overheated but vaguely sourced newspaper stories fretting that Mack's main opponent in the primary race, George LeMieux, may have exerted pressure on Florida Governor Charlie Crist in 2009 when Crist appointed LeMieux to the unexpired portion of former Senator Mel Martinez's Senate term, Mack has called on Holder to straighten out the Florida GOP's closet.
The sources for the charge, if such it even is, that LeMieux lobbied too hard for the Senate seat, to which he was appointed over a lineup of Florida Republicans with more impressive credentials, are indicted former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer and former Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp, who wanted the post himself. Kottkamp is a political nonentity, and Greer stands accused of making insufficient distinction between RPOF funds and his own. His trial is scheduled for July.
Of course, lobbying Crist for the job would not have been a crime even if LeMieux did so. What's a political campaign after all but lobbying for office? Are we going to jug everyone who runs for office? Mack goes further out on a limb with these two way-less-than-reliable-or-objective witnesses. He buys into, or pretends to buy into, the idea that LeMieux threatened to disclose harmful information about Crist if Crist didn't appoint him to the Senate. It's hard to imagine that there's anything harmful about Crist that could be worse than what just about every Floridian already knows. Besides, Crist needed LeMieux in the Senate as a seat-holder for Crist's own Senate ambitions at least as much as LeMieux wanted the job.
Here's a bit from the febrile letter Craig Engle, Mack's legal counsel, got off to the federal agency some still insist on calling The Justice Department:
If true, these allegations raise serious questions about whether George LeMieux and Charlie Crist violated federal and Florida anti-corruption laws by allegedly securing and making an appointment to the United States Senate, possibly through extortion and bribery, and because of the nature of the underlying allegations, questions also arise as to whether there is an ongoing conspiracy between George LeMieux and Charlie Crist.
Wow! Extortion and bribery. Conspiracy. (And lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my.) Please wait here while I catch my breath.
This isn't coherent accusation based on credible evidence. Unless there's a lot Mack and Company have not brought forward, this is mere hyperventilation. Both Mack and Engle need to bend over and breathe into a bag before telling Holder to forget it, and writing a letter to the Republican Party of Florida apologizing for trying to get Holder's highly partisan nose buried in their business.
If the allegations in Mack's attack raise any serious questions, they are less about LeMieux's conduct than about Mack's judgment and about his willingness, in the name of the raw ambition he's accusing LeMieux of, to call down Democratic attack dogs on Florida Republicans. Does he think for a second that Eric Holder and his operatives would conduct an objective investigation of LeMieux and Crist? If Mack believes Holder, set loose among Florida Republicans, would stop at an inquiry of LeMieux and Crist and not use this opportunity for a search and destroy mission on the entire Republican Party of Florida, then Mack is too stupid to serve in the U.S. Senate.
The final question to ask Mack is if he is so sold on Greer's and Kottkamp's credibility and political insights, does he plan to appoint them both to high positions in his Senate office should he be elected?
If you hear the laughing from Bill Nelson's campaign headquarters, it's probably about this peccadillo. They've lucked out again.
(Above photo of Connie Mack is by Gage Skidmore.)