The Rick Scott and Charlie Crist campaigns in Florida and the groups that support each of them have an almost incomprehensible amount of money. Experts predict $150 million or more will be spent this year to influence the choice of Florida’s next governor.
Most of these millions are being spent on TV attack ads that grossly exaggerate the perfidy of the incumbent governor and of the former governor who would like his office back. (Of course it’s a real challenge to exaggerate the inconstancy and vacuousness of Crist. I’m not even sure it can be done. But perfidy is something else.)
Ads for Scott, the incumbent Republican governor, accuse Crist of doing the bidding of convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein in return for campaign cash. Rothstein, and members of his law firm, gave Crist, and a lot of other candidates, a lot of money. Rothstein, a guest of the federals for years to come, bragged around that he gave money to Crist so he, Rothstein, could pick judges. And Crist did appoint Rothstein to the 4th District Court of Appeal nominating commission. But there’s no proof that Crist’s quid was ever pro quo.
Ads for Crist try to suggest Scott did something criminal when the hospital company he headed was obliged to pay record fines for Medicare fraud. No evidence has ever been produced that Scott knew of any criminal activity in his company and he was never charged with anything. (Much of the “fraud” may well have been simply incorrectly filled out paper work and bureaucratic mistakes. Unlike in other kinds of fraud, an attorney familiar with this area of law informs me, in the complex and ever-changing world of Medicare regulation, it is not necessary to prove intent to defraud. A wrongly submitted form may be judged fraud even if the submitter is not trying to get away with anything. The federals, in this wise, are able to collect fat fees under the name of fines, which large companies find less expensive to pay than to fight in court.)
Ads for Scott also unfairly attempt to hang responsibility on Crist for the mega-unemployment caused by the national economic infarct that took place while he was governor. The slothful and directionless Crist may have done little or nothing to improve the dreary employment situation while he was Florida’s Republican governor. But he didn’t cause the severe slow-down that affected the entire country.
Ads for Crist unfairly accuse Scott of environmental malpractice with intent. The ads describe Scott as an enemy of clean air and water, and gig him for not going along with the global warming/climate change hustle. NextGen, an environmental group financed by California (by way of New York) hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, has already spent $2.5 million in Florida accusing Scott of being a land-raper and all-around polluter. The group plans a 10-city “ark tour” promising that Florida will disappear below the waves if “climate-denier” Scott is re-elected.
Florida’s airwaves are disfigured by other distortions, exaggerations, whoppers, knee-slappers, and outright deceptions in this race alone. Floridians will just have to endure these until Nov. 4 when voters here will choose another governor. That is unless they are so sick of the guys on offer that they don’t bother to vote. There are plenty of things about both of these gents that could be the subject of legitimate attack ads, and there are voters in Florida who would like to know what both of these guys would do if they were given the keys to the governor’s mansion for the next four years. But these subjects don’t seem to interest the folks creating the ads for this one.
So how do likely voters see this one a little more than 40 days from Election Day (to the extent pollsters can locate likely voters in the race)? Polls of a couple of months back showed Crist with a double-digit lead. But it’s a new day, and Scott has rehabilitated his chances. The latest, a Survey USA poll for NBC affiliate WFLA-TV in Tampa shows Scott favored by 44 percent, Crist by 39 percent, Libertarian Adrian Wylie by 7 percent, and 9 percent undecided. The poll, released last week, has a margin of error of +- 4.2 percent. Most polls over the past three weeks have shown Scott with a small lead.
Floridians can only pray that whoever wins, he isn’t 10 percent as bad as his opponent says he is.