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St. Pete Times: Haridopolos' selective amnesia

Haridopolos’ selective amnesia

By Daniel Ruth, Times Columnist
In Print: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This is, ahem, comforting. It appears one of the three most powerful political figures in Florida, overseeing a nearly $70 billion budget, has an attention span rivaling an oat bag.

Jeepers, you would have an easier time getting a straight answer out of the dearly departed Moammar Gadhafi than Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who has taken prevarication, misdirection and willful amnesia to heights of fantasy Lewis Carroll could only dream of.

The noted author of the publicly funded $152,000 tome on Florida politics, Lassie Goes to Tallahassee, admitted a few days ago he fibbed, obfuscated and otherwise engaged in a full Pinocchio when he denied to a reporter knowing anything about a payoff to get rid of former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who had treated the job as if he were a Kardashian on steroids.

But in a sworn deposition connected to a lawsuit brought by Greer against his former employers, Haridopolos now admits he was less than truthful about the proposed, but unconsummated, $124,000 settlement. The acclaimed author of Tallahassee: Indian for ‘Where’s My Check?’ said he thought he wasn’t supposed to talk about the back-room deal.

Why not? Everyone else was.

Although the proposed $124,000 farewell gift to Greer was signed by the attention-to-detail-challenged Senate president, House Speaker Dean Cannon and then-party chairman and state Sen. John Thrasher, Haridopolos struggled to recall specifics of the agreement.

Greer is now facing charges of fraud and money laundering associated with Victory Strategies, a firm he created to conduct party fundraising while serving as chairman.

But Haridopolos, the creative force behind The Chronicles of Narcissism, insisted in his sworn testimony he had zero knowledge of Victory Strategies, even while he was up to his tuchas in maneuvering to ease Greer out.

Nor could Haridopolos remember that his own political consultant met with a party official to see if Greer would accept the six-figure token of goodwill. Nor could the Merritt Island pol call to mind that he authorized the transfer of $295,000 from the party’s coffers to one of those full-of-phooey self-serving political committees he had created.

The vote to re-elect Greer, who treated his party-issued credit cards as if he were Newt Gingrich trapped in Tiffany’s, was unanimous. Even so, Haridopolos claimed he had no recollection of the tally.

So much for Haridopolos’ multi-tasking skills. Uh, just what part of unanimous does the Senate president not understand?

Geez, Ozzie Osbourne has a greater grasp of the powers of recall than Haridopolos, who can sign off on $124,000 severance package and reallocate nearly $300,000 in party funds to his own political use and claim that not so much as an iota of these machinations managed to find a permanent home in his memory bank.

Perhaps one reason Haridopolos exhibits all the clarity of thought of George Custer believing he had the Indians right where he wanted them is that he suffers from the effects of an IED — Improvised Electoral Destruction. After all, insisting he was more out to lunch than Herman Cain contemplating foreign policy is probably marginally better politically than admitting complicity in cooking up almost $424,000 in dubious party expenditures.

But nothing topped Haridopolos harrumphing that Greer was unpopular and “incredibly arrogant.” This was a bit like the NBA’s Ron Artest accusing the Harlem Globetrotters with excessive showboating.

It’s difficult to determine what is more problematic here.

Would the sought-after author of Florida Legislative History and Processes From A to B (which flew off the shelves — all 70 copies) have everyone believe he was completely clueless as to the negotiations surrounding the departure of the party’s chairman and cannot remember shifting almost $300,000 from the party’s accounts to his own political committee?

And if that is true (cue the stifled giggle) what does it say about the Senate leader’s ability to grapple with the complexities of governance, where you are sort of expected to remember stuff?

Maybe it says we’re all doomed.

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