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COLUMN

Happytown

All we got for Christmas were political consequences, a shiny new Tom Feeney and some elephant arthritis via Cloris Leachman. A mixed bag, then!

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“Part of our argument is that the rules are fairly confusing,” FPIRG spokesman Brad Ashwell says. “There are all of these hoops set upto keep people from voting. The whole fraud argument just doesn’t hold up. There’s nothing in the law that would really even address fraud.”

By way of example, Ashwell, who operates out of Tallahassee, would have a hard time orchestrating voter registration efforts in Miami if the forms had to go through FPIRG’s office; the new law requires a 48-hour turnaround on registration forms, meaning that his Miami volunteers would have to overnight the forms and hope that they got there in time to avoid recrimination. All of this bobbing and weaving for the sake of a basic right begs the question: Why isn’t every citizen automatically registeredto vote when they turn 18? Because your bought-and-sold government doesn’t want your input, that’s why. So this is deregulation.

“Corporate America is shaping your election laws,” Ashwell says. “It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s just the truth.”

While we’re on this long-winded subject of harsh truths (and consequences), yet another blow to Scott’s ego appeared on the morning of Dec. 16 when the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Florida would not be receiving the $100 million it thought it was going to get from the Race to the Top early learning challenge program. The news came just one week after Scott removed his dunce capand promised to up the ante on education spending by $1 billion in his proposed budget; it also came one year after the state received $700 million from Race to the Top in aid of public schools. What changed? Well, it looks like Scott got a little cocky, if his press-released response is to be believed.

“When Florida’s application was submitted for the grant in October, we made it clear that we would not accept grant money with strings attached, additional state spending obligations or requirements that created new, burdensome regulations on private providers,” he said, presumably curled up in a ballin a charter school rec room. “We stuck to our principles, and unfortunately our insistence against irresponsibly using one-time dollars for recurring government programs did not win the favor of the administration in Washington.”

Or, Rick Scott is an asshole who only plays by his own rules. That way he always loses. Lumps of coal for everyone!

Well, not everyone. While we werequietly cheering the public lashings of our bald public enemy No. 1, one of our other least favorite Republican rodents was getting a $500,000 promotion just in time for Christmas! On Dec. 15, former Oviedo curlicue congressman Tom Feeney – yes, the same Tom Feeney who crashed his campaign four years ago with a televised kitchen table apology for the “rookie mistake” of taking pay-for-play from perennially “disgraced lobbyist” Jack Abramoffin the form of a men’s golfing trip to Scotland (or, hookers and blow?) – was declared the new chief executive officer of the shadowy pro-business lobbying organization Associated Industries of Florida. Since the high-profile 2007 scandal scuttlebutt that involved the FBI and an awful lot of public stammering, Feeney’s been keeping himself busy doing what he knows best: playing lobbyist, via his own Liberty Team, to corporate interests like Big Sugar. Turns out that at least one of those interests, Florida Crystals, had a man (and another former legislator) sitting on AIF’s search committee to replace outgoing CEO Barney Bishop. It pays to have friends.

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