It was never a question of whether Jack Latvala would funnel money into Jacksonville’s mayoral race. It was only a matter of how much.
The disgraced former lawmaker, who resigned from office after allegations of serial sexual harassment, is sitting on a pile of money he raised for his political committee over the last decade.
The original intent of that money was to fuel a bid for Florida governor. However, when POLITICO Florida reported that six women who worked in the Capitol were accusing the Pinellas County Republican of sexual harassment and groping, those ambitions were extinguished.
Of course the money he raised — from special interests seeking to curry favor with a powerful lawmaker and from donors eager to support a politician they believed would do the right thing — was never returned because, well, why should it be?
So there the money sits.
At one point, there was more than three million dollars of it. But the attorney who represented Latvala during his scandal remains on retainer. Several political advisors are still on the payroll. Always the political animal, Latvala continues to spend money on polling and research.
Much of the money Latvala has expended, however, has been on contributions to other politicians and political committees.
He has transferred a sizable amount to the political committee of his son, state Rep. Chris Latvala. He’s also transferred tens of thousands of dollars to other political committees which, in turn, have contributed to political candidates Latvala supports.
All told, Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee has spent more than $1 million since last August, leaving it with just under $1.9 million in the bank.
There’s nothing inappropriate or untoward with most of that spending. A political committee will have political advisors, even if it is unclear what the ultimate goal is of a fundraising panel aligned with a politician who probably can’t run again for public office.
And if there are politicians who are comfortable accepting checks from Latvala, that is their decision — and their constituents and voters can judge them accordingly.
However, it’s the committee’s most recent spending in the Jacksonville mayoral race that deserves not just scrutiny, but condemnation.
As our A.G. Gancarski reported:
Jacksonville Republican Jimmy Hill, a candidate for Mayor, faced financial problems for most of his campaign.
However, a political enemy of incumbent Lenny Curry emerged to give Hill’s grassroots campaign some much needed cash for the stretch run.
On Monday evening, Hill’s Jax Rising committee reported having raised $25,000 in February from Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee.
As the Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe reminds us, one of the women who spoke to POLITICO Florida about Latvala is Rachel Perrin Rogers, a former Senate aide and wife of Curry’s chief of staff, Brian Hughes.
Hughes was formerly a political consultant, and in the wake of the allegations made against him, Latvala tried to attack Perrin Rogers’ credibility by connecting her accusations to political motivations — which wasn’t corroborated.
This is, unfortunately, why it’s not surprising to see Latvala’s money show up in Jacksonville’s mayoral race.
Because hell hath no fury like a woman’s sexual harasser scorned.
Upon first learning that Latvala is funneling money to one of Curry’s opponents you might be forgiven for cracking a smile. Here was the ol’ man doing what he does best: f*cking with people.
Let’s be honest: He wasn’t really trying to impact the race. A $25,000 toss to a tomato can’s campaign won’t make a lick of difference.
No, the $25,000 or so dollars was to get a rise out of his bete noire, Hughes. To that end, he probably accomplished his goal.
But the more you think about what Latvala did here, the more you should be disgusted.
Since he’s not really interested in impacting the race, he’s only interested in one thing: Retribution against Hughes, and to that extent, Perrin Rogers, his accuser.
Think about that for a moment. That’s like Harvey Weinstein producing a documentary besmirching Ashley Judd.
That’s like Kevin Spacey posting a YouTube video attacking his accusers.
That’s like Louis C.K. making jokes about Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov.
Oh wait, he sort of does that now, doesn’t he?
Perrin Rogers isn’t Latvala’s political enemy. She’s his victim.
Hughes, for all of his arrogance, isn’t Latvala’s political enemy. He’s the husband of one of Latvala’s victims.
It’s important to make these distinctions.
Understand, there are few actions I enjoy less undertaking than taking up for anything connected to Brian Hughes. He is, after all, my political enemy.
But if someone’s going to go at him, the last person who should be doing that is the person accused of groping his wife. You almost have to credit Hughes for not driving to Palm Harbor and punching Latvala right in the mouth he used to torment his wife.
It’s bizarre that Latvala is mucking around with this crap. He has a wonderful wife. He’s in the twilight of his life and has more than enough money to live comfortably for the rest of it. There is no path for him to make a political comeback.
Yet there he is, sticking his fingers not just into Jacksonville politics, but also into races around Tampa Bay.
He should shift a healthy amount of the money that remains in his political committee to his son’s political committee and donate the majority of it to charities that deal with sexual harassment.
Then find a warm spot under the sun, either in his beloved Maine or on some beach, and put a tan on that belly of his.
Whatever he does, he should stop tormenting a family he almost ruined.