Jack Latvala and Melissa McKinlay are "close personal friends" -- I get it. But what is a Republican state senator doing helping a Democratic congressional candidate win in a district the RNCC is desperately fighting for?
A vote for Palm Beach County Commissioner McKinlay, running for the District 18 seat Patrick Murphy is vacating, is a vote to return Nancy Pelosi to the speakership.
I'm not the only one who's noticed. Even the socialist newspaper Daily Kos expressed a kind of delighted shock in this June 10 report: "FL-18: Here's something you don't see every day: a high-profile Republican legislator appearing at a fundraiser for a Democratic congressional candidate. But sure enough, GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala attended an event for Palm Beach County (Commissioner) Melissa McKinlay. And it's not like this (FL-18) is some safely blue seat either: Romney won this district 52-48, and both parties are expecting to fight hard to win it."
Now it comes out Latvala made a special trip to the Treasure Coast with McKinlay in July to visit businesses with ... a need, maybe, for a favor from their congresscritter. Businesses they visited were Armellini Logistics in Palm City (long-distance truckers) and STS Aviation Group in Jensen Beach.
I know the Florida media adore Latvala, who came all the way over from Clearwater to help his friend, the Florida Democratic Party's favorite in the (so far) four-Democrat congressional race. But, for heaven's sake, it looks like the Fourth Estate is actually buying his claim that there was no fundraising or policking going on.
I don't get it.
They know he raised money for McKinlay in 2014 during her County Commission race. See the attachment below, showing the donations of Latvala's political committee, Florida Leadership Committee. It shows he has donated to McKinlay and another Democrat, Rep. Dave Kerner, who is running for a Palm Beach County Commission seat.
Now Sen. Jack is taking McKinlay to meetings in Martin County? The notion that this is not campaigning is laughable. Only Latvala could get away with telling the press that.
Part of Latvala's business is lobbying Congress. I have no doubt he was in Martin County drumming up business. He did say he was "looking to meet new friends and see what's going on in economic development." Maybe McKinlay becomes a business connection for him if she's elected.
Or, you could say Latvala is only perpetuating an old habit -- shoveling money at McKinlay.
In November 2013, during the first month of campaigning for the Palm Beach County Commission seat Democrat McKinlay won, a bundle of the impressive $28,654 she raised came from either Latvala himself, as you could see on his spread sheet, or Republican senators supporting Latvala's 2016 presidency bid.
It breaks down to a combined $4,000 from Latvala himself; another $1,500 through two of his businesses and a political committee; and $500 each through businesses or committees from former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, Sens. Miguel Diaz De La Portilla of Miami, Nancy Detert of Venice, Denise Grimsley of Sebastian and Greg Evers of Okaloosa County. Read the story in The Palm Beach Post.
You might find a look at the other attachment below interesting, too. I'm throwing that in for good measure. It includes payments to Direct Marketing Southest Inc. from Florida candidates found on the Division of Elections website. DMS is one of Latvala's companies. I could argue -- OK, I will argue -- that a large portion of this money came from Tallahassee special interests.
Lobbyists give to politicians who in turn pay Latvala, known to help raise the money from these same lobbyists. It's money that gets paid to his firm. It sounds complicated, I know. A little like laundering. Technically, it's not a gift -- but certainly it should raise Sen. Tom Lee's eyebrows over there on the ethics side of the chamber. No matter how hard I squint, I see a violation of the spirit, if the not the letter of the gift ban law.
How impressed FDP Chair Allison Tant must be with the ease at which McKinlay teases money out of opposition party candidates.
Maybe Latvala's visit to Martin County is as simple as his inability to resist a chance to raise some hell in Joe Negron's yard. McKinlay's chief Republican opponent in the District 18 race is Rebecca Negron, member of the Martin County School Board and Joe's wife. Does anybody besides me think Latvala despises Joe Negron enough to make it his first priority to waltz into Martin County with the opponent of Negron's wife -- the delicious bonus being a chance to stick it to both Negrons -- kind of a two-fer?
I tried to reach Rebecca Negron Tuesday to talk about it, but she apparently didn't want to.
It has been reported that Latvala is pinning his Senate presidency hopes on cutting a deal with Democrats in the upper chamber to form a coalition presidency following the 2016 elections. Not exactly a Republican move. He writes checks to Democrats, campaigns for Democrats, votes with Democrats ... he claims he was in Martin County checking on economic development. Do you believe him? Do the media actually trust his motives, or is he another one who gets a pass?
Jack Latvala wants to lead the Republican Senate caucus and professes to be a devout Republican. In my opinion he is not worthy of one and fails miserably to prove the other.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith