If just-announced state Senate candidate Lauren Book was anybody but the daughter of one of the most influential lobbyists in Tallahassee, the media would be over her like vultures on road kill.
Don't even think about a race for this job. Book is as good as elected. Anybody who challenges Ron Book's little girl is either wildly delusional or plays with razor blades and likes it.
At the age of 30 and just out of the gate -- without having to offer a platform -- Lauren Book has Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler publicly supporting her. See Saintpetersblog. By the end of the month, it's going to be more a question of who isn't for her? Heck, even our Republican governor heaps praise on the Plantation Democrat.
Here's the problem: The founder of the high-profile nonprofit Lauren's Kids is going to have probably the longest list of conflicts of interest of any senator ever to serve in the Florida Legislature. Think about it: How do you consider issues objectively and vote transparently and ethically when you serve with the perception that your daddy is whispering in your ear every day before you go to work, and maybe a whole lot more than that?
She nevertheless told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday, "I'm not my father's voice. I'm there to push a button for the people who live in the 33rd District. And I do not take that lightly. ... Anyone who's been in a room with my father and me for more than two minutes knows we can disagree about a great many things. We put the fun in dysfunctional."
Book created a political action committee, Leadership for Broward, last September. Her PAC has collected nearly $640,000 -- more than any other state Senate candidate in Florida, and she only officially announced her candidacy Tuesday. Some of the donors, like the Miami Dolphins ($100,000) and the private prison company GEO Group ($25,000), also happen to be her dad's clients. All contributors/contributions are listed here.
Book was abused by a nanny when she was 11 years old, and since 2007 has responded with purpose and commitment, by leading a crusade against the sexual abuse of children, mostly by appealing to children not to stay silent, but to tell somebody. Since 2010 she has walked the length of the state annually, ending in a final leg side-by-side with her father and a "Rally in Tally." Legislators, members of the Cabinet, former legislators who now lobby, celebrities of every description have stood on the steps of the Old Capitol during those rallies, praising her and Lauren's Kids.
Not only has she written two books -- "It's OK to Tell" and "Lauren's Kingdom" -- but she has appeared severally on national television and has been featured in major newspapers. In 2013, at a ceremony in Paris, she was named the L’Oréal Paris “Woman of Worth.”
Her profile has been big enough and bold enough to flood the Book empire with checks. Not only from private donors to her charity over the years, but from the Florida Legislature. In a state with literally hundreds of charities, lawmakers have been super-duper, over-the-top generous to Lauren's Kids. The Broward New Times reported it first: "... In recent years, a disproportionate amount of money from the state budget has been given to her charity, Lauren's Kids. For example, in 2015, the Legislature allocated the sex-abuse chairity $3.8 million while the Girl Scouts and YMCA got $300,000."
All of the honors she's gathered are laudable. Believe me, I take nothing away from Book's accomplishments. But the support from so many lobbyists and friends of her father -- in fact, from her father as much as anyone else -- players looking for favors only the Legislature can provide, will put her in a real pickle every day she asks a question, debates a bill or casts a vote -- let alone introduces bills of her own.
All those checks for the 30-year-old daughter of one of the biggest power players in town -- it's a matter of perception, is all I'm saying. I can hear minds turning it over now -- Whose ends is Lauren Book justifying today? What did she and her dad hash over last night, this morning, 10 minutes ago on the phone?
I've heard it suggested more than once around town that Lauren Book will break new ground next year by being the first member of the Florida Senate to buy a seat with taxpayer money. I don't go along with that entirely. Certainly the Legislature's money didn't go into her Leadership for Broward PAC. But I know what they mean: The public money is going to help elect her. That $3.8 million allocation this year alone is a lot of taxpayer dough elevating Book's profile, greasing her path to term-limited Eleanor Sobel's seat.
But I would just as soon move on. Lauren Book is in, let's face it. It now becomes less how she got there than how she's going to handle a reputation that links every day she serves to her father's business.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: 228-282-2423.