Note to Steve MacNamara: Don't Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out
Around the State
Insiders say Steve MacNamara is leaving the governor's office at the end of the year. If that's so, then why wait? Rick Scott should hold the door open for his Machiavellian chief of staff right now.
The media's got MacNamara's number. Oh, boy, do they ever.
In case you haven't been paying attention, two or three bad-boy MacNamara stories trickled out through the state press floodgates this past weekend. And you just know more are on their way. Trust me, this is only the beginning of a levee-busting flood of bad news for a governor who otherwise is doing a lot of things right for Florida.
First, Associated Press' Gary Fineout rolled out the story Friday of MacNamara, who "helped steer a no-bid consulting contract worth $360,000 to a friend" back in MacNamara's days working as Senate President Mike Haridopolos' chief of staff. Now Mac has made sure that same friend, Abraham Uccello, has a cushy "inside" job in the Rick Scott administration, in charge of a task force formed to root out waste in state government.
Then came Sunday's chapter-and-verse profile of MacNamara from Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau. It told the story of how "MacNamara walled off the governor from others, played agency heads against each other, hired loyalists at six-figure salaries (paying them more than women in the same jobs), forced out his rivals and helped out his buddies." It told the story of the ultimate insider with the mentality of a bouncer, who "rewired a political system" to wring money out of it.
If Fineout's and Klas' stories dug the hole, the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo threw the chief of staff in and covered him with dirt. The headline on his Sunday column said it all: "Gov. Rick Scott's biggest failure: his chief of staff." He told the story of how Scott's ceremonial signing of the law cracking down on firms that do business in Cuba and Syria backfired because under advisement of MacNamara, the governor then issued a letter that called the law he signed unenforceable, unconstitutional, an infringement on foreign trade. The "at-times ethically challenged" MacNamara, who had wanted Scott to veto the bill, not only hung the governor out to dry with the Cuban community, he pushed the blame onto Attorney General Pam Bondi and her staff. Said Caputo, "The Florida Democratic Party couldn’t have picked a better chief of staff for Scott."
I was unable to reach MacNamara on Friday or this weekend. But now, I must admit, I'm more anxious to ask Gov. Scott if he has any plans to weigh MacNamara's liabilities against his assets.
I hope even if he puts up a good show and answers no, he means yes.
Gov. Scott can do one of two things:
He can pull a Charlie Crist and pledge loyalty and friendship to MacNamara to the bitter end, as Crist did to Jim Greer right up until early 2010. Month after month, Crist brushed off louder and louder pleas from his base to distance himself from Greer's spending antics. It cost him in the end.
Scott's better-by-far option is to point MacNamara toward the door, tell him to give up his $189,000-a-year salary and return to Florida State University, where he has tenure as a professor. Or he can advise his insider chief of staff to set up shop as a lucrative lobbyist, as he claims he is entitled to do, without a wait.
I know I'm prone to criticize the mainstream media, particularly when they pile on. But this isn't one of those occasions. The media did Scott a huge favor this past weekend. They fired a warning shot. I just hope, with a little more than two years left before what might be a tough re-election run, Scott takes notice.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.