Saturday, November 12, 2016
Speak Out on "DARK MONEY" Contaminating St. Augustine Election: Captain Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.)
I would respectfully ask that each of you consider speaking out against the introduction of out-of-town "dark money" into our city's politics at Monday's City Commission meeting (Nov 14th - 5:00 PM start). The time to do that is during the "General Public Comments" portion of the meeting (agenda item 4).
If the citizens of St Augustine don't make it clear that we don't want anonymous outsiders using smear tactics and lies to hijack our city's elections, we will become helpless spectators to the creation of our city's future; a future we may regret.
To refresh you on the implications of "dark money" being introduced into ST Augustine politics, below is Jim Sutton's superb Oct 30th St Augustine Record editorial on the subject:
"EDITORIAL: Interlopers go where they don’t belong
We’ve watched local politics for quite a while here at The Record. City Commission races rarely lack drama. Personalities play huge parts in these contests. Some might say city races, especially mayoral ones, may be more of a popularity contest than a political one.
That’s understandable in a city with a population of 14,000 souls today, and about the same at the turn of the century. St. Augustine is a small town, and small-town politics are what we’re used to and what we expect. We’re not talking Podunk politics, just a very personal style of politics that’s been around a long time. It’s time in a bottle.
The bottle was broken this week.
For the first time that we remember, the bane of political PACs entered the local mayoral fray. It is as unwelcome as it is deceptive.
Slick flyers were sent to city voters attacking Mayor Nancy Shaver. They were sent by a PAC calling itself Sun Coast Patriots. It is, of course, a ghost group, fronted by a Tallahassee lawyer known for organizing the making and breaking of candidates he’s never heard of, or could care less about. It’s zombie politics — mindless, ugly and very hard to kill.
Understand, the target was Shaver, but we’re not defending her. The attack could have come against any of the candidates. But we will say that the focus of the attacks were absolutely baseless and actually 180 degrees off-truth. One told recipients that the candidate “can’t stop proposing new taxes and more fees for you to pay.” When? Another states, “Stuck in traffic in Saint Augustine? Then thank Mayor Nancy Shaver — She’s had her chance to fix our traffic problems.”
Two years? Traffic problems were here 200 years ago. And no mobility study or act of God is going to fix the issue of a Spanish Colonial town stuck in a freeway time warp. We’ll never get anywhere fast here. And many of us chose this special town because of it, rather than in spite of it.
The intrusion of PAC attacks in our town is troubling beyond words. We’ll tell you what it spells. It means that a city commission seat has become sufficiently valuable that outside shysters and inside “players” are trying to take a piece of our pie. Shaver’s opponent, Kris Phillips, has told supporters and The Record that she had neither participation or knowledge of the mailouts. We have found nothing to suggest that she did. Tallahassee contacts familiar with the Sun Coast Patriots and the slew of sleazy groups associated with it, point to a very different source. We’re looking into that now.
It was worrisome when the PACs first entered county politics a decade ago. Today, outside donations, campaign handlers, treasurers and scum-mail hit men are the norm. During the August primaries it worked both for and against County Commission candidates. But payoff for political backers is potentially so much greater at that level.
There’s something especially insidious, something so personal, about this infection of St. Augustine. This is our town, not theirs.
And, at the risk of several new and angry letters to the editor (see Sunday’s Record for examples), if you pay the least attention to these flyers — or any others like them — you deserve having party power brokers flipping the switches at City Hall. And you can bet it won’t be for you, or potholes or our invaluable history. It will for personal animosity and/or gain.
It cheapens everything we want to be. It depreciates everything we are."