A couple of hugs brighten sluggish week

We're slug-heavy in this round of hugs and slugs, thanks to bad behavior from a Democratic member of Congress and continued bad behavior from the perennial slug-seekers at the blood centers and the expressway authority. But we've managed to find some new huggable mugs, including one that looks so much like a famous dead guy that he recently won big prizes and worldwide fame for it. So let's get started.

•A slug to Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, who got busted skipping a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee to attend a fundraiser hosted by special interests ... in the finance industry. Kosmas' office later said it didn't know until the last minute that the hearing had resumed — and she wasn't the only member to skip the hearing. And choosing campaign cash over job duties is about as common in Washington as choosing your chief of staff over your spouse as a bedmate. But that sure doesn't make it right — especially from new members who promised change. Making it even more suspect was Kosmas telling the reporter who busted her (from the Huffington Post) that she didn't know the event she was about to enter was a fundraiser. I don't know about you, but when my rep walks into a room full of special interests that are about to hand her $1,000 checks, I'd like for her to know it.

•A hug to state Sen. Don Gaetz, the Republican from Fort Walton Beach, who's showing legislative interest in the questionable business practices going on at Florida's Blood Centers. Gaetz wants his Senate health committee to investigate the high price of blood — and FBC in particular. Good for him, since FBC officials themselves have refused to change any of the things they do to put big chunks of money in the pockets of those connected to this "nonprofit." If simply doing the right thing wasn't enough motivation for members of this board — which is stocked with local execs from other well-known businesses — perhaps a Senate committee with subpoena power will be.

•A slug to the slow learners at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. I don't hand out too many I-told-you-so's in this column. But back in March, right after the grand jury's "culture of corruption" report was released and the public was calling for Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty's head, I wrote the following: "Watch out for the committee of death. A popular tactic for politicians under fire is to try to ship controversies off to committees to die slow deaths." Flash forward to this week, where Crotty's "bluest of blue ribbon" reform task force — the committee he formed to try to stave off the public — delivered about as much reform as a drug addict who brings a bag of goofballs to share with his sponsors at Narcotics Anonymous.

•Also a slug to former state Sen. Dan Webster, who chaired this reform task force. The west Orange Republican, who's contemplating future campaigns, never displayed an appetite for real reform. (And this is coming from a columnist who has given Webster high praise in the past.) Webster's committee recommended some fine money-saving suggestions but acted more like an efficiency committee than reform crusaders. It was extremely telling that, on the very morning Webster was recommending his weak-kneed reforms, the authority's former chairman was testifying in his own defense against ethics charges that are still looming. Laughably, Webster had the audacity to say that he was sure some people thought his group had passed "too much" reform. Senator, you get me one average Joe (that means someone who's not actually padding his pockets by the business-as-usual practices over there) who says you guys did too much reforming, and I'll personally cover your tolls next month.

•And finally, a hug to Leesburg Realtor Tom Grizzard, who has a face worth, well, at least $2,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain. Grizzard's claim to fame is his resemblance to Ernest Hemingway. Last year, the 69-year-old won the famous Papa look-alike contest in Key West. This month, he won the first international contest in Pamplona, Spain. "It was an experience of a lifetime," he said Thursday. Grizzard has been a wearing a beard for 35 years but said he never really stood a chance in the contest until "it just kept getting whiter and whiter." Grizzard said people stopped him on the streets of Pamplona to shake his hand and take his picture, adding: "They treated me like royalty." And the treatment now that he's back home in Leesburg? "Oh, pretty much the same old stuff."

Scott Maxwell, whose own stubble is coming in much whiter than it should for his age, can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.
 

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