Slimy political tricks, truly charitable treats

 Photo: Lottery winners

Dr. William Steele with his wife, Frankie, after receiving his $189 million Powerball check. (Florida Lottery / October 15, 2009)

Time for another round of hugs and slugs — this time in the spirit of Halloween, spotlighting some of the worst tricks and best treats of the past week.

We start with a super-sized hug for the folks at Shepherd's Hope one of Central Florida's most effective and altruistic faith-based charities.

Last weekend, this group, which has provided more than 160,000 medical visits to families who couldn't otherwise afford it, received some manna from heaven when an attendee at the group's annual fundraiser won the $10,000 raffle — and then donated it right back to the charity.

(A Halloween hug also goes to that donor: mega-lucky dermatologist, Dr. William Steele, who also won a $189 million Powerball drawing a couple of years ago.)

Too often nowadays, we hear stories about nonprofit agencies that started with good goals but lost their way amid conflicts of interest, unnecessary spending and sky-high salaries.

Compare that with Shepherd's Hope, which provides literally lifesaving help to thousands of families every year — largely because it watches every dime and relies on good will and hard work, rather than scores of high-paid execs, to get things done. Not a single six-figure paycheck, according to the most recent IRS records. In fact most services are donated.

That, my friends, is a faith-based charity in the truest sense of the word.

To help or get help, visit shepherdshope.org.

•A hug to the Florida Chamber of Commerce (yes, that's a first) for asking Florida to start enforcing its own laws when it comes to online sales taxes. Right now, the state doesn't enforce its own statutes, allowing out-of-state retailers such as Amazon.com, appliance outlets and others not to collect sales taxes. This puts Florida's brick-and-mortar businesses — the ones that employ Floridians — at a competitive disadvantage and robs the state of needed revenues. Many of us common folks and Main Street merchants have championed this for years. But Tallahassee doesn't usually listen to common folks. So the chamber's stepped-up interest could help.

•A slug to Senate President Mike Haridopolos for pooh-poohing the chamber's efforts — and vowing to make cuts elsewhere if new sales-tax revenues come in. Senator, if you want to give somebody a break, how about making it rank-and-file Floridians for a change? Forget another corporate tax break. If online sales taxes generate $500 million, you could roll back the ridiculous fee hikes you guys rammed through on our cars and drivers licenses and help our schools and the disabled community, both of whom you've unfairly squeezed in recent years.

•A slug to the underhanded supporters of Altamonte Springs mayoral candidate Bob O'Malley who are running a slimy and secretive campaign against Mayor Pat Bates all the way from Tallahassee. Nasty and misleading mailers are being sent by a group that didn't even exist before this election and hasn't revealed its funders. O'Malley says he doesn't know who's responsible and that he didn't like the mailers either. It takes a lot of nerve for special interests from Tallahassee to try to tell local residents how to vote in a municipal election — even more when they're too cowardly to attach their names to it. Still, if it works, you can expect to see more of it. Altamonte Springs voters will decide that Nov. 8.

An abundance of slugs

Lastly, the Sentinel was inundated with hundreds of calls, letters, emails and online comments from readers incensed about last weekend's column raising questions about aspiring state House Speaker Chris Dorworth's newly disclosed wealth.

The overwhelming reaction: Dorworth needs to come clean about how he came into a newly listed $713,000 stake in an out-of-state corporation — as well as his financial ties to other insiders, government officials and those who profit off government deals.

The reaction crossed party lines, with many Republicans ticked that their party hasn't offered up a better speaker candidate for 2014 … and wondering why other party leaders sit idly by, providing fodder for Democrats.

Still no response from Dorworth. (You can read the 21 questions I sent him at OrlandoSentinel.com/takingnames.)

To be fair, though, Dorworth wasn't around last week … and by that, I mean he wasn't around America.

Instead, the Lake Mary Republican was one of nine legislators in Taiwan on a trade mission financed by the Taiwanese government.

That's OK. The questions aren't going anywhere. Neither am I. In fact, the more records we find, the more questions we have.

Up next: Details about a couple of development deals in which Dorworth has been involved — projects he apparently doesn't want to talk about.

After I asked Dorworth about one the deals, the website that featured background documents was scrubbed completely clean.

Fortunately, I'd already printed out a hard copy. So stay tuned.

smaxwell@tribune.com or 407-420-6141.

 

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