Insiders now back former 'outsider' Teresa Jacobs

Three years ago, when Teresa Jacobs was running for Orange County mayor, she made the special interests nervous.

Nowadays, she's making them part of her campaign committee.

Jacobs, once the proud and passionate outsider, is cozying up with insiders all over town in her bid to get re-elected.

Big Tourism, Big Banking, Big Development — if it has "Big" in front of it, the odds are it's now connected to Jacobs' campaign.

The committee for her last fundraiser was a virtual who's who of people who want something from county government.

A lobbyist from Universal. The CEO of the Orlando Magic. Homebuilders. Construction-company leaders. Tourism execs. Law-firm partners. Consultants. And more developers, development attorneys and lobbyists than you can shake a rezoning request at.

But it's not just whom Jacobs is asking for money that's interesting. It's how.

A few years back, Jacobs railed against the practice of bundling — where big-money donors skirt contribution limits by gathering multiple checks from different corporate entities.

"Government should not be for sale," she declared in a letter to mayors far and wide in 2006.

I agreed. In fact, I penned quite a few columns praising her for saying as much.

Nowadays, however, Jacobs is not only taking bundled contributions, bundling is a key part of her campaign's strategy.

A campaign document obtained by the Sentinel showed that Jacobs' finance folks were hoping certain plugged-in money guys would bring in $5,000, $10,000, even $25,000 at a time.

We're talking $5,000 from a lobbyist for Wal-Mart and Walt Disney, $10,000 from a Mears Transportation exec and $25,000 from Magic CEO Alex Martins.

The Sentinel story quoted Jacobs as saying that, golly, Ned, she didn't like the practice. But that, as long as it was legal, she was going to utilize it — as she had done to a lesser degree before.

This is Jacobs' general explanation: She's not doing anything illegal or improper. She's simply doing what everyone else does.

And she's right. Jacobs is now utterly common in that regard — something I never thought I'd say.

Part of the reason for the change is that Jacobs herself is no longer the outsider. She's at the top of the power elite.

It's easy to rail against big money when hardly anyone is offering it.

Jacobs is also now cozying up with people she used to complain about back when she was banging the populist gong.

Take developer Jim Palmer, for instance — a landowner who stands to make millions off the construction of the Wekiva Parkway.

 

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