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$5,000 for Jimmy Buffett seems like a deal next to $17,600 for Obama

MusicBudgets and BudgetingJimmy BuffettBarack ObamaRepublican Party

Today we're pulling the curtains back on everything from secret concerts to bogus campaign claims.

Let's start with last weekend's Jimmy Buffett concert.

Didn't hear anything about the show?

Well, you're not alone. Most Parrotheads missed it. And for good reason — because it was a private affair that cost $5,000 to attend.

The event was a fundraiser for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, and Buffett performed barefoot in the backyard of John "For the People" Morgan's Heathrow mansion Sunday evening.

The set was short — just a few songs, including "Margaritaville" and "Volcano." But the cash haul was big — about $500,000, according to Morgan.

"The best night ever," Morgan said, adding that the highlight was when Buffett agreed to play his and his wife's special song: "Come Monday."

Here's the hitch though: Ultima Morgan wasn't in the crowd to hear it.

Though John's a big Dem, Ultima is a staunch pro-life conservative who usually avoids her husband's fundraisers. (The Democratic ones, anyway. Morgan has also raised money for Republicans such as Dean Cannon and Charlie Crist.)

Still, on this night, Ultima couldn't help herself completely. She stuck around the house — and even poked her head out on the balcony when she heard Buffett start strumming her song.

Faulty claims

Speaking of Cannon, the House speaker-designate is among multiple legislators making an incredibly gutsy — and questionable — claim in their campaign mailers.

The claim: that he "Balanced Florida's budget without raising taxes or fees."

It's those last two words that are simply not true. Not for all years, anyway.

To the contrary, Cannon and his legislative peers made headlines in 2009 for jacking up fees for everything from drivers licenses to state park admissions.

We're talking up to $1 billion worth of new fees. Drivers-license costs alone nearly doubled, from $27 to $48. Car-title fees went from $24 to $70.

In short, instead of trimming costs or closing existing special-interest tax loopholes, these guys balanced their budget on the backs of rank-and-file Floridians.

The move was widely decried. So what's Cannon's excuse for making such a claim now?

In an e-mail, he said he was boasting about not raising fees in this year's budget … not last year's.

I see.

In another mailer, State Rep. Chris Dorworth also claimed not to have raised fees. But Dorworth at least included a tiny footnote that pegged the claim to only this year's budget.

Here's the bottom line on this issue: Very few incumbents can honestly claim they didn't vote to raise your fees. Specifically, Republican Dorothy Hukill and Democrats Scott Randolph, Darren Soto and Geraldine Thompson were among the few local members who opposed last year's crucial House bill.

If anyone else tries to tell you they opposed all fee increases, be very skeptical.

Local Dems are top target

It's now official: Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas are walking bull's-eyes.

So says Politico, which recently completed an analysis of TV ad-buys by outside conservative groups — and concluded that Grayson and Kosmas were tied for America's No. 1 target.

Among the Washington interests spending an estimated $1.7 million so far to trash the two local Dems are big businesses with the U.S. Chamber and opponents of health-care reform.

Considering those spending money against him, Grayson seemed to revel in the news, writing in a fundraising pitch: "I must be doing something right."

Way too much

If $5,000 seemed like a lot of money to see Jimmy Buffett, just wait till you hear how much South Floridians paid to see President Barack Obama on Monday.

Tickets to the event at NBA great Alonzo Mourning's Coral Gables home ranged from $1,000 just to get in and $5,000 for dinner to $17,600 for couples who wanted to dine and be photographed with the prez.

My take on such a thing: grotesque.

Obama is certainly not the first one to pimp the presidency. Still, the concept of selling access this way is as demeaning to the office as it is out of touch with average Americans — especially given the current economy.

If the guys who occupy the White House want people to treat their office with respect, they should consider doing the same.

Scott Maxwell can be reached at smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6141.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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