I Love Posts Like That, Kenneth

Kenneth Quinnell of the Florida Progressive Coalition took offense at a post I made on Sunday about Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman and her questionable lobbying practices. Specifically, he resented my using the term “idiots” in my post, though I will note that I never called either one of them idiots, exactly.

He provides a line-by-line deconstruction of my post here. While I’m not going to argue line by line (after all, Quinnell now owns the high road, while I own the low road of the craven personal attack), I do want to make a few points based on 1) listening to the relevant portion of the radio show and 2) doing some research and 3) speculating on the true motives of a certain lobbyist who also serves as the head of a state political party.

‘Does anyone think that when Karen Thurman takes that check, she’s going to turn around and become a Republican?’
— Kenneth Quinnell

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in the words I used and, for the record, neither Quinnell nor his guest used the word “idiot” during the portion of the radio program I listened to, as he points out. However, they did say some things that sounded like maybe if you didn’t agree with their position, then you were simply a pure puzzlement to them, like a geek in a sideshow. While expressing extreme puzzlement about why anyone would care about such a non-issue and dismissing the topic as not worthy of his consideration, Quinnell said:

Obviously, the Republicans aren’t going to do it [lobby for security at the Port of Miami]. So if they’ll pay us to do it, I don’t see a problem with that.

And:

Does anyone think that when Karen Thurman takes that check, she’s going to turn around and become a Republican?

And:

Lobbying against security down there [Miami], that’s what the Republicans are doing.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to assess the substance of those quotes.

Now, the genesis of the “idiot” comment was an e-mail exchange between me and co-editor Trish. She apparently asked Quinnell to address the Thurman topic on his radio show, and while he did address the topic, it was in a sarcastic, derisive, dismissive tone, employing the incisive arguments above as well as that old chestnut: The Republicans are doing worse things, so why should we focus on this? Quinnell takes umbrage because he says I called an “ally” and “idiot,” but I never said I was his “ally.” But I’ll take the high road on that one ….

The fact is, Thurman did not disclose to the FDP that she was lobbying on behalf of Miami-Dade County through a company she formed with a partner in Al Cardenas’ lobbying firm. It’s not like she’s a subcontractor, she’s formed an LLC with J. Eric Gould, a partner in Cardenas’ firm, who worked in the Clinton White House and served as counsel to Thurman when she was a member of Congress in the 1990s.

Hmmm, that sounds like a little more than a paid employee. Sounds like a partner.

And why do they need Thurman if they are as hot-snot of a lobbying firm as they say they are:

Our policy experts have served in senior positions in key agencies and entities, including the White House, the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the United States Army, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, national party organizations, and federal campaigns.

Substantive areas of expertise of our attorneys and professionals include Immigration, Labor and Employment, Health Care, International Law, Election Law, Federal Appropriations, Customs Enforcement, and Federal Procurement.

Seems to me that whatever contribution Thurman can make to the lobbying effort would already be pretty well covered in the firm’s Washington, D.C., personnel.

What, exactly is Thurman lobbying for? Quinnell likes to quote the Miami Herald as saying she’s lobbying to get more funds for security for the Port of Miami. Another insightful quote from Quinnell’s radio blog was, “And who’s against increasing security?” Like, who’s against Mom and apple pie?

What kind of security are we talking about here? I don’t think it’s fences and cameras or even bomb-detecting seals, I think it’s the tunnel.

The Port of Miami wants to build a tunnel from its island home under Biscayne Bay to just north of downtown to relieve traffic congestion (read: big stinking cargo trucks and lots of them) in the inner city. It is expected to cost $1 to $1.5 billion. The Florida Department of Transportation has allocated $4 million for a feasibility study. The city pledged $50 million in community redevelopment money, then, when that drew opposition, claimed it could get the $50 million from an unnamed source — for a minute.

That’s why Miami-Dade County needs Thurman and Alcalde & Fay (longtime cruise industry lobbyists) and Greenberg Traurig (Jack Abramoff’s old firm) to lobby Capitol Hill for the really big bucks. And these days the big bucks are in security, not infrastructure development or DOT. Of course, that’s all conjecture, but you read it here first, folks.

The tunnel proposal goes back many years. I remember a joke then-port director Carmen Lunetta used to tell in a broad Italian accent:

These two Italian brothers, Anthony and Luigi, came to me with a proposal to build an underwater tunnel linking the port to the mainland, but their price was way under the nearest bid. I asked them how they could do it so cheaply.

Anthony said, “Well, Luigi, he’s gonna start onna mainland and dig toward the island. Me, I’m gonna start on the island and dig toward the mainland. Then we gonna meet inna middle.”

Lunetta expressed some doubt about the plan, asking what would happen if they didn’t meet exactly in the middle.

Anthony slapped him on the back and said, “Well, Carmen, then you get two tunnels for the price of one!”

But back to Quinnell and his dismissal of my quibbling over Karen Thurman’s dabbling in lobbying with the enemy, point is, Kenneth, that in politics the mere appearance of impropriety is enough.

And those achievements and inroads the Dems have made in Florida over the past two years that Quinnell is quick to lay at Thurman’s feet? I’m more inclined to credit George W. Bush and his cronies for growing the Democratic Party than Thurman’s part-time efforts.

3 Comments

  • July 17, 2007 - 7:24 pm | Permalink

    >Specifically, he resented my using the term “idiots” in my post, though I will note that I never called either one of them idiots, exactly.

    Sure you did. You set up an if-then statement wherein the if specifically and positively applied to us.

    >However, they did say some things that sounded like maybe if you didn’t agree with their position, then you were simply a pure puzzlement to them, like a geek in a sideshow.

    The problem with this interpretation is that it is totally made up. Neither I nor Eddie said any such thing and I know I never thought such a thing. I doubt severely Eddie did, either. Besides, the only part where I said I was baffled was in specific response to Democrats who complained about this. Since you aren’t a Democrat, that obviously wasn’t a reference to you.

    >While expressing extreme puzzlement about why anyone would care about such a non-issue and dismissing the topic as not worthy of his consideration

    Nothing extreme about it, although I was then and am still puzzled by reactions such as yours. In my opinion, it is a non-issue. It certainly was worthy of my consideration, since I discussed it as the second item on the show and had previously posted about it on the blog.

    >it was in a sarcastic, derisive, dismissive tone

    Those are simply incorrect interpretations of the way I spoke about it. There was some sarcasm, but I say everything with sarcasm. Nothing I said was intended to be derisive or dismissive. When I say it’s a non-issue to me thats because it is. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for others to say it is an issue. When I say that I don’t understand the complaints, that’s because I don’t, not because I’m being dismissive.

    >The Republicans are doing worse things, so why should we focus on this?

    You deride this, but you don’t give me any reason to think this approach is wrong.

    >but I never said I was his “ally.” But I’ll take the high road on that one

    I can actually produce an e-mail where you expressed support for FPC and clearly we agree on most of the actual issues. That, to me, makes an ally.

    >The fact is, Thurman did not disclose to the FDP that she was lobbying on behalf of Miami-Dade County

    And, as I expressed in comments at FPC, I agree that was a mistake.

    >Quinnell likes to quote the Miami Herald as saying she’s lobbying to get more funds for security for the Port of Miami.

    I’ve been given no reason not to quote that.

    >Another insightful quote from Quinnell’s radio blog was, “And who’s against increasing security?” Like, who’s against Mom and apple pie?

    Isn’t it?

    >What kind of security are we talking about here?

    Obviously, without any actual evidence, I’m not buying your analysis of the “real” reason for the lobbying.

    >that in politics the mere appearance of impropriety is enough.

    Not to me it isn’t. Impropriety is necessary for me.

    >And those achievements and inroads the Dems have made in Florida over the past two years that Quinnell is quick to lay at Thurman’s feet? I’m more inclined to credit George W. Bush and his cronies for growing the Democratic Party than Thurman’s part-time efforts.

    I actually didn’t “lay that at Thurman’s feet.” I said she had “something to do with it.” Neither I, nor you, know how much impact she has had because we don’t have enough information. I do know that Thurman’s “part-time” efforts consist of 60-80 hours a week.

  • July 18, 2007 - 6:00 am | Permalink

    Kenneth:

    I find it interesting which bits of my post you choose to focus on and which you ignore. I notice you chose not to respond to the section where I quoted you from your radio program as asserting that the Republicans don’t lobby for security and actively lobby against it. But that’s what you said.

    Again, said in a sarcastic, derisive manner, which you say is the way you say everything. Must make interpersonal relationships difficult.

    I’ll tell you what’s wrong with saying that the Repugs are doing worse things, so why should we focus on something like this? Because to be better than they are you have to be better than they are, not just not as bad.

    Also, I notice you skipped over the bit where I noted that Thurman is not just a paid flunky of Cardenas’ firm, she’s actually a partner in an LLC with a partner in Cardenas’ firm. Sounds like a little more of a relationship than just collecting a $3,500 monthly check.

    I’ve been a critic of Karen Thurman since 2005, when I started receiving her insipid e-mails with their misspellings, grammatical errors and more blather than substance. Check it out here: http://www.pensitoreview.com/?s=thurman&Submit=GO

    I’m not asserting that Thurman has bad intentions, just bad judgment, and I also believe she’s in over her head in the important role of Florida Democratic chair. Is that really who you want running the Florida Democratic Party?

    By the way, did you get the port joke?

  • July 18, 2007 - 11:30 pm | Permalink

    >I find it interesting which bits of my post you choose to focus on and which you ignore.

    I could, of course, say the same about you.

    >I notice you chose not to respond to the section where I quoted you from your radio program as asserting that the Republicans don’t lobby for security and actively lobby against it. But that’s what you said.

    I didn’t mention it because there was nothing to say. I said it. It was a joke. You didn’t actually say why you thought that was remarkable, so I didn’t have a response.

    >Again, said in a sarcastic, derisive manner, which you say is the way you say everything.

    I intend sarcasm quite frequently. I only intend derision for enemies. That you take derision from what I say has nothing to do with me, it’s your interpretation based on your own worldview.

    >Must make interpersonal relationships difficult.

    Not in the slightest.

    >I’ll tell you what’s wrong with saying that the Repugs are doing worse things, so why should we focus on something like this? Because to be better than they are you have to be better than they are, not just not as bad.

    Not very good logic. If they are worse, then we aren’t as bad, by definition. And I don’t think what Thurman has done is remotely as bad as what the average Republican does.

    >Also, I notice you skipped over the bit where I noted that Thurman is not just a paid flunky of Cardenas’ firm, she’s actually a partner in an LLC with a partner in Cardenas’ firm. Sounds like a little more of a relationship than just collecting a $3,500 monthly check.

    Skipped over it because it didn’t strike me as remarkable. It establishes that she isn’t working for or with Cardenas directly, something I was already aware of. Unless there is evidence of impropriety, it doesn’t bother me.

    >Is that really who you want running the Florida Democratic Party?

    If I agreed with you, I’d say no, that’s not who I want running the party, but I don’t agree with your assessment.

    >By the way, did you get the port joke?

    Not really.

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