Much of the analysis of the resignation of Florida's Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll last week is being framed as yet another ethics failure of Governor Scott's administration and the need for campaign financing reform and better financial and business disclosure by public officials.
For example, in a recent editorial in the Miami Herald, both GOP and Democratic legislators were challenged to change the tolerance of turning a blind eye to the connections that politicians make by serving as consultants to Florida businesses, even while in office.
"Will they learn from her resignation and push for long-needed ethics and campaign finance reforms or continue to go about business as usual, pocketing special-interest cash in a tangled web of public deceit?"
Carroll, who served as a consultant to a charity accused of running a $300 million gambling ring in 49 Internet parlors disguised as a veteran's charity, gave notice after she was questioned by federal investigators. While not been charged with any crime so far, she is also being accused of not filing proper financial discourses.
But while focusing on such much-needed ethic reforms in Tallahassee is fine, there's another, much more important and glaring lesson to be learned, one which editorial boards and political pundits share culpability in as well.
Jennifer Carroll was truly unqualified to serve as Lt. Governor of Florida from the get go. In terms of true experience, balancing the ticket geographically, and if proper vetting had been done or not ignored to a certain extent, there were a number of much better candidates for the job.
FDR's first vice president, John Nance Garner, once described the VP job, whose major job description is basically one which involves waiting to succeed a dead President, as "not worth a bucket of warm piss,"-and that could be said for the position of Lt. Governor as well.
Yet, a good VP or lieutenant governor is still important to have. Traditionally, a VP or lieutenant governor was picked with the idea to embrace a qualified rival who could bring political prestige and votes to a ticket, to balance the ticket in geographic terms, and to nurture a future leader of state.
The picking of Geraldine Ferrero by Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984 changed that tradition forever.
In terms of the traditional qualifications, she, as a relatively unknown, untested, and mediocre Congresswoman, was far from qualified to run for VP, and in part actually brought about the ticket's defeat (they only won in one state) because of ethical concerns about her campaign finances and tax returns and about the questionable business dealings of her husband (all of which would have disqualified her from the run under traditional circumstances.
But being a woman was the total, overriding factor in the selection-and the precedent was set.
And remember the candidacy of Sarah Palin for VP? Same considerations, same true disqualifications in terms of ineligibility, same result. Do I need to write more?
The only true reason Carroll was picked to run was because she had a pedigree for a state GOP party desperate to avoid looking like a "white man's club" in terms of the Ferrero political model of picking candidates: She was female, an Caribbean American, Christian, a veteran-and even a former Republican legislator. What a perfect counterpart to a white, very wealthy, political newbie looking to buy his way to the Governor's mansion.
Now, with polls showing that his reelection is in serious trouble, particularly in terms of support from women and Florida's Hispanic community, the search is on by Governor Scott for a replacement and to put this controversy to bed. Most, if not all, the names being offered up are once again women, but this time, many of Hispanic descent.
Again, the Ferrero syndrome is in play, and it looks like the same mistake is going to be made once again by both journalists and the Florida GOP about how a Lt. Governor should be picked.
An example: A column in the Sunshine State News cited Senator Anitere Flores as the perfect candidate: "... choosing Flores could help him stop the bleeding with Hispanics, women and voters in Southeastern Florida."
A quick Google search finds that Flores has the same kind of questionable ethical ties to charter schools as Carroll had to internet parlors. She acts both as president of an Academica managed charter school in Doral while in Tally serving on a Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K - 12 Appropriations that's pushing to give more public monies for charter schools.
Surely, a more detailed negative vetting would disqualify Flores under traditional terms, but in the end, in this political climate, just being a woman and Hispanic will surely override such ethical considerations.
We live in an age where political parties as well as journalists and pundits are overly obsessed with the racial, ethnic, and religious lineage of a candidate both in terms of suitability and electability.
The real lesson of the Carroll resignation: It's time to go back to basics and vet and produce a better breed of politicos not based on their lineage, but on their true qualifications and experience-and their ethics too.
This article appeared in Florida Squeeze on March 21, 2013.