Florence Snyder takes me to task over my defense of Chris Clark, aide to Senate President Don Gaetz

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Context Florida Publisher Peter Schorsch got it wrong—dead wrong—when he suggested in his September 5 SaintPetersblog post that reporter envy might taint coverage of “the Chris Clark imbroglio.”

Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas broke the story that Florida’s power elite has spent the week chewing over, praying over, and kvetching over.

Klas’ reported that Clark makes megabucks as a political consultant, servicing clients he also deals with in his $150,000 day job as Senate President Don Gaetz’ chief of staff.

That was news to the 99%, most of whom think that $150,000 is real money, and more than enough to purchase all of a legislative staffer’s time and loyalty to the public that picks up the tab. 

In 21st century Florida, everything’s legal and there’s no such thing as a conflict of interest.  Taxpayers, and even the press, have become  desensitized to public servants who hang out their influence-peddling shingles at 5 o’clock on the day they cash their last government paycheck. 

But Clark’s real-time revolving door is something new. 

Schorsch, himself a political consultant, is open-minded about Clark’s “hybrid job” and rightly suggests that if this is the new normal, some public dialogue is in order.

“As we continue to discuss this story, a better sense of proportion is needed,” Schorsch wrote.

Nobody could argue against “proportion,” but Schorsch goes a phrase too far when he posits that proportion “may not come from envious reporters making little more than Highway Patrolmen.”

Schorsch was blogging from a family vacation and might not have intended the juxtaposition of Klas and the Green Eyed Monster.

But plenty of Tallahassee’s movers, shakers, and legends in their own minds do confuse real reporters like Klas with the burgeoning population of reporters turned media lobbyists.

Lobbying the press is big business, and an out-of-control cancer on the body politic.  As the News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam showed in a groundbreaking story this week, professional press wranglers have been redefined as an “expected expenditure” for anyone who wants anything from government. “Conduits to the media”, Kam reports, have become a routine cost of doing business. 

Special interests will pay through the nose for ex-reporters willing to call themselves “story brokers” and peddle someone’s party line to their old colleagues. 

Klas is lucky, and so are we, that what’s left of the Miami Herald will pay her a wage she can live on to find out things that Senate Presidents and their retinues don’t want you to know.

Klas could have cashed in her credibility for a Chris Clark-size income in “media lobbying” years ago…..if she were the envious type.