In defense of Jim Rimes

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A defense of Jim Rimes, the uber political operative under fire for tabling his lucrative lobbying career to go to work for Senate President Don Gaetz, could begin and end with this one simple fact: there is likely no bigger fan of the Counting Crows than Jim Rimes.  Of all the successful bands which came up during the 90’s — DMB, Nirvana, Pearl Jam — Rimes went with Adam Duritz and Co. You just have to respect that decision, even if you disagree with Rimes’ politics.

Seriously though, my generous friend Jim Rimes — and there are few more generous, gregarious souls than Jimmy Rimes — is taking undeserved flak from Capitol Press Corp members barking up the wrong tree.

On Christmas, the Times-Union’s Matt Dixon, um, reported that Rimes hire appeared to be at odds with Gaetz’ ethics reform push because the move represents just the kind of “revolving door” scenario Gaetz would like to see eliminated. Dixon peppers his story with quotes from the usual suspects, like Integrity Florida’s Ben Wilcox, whose arse is so tight he must twist off diamonds.

Attempting to make a case that’s just not there, Dixon writes that Rimes dropped his lobbying clients, which include AT&T, the Chamber of Commerce and Home Depot, “less than a week before his hire with the Senate was publicly announced.”

How much time would be sufficient between Rimes ‘dropping’ his clients and going to work in the Senate? Would two weeks have sufficed? A month? Was Rimes suppose to take care of this business during the heat of the campaign season, when he was hard at work earning the well-deserved reputation he has as one of the state’s preeminent political consultants?

But, Dixon contends, “In a city where access is key, having someone on the inside can be an advantage.”

The inside here is the inside of the Senate Majority Office, not some key committee. Yes, Rimes will be working in close proximity to Senate President Gaetz, but not in a policy-oriented position that may have benefit his clients.

But all of this is beside the important points.

The first is: Jim Rimes is no Steve MacNamara or at least the version of MacNamara which haunted the Governor’s Office last year. Dixon and Co. are painting with too broad a brush when they try to color Rimes as some sort of  updated version of MacNamara. As anyone and everyone who knows Rimes can and would attest, he has not one scintilla of the ego that MacNamara has.

Second, Dixon is way off base when he contends that Rimes has a ‘blemish on his resume’ because he made $2 million in charges on an American Express card linked to the Republican Party of Florida. Dixon writes it up as that the charges included “thousands for blocks of hotel rooms, private jets and cellphone bills related to party events.” Explain to me where the scandal in that is. Rimes was the executive director of the party. It was his responsibility to book hotels, charter planes and  pay cellphone bills. Not one person connected to this “scandal” has ever said Rimes did anything other than his job.

Third, and most important, Dixon’s reporting, as well as that of Mary Ellen Klas, who earlier reported that “legislative leaders handed out hefty pay raises to many of their top staff and newly hired talent” (including Rimes) demonizes those who leave the private sector for public service — all while taking dramatic pay cuts. State government operates and would operate a lot better when the best and the brightest, of which Jim Rimes can be described, are working inside the halls of power and not just visiting them.

Certainly there are wanton cases of ethical abuses involving “revolving door” scenarios, but those issues do not apply to Rimes. Instead of worrying about the revolving door, state government should be opening the door to such a capable and talented staffer.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.