It’s not just Halliburton living large on the taxpayer dole. Florida’s First Lady recently enjoyed the prize behind Door No. 1: an all-expense paid trip to Japan, along with her personal assistant and chef.
The trade and culture mission made by Bush’s wife, Columba, her executive assistant, Gail Campbell, and governor’s mansion chef Josh Butler hasn’t yielded business deals for the state thus far, but Butler says that from his perspective, the trip was a success because he returned with Japanese recipes to use at the governor’s mansion. He said he also touted attributes of Florida grapefruit.
Well, there you go. He took the time to mention Florida grapefruit. That’s got to be worth, what, $13,000? Let’s hope so, because that’s how much it cost. For starters anyway.
Three state security agents also accompanied Bush, the sister-in-law of the president.
Citing security concerns, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement declined to say how much it cost the state to provide security.
But what’s money when it comes to touring Japan? Isn’t having fun what life’s about, really?
Among other things, the Bush group visited a Buddhist temple and its rock garden, participated in a tea ceremony in a tea master’s house, ate dinner at one of Kyoto’s top restaurants, and attended a geisha performance.
But not everyone is that thrilled with this particular line item.
Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, a watchdog group, said details of the trip, especially the inclusion of the chef, raise questions about whether taxpayers’ money was used wisely. “It kind of points out the fact that you can basically justify anything to go on a free trip to a far and exotic land.”
Wilcox said he also was curious why the governor’s office did not post any information about the trip on the governor’s Web site, which details minutia of his wife’s activities.
“You would hope there would be some explanation of the trip and what the state gained from it,” Wilcox said.
No doubt that explanation will be forthcoming, along with all the possible reasons for the Halliburton overcharges. In case you missed it, here are a few details from USA Today:
o $617,000 for double-billed soft drinks.
o $1 million in excessive laundry charges.
o More than $560,000 for unneeded heavy equipment, including tractors and trailers.
o $2.2 million for cargo aircraft and $7.6 million for freight costs that “appeared to be duplicate.”
o $1.4 million to pay 146 workers at a facility that had only 62.
Meanwhile, Florida Republicans are all agog over the state Democratic Party’s accounting errors, including a failure on the part of former chair Scott Maddox to pay $2,600 in property taxes. The house in question was bought from and then rented to the FDP’s soon to be former bookkeeper by Maddox’s company, Spectrum Resources. Debbie Griffin-Bruton announced her resignation after admitting she hadn’t kept up with her job duties in the months following her husband’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and eventual placement in long-term care.
Courthouse records indicate Griffin-Bruton and her husband, John Bruton, sold their home to Spectrum Resources for $135,000 in the fall of 2002, when Maddox was mayor and she was financial director of the City Parks and Recreation Department. Knowing Bruton, a former city policeman, was suffering from Alzheimer’s, Maddox said he allowed them to stay in the home for a token rent – which he said he waived completely last year when John Bruton went into long-term care.
Maddox said the Brutons were old friends of his family and that Debbie Griffin-Bruton could continue living in the home despite the current tax penalties and fines…
He said the county sent tax bills to his previous address on Plantation Road, although he moved from that home last June and sold it in April…
“We got no notice about it [the Bruton house] being in arrears,” Maddox told the Democrat.
Although the tax amount is small and other Maddox real estate ventures are up-to-date on the tax rolls…the property-tax tardiness could be ammunition for the kind of attack advertising and negative phone banks that spring up in the late days of a campaign.
Oh I don’t know. Do ya think? I mean, if no one minds Columba jetting to Japan and Dick Cheney’s outrageous stock dividends, why would they care about something like this? But I bet they do.