State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala has embarrassed himself twice now with his appalling response to Hurricane Irma. Less than two weeks ago, he stuck his foot in his mouth when he second-guessed Governor Rick Scott‘s decision to evacuate South Florida ahead of the storm. Now he’s flailing about like a yellow fin tuna on the deck of a fishing boat, trying to score cheap political points in the media with a misleading, demagogic appeal in the form of a low-effort press release attacking Florida’s utility companies.

With many Floridians still without electricity a week after Hurricane Irma, the complaints from voters are starting to roll into legislative offices across the state. Latvala isn’t the only one feeling the pressure to do something. Both the Florida House and Senate, trying to appear proactive, created a duplicative, do-nothing committee to “learn” from Irma and “help prepare for future storms” – this despite the fact we already have a fully funded state agency called the Department of Emergency Management whose sole mission already encompasses the full scope of the legislature’s committee, and so much more. Do we really need a bunch of state lawmakers wasting time posturing and grandstanding about hurricane preparation all next spring, when we have an entire state agency filled with experts and dedicated to that explicit purpose?

But I digress. Latvala, not one to be outdone by his colleagues, felt compelled, if not to do more, then at least to say more. 

What he came up with, while equalling his colleagues’ bankrupt committee idea in substance, was much more brazen in style. With perhaps only the slightest hint of shame, Latvala put out a press release touting an insincere and ultimately meaningless gesture: swearing off of political contributions from utility companies, and calling on his colleagues to do the same:

“In my home county of Pinellas, which was by no means the hardest hit area in the state, I heard from residents this week that were still without power. It’s time the utilities stop spending money on political candidates and instead protect the residents of this state. That money may not solve the entire problem, but it will be a good start.  And I’m sure the thousands of Floridians who are still struggling to live without electricity would be more than happy to hear our state’s utilities will stop political donations and instead focus on their welfare and needs.”

The bold emphasis above is my own. What’s so offensive about those comments is that it they are nothing more than politically calculated demagoguery that (barely) gives the illusion that Latvala is doing something to address the complaints of his constituents. In trying to look like a “man of action,” he’s instead exposed himself as a political fraud, at least to those who know better, by not only promoting the false narrative that power companies aren’t actually working on restoring power (demonstrably untrue), instead implying they are doing nothing except giving money to other politicians (but not Latvala himself – also demonstrably untrue).

Worst of all, this a nothing more than a low-effort, insincere initiative by Latvala because it requires him to do literally nothing except order a staffer to type up the press release and email it around. Latvala himself has zero skin in the game. If Jack Latvala were even the slightest bit sincere, he’d take the nearly $100,000 he’s collected from utility companies and affiliated groups for his gubernatorial campaign, and donate that money to a hurricane-relief charity like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity.

Instead, Latvala’s release merely says:

While acknowledging that he’s accepted money from utilities in the past, Latvala says he will not in the future.

Whoopity-doo!  What could be more phony than that?

Other political donors, perhaps seeing this vapid campaign for themselves, have yet to embrace Latvala as a gubernatorial candidate. Aside from an influx of contributions ahead of legislative session early this year, his fundraising has failed to keep pace with his rivals. And while we can expect more big bundles of cash to flow his way just before the 2018 legislative session begins, at least he won’t be getting another dime from the companies that are working day and night to restore power to the state.