City Council and the JEA scandal: Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Yesterday the City Council Rules Committee voted 4-3 to subpoena Mayor Curry’s former political consultant, Tim Baker as part of the Council’s investigation into the attempt to sell JEA.

Mr. Baker is not happy with this decision and promises to take his fight to the Supreme Court. Strange response since Mr. Baker states he has done nothing wrong. If that is the case, why won’t Mr. Baker talk?

I think I know why.

After becoming deeply involved in the dark world of politics during the tea party days, it became clear who was really in charge of most candidates. It was the donors and the campaign consultants. If the candidate leaned on their expertise too much and was a weak candidate, they could easily be led astray from their own moral foundation. Inexperience in the political world puts a candidate at the mercy of their campaign consultant and some consultants take advantage of that weakness.

There are wonderful donors who give for the right reasons – to save their city, state or country from bad laws and legislation. There are also big political donors who use their influence to get special favors and deals from the candidates. We all know that now as we watch the world unravel this information at the highest levels of our government.

But what isn’t talked about as much is how big of an influence a campaign consultant has on a candidate. First and foremost, they have all the dirty secrets about the candidate because they ask them on Day One — “Do you have any dirt on you that an be used against you by the opposition?” Candidates spill the beans to their consultant and they strategize about any opposition that might happen because of that “dirt.” And if the consultant isn’t a “good guy” they can use that dirt against their very own candidate if they need to.

There are also good campaign consultants who believe their client is smart and although inexperienced in the political world, they pull their wisdom together and work as a team to win. They do not use dark and dirty tactics to win. They win with a clean campaign.

That is why this subpoena is so important. It brings to light that dark world of political campaigns and helps voters become more aware of the questions they should be asking their favorite candidate, “Who is your political consultant and who are your biggest donors?”

I did that a few months ago and the candidate told me the name of his consultant. I told the candidate I could not give him money or publicly support him because of his decision to use that firm. I explained how that firm had treated another candidate and viciously lied about him to help another guy win. The firm destroyed the reputation of a good man and I would have nothing to do with that firm. He told me that was politics and I told him, “It doesn’t have to be that way. Campaign consultants can be good guys and good guys can win.”

I’m not saying this person I met with is not a good guy. He is. Unfortunately, his fear of using a “nice” consultant vs a bird-dog consultant has tainted his view of why he got into politics to begin with and swayed his thinking. He is hanging out with the wrong guys and it’s showing. The longer he hangs out with them, the easier it will be for him to forget where he came from. It’s an example of the old saying, “Hang out with dogs, get up with fleas.”

We will be keeping an Eye on the fight to get Mr. Baker to speak and spill the beans about his part in the JEA scandal. We will also be watching the city council members who are “beholden” to Mr. Baker because they used him during their campaigns. We hope the flea bites will not taint their moral compass and they will remember from whence they came and why they chose to serve the people of Jacksonville. Otherwise, they should wear their flea collars to identify the reason for their decision.

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives


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