Monday, June 25, 2007

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

Quite literally, it seems.

The Miami Herald is breaking a story about fishy business deals involving US Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), a rising star in the Democratic Party.
[I]n one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, developer Dennis Stackhouse promised to build a massive biopharmaceutical park, where multinational drug companies and prestigious universities would develop cutting-edge medical advances and Miami's public hospital would provide free healthcare to 150,000 poor people a year.

More than 1,500 high-paying jobs would follow, along with hundreds of millions in investments and tax revenue -- enough to make it the most dramatic economic development project ever seen in Miami-Dade.

This ''is exactly the kind of job-producing investment that we have needed in Liberty City for decades,'' said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a champion of Liberty City and one of the park's most vocal supporters.

Since then, county leaders have invested millions in Stackhouse's biotech project, using public money set aside to help the poor.

Here is what taxpayers received in return: empty lots, dormant earthmovers and piles of dirt and gravel with no sign of the buildings, the biotech companies or the high-tech jobs promised to Liberty City.

Instead, Stackhouse diverted more than $500,000 from the park through double billings and dubious expenses while paying a bevy of political insiders to rally support for the troubled project, a seven-month Miami Herald investigation found.

Among those insiders: former congresswoman Carrie Meek, who received at least $40,000 and a free luxury car from Stackhouse to consult on the project while her son -- U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek -- moved to secure federal dollars for the developer; and County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, who landed thousands in campaign cash and a $10,000 donation to a nonprofit he runs.

Along the way, county leaders failed to detect questionable spending, overlooked chronic delays and neglected to vet the developer's track record -- even while Liberty City sank deeper into economic despair, devoid of decent housing and badly needed jobs.

The story doesn't seem to have garnered much attention beyond the Herald, but according to sources I have within the Florida Congressional delegation, it is not being taken lightly. If this turns out to be serious, it's a problem. Meek is only in his third term, but is a young Democrat leaders have been grooming for a big role in the party--as evidenced by him receiving a much coveted position on the Ways & Means Committee. This is precisely the type of story Democrats don't need to be dealing with right now.

1 comment:

Capt. Fogg said...

Miami Herald columnist and writer Carl Hiaasen is quoted as saying that the Old West didn't die, it retired to Florida.

The level of brazen corruption here in Florida truly seems like something from another century.