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Monday, October 24, 2016

In theory, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is the state’s elite equivalent of the FBI. In theory, the agency saves its resources for investigating the most serious crimes.

Yet in the Bizarro World created by Gov. Rick Scott, almost nothing in government operates the way it was meant to. Recently the FDLE dispatched an agent to investigate a blogger who had used Beatles lyrics to poke fun at the governor.

The song was not “The Fool on the Hill,” an obvious choice.

Nor was it “Mean Mr. Mustard,” or “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” or “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.”

The number in question was the benign and spacey “Magical Mystery Tour,” from the 1967 album of the same name. It was quoted in a Google Plus post by Daniel Tilson, a Democratic activist and frequent critic of Scott.

Tilson was scoffing at a “tax cut calculator” put on display in the Capitol that showed off the piddling $43 that an average Florida family supposedly would save annually from the governor’s proposed tax changes.

“Gov. Scott’s Magical Mystery Tax Cut Calculator,” Tilson called it, adding a line from the original Lennon-McCartney song: “Coming to take you away, take you away…”

Some person at FDLE (an “analyst,” the agency said) eyeballed those words on Tilson’s blog and perceived a potential threat to the governor. Could somebody be plotting to take him away, take him away…?

Not since Charles Manson got mesmerized by “Helter Skelter” has anyone twisted the words of a Beatles song so ludicrously — and Manson, let’s remember, is crazier than an outhouse rat.

Yet the FDLE, the top crime-busting force in Florida, detected possible ominous undertones in the lyrics of “Magical Mystery Tour.” An agent was promptly sent to interview Tilson.

He wasn’t home, so the female agent left a business card. Tilson said that when he called the number, the agent was polite and good-humored, almost apologetic.

And, honestly, you’ve got to feel sorry for her. You train to be a criminal investigator with the expectation that you’ll be out there tackling real crimes, not hassling opponents of a certain politician in power.

After Tilson wrote online about what happened, the FDLE hastily said the matter was closed. Its statement, in part: “Commissioner (Rick) Swearingen is reviewing the incident and believes FDLE could have better evaluated the post…”

You think?

Swearingen is new to the top job, having been hand-picked by Scott. The entire Cabinet is supposed to participate in the appointment process, but that’s not what really occurred.

The governor wanted to get rid of longtime FDLE chief Gerald Bailey and promote his buddy Swearingen, who was once in charge of Scott’s personal security detail.

Bailey later suggested he was canned because he fought pressure from the governor’s office to use the FDLE for political mischief and meddling. Scott denied that, though he conceded he could have handled Bailey’s dismissal more smoothly.

As a result of the fiasco, the governor and all three Cabinet members have hired a raft of pricey lawyers to defend themselves (and the Cabinet as a whole) in a suit charging that the abrupt and murky dismissal of Bailey violated the Sunshine Law.

That landmark statute requires state government to be conducted in the open, a practice that cramps the covert style of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the other Cabinet members

All their legal fees — possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars — will be covered by taxpayers. The Miami Herald and several major media outlets are among those suing to find out how Bailey got fired.

Meanwhile, Swearingen has said he wasn’t named FDLE commissioner just to be “the governor’s boy,” and vows to walk away from the job if he’s asked to do anything unethical.

Public confidence in the agency’s independence was not bolstered by the misguided “Magical Mystery Tour” probe.

Let’s hope that the FDLE hasn’t opened a permanent Division of Beatles Oversight. Many Floridians who voted for Scott couldn’t be blamed for now humming, “I Should Have Known Better.”

Everybody else is singing “Help!”

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.)

Photo: Chris Sampson via Flickr

  • Budjob

    Oh,the poor,misguided,uninformed,misinformed,fucked up electorate in Florida.It would appear that many of the states have been duped into installing fascist Governors,and legislators.Given the fact that Florida has an abundance of Senior Citizens residing there,maybe the effects of diminishing grey matter are becoming prevalent!

    • Dominick Vila

      …and there are still many who deny the fact that the USA is slowly moving towards becoming a plutocracy. Who would have half a century ago that practices similar to those employed by the KGB, the Gestapo, and other nefarious organizations would flourish in the land of the free.
      BTW, there are still a few old gizzards in Florida whose grey mass is still functioning, and who voted against the re-election of the founder and former CEO of Columbia HCA, the outfit given the largest fine for MEDICARE fraud in U.S. history.

      • Independent1

        Dominick, given that in the latest list of cities in the U.S from the survey group 24/7 Wall St which are the 100 most dangerous to be in; Florida leads all states by having 11 such cities – Scott should be encouraging the FDLE to actually be fighting crime and not chasing after when bloggers use a Beatle’s song to get a point across.

        • jmprint

          Thye don’t know how to balance budgets, just waste tax payer’s money.

      • Joan

        Based on appearance alone it should surprise no one that Scott has no sense of humor or musical appreciation.

    • Daniel Jones

      As being poor, sick, and badly educated directly fucks up people’s brains, those wanting an elevated exceptional elect over the lumpen peasants are unfortunately getting what they want.

  • Alvin Harrison

    This is not unique to Florida unfortunately…cronyism is rampant everywhere there is someone in power and a crony.

    • TZToronto

      One difference between the wannabe state dictators of today and those the the past (I’m pointing at you, Huey Long) is that the historical ones made no bones about their autocratic ambitions. Today’s would-be tyrants spout tax cuts, eliminating corruption, and cutting waste. Of course, the tax cuts never seem to reach the people who need them most, the corruption becomes an expected part of the state government, and the waste that’s cut are the programs that help the poor, the sick, the old and the young. The Florida electorate should adopt Magical Mystery Tour as its official campaign song next time around. . . . “Coming to take you away . . .”

  • FireBaron

    Maybe he should have used “Nowhere Man” instead.

    • Independent1

      I like that! Scott’s head does seem to always be out in space somewhere.

      I also like: “Too Much Monkey Business”. He seems to always have his fingers in something that’s nefarious.

  • Daniel Jones

    If you Floridians would stop caving in to the frigging ads and electing this guy, we wouldn’t have to go through all this.
    Until then, hang tough, stick together. After all–
    “I get by; with a little help from my friends..”

  • CrankyToo

    The Sicilian in me would like to see Rick Scott sleeping in an Octopus’s garden.

  • Wedge Shot

    Some people think that Rick Scott is a master criminal. It appears that he can get away with total nonsense, heading a company that ripped off 1.6 billion dollars from the Federal government and walk away clean. He scares me because he also appears to have zero integrity. He will change what he says and deny all previous utterances.
    His contradictions are legendary.

    • hicusdicus

      Sounds like he should be posting on NM.

    • jmprint

      He scares me, because he looks like a programmed robot.

  • Tony Torres

    Most if not all Floridians knew what kind of Scott was, having a taste of him in his first term. Yet they re-elected the bald headed fart, I want to rub their noses in it so bad but it is not a laughing matter. This fool is a member of cadre of Republican governors with same or similar mentality and that is not a good vision for the US. Until Floridians wake up and show their governor that enough is enough things will stay status quo. I hope there are some in Florida that will not be subjugated,lied,flat-out stolen from and are organizing to combat this menace within them,so next election they will make a difference.