By Jim Bleyer
Tampa mayoral candidate David Straz has embroiled himself in another hot issue, this one of interest on both sides of the bay.
In response to a question from Tampa Bay Beat, Straz denied he is a member of the cabal of $1.5 million investors recruited by the Poynter Institute/Tampa Bay Times to bail out the failing daily and benefit from its influence peddling.
Those multi-millionaires identified as investors have enjoyed Times support for their government subsidized projects, personal businesses, and right-wing political objectives. The favorable ink spills over from the editorial pages onto the news section.
The seven investors thus far identified are all wealthy men who have given heavily to Republican causes and candidates including Donald Trump and Rick Scott. Between one and three investors remain unknown to the public. Straz checks off all the criteria to join the favored clique.
”The Times offered the opportunity, I looked at it and said “no,” Straz proudly proclaimed. “I felt it was inappropriate.”
He wants points for not accepting what amounts to a legal bribe. The average Tampa voter is not impressed.
Instead, Straz has a tremendous public relations problem brought on by both himself and the Times’ “for sale” sign. The truth rests with one of three possibilities: Straz was never asked to be an investor and, to be perceived as both a major player and noble, claims he refused a non-existent offer; Straz was approached to be an investor and accepted, or, as he stated, was asked and refused.
Since Poynter/Times announced on June 30 that it would peddle its influence to local elites, the media entity declared it would have no comment on any undisclosed investors or offers. The one exception: Bill Edwards, the controversial St. Petersburg entrepreneur who employed mayoral candidate Rick Baker. The Times disavowed Edwards as an investor as it spectacularly and unethically promoted Baker’s cataclysmic campaign.
Let’s suppose that Straz honestly recounted the facts: that he refused ao accept The Times offer to “invest” $1.5 million in a hopelessly losing operation. Why would the Times believe Straz would be amenable to bribery? All those approached are wealthy pro-Trump Republicans who have shown a penchant for trying to gain concessions from local government.
The Poynter/Times targeting of Straz indicates they deemed him susceptible to forking over baksheesh for favorable treatment. His blathering about refusing to “invest” in a flagrantly amoral arrangement is a public relations gaffe of the first order.
Straz is on the receiving end of awful advice from the tiny cabal that is promoting him. Instead of providing voters with absolutely no insight on the weighty issues facing Tampa and bragging about not buying favorable news treatment, he should be doing the opposite.