By Jim Bleyer
The Tampa Bay Times’ alleged expert on election laws, Mark Herron, has faced ethical challenges and has political relationships with candidates favored by the St. Petersburg-based paper.
And he may have cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000.
The Tallahassee lawyer has been at the center of the creation and operation of many political action committees. The PACs have been an incredible income producer for him.
He is also allegedly involved in the rampant corruption prevalent in the municipal insurance industry. A majority of cities all over Florida have no choice but to buy such insurance.
Herron is considered a power broker who has been accused of manipulating and comingling PAC funds for his personal gain. He, of course, denies it.
Herron, with the oxymoronic sobriquet of “ethics attorney,” also sided with the Times’ former darling, disgraced State Sen. Jack Latvala, the serial sexual harrasser. Herron noted that Latvala’s accusers would have to come forward publicly or else he would be exonerated. That would be traumatic for the victims who submitted signed affadavits to the Florida Senate.
In the end, none had to testify publicly. Latvala resigned after at least a half dozen women accused him of predatory behavior.
The Times had Herron weigh in on a Tampa Bay Beat article that accused the Jane Castor mayoral campaign of disseminating misleading information to Tampa voters.
Having never met a sinking ship it didn’t board with gusto, the Times wasted no time telegraphing it is in the tank for Castor, the former controversial Tampa police chief. She has five opponents including former county commissioner Ed Turanchik and City Councilmen Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen.
The election is more than ten months away but that didn’t stop the Times last year from priming the pump early for Rick Baker, the eventual loser in the St. Petersburg mayoral race.
The Tampa BayTimes article alleged a “whisper campaign” involving the Castor campaign finance filings. The campaign flatly denied any wrongdoing. However, the campaign has yet to deny that they misled voters into thinking Castor had raised “over $250,000” in the first two weeks of her campaign.
“The numbers are humbling,” Castor told FloridaPolitics.com about the $250,000 from “over 300 donors.” Such numbers would be humbling (and impressive) if they were true. But they were not even close to being true, and Castor was instead caught in a humble lie. Her support troop media then changed the subject using strawman tactics involving “flubbed campaign filings” allegations through a “whisper campaign.”
The allegations of the whisper campaign can’t be evaluated until the next campaign finance report in June, Therefore, an extremely cynical person might conclude that the only thing flubbed was a faux whisper campaign manufactured by Castor supporters in an effort to generate diversionary coverage beneficial to her campaign.
The above document reveals Herron’s business dealings with Castor’s partner Ana Cruz. This doesn’t exactly qualify him as a disinterested party that can offer an impartial opinion.
In fact, the Cruz and Herron relationship dates back more than a decade. They both were instrumental in dislodging and replacing a Democratic nominee for the Florida House in 2008.
In 2016, a PAC for which Herron was the registered agent was accused of dirty tactics in a Democratic primary in Dade County. Herron had nothing to say to the media on that occasion.
Moreover, Herron’s meddling in the 2000 Bush-Gore recount may have cost Gore the presidency. From Vanity Fair:
Mark Herron, a Gore-team lawyer in Tallahassee, inadvertently made matters worse for his own side. On November 15, he sent out a long memo on rules governing absentee ballots to the Democratic lawyers positioned at each of the 67 county canvassing boards. A copy of the memo somehow found its way to a Republican law firm across the street from Herron’s office. Next thing he knew, the Republicans were quoting his careful recitation of Florida election law to support their claim that Democrats wanted to disenfranchise brave Americans in uniform.
You can read Herron’s infamous memo here.
Gore wasn’t the only loser due to the recount. Herron was dismissed from the Akerman Senterfitt law firm for his participation in the hot mess.
The Herron-Cruz-Castor-Tampa Bay Times relationship becomes even more incestuous.
Herron is attorney for Gwen Graham whom the Times supports in its “news” pages for governor. Graham’s father, Bob Graham, sits on the board of the Poynter Foundation, parent of the Times.