Florida Congressman Bill McCollum is not a politician anyone ever accused of being nonpartisan. As one of the thirteen Republicans who argued the case for impeachment before the U.S. Senate last year, he was having the time of his life bashing President Clinton (and with those glasses and haircut, he reminded us of a nerdy kid who enjoyed telling on his classmates). Now he's running for an open Senate seat, on a conservative platform of "less government, lower taxes, and more freedom."
But in a speech last week at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Hotel, McCollum sounded almost like a liberal. An ardent foe of environmental regulation, he expressed support for a major federal role in protecting the Everglades. His true colors came out only when he advocated the elimination of capital gains and inheritance taxes, which mostly benefits wealthy people.
But McCollum wasn't the only one camouflaging his views that night. The moderator of the program, Carlos Muhletaler, a coordinator for the Florida Citizens For a Sound Economy (FCSE), repeatedly told the audience of about 80 that his group is "nonpartisan" and works with politicians of all political stripes. He has to say that because the group and its affiliated foundation are tax-exempt, not-for-profit organizations -- in other words, subsidized by taxpayers -- and therefore barred from supporting political candidates.
When asked what political candidates have spoken at FCSE gatherings, Muhletaler mentioned only McCollum and the other GOP Senate contender, Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher. Has the group invited the Democratic Party candidate for Senate, Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson? "No," replied Muhletaler. "We're only interested in economic issues." Yeah, conservative Republican ones.
Typical daily journalism. One lawyer says this, another says the opposite, and the reader's left clueless. But this case is about nudity. Not a topic normally riddled with ambiguity -- unless, that is, you're a reporter at The Palm Beach Post.
In two recent Post reports on a dispute between Crystal's Bar and Grill and the puritans who run the "village" of North Palm Beach, the major point of contention was whether the dancers at the club, well, get naked. North Palm Beach claims that breasts are being illegally bared in the name of commerce, while Crystal's says that the ladies at the club are covered. Real journalists, like us, would go beyond the rhetoric and dig deeper until the truth was revealed.
We, unfortunately, will have to side with Crystal's on this one. While the nightclub has all the trappings of one of South Florida's leading growth industries -- wildly expensive beer, a gold pole around which to writhe, and lots of cosmetically enhanced cleavage -- all of the pertinent body parts seemed to be at least partially covered. Our leering reporter spotted not one nipple or pubic hair.
What's that you say? Perhaps the sneaky folks at Crystal's are hiding the straight skin for people with more bread than a lousy New Times hack? We went deeper. The $30, three-song lap dance was beyond our editorial expense budget, but we spied on the one-on-one action taking place in the back room. Lots of grinding, but there appeared to be a layer of clothing between the ladies and their patrons at all times. Which leaves us with one remaining question: Why would any horny reporter want to go there?
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