The Weston Democrat and minority leader of the Florida House has had a hellish holiday season.
A week ago, Sands opened Monday's edition of the Palm Beach Post to a story about how he allegedly used Democrats' willingness to give to the Florida Democratic Party as a basis for deciding who deserved a prized committee assignment.
The story's a particular punch to the gut because it was an inside job: Sands' own party members gave him up. It appears one anonymous Democrat gave the Post a cell phone message left by a
Sands staffer lawmaker who was making fund raising calls that appeared to offer a Sands' good graces as a reward for generosity, Another state official, Rep. Yolly Roberson of Miami, told the paper that Sands wanted her to give $50,000 to the state party if she wanted to land a spot on the legislature's health care committee. Making matters even worse, the attack came just when Sands, in his capacity as the ranking Democrat, had intensified his attacks on House Speaker Ray Sansom, the Republican from Destin under fire for getting a high-paying job at a the same college he helped win state money. One could argue that Sands shouldn't have criticized Sansom for pay-to-play unless he had a clear conscience.
But that's a flimsy argument. Sansom profits personally from the job he got at the college, which may have been linked to his public work on the college's behalf. Sands was only hustling to get money for the state party, for which he wouldn't have profited personally and which happened to be part of his job as a party leader. Huge difference.
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In any case, this episode wasn't nearly the most destructive one of the month for Sands. In today's Sun-Sentinel, Sands reveals that he lost his life's savings in the Bernard Madoff case.
Sands, who got rich in the mail-order jewelry business, is rich no longer. At age 68, he makes $30,000 per year as a legislator. Now he has to find a full-time job.
Give credit to Sands for going public on this. It takes a lot to admit you've been tricked. In some small way, maybe it helps some of the other victims spread throughout South Florida.
-- Thomas Francis