Put down your margarita for a second and imagine a South Florida without bad guys. No scumbags, hucksters, shysters, megalomaniacs, sleazeballs, or assholes. Nothing but peaceful existence, marked by occasional strong weather. Rolling tides and the buzz of insects and not a dollar to be made. Almost paradise.
That place may have existed, sometime back in the 19th Century. Then Napoleon Bonaparte Broward started carving out vast fields of real estate from the soggy swamps. Ever since, schemers have been quick to sell off every bit of Florida they could claim and then some. Soon enough, South Florida was the con-artist capital of the world. Still is.
This year, we saw the Broward Sheriff's Office and Donald Trump replacing law and politics with glitzy show. Langerado and the Miami Dolphins promised great shows but failed to deliver. Political climbers like Allen West distracted us from real issues with scare tactics. And lax enforcement by a vast, underfunded bureaucracy — the Department of Children and Families — allowed one of the most tragic child-abuse cases in history. Here, then, are the 12 worstest of our worst, those who used 2011 to promise us sunshine and traded it for an undrained swamp.
1. Allen West
The congressman uses his national platform for a war fought with hate.
U.S. Rep. Allen West is a Tea Party darling who defends tax breaks for the wealthy and called U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz "despicable." But that's not why he's on this list. No, the congressman from Plantation is frightening because voters handed him a national political platform, and he uses it to spout hatred.
In 2004, West was forced to resign from his post as an Army lieutenant colonel because he fired a pistol into a barrel that was currently being occupied by an Iraqi detainee's head. Military investigators called this aggravated assault, but to some people, it made West a hero.
The congressman says America is at war against a "totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology, and it is called Islam." When a representative from the Council on American-Islamic Relations tried to question him at a town hall meeting, West cut him off. "You attacked us," West said.
A decade after 9/11, West caters to America's ugliest fears about Muslims. On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, he didn't talk about the killing of Osama bin Laden or mention al Qaeda. He talked about continuing the war on "Islamic totalitarianism."
History will not remember West's opinions on Medicaid privatization or tax breaks. It will remember him as a politician who tried to pass off religious hatred as normal political discourse.
2. Rick Scott
There's a reason they call him Gov. Skeletor.
Running the company that committed the largest health-care fraud in American history might send some people to prison. Rick Scott ended up in the governor's mansion.
Since taking office in January, Slick Rick has angered people from all walks of life — police officers, teachers, advocates for the disabled. Violating the U.S. Constitution appears to be his favorite hobby. With the support of the Republican-led Legislature, he tried to privatize most of the prisons in the southern part of the state and drug-test welfare recipients. Both measures are temporarily on hold after Florida judges found them unconstitutional.
But Scott has succeeded in other efforts: making it harder for felons to regain their voting rights, privatizing Medicaid (pending approval by the feds), and killing a state program that buys land for public parks. In December, he announced a proposal to slash $2 billion in Medicaid funding. He says the money saved would help restore some of the dough he previously slashed from public schools. Yet hospital officials say it would be devastating to institutions that serve poor patients. Robbing health care from poor people to help school kids. Scott is a regular Robin Hood.
3. Jeff and Chris George
The brothers built a pill-mill empire at the expense of addicts.
Back in 2007, Jeff and Chris George were 27-year-old fraternal twins with criminal records and a desire to get rich. According to a federal indictment, a renegade doctor helped them start a $40-million pain-pill business, pushing South Florida's adult-candy industry into high gear.
Patients in search of highs from the prescription drug oxycodone scrambled for spots in line outside the George brothers' five clinics. According to prosecutors, the brothers ran modern-day assembly lines: At one clinic, one of Jeff's old pals was set up in a mobile unit behind a strip club, where he made the necessary MRIs, pictures of organs that would "prove" a patient was truly injured and thus justify prescriptions for the strong, addictive pills. Inside, doctors would rubber-stamp prescriptions, earning the clinics about 50 grand per day.