Nadine Smith

How the 'Rent Boy' Scandal Brought Down a Far-Right Favorite

Filed By Nadine Smith | August 26, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: adoption rights, election campaigns, Equality Florida, Florida, gay parents, Rekers

Bill McCollum is still paying for George Rekers.Lucien1.jpg

In a stunning defeat, Bill McCollum lost the 2010 Florida Republican Primary by 3% despite having the full support of the Christian Family Council, Florida's Republican party establishment and prominent national Republican figures, including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Tea Party leader Dick Armey.

Why? Two words - George Rekers.

You don't have to believe me! Just ask the guy who beat him, Rick Scott. When the latest polls were showing McCollum with a 10 point lead heading into the Primary Election, Scott spent the last of his $50 million investment making sure that the Rekers scandal was the last thing every Florida Republican heard about before heading to the polls.

Back in early May, the Miami New Times broke a sordid tale about George Rekers, a hypocritical homophobe-for-hire caught returning from a European vacation with a male prostitute. Reker's was Bill McCollum's star witness in his effort to defend Florida's law banning adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents - the only such law in the nation.

In the days and months after the story broke, Equality Florida worked tirelessly to ensure that the bigger picture was being told - that the real scandal wasn't about Reker's sexual massages or apparent self-loathing, but rather that Florida's Attorney General Bill McCollum paid Rekers $120,000 in taxpayer money even though Rekers was a long-discredited ideologue. Two courts had already deemed him 'worthless' as an expert witness.

From the beginning of this scandal, McCollum has sought to dodge the truth and duck his responsibility.

Public records requests showed that despite his attempts to blame the hiring on others, McCollum personally vouched for Rekers and aggressively advocated that he be hired over the initial objections of the cash-strapped Department of Children & Families.

By digging through invoices and expenditures, Equality Florida discovered that McCollum ignored DCF's spending cap and the terms of the written agreement with Rekers and doubled his pay from $60,000 to $120,000.

Try as he might, McCollum never escaped questions about his poor judgment made crystal clear by the George Reker's scandal. He was dogged by reporters and hounded by questions in public forums.

Make no mistake, Rick Scott is no prize but McCollum's defeat is something worth savoring especially after his homophobic flailing for votes in the final weeks of the campaign.

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It's hard to pinpoint the 'lowest point' in Florida politics this year, but Bill McCollum made a mad dash for the title as Election Day approached.

In an interview with Florida Baptist Witness, McCollum doubled down on his anti-gay rhetoric, proposing that all gay and lesbian people - already barred from adopting in Florida - should now be banned from serving as foster parents as well. Rick Scott held back slightly, but basically agreed with McCollum's position.

This was political pandering in its ugliest form. McCollum doesn't even appear to believe what he said. He's had a gay dad on his election team. His campaign finance chair has a daughter who is a lesbian mom to his beloved grandkids. He doesn't seem to have a problem with the moral fitness, character or ability to role model of the people close to him.

But McCollum showed, in a political dogfight, he's willing to throw gay families in Florida under the bus in hopes of scrounging a few more hard-right primary voters.

Let's be clear about what McCollum is still proposing. He would take children out of homes where they are currently thriving to throw them to group homes or hand them to strangers.

This is not hypothetical. Florida's anti-gay adoption ban is at the center of a lawsuit right now. A Miami judge has declared it unconstiutional and an apellate court is expect to decide any week now. McCollum's lawyers have vowed, if they are successful in defending the existing adoption ban, to immediately remove Martin Gill's sons from his care, even if it means splitting the brothers up and placing them separately for adoption with strangers. In court, every child welfare advocate who has worked with these boys testified that removing them from Martin's home would cause irreparable harm. Let that sink in. The state knows they will permanently harm these children and our tax dollars are still being spent to inflict this damage.

It's hard to believe that our state could perpetrate this kind of violence on families in this day and age, but there it is.

On the campaign trail, Bill McCollum invoked his religious beliefs in front of conservative audiences then backs away when asked by reporters if that is what he will base his decisions upon. Here are the fact that McCollum chooses to ignore: All reputable child advocacy organization in the nation have agreed that sexual orientation is irrelevant to being a good parent. The only 'expert' Bill McCollum was able to find to support his position in the Gill case last year was the discredited George Rekers. Rekers' testimony had been dismissed as useless by judges in Arkansas and Florida long before he was discovered to have hired a young male "escort" from rentboy.com earlier this year. He had been discredited long before McCollum insisted, over the objections of his own staff, on paying Rekers an unjustifiable amount of money, $120,000.

Bill McCollum played politics this time with the lives of children and families across our state. It isn't driven by faith, it is driven by politics. Perhaps now that he and his advisors have some time on their hands, they can pinpoint the exact moment he sold his soul for votes that never arrived.


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One word. "Good."

I'd like to add two extra words though just for good measure. "Fuck him."

Hey Bil,
Thanks for keeping this story in the public eye via Bilerico. Now we have to stop Rick Scott.

Sow here does Scott stand on the issues?

Regan DuCasse | August 27, 2010 6:53 AM

Florida.
This is the state that took an adolescent girl from her biological lesbian mom and her partner she'd been raised by all her life, and put her in the custody of her father, a convicted murderer of his first wife who never knew this child.

This state will do insane things rather than leave gay parents in peace who do right by either their own children, or the children in their care.
Florida has a shit load of children who are wards of the state. They can't afford to turn down ANY compassionate and competent adults who are willing and able to adopt.

The welfare of the children is the impetus behind such fuckedupness?
Yeah. Right.

Rick Scott's campaign did put out one flyer "Sex, lies, videotape" to remind voters about McCollum's connection with the rent-boy scandal. But I doubt it was a decisive issue. I didn't spot any TV ads about it. Rather, I think McCollum's flip-flop on the Arizona immigration law swayed many more voters. Also, the torrent of negative ads that McCollum fired against Scott ended up making him a sympathetic underdog. Scott wisely focused on jobs, touting a vague plan to create "700,000 jobs in 7 years." Equality Florida did do an effective role in spotlighting McCollum's sordid role in the Gill case early on, but I don't believe it endorsed anyone in the Republican primary.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | August 29, 2010 2:47 PM

Fair points to raise Tom but the story was everywhere even before it became Rick Scott's final push message.

Google "Rekers McCollum and $120,000" and you'll see how ubiquitous the coverage really was in Florida and nationally. Even conservative radio was taking McCollum to the woodshed right along with Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olberman, and the NY Times.

That doesn't include the Daily Show and Colbert or others who focused on the Rekers Rentboy angle entirely.

McCollum could not put the issue behind him. It was a question that dogged him at every public forum and even after cabinet meetings.

Equaltiy Florida PAC definitely did not endorse either candidate. Rick Scott is no prize and our work is cut out for us in Florida even without McCollum on the ballot in November

Pour nous,la vie est gaie. Pour elle "mccollum" la vie c'est l'enfer.