Pity Bill McCollum. If his news releases are any indication, our congressman and wannabe senator is being dragged kicking and screaming into the world of money politics -- something he would never do on his own. He is complaining that Florida 2000, a joint committee set up by Democratic candidate Bill Nelson and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was unfairly tying his honest hands in the Senate race.
Florida 2000 is the soft-money vehicle of choice for the Nelson campaign. It's a joint account set up, basically, to skirt the campaign-finance laws and allow unlimited donations -- a little more than $1 million so far. Yes, the ethics are murky, especially for someone who advocates a ban on soft money. McCollum has wasted no time bashing Nelson for his decision, labeling him a hypocrite and swearing up and down that he'd never do such a thing.
Well, he did such a thing. A few weeks ago, McCollum announced that he was setting up the McCollum Victory Committee -- essentially the Republican version of Florida 2000 -- but not without blaming this descent into dirty politics on Nelson's hypocrisy. And maybe he has a point; after all, McCollum is trailing in the polls, and to "unilaterally disarm" in the money war would nearly be suicide.
But if there's one person who has no place on the campaign-finance bandwagon, it's McCollum. In 1997, the nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group Public Campaign awarded McCollum its "Golden Leash" award, given to the politician who, as the name suggests, is most easily led around by his campaign contributors. McCollum had been given $373,857 from 1991-97 by credit-card companies and various banking interests. Lo and behold, McCollum's push to restructure bankruptcy laws would benefit those very same companies who helped his campaign at the expense of indebted consumers who the law previously protected.
In the same press release, McCollum also goaded Nelson for not releasing his tax records to the media, as McCollum had done. What wasn't mentioned, however, was what a St. Petersburg Times analysis of McCollum's records found: McCollum owns $15,000 in stock of a wireless company that could directly benefit from a bill McCollum is pushing.
McCollum -- who the report showed to be a risky investor who has lost tens of thousands of dollars over the years -- owns stock in Global Crossings, which in turn is a major investor in a company called NextWave Telecom. A proposed provision of McCollum's bankruptcy reform act will directly benefit NextWave by preventing the Federal Communications Commission from taking back its licenses -- which were bought in 1996 for $4.7 billion and are now worth considerably more.
McCollum told the Times he knew nothing about Global Crossing's role in the bankruptcy-reform bill. That language has not yet been formally inserted into the bill, which should be finalized in upcoming weeks.