It was certainly not the kind of week for which Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture had hoped. Coming off a statewide bus tour where Putnam touted his years of government service and his vision of putting Florida First as a rationale to elect him Governor, Adam Putnam fired his campaign manager after internal strife and rivalries got in the way of progress. Over the next few days, Putnam decided to test his policy chops where he was promptly mocked by experts who noted his abject absence on these issues when it mattered – during the legislative session.
If this were not enough to sour even the most optimistic Putnam supporters – the week ended with Putnam ordering a review of his agency’s cybersecurity policies as over 16,000 individual records were hacked, exposing the names and in some cases, social security numbers of Concealed Carry Permit holders. To top that off, Politico reported that a key fundraising “bundler” for President Obama, had become a major contributor to Putnam’s PAC. While he may welcome the money, Republican rivals quickly pounced on Putnam’s support from Obama’s fundraising machine. Apparently, it’s tough to be the darling of the establishment.
Firing campaign staff may be seen by some as negative, but credit Putnam for quickly deciding to keep his fledgling campaign from having bigger problems down the road. Or, perhaps, credit one staffer for being Machiavellian enough to destroy the opportunity of another, new rival, before the new staffer could establish themselves with the candidate/boss.
Putnam’s decision to weigh in on medical marijuana is perplexing. This paper has noted on many occasions how hypocritical the GOP has been on this issue as well as how Republican legislative and executive branch actions have routinely opposed and thwarted the will of the people. When Republicans have moved to implement this constitutional amendment, all they have done is reward their cronies at the expense of a practical, market-based, professionally or medically regulated solutions that could allow citizens the remedy of a drug many recognize as effective.
To be perfectly clear: Putnam has neither made a policy position public on medical marijuana nor, until now, advocated for the statutory implementation of the new constitutional law. Yet in classic “lead from behind” style, Putnam is willing to criticize the Legislature for failing to act. If this is the type of leadership or the bold vision of putting Florida First, put us down as unimpressed.
What we see is a pathetic attempt to pander to both sides of an issue. Putnam seems to be trying to oppose medical marijuana and support it at the same time by hiding behind the Constitution for the need to do it, but not saying how to do it appropriately or pushing to allow market access for vendors or customers. Instead, Putnam took the legislature to task just like he did for its K-12 education legislation without offering any alternative solutions. As noted in prior posts, “Rip Van Putman” seems to have awakened with a renewed thirst for the Governor’s Mansion, but he still has no ideas and no solutions to Florida’s challenges.
Considering Putnam more broadly, it is simply stunning at how little this man has accomplished in his nearly three decades of elected service – quick, name one piece of signature legislation or public policy for which he is known? For a man who has been on the team, well-liked, but seems to have lacked any meaningful success, it is also stunning to see how willing he is to criticize others “in the arena” who are actually doing the fighting on some tough policy issues. To believe Putnam has had a successful political career would require one to measure it more by the friends he has made than the difference he has affected.
Putnam has perfected the art of doing nothing to offend anyone and saying just enough to get by. His is a gutless approach to governing, yet it is what Floridians should by now, come to expect from Adam Putnam. He claims to be a conservative while voting for the largest expansion of government in American history as a Congressman. He criticizes the Legislature for bad education policy but has no ideas of his own to improve things and does nothing, even as an elected member of the State Cabinet, to alter the policy during the legislative session.
Above all else, the detail that is most troubling about Adam Putnam’s bad week is the leak or hack of sensitive personal information about Floridians who hold concealed carry permits. Following the last reshaping of the Florida Cabinet 25 years ago that shrank the size of the elected Cabinet, the Legislature peeled off a few tasks from other agencies and gave them to Putnam in an attempt to make the Agriculture Commissioner relevant. Other than watch the sad decline of the significance of agriculture in Florida, Putnam has very few tasks or responsibilities to oversee. However, for many, the single most important job of the Agriculture Commissioner is to timely process and protect records relating to the Concealed Carry program. By a 2006 state law, this information must be maintained as confidential. Protecting that data is Adam Putnam’s job.
Gun owners, particularly concealed carry permit holders, carry for a reason. They tend to be passionate advocates of the Second Amendment, and we hope they are paying attention to this breach. Why or that they carry is nobody’s business but their own, it is their right. The Putnam team did an admirable job of explaining the data breach and seemed to be candid about what information was stolen. They then tried to diminish the significance of the data loss by noting that only a fraction of the names released contained Social Security numbers, a critical component to identity theft. The fact that the only reason more Social Security numbers were not released was because the department simply didn’t have them, was not lost on USA Herald.
Mistakes, hacks and failures are a part of life. We don’t expect Putnam to be a Cyber Security expert personally protecting this data, but we do expect him to hire people who can. Regardless, it is not that occasional failures occur that is the problem, it’s how we react to them that defines us and separates real leaders from the posers. We will take Putnam at his word that his cybersecurity review will be meaningful. We trust Putnam here to work seriously to protect this data, not for any reason other than it is politically smart and necessary for him to do this as the gun crowd is such an important and active political constituency in the GOP.
It must be noted that this administrative function of the Department stands in stark contrast compared to Putnam’s other regulatory role where he must also inspect and regulate businesses in order to protect the public from food safety violations at grocery stores. We note that the last on-line activity that Putnam had to review was his rating of food safety standards following revelations that his friends and big donors at Publix failed several inspections.
Putnam’s actions here were abominable at best and bordering corrupt as he hid the results and then changed the standards so his friends at Publix didn’t have to withstand the scrutiny and public relations nightmare that may have followed. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed from Publix’s banks accounts to those of Putnam’s political committee accounts. Thankfully, as far as we know, the hackers here are not big donors to the Putnam campaign for Governor, so we expect the Commissioner can simply do his job this time.
For an elected regulator to hide the failure of a simple regulatory function to protect a friendly company is exactly why we cannot trust Adam Putnam with any bigger responsibilities than he now has. Given this new failure by Putnam’s leadership team, it makes us wonder if Adam Putnam is worthy of the dubious honor once bestowed upon Bill Nelson, who most assuredly deserved the cover of Florida Trend and the title “Empty Suit.”
The only thing that makes sense of week Three of Adam Putnam’s campaign for Governor is that a key Obama supporter has jumped on board the Putnam Express. The Establishment sticks together. And for the establishment types, if they can’t have their establishment guy, they most assuredly like the other team’s establishment guy more than a rabble rouser who will upset the status quo or try to add an invasive species to the Swamp of corruption that our governments have become.