I have been a keen observer of Pensacola politics for 6 years. Before that, I spent 25 years as a passive, generalist of political news. I knew the headlines and heard the talk but I couldn’t tell you specifics most of the time. During that time (the past 31 years), I have seen some of the most extraordinary stories like the dead baby taken to the Brownsville Revival, Fred Levin claiming he found dead canaries, Jake Horton’s plane crashing into a subdivision, the King brothers, Tim McVeigh’s connection to Pensacola via his sister, the collard green scandal between WD Childers and Willie Junior.
I thought I had seen blatant corruption before but looking at Chip Simmons’s campaign donations is one for the books. Chip has been long favored by law enforcement and public alike for his charm, charisma and/or looks. He is the epitome of the Hometown Guy everybody roots for, but I see something different. I see a persona, known and well liked publicly, who was drawn in by a true criminal, Morgan by some sort of back room promise of support, I’m sure. Then I see, this pro-LEO down-home guy, beloved by all, standing silent while the inmates run and rundown the asylum. As Haines’s propaganda and vendettas against his employees runs rampant, Morgan shows his inner child by throwing tantrums about the BOCC and deputy pay (which still has not been given to deputies yet, despite the fact the ECSO has had the money on the books for weeks). So where was the good guy while all this was going on? Where is the advocate for the deputies while they are dealing with Haines and hearing the public lies about the budget from Sir David? I see an ineffectual cog in the wheel, too scared or too compromised to lead the agency out of the current wasteland state. But I digress.
The problem with the contributions to Chip is in the numbers he’s banked in just 3 short months. With 2+ years until election day, and being currently UNOPPOSED, Chip has raised $88K. That number alone isn’t problematic; it is more who contributed.
**Please note also the most common work-around in the political contributions area. $1000 cap is set for all persons and businesses. So people have every employee, household member, and then, their corporate donations on the books. Essentially, one entity can give numerous thousands by using this simple work-around.
So here’s the concern: the number of “money people” and “important people” who have backed him. He’s unopposed and still has 2+ years left….why amass this much so early? One theory was that, this “war chest” will prevent competition. Well, that is certainly true because there are not enough of the money people left to catch up to Chip.
Another theory was that he needs this kind of money to prepare for the advertising in a Presidential Election year. While that may be legitimate, the fact he is unopposed seems to negate that.
What I see, however, is that Chip has favors he will owe each donor. That money is paying for someone’s kids’s DUI, another guy’s domestic violence 9-1-1 call, and yet another’s need to get out a drug charge. Chip’s integrity is chipped away in every donation. That has always been the way it is and Chip is savvy enough to know that.
Corruption is alive and well in Escambia County. Remember, also, these same money people backed Sir David. We’ve seen that no criminal, unethical or immoral act he has committed has been punished because of his political backing exclusively. While Chip, presumably, has functional moral compass, at least according to reputation, he’s giving away his soul with every donation. We are seeing how corruption swallows the souls of presumably good men. This is going to be a good before-and-after story.