Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum caught in rent boy scandal

(Special thanks to Equality Florida and its ED Nadine Smith. EQFL provided valuable research for use by reporters and bloggers.)

Remember Mr. Haney of Green Acres fame? Out of nowhere he'd show up in his truck full of junk and try to sell you something you didn't need for a problem you didn't have.

The characters on Green Acres were smart enough to send Mr. Haney on his way but not Florida's Attorney General (and GOP gubenetorial candidate) Bill McCollum.

When George Rekers, the 61-year-old founder of the rabidly anti-gay Family Research Council showed up full of junk science, discredited testimony and a willingness to say anything to defend Florida's ban on gays adopting McCollum saw an ideological bargain at any price.

This, of course is the same George Rekers that cable TV pundits comedians and bloggers have had a field day with after he was caught returning from a two-week European vacation with a male escort he'd hired from Rentboy.com. While rentboy (codename Lucien) says Rekers paid him for nude sexual massages, Rekers said the a 20-year old was only there to "carry his luggage" (see: "hiking the Appalachian Trail" and "wide stance").

Sure, it's fun to laugh at Rekers's hypocrisy and exposing it is another chink in the armour that the right wing has built around it. But the real story has little to do with an anti-gay leader hiring a male prostitute on rentboys.com; it's the story of yet another Republican elected official actively funding fraud with public money.

Here is how it played out: Bill McCollum needed "expert" testimony for a case in which he defended Florida's ban on adoption by gay couples. Unable to find a reputable witness, McCollum paid Mr. Haney - er, I mean George Rekers -- $120,000 in taxpayer money. This after McCollum knew Rekers was a long discredited ideologue that multiple courts had already deemed worthless as an expert witness.

Rekers is part of a small cadre of homophobes-for-hire that charge top dollar for their bogus 'expert' witness testimony despite the fact that they've been discredited over and over again. And while he has tried to distance himself from the story, records now reveal that McCollum personally vouched for Rekers and insisted he be hired over the initial objections of the Florida Department of Children and Families. (DCF)

(It's worth noting that McCollum never corrected initial reports that listed Rekers' pay as $60,000 when he knew his office had paid more than twice that amount.)

McCollum can't decide where he stands on gay equality issues. On the campaign trail he crows about his opposition to gay people adopting; what better way to burnish his conservative credentials to calm the fears skeptical right-wingers? Off the trail, behind the scenes, he'll give a wink and a nod, sending subtle clues he doesn't really support the ban: Hey, I have a gay dad who adopted kid on my staff, how could I possibly be anti-gay?!

And now what does McCollum have to say about his hater-for-hire? "There wasn't a whole lot of choice." Wonder why?

Of course "there wasn't a whole lot of choice." Every credible child welfare agency and every respected researcher on the issue disagrees with Florida's adoption ban. That is why Florida is the only state in the country with a ban that says no matter how qualified to parent, no matter how loving a home a person can provide - that individual cannot adopt if he or she is gay. Florida law states: "No person otherwise eligible to adopt under the statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual."

It is the most notorious anti-gay state law in the country and it is the most spiteful kind of public policy that robs children of permanent loving homes. And this $120,000 scam is just a fraction of the millions spent each year enforcing this ban. Factor in the pain inflicted on children denied adoption and torn from their foster parents and the cost of Florida's anti-gay adoption ban reaches beyond what any of us can count.

"I will not do it again,'' McCollum told reporters yesterday, "I wouldn't do it again if I knew what I know today but I didn't know that then and neither did anybody else.''

He didn't know? Doesn't Google work in the Attorney General's office?

He didn't know? In 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman said Rekers was not a credible witness:

Rekers' testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers' beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.

In 2004 Rekers testified in an Arkansas gay adoption case. In his ruling, Pulaski County Circuit Court judge Timothy Fox specifically called Rekers' testimony, "extremely suspect", and said that Rekers "was there primarily to promote his own personal ideology."

How did Arkansas taxpayers fare in their state? Rekers billed the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services $165,000 for his testimony and later increased the bill to $200,000 claiming late fees and other charges. Arkansas stood up to him, took him to court for two years and challenged the bill.

What did McCollum do? He paid an unqualified zealot who will endorse McCollum's anti-gay political posturing under the guise of "expert testimony." Bill McCollum did it because he was willing to pay for a discredited witness who would ignore the clear scientific facts and the real, lived experience of millions of gay parents and their children to bring a hateful, ideologically-driven message about gay people.

Hiring rent boys like Lucien for European trips is one thing, hiring political rent boys like Rekers, paid to move an extremist agenda is something entirely different. Floridians want their money back. Perhaps McCollum can call Arkansas for help.