Ever since humans first took to the sea, pirates have inexplicably vanished and reappeared along our coasts and waterways. Who were those mysterious figures who appeared along the mist-shrouded docks and beaches of Tampa Bay during last week's Republican Convention? While all eyes were on the Democrats, we decided to find out.
Pirates are often portrayed as a festive lot, so our investigation began with an ABC News report of an event where corporate campaign donors were lavishly entertained by The Commodores, whose hit "Brick House" captivated 70's-era dancers with its hypnotic chorus --
Chick-a-maw, chick-a-maw, chick-a-maw-maw,
Chick-a-maw, chick-a-maw, chick-a-MAW-maw!
-- and the extra syllables and syncopated pauses added to selected word:"She's a ba-rick" --(pause) -- "house/she's mighty mighty just lettin' it all hang out ....
It is a wondrous thing to watch rich white people getting down -- trust me, I know -- and many a groove thing was undoubtedly shaken at the Commodores event, where Sen. John Cornyn of Texas thanked donors from Blue Cross Blue Shield, AFLAC, and AT&T. Each has financial interests affected by the law known as "Obamacare."
But boogieing and piracy are not the same thing, so our search continued. Elsewhere in Tampa a conservative group called the American Access Network
sold access to elected officials "advertised the chance to mingle with members of Congress and senior staff at an arena skybox overlooking the convention floor for $30,000," according to ABC. And even better offers were available:
"Full access to the group's intimate luncheons and hot ticket concerts were open to their biggest supporters -- those who gave $250,000."
As the Commodores might say: Yeeowww!
Unethical? Sure. But piracy? We weren't sure. The trail grew warmer when we learned about the yacht party thrown by a Florida developer for "bundlers" who had raised $1 million or more for Mitt Romney's campaign. ABC reports that more than 50 people were entertained aboard the Cracker Bay, a yacht flying the ensign of the Cayman Islands, where the American-owned vessel was registered.
As the astute reader may have already noted, the boat shares its nationality with a big chunk of Mitt Romney's money.
We wondered at the use of the name "Cracker," a derisive Southern term for white males, since that appeared to be the primary's demographic group represented at these affairs. Were these wealthy men mocking their poorer counterparts, who are sometimes disparaged with the term? But another GOP patron professed ignorance when reached aboard his boat, the SS Peckerwood.
"We let the help name our boats," he explained.
In true piratical fashion, guests aboard the Cracker Bay attempted to conceal their identity, in this case by covering up their name tags as they boarded the boat. But reporters observed Texas oil heir Charlie Moncrief, whose family saga would put Dallas to shame.
Another guest was ultra-right real estate investor Melvin Sembler, who earned notoriety for running a sadistic and exploitative string of youth "rehabs." It would ruin the lighthearted tone of this piece to describe the horrors which STRAIGHT, Inc. inflicted on young people, so we'll leave the horrifying details to Alternet and the Institute for Policy Studies instead.
Self-respecting pirates would be ashamed to be associated with the likes of Mel Sembler, who bought himself the ambassadorships to Australia and Nauru under George H. W. Bush and the Italian ambassadorship under George W. Bush. Which ambassadorship might Sembler purchase under a Romney Administration? The U.N.? The moon?
Then there's Cracker Bay "captain" Gary Morse. Morse owns the development company behind "The Villages," a string of "master-planned" retirement communities in Florida. Florida's unusual "special taxing district" regulations allow private corporations like Disney to usurp government functions, including taxation, while exempting themselves from most government regulations. (Mystery writer Carl Hiassen has written a nonfiction book called Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World which addresses Disney's mis-use of these laws).
"The Villages" are governed by "Community Development Districts" -- most of which are controlled by Morse himself. From a comprehensive and compelling Bloomberg report:
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