A recent article in FlaPol (FloridaPolitics.com) reports on recommendations from scientologists “Citizens for Social Reform” (Brett Miller, Joanie and Steve Sigal)
These are the surrogates who deliver the political direction of the church without being a formalized statement from the institution. Why do they do it this way? Because if the church itself published them it would run afoul of 501(c)3 prohibitions against political endorsements (though the Evangelicals don’t seem to be too concerned about that). But make no mistake, the “Citizens for Social Reform” are just another scientology front group and they most definitely speak for OSA.
Brett Miller and Joanie Sigal are featured on the Freedom magazine website (poor Steve is an add on to Joanie — he was at the last candidates forum and looks old, unhealthy and hen-pecked).
The headline news is that they endorse Frank Hibbard for Mayor. He is truthfully the only really qualified candidate in the mayoral race and they would look foolish getting behind any of the other candidates. But Mr. Hibbard must have cringed when he read this. He has no love for scientology. And nobody wants the kiss of death from scientology (except Elesio Santana as noted below).
They did take a jab at him though:
“We make this recommendation with some reservation, however, because of Mr. Hibbard’s choice of campaign consultant who has used slanted promotional materials and misleading surveys to encourage anti-First Amendment divisions in the city,” which is a clear reference to scientology because he sent out a survey to residents that included questions about scientology in the community. Scientologists do not care about “anti-First Amendment” issues unless they feel they are directed at them.
I suspect they realize he is going to be the next mayor and are worried and hope there might be some benefit to being able to say to him in the future “we endorsed you.” As soon as he doesn’t do their bidding, they will change their tune and instead of targeting his “campaign consultant” they will openly claim he is a bigot just as they have done with everyone from Gabe Cazares to Charles LeCher and Rita Garvey.
After Mr. Hibbard is elected I predict they will NOT be endorsing him if he seeks re-election. They will endorse a sea turtle, anyone else or nobody. Frank Hibbard will not be a pushover for scientology and no doubt they are concerned.
Of course, they also endorse the scientology stalking horse Eliseo Santana for Seat 2 — the seat for which Mark Bunker is running. This is a case of “anyone but Bunker.” Santana comes across almost as a joke candidate in the forums I have seen — he does not appear to have a grip on much but constantly refers to the fact that he was in the Sheriff’s Department. The scientologists support him because he is supposedly equipped to “aggressively defend constitutional liberties.” This is code for “he will forward our agenda.” He is the one who has followed written talking points he has obviously been provided by scientology, tried to bring up the 20 year old injunction against Mark Bunker and whose “campaign manager” was one of the most vocal hecklers of Bunker in the forums. Mike Manino, the eminently qualified and impressive candidate running for the same seat was ignored because of his clear stance against scientology’s bullying of downtown. Nothing subtle about this. In this election, Emilio Santana is scientology’s guy. And he has apparently sought their support believing they might be able to turn out some voters to support him.
And for seat 3 they give the kiss of death to Kathleen Beckman supposedly because of her responses to candidate questions in both the Tampa Bay Times and community forums in which she “correctly differentiated between individual citizens who were members of the Church of Scientology and the Church itself.” Kathleen Beckman has continued the old-school Clearwater political two-step of avoiding “poking the bear”, the exact head-in-the-sand mentality that has allowed scientology to run roughshod over the city for decades. It’s especially galling to see their statement, as anyone familiar with scientology knows there is in fact NO distinction. The Citizens for Social Reform IS scientology — members and the instituion speak with one voice. It is a difference scientology wants people to believe in order to not be held to account for things, but inside the bubble there is no difference.. They would not dare say a word about who to endorse without coordination with their OSA handlers.
In fact, Lisa Mansell of OSA Flag was cited in a recent Facebook as the go-to person for the likes of the Citizens for Social Reform to check in with about which candidates to support.
Mark Bunker running for City Council has changed the political discourse in Clearwater once and for all.
Scientology is worried.
That should tell the citizens everything they need to know about how to deal with scientology. Stand up to them and don’t ascribe them the enormous power they want you to believe they have. Like all bullies, when confronted, they cower.
Vote for Mark Bunker on March 17.
And by the way, if you are a local and can make it at 1pm to the SPC campus at Drew and Old Coachman Rd, we would love to see you there: