Watchdog.org’s “Scariest People of 2013” Countdown
By Watchdog Staff December 26, 2013
By Watchdog.org Staff
By now, you’ve probably thought about the gifts you’d like to return.
That belt is a little too tight, especially after all the Christmas candy. And those slippers? Yeah, yuck. At some point today, you’ll head out to return all those things and buy what you wish you had received.
Too bad you can’t return politicians and bureaucrats just as easily.
Here’s are Nos. 14-9 on Watchdog.org’s Scariest People of 2013 list:
14. FLORIDA: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson
Alan Grayson is quite possibly the scariest politician to disgrace the Sunshine State since, well, Alan Grayson’s last congressional stint ended so painfully in 2010 — losing by 18 points to the guy he was calling “Taliban Dan” Webster. Amazingly, the Central Florida progressive returned to the U.S. big-House of Representatives this year, and he appeared to be making up for lost time. Already known for likening an election opponent to the Taliban and for calling a female Federal Reserve lobbyist a “K-Street whore,” Grayson took to excoriating “Teahadist Republicans” for their role in the government shutdown – an accomplishment too dark, Grayson said, even for “Bin Laden’s wildest dreams.” Florida Watchdog noted that the congressman did not find the shutdown too terrible to use it as a fundraising opportunity. But Grayson outdid himself in a subsequent cash-ask. The self-styled Occupy Wall Street populist – and sixth-richest House member – went on to compare his political opponents to the Ku Klux Klan, which of course is why he needs more donations. In case recipients of the fundraising appeal weren’t sure that Grayson was serious, he used an image of a burning cross to illuminate the point. MITIGATING FACTOR: As support for Obamacare continues to unravel amid higher insurance prices and lost coverage options, Grayson tipped his hand, recently announcing his own one-size-fits-all health care solution: Medicare for everyone.
13. EVERYWHERE: The Faceless Bureaucrat
The joke is on you
Usually found only in the bowels of city halls, state capitols and federal buildings across the county, this enforcer of government rules and regulations spring into action whenever there is a problem that only red tape can solve – even if he causes more problems in the process.The Faceless Bureaucrat enforces Minnesota’s ban on selling cakes and cookies from one’s own home. He enforces one Florida’s city’s ban on home vegetable gardens, and one New York town’s ban on roommates. She will stop at nothing to shut down voluntary donations of food to homeless shelters, and won’t allow a little girl to sell mistletoe to help pay for her own braces that her parents couldn’t afford. It’s been a good year for the Faceless Bureaucrat, who has flexed his political muscle at the IRS and assumed control of many Americans’ health insurance decisions. And when the Faceless Bureaucrat isn’t telling you what to eat,drink, smoke, or what you’re allowed to sell and what you’re required to buy, she is wrapping people and businesses in enough red tape to choke the world’s largest economy. Since he has no political ideology, just a pathological desire to follow all the rules and make sure you do too, no election can cleanse our political system of the Faceless Bureaucrat. Democratic administration, Republican administration, they’re here to stay. MITIGATING FACTOR: Faceless Bureaucrats don’t write crazy laws, they just enforce them. With apologies to Hannah Arendt, they can excuse their behavior as part of “the banality of bureaucracy.” (Eric Boehm)
12. DELAWARE: State Treasurer Chip Flowers
Don’t worry, taxpayers of Delaware: your state treasurer made sure everyone knows he’s on top of his breakfast expenses. In November, Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flowers boldly declared that, if he ordered three pancakes while traveling on official business and the state allows him to expense two, “the last flapjack is on me.” That absurd assurance probably did little to assuage taxpayer concerns: Flowers made the statement in response to a series of stories from The News Journal that raised questions about expenses he and his deputy charged while attending a 2012 conference in Alaska. After insisting all charges were proper, Flowers announced he would repay more than $1,000 in travel expenses, including more than $450 connected to the Alaska conference. “It is truly worth paying to clear the integrity of this office,” Flowers said, according to The News Journal. A reimbursement probably won’t be enough. Flowers’ office is in chaos after documents showed he often lost travel receipts, splurged for room service and had laundry done on the road. Flowers’ deputy also resigned in August after charging personal purchases on her state credit card, including tickets to an NFL game. MITIGATING FACTOR: Flowers’ photo of a grizzly in Alaska offered a chance for the public to joke about bear markets. (Andrew Staub)
11. TEXAS: Guy Rankin IV
Guy Rankin’s statue
It’s strange enough to draw a picture of an eight-foot-tall man – a man with ripped abs and wings sprouting from his back who is carrying a limp firefighter – but if there’s a place for that sort of thing, it would be a high-schooler’s sketchbook or a cult’s iconography, or maybe in some sort of anime. But to take your drawing and then use the government agency you oversee to spend $100,000 turning it into a bronze statue? It’s the sort of decision that suggests a questionable faculty for decision-making. Guy Rankin IV, the disgraced former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, made lots of bad spending decisions. There was the $5,000 in dental work for his own family, the $66,000 on shirts for his staff of a few dozen, the $1.8 million in apparently illegal bonuses for managers and staff, the $18,000 for letters signed by Abraham Lincoln, the $8,780 for five helicopter flights over the agency’s failed housing developments, and so much more. Now the agency may have to come up with as much as $30 million to repay the feds for misspent funds, which will be difficult, seeing as almost all its money comes from the feds in the first place. MITIGATING FACTOR: Rankin continues to tweet about angels – specifically, 300 angels he asks to “completely destroy those evil people in the world.” The only folks on the Internet talking about 300 angels are followers of a New Age teacher with a fake British accent calling herself Almine, who offers courses in communing with 300 archangels based on “ancient Atlantean texts,” which she claims to translate and interpret herself. “Truth is the highest perception for any given expanded or contracted focus,” Almine says. Can’t we get another 299 statues wearing that quote? (Jon Cassidy)
10. GEORGIA: Chad Henderson
In the days after the federal health insurance exchange went live on Oct. 1, the national media was scrambling to find somebody, anybody who had been able to navigate the glitch-ridden, error-filled website and purchase a health insurance plan. They found one guy: Chad Henderson. Henderson bragged on his Facebook page that he was interviewed by “The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Huffington Post, Enroll America, and Politico,” along with several local TV affiliates. His story supposedly was proof that for all their glitches and problems – and the ambivalence of young people – the new health insurance exchanges were working as intended. Except it was all a lie. Henderson was a former Barack Obama presidential campaign volunteer and a member of the president’s Organizing for America, a nonprofit created after Obama’s re-election to push for his policy objectives. After he was caught by Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman, Henderson said he told his fake story about signing up for health insurance because he wanted to see the Affordable Care Act succeed. After all, what’s more important: telling the truth, or public opinion about the president’s signature legislative accomplishment? MITIGATING FACTOR: Suderman shouldn’t have lied, of course, but media outlets desperate for stories about anyone who signed up for health insurance through the exchanges really, really blew their fact-checking operations on this one. It almost makes you wonder what other lies – far more important ones from sources who are harder to double-check – make it into print and screen. (Eric Boehm)
9. NEW JERSEY: Ex-cop Joe Derrico
Former Hamilton Township police officer Joe Derrico is the poster child for a New Jersey public pension system that faces a $41 billion shortfall. While collecting disability retirement checks for a leg injury he said he received on the job, Derrico starred on “Bear Swamp Recovery,” a truTV cable network reality show on vehicle repossessions by the “baddest towing team in Jersey.” During the “Monster Truck Showdown”episode, Derrico runs after a truck, pulls a man down from the driver’s seat, throws him to the ground and climbs into the cab. In another scene, Derrico is wrestling with opponents. Following a New Jersey Watchdog investigation, a state board stripped Derrico of his $69,703 a year tax-free pension. MITIGATING FACTOR: Despite a clean bill of health from state doctors who watched Derrico on TV, the audience was less optimistic about Derrico’s prognosis:truTV canceled the show after just one season. Maybe he could get his old job back at the department? “As far as we’re concerned, he’s no longer a Hamilton police officer and has no rights to be re-employed,” said John Ricci, township administrator. (Mark Lagerkvist)