According to breaking reports, Florida Senator Mel Martinez will be the next head of the RNC, replacing Ken Mehlman.
Martinez is best known nationally as the senator whose staffer wrote a memo calling the Terri Schiavo situation a “great political issue.” The memo suggested ways Republicans could exploit the issue in the media and created a firestorm of criticizism surrounding the freshman senator. The staffer eventually resigned.
But the public might soon know Martinez for other reasons. He has the standard GOP connection to Jack Abramoff: Before Martinez was a senator, he was Bush’s head of HUD. Convicted former Congressman Bob Ney lobbied Martinez on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian clients; the clients got $4 million in HUD money in two years and Martinez later got $250,000 at a fundraiser co-chaired by Abramoff. Martinez also may have had an inappropriate relationship with a major Florida engineering firm that got government business in exchange for making donations to Martinez’s campaigns through straw donors.
But let’s not forget Martinez’s ethical problems that Mother Jones drudged up.
In the run-up to the 2002 midterm election, for instance, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez appeared in New Hampshire with GOP Senate candidate John Sununu to announce more than $1.6 million worth of grants to cities in the state from the Community Development Block Grant program, which he called “one of the most successful ways the federal government provides funding for…communities across the nation.” At the time, Bush was proposing that $1.3 billion be chopped from the program, which provides money for everything from housing rehabs to Meals on Wheels for the elderly.
So there you have it. The new RNC chair hates old people.