House leader handing out six-figure jobs

Early edition

Published November 30, 2006

TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Marco Rubio, whose new book faults government for spending too much money, has created new high-paying jobs for two Republican allies.

Rubio hired Gov. Jeb Bush’s former budget director, Donna Arduin, as a $10,000-a-month consultant. She starts work today.

A former House member, Republican Ken Sorensen of Key Largo, started three weeks ago at a salary of $100,008.
Sorensen, 72, is a full-time senior staff director helping freshmen lawmakers learn the ropes.

He has a diverse background, having founded a hospital, worked as a Boeing 727 jet instructor and political science professor at Florida State University.

Rubio’s spokesman Jose Fuentes defended the hirings at a time when there are 36 new members in the House and when term limits restrict institutional knowledge.

“It’s vitally important to have such knowledgeable individuals helping members understand the budget process better than anybody else,” Fuentes said.

Rubio’s new book, 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future, faults steady growth in the size of government.

“Governmental entities can too easily increase taxes and spending,” the book says.

Rubio was attending a retreat with other House members Thursday and did not respond to requests for comment. But Fuentes said the new hires, and the expertise they bring, will actually save money because taxpayers will have “key allies on their side.”

Arduin, 43, is a fiscal conservative who favors smaller government and lower taxes. As Bush’s first budget director, she championed a leaner state bureaucracy and limits on lawmakers’ hometown projects, known as “turkeys.”

Arduin’s contract begins today at a rate of $10,000 a month and will run through May 31, though it can be extended.

On Arduin’s watch in Florida, some budget-cutting ideas met hostility even from Republicans, such as the proposed closing of the state library in 2003.

Arduin also is credited with helping California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger emerge from that state’s budgetary abyss in 2004. She also worked for Republican governors George Pataki in New York and John Engler in Michigan.

Arduin returned to Florida in 2005 to launch a consulting firm, Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics. The firm offers “creative and fiscally responsible solutions” to its clients.

Her House contract calls for the firm to perform work as directed by Rubio “relating to the general appropriations bill” and “such other matters as the speaker may deem appropriate.”

Arduin cannot lobby the Legislature while working for the state. She is one of about 20 former Bush staffers recruited by Rubio, who has positioned himself as the ideological heir to the governor.

Rubio hired a second ex-lawmaker, Democrat Ron Greenstein, as a part-time adviser on budget issues.
Greenstein, 55, of Coconut Creek, will earn $25,000 over a six-month period.

He and Sorensen were forced to leave the House in November because of term limits.

The hiring of Greenstein was at the request of Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House minority leader.

Gelber noted there are 36 new House members and Greenstein can help train them -- Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I don’t have a problem at all with having smart men and women involved, even if some of their ideologies are different,” Gelber said of Rubio’s hirings.

In other personnel moves, Rubio named Richard Corcoran, 41, as chief of staff.

A former partner in a Crystal River law firm bearing his name, Corcoran had worked the past two years for the Republican Party of Florida.

Corcoran will earn $175,212 a year.

Rubio also promoted Jeremiah Hawkes as general counsel to the House. Hawkes, 29, is the son of Paul Hawkes, a judge on the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. His salary information was not immediately available.

Reporter Alex Leary can be reached at aleary@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.