In a new TV spot called “Tiger Blood,” a Democratic super PAC compares a Florida Republican Senate candidate to party boy actor Charlie Sheen. Winning? Not really.
The video ties together a shocking list of allegations against Connie Mack IV, and most are true. But when closely examined, there’s less here than meets the eye.
- The ad says Republicans call Mack “the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics.” One Republican said that. And he was one of Mack’s primary opponents and later dropped out of the race.
- The ad highlight’s Mack’s record of “bar brawls, road rage and resisting arrest.” Those incidents occurred 20 years ago — or more — before Mack was in office. In only one instance was he charged, for resisting arrest, and that was settled with a plea of “no contest” and did not result in a criminal record.
- The ad details Mack’s past financial troubles. But Mack attributes those issues to his divorce in the mid 2000s.
Mack is challenging Bill Nelson, a two-term Democratic incumbent. Nelson leads Mack by 9 percentage points in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The Rothenberg Political Report has described the race as a “toss up / titling Democrat.”
Before we vet the ad’s claims about Mack’s record and finances, let’s review who Charlie Sheen is — and who Mack is.
Sheen is someone who, at the age of 45, reportedly trashed a New York hotel room and locked a porn star in the bathroom.
He recently called himself a “high priest Vatican assassin warlock” and said Alcoholics Anonymous is for “people that aren’t special, people that don’t have tiger blood, you know, Adonis DNA.” One of his favorite Twitter hashtags is “WINNING.”
Mack, 45, is a U.S. congressman who serves on the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee and chairs the Western Hemisphere subcommittee. Before he was elected to Congress, he served as a Florida state representative.
The son of a former U.S. senator and great grandson of legendary baseball hall of famer Connie Mack, he describes behavior from his past — including one bar fight from 20 years ago — as being “young and foolish.”
The ad claims that “Republicans” call Mack the “Charlie Sheen of Florida politics.” Only one Republican said that. And that’s even based on the “facts” Majority PAC provides to support its ad.
The Republican was one of Mack’s opponents in a crowded Republican primary race. George LeMieux, who would later drop out of the race, had called a press conference in February following a Miami Herald article that detailed Mack’s record and past financial troubles.
“You can’t come away from a rap sheet like this and conclude anything other than Connie Mack IV is the Charlie Sheen of Florida politics,” LeMieux said.
But many Republicans — important Republicans — concluded otherwise.
Let’s not forget Republican voters. More than 660,000 of them — nearly 60 percent of the voters in a four-way primary — chose Mack to challenge Nelson.
The Rap Sheet
The Miami Herald delved into Mack’s past earlier this year, posting many of the related court records online. And our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact vetted similar claims against Mack in an ad Nelson’s campaign produced earlier this month.
A quick read of the Miami Herald story — the ad’s only backup for Mack’s past — deflates Majority PAC’s claims.
Mack tussled with Ron Gant, then an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves. Mack broke his ankle after the bar’s bouncers jumped in, and Mack later filed a civil suit against Gant to pay for his medical bills. The jury found that Gant started the fight — but he was not responsible for Mack’s injuries. Both men had to pay their own legal fees.
The civil suit allowed Gant’s attorneys to exhume two incidents of road rage and a resisting arrest charge from Mack’s past that previously were not part of the public record.
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy arrested a 21-year-old Mack at a Florida nightclub after Mack refused to remove his hat. He swore at employees, called the officer a “rent-a-cop” and referenced his position as a senator’s son, according to witnesses’ testimony. Police busted Mack for resisting arrest without violence after he refused to leave.
Mack later called the arrest a misunderstanding and pleaded no contest. The judge withheld adjudication, which preserved Mack’s clean criminal record, and sealed the arrest record, the Herald reported.
The road rage incidents occurred in the late 1980s. And only Mack’s side of the story is available, told during a deposition hearing for the civil suit involving Gant.
In one incident, Mack said another driver attacked him because Mack’s friend was screaming in the back of the car. Mack and the other driver wrestled and struck each other before Mack drove off.
In the other incident, Mack said another driver tried to run Mack and his girlfriend off the road, after the driver thought Mack’s girlfriend cut in front of him. Mack and the other man got out of their cars. The other driver swung at Mack, who responded with a punch. The man then chased Mack with a baseball bat, breaking the windows of Mack’s car, according to Mack’s testimony.
Police did not charge Mack or cite him with any wrongdoing.
The ad claims Mack “has a past of debts and liens, an overdrawn checking account while in Congress, a loan from dad to pay his taxes. His yacht club sued him. The condo association took him to court. … Florida families can’t afford Connie Mack’s party tab.”
The ad accurately quotes from the headline of the Miami Herald story that details Mack’s past financial problems: “Florida congressman, Mack, preaches penny-pinching, but has past of debt and liens.” And it’s true that in 2006, Mack failed to pay more than $2,000 in condo fees, and he overdrew his checking account.
But the congressman attributes his financial issues to a difficult divorce, which he and his ex-wife finalized in 2006. The Herald also noted that Mack has since resolved his problems with liens, debts and unpaid bills.
The ad also fails to tell the whole story behind each incident.
Mack’s divorce attorney filed a $30,000 lien against him — but she later said it was a procedural caution. “There was no concern with Connie — other than a concern with any client when they owe $30,000,” she told the Herald. Mack paid the bill.
The Herald noted that Mack’s divorce failed to account for all of his financial problems. For instance, in 2004, a year before he and Ann McGillicuddy filed for divorce, Mack borrowed from his father to pay his federal income taxes.
But does that make him Charlie Sheen? We don’t think so.
– Ben Finley