Washington Babylon — January 13, 2009, 11:18 am

The Way Florida Works

Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida has announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate. Which may require that he answer some questions about this story from 2007:

Boston developer Dennis Stackhouse arrived in Miami-Dade County with a troubled financial history and a bold plan: to develop a $250 million biopharmaceutical park in one of the neediest neighborhoods in the country. He had no financing to build buildings, no tenants to fill them, and no experience constructing the high-tech facilities required by pharmaceutical companies to test and manufacture drugs.

What he did have: an all-star lineup of lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and politicians who drummed up support — and, in some cases, millions of public dollars — for a biotech project in Liberty City that after four years consists of only a lot cleared for a parking garage. His roster includes a powerful county commissioner, a former chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee, a board member of Jackson Memorial Hospital and the mother of a powerful U.S. congressman, herself a former congresswoman.

As the biotech park stalled and Stackhouse diverted more than $500,000 from a county poverty agency through double billing and dubious expenses, he spent hundreds of thousands on political insiders in Miami, Tallahassee and Washington, a Miami Herald investigation found. Former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, who has a street named after her just blocks from the proposed park, received at least $40,000 from one of Stackhouse’s companies, a leased Cadillac Escalade and a 2,600-square-foot office for her foundation, rent-free. She was paid as her son, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, requested millions of federal dollars for the biotech project, congressional records show.

As the person who flagged this to my attention said, “Everybody who believes that Meek never talked to his mother about earmarking funds for this project please raise your hands.”

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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