Sunburn for 7/10 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: On this day in 1964, The Beatles released “A Hard Day’s Night,” their first album entirely composed of original songs. The release came just 144 days after the Fab Four made their second appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach.

Now, on to the burn …


The Republican Party of Florida filed another ethics complaint against Crist, this time accusing Crist of “cutting legal corners” by avoiding transparency on his personal finances.

According to an email, the complaint filed by Sarasota GOP chair Joe Gruters outlines:

(1)  Crist misrepresented his financial interests by not reporting details of assets and liabilities reported by the Miami Herald.

(2)  Crist failed to report the full extent of his relationship with The St. Joe Co. on his financial disclosure.

(3)  Crist failed to include secondary sources of income into Charlie Crist LLC, instead listing it is an asset with no explanation of customers served or the sources of his income into the LLC.


Gov. Scott’s office announced  he was hiring outside counsel to sue the failed Digital Domain special-effects company and “other parties” involved in a $20 million tax-incentive deal that tanked.

The move comes more than a year after Scott’s inspector general presented an investigative report that found evidence former Gov. Crist and legislative leaders had bypassed the normal review process for incentives to push through the $20-million economic-development project.

… Scott’s inspector general found the Port St. Lucie-based Digital Domain project initiated in 2009 was personally pushed by Crist through leftover incentive dollars that would have otherwise reverted back to general revenues. Instead, they were allocated through a political process known as “proviso language” inserted in the budget.

Three years later, Digital Domain, a special effects company founded by James Cameron that worked on films including “Titanic” filed for bankruptcy and shuttered its offices. The state has since attempted to get in line with other creditors to get its $20 million back. Local governments lost more than $100 million.


The bold slogan splashed across Adrian Wyllie’s campaign materials urges Floridians to “Take a Stand!” It’s a motto the state’s Libertarian candidate for governor takes seriously.

The 44-year-old computer consultant refuses to carry a driver’s license in protest of a federal ID law he views as overly intrusive, a decision that already led to one short jail stint this year. That comfort with confrontation and his potential to draw supporters from other candidates makes Wyllie a wild card in Florida’s 2014 governor’s race.

Having been told he cannot address a campaign forum at a gathering of Florida news organizations Thursday, Wyllie vows he will speak or be dragged off by force.

But his presence in the race could prove disruptive in more consequential ways, with some predicting he might swing a close election by pulling votes from one of the major party contenders, most likely Gov. Scott, experts say.

Libertarians have been attracting attention across the nation in recent years thanks to a confluence of political cross currents — war fatigue, debt concerns, marijuana legalization efforts — that dovetail with the party’s positions.

Now Wyllie, who lives near Tampa and sometimes works in Bradenton, is hoping to capitalize on that foundation and shake up Florida’s gubernatorial race, widely seen as a showdown between Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist. He is the first Libertarian candidate for governor in at least four decades, according to records on the state Division of Elections website that go back to 1978.

A recent poll by Gravis Marketing had Wyllie attracting 6 percent of the vote, a decent showing for a third-party candidate but not enough for him to be considered a serious threat to win. Wyllie is adamant that he can win, but he also insists that “voting your principles is never a wasted vote.”

Even modest support for the candidate could affect the outcome of the election.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops joined with human rights activists and academics to call for congressional action on immigration reform.

The Tallahassee news conference was part of national Day of Action with proponents scheduling news conferences in 60 congressional districts. The effort included the release of a poll indicating an overwhelming majority of respondents want Congress to resolve America’s immigration problem with a solution involving a path to legal residency for the undocumented immigrants already here.

A Partnership for a New American Economy poll of Floridians found that 67 percent of respondents either strongly supports or somewhat support an immigration reform plan that secures borders and increases the number of visas for immigrants.

Seventy-six percent of respondents reject House Republicans’ explanation that cites President Obama’s lack of enforcement of current laws as a valid reason not to act.

“The Obama administration has been responsible for more removals, deportations than any other administration,” said Mark Schlakman, of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. “To assert that there is no enforcement of U.S. immigration law is completely unfounded.”


The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) presented Gov. Scott and eleven legislative leaders with the organization’s Champion for the Elderly Awards. Presented at FHCA’s annual conference in Orlando, the award recognizes individual dedication during the 2014 legislative session to policy issues regarding long-term care providers and the elderly they serve.

Recipients include Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz, House Speaker Will Weatherford, state Sens. Joe Negron, John Thrasher, Eleanor Sobel and Denise Grimsley, as well as state Reps. Matt Gaetz, Matt Hudson, Janet Cruz, Frank Artiles and Larry Ahern.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2014, the Florida Health Care Association serves almost 1,000 members and represents more than 500 long-term care facilities providing skilled nursing, post-acute and sub-acute care, short-term rehab, assisted living and other services to the elderly and individuals with disabilities in Florida.


Creation of private sector jobs in Florida picked up in June as the state persists as the third biggest job generator in the country, according to a report released Wednesday.

Florida added 22,620 private jobs, up from 17,280 jobs in May, according to national payroll processing company ADP, which uses payroll data to estimate private jobs added every month. Consistent with recent months, California and Texas were, by far, the top two job powerhouses with nearly 80,000 new jobs added between them.

“All four of the major regions had job gains well above their averages for the past twelve months,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, VP and head of the ADP Research Institute “Despite showing their strongest growth since November 2013, the Northeast and Midwest are still well behind the South and West.”

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The New England Journal of Medicine, among the most respected journals read by physicians worldwide, has weighed in on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana in what seems to be a rarely neutral expose on the topic. As Florida begins to implement legal access to Charlotte’s Web — the low-TCH marijuana strain that can alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, pain, and cancer — articles such as this one will be at the top of your doctor’s reading list and will likely inform how he or she decides to approach prescribing. Here is what they may see:

First, we can eliminate lung cancer as a likely consequence for most. In terms of the strength of current evidence, even for heavy or long-term use, the authors have low confidence in the association between marijuana and lung cancer. That said, the authors feel evidence is quite strong for related issues such as chronic bronchitis. Further, strong connections exist between marijuana use, particularly when it begins young in life, and issues of addiction to the drug and other substances, diminished lifetime achievement, and motor vehicle accidents.

Here is something that you may not have known: marijuana has become more potent over the past many decades. The THC content in confiscated marijuana samples has increased from about 3% in the 1980s to 12% in 2012 — meaning that the marijuana used in previous generations is not quite the marijuana of today. To the authors, these changes may account for increases in emergency department visits by marijuana users and greater frequency of marijuana-related fatal motor vehicle accidents.

They end with a careful admonition: “As policy shifts toward legalization of marijuana, it is reasonable and probably prudent to hypothesize that its use will increase and that, by extension, so will the number of persons for whom there will be negative health consequences.”


Though voters must still chime in on the issue, a group has been organized to develop recommendations for implementing medical marijuana regulations, and later lobby state lawmakers to make those recommendations law.

The group – known as Florida for Care – is organized as a 501c4, a so-called “social welfare” group that is not required to disclose its donors. Those groups can maintain that status as long as less than 50 percent of spending does not go to political activities.

The recommendations will be crafted over a series of five meeting by a “Blue Ribbon Commission” that’s comprised of both supporters and opponents of the proposed medical marijuana amendment, which will appear as Amendment 2 on November’s ballot.

After the commission develops its recommendations, Florida for Care will do things like lobby lawmakers or buy advertising in support of those proposals.

“Florida for Care’s Blue Ribbon Commission will provide research, expert opinions, and feedback on a wide range on medical marijuana issues,” wrote Jon Mills, chairman of the commission, in a letter to commission members.

He is a former Democratic speaker of the House and supporter of Amendment 2. The commission’s co-chairman is former state Sen. Alex diaz de la Portilla, who opposes the measure.

A member of the group’s board is Ben Pollara, a Democratic consultant and campaign manager for United for Care, the group supporting Amendment 2. Florida for Care, the new group, has hired Dan Rogers, a former legislative aide to state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, as executive director.

DOG TRACKS CORNERED BY WAGERING WOES, RACING FOES via Fernando Peinado of the Associated Press

A mural-sized photograph at Flagler Dog Track celebrates the good old days, decades gone: Men and women in their finest clothes lean against the fence to catch a glimpse of the greyhounds, the stands emblazoned with red, white and blue bunting, radio men perched in a booth to bring the action to fans at home.

Outside the trumpet sounded, the track announcer introduced the dogs, and almost no one was there to see it. Only a couple dozen patrons looked down from the 7,000-seat grandstand.

The dog racing business, at once doomed and propped up by casino gambling, has come to a crossroads.

The owners of many tracks – along with ghost tracks that now offer only simulcast racing – are hoping to survive long enough for states to let them drop the facade of dog racing altogether and just run casinos.

Lawmakers, mindful of the interests of deep-pocketed casino operators who don’t want the unfettered competition, seem to have other ideas.

Florida, which in 1931 was the first state to legalize wagering on greyhound racing, opted against a measure in its most recent legislative session that would have allowed tracks to keep poker and slots and ditch the racing. The plan, which proponents hope to revive in the session next year, is seen as an expansion of gambling and faces opposition from gambling opponents and other competitors.

The “decoupling” movement has created an odd alliance between racetrack casino operators, who see the races as a burden, and animal rights groups out to end greyhound racing altogether, much as they succeeded in outlawing cockfighting several years ago. The animal rights groups say the races and the training are cruel and say some dogs that were poor racers have been euthanized.

“When decoupling passes, it will lead to a slow and gradual end” of the industry, said Carey Theil, executive director of the anti-racing group Grey2K USA.

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Contribution Link — the Tallahassee-based consulting firm specializing in data mining, research and campaign strategy — launches Decision Link, its new election predictive tool, with a game that puts a political twist on “man vs. machine.”

To introduce Decision Link, Contribution Link founder Brecht Heuchan will pit sixteen of the state’s most savvy political observers in competition during the upcoming statewide primary and election season.

Decision Link works by calculating probabilities in Florida legislative elections, using historical political information, advanced modeling techniques and the science of Big Data.

Heuchan notes the Decision Link “machine” performs with 94% rate of accuracy.  Taking a wealth of information and political circumstances that exist in the present, the model will calculate the likelihood of future outcomes.

Sixteen contestants, every one of them at the top of their game, are Pat Bainter, Chip Case, Joe Clements, Ana Cruz, David Custin, Rich Heffley, David Johnson, Jackie Lee, Anthony Pedicini, Travis Peterson, Marc Reichelderfer, Jim Rimes, Steve Schale, Ryan Tyson, Steve Vancore and Ashley Walker.

Each player will compete against Decision Link and each other, by choosing winners in the state’s 46 primary election contests (30 Republican, 16 Democrat), and 57 general election contests (52 House, 5 Senate).

Will they outperform Decision Link? The game is on.


How smart are your tweets? TIME Magazine thinks it knows. The magazine evaluated 1 million public tweets and found that about 33 percent test at a fourth grade reading level. TIME used the commonly used reading comprehension survey called SMOG (Smile Measure of Gobbledygook) to analyze the complexity of messages. Gobbledygook is defined as a word that involves three or more syllables. Apparently, politicians are the most likely to use gobbledygook.

Here are where some high profile Florida politicians land: At an 8th grade reading level: Steve Southerland; at a 7th grade reading level: Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson, Ander Crenshaw, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Nan Rich; at a 6th grade reading level: Ted Yoho, Charlie Crist, and Rick Scott; and at a 5th grade reading level: Gwen Graham. This may make the Southerland-Graham match one of the more unequal on this spectrum. Plug in any others of your curiosity here.


The Florida Medical Association and the Florida Dental Association are hosting a fundraiser in Tarpon Springs for GOP candidates Chris Latvala for House District 67 and Chris Sprowls for House District 65. The event begins 6 p.m. at Johnny Grits, 857 Klosterman Rd. in Tarpon Springs.


From Julio Gonzalez’s “death panels” to Richard DeNapoli’s residency issues, the rhetoric surrounding the GOP primary in Florida House District 74 reached another high-water mark as both conservative candidates fought it out on a Venice stage Wednesday afternoon.

When the question was health care and end-of-life issues, the debate really began to light up.

Armed with a copy of Gonzalez’s Health Care Reform: The Truth, DeNapoli tried to pin down his opponent on the difference between the doctor’s reviews of “appropriate modes of resource allocation” and the much feared “death panels.”

However, in an attempt to clarify his position, Gonzalez continued to go a little further, saying that in some “futile” cases, it would be “unethical” for loved ones to keep a family member alive on life support.

He continued to insist that the government should not be in the business of health care.

“I don’t want anybody telling me a health index,” DeNapoli shot back, “that would tell me whether or not my grandfather or grandmother would be able to get care.”

As an “ardent” defender of the 10th Amendment, Gonzalez called on all elected officials — be it a “school board member or commissioner” – to rise up, because “there cannot be enough lawsuits” to stop a “runaway president from breaking the Constitution.”

LENNY CURRY POSTS BLOCKBUSTER $560,000 FUND-RAISING MONTH IN JUNE  via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union

Lenny Curry, the former head of the Florida Republican Party challenging Mayor Alvin Brown’s re-election bid next year, raised more than $560,000 in the 27 days since filing last month, his campaign buoyed by significant financial support from well-known local Republicans as well as donations from leading statewide figures like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

His blockbuster $568,730 fund-raising month topped Brown’s more than $330,000 haul for April, the mayor’s biggest fundraising month to date that brought his total to more than $1.1 million.

Curry’s campaign raised $160,630 in June, according to the latest filings. The political action committee supporting his election, Together for a Greater Jacksonville, raised $408,100.

Many donors to his political action committee cut large $25,000 checks, showcasing the reach the former state GOP chairman has with deep-pocketed supporters.

That prowess will help in a race expected to be hotly contested as the Florida Democrats hope to retain the seat of a traditionally right-leaning big city while the state GOP hopes to recapture it.

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The casino company run by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson has hired former Republican congressman Connie Mack and his firm Mack Strategies.

Mack will be working for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. on pushing his top priority: the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham that would ban all forms of gambling on the Internet. Adelson is building an arsenal of firms to work on the issue, which is divisive even within the gaming industry.

Since February, Las Vegas Sands has also hired The Keelen Group, Capitol Counsel, Lincoln Policy Group and Steptoe & Johnson, according to Senate lobbying records. The company, also registered with Husch Blackwell, spent $200,000 across five firms in the first quarter of the year.


Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Matrix Health Group

Sandy Safley: FCCI Insurance Group


Fort Lauderdale’s best known public relations firm has collapsed with one principal charging his long time partner plundered the company.

The charges are contained in a lawsuit Gary Bitner filed this week against his former partner at Bitner Goodman – Michael Goodman.

Goodman is alleged to have stolen everything down to the company espresso machine….Really!!!

Bitner Goodman has been one of the leading PR firms in Florida with such clients as Winn-Dixie, Simon Property Group, Tri-Rail and the Seminole Tribe.  A former newspaper reporter, Bitner is a decades-long fixture in South Florida business and political circles.

Goodman announced last month he was leaving to form his own business after 10 years with Bitner. According to the lawsuit, the pair each owned half of the company.

In the lawsuit, Bitner said when he “arrived at the office the morning of June 12, 2014, he was 
confronted with a nearly empty office. …”

The lawsuit alleges that the video shows Goodman and the employees of their firm removing “three pieces of framed art work (and) ….all Company checks and accounting records; office furniture including desks, tables, chairs, printers, televisions, phones, a credenza, and a light fixture; 16 file cabinets and their files; a binding machine with its supplies; all of Bitner Goodman’s art department computers; Bitner’s personal items; more than 15 computers and a server; a vast array of supplies; a shredder; a coffee machine and an espresso machine; and petty cash.”

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On Context Florida: For the U.S. Supreme Court’s distortions of the Constitution, such as Citizens United and corporate personhood, Martin Dyckman says the available remedy is to amend the Constitution. It is time to consider seriously an amendment that would limit justices, and perhaps all federal judges, to nonrenewable terms of 18 years. Andrew Skerritt believes columnist Ann Coulter may be on to something when she wrote, “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.” At a re-election campaign appearance in Tampa, writes Adam Weinstein, Gov. Rick Scott burnished his law enforcement record, complete with a cadre of uniformed peace officers from Florida Fish and Wildlife, Hillsborough County, and Tampa proper. It sure looked like the officers were endorsing him. Except they weren’t. John and Dick could have been a stage-show-worthy, dysfunctional husband and wife. Bickering and snuggling, sharing and caring. However, Linda Cunningham notes that John and Dick could get married today in New York. Not in Florida, not today, and not ever if Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has her way.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Happy 137th birthday, today, to the first tennis tournament at Wimbledon. July 9, 1877, marked the opening lawn match in this suburb of London, where 21 amateurs showed up to compete in the gentlemen’s singles.

But as far as clay courts are concerned, Florida is where to be. Compared to hard courts, clay ones offer a much cooler surface that don’t radiate as much heat — and also slow the game down making it easier on knees. Clay courts are expensive to maintain, requiring ample watering, but Florida’s humidity makes this a lot easier to accomplish than the climate of other states.

This year, multiple Florida players were runners-up at Wimbledon, including Bob and Mike Bryan, and Stefan Kozlov. It has been 14 years since Florida’s Venus Williams won Wimbledon in July, 2000; and 12 years since her sister Serena did the same in July, 2002.

Tennis enthusiasts feel strongly about playing on their favorite type of surface — but in terms of true controversy, this week offers a much bigger historical first: the Scopes Monkey Trials.

On July 10, 1925 — 89 years ago — John Thomas Scopes was tried for the offense of teaching evolution to a Tennessee high school science class.

The Scopes Monkey Trial (known more formally as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes), was landmark in that it upheld the state’s prohibition against teaching evolution on grounds that it contradicted the Bible. It would not be until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968 that such bans would be struck down as contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Finally, it was 22 years ago tomorrow, on July 10, 1992, that former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega stood before a Miami court and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug and racketeering charges.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former Rep. Gary Aubuchon and Beth Gosnell.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.