Sunburn for 7/2 – 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: Don’t be alarmed if you see red flashing lights in the sky today – it’s the 13th annual “World UFO Day.” The last reported UFO sighting in Florida was five months ago in Jacksonville, where a mysterious figure flew over the beach. It wasn’t a bird, or a plane – or Superman.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Welcome to the unending, inbox-clogging world of online campaign fundraising, set against a backdrop of Federal Election Commission deadline for candidates to disclose their campaign finances. The more an office-seeker reports having in the bank, the more there is available for the fall campaign. But it’s not just the money that counts, it’s the appearance of it.

“In just 15 hours, I’ll have to close the books on our second quarter FEC report,” wrote Jenny Nadicksbernd, finance director for Sen. Mark Warner. “That report will be looked at by Karl Rove and his special interest pals to see if they should launch attacks against” the Virginia Democrat, she added.

It’s not only candidates for federal offices.

Jason Carter, a Democrat running for governor of Georgia, helpfully posted a clock on his emailed request for cash. That way everyone would know exactly how much time was left – down to the second – to reach Carter’s target of $50,000 before his self-imposed midnight deadline.

Nor is it just a simple request for money. Candidates and independent organizations have a series of pleadings, tailored to the political leanings of their donor targets.

The appeal from (U.S. Sen. Marco) Rubio’s political action committee, Reclaim America, mentioned both, and still found room to send along best wishes for the hot weather months. “I hope your summer is off to a great start, but it’s hard to enjoy our time with family and friends when we see one scandal after another emerging from Washington, DC,” it said. “The Obama Administration just can’t seem to shoot straight, and they’re aided every step of the way by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”


It’s going to be a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world after the House has quietly stripped away the requirement that such privately sponsored travel be included on lawmakers’ annual financial-disclosure forms.

The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back to its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings.

“This is such an obvious effort to avoid accountability,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “There’s no legitimate reason. There’s no good reason for it.”

Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers’ finances.

The change occurs as free travel, which critics have criticized as thinly veiled junkets, has come back into vogue. Last year, members of Congress and their aides took more free trips than in any year since the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison. There were nearly 1,900 trips at a cost of more than $6 million last year, according to Legistorm, which compiles travel records.

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Many have wondered why Crist arrived later than expected to the Florida Democratic Party’s Lead Blue fundraising gala on Saturday. The reason? Crist had been in Nantucket, where he collected a $500,000 check from the Democratic Governors Association.

Indeed, it was a worthwhile visit to the Northeast for Crist. But not making the trip was his handy sidekick, Charlie Crist Fan. The Fan’s absence did not go unnoticed.

Steven Shepard, editor of POLITICO’s Campaign Pro, was in Nantucket for a wedding and was surprised to spot Crist, recounts Mike Allen in POLITICO Playbook.

Shepard says Crist chatted with attendees in a room just off the private event space, where he expressed confidence to one potential donor that he would win both the primary and general elections. Crist also noted that the maximum contribution to his campaign was $3,000, though that limit doesn’t apply to his political committee under Florida law.

Another POLITICO reporter was enjoying the complimentary continental breakfast at his hotel when Crist emerged from the private event room and sat down with prospective donors. Crist was dressed in a shirt and tie. He complained about the lack of air conditioning in the event space and noted that he positioned himself downwind of the air vent in the common area outside the event.

This is how you know Crist needs to re-tool his campaign: When his staff forgets to pack The Fan! Without The Fan, what does it matter if he’ll debate Nan Rich or release Carole Crist’s taxes?


After politically newbie Rick Scott spent $40 million of his own wealth to defeat former Attorney General Bill McCollum during the 2010 GOP primary, the two had a chilly, at best, relationship.

The entire GOP establishment was with McCollum, who did not formally endorse Scott until October 2010, months after the primary.

Well, yesterday that was put aside. McCollum formally endorsed Scott in his re-election bid against Crist.


Rick Scott needs accountability for his “failed record” of education cuts and college tuition hikes, according to the second attack ad released by the Florida Democratic Party.

In a press release announcing “Why,” the new 30-second digital spot, FDP spokesperson Joshua Karp says, “Scott wants Floridians to believe that he is on the side of middle class families who depend on public schools and colleges, but independent fact-checkers have already said that’s not accurate.”

The ad holds the Republican governor accountable for “putting wealthy special interests first and public education last.”

“Rick Scott just doesn’t get it,” Karp adds, noting a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times report finding Scott cut education $1.3 billion and hiked tuition at 11 public universities to “pay for even more tax breaks for wealthy special interests.”

Karp says that quality, affordable education is the best path to the middle class, but Scott “keeps the doors of opportunity closed.”

“That’s why Floridians just can’t trust Rick Scott. Florida’s children deserve better than Rick Scott — they deserve a governor who will be on their side.”

TWEET. TWEET: @Mdixon55: . @FlaDems says new ad is running on broadcast and cable in WPB, Tampa, and Orlando.  Buy is “high six figures,” but gave no specific number

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Florida’s foremost business trade group named a number of pro-business legislators, led by Gov. Scott, as “Champions for Business” for 2014.

The Associated Industries of Florida announced 10 award winners — Scott, in addition to eight Republicans and a Democrat — as elected officials who have proven this year to be strong and forceful advocates for Florida business.

AIF recognized Scott for his efforts in cutting taxes by $500 million in 2014, in particular signing Senate Bill 156, which rolled back vehicle registration fees that will save taxpayers $395 million.

Other recipients of the AIF Champions for Business Award include Republican Sens. Joe Negron and Jeremy Ring, Democratic Sen. Bill Montford, incoming Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Reps. Richard Corcoran, Jeanette Nunez and Seth McKeel, outgoing Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford and Sen. Jack Latvala.


Panhandle veterans will be honored during Governor’s Veterans Service Award ceremonies in Pensacola and Panama City. B Troop, 153rd Cavalry, 8790 Grow Dr., Pensacola. 10 a.m. CST. Headquarters Troop 1-153rd Cavalry, 3121 North Lisenby Ave., Panama City.  2 p.m. CST

PRESS RELEASE CONSISTENCY via the Florida Conference of Bishops, which always urges whomever is governor to commute a death sentence to life in prison.

PRESS RELEASE FAIL: Attorney General candidate George Sheldon reacting to Monday’s Hobby Lobby 24 hours after decision was handed down. Talk about non-rapid response!

APPOINTED: Hendry County Judge James Sloan to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court

REAPPOINTED: Rose Lee Archer Di Capua, Shelley Gottsagen, and John Davis to the Florida Independent Living Council.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent letters to states warning that road dollars will be drying up this summer unless Congress reaches a deal on replenishing the Highway Trust Fund.

While the anticipated news has already prompted many states to postpone some highway projects, Florida officials say they are sitting on as much as a six-month cushion of dollars, which should keep state construction projects on track while federal talks continue.

“We are one of the few states that do not have to rely as heavily on federal transportation funds,” said Dick Kane, a Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson.

Florida draws about $2.3 billion from the troubled Highway Trust Fund, representing about one-quarter of the state’s work program. State officials forecast they could endure a three-to-six-month shutdown of federal dollars and still pay contractors and keep projects going.

In his letter Tuesday to states, Foxx said the federal transportation agency would begin “cash management procedures” Aug. 1, which include an end to same-day reimbursements for construction projects.


The Chattahoochee River is a single stream flowing toward Florida. But there were two very different activities that showed the contrasting ways in which people and institutions can deal with a water issue.

Along the banks of Lake Eufaula, created by a dam across the Chattahoochee River, representatives of groups, utilities and industries along the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system were grappling with how to write and implement a sustainable water use plan for the river system.

Further upstream in Atlanta, participants in Paddle Georgia 2014 were learning about the history and many uses of the river while making new friends and having a good time outdoors.

“Our hope is to give them an interest in the issues,” said Joe Cook, a Paddle Georgia 2014 organizer. “So if they see something in the newspaper that says Chattahoochee River or Flint River, they’ll pay attention to it.”

Last October, Gov. Scott asked the U. S. Supreme Court to set an allocation for sharing water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

Scott said Georgia’s refusal to share water threatened generations of Florida families that depend on Apalachicola Bay for fishing. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal responded that the lawsuit was “frivolous” and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the federal Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) that included language urging the governors to work out their differences so that federal reservoir operations are not affected.

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BILL EDWARDS DONATES $50K TO JACK LATVALA COMMITTEE via Noah Pransky of the Shadow of the Stadium blog

Few local businessmen enjoyed Florida’s legislative session as much as Bill Edwards, which raises eyebrows about a $50,000 contribution he made to the political action committee of Senator Jack Latvala.

Edwards, a mortgage tycoon and owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, successfully lobbied the legislature and governor for a half-million dollar improvement to the Mahaffey Theater as well as a stadium subsidy bill that – for the first time – makes the Rowdies eligible for tens of millions of tax dollars.

Latvala was key in re-writing the stadium bill, which was originally designed to subsidize facilities for the “Big Four” sports leagues, considered tourist draws. But this year, in addition to adding NASCAR and MLS to the leagues eligible, Latvala made sure the Rowdies’ North American Soccer League (NASL) was added as well.

Even though the NASL averages around 4,000 fans per game (the Rowdies have performed slightly above average), they now stand to qualify for $3 million a year in state tax dollars for new stadium construction. Edwards has indicated he envisions a taxpayer-subsidized soccer stadium on St. Pete’s waterfront.

The bill passed on May 2, the last day of the session. On June 17, Edwards contributed $50,000 to Latvala’s Florida Leadership Fund, a political action committee (PAC) that allows him to spend contributions almost any way he wants. The Senator is seeking to become the President of the chamber, which generally involves out-raising his peers as a sign of dominance.

“This is America. Jack wants to be the president of the Senate and I want him to be president too, so I support him,” Edwards said, indicating there was nothing illegal about making the PAC contributions.



State Sen. Benacquisto is having a busy campaign week.

In addition to releasing a new TV campaign ad, the state Senate Majority Leader trumpeted the support of the Florida Police Benevolent Association in her re-election bid for Senate District 30.

“Protecting Our Children” will begin airing across Southwest Florida on Wednesday, and is available on YouTube.

In endorsing Benacquisto, the FPBA cited her commitment to protecting Florida’s children and her unwavering support of law enforcement officers.

“Law enforcement officers in Southwest Florida and across the state are better equipped and more prepared to protect our children from predators because of Lizbeth,” said FPBA Executive Director Matt Puckett. “Lizbeth shares our zero tolerance for the monsters who prey on our children and backs it up by fighting for the resources our officers need to protect our communities.”

“As a mother, my greatest priority is protecting our state’s children,” Benacquisto said. “Working with Florida’s law enforcement officers and children’s advocates, I am proud to say we have passed some of the toughest child predator laws in the nation and I am honored to have the PBA’s endorsement.”


House candidate Jim Roach is questioning Dane Eagle, the incumbent Roach is seeking to replace, for a bill he sponsored last session.

Roach filed a complaint asking the state Commission on Ethics to look into whether a construction-related bill Eagle sponsored last legislative session constitutes a conflict of interest.

Roach is one of three Republican candidates vying against Eagle for his seat in District 77. The others are Terry Cramer and Brandon Ivey.

The bill, HB 593, included language that would give $250,000 a year from construction surcharges to the Future Builders of America, a program sponsored by the Florida Builders’ Association. It also included statutory changes to building codes and permitting.

At the time he sponsored the bill, Eagle worked as the director of development for the Lee County Building Industry Association. He has since resigned. The BIA and the state association are federated members of the National Association of Home Builders.

“As the Lee Building Industry Association is autonomous, operates under its own board of directors, and is not a subsidiary of the Florida Home Builders Association or the nonprofit Future Builders of America, I don’t believe there is a parent/subsidiary conflict of interest, but we will certainly look into that matter,” Eagle wrote in an email.

Roach’s complaint is the first arrow to be loosed in the race for Eagle’s seat — and it’s one Eagle called “purely political” in an email.


The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) announced its support of Trumbull as he seeks the open seat currently held by term-limited Rep. Jimmy Patronis, which covers southern Bay County and Panama City, Panama City Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base.

“Jay Trumbull understands that running a business is not easy and that physicians run into some of the same obstacles that business owners do with government red tape,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “He will be a strong advocate as we push for measures to improve the health care system, allowing physicians to provide patients with the care they need when they need it.”

“The FMA has done a tremendous amount of work to ensure that Floridians have access to high quality and affordable care in Bay County and throughout Florida,” Trumbull said. “I am looking forward to working together to make sure our state provides the best health care in the nation.”

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On Context Florida: Thanks to the Supremes, says Linda Cunningham, corporations can donate front-end loaders of cash to political causes with nary a hand slap. On Monday, five of the nine Supreme Court justices nudged their corporate “child” a bit closer to full person-hood, providing it religious organization status. The Hobby Lobby case leaves Julie Delegal with unanswered questions and a legal “minefield,” to borrow a word from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one that could well extend beyond medical issues. On July 4, Americans should realize we were born into an experiment in governance, writes Ed Moore, and we should be awed that a group of men from throughout the colonies was able, after many years of struggle, to devise our system of government. As we approach July 4 and celebrate our nation’s independence, Kevin Sweenyfeels it is time for us all to pause and remind ourselves what this freedom means.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Disney’s Hollywood Studios in central Florida will add to the “Frozen” frenzy by offering a daily character procession, sing-alongs and a nightly party based on the hit animated movie.

Disney recently announced that “Frozen Summer Live” — a character-driven procession down the park’s Hollywood Boulevard with Anna, Elsa and Kristoff — will begin July 5 and run through Sept. 1, each day at 11 a.m.

There’s also a new sing-along show, a dance party, “Frozen”-themed fireworks, a polar playground, ice skating rink and ice carving demonstrations.

“Frozen” tells the story of how Anna and Elsa overcome Elsa’s terrible power to turn everything into ice and snow. It’s become the fifth-highest grossing film of all time, raking in $1.2 billion in box office earnings worldwide.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to rising political star Janine Kray and top-notch lobbyist James McFaddin.

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.