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Pitbull releases $1M Visit Florida contract on Twitter; state suit still pending

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In a surprise move, Miami rapper Pitbull released his entire controversial contract with Visit Florida this morning by posting it onto a tweet Thursday, revealing the breadth of duties he’d signed onto as a celebrity tourism ambassador for the state, and Florida’s fee for his service — $1 million per year.

The move comes just over a day after Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued his production company to get a judge’s ruling against him. Corcoran was challenging claims that the contract must be kept secret because it contains trade secrets covered by exemptions in Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

Yet the unexpected release by Pitbull — said to be strongly supportive of wanting to help promote his state — does not mean the lawsuit is going away.

At about 9:30 a.m. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Chrstian Perez, tweeted, “Full Disclosure — Florida” with a picture of himself set proudly against the Miami skyline, and posted a link to a Dropbox account containing the full contract, with just addresses redacted out.

Corcoran responded with a hint of frustration. And his communications director Fred Piccolo said he will meet with counsel to determine whether to continue the lawsuit. Ultimately, the key issue in the lawsuit is not about Pitbull but whether Visit Florida can shield its contracts to promote Florida tourism, as was done with this contract, or whether the Florida House of Representatives has overriding legal responsibility to review them, Piccolo said.

The issue became contested because Corcoran and others expressed growing concerns that Visit Florida contracts are being shielded both from public review and from legislative review by increasing reliance on the trade secrets loophole. Corcoran and the house want to scrutinize the state-chartered nonprofit corporation acting as a quasi-state agency, starting with the contract with Pitbull’s production company, PDR Productions of Miami

But Visit Florida advised him that PDR Productions considered virtually the entire contract a trade secret, and said the company even threatened to sue anyone associated with the Florida House of Representatives if they publicly disclosed anything. So late Tuesday Corcoran sued PDR first, seeking to stop such veils. On Thursday he sounded still determined.

“It is unfortunate that it took litigation to lift the veil of secrecy on this particular contract. This was a long unnecessary journey through claims of trade secrets, threats of prosecution, and corporate welfare paid for by taxpayers,” said in a statement released Thursday. “The people’s house will not hesitate to use every tool at our disposal to protect the taxpayer and ensure transparency is the rule and not the exception in state government. It is my hope that the coverage this issue received will foster a larger discussion of the proper role of government in the free market and the need to end the idea that government as ‘venture capitalist’ is good for our economy.”

The 11-page contract was good for the period of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, with options for both Pitbull and Visit Florida to renew it annually. Among the things Pitbull agreed to do:

* Work with Visit Florida to coordinate a live-TV broadcast of a New Year’s Eve celebration in Miami, featuring him.

* Create a music video called “Sexy Beaches” featuring Florida beach scenes, and licensed it to Visit Florida for promotional uses.

* Promote Florida through social media, including using and promoting the hashtag #LoveFL, to be displayed on a video screen during each of his concerts

* Participate in quarterly strategy planning sessions with Visit Florida to coordinate his activities with the Visit Florida brand.

* Make promotional public appearances, with Visit Florida picking up his travel expenses.

* Provide 10-15 second “intro” and “outro” video clips for Visit Florida to use with its “Conquering Florida” video series.

* Make best efforts to use Florida locales in his other music video productions.

* Allow Visit Florida reasonable use of his music in other promotions.

* Have Visit Florida pick up many of the production expenses.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz also chimed in, calling the disclosure a win, but with final judgment on the value of the contract still to be determined:

“Today’s disclosure of Visit Florida’s $1 million payment to Pitbull is a win for Floridians who may now judge for themselves whether or not this agreement constitutes a good deal for our state with all the facts at hand.

“For state government to be fully accountable to the people of Florida, these decisions must be made without secrecy and in the sunshine at all times. There is no excuse for a lack of transparency when it comes to how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

“With the many challenges currently facing our state, we must ensure that every tax dollar spent is gaining the greatest benefit for every Floridian.”

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Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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