Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.
IT IS LESS THAN 100 DAYS TO FLORIDA’S PRIMARY ELECTIONS AND…
Patrick Murphy cannot have many more days like the one he had on Monday.
The Jupiter Democratic Representative was busted by the Miami Herald regarding an exaggeration in his academic record. The newspaper revealed that Murphy’s official congressional and campaign websites have been incorrectly stating for the past 14 months that the 33-year-old had earned “degrees in accounting and finance” from the University of Miami.
In fact, Murphy has a single bachelor’s degree in business administration.
A campaign spokeswoman said the embellishment was unintentional. Murphy couldn’t be bothered to actually acknowledge the error.
It’s not been a great past few weeks for Murphy, the Democratic Party establishment’s choice to be their U.S. Senate nominee this fall.
He was recently the recipient of a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the conservative leaning Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust The group is questioning whether Murphy is coordinating with his super PAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class. Murphy’s father, Thomas, and the family’s company, Coastal Construction Group, have given half-a-million dollars to that Super PAC.
Murphy also recently donated nearly $27,000 to charity in exchange for campaign contributions he received from two donors, one a friend who pleaded guilty to beating his wife two years ago, and the other from a contribution from Congressman Ami Bera’s father, who admitted to violating campaign finance law by reimbursing his son’s donors.
Murphy has also had to batten down reports regarding his support for EB-5 legislation that has drawn the attention of a conservative super PAC. The program essentially allows wealthy foreigners to buy U.S. citizenship by investing $500,000 in a project that creates U.S. jobs.
A Murphy super PAC received a $50,000 contribution from a company associated with Nicholas Mastroianni Il, a major player in the EB-5 world.
Murphy’s recent troubles were mocked by some of his critics on Monday, who couldn’t resist the title of a fundraising email titled, “We are in a bad place.”
The note went on to say that with “the attacks from national Republicans rolling in, the Kochs poised to pounce, and far too many people are undecided in this race, we are really in a bad place.”
Some of it, he might have added, is due to his own self-inflicted errors.
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HILLARY CLINTON EDGING DONALD TRUMP IN FLORIDA, SUPPORT FOR MARIJUANA (YES) STILL HIGH, POLL SHOWS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – While an earlier Quinnipiac University survey this month put the pair in a virtual tie, the Gravis poll of 2,542 registered Florida voters gave Clinton an edge, 46-42 over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The poll’s margin-of-error is plus-or-minus 2 percent. Both contenders drawn unfavorable ratings from voters topping 50 percent. The prospect of medical marijuana winning approval on its second go-around with Florida voters also looks strong, according to Gravis. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they supported the measure headed to the ballot in November.
SENATE MAJORITY PAC SLATED TO SPEND $10.5M IN FLORIDA THIS FALL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Senate Majority PAC, a political committee aimed at helping take back the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, said it is poised to spend $10.5 million on cable and broadcast advertisements in Florida starting in September. “Republicans are going to nominate a far-right, Tea Party candidate who is out of touch with Florida’s middle class,” said Shripal Shah, Senate Majority PAC’s director of communications. “We’re going to be ready to hold their eventual nominee accountable.” The group is also expected to spend $7.5 million in Nevada, $8.5 million in New Hampshire, and $9.5 million in Ohio this fall.
CARLOS BERUFF BECOMES TOP SELF FUNDER FOR A U.S. SENATE SEAT IN THE NATION via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Beruff has spent more than $3 million on television spots statewide … And most of that money is coming from his own pocket … that number is now expected to be over $3 million … That would make Beruff the biggest self-funder in the nation for an U.S. Senate seat, surpassing Democrat Napoleon Harris, who put in $2.1 million of his own money but lost his primary election in Illinois earlier this year. But he’s got a long way to catch the top self-funder for a seat in Congress this year. Democrat David Trone, founder of Total Wine, spent more $9.9 million of his own money … but lost in a primary for a seat in Congress representing Maryland’s D.C.-suburbs in late April. Beruff hasn’t hidden the fact that he intends to self-fund a big part of his campaign. In interviews he’s consistently said he’ll put his own money in the race, but has not said exactly how much. Self-funders have not had a great track record running for the U.S. Senate since 2010. Since then, nearly 90 percent of candidates who have put $1 million of their own money into a U.S. Senate campaign have lost. In total, 34 candidates have put $1 million or more into their campaigns. Thirty of those candidates lost either in the primary or the general election.
CLC HITS DAVID JOLLY ON ABORTION IN FIRST ATTACK OF GOP SENATE PRIMARY via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — “Promising to fight Planned Parenthood, he was the only Republican who voted to end the investigation into their selling of fetal baby parts. Major folly by David Jolly,” says the 15-second web ad, which is crafted to sound like a 1940s radio spot with swing music. Jolly said he opposed the special committee because the U.S. House already had three other investigations into Planned Parenthood.
U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Beruff will make multiple stops in North Florida. Lopez-Cantera will be in Miami. Todd Wilcox will be in Tampa.
MEANWHILE … JEFF ATWATER HAS NO REGRETS ABOUT NOT ENTERING RUN FOR U.S. SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “No, no, no. The timing just wasn’t right for us,” Atwater [said] after speaking to the St. Petersburg Republican Club at Parkshore Grill on Beach Drive … He said he made the decision roughly around three months after being inaugurated for another four-year term as the state’s CFO, and wasn’t prepared to engage in another year-and-half of campaigning to attempt to succeed Marco Rubio in Washington. “We’re loving what we’re doing,” he said about his current state of affairs, adding that he wished all five of the GOP senate candidates well. “They’re hustling,” he said. “It’s been far to get out of the shadow of the presidential conversation, but they’re hustling, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.” Atwater says for now he’s staying neutral in the race, but will back whomever survives the Aug. 30 primary.
ELECTIONS COMPLAINT ALLEGES VAL DEMINGS PLAYED FAVORITES IN 2014 REFUNDS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The complaint, filed by Connor Pace of Gainesville, contends that the 2014 campaign fully refunded money to a handful of contributors and provided no refunds to others. Pace also attached a spreadsheet to the report showing that most of the contributors who got refunds were lobbyists or consultants. “She chose to return contributions only to select group of contributors, instead of returning pro rata to each contributor as required by law,” the complaint charges. A spokeswoman for Demings’ current campaign, for the U.S. Congress in Orlando-based Congressional District 10, said that Demings had not yet been notified of the complaint so there would be no comment about it yet.
FRANCIS ROONEY, FORMER AMBASSADOR AND PROMINENT BUSH SUPPORTER, RUNNING FOR CD 19 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “I have given much thought to public service and how I could help others by making use of my successful record in business, my lifelong commitment to conservative values and my deep involvement in community causes,” said Rooney. “Washington is broken, and I have the skills and experience needed to challenge the status quo, bring people together and get things done.” A top Republican fundraiser, Rooney has spent decades behind the scenes helping candidates at all levels. He briefly considered a U.S. Senate bid, but ultimately decided against the run saying the political environment wasn’t right for him to jump into that race … he thinks the country needs “more business people that have worked” to grow the economy and jobs in Congress. “We need more outsiders and people who come from business to do it,” he said.
TIM CANOVA SAYS HE RAISED $250,000 AFTER BERNIE SANDERS ENDORSED HIM via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Canova also appeared on MSNBC and said Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s popularity back in Florida “is a bit of a myth.”
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RICK ROTH DROPS GOP CONGRESS BID FOR OPEN STATE HOUSE RACE via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Roth is dropping out of the crowded GOP primary for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat and filing for the open state House seat that Rep. Pat Rooney, is leaving. Roth enters a House District 85 race that includes Rooney’s former aide, Andrew Watt, who has the incumbent’s support. Former Clay Shaw aide Larry Casey is also considering a Republican run for the seat. Democrats Jay Rideout and Robert Simeone are also running — with Simeone, a former sheriff’s deputy who is CEO of Epiphanies Treatment Center, putting in $100,000 of his own money last week.
ROBERT SIMEONE RUNNING TO REPLACE PATRICK ROONEY IN HD 85 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “I’m running for the state House because it’s time for the people of our community to have a voice in their government. Rather than giving big handouts to large corporations, it’s time to focus on supporting our local small businesses to create good-paying jobs here in Palm Beach County,” he said in a statement. “Let’s also stop burying our heads in the sand and enact meaningful policies that address the looming threat of climate change on our coastal communities.” Simeone, a Navy veteran, graduated from the Police Academy at Indian River Community College in 2005 … went to work for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office while attending college at Embry Riddle University. Since 2013, he has served as an adjunct professor in the criminal justice division at Palm Beach State College.
HAPPENING TODAY: Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran and state Reps. José Oliva and Chris Sprowls host a fundraising reception to support the re-election bids of state Reps. Bob Cortes, Gayle Harrell, Blaise Ingoglia and Chris Latvala. Event begins 4 p.m. at the Governors Club Library, 202 South Adams St. in Tallahassee. RSVP with HouseMajority@RPOF.org.
HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Mike LaRosa is holding a fundraiser for his re-election bid for House District 42. Event begins 5 p.m. at the Osceola Heritage Park Heritage Club, 1875 Silver Spur Ln. in Kissimmee.
HAPPENING THIS THURSDAY: State Rep. Darryl Rouson is holding a fundraiser Thursday, May 26, in support of his bid for Senate District 19. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at 400 Beach Dr. in St. Petersburg. More information is at 727-459-4562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAPPENING THIS FRIDAY: Jayer Williamson is hosting a meet-and-greet event Friday, May 27, in support of his bid for House District 3. Event begins 1 p.m. at The Governor’s Club, 202 South Adams St. in Tallahassee. RSVP with Katie Ballard at 954-803-3942 or Katie@KatieBallardConsult.com.
SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Ed Narain is holding a fundraising reception for his Senate District 19 campaign Tuesday, May 31, hosted by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney at their Tampa offices, 401 E. Jackson St., Suite 2400. Event begins at noon. RSVP to Kristin Tyhurst at Kristin.Tyhurst@BLPC.com.
SAVE THE DATE: State Rep. Ross Spano is holding a fundraising reception Monday, June 13, in support of his re-election campaign to House District 59. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at Avenue Eat & Drink, 115 E. Park in Tallahassee. RSVP with Brock Mikosky at email@example.com.
NRA: CHARLES MCBURNEY ‘UNFIT’ FOR JUDGESHIP FOR ‘TRAMPLING’ OVER SECOND AMENDMENT via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Jacksonville Republican and attorney, who served as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is one of the six finalists to become a circuit judge in the state’s 4th Judicial Circuit, which covers Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. In an email sent to members over the weekend, the NRA says McBurney didn’t adhere to the best practices of a public official because he refused to hold a hearing on the state’s controversial “Burden of Proof” proposal during the 2016 regular legislative session. The bill, if passed, would have shifted the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases to the prosecutor, who would have had to prove, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whether a defendant could be granted immunity at a pretrial hearing in order to disprove a claim of self-defense immunity. Personal gain, not the will of the people, the NRA says, is what motivated McBurney to scrub the legislation. “As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Charles McBurney arrogantly put his blind ambition to become judge ahead of your constitutional right of self-defense and your basic fundamental right to the presumption of innocence,” wrote past president and current NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer.
ANONYMOUS TARGETS RICK SCOTT via Arek Sarkissian of Political Fix Florida – Nothing screams for attention louder than an anonymous post made by a group that calls themselves Anonymous. The Anonymous group posted a video message on Facebook blaming Scott for the billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee flooding into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico … The video also blames Scott for a corrupt state judicial system that allowed the Palm Beach Gardens police officer who shot Corey Jones to go free. The message, delivered by what looks to be the love child of a villain from the movie Scream and a V for Vendetta character, vaguely threatens Scott that the Anonymous group won’t forget the alleged atrocities he committed.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a ceremonial bill signing ceremony for SB 12, which helps people impacted by mental illness, at 1 p.m. at the Department of Children and Families Southern Region, 401 NW 2nd Avenue, Suite N-1007 in Miami.
IF DON GAETZ PURSUES UWF PRESIDENCY, HE’LL HAVE COMPETITION via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida — Board chair Lewis Bear, who owns a Pensacola beer distributorship and is a prominent GOP donor, said he is “wide open” in considering contenders for the job. The board of trustees will ultimately select a finalist for the job, who must then be approved by the State University System’s board of governors. Bear said he could see state Sen. Don Gaetz in the post. But he is also impressed with provost Martha Saunders as well as Kyle Marrero, president of the University of West Georgia in Carrollton and former UWF vice president for university advancement.
NEW LABOR DEPARTMENT OVERTIME RULE EXPECTED TO JOLT FLORIDA WORKPLACE via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – An estimated 331,000 of the 4.2 million U.S. workers affected by this rule change are employed in Florida. That’s about one in 12 of all workers nationwide whose paycheck falls under the new rule. The finalized U.S. Department of Labor rule doubles the eligible salary threshold for overtime from $23,660 per year to $47,476. Businesses will have until December to comply. That means folks making $23,660 annually or less already qualified for time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours a week. Now employees making up to twice that amount in salary also become eligible Dec. 1 for OT pay. That, experts say, will hit many of the lifeblood businesses that form the backbone of Florida’s economy. That includes tourism, theme parks, hotels and restaurants, retail, convenience stores and a host of mom-and-pop businesses from floral and T-shirt shops to small manufacturers. Especially businesses and industries where workweeks routinely exceed 40 hours. To put it mildly, the OT rule is brewing a pot of unintended consequences.
UTILITY REGULATORS REJECT REQUEST FROM PUBLIC’S LAWYERS FOR MORE TIME IN FPL RATE CASE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Florida Public Service Commission offered a glimpse into how bitter, and potentially personal, the high stakes debate over Florida Power & Light’s request to raise its rates $1.3 billion may become later this summer … the PSC voted unanimously to reject a request from the Office of Public Counsel, the lawyers who represent the public before regulators, who want more time to prepare their case. The OPC had asked the panel to reconsider a May 4 order by hearing officer and PSC Commissioner Lisa Edgar who ruled that the public counsel would have just over four weeks – until May 31 – to file its testimony in two parts of the rate case. She gave FPL just over five weeks – until July 5 — to file its rebuttal. It was a timeframe that Public Counsel J.R. Kelly considered unprecedented, unworkable and unfair so, rather than file a motion with Edgar for more time, he and his staff asked for a full vote of the PSC. It backfired. In a 10-minute speech, Edgar called the effort “a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a thinly veiled effort to force the full commission to review the pre-hearing schedule.” She said that in her “11 and a half years” on the commission she has ruled on several FPL rate cases and “timely acted upon” every request for an extension of time. Edgar’s colleagues had no sympathy for Kelly’s attempt to bypass Edgar. They sided with her, voted down his request with no debate, and adjourned the meeting.
KNOX NURSERY GETS STATE PERMISSION TO START GROWING POT via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Knox Nursery received its cultivation authorization from the Florida Department of Health May 13, making it the fourth of six licensed medical marijuana companies to get permission to plant seeds. The actual production of medicines may yet take a while. First, Knox, whose region includes St. Petersburg and the northern part of the Tampa Bay area and a swath across Florida that includes metropolitan Orlando, Daytona Beach and Melbourne, still has a few things to accomplish. It still must set up some security and greenhouse apparatus and hire more staff, according to the Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use. Second, it takes a while to grow marijuana.
SUN BULB COMPANY CHALLENGING DOH RESPONSE TO NEW MEDICAL POT LAW via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Sun Bulb Company filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing … in response to a newly passed law, which attorneys said allows “for approval of at least one additional applicant in each region” if candidates can demonstrate they should have been chosen. “As its concise statement of ultimate fact, Sun Bulb states it satisfies all established statutory and rule criteria for licensure as a Dispensing Organization for Low-THC Cannabis in the Southwest Florida region, and satisfied them better than the other applicants in the Southwest Region,” reads the petition. The DeSoto County nursery was one of six nurseries in the Southwest region that applied for a license to cultivate and dispense low-THC cannabis under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The nursery did not receive a permit, losing out to Surterra Therapeutics-Alpha Foliage. While Sub Bulb did not initially file a request for an administrative hearing, it is one of the several companies that filed petitions since the governor signed into law a bill that could increase the number approved dispensing organizations in the state.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Chris Hansen, Ballard Partners: Trulieve
Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Public Guardian Coalition
Timothy Cerio, GrayRobinson: Deloitte Consulting
Rob Fields, Danny Jordan, One Eighty Consulting: Optimum Software Solutions
Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting : FIU Student Government Association
Nick Iarossi, Ronald LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Trulieve
Nancy Black Stewart, Nancy Black Stewart PA: ThinkSmart Enterprises
APPOINTED: Jose A. Izquierdo to the 17th Judicial Circuit Court. Michael Davis to the Broward County Court.
PERSONNEL NOTE: AT&T NAMES TROY MCNICHOLS DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, NORTH & CENTRAL FLORIDA via Florida Politics – AT&T named Troy L. McNichols as its new Director of External Affairs for North and Central Florida. In McNichols’ new role he will lead a team responsible for representing AT&T with local governments in the region along with state lawmakers in Tallahassee. Before his promotion, McNichols worked as AT&T’s Regional Director of External Affairs for Central Florida. Before joining AT&T, the University of Central Florida alumnus held positions at the highest levels of government, including positions at the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy.
PERSONNEL NOTE: FLORIDA PORTS COUNCIL NAMES NIKI MCKINNELL AS PUBLIC AFFAIRS VP via Florida Politics – McKinnell replaces Jennifer Krell Davis who has accepted a position as deputy director of the Office of Public Information at The Florida Bar. McKinnell brings more than a decade of communications and public affairs experience to the Florida Ports Council. She comes from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), where she managed marketing programs and grants to increase driver safety on Florida’s roadways. “McKinnell’s background and experience will be critical in our outreach to the global business community about the immense opportunities regarding Florida’s 15 public seaports, as well as educating Florida’s leadership and public about the significant economic benefits ports bring,” said Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.
ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is feeling the Bern and not in a good way. Sen. Bernie Sanders is helping Schultz’s Democratic opponent, Tim Canova, in her August 30 primary in Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, the party’s “anointed candidate” as Sanders often calls her, slammed Donald Trump’s endorsement by the NRA while attending the Trayvon Martin Foundation’s third annual “Circle of Mothers” meeting in Fort Lauderdale. But at least one anti-violence activist in attendance called for the issue of gun violence to be addressed by lawmakers in Tallahassee instead of Washington. Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, also includes an interview with the newly crowned Miss Tallahassee, Lauren Calmet, speaking out against Trump’s past role as owner of the beauty pageant. Calmet also discusses how being a beauty queen is actually becoming a popular springboard into politics. Gomes also talks with Rep. James Grant and media consultant Kevin Cate about their wild idea to get the Florida Legislature to approve creating a specialty license plate for their alma mater, Alabama’s Auburn University.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the best people in The Process, Ashley Ross.