$354K of Mike Fernandez’ money went into pocket of man who called him “renegade donor”

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Florida media consultants, it’s time to raise your prices. Take a lesson from Curt Anderson, the Washington D.C. consultant who billed Rick Scott’s campaign $354,000 this month for “media production.” This is the same Curt Anderson who called the governor’s Hispanic finance chairman a “renegade donor.” That ill-advised remark cost the campaign at least two more news cycles and triggered an attack ad against the governor using Anderson’s insensitive remark as the centerpiece. 

At least Anderson isn’t billing Rick Scott for P.R. advice, since the campaign’s hiring plan includes no less than 19 communications staffers. Surely one or two of them can be spared to help clean up the mess Anderson made. 

So far, we’ve seen only a two TV ads from the Scott campaign, so it’s unclear why Anderson’s company, OnMessage, Inc., invoiced Scott’s political committee, Lets Get To Work, for $354,000 in March. 

What we do know is that the first ad produced by Anderson left many people, including supporters of the governor, scratching their heads. Said one Tallahassee Republican who’s been supportive of Rick Scott in the past,  “Between the bad camera angles and shaky footage, I thought it was an attack ad.” 

While much has already been made of the departure of the campaign’s finance chair, Mike Fernandez, racial insensitivity wasn’t the only source of his frustration. 

Anderson’s poor ad quality and the absurd cost of media production played a significant role, too. Fernandez said as much in a now-public email initially sent to Anderson, campaign manager Melissa Sellers, and a handful of other campaign operatives. In the missive, Fernandez tells Anderson and Sellers, “the governor’s ad was sterile (reinforces how people see him).” 

But Fernandez didn’t stop there. Perhaps frustrated at watching more than a third of his million-dollar campaign contribution get raked into Curt Anderson’s pocket, Fernandez sent along some suggestions to improve the look and feel of future TV spots. Fernandez included an example of a visually compelling ad he paid only $4,800 to produce: “It has all of the elements that we did not see in the 30-second ad we did for the Governor,” Fernandez wrote. “Emotion, Dreams (everyone is smiling), diversity…caring. All the items which were missing from (y)our ad. 

Rick Scott has a reputation as a “numbers guy,” so he’s probably already done the math to figure that for what Fernandez paid to produce a beautiful, sixty-second live-action spot, the Scott campaign could produce more than 70 such television and web videos for the campaign.  

But so far, all Rick Scott has to show for the money paid to Curt Anderson and On Message, Inc. are an attack ad against Charlie Crist, a pro-Scott piece that looks like an attack ad against himself, and horrific Instagram videos (warning: not for the faint of heart). 

Fernandez tried repeatedly to warn the Governor he was being fleeced, but the governor ignored the warnings. It’s tough to blame the man for walking away from a campaign that is literally flushing his money down the toilet.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.