Sunburn for 11/3 – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

in Uncategorized by

Sunburn – The 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 public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: As Floridians hunker down for the conclusion of an exceedingly nasty, expensive campaign season, we note that 44 years ago today Reubin Askew was elected governor by ousting incumbent Claude Kirk with 56.9% of the vote – and 28 years later to the day, Jeb Bush won the office with 55.3% against Buddy MacKay. Somehow, this also seems appropriate for election week: On this date in 1954, the first Godzilla film was released. In the aftermath of the nuclear bombings at the end of World War II, Japanese producers saw the radiation-charged Godzilla as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. Since his debut 60 years ago, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Republicans entered the final weekend before the midterm elections clearly holding the better hand to control the Senate and poised to add to their House majority. But a decidedly sour electorate and a sizable number of undecided voters added a measure of suspense.

The final drama surrounded the Senate, which has been a Democratic bulwark for President Obama since his party lost its House majority in 2010. Republicans need to gain six seats to seize the Senate, and officials in both parties believe there is a path for them to win at least that many.

Yet the races for a number of seats that will decide the majority remained close, polls showed, prompting Republicans to pour additional money into get-out-the-vote efforts in Alaska, Georgia and Iowa. Democrats were doing the same in Colorado, where they were concerned because groups that tend to favor Republicans voted early in large numbers, and in Iowa.

While an air of mystery hung over no fewer than nine Senate races, the only question surrounding the House was how many seats Republicans would add. If they gain a dozen seats, it will give them an advantage not seen since 1948 and potentially consign the Democrats to minority status until congressional redistricting in the 2020s.

In a sign of a worsening climate, Democratic officials shifted money to incumbents in once-safe districts around Las Vegas and Santa Barbara, Calif. And over the weekend, they put more money toward television ads in districts held by Democrats in Iowa and Minnesota, including that of longtime Representative Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. Though there are fewer competitive House seats than in past elections because of gerrymandering, party strategists were still airing ads in 40 districts.

“It’s a grim environment,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Israel was spending the weekend pleading with his caucus to contribute to imperiled colleagues to minimize losses. Trying to soften the blow, he noted that losses were expected: The party in control of the White House has lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections in the last century.



Discouraged but not angry.

That is the general mood of Florida voters heading into Tuesday’s election, and it matches mine.

Voters are not outraged like they were in 2010, when Rick Scott spent his millions to ride the tea party wave into the Governor’s Mansion. That’s bad for Scott, because that wave is not there this year. The mail ballots and early voting numbers suggest Democrats are significantly better positioned heading into Election Day than they were four years ago.

But Democrats also are not flocking to vote the way they did two years ago for President Barack Obama, who won Florida. Obama’s disapproval rating is high, and that’s bad for Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who has gained momentum but still needs everything to go just right to narrowly win.

For most voters, this is a hold-your-nose election and choose between the lesser of two evils. Both Scott and Crist have low voter approval ratings in the polls. Voting for the candidate you dislike the least is no fun, and that is what makes this election so depressing even for those of us who love politics.

Elections should be inspiring. Think Lawton Chiles in 1990, when the former Democratic U.S. senator came out of retirement to run for governor and limited contributions to $100. Think Jeb Bush in 1998, when the Republican son of the former president ran as a compassionate conservative and energized conservative and centrist voters.

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM’S NATE SILVER: Charlie Crist “is just slightly more likely than not to oust Republican Gov. Rick Scott from office.” See his forecast here.

PPP POLL: CRIST 44%, SCOTT 44% Full blog post here

“We don’t believe in reporting to decimal points but the one time we make an exception is tied final polls- Crist 44.0, Scott 43.8,” PPP said on Twitter. “To give you an idea of just how this close this final Florida poll came out- 526 respondents picked Crist, 524 picked Scott.”

Adrian Wyllie “is hurting Crist,” PPP reported. “His supporters say they’d pick Crist over Scott 43/18. Take Wyllie out and Crist leads Scott 47/46.”


Crist (is) now leading Gov. Scott 45 percent to 38 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is polling at 8 percent and 9 percent are undecided.

The poll of 688 likely Florida voted was conducted online October 28-31 and has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

While Crist and Scott are about tied among men, Crist is benefiting strongly from a 13 point lead among women (47 percent to 34 percent). Crist also enjoys strong support from 18-29 year olds (45 percent to 30 percent) and 30-49 year olds (52 percent to 32 percent). Crist also leads among 50-64 year olds by 7 points (46 percent to 39 percent), while Scott is ahead among voters over 65 (48 percent to 37 percent). Crist has the support of 84 percent of Democrats and Scott holds 74 percent of Republicans. But Crist has a lead of 6 points among independents (37 percent to 31 percent). Wyllie’s strongest support comes from independents (14 percent), retirees (12 percent), and whites (11 percent).

Crist is behind Scott among white voters (43 percent – 39 percent), but more than makes up for that deficit with commanding leads among Hispanics (50 percent to 37 percent) and African Americans (82 percent to 6 percent). Scott is ahead in the GOP north (48 percent to 34 percent) but that is not enough to offset Crist’s commanding lead in the Democratic bastion of South Florida where Crist leads by 23 points (53 percent to 30 percent).

MORE THAN MAN AT STAKE IN GOVERNOR’S RACE: BACKERS VERY DIFFERENT via George Bennett and John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

The toss-up Florida governor’s race that is lurching into its final hours is more than about voters choosing between Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Rick Scott.

Whoever wins the overwhelmingly negative contest — propelled by $100 million in TV advertising — also will bring to the Capitol a host of lofty campaign promises, most needing approval from a Republican-controlled Legislature with a history of snubbing the state’s chief executive.

The winner also will be shadowed by the big-donor industries and professional associations that helped finance the victory.

For Crist, those are the state’s largest teachers union, big labor groups, environmentalists, trial lawyers and consumer activists. Scott’s backers include most of the state’s largest business groups, utilities and advocates for charter and private schools.

Whoever wins will face immediate challenges.

Crist would become the first Democrat elected Florida governor in 20 years. The sizable Republican majorities in the state House and Senate loom as a roadblock for his signature goals of boosting the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income Floridians.

But Scott is offering big promises, too. And the shelf-life on Scott’s potency as governor will diminish by the day as legislative leaders, even those within his own party, chase separate policy priorities and ready themselves for the next round of elections.

Polls also show that Tuesday’s contest is almost certain to result in a wafer-thin victory for either Scott or Crist.

SIX GROUPS OF VOTERS SCOTT AND CRIST MUST REACH via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

With a steady barrage of negative ads in the governor’s race over the last several months, it is no surprise that both political parties are struggling to motivate voters to choose between Gov. Scott and former Gov. Crist. Here are six key groups the campaigns are desperately trying to get to polls on Tuesday and why they are so important:

Teachers: The state’s 175,000 public school teachers are among the most motivated voters in the election. Beyond their own votes, their anger at Scott has made them valuable activists who are part of the push to get out the vote for Crist.

Tea Party: While disaffected Tea Party voters are unlikely to vote for Crist, that lost energy in the activist base could prove costly if Scott cannot fire them up in the final days.

Prison towns: The question for Scott is whether these areas turn on him because of his prison policies or maintain big margins for him because of Crist’s association with President Obama, who just doesn’t play well in rural Florida.

African-American voters: In 2012, Obama won Florida with nearly 90 percent of the African-American vote. But Crist is clearly no Obama and has not been able to fire up those voters.

Women: In many ways, Scott’s problem is a rerun of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s problem in Florida. Only 35 percent of women in the latest public opinion polls say they will vote for Scott. The problem for Scott is that Florida has more female voters than male and he cannot afford to lose nearly two-thirds of them and still expect to win.

Firefighters/police: Police and firefighters have unions not nearly as large as the teachers, but they can be an influential group. While they don’t have the financial muscle that teachers unions have, they have big energy and have become a key, visible volunteer base promoting Crist.

TWEET, TWEET: @DrMacManus: Impact of NPA vote: The candidate who wins the NPA vote wins the election…


With this $100 million gubernatorial air war coming to an end (hopefully) this week, I wanted to take stock of the end of an era of unmatched political over-heat, fact abuse and rhetorical overkill.

There were no detectable subliminal messages. No Manchurian Candidate assassination mission that I’m aware of was triggered. No A Clockwork Orange conditioning against ultra-violence.

Here’s one immediate feeling, though. I had utterly no desire to vote.

Not many modern campaigns go the inspirational route. Florida’s gubernatorial contest this year has been beaten and bruised nationally, with news media reports labeling it the “worst race” in the country.

Voters have to be motivated to get the polls. Registration trends are shifting more toward independence from old-school political parties. And less partisan voters tend to be less consistent voters. There’s also a mountain of evidence on the motivating effect of negative advertising.

But Florida’s race for governor was always going to end in Ad-ageddon.

With these ingredients – a Republican governor who can’t shake the nation’s largest Medicare fraud case, a former Republican turned Democrat, and all the money in the world – this contest was destined to be an apocalyptic television experience.

BEST HALLOWEEN PIC: Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp posing with trick-or-treater dressed like Charlie Crist. Picture here. H/t to Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald.


As Florida slowly recovers from the Great Recession, Gov. Scott has asked voters to judge him on his handling of the state’s economy and his ability to bring jobs to the Sunshine State.

But in an election campaign with Democrat Crist that has featured caustic political ads and a debate highlighted by a tiff over a fan, there’s been little discussion of Scott’s management of the $70 billion-plus enterprise that is state government. Nor is there much mention of the steady stream of problems and scandals in the agencies directly under Scott’s command.

During Scott’s term to date, the agencies that report to him have been accused of covering up the suspicious death of prison inmates, mishandling the deaths of children, bungling the launch of the system that aids the unemployed, and skirting the state’s public records law. Even now, more than 80 cases in which prison inmates died of non-natural causes are still being investigated.

Scott has said very little about the ongoing controversies, stating either some are false, or that the people he puts in top positions were “doing the right thing” to deal with ongoing problems. He never says that he mishandled, or misjudged anyone. Scott’s aides insist he is a taskmaster and keeps tight control over items under his control, even if he doesn’t comment publicly.

Scott’s response has been similar to the way he responded to allegations of Medicare fraud at HCA/Columbia, the massive chain of hospitals that the Republican incumbent once ran. Scott was forced out amid a federal investigation that resulted in a then-record $1.7 billion fine. He has repeatedly said he was unaware of the problems going on underneath him and said he probably should have hired more auditors. Yet he maintained on a recent televised debate that he had taken “responsibility” for what happened.

Crist, during his 2007-11 term as governor, had a reputation of leaving details to key lieutenants and not taking a keen interest in policy issues.

Without naming anyone, Melissa Sellers, a former top aide to Scott who now manages his campaign, also asserted Scott has held people accountable since taking office in January 2011, but hasn’t made some of his tough decisions public.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE WEEKEND via Nancy Watkins: “As of 9 p.m., we are on a ‘short putt’ to done for these 2014 elections. Thank you to the great staff at Robert Watkins & Company, P.A. for the precision and perfection and always having our clients’ backs. Congratulations to all of our clients for running honorable and effective campaigns.”

GOVERNOR’S RACE WILL TOP $150 MILLION, COSTLIEST IN U.S. via William March of the Tampa Tribune

Gov. Scott has upped the financial stakes in what was already Florida’s most expensive political campaign ever by contributing $12.8 million of his own money toward his re-election, a move he said early on he wouldn’t have to make.

Although Florida’s loophole-ridden election finance laws mean no one will ever know exactly how much the race cost, total spending by both sides almost certainly will exceed $150 million, including Scott’s last-minute contribution, according to a Tampa Tribune analysis of published campaign finance reports.

Scott and Republicans backing him have a spending advantage of roughly 2-1 over his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Crist — approximately $96 million to Crist’s $49 million.

Those figures omit certain kinds of spending by both sides that are difficult to track, including spending on radio and digital advertising and voter turnout efforts by the two state political parties and outside political groups. Those costs, several million on each side, would boost the totals past $100 million for Scott and $50 million for Crist.

The figures include about $114 million spent on television advertising alone — $73.5 million by Scott and his Republican allies, and $38.9 million by Crist and his Democratic allies, including NextGen Climate, the environmental group funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer.

The figures on television spending come from Democratic Party sources who gleaned them from public records broadcasters are required to keep on political ad sales. The state Republican Party wouldn’t confirm the figures or provide any spending data, but doesn’t dispute them.

Despite Scott’s 2-1 spending advantage, which has made this the most expensive governor’s race in the country this year, the race appears to be tied.


Here’s a question we’re pondering after having reviewed the 1,620 contributions that made up the $65 million Republican Party third quarter report. Two of the four checks that came from the Scott family to boost the re-election efforts of the governor were drawn off the “qualified blind trust” account of Gov. Scott.

The governor’s contributions came in two spurts: checks of $5 million each from Richard L. Scott’s “qualified blind trust” and Frances A. Scott, his wife, on Oct. 6 and two more checks of $1.4 million each, from same sources, on Oct. 21. The total amount withdrawn from the blind trust: $5.2 million, the same amount contributed by his wife.

If the governor’s trust is blind, how did it know to write the RPOF two checks?

Florida’s blind trust law allows public officials to obtain distributions from a trust but the official may not specify which assets must be sold to obtain the cash. The law is silent about whether the public official may direct the assets to a political committee, and does not require him to report the distribution until the next financial disclosure period.

So then how does the governor explain that the blind trust knew to write a check that matched the amount from Ann Scott two times?

The governor has repeatedly said the trust is blind. He has said he no control over it and that it would not be used for his self interest.

Still unanswered: Did the governor withdraw the money from the trust? He had trust assets directed to a political party for his personal political benefit so why did he not distribute the trust assets to himself and then make the contribution to the campaign?

MAPPING THE CANDIDATES via The Herald/Times and the Knight Lab

From Jacksonville to Miami and Naples to The Villages, Florida’s candidates for governor are criss-crossing the state in a final push to get out voters. Take a look at where they have been, and where they are headed.


CRIST VISTS 3 BLACK CHURCHES via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Crist‘s ambitious plan to visit four black churches 26 miles apart in a single hour … fell victim to the realities of time and geography. But Crist managed to get to three Palm Beach County congregations in less than two hours.


Jacksonville’s Duval County was one of a dozen counties that offered early voting Sunday and on a brisk, cloudless day, Democrats tried to take full advantage with a last-minute push among church-going black voters known as “Souls to the Polls.”

On the city’s north side, the Rev. Jeffrey Rumlin ended a two-hour service at Dayspring Baptist Church by reminding his African-American congregation of about 300 people that others died so that blacks could gain the right to vote.

“If voting was not important, then why are some people trying to stop us from voting?” Rumlin asked as parishioners chimed in with “Amen” and “that’s right.” The pastor’s father, Isaiah Rumlin, who’s president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, made a similar pitch at the start of the service.

Worshippers were given fans that showed side-by-side pictures of Charlie Crist and Barack Obama and the phrase “partners in progress,” and a list of the county’s 18 early voting sites. They were also offered tickets to a free fish fry in a parking lot next door to the nearest early voting site at a branch library.


It’s a big story every election cycle when people say how much they hate all the negative advertising on television, but it never stops. When it seemed politics couldn’t get nastier, along came Scott and Crist to hijack your TV sets with 30-second spots that set new standards of tastelessness and innuendo.

They do that because experts say it’s the best way to get elected. But is it? These ads have made it almost unpatriotic to hold moderate views, but that’s just what most people do. Maybe that explains why the longer attack ads run, the more people get turned off.

You might believe in Second Amendment rights, but that doesn’t mean you can’t want amnesty for illegal immigrants. Or you might be pro-life, but you can still support same-sex marriage.

Yet, each major party spends many millions to convince you their opponent represents something so against your core values, it’s your patriotic duty to vote with ideological purity.


“Drug-Free Florida Committee,” the committee opposing medical marijuana in Florida, received another $500K this week from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, according newly filed finance reports with the state Division of Elections.

Adelson, who chairs the Las Vegas Sands Corp., has now given a total of $5.5 million to the committee as of Wednesday, nearly all of the $6.34 million raised by the group to date.

The committee is fighting Amendment 2, a ballot initiative that seeks to add Florida to the states that legalized medical marijuana.

The Drug-Free Florida also reported expenditures of nearly $5.6 million as of Wednesday, most of which going to advertising and other related expenses.

“People United for Medical Marijuana,” the committee which backs Amendment 2, raised an overall $5.8 million, as of Wednesday, with more than $1.9 million in loans, reports show.

The committee also reported $6.6 million in expenditures.

TWEET SHOT: @SaintPetersBlog: Checked off bucket list item I didn’t know was on there: Briefing @TomColicchio on state of FL-CD 2 race.

TWEET CHASER: @TomColicchio: @SaintPetersblog thanks for the assist


Carlos Curbelo’s congressional campaign omitted or mislabeled $93,000 in contributions from special interests in a finance report last month, in what the Miami Republican called an unintentional software “glitch.”

The campaign revealed the significant changes in an amended report filed this week, nearly two weeks after submitting the original quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission.

In its original Oct. 15 report, the campaign listed $40,500 in contributions from political action committees. More than $40,000 in additional PAC money was mislabeled as coming from individuals. About $50,000 in PAC contributions were omitted altogether.

As a result, Curbelo’s amended report, filed Oct. 28, listed $133,500 from PACs — $93,000 more than in the original — representing a variety of interests.

Curbelo’s total contributions were also revised upward to $472,000 for the three-month reporting period, up from $420,000. His cash on hand went up to $555,000 from $505,000. He has raised nearly $2 million throughout the election cycle.

At first, it seemed that the entire $93,000 had been missing from Curbelo’s report. His campaign explained that some of the contributions had been reported but in the wrong place, making them more difficult to find.

Curbelo attributed the problems to a software switch that didn’t go well. His campaign moved to a higher-end program from a more basic one available to campaigns at no charge.


The 2014 midterm elections are days away, but preparation are already underway for the first debate of the 2016 presidential primary contest.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced on Thursday that it will invite GOP presidential candidates to attend a televised debate at California’s Reagan Library in September 2015.

The announcement comes more than two years before voters will decide President Obama’s successor. But in some ways, the next presidential contest is already up and running.

Prospective Republican White House hopefuls have been jockeying for position while helping their GOP colleagues in midterm contests from Iowa to New Hampshire in recent weeks. The list includes Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

While the Regan Library hosted GOP debates in the last two presidential contests, it’s unclear if the Republican National Committee will sanction the one now set for Sept. 16, 2015.

The RNC recently approved new rules that would limit the number of presidential primary debates. Some GOP officials believe that too many debates over a long primary season in 2012 damaged some of the party’s candidates. In response to such concerns, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus established a 13-member committee of Republican officials that would set debate rules, including selecting venues, debate partners and even moderators.


The News-Press has confirmed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that disgraced former Republican Congressman Trey Radel, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to cocaine charges, has completed his probation ahead of schedule.

Our news partner WINK first reported the news. Radel was elected in November 2012 and resigned following his arrest, plea deal and House of Representatives Ethics Committee investigation into his conduct.

Radel’s probationary period was to end Nov. 20, a year after pleading guilty in the D.C. Superior Court.

After completing a drug treatment program, paying a $250 fine, and refraining from further arrests, he was granted an early probation termination, WINK News said.

His record has been expunged.


Tuesday’s midterms are shaping up to be a great political tech equalizer.

Both parties head into the final hours of the 2014 campaign bragging about their enhanced ability to keep tabs on who has requested and returned absentee ballots. Democrats and Republicans have the data and are spending millions of dollars targeting last-minute TV and online advertising toward niche audiences like baseball fans and even Gilligan’s Island insomniacs. They can also track what’s trending on Twitter from Little Rock to Denver, honing their campaign message to deal with the unexpected.

Typically, great political tech innovations debut during a White House campaign when there’s plenty of money and manpower to spare.

But while little truly groundbreaking has been deployed on the election front in 2014, campaign strategists from both sides of the aisle have ripped from President Obama’s old campaign playbooks and pushed out their own scaled-down digital tools in this year’s key House, Senate and gubernatorial races.

Whether the Democrats can hold onto the tech advantage they’d built in 2012 remains an open question, and it’s one that won’t be resolved even if the party loses its Senate majority. After all, the 2016 presidential race is right on the horizon and both parties are about to be tested again on a much larger playing field.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks. We provide voice, data, video, cloud and managed services to businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to large, multi-site organizations. With our privately-owned, leading edge, all fiber network we ensure reliability, flexibility, and accountability. We’re available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and we’re locally-based. Not many other providers can say that. Bright House Networks for Business – your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services.***


This week, multiple sources connected with Democratic members of the House indicated to TFS that Rouson was actively seeking to open lines of communications with incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli about either switching parties or working to create a faction of dissident Democrats that would collaborate with the GOP on floor actions where the House leadership needs to clear 80 votes. Seemingly having failed to take full advantage of the opportunities to pick up a number of seats this election, the GOP leadership is wisely trying to exploit the bitterness of Rep. Rouson, who is term-limited in 2016 will not have to face re-election in his overwhelmingly Democratic House district.


With a hat-tip to LobbyTools, here is latest on who is on and who is off the legislative staffing merry-go-round.

On: Anne Bell is Sen. Denise Grimsley’s new legislative assistant.

On: Jim Browne is the new legislative assistant for Sen. John Legg.

On: Carol Preston is back on the the staff of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs as a legislative analyst.

On: Todd McKay, former assistant general counsel to the Florida Department of Management Services, is replacing Jennifer Hrdlicka as the staff director for the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

On: Allison Rudd is a new administrative assistant to the Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

On: Cissy DuBose is a new administrative assistant to the Senate Committee on Rules.

Off:  Sue Mullins is no longer with the Senate Minority Office.


Oscar Anderson, Christopher Dudley, Southern Strategy Group, Non-Profit Insurance Services, Inc.

Mario Bailey, Yeline Goin, Yolanda Jackson, David Muller, Becker & Poliakoff: School Board of Sarasota County

Brian Ballard, Greg Turbeville, Ballard Partners: Jacksonville Jaguars

Greg Black, Jim Daughton, Patricia Greene, Warren Husband, Aimee Lyon, Stephen Metz, Andy Palmer, Metz, Husband & Daughton: AIDS Institute; kaleo

Kim Case, Holland & Knight: Lowry Park Zoo


Facebook is mining its data of users’ posts to find out how users feel about certain candidates or issues and sharing that data with ABC News and BuzzFeed for use in their 2016 reporting, the social-networking site will announce.

The data will be gathered from the posts of Facebook users in the United States 18 and older, classifying sentiments about a politician or issue as positive, negative or neutral. The data can also be broken down into sentiments by gender and location, making it possible to see how Facebook users in the key primary states of Iowa or New Hampshire feel about certain presidential candidates, or how women in Florida feel about same-sex marriage.

A Facebook spokesperson said the data “is gathered in an aggregated and depersonalized manner in a privacy safe way.”

ABC News will start using the data next week as part of their 2014 Election Day coverage, and will focus on possible 2016 presidential candidates. BuzzFeed will focus on using the data around issues in ongoing stories, and will feature the data in their news app.

GREEK LETTERS AT A PRICE via Risa C. Doherty of the New York Times

Imagine finding a bill for $200 in your mailbox because your daughter was late to a couple of sorority events. Imagine, too, that those who snitched were her new best friends. This is one of the unwelcome surprises of sorority membership.

Depending on the generosity of the vice president of standards, a fine can be reversed with proof of a qualifying reason, such as a funeral, doctor’s appointment or medical emergency, so long as a doctor’s note is forthcoming. A paper due or a test the next day? No excuse. (Fraternities, by the way, rarely impose even nominal fines to enforce punctuality.)

Now imagine attending mandatory weekend retreats, throwing yourself into charitable work, making gifts for your sisters and, at tradition-thick schools like the University of Alabama and University of Missouri, investing 30 to 40 hours pomping — threading tissue paper through chicken wire to create elaborate homecoming decorations or parade floats that outdo rivals’.

During fall or winter rush, sororities court starry-eyed freshmen. They showcase their joyful conviviality with skits and serenades. They stress the benefits of joining, and brag about attracting the prettiest, smartest or most athletic. At many traditional sororities, however, not much energy is spent explaining what is expected, leaving many pledges unaware of the considerable time commitment and costs.

Some sororities will fine members for being late to events. It can be reversed, with a doctor’s note.

Do the math: Official charges include Panhellenic dues, chapter fees, administrative fees, nonresident house/parlor fees, a onetime pledging and initiation fee and contribution toward a house bond. Members must also buy a pin (consider the diamond-encrusted one) and a letter jersey. Without housing, basic costs for the first semester (the most expensive) average $1,570 at University of Georgia sororities, $1,130 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and $1,580 at Syracuse University.

But such fees are only a portion of the real cost. Add in fines, philanthropy and the incidentals that are essential to participate in sorority life and the total spirals upward, especially when a closetful of designer party dresses is part of the mix.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Senator Jack Latvala.

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.