Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 6.8.16 – When evasion turns into admission

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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.


Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s admission this week that she personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump comes months after she evaded questions about it.

That was in March, when – instead of directly answering – Bondi said she “hadn’t heard” about Trump’s representatives saying she asked for the money.

The recent revelation came from Bondi’s spokesman to The Associated Press, according to a Monday story. Trump is now the the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president and Bondi has endorsed him.

The question is whether there was a quid pro quo.

The $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013 – “four days after Bondi’s office publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University’s activities,” according to a 2013 report in the Orlando Sentinel, the AP story said.

But “after the check came in, Bondi’s office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed,” the AP reported. Bondi eventually was elected to a second term in 2014.

Bondi’s office has said it received only one consumer complaint about Trump University at the time and she decided not to join the New York investigation.

After a March 29 Cabinet meeting, the Republican Bondi was asked by reporters to clarify her role in the contribution – and declined to do so, even making a joke about it.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Michael Auslen told her he “wanted to ask about the Trump contribution from a couple of years ago,” to which Bondi smiled and said, “Still?”

She went on, “The Trump campaign has acknowledged the error was on their end and they’re correcting it … I’m going to let the accountants correct it.”

Foundations like Trump’s are banned under federal rules from political activity, including giving contributions.

Trump’s representatives said the $25,000 check went out by mistake when an accounting clerk confused Bondi’s electioneering communications organization, now defunct, with a similarly named group.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, filed a complaint against Trump’s foundation, saying it violated its tax-exempt status for making the contribution.

She said “of course not” when asked whether she knew the donation was a violation of IRS rules.

AP reporter Gary Fineout, in that same March “media availability,” said what he was “confused about is that now … the Trump campaign is saying that you solicited the donation, that that’s what created the confusion.”

Bondi apparently remembered the old law-school lesson: “Answer only the question asked, and don’t volunteer information not asked.”

“I haven’t heard that at all,” Bondi said. “I’m going to let the accountants ….”

Fineout broke in, “Well, but the organization that filed the IRS complaint, they’re asking if it came from you.”

This time, Bondi just refused to answer.

“I’m going to let the accountants handle this,” she said. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

PAM BONDI TRIED TO RETURN DONALD TRUMP CASH via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Bondi tried to return a controversial $25,000 donation from Trump‘s foundation, but it was not accepted, an accountant who works for Bondi said. The Trump Foundation gave the money to Bondi’s political committee in September 2013, but renewed questions about it were raised shortly after Bondi endorsed Trump for president earlier this year. Nancy Watkins, the treasurer of a political committee run by Bondi, said this week that the group sent a check to the Trump Foundation in March after they became aware the foundation was a charity, an apparent violation of the rules surrounding political activities by charities. Watkins said the Trump Foundation refused to accept the check, saying Trump wrote a personal check to his foundation covering the amount. “They rejected it and sent it back,” Watkins said.

BONDI BLASTS ‘FALSE AND MISLEADING’ AP STORY ABOUT TRUMP UNIVERSITY via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – In a written statement … Bondi specifically singled out two passages in the AP story but did not take issue with the overall reporting that said she had personally asked Trump for what became a $25,000 donation to her political committee in 2013 as she geared up for her re-election bid … wanted to counter the suggestion that her office made its decisions based on the contribution. Here’s her statement: “Yesterday’s story was false and misleading — including statements that my office ‘publically announced it was deliberating whether to join a lawsuit’ or that I ‘nixed suing Trump.’ My office has made public every document on this issue, which shows no one in my office ever opened an investigation on Trump University nor was there a basis for doing so. Any news story that suggests otherwise is completely false. I have spent my career prosecuting criminals and protecting Floridians and will not compromise my dedication to our citizens.”

FLORIDA DEMS CALL FOR PROBE OF TRUMP’S BONDI DONATION via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – “The AP’s report that Attorney General Bondi personally solicited a donation from Trump as her constituents filed complaints against Trump University is disturbing and underscores the need for an independent investigation into the matter,” said Florida House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford  … “Bondi’s refusal to provide a transparent, detailed explanation, coupled with the news that her staff apparently failed to take the complaints seriously, is beneath the dignity of her office.” Bondi was one of the first elected officials in Florida to endorse Trump, embracing his campaign ahead of the March 15 primary. She and Gov. Scott, who endorsed Trump after his big win that day, are slated to appear with Trump at a rally in Tampa Saturday. Meanwhile, Democrats are ramping up the pressure for her to address the issue. “Enough is enough. Florida’s top law enforcement official solicited a donation from someone she was supposed to be investigating for fraud,” Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant said. “Rather than return the dirty money, Pam Bondi has tried to hide the truth and has been caught attempting to mislead the public.”

DAN GELBER, A FORMER BONDI FOE, ASKS: WHY KEEP TRUMP’S MONEY? via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Now, as Bondi attracts unfavorable publicity across the country from having solicited a $25,000 donation from Trump three years ago, Gelber has a number of questions, such as: After the first whiff of controversy in the fall of 2013, a month after she got Trump’s check, why didn’t Bondi return the money? “The way you run for attorney general is utterly political. But the way you govern has to be, in some ways, absolutely apolitical,” Gelber said. He said an attorney general must scrupulously avoid any appearance that political influence plays a role in decisions such as — in the case of Bondi and Trump University — whether influence could affect a pending investigation, which undermines the public’s faith in government.

BACKGROUND – EMAILS FROM 2010 SHOW TEXAS INVESTIGATORS THOUGHT TRUMP U WAS A GET-RICH-QUICK SCAM THAT PREYED ON NOVICES via Michael Biesecker and Paul J. Weber of The Associated Press – As Texas regulators investigated Trump University for fraud six years ago, Trump‘s lawyers tried the same defenses the presumptive Republican presidential nominee cited again … that the now-defunct real-estate workshops were top-notch and the students overwhelmingly satisfied. But internal emails … show the staff of then-State Attorney General Gregg Abbottweren’t buying what Trump was selling. Abbott is now the state’s Republican governor and a vocal Trump supporter. “The consumers we have spoken with have expressed profound dissatisfaction with the Trump U course and materials,” wrote Rick Berlin, an assistant attorney general with the state Consumer Protection Division, in a June 2010 email. “They believe they were lured to the seminar by false promises and the Trump name and that they have been ripped off.” The government emails … underscores that Texas regulators thought Trump U was a scam using the lure of easy money to bilk unsophisticated students out of up to $35,000 in tuition and mentoring fees. “In effect, Trump U promises to teach these novices everything they need to know to be a successful residential real estate broker — in three days,” Berlin wrote, adding that in Texas it took 900 hours of classroom instruction and two years of selling experience to become a licensed real-estate broker. Instead, Berlin was ordered to stand down. His supervisor at the time, former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens, told the AP last week that the case was dropped for “political reasons.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***

DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying closes – 16; State candidate qualifying closes – 16; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary – 48; Early voting begins in primaries – 73; Primary elections – 83; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election – 54; Deadline to register to vote in General Election – 125; Absentees sent in General Election – 118; Early voting begins in General Election — 143; General Election – 153.

HILLARY CLINTON SUPER PAC LAUNCHES SECOND ANTI-DONALD TRUMP AD IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Clinton‘s super PAC will launch a new ad in Florida highlighting Trump‘s comments about a disabled reporter. This is the second ad from Priorities USA that has run in Florida so far, signaling the start of an expensive general election matchup between Clinton and Trump. The group said the ad begins a $20 million buy from June 8 until the Democratic convention and will air statewide in OH, VA, FL, NH, IA, CO & NV.

PPP POLL: IF HE RAN AGAIN, MARCO RUBIO WOULD FACE TOUGH RE-ELECT via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rubio isn’t a shoo-in if he were to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, according to a new survey by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. Rubio would trail Democratic front-runner Patrick Murphy 44-43 percent … Murphy would also lead in hypothetical match-ups against Republicans Carlos Beruff (43-31 percent) and David Jolly (44-29 percent). If Democrat Alan Grayson were the nominee instead, Rubio would be ahead 43-38 percent. Like Murphy, Grayson would do better than Beruff (41-32 percent) and Jolly (40-33 percent) … When asked if Rubio should run again, 39 percent of respondents said he should, compared to 51 percent who said he shouldn’t.

POLL: DEMOCRATS COULD WIN FLORIDA’S SENATE SEAT IN NOVEMBER via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – A new Public Policy Polling survey found that Democrats would defeat two of the five Republican Senate candidates in hypothetical general election match-ups. The survey tested how Republicans Carlos Beruff and David Jolly would fare against Democrats Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. The survey found either Democratic candidate would come out on top against Beruff and Jolly … Murphy would defeat Beruff 43 percent to 31 percent … Murphy would garner support from 65 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independent voters … Beruff would get support from about 53 percent of Republicans. Murphy could win by an even larger margin if Jolly is the nominee … Murphy would receive 44 percent of the vote … 29 percent for Jolly … 55 percent of Hispanic voters and 72 percent of African-American voters would support Murphy. White voters would be split 35-35 percent … Grayson also comes out on top in head-to-head match-ups with Beruff and Jolly … Grayson would defeat Beruff 41 percent to 32 percent. The race between Grayson and Jolly would be slightly closer, with Grayson receiving 40 percent to Jolly’s 33 percent.

CARLOS BERUFF VISITED CUBA WITH GROUP DEDICATED TO ENDING SANCTIONS IN 2011 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Beruff takes a tough line on Obama’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, but just a few years ago appeared to be a strong advocate that just such a diplomatic breakthrough was desperately needed … Beruff visited Cuba in September 2011 with a delegation of approximately 35-40 Tampa Bay area activists pushing for an end to the economic embargo and establishment of full trade relations with the Communist island. He did so at the invitation of his friend, the late Steve Burton … a managing partner with the Tampa law firm of Broad and Cassel. He also was a Republican fundraiser and an influential board member of the of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority … “He called me out of the blue and said, ‘Send me a check and send me a copy of your passport. You’ve got to come to Cuba with us.’ That’s how I went,” Beruff told Sarasota news anchor Alan Cohn …  about why he opted to visit the island. “The goal was simply to go as a mission to see what was there and what they wanted from us, and the truth of the matter is, quite frankly, what I saw quite frankly was disappointing, and I really had no interest when I got back,” Beruff said. “If you notice, I never paid attention to Cuba after that trip.” That trip was coordinated by Al Fox, the head of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy, and the delegation was led by Burton and former Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Republican Todd Wilcox will be in Orange County.

AN ANGRY RICH NUGENT SAYS NEW DAN WEBSTER MAILER FALSELY INDICATES HIS SUPPORT via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “It’s been brought to my attention that Dan Webster used my likeness in a campaign mailer to imply my support for his candidacy here and I don’t appreciate it,” Nugent said in a statement issued out by the Justin Grabelle campaign. Grabelle and Webster are involved in an intense Republican primary to succeed Nugent, who announced last year he would not run for re-election in Florida’s 11th Congressional District … The mailer depicts Webster and Nugent sitting next to each other with the headline, “Our champion for change.” Underneath the photo it quotes a Jan. 6, 2015 Politico story called, “Boehner Takes Revenge” … “I want to say again for the record that I am supporting Justin Grabelle for Congress 100 percent,” Nugent added. “Justin has invested years in this community, he’s raised his family here, he knows the people and has earned this community’s support the old-fashioned way. Dan Webster is only moving here to run out of a belief that it’s easier than running in his own area of Orlando.”

ADAM PUTNAM FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE, FLORIDA GROWN, RAISES $185K IN MAY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Contributions include $100,000 from Florida Jobs PAC, a political arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce … “Commissioner Putnam is a true champion of Florida’s important agriculture industry, of ensuring that we secure Florida’s water future, and that Florida’s economy continues moving forward through private-sector job creation,” said Edie Ousley, the chamber’s vice president of public affairs. “Those are qualities important to ensuring that Florida is prepared for the 6 million new residents that will call Florida home by 2030, and we’re therefore proud to support him,” she added. Other big givers were the Florida Phosphate Political Committee with $25,000, Florida Polytechnic University trustee Robert W. Stork with $20,000, and Cone Distributing president Douglas Cone with $10,000. Florida Grown was “established by Putnam to help achieve his vision for Florida — a place where jobs are plentiful, quality education is accessible, and freedom and liberty flourish.”

GWEN MARGOLIS REFERS TO RIVALS AS ‘HAITIANS’ via Patricia Mazzei and Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Miami state Sen. Gwen Margolis apparently disparaged three of her opponents as “Haitians” and dismissed two others as “some teacher and some lawyer” at a local Democratic meeting … according to the only one of her rivals who was present. “It’s reprehensible that three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer think that they have the right to run against me,” Margolis said, according teacher Don Festge. “I’ve been in office for over 40 years,” Margolis continued … “What does some teacher know about Tallahassee and how to run the Senate?” Margolis went on to refer to her Haitian-American competitors — businessman Anis Blémur, former state Rep. Phillip Brutus and state Rep. Daphne Campbell — as “Haitians” four more times, Festge said. He added that Margolis later concluded: “I have unlimited funds, and I’m going to spend every penny, and I’m not going to lose to those three Haitians or some teacher or lawyer.”

ANDREW KORGE HAS RAISED MORE THAN $200K DURING LAST TWO MONTHS ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL via Florida Politics – Korge … brought in roughly $102,000 in May. That’s on the heels of more than $100,000 raised in April … This is the third time since Korge entered the SD 39 race he has cleared the $100,000 per month hurdle. In March 2015, Korge reported an impressive $250,000 raised in just two weeks. Perhaps the most interesting part of Korge’s May report is that he is starting to raise Tallahassee money, which many expected would only go to Republican Sen. Anitere Flores. “As a pro-growth Democrat who is business partners with Jeb Bush Jr., it makes sense that major donors would play both sides in a highly competitive race like this,” Korge said. “I am humbled by their support and confidence in me.”

DON GAFFNEY, FORMER JACKSONVILLE LAWMAKER CONVICTED OF MAIL FRAUD, RUNNING FORHD 14 via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union – Gaffney, 62, filed papers to join four other Democrats and a Republican seeking to represent House District 14 in northwestern Jacksonville. He’s trying to succeed Mia Jones, who can’t run again because of term limits. Gaffney, who was the University of Florida’s first black quarterback, is a storied figure in Jacksonville politics. Elected to Jacksonville’s City Council in 1983, he won a seat in the House in 1986, but was indicted the following year on federal charges that included extortion and conspiracy. He was convicted of conspiracy, extortion and attempted extortion, but the conviction was overturned and he was indicted a second time on more counts. He was still serving in the Legislature when he was convicted in 1988 of four counts of mail fraud. He promised a comeback, declaring: “I may be down, but I’m not out.” News coverage from then says Gaffney maintained his innocence, insisting racial prejudice played a role in his conviction. Gaffney served two years in prison, and in 1992 received probation on a state charge of altering a prescription.

THOMAS LEEK TOPS $100K MARK IN HD 25 via Florida Politics – Leek has crossed the $100,000 mark in the race to replace Rep. Fred Costello in the Volusia County legislative seat. Leek raised $26,300 last month and spent just $2,676, leaving him with just over $110,000 in his campaign account after four months in the race. Among the 70 May contributions were 11 checks for the campaign maximum, including $1,000 checks from at least four businesses tied to former House Speaker J. Hyatt Brown and his son, James Powell Brown. Also on the list were lobbying mega-firm Greenberg Traurig and NASCAR related companies Motor Racing Network and ISC Properties.

CARLOS GUILLERMO SMITH MAINTAINS FUNDRAISING LEAD IN HD 49, ADDS $15K IN MAY via Florida Politics – Smith has crossed the six-figure fundraising mark in his campaign for the open HD 49 seat. Smith, the one-time staffer for former Rep. Joe Saunders, raised $15,325 in May for a campaign total of $108,355. After expenditures, he entered June with just under $80,000 on hand. Most of the May haul came from donors chipping in $100 or less, though Smith did pick up five maximum contributions. Among the $1,000 donors were beer distributors Florida Beer Wholesalers, City Beverages and Florida Distributing Company. Smith is the only Democrat running in HD 49, which is currently held by first-term Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia who decided to shift into the more GOP-friendly HD 50 this election cycle.

— “Dwight Dudley’s spouse backing Ben Diamond in HD 68 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Republican State Rep. Larry Ahern is holding a fundraiser in support of his House District 66 re-election effort. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Bay Pines Sports Bar, 9685 Bay Pines Blvd. in St. Petersburg.

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Republican state Rep. MaryLynn Magar is holding a fundraiser for her House District 82 re-election campaign. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at JR’s BBQ & Salon, 15488 SW Warfield Blvd. in Indiantown.

— “May was a quiet fundraising month for Lenny Curry’s political committee” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, winner of eight 2016 Reed Awards and 60 industry awards overall. Jamestown’s TV, radio, mail and digital advertising helps clients in Florida and across the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. See how Jamestown Associates wins tough campaigns at***

POLL FINDS FLORIDIANS, EXCEPT MILLENNIALS, MUCH MORE CONCERNED ABOUT HURRICANE STRIKE via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Concern about a hurricane hitting Florida has doubled in the last year … That’s not true for millennials, many of whom give the prospect of a hurricane strike a shrug. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey … found 67 percent of Floridians feel it is at least somewhat likely a hurricane will make landfall in the state this year. Pollster Brad Coker called that a “significant majority” in his written analysis of the results. A year ago, 34 percent felt the same way. The survey found 19 percent of Floridians say it’s very likely a hurricane will make landfall in 2016 — more than triple the 6 percent who saw landfall as very likely in 2015. This year, 10 percent see it as not at all likely. A year ago, 24 percent saw it as not at all likely. Concern about hurricanes is widespread: among men and women, across regions of the state, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Not so among millennials, Mason-Dixon found. People age 18-34 lag far behind everyone else in their belief that a hurricane is likely to make landfall in this year in Florida. Most were children or teens when Wilma, the last hurricane to hit the state, made landfall in October 2005 … 41 percent of millennials think a hurricane landfill is somewhat or very likely — more than 30 percentage points less than the 73 percent of all other adults.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce new jobs at randrr at 10:30 a.m. at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, 3 Independent Drive in Jacksonville.

FLORIDA’S DEATH PENALTY FIX DRAWS MORE SCRUTINY FROM JUSTICES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – The Florida Supreme Court continued to wrestle with effects stemming from the state’s death penalty system being declared unconstitutional by the nation’s high court. Florida lawmakers attempted to fix flaws cited … But now state justices are determining whether the Legislature’s changes can be applied to ongoing cases and also withstand any other constitutional challenges. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga may have signaled the court’s unease with the newly crafted system. It requires at least 10 jurors to recommend a death sentence — up from the simple majority, which could be overruled by a judge — that federal jurists found violated a defendant’s rights. Labarga asked attorney Martin McClain, arguing on the side of defendant Larry Darnell Perry, to trace how through Florida’s history, unanimous jury verdicts were needed to find an accused criminal guilty. But a lesser standard is applied in capital cases. “I think the court is clearly concerned about that,” McClain said.

LAWMAKERS INTENDED SLOTS EXPANSION, LAWYER ARGUES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A lawyer for a small North Florida racetrack told the Florida Supreme Court the Legislature intended to allow for an expansion of slot machines in the state … Marc Dunbar, attorney for Gretna Racing, told the justices it was “the easiest case you’re going to hear today.” He said counties were empowered under the constitution and state law to decide for themselves whether to allow slots. To rule otherwise, “you would have to break an incredibly long line of cases,” he told the court. That had one opponent shaking his head, referring to a constitutional amendment passed in 2004. Lawmakers “would not have allowed slots but for that constitutional amendment,” said Dan Gelber, an attorney and former House Democratic leader who now represents the No Casinos gambling-expansion opposition group. “The idea that in implementing that amendment that they would, under the table, give 65 other counties that same right is sort of absurd,” he added. “If that had happened, I know a couple of my colleagues’ heads would have exploded.” A ruling in the track’s favor could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

TWEET, TWEET: @MaryEllenKlas: Clear conclusion from gaming oral arguments: Gaming law is as clear as mud and Legis attempts to clarify tends to just add sludge

BILL GALVANO: NO WE DIDN’T INTEND TO LET COUNTIES EXPAND SLOTS WITHOUT LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “It was not the intent of the Legislature to open the door for counties to hold their own referendums to allow the expansion of slots,” he said in an interview … “In fact, the language as written — and as explained at the time — was that it needed to be a legislatively-approved referendum, or one that was brought forward by voters at a constitutional level. It was never what Gretna is attempting — which flies in the face of the bill they claim is giving them the authority.” Galvano‘s remarks came on the day the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments over what could be a pivotal case as it relates to the future of gambling in Florida.

GAMBLING REGULATORS HOLD ON TO DEPOSITIONS THAT TRIBE USED AGAINST THEM via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation has failed to produce depositions in response to a public records request … even though lawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida already have used the documents against the agency in federal court. The tribe and the state are currently locked in a lawsuit over gaming compact negotiations and banked card games. The tribe is arguing that the state breached the tribe’s exclusivity over banked card games when gambling regulators allowed South Florida parimutuels to offer electronic blackjack games, therefore allowing the tribe, under the compact, to continue offering traditional blackjack at its own casinos past the expiration of the blackjack provision in the compact. “Mardi Gras Casino advertised what it called ‘classic blackjack,’ which involved a live dealer and electronic cards,” a motion filed by lawyers for the tribe states. The tribe asserts the games had the same odds as blackjack played with physical decks of cards.

COURT HEARS APPEAL IN DAVID RIVERA ETHICS CASE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – [in] a Tallahassee appeals court … his attorney continued to argue he should not have to pay nearly $60,000 tied to taxpayer-funded reimbursements to his campaign account. The underlying claim, which was first part of an ethics complaints filed in 2010, alleges that Rivera, during his time as a state representative, wrongfully requested travel reimbursements from the state for official travel that was initially paid by his campaign account. “On 29 separate occasions throughout the period at issue, respondents requested and received state of Florida direct deposit reimbursements into his personal bank account for travel that was paid for by one of his campaign accounts,” read 2015 administrative order imposing a $16,500 fine and $41,321 in restitution. The Florida Commission on Ethics has recommended the House impose that fine on Rivera, force him to pay back the reimbursements and formally censure him. Even if the court rules against Rivera, the House would have to agree to impose the fine. Rivera could again be part of the chamber, if the House is called on to consider his case. He has been out of the House since 2010, but is running for election in the South Florida seat being vacated by Republican Frank Artiles, who is running for the state Senate.

SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER COSTS AND FEES — The state’s high court today will look at proposed amendments to the rules governing payment of legal services. A proposed change “deals with the legal needs of people who win settlements in personal injury or wrongful death cases but then find themselves faced with medical liens,” the court’s press summary says. “The rule spells out that the lawyers who represent such clients on a contingency fee basis must also handle resolution of all ordinary and straight-forward health care liens.” Only when a lien “is so complex,” it says, that a specialist can be used and the client charged an additional fee. That fee is “levied by the new attorney with client and court approval and cannot be split with the original lawyer.” The case is In re: Amendments to Rules Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.5–Fees and Costs for Legal Services, No. SC16-104.

CITING ‘CRISIS,’ LIZBETH BENACQUISTO URGES PLAN FOR WATER STORAGE SOUTH OF LAKE O via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO – “Given the level of crisis the Caloosahatchee Estuary faces today we must act immediately to identify areas that can hold water to reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” Sen. Benacquisto wrote in a letter to the South Florida Water Management District. Benacquisto … is vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and chair of the Senate banking committee. The letter comes after an increase two weeks ago in discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The dark water discharges smother sea grass and oysters and discourage tourism and fishing. Also, the district governing board is meeting … in Fort Myers to consider an expedited planning process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase water storage north of Lake Okeechobee and reduce discharges.

ON THE SPOT: GARRETT RICHTER via Jonathan Foerster of Gulfshore Life — With an affable demeanor and solidly mainstream conservative sensibilities, Richter became a strong force in Tallahassee, serving two terms as Senate President Pro Tempore, the second-highest-ranking member. On his next steps: “I’m looking forward to going back to being a full-time community banker. … I’m going to be at the bank providing good, thoughtful leadership on how we can grow.” On what he’d tell the next person in line for his job: “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. It’s tough, because they have Kool-Aid on every corner. It’s always ‘Senator’ this and ‘President’ that. But don’t buy into it.”

FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via – As of Tuesday, there was five new travel-related cases including one in Escambia, one in Hillsborough, one in Osceola, one in Palm Beach and one in Seminole counties, with seven cases exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are now 133 total cases in Florida not involving pregnant women; by county (number of cases): Miami-Dade (51), Broward (19), Orange (10), Palm Beach (8), Osceola (6), Lee (5), Alachua (4), Hillsborough (4), Pinellas (4), Seminole (4), Brevard (3), Polk (3), Clay (2), Collier (2), St. Johns (2), Volusia (2) and a single case each in Martin, Pasco and Santa Rosa with 38 cases involving pregnant women.

DEVICE AT UF COULD HELP STOP THE SPREAD OF ZIKA via Marissa Sarbak of News 4 Gainesville – Casey Parker is an Entomology grad student at UF, and she’s working on a new device with her professors that could potentially stop the spread of the Zika virus … “The red and black which is contrasting colors is shown to be attractive to mosquitoes. Mosquito comes in here. She flies and lands on the surface when she goes to lay her eggs. When she goes to do that, the pesticide on the surface comes in contact with her body. And when she flies away she will eventually die.” They came up with the design years ago, to kill mosquitoes that carried two different types of diseases. But it just so happens, these same mosquitoes are the ones believed to be spreading the Zika. Parker says, “This is the yellow fever mosquito. Scientific name is Aedes Aegypti. She’s the primary vector of the Zika virus.” Today, Parker and the researchers in that department are going to meet with Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson‘s teams, to see if they will approve and back the latest device that could help stop the spread of this virus.

ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE SAYS MCCRORY’S SUNNY HILL NURSERY NOT ENTITLED TO MEDICAL POT LICENSE via Keith Morelli of Florida Politics – In December 2014, McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery in Eustis, along with Grow Healthy Farms Florida spent nearly $2 million for a 33-acre tract of property on which sat an old Sealy Mattress factory. The plan was to convert the making of pillow tops to pot buds in a massive medical marijuana grow house. But along the way, the business venture, which likely would yield high profits as Florida joins other states in dispensing medical marijuana to eligible patients, hit a snag. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the state Legislature decided only five pot factories would operate in the state, and McCrory’s application to be among that elite group failed by a fraction of a point on a scorecard devised by the health department. So, the jilted nursery did what it is entitled to do when millions of dollars hang in the balance: It filed a petition alleging it was cheated … an administrative law judge signed a 21-page order dismissing the complaint, with prejudice, but saying the Eustis nursery has the option of taking the case to state court. McCrory’s scored a fraction of a point below Knox Nursery in Winter Garden, which was awarded the right to set up the pot growing operation, but the aggrieved growers in Eustis said the scoring method was flawed.

STUDY SHOWS FLORIDA HAS MOST TOLL ROADS IN THE NATION, WITH MORE TO COME via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – There are 719 miles of Florida toll roads … and Central Florida is at the epicenter. Orange County boasts 153 miles of toll roads, possibly making it an area with the most toll roads in the country. FDOT is responsible for approximately 122,088 miles of roads throughout seven districts. in 2014, the Florida Turnpike accommodated about 193 million miles of motorist traffic. Even as most roads are local, the state highway system accounts for more than half of Florida’s total traffic. And more toll roads are on the way. A preliminary plan by the Central Florida Expressway Authority for 2040 proposes an additional 80 miles of roadway, at an estimated cost of between $3.2 billion to $4.5 billion.


Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: Linden Airport Services Corporation

Nicole Fried, Igniting Florida: Florida Compassionate Use

Andrew Phillip Rutledge: Florida Association of Realtors

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Chris Hand and PSTA’s Brad Miller.

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.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top