Sunburn for 6/19 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

in Uncategorized by

A 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 state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: Today is Garfield the Cat Day. The furry feline created by cartoonist Jim Davis made his first appearance in cartoons on this day in 1978. Garfield is the most successful comic strip in the world – and quite the lasagna connoisseur.


A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds President Obama’s job approval rating at 41%, matching a previous low. Approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. Both numbers are driven in part by conflicts largely outside the president’s control, including a new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.

This latest dip in Obama’s approval runs contrary to signs Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment.

FLORIDA IS TOP DESTINATION FOR OBAMA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

NPR complied a list of visits by President Obama and it’s no surprise that Florida is among the top, with 39 visits so far in Obama’s two terms.

If anything, that count seems low. Florida is of course critically important for votes but also a money pit.

Which ones are still waiting for a visit from President Obama?

Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

Obama lost all of those states by a significant margin in 2012. They vote solidly Republican. And, it turns out, with the exception of South Carolina, they aren’t popular destinations for other presidents either.

“They are scarcely populated,” says Brendan Doherty, an associate professor of political science at the United States Naval Academy who has built a database of presidential travel and events going back to the Carter presidency. “They are electorally non-competitive and they tend to vote for Republicans in presidential elections. And they’re also distant from Washington, D.C. They tend to be hard to get to.”

According to Doherty, the states presidents visited least since 1977 are Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, and Rhode Island.

Some say he should have spent more time focused on pivotal swing states (not to mention the economy). Presidents tend to spend a lot of time in swing states in their first terms and then, in their second term, visit the states with less electoral heft.


Despite dire warnings that Obamacare plans would be too costly in Florida, residents who got a tax subsidy paid considerably less than the average American who qualified for federal help, according to new numbers released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

In Florida, the average monthly cost for a subsidized plan was $68 compared with an average cost of $82 for all subsidized plan sold on the federal marketplace.

The data is the first snapshot of how much Americans are actually paying for plans sold in the first year of the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Plans sold to Floridians through the markeplace, without the tax credit, cost about $347, $1 more than the national average. Subsidies, however, in Florida were higher. On average, the federal government kicked in $278 for Floridians compared with $264 a month for everyone else on the federal exchange.

Florida also boasted an unusually high proportion of enrollees getting federal help. During open enrollment, 91 percent of Floridians who signed up got a tax credit compared with 87 percent nationwide.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***


Charlie Crist’s loss in a U.S. Senate race was a crushing defeat, but it did wonders for his checkbook.

After the 2010 election ended his nearly two decades in public office, Crist set about making real money for the first time in his life. Floridians found out how well the 57-year-old St. Petersburg resident is doing.

He’s a millionaire who made more than $700,000 last year, far more than he did in all four years he was governor.

Crist’s stock and consulting fees as a former board member of The St. Joe Co., one of the state’s biggest landowners, earned him a tidy $378,000. He made nearly $300,000 last year as a member of Morgan & Morgan, a high-profile personal injury law firm.

Crist’s book about leaving the Republican Party earned him another $125,000, and he got a $50,000 fee from a Miami building contractor owned by a close friend, Tom Murphy. Murphy’s son, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, is a friend.

In financial documents he filed as a candidate for governor, Crist, a frequent critic of utilities, also disclosed he owns nearly $91,000 in stock in TECO Energy, the corporate parent of Tampa Electric.

Despite his newfound affluence, Crist insists he’s still the same guy who shops at Publix, leases a Jeep Cherokee and has never owned a home.

“It scares me to spend money,” Crist said.


Since leaving the governor’s mansion in 2010, Crist has more than doubled his net worth, much of that coming from prestigious positions and consulting contracts he received from large political donors.

In 2010, Crist listed his net worth at $466,063, a number that has jumped to $1.2 million, according to financial disclosure forms he filedTuesday when submitting his official paperwork to get on the ballot as a candidate for governor.

Crist’s most well-known paycheck since leaving office has come from Morgan & Morgan, an Orlando-based law firm led by John Morgan, a Crist supporter and large Democratic donor.

In 2013, Crist, 57, made $296,722 from the firm, or roughly 40 percent of the $712,780 in total income he reported. Morgan, who was a large fundraiser for President Barack Obama, has held fundraisers for Crist and is using his national network to raise millions of dollars from trial lawyers across the country.

Crist also served two years on the board of directors for St. Joe Co., a real estate development company and Florida’s largest landowner.

In 2012, Crist’s total compensation package was $217,507, including $117,500 in cash. Crist said that Berkowitz knew “I was probably getting ready to run for governor.” One of the big reasons Berkowitz wanted him on the board was to try to rein in executive compensation, Crist said.

Crist made another $50,000 in 2013 doing “consulting” work for Coastal Construction, a Miami construction company owned by his longtime friend Tom Murphy, who also serves on the board for St. Joe.


The geniuses running the Republican campaign effort in Florida have now decided that stirring opposition to medical marijuana will help Gov. Rick Scott win.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a huge donor to pro-Scott forces, recently gave $2.5 million to a new group aiming to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis use for patients with cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and six other serious diseases.

Recent polls show that between 66 percent and 70 percent of likely Florida voters favor the medical-marijuana amendment, and the support cuts broadly across party lines. The measure, listed as Amendment 2 on the November ballot, requires 60-percent approval to become law.

The question is why the Republican brain trust thinks it’s a crackerjack idea to attack a popular social cause while Scott is fighting to save his job. The governor will be in deep trouble if thousands of marijuana advocates show up to vote in November. They’re not exactly his core constituency, so why get them riled?

You might wonder why a rich Las Vegas casino owner is trying to prevent sick people 2,000 miles away from gaining legal access to pot. You think Adelson is genuinely worried that medicinal cannabis is a gateway to total legalization, and it poses a dire threat to the people of Florida?

The man couldn’t care less. He’s all about getting Republicans elected.

If a smart person were making his campaign decisions, the governor would have told Adelson to stay out of Florida’s marijuana debate. Amendment 2 is almost certain to pass, so why run commercials that will only propel more of its supporters to the polls?


Any day now, Scott is expected to sign the legislation to put our scandal-plagued expressway authority out of its misery.

Out will go the current board – where the majority of members are appointed by the governor. And in will come a new, multi-county board, where only three of nine members are gubernatorial appointees.

Still, Scott will get to appoint a third of this new board. So what should he do?

A few suggestions:

Walter Ketcham. Keep the current chairman. This is one appointment Scott got right.

Harvey Massey. The pest-control magnate helped clean things up during the last round of X-way scandals – and has a knack for calling it like it is.

Fran Pignone. The former county commissioner has an eagle-eye for finances and details.

Michael Poole. He’s a sharp financial mind out of Winter Park who has helped shape policy before, working alongside the likes of Toni Jennings to reform welfare and job-training in this state back in the 1990s.

Deirdre MacNab, Ann Hellmuth or some other member of the League of Women Voters.

A university professor with expertise in the finance issues the authority handles. Higher education is too often overlooked in this town. Many of these folks are smart. Just as important, they are independent, not beholden to outside interests.

WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS READING – FLORIDA EXPORTS UP 2% IN APRIL via Cindy Barth of the Orlando Business Journal

The latest international trade numbers show that $4.73 billion worth of goods left Florida for international markets in April, an increase of 2 percent from March, according to Durham, N.H.-based

Exports of manufactured goods contributed significantly to the state’s international trade, accounting for 72 percent of all state exports in April. However, exports from state manufacturers decreased in April by 1.6 percent from the previous month to $3.38 billion.

Florida ranked 45th among the 50 states during the first four months of this year. Compared to the same period in 2013, foreign sales from Florida’s companies, seasonally adjusted, decreased by an annual rate of 9.8 percent.

What are the prospects for international trade in the second half of the year, which determines the demand for Florida’s exports and ultimately will have an effect upon thousands of export-related jobs and overall economic development? The latest forward-looking global indicators point to an upcoming recovery for state exporters.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm.  Visit to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***


By appearance, Ramon Irizarri seems like a judge. Inside West Miami City Hall he rules on red light camera hearings decisively, usually in a matter of seconds. Appearances can be deceiving though. Irizarri is not a judge. He’s an attorney hired by the city to comply with the law; affording you a chance to appeal your red light camera violation. And we found he rarely rules in a driver’s favor. In fact, on the day we observed no one won.


When you get a red light camera ticket you have three choices:
• You can pay it, which most people do.
• You can fight it with the city who issued the ticket at a city hearing.
• You can fight it at county traffic court, which most people don’t even know about.

The last option isn’t even an option until you fail to pay the notice of violation in 60 days. By not paying it becomes a uniform traffic citation, essentially increasing the penalties, fines, and fees associated with it. In a CBS4 investigation though we found taking it to county court is often worth it.

A hearing at City Hall, with city police officers acting as prosecutors and a quote judge who’s paid by the city, a lot of people don’t think it’s fair—at all.

Miami Representative Frank Artiles finds it disturbing. He reasoned, “If a judge was to dismiss 50-percent of the cases, I guarantee that judge is not going to be there next month.”

Artiles says these kangaroo courts can be found all over South Florida. From Aventura to Homestead, thousands of appeals are taking place where the driver never stands a chance. It might be fine if you were breaking the law … but what if you weren’t? What if those cities were the ones breaking the law? That very well may be happening with red light cameras and turning right.


By Tuesday’s deadline, 33 people had applied for two vacancies on the Public Service Commission. They include former state legislators and PSC staff hoping to join the well-paying, but controversial state board.

Former State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, who is stepping down because of term limits, is among them.

Incumbent Julie Imanuel Brown’s term is up in January, but she has applied to be reappointed.

The PSC Nominating Council must submit at least six names to Gov. Rick Scott. Scott will decide which two he wants to appoint to the board, but they must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.

Among the other candidates: Samuel Curtis Kiser, the PSC’s general counsel who formerly served in the State Senate and the State House; David J. Murzin, a former state representative who currently works as an aide for state Sen. Greg Evers; Marshall Wayne Willis, a longtime PSC staff member who was forced to resign in April.

Also applying are Patrick John Sheehan, director of the state’s Office of Energy; Gregory L. Scoville, former planning director in DeFuniak Springs sued the city after he was fired for refusing to comply with a random drug test; Thomas Charles Larson, a member of the Sierra Club Florida executive committee and a former employee of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; and Oliver Addison Parker, the former mayor of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.


The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) presented twenty-four legislators and county commissioners with 2014 Legislative Awards during the 2014 FAC Annual Conference & Exposition in Orange County.

“The preservation and protection of home rule is the Florida Association of Counties’ mission,” said Chris Holley, FAC Executive Director.  “We appreciate all of the legislators who stood with us during session and the commissioners who came to Tallahassee to advocate on behalf of home rule and Florida’s citizens.”

The William “Doc” Myers Lifetime County Advocate Award: Sen. Jack Latvala was awarded a ceremonial sledgehammer for the ‘Doc’ Myers Lifetime Advocate award for his extraordinary commitment to home rule and his advocacy for local communities throughout his service in the legislature.

Marlene Young Award: presented to Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala for her commitment throughout her career to protect home rule and serve Florida’s counties as a leader and as an advocate.

Legislative Leadership Awards: Sen. Nancy Detert for her continual efforts to stop unfunded mandates and preemptions during the legislative session. Speaker Will Weatherford for his efforts to address the juvenile detention billing system.

Exemplary Public Service Award: Sens. Rob Bradley, Oscar Braynon, Alan Hayes, Dorothy Hukill and Chris Smith. Reps. Clay Ingram, Charles McBurney, Seth McKeel, James Waldman and Ritch Workman.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Senator Jack Latvala: “Honored to kick off SPC viewing of Mexico vs Brazil match. No I’m not hiding the soccer ball under my shirt!”

TWEET OF THE DAY: @realDonaldTrump: Just met with the incoming Speaker of the Florida House, @SteveCrisafulli – a fantastic guy! He will be a truly great leader.


A fundraising reception is being held for Rep. Dave Kerner. Lake Worth Municipal Golf Course, E.R. Bradley’s Beach Club restaurant, 1 Seventh Ave. North, Lake Worth. 5:30 p.m.


Rep. Jamie Grant holds a “Fundraising & Friend-raising Reception” from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Michael’s Grill 11720 N Dale Mabry Hwy. in Tampa.


A former porn star is looking for a new role as a school board member.

David Mech of Boca Raton has qualified for the Palm Beach County School Board’s District 3 seat.

The 38-year-old was known as Dave Pounder while a performer in adult films. He began a math tutoring business a few years ago.

Along with another candidate, John Michael Hartman, Mech is challenging incumbent board member Karen Brill.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Brill made headlines earlier this year with a short-lived proposal to enforce a dress code for parents on school property.

***SUNBURN is sponsored in part by Floridian Partners, LLC, a statewide Public and Government Affairs firm with offices in Tallahassee, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Their firm’s success is measured by its clients’ success. Outreach and Public Advocacy; Strategic Issue and Campaign Development; Grassroots and Grasstops Coalition Building – Floridian Partners is a one-stop firm for clients needing assistance at all levels of government in Florida.***


With Eric Cantor’s surprise primary defeat still fresh in Republicans’ minds, a new opinion research firm is launching that aims to fix the GOP’s increasingly dire polling problem, bring the party up to speed in the election data wars, and upend the way political campaigns are run.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Echelon Insights’ co-founders, veteran GOP digital strategist Patrick Ruffini and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson said the new firm will merge the campaign crafts of telephone surveys, focus groups, and data analytics to help Republican clients rethink the way they deploy resources and shape their messages.

Traditionally, campaigns are made up of competing factions, with pollsters in one corner, digital staffers in another, and a Stuart Stevens-like guru at the head of the organization, making decisions after he hears out his staffers’ arguments.

Echelon will seek to overturn that model by combining those efforts into one comprehensive intel-gathering operation.

The two strategists are well positioned to pioneer a more integrated approach. Ruffini began blogging in the early 2000s, and quickly became one of the GOP’s foremost digital operatives, filling his résumé with of-the-time titles like “webmaster” for George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, and “eCampaign director” at the RNC. More recently, as the tech and political climates have shifted, he has specialized in data analytics. Anderson, meanwhile, comes from a more traditional opinion research background, working as vice president of the D.C. polling firm The Winston Group.


Edgar Castro, Nelson Diaz Southern Strategy Group: MedicFP

Evan Power, Cruz & Company: AT&T, Florida Hospital Association, NuVision Management

Terry Rhodes: Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles

Elisabeth Thibodaux: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment

***The Public Affairs Consultants Team of Jack Cory, Keyna Cory and Erin Daly Ballas guide their clients through the legislative, state agency and local government process. They do so by providing governmental consulting, lobbying and professionally coordinated grassroots programs for businesses, professionals, non-profits, local governments and associations. Recently named a Leading Association LobbyistThey Cover Florida Like the Sun.***


On Context Florida: The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Society of Environmental Journalists each have “environmental” in their names, but Bruce Ritchie points out that the comparison stops there. Both the agency and journalism group are knocking heads over the way EPA rolled out its announcement on June 2 of a plan to reduce carbon emissions. Shannon Nickinson worries what business people will think when they see the data on the 2014 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, where only 53 percent of Escambia County fifth-graders were proficient in science and 45 percent for eighth-graders. What you didn’t know about the 2020-21 Florida House Speaker race, writes Peter Schorsch, is that it is being run right now, possibly to be decided as soon as two months from now, but almost surely this year. Daniel Tilson writes on Juneteenth, a too-little-known annual day of celebration and reflection observed every June 19, commemorating the actual end of American slavery in 1865.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Taking the helm of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce is a man who area business leaders are confident will bring a wealth of opportunities to the Southwest Florida economy.

Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette became the new head of the Naples Chamber of Commerce, a role he will fill for the next two years, following two years as chairman-elect.

Goodlette, 66, a retired real estate attorney, was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1998 and re-elected until term limits caused him to step down in 2006. He was chief of staff to the speaker of the House of Representatives in 2009-10. He has been a leader in Florida higher education.

As the chamber’s chairman-elect the past two years, Goodlette already has made substantial progress in public policy and regional economic development.

He’s worked toward uniting Collier County government with the chamber as a catalyst in the creation of the Partnership for Collier’s Future Economy and uniting a regional business and economic development team. He’s also been involved on a three-year economic development plan for the Naples and Collier County area that is to be unveiled in late August — called Opportunity Naples.

Opportunity Naples involves about 50 business leaders.


Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us through a few famous June scandals — most notably, the 42nd anniversary of Watergate, the main events of which spanned June 17-19, 1972.

Had it not been for the Watergate affair, Americans and journalists worldwide would be without an easy suffix for scandals du jour. And our nation would also have never experienced the only resignation of a president to date.

On June 3, 2011, John Edwards was indicted by a North Carolina grand jury on six felony charges all relating to his well- by illegally-financed affair with Rielle Hunter. Incidentally, the befallen Senator’s birthday is June 10. Do you know who shares June 10 as a birth date? Eliot Spitzer.

Then there’s Jack Ryan, the former presidential candidate and Illinois Senator whose divorce files were made public on June 22, 2004. In these, Ryan’s wife alleged that he pressured her to perform sex acts in public clubs. I save the most syrupy for last: Anthony Weiner. On June 16, 2011, Weiner announced that he would resign from Congress effective June 23, 2011. Why? You know why. That accidentally-blitzed image that elevated “sexting” to a word grown adults learned to say. All that Carlos Danger stuff didn’t hit until a month and two years later. But, really, who is counting?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two Tallahassee pros, Bascom Communication’s Lyndsey Cruley and the Miami Herald‘s Mary Ellen Klas.

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.