Sunburn for 6/30 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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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 recognizes the digital revolution happening right before our eyes. It’s “Social Media Day” – celebrate by instagramming your favorite picture or starting your own hashtag.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


A White House official emails reporters details of an Obama plan to ask Congress for $2 billion more for border control: “On Monday, the White House will send a letter informing Congress that we will be requesting additional resources and added flexibility to deal with the significant rise in apprehensions of children and individuals from Central America who are crossing into the United States in the Río Grande Valley areas of the Southwest border. The letter will make clear our intention to work with Congress on additional legislative authority and send up an emergency supplemental request when the Congress returns from recess to implement a unified, comprehensive Federal Government response. …

“Initially, we believe this may include: providing the DHS Secretary additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; and increasing penalties for those who smuggle vulnerable migrants, like children.

“In addition, we will soon be requesting congressional action on emergency supplemental appropriations legislation to support: an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers; a sustained border security surge through enhanced domestic enforcement, including interdiction and prosecution of criminal networks; a significant increase in immigration judges … and establishing corresponding facilities to expedite the processing of cases involving those who crossed the border in recent weeks; … the resources necessary to appropriately detain, process, and care for children and adults.”

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FLA DEMS, BILL CLINTON CRITICIZE RICK SCOTT via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

The Florida Democratic Party used their annual fundraising dinner to bash Gov. Rick Scott — but not to showcase the candidates that hope to replace him.

Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Scott a tea party extremist. Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said Scott has never helped Florida’s middle class. And former President Bill Clinton said Scott’s economic policies only benefit those that don’t need help.

But the candidates hoping to challenge Scott — Charlie Crist and Nan Rich — weren’t allowed to address the more than 1,500 party activists who will be asked to help the eventually nominee defeat the governor. That’s a change from previous election years when the event was used to highlight candidates.

“I’m disappointed that this is our summer meeting, their last chance to hear from our Democratic primary candidates for governor and we’re not going to get to hear them speak,” said Alex Sink, the party’s last gubernatorial nominee. “This race has to be about what our vision of Florida is. Seriously. I want to hear from Nan Rich and Charlie Crist what they think Florida can be.”

Instead, the enthusiasm was saved for Clinton, who spoke for 40 minutes despite battling a hoarse voice. Clinton defended President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and criticized Scott and the state’s Republicans for refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.

DEMOCRATS FACE DAUNTING CHALLENGES via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Other than the governor’s race, where recent polls point to a toss-up, Florida Democrats are barely showing a pulse.

Party leaders failed to recruit anybody to run for the statewide offices of chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner, winding up with obscure longshots on the ballot. Two credible Democrats, George Sheldon and Perry Thurston, are running for attorney general, but neither has much money to take on Republican incumbent Pam Bondi, who has raised millions.

“It’s been more difficult to recruit candidates than I wanted it to be,” acknowledged Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant, who organized Saturday’s “Leadership Blue Gala.”

The outlook down the ballot isn’t much better. Talk a year ago that Democrats stood to gain at least five seats in the Florida House has given way to more common predictions that Democrats may net just one additional House seat — or even lose ground. The only competitive Florida Senate race features Democratic incumbent Maria Sachs of Delray Beach trying to fend off a Republican challenge by former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, ensuring Democrats will spend scarce resources on defense.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s approval ratings have been trending downward, with most polls showing only about 42 percent of Americans approve of his performance. Democratic turnout traditionally lags Republicans by at least 4 percentage points in non-presidential election years, making the party’s job even harder while the Florida GOP overwhelmingly outraises and outspends the Democrats.

CAPTION CONTEST for this pic of Crist and Clinton. Send your suggestions to Winner will get a mention in Sunburn and a gift certificate to 101 Restaurant in Tallahassee.


Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Clinton and other Democrats criticize Rick Scott at dinner – Florida Democratic Party used their annual fundraising dinner to bash Gov. Rick Scott — but not to showcase the candidates that hope to replace him… Naples Daily News, Ex-President Clinton speaks to Florida Democrats, who rally to oust Rick Scott – Tant said the event raised more than $1.1 million… Sarasota Herald-TribuneClinton rallies Florida Democrats – attracted a capacity crowd of nearly 1,600 in the ballroom of the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa… Sun-Sentinel, Florida Democrats in Hollywood: schmoozing, strategy — and money – Clinton is officially neutral in Florida’s Democratic primary for governor – so neutral that he mentioned both candidates… Tampa Bay Times, Bill Clinton fires up Florida Democrats, who face big election-year challenge – Party leaders failed to recruit anybody to run for the statewide offices of chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner, winding up with obscure longshots on the ballot… Miami HeraldDemocrats, Clinton criticize Gov. Scott at dinner – But the candidates hoping to challenge Scott — Republican turned Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich — weren’t allowed to address the more than 1,500 party activists.

TWEET, TWEET: @TroyKinsey: In Dem gala press gaggle, @CharlieCrist said he’s fresh in from Nantucket, where the DGA handed him a half million dollar check.

PAGING POLITIFACT: “We ran the numbers, and based on how many ads Rick Scott’s team has produced, how much money they’ve spent, and what media markets they’re buying airtime in, it’s entirely possible that — depending on where you live — you’ve seen a “Rick Scott TV ad” upwards of 125 times over the past six months.” — Omar Khan, campaign manager for Charlie Crist, in a fundraising email sent Saturday.


Gov. Scott said that a successful whistleblower lawsuit against his administration concerning thousands of unemployed people improperly referred to collections agencies is “nothing but Charlie Crist trying to come up with a way to complain.”

Scott was dismissive of the lawsuit, in which the state paid a former state employee $250,000, as “all basically Charlie Crist. It’s run by his campaign to bring up lawsuits because he doesn’t have a record.”

The woman, a 30-year state employee named Dianne Parcell, held a news conference to announce that she had won the lawsuit against the state Department of Economic Opportunity where she formerly headed a unit whose job was to recover improperly paid unemployment benefits.

Parcell said she found in July 2012 that more than 19,000 people had been improperly referred to collections agencies, even though their excess benefits were uncollectable because, in some cases, they were bankrupt, dead or already repaying the benefits as result of civil settlements.

When she brought that to her supervisor’s attention, she said, she was told to ignore it. She was also rebuffed when she referred the matter to the Governor’s Office, and was fired in October 2012.

A jury awarded her $53,000 in back pay and more than $195,000 in legal fees.

State officials maintained Parcell was fired because of her aggressive behavior during a meeting held to discuss problems with the state’s effort to track down people who had been overpaid.


While Gov. Scott and Charlie Crist have waged a bitter public relations battle over the release of their tax returns, both sides have been mum about one aspect of the documents:

They suggest that both candidates are philanthropic laggards compared with their well-heeled peers. The returns show no giving from Crist in recent years, and declining charity from Scott.

Crist has taken the $6,000 standard deduction for years, even when his income jumped from $135,000 as governor to $705,000 while working in the private sector. At both income levels, rather than itemizing, he took the standard deduction that may include charitable giving but does not specify it.

Crist said his tax returns don’t list contributions that he regularly makes to his St. Petersburg church, First United Methodist, and to homeless people that he meets on downtown streets. He said he couldn’t estimate how much he has given.

“I don’t claim it, I just do it,” said Crist, who reported a 2013 net worth of $1.25 million. “I don’t care about money. I give it out of my heart. I don’t give it to get a tax break.”

Scott’s tax returns, filed jointly with his wife, Ann, are more complicated, as to be expected from a couple with a 2013 net worth of $132.7 million. Yet while the returns reflect sizable charitable contributions, they have diminished over time and represent declining fractions of overall wealth.

But their charitable giving in 2011 was $209,871 — 0.3 percent of a reported $80.3 million income, which included the sale of Scott’s network of walk-in urgent care centers. In 2012, charitable contributions dipped to $99,953, representing 1.1 percent of an $8.7 million income.

Scott has not yet disclosed his 2013 return because he received a filing extension.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS per a release: “Governor Rick Scott today announced the kick off of a Florida Veterans Service Award Tour leading up to Independence Day. During the tour Governor Scott will award veterans from around the state with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. The tour will travel to Tampa, Fort Myers, Hollywood, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, and Panama City.”


Greer’s narrative shows little understanding of the political leaders, party systems, election laws, consultants, and donors who make up the Republican apparatus in Florida. His characterizations of almost every Florida political figure other than Crist are wildly inaccurate, portraying old-line Reagan Republicans such as former Rep. Bill McCollum as fire-breathing Tea Party maniacs. His descriptions of Sen. Marco Rubio range from laughable to slanderous. He gets names, dates, titles, ideology, and Florida political history wrong time and again in a way a simple Google search could resolve.

The narrative portrays Greer as Crist’s man to a fault. Crist’s abiding contempt for conservative voters, grassroots activists, and the rising Tea Party swiftly infects Greer, and the tone of the book. Greer conflates the Republican rebellion against Crist’s misrule and his own excess with the Tea Party. It wasn’t the Tea Party that ended Greer, it was rank-and-file Republicans, who saw Greer illegally using party money in an effort to elect Crist to the Senate, all while spending the party to the cusp of bankruptcy.

But let’s be honest. No one is suffering through this mess of a book to learn about Greer. We’re reading it for the Crist gossip.

… Anyone who knows Crist and reads Greer’s depiction of him will be struck instantly by its ring of truth. Crist really is that driven by narcissism, ambition, and personal vanity. He really is a purely political creature. The constant neediness, the disinterest in governing, the desire to avoid the hard calls, the passive-aggressive staff games of who’s in, who’s out; all of it passes the smell test.

Most politicians aren’t like you and me, but Crist really is another species of human. For almost his entire adult life he has lived alone, was married only momentarily as a very young man, has rarely held a job outside politics, has had no truly close friends. Before his marriage to Carole Rome, aside from politics, Crist’s only lifelong commitment was to his ambition. You can see it all on these pages.

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The constitutional amendment’s summary refers to medical marijuana. But in reality it is a stalking horse for recreational use.

Among those who can receive marijuana under the amendment would be an “other” category that is too vague.

Physicians would provide an approval for using marijuana if they believe its use would outweigh health risks.

“They want you to think this is medical, but this is recreational,” Rutherford said. “You could get it for most anything — anxiety, cramps, a sore back.”

The amendment also would put physicians into the thankless job of being gatekeepers for marijuana use. Does a patient really need it or not? And if so, the physician would not issue a prescription where dosages can be controlled. Patients would receive a document allowing them to visit a dispensary where there may not be sufficient controls on dosages and length of use.

LOOK FOR the No on 2 campaign to release a video today showing the authors of Amendment 2 allowing for issues such as “trouble sleeping” to qualify as a “debilitating disease” under Amendment 2.

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APPOINTED:  Pieter Bockweg to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council.

APPOINTED: Jill Compton as a school board member of Highlands County.


Troubling fault lines have appeared in the explosive growth of charter schools in Florida.

An alarming number of charter schools are closing within a year or two of opening, leaving students behind, families distressed and taxpayer money lost.

… Without question, Florida has many high-performing charter schools that better serve students than some of our under-performing public schools. It’s understandable why parents would want something better than a neighborhood school that makes failing grades.

But by raising elbows to resist better regulation of their rapidly growing industry, the good-guy charter schools deserve to be tarred with the scandals of their colleagues.

It’s not enough for the big players to tut-tut the poor performers. It’s not enough for them to talk about accountability, when they resist changing pitiful standards that give rise to fly-by-night operators.

Given their political influence in Tallahassee, it’s incumbent on leaders of the charter school industry to demand better regulation of their business.

We’re not talking onerous oversight. We’re talking about common-sense solutions that would still allow education start-ups to innovate.


Detert said without an election to plan for, she’s already working on her legislative agenda for 2015. Among her upcoming priorities: expanding Florida incentives to attract film makers to the state to create jobs, helping land funding to rebuild the Interstate 75-University Parkway interchange, and keeping a close eye on the Department of Children and Family Services as they implement reforms that Detert was partly responsible for passing.

“Our chore will be to make sure those reforms are all implemented,” said Detert, who was the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee..

Detert’s part of the DCF reform package that Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed last week includes a provision that DCF better report deaths that occur in their care and have a response team that quickly investigates the tragedies.

Detert is coming off two years of work that she considers some of her best since first being elected to the Legislature in 1998. Beyond helping to reform DCF, Detert also had legislation named after her that reforms the way the state handles foster care programs. She also secured nearly $5 million to build a village in Venice for developmentally disabled adults who outlive their parent caregivers.

Detert also passed Florida’s first law to ban texting while driving.

Being unopposed for re-election is nothing new for Detert during her career in the Florida Legislature. In her 2012 re-election, she was also unopposed. And twice when she for re-election in the House, Detert’s only opposition was from Libertarian Party candidates whom she easily defeated.

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FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE WEEKEND via Rep. Jimmie Smith: “Today I officially filed for State Senator. The race is for 2016 but the groundwork starts today.”


Florida’s leading advocate for pro-medicine candidates announced on Friday endorsements of two incumbents in State House races.

The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) is supporting Republican State Rep. Tom Goodson in his re-election bid for House District 50 and Democratic Rep. Kevin Rader in his bid to represent House District 81.

“We endorse Rep. Tom Goodson, who has made access to health care a priority of his campaign,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “He consistently supports the FMA’s legislative agenda, and we look forward to working with Rep. Goodson during the 2015 Legislative Session.”

“The Florida Medical Association PAC is thrilled to endorse Kevin Rader for State Representative,” Nobo added. “His experience in the House, along with his insurance background, make him a strong voice for quality, affordable healthcare for Floridians.”

“We must continue to provide real solutions for Floridians who are impacted by the shortage of physicians and nurses in our state,” Goodman said in response.  “Thank you to the members of the FMA PAC for their endorsement of my re-election efforts.”

“With the expansion of access to health insurance, it is vital that we work hard to ensure that we maintain a system of high quality health care,” said Rader. “I am grateful for the support of our state’s doctors who work — every single day — to provide high quality care.”


Phillips is joining Bob Cortes campaign for House District 30 to run day-to-day operations.

Phillips, a former candidate for State House, is well liked throughout Central Florida and will bring his expertise and an extensive network of supporters and contacts to the campaign. Previously, Phillips led a statewide effort to educate voters on the records of Florida Supreme Court merit retention candidates from 2010-2012.

“I’m ready to get to work,” Phillips said. “Bob Cortes is clearly the right candidate for District 30, and we need to take back this seat from the liberal Democratic agenda that is harming our state. We are going to work hard to make sure every voter in the district is aware of Bob’s optimistic vision for Florida.”


Speaker Will Weatherford is headlining a Tallahassee fundraiser for Burgess, beginning 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club Library Room, 202 1/2 South Adams St.

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If you’ve been involved in Florida politics for any amount of time in the past decade you know, or know of, Darrick McGhee. And starting August 1, you will know him as the newest member of Johnson & Blanton’s lobbying team.

McGhee has been the face of legislative and governmental affairs for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. He has been the chief of staff for the latter agency — and its acting executive director — as well as the director of legislative affairs for Gov. Scott.

McGhee, a licensed and ordained minister and president of Bible Based Church Board of Directors, brings magnetism and problem solving prowess to his professional endeavors.

 Billed as Johnson & Blanton’s “#1 Draft Pick”, McGhee will bring his skills and extensive relationships to the firm, which is recognized among Florida’s top lobbying outfits by Florida Trend and Sunshine State News.

In 2014, the firm advocated for 49 legislative clients, and has an estimated $4 million in annual revenue.


Once a year, members of Florida’s political influence industry get together for a chance to cut loose — network, swap “war stories,” meet and greet legislators, learn good practices and have an overall good time.

Registration is now open for the 10th Annual Conference of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, set for September 3-5 at Tampa’s Grand Hyatt on Bayport Drive.

FAPL works to establish and advocate standards for those in the lobbying profession, with a focus on education and ethical conduct. The essence of the of the Association is to uphold the Code of Ethics, backed up with regulatory and dispute mediation processes to keep members to the highest standards of industry professionalism.

Ethics and good practices are the underlying themes of the three-day Conference, which will offer members — through a variety of topics, seminars and roundtable discussions — enough earned hours for an official Designated Professional Lobbyist designation.

Some of the proposed seminar topics: Preparing for Your Compensation Audit, highlighting new requirements from the state of Florida for periodic random audits, marketing and business practices, and one titled “Partisan Views of the Upcoming Elections.”

Among a few of the roundtable discussions: Insurance, health care, transportation, public safety and economic development.

The registration fees are $375 for FAPL members, $450 if bringing a spouse; non-members expect to pay $500, which includes a one-year FAPL membership, $575 if bringing one guest/spouse.


AT&T today announced that Elise McCabe has been named Vice President Regulatory and Public Policy of AT&T Florida, Puerto Rico & US Virgin Islands and Juan Carlos (JC) Flores has been named Vice President Government Affairs of AT&T Florida.

“Elise and Juan Carlos bring an inherent knowledge about the unique communications issues in Florida and a solid understanding of consumer needs across the state,” said Joe York, President, AT&T Florida, Puerto Rico & USVI. Their experience in telecom and at the capitol combined with their desire to serve the state of Florida is invaluable in their new leadership roles. Together we will work closely with communities and lawmakers statewide to ensure Florida is poised to be a leader in connectivity and technology growth.”

McCabe most recently served as State Director – Legislative Affairs, AT&T Florida and Juan Carlos as a Regional Director, AT&T Florida.

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The winner and runner up in the Miss Florida pageant have to switch places because of a miscalculation.

Officials of the Miss Florida Organization named a new Miss Florida on Friday after discovering a tabulation error in the judging. As a result, Elizabeth Fechtel, who won the crown last Saturday, is now the runner up. The woman who had come in second — Victoria Cowen — is now the new Miss Florida.

Executive Director Mary Sullivan says the tabulation error was noticed during a routine recount. She says a mark on one judge’s ballot was inadvertently overlooked. The ballots were retabulated by an independent auditor, and the contestants were notified of the correct results.

The change comes after the Miss Delaware winner was disqualified because she was too old.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to one of the best, our dear friend Sarah Bascom. Also celebrating this weekend was Senator Wilton Simpson and “Brightest Mind” Christian Ulvert. Best wishes today to Rep. Travis Cummings, Beth Babington, lobbyist Kelly Mallette, and Carrie DiMuzio Madden.


Today is celebrated as Social Media Day. The event was launched by Mashable, a British-American news website, technology and, what else but a social media blog founded by Pete Cashmore in 2005.

Mashable launched the event in 2010 as way to recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes.

“Bring together those with a passion for digital and social media. Inspire conversation surrounding tech, social and digital happenings. Be a source of innovation to better our digital world,” according to the website. Hundreds of communities come together every June to participate in this global movement. How to celebrate it? Upload a photo, update your status or start a hashtag #SMDATY to start a trend.

There is no getting around the fact that social media has changed the way people interact. For the past 30 years of social media history, from letters to email to Facebook to Twitter and beyond, it certainly seems like a big part of our life.

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.