Sunburn for 7/22 – 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: On this day in 1960, Cuba nationalized all U.S.-owned sugar factories. The event gave rise to Florida Crystals Corporation, one of the leading sugar producers in the United States. Located in Palm Beach County, the company owns more than 155,000 acres of land, on which it produces sugar distributed throughout the country.

POLL: STAY OUT OF UKRAINE, MIDDLE EAST via Alexander Burns of POLITICO

Amid deepening violence across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Americans are recoiling from direct engagement overseas and oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine by large margins, according to a POLITICO poll of 2014 battleground voters.

Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative. Thirty-one percent said the current policy is correct and 34 percent said the U.S. should be less involved. The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked over eastern Ukraine.

More than three-quarters of likely voters say they support plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Only 23 percent oppose the plan.

Forty-four percent of likely voters favor less involvement in Iraq’s civil war, versus 19 percent who favor more involvement and 23 percent who say the current level of involvement is appropriate.

A 51 percent majority said the situation in Iraq affects U.S. national security “a little” or “not at all.” Forty-two percent said it affects U.S. national security “a lot.”

Likely voters prefer less involvement in Syria’s civil war over more involvement, 42 percent to 15 percent. Twenty-six percent of likely voters support the current, limited level of involvement.

On the issue of foreign policy specifically, voters say they trust Republicans over Democrats by 7 points, 39 percent to 32 percent. Twenty-eight percent said they were unsure which party to trust.

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DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION: 105

RICK SCOTT MAKES NEW JOBS PROMISES AT CAMPAIGN EVENT via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

Another week, another policy tour for Gov. Scott with a focus on … you guessed it … jobs.

Scott’s campaign brought his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour to Pompano Beach at Hoerbiger Corp., which manufactures parts for compressors. The company is headquartered in Switzerland and employs about 350 people at the Pompano Beach site.

Scott chatted up workers as he toured the facility (without the safety goggles that reporters and other visitors had to wear) and then gave a short speech in which he talked up the growth in manufacturing jobs.

Scott also used the event to bash his expected opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, for jobs lost during his tenure. Scott didn’t name Crist, but said that Florida “lost 832,000 jobs in four years” before he became governor while under his watch the state has added “over 620,000 jobs.”

REPORT SHOWS WHERE CHARLIE CRIST AND SCOTT ARE SPENDING MILLIONS via Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News

Through the last week of July, Republicans have spent $16.1 million on television advertisements as part of the governor’s race compared with Democrats’ $3 million.

The GOP has spent at least $260,000 in each of the state’s media markets, while Democrats haven’t spent a dime in seven markets, including the heavily populated, but expensive, Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.

By a more than six-to-one margin, Republicans have bought more so-called “gross rating points,” which is an important indicator. They help campaigns determine what percentage of a market actually sees an ad.

The massive media advantage has played a crucial role in helping Scott cut into what once was a sizeable Crist lead in the polls. From early 2013 through March, Crist had been up by an average of 8 points, according to an average compiled by Real Clear Politics, which tracks several polls.

In April and May, Scott’s campaign spent nearly $8.5 million on television. Since then, the race has largely been seen as a toss-up, with Scott up by single-digits in some polls.

“It’s not unexpected,” Steve Schale, who is consulting the Crist campaign, said of the race tightening. “We knew we would take a hit from three months of negative ads.”

A Scott campaign spokesman declined comment, saying the campaign doesn’t discuss strategy.

One-third of all that spending has been focused on the voter-rich Tampa-St. Petersburg media market, which spans 12 counties.

COMPLAINTS ABOUT CRIST AND SCOTT THROWN OUT via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Election year complaints contending that Crist and Scott broke campaign finance laws are getting thrown out.

Public records at the Florida Elections Commission show that the commission rejected two complaints filed this spring by Republican Party of Florida executive director Justin Johnson. Both were deemed legally insufficient by commission officials.

The complaints centered on billboards and television ads paid by the Morgan & Morgan law firm that included Crist. The former governor is running as a Democrat.

Complaints filed by Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant against Scott and his political committee Let’s Get to Work were also thrown out. Records on that one, however, show that lawyers for both the party and Scott argued over whether there was grounds to reject it.

TWEET, TWEET: @jlrosicaTBO: .@Mdixon55 now has the distinction of being the go-to guy for press clip excerpts in FL governor’s campaign emails from both sides.

SCOTT PRIVATELY PROFITED IN FPL PIPELINE DEAL APPROVED BY GOVERNOR’S APPOINTEES via Dan Christensen of BrowardBulldog.org in the Miami Herald

Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades.

“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.

Gov. Scott understood. In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission — a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that’s to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.

Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.

What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.

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PATRICK MURPHY MAKES $1.4M AD BUY IN CD 18 RACE Full blog post here

Rep. Patrick Murphy made his first ad buy in the campaign for Florida’s 18th District, with $1.4 million in both cable and broadcast ads for the West Palm Beach-Treasure Coast media market.

CQ Roll Call reports the Jupiter Democrat’s buy expects to run through the summer and fall.

The freshman lawmaker, who represents the northeast corner of Palm Beach County, has brought in $759,000 in second quarter fundraising. As of June 30, Murphy has more than $2.6 million in cash on hand.

“This ad buy sends a clear message regarding the strength of Murphy’s re-election efforts, which continue to receive incredible support, both financially and on a grassroots level,” said campaign manager Anthony Kusich in a statement.  “This airtime will allow the Congressman to continue communicating with constituents about his dedication to serving the community and changing the tone in Washington.”

DAVID JOLLY ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR GAY MARRIAGE via Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post

Republican U.S. Rep. Jolly announced his support for gay marriage, saying that he believes it is “fully appropriate” for a state to recognize both same-sex marriages and “traditional” ones, even though he, as a Christian, believes in the latter.

When asked by The Washington Post whether he supports gay marriage in light of a Florida judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban, Jolly said that his personal views on marriage are that it should be limited to one man and one woman. But, he added, states should not be defining the “sanctity” of marriage.

“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” said Jolly in a statement to The Post. “But as a matter of Constitutional principle, I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”

Jolly becomes the eighth Republican member of Congress to come out in support of gay marriage. He joins Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Kirk, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Richard Hanna, and Rep. Charlie Dent.

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AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY A GROWING FORCE IN FLORIDA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Americans for Prosperity stands apart from many outside spending groups that simply unleash TV, radio and online ads.

The conservative organization has built a political machine in Florida, with 10 field offices, more than 40 paid employees and hundreds of volunteers who do regular phone banking and monthly door-to-door canvassing on a wide array of issues.

The operational budget this year is $6 million, a significant increase over the $4.2 million spent from 2010-13. And that does not include millions in TV ads the group has done in Florida.

The precise figure is not clear because the group’s spending on “issue” ads does not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. AFP is organized as a nonprofit and does not disclose its donors, though billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are the founders and a major funding source.

Nationally, AFP has 240 full-time employees in 32 states. It has unleashed tens of millions in TV ads attacking Obamacare and pushing free market, pro-business ideals, with plans to spend as much as $125 million this election cycle.

In Florida, the organization is promoting the policies of Gov. Scott, leaving literature at voters’ doors as the November election nears. But it also helped defeat Scott’s move to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. AFP activists sent more than 13,400 emails to members of the Legislature and Scott warning against the expansion. It has started scorecards of legislators on key issues.

CFO JEFF ATWATER, NEW YORK GOV. CUOMO TRADE INSULTS OVER JOBS ADS via Matt Dixon of PoliticalFixFlorida.com

 CFO Jeff Atwater sent a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasting an advertising campaign touting his state’s business recruitment efforts.

“It is perfectly understandable that you would want to stay in touch with so many former New Yorkers who have already discovered the allure of the Sunshine State,” read the letter, which had a sarcastic tone.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has been buying ad time in Florida to tout his state’s STARTUP-NY” initiative, which allows new businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years. It’s a response to states led by GOP governors – like Florida and Texas – trying to recruit businesses in New York.

Cuomo shot back with an equally snarky reply to Atwater’s letter.

“For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn’t understand that the zero in StartUp’s zero tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses,” wrote Cuomo spokesperson Matt Wing in an email to the Scripps/Tribune Capitol Bureau.

FLA. LEADS NATION IN FORECLOSURES SO FAR THIS YEAR via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Florida led the nation in foreclosures during the first half of the year.

A report released last week by the research firm RealtyTrac says Florida’s foreclosure rate was the nation’s highest for the first half of 2014.

RealtyTrac says 1 in 74 Florida homes had a foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year.

More than 121,000 properties had a foreclosure filing, the most of any state. However, that number was down 22 percent from a year earlier.

Miami had the nation’s highest metro area foreclosure rate, with 1 in 61 homes involved in a filing in the first half of the year.

Miami was followed by Orlando, Port St. Lucie, the Space Coast and Tampa in having the top five foreclosure rates by metro areas.

FINAL REPORT ISSUED IN ORANGE COUNTY EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY SCANDAL Full blog post here

Cover-up of a land deal was at the heart of the Orange County Expressway Authority scandal, according to the final report released by state investigators, which outlined four documented violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Former state Rep. Chris Dorworth appears to be at the center of it all, reports Greg Fox of WESH 2.

Dorworth was indicted June 4 on allegations of violating Florida’s open meetings law. In more than 100 pages of testimony—including phone, text logs and timelines–investigators outline a scheme to control the region’s toll money.

The report also portrays Dorworth as the “point person” in 91 messages exchanged with then-Expressway Authority board member Scott Batterson, and another 39 messages with former board member Marco Pena. At the time, Pena was attempting to win a board appointment.

Pena later pled guilty to Sunshine Law violations.

In the new report, records and testimony prove Dorworth acted as a go-between for Batterson and Pena. Former Department of Transportation Rebecca Hammond, Dorworth’s girlfriend, also acted as an intermediary for her two supervisors, state DOT secretary Ananth Prasad and his secretary who also served on the board, Noranne Downs.

JUDGE ASKED TO LIFT FLA. KEYS GAY MARRIAGE STAY via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press

A Florida Keys judge who ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional was asked to permit gay couples to marry in Monroe County despite a pending state appeal.

The motion was filed with Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia by attorneys for Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, a pair of Key West bartenders whose lawsuit successfully challenged the ban. Garcia ruled last week that the ban on same-sex marriage added to the state constitution by Florida voters in 2008 is discriminatory and violates gay people’s right to equal treatment under the law.

Garcia ruled marriage licenses could be issued in Monroe County to gay couples. But that was blocked by an automatic stay triggered when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice that the state will appeal.

Bondi’s office filed papers urging Garcia to keep the stay in place until all appeals are sorted out.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Garcia would rule. And if the judge lifts the stay, Bondi’s office could ask the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal to reinstate it.

NEWS MEDIA WANTS ACCESS TO REDISTRICTING RECORDS via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Florida news media organizations, including The Associated Press, are asking the state Supreme Court to make public documents that were used in the state’s landmark redistricting trial.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled this month that the state Legislature illegally drew Florida’s congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party.

Lewis based part of that ruling on emails and documents from GOP political consultants that were not made public. The judge said in his ruling against state legislators that the evidence showed a “conspiracy to influence and manipulate the Legislature into a violation of its constitutional duty.”

The consultants contended that use of the documents violated their First Amendment rights and sued to keep them from being heard.

The Florida Supreme Court allowed Lewis to use the evidence during the 12-day trial if it was not discussed in open court. But the high court recently agreed to consider whether the evidence should have been kept secret.

The court filing from the media organizations said the case “raises important questions about the right of access to public records in Florida: whether documents introduced into evidence and relied upon by the trial court in a proceeding attacking as unconstitutional secrecy in the redistricting process can be kept, well, secret.”

The Florida House and Florida Senate are not objecting to the media organizations filing legal briefs in the case. The motion is opposed, however, by lawyers representing consulting firm Data Targeting and its employees. Data Targeting is having its legal bills paid by the Republican Party of Florida.

APPOINTED: Lucas Boyce to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.

APPOINTED: Carolyn “Renae” Allen and Leonard Davis to Florida Gateway College District Board of Trustees.

APPOINTED: Judge J. Kevin Abdoney to the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.

POLICY NOTES

ENERGY CONSERVATION HEARING HELD

The Florida Public Service Commission is scheduled to continue a hearing about energy conservation goals for utilities. The hearing is expected to include Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co., Gulf Power Co. and JEA. 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee. 9:30 a.m.

GOV. BOB MARTINEZ, KEN DETZNER TO TOUT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

Former Gov. Bob Martinez and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are expected to take part in an event with Florida State University’s Master’s of Applied American Politics and Policy Program. The event will feature a touring Smithsonian exhibit about the importance of civic engagement. Old Capitol. 11 a.m.

TRAIL PROJECTS DISCUSSED

The Florida Greenways and Trails Council is scheduled to start two days of meetings that will include issues such as proposed land-acquisition projects. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Douglas Building, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Tallahassee. 1 p.m.

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REP. JIMMIE SMITH ENDORSES RICHARD DENAPOLI IN HD 74 RACE Full blog post here

Republican House candidate Richard DeNapoli received the endorsement of state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran who served in Desert Storm.

“As a State Representative and Sponsor of the Florida GI Bill I am offering my endorsement of Richard DeNapoli for State Representative,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “I feel that Richard’s work ethic, strong principles and willingness to work with everyone to make Florida a better state is what we need in the Capitol.”

COLLEEN BURTON TO FILE COMPLAINT AGAINST “ILLEGAL” CAMPAIGN TV AD IN HD 40 Full blog post here

State House candidate Colleen Burton responded Monday to what she calls “illegally placed television ads” produced by supporters of her Republican primary opponent.

Burton, who is also a Republican, faces John Shannon in the Aug. 26 primary for House District 40, which covers much of metropolitan Lakeland and Polk County.

The ad in dispute began running on Bright House Networks July 18, with the disclaimer saying it is from an Electioneering Communication Organization (ECO) tied to Shannon’s consultant.

In the complaint, Barton cites Florida law which bans ECO ads of that type until 30 days prior to the election. She also intends to file a formal complaint with the Florida Elections Commission.

The ad claims that Burtons supported a tax increase while as an employee of Polk Vision, a community partnership of organizations, businesses, government and individuals to promote countywide priorities.

“I’ve always been unequivocal about my support of low taxes even when times were hard during the recession,” she said.

“The attack is predictable, unethical and illegal,” Burton said. “You would think a career trial attorney would have known better.”

CAMPAIGN MISCELLANY

>>>State Senator Joe Negron’s re-election has been endorsed by Florida Right to Life.

>>>HD 31 candidate Terri Seefeldt’s latest campaign video can be viewed here.

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SMALL K STREET LOBBYING SHOPS SEE BUSINESS BOOM via Megan Wilson of the Hill

Business is booming at Washington’s boutique lobby shops.

Of more than a dozen small firms contacted by The Hill, eight said their lobbying revenue was up during the most recent quarter, which ran from April to June.

Crossroads Strategies posted $1.34 million in earnings during the second quarter of 2014, a 33 percent increase over the same period last year.

The powerhouse Republican firm Clark, Geduldig, Cranford & Nielsen tallied $1.4 million in lobbying fees during the same period — its single best quarter since opening its doors in 2000.

The firm also said it is also poised to post growth for the rest of the year.

Monument Policy Group also had a record quarter, posting $1.16 million in earnings. The shop added five new lobbying clients this year, including the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which includes tech companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google.

Smaller firms are surging at a time of upheaval for the lobbying industry. With new business hard to come by, mergers, mass defections and rampant poaching of talent have become the norm.

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VOLUSIA COUNTY RENEWS LOBBYING CONTRACT WITH GRAYROBINSON Full blog post here

As Volusia County Council searches for a federal lobbyist, the board renewed its state lobbying contract with GrayRobinson.

The contract, approved unanimously at the council’s recent meeting, is about $50,000, similar to the agreement Volusia signed last year.

One year after Volusia switched to GrayRobinson from Pennington, the board did not hesitate to re-sign.

Since November, GrayRobinson’s political action committee recently provided more than $90,000 to numerous political campaigns and committees, according to campaign finance records. Between November 2012 and July 2013, the firm contributed about $77,000.

The GrayRobinson attorney named to handle Volusia’s account is Fred Leonhardt, a Volusia County native who once practiced law in the area.

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CONTEXT FLORIDA

IN THE WORLD OF GLOBAL GESTURES, THE FIST BUMP STANDS ALONE via Nicholas St. Fleur of NPR

Back in the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama launched a media storm when he nonchalantly fist bumped his wife Michelle.

“Is the fist bump the new high-five?” NPR’s Laura Silverman asked.

Obama has done it again.

Earlier this month he cemented the gesture as part of his presidential persona when he fist bumped an employee at an Austin barbecue restaurant. Before taking Obama’s order, Daniel Rugg said, “Equal rights for gay people,” the Austin Chronicle reported. Then the presidential bump followed.

The modern fist bump most likely evolved from the high-five in the sports world, says David Givens, an anthropologist with the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. The 1970s Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter was an early bumper, Time reported back in 2008. Eventually the fist bump became a way for friends to greet each other.

Givens believes that the fist bump stands out in the world of nonverbal gestures. “The fist bump is one of the few gestures that is equal,” he tells Goats and Sodas. “You could do it with President Obama, and you’d both be equals at that time.”

That’s because the knuckles are meeting at the same level — neither bumper has the upper hand, so to speak.

THE LIVE TWEET V. THE FACT CHECK: THERE’S A STUDY FOR THAT

When journalists live tweet political debates, the majority share candidates’ factual claims without challenging them, according to a new study that looked at how media outlets handle fact checking on the fly. About 60 percent just offer straightforward statements, the University of Texas at Austin study found. About 15 percent refuted statements with evidence, while 25 percent refuted statements without evidence.

To fact checking experts, this is no surprise. According to Eugene Kiely, director of FactCheck.org, claims made during debates usually take several hours to really verify. Editor Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact agrees. “You can’t research and verify facts that quickly,” Holan said. “But fortunately for us, politicians repeat themselves a lot.” To Holan, then, the goal of live tweeting during debates is to give people a sense of whether already debunked statements are being repeated.

NEW STUDY VISUALIZES POLITICAL FAVORITISM FROM OUTER SPACE 

Political leaders are known for bringing home the bacon to their home districts — or at least trying to. Studies often pin powerful committee chairmanships to percents of dollars directed toward local projects, or to more favorable shares of funding. But in other less developed countries, these same phenomenon can be observed — literally — from space. A new study looked at years of satellite data showing changes in levels of electricity or “nighttime light intensity” over time. They find that the hometowns of leaders become brighter at night during the person’s rise to power, and often darker, following their fall.

“One prominent example was Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) during the reign of Mobuto Sese Seko. Mobuto, who was president between 1971 and 1997, was born near the small town of Gbadolite. While he was in power, the town flourished,” writes Stephanie Pappas for Live Science. “Years of satellite data reveal Gbadolite as initially dark at night, brightening under Mobuto and quickly fading again after the authoritarian ruler’s exile and death.” Perhaps the only difference between this example and those in our own states may be units of measure.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a host of great Florida politicos, including Vic DiMaio, Eric Draper, Jamie Miller, and Missy Timmins, as well as Creative Loafing editor David Warner.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.