Sunburn for 7/31 – 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: Enjoy a butterbeer at the recently opened Diagon Alley in Orlando to toast Harry Potter’s birthday… and that of his real-life creator, J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter is perhaps the most important new fiction character in modern literature – aside from Christian Grey.

Now on to the ‘burn …


GDP grew at a 4 percent annual rate in the second quarter, surging ahead of a 3 percent forecast. But, as always, there are caveats, and handy graphs to show those caveats. 

JEB BUSH ISN’T THE HILLARY CLINTON OF THE 2016 GOP FIELD. NOT EVEN CLOSE. via Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post

There’s a tendency in political circles to equate Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush when it comes to the 2016 presidential race. The thinking goes like this: Both are popular members of political dynasties with deep policy and political chops. And, if they both run for president, each has the inside track to be their party’s nominee.

That is absolutely true for Clinton. It is not true for Bush.

CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation asked some 2016 horse-race questions in their latest poll.

Clinton led the Democratic field with 67 percent of the vote. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has said repeatedly that she isn’t running, took 10 percent. Joe Biden, who, not for nothing, is the Vice President of the United States, received 8 percent.

Compare Clinton’s massive edge with Bush’s standing relative to the rest of the GOP presidential contenders in the CNN/ORC survey. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is at the front of the pack with 13 percent, followed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 12 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan at 11 percent each. Bush is at 8 percent, tied with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in fifth place.

The Bush number in the CNN poll is even more unimpressive when you consider that 2016 horse-race polling at this point is mostly a measure of name identification. (No regular people are following the campaign and the candidates — such as they exist — at the moment.) Bush … has the single most recognizable last name in the Republican Party at the moment. And he still sits in the middle of the pack.


Rubio said he supports the use of medical marijuana but only the noneuphoric type approved by the Florida Legislature.

“If there are medicinal uses of marijuana that don’t have the elements that are mind-altering or create the high but do alleviate whatever condition it may be they are trying to alleviate, that is something I would be open to,” he said.

His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with reporters, and the Florida Republican made clear he was limiting support to noneuphoric strains such as “Charlotte’s Web.”

Rubio called the ballot initiative before voters this November a “ruse” that could allow people with dubious medical needs to get access to the high-inducing form of the drug.

In January, when first asked about the ballot initiative, Rubio said: “You hear compelling stories of people who say the use of medicinal marijuana  provides relief for the thing they are suffering. So I’d like to learn more about that aspect of it, the science of it. I have qualms about that proposal, I really do, but I probably need to learn more about it. The broader issue of whether we should be legalizing it is something I’m pretty firm about. I don’t think legalizing marijuana or even decriminalizing it is the right decision for our country.”

Rubio’s opposition goes against growing public support in Florida. A poll released this week showed 88 percent of Florida voters now would allow use of marijuana for medical purposes, up from 82 percent support that Quinnipiac reported in November.

THE 2014 ELECTION POLLS ARE ABOUT TO LOOK BETTER FOR REPUBLICANS. HERE’S WHY. via Peyton Craighill and Scott Clement of theWashington Post

Pretty soon, the country’s top pollsters will make a subtle change that even some political junkies won’t process: They will shift from reporting results of registered voters to only those most likely to vote in the 2014 election — a.k.a. “likely voters.”

For those who follow polling closely the distinction between the two is key to understanding the true state of play in a race. It’s also likely to cause an apparent shift — almost certainly in the GOP’s favor — that some will misinterpret as newfound momentum.

So what’s the deal with the switch? And when does it happen? 

Quite simply, not all registered voters are likely voters. The behavior and attitudes of the two groups can be slightly different — a factor that can be especially important in midterm elections in which fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. In order to provide accurate estimates, polls must report opinions of the people who are most likely to participate in the election. That requires expertise and judgment in sorting out poll respondents who are more or less likely to vote.

The likely voter population is different in midterm versus presidential elections. Midterm elections, in which there is no national candidate and less of a focus on a broad, national campaign attracts different types of voters. Specifically, non-white and younger voters have been less apt to turn out for midterm elections. These are two key Democratic constituencies that turned out reliably in 2008 and 2012 and gave a big lift to President Obama. These two groups were less reliable for Democratic candidates in the 2010 election.

In addition, early polls of the 2014 election show there is significantly more enthusiasm on the Republican side this year, which suggests likely voter models will be more favorable to the GOP.


The chart … shows what most people intuitively know: the small minority of people who fund American politics are much, much more politically polarized than the vast majority of people who don’t contribute to campaigns. … But what happens next … [is] politicians have to appeal to the people who fund their campaigns. The people who fund their campaigns really believe the other party is terrible. And so spending a lot of time working across the aisle or questioning your party’s political strategy is not going to make your donors very happy.

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Ethics complaints targeting both Gov. Scott and Crist have been dismissed.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that the panel found no legal reason to investigate the complaints.

The commission tossed a complaint filed by a top Republican Party of Florida official that alleged that Crist misused his office in December 2010 when he appointed a partner in the Morgan & Morgan law firm to a panel that nominates judges for appointment. Crist later joined the firm.

The commission stated there was nothing “factual” or “substantive” to support the allegation.

The ethics panel also threw out a complaint filed against Scott over investments his blind trust made in an oil service company that had ties to a company that applied for permits in Collier County.

FRLA ENDORSES RICK SCOTT via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association endorsed Gov. Scott for reelection on Wednesday. 

“There is no question this governor understands the importance of tourism and the vital role the hospitality industry plays in job creation and economic development,” said Carol Dover, the president and the CEO of the FRLA. “On behalf of our more than 10,000 members representing hoteliers, restaurateurs and suppliers, we are thrilled to give our strongest of endorsements to Governor Rick Scott and Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera this election cycle.”

“Governor Scott led the charge in securing $75 million for Visit Florida tourism marketing, and $700,000 for our Hospitality Education Program (HEP) which helps train the next generation of industry professionals,” said James McManemon, the general manager of the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island and the 2014 Chairman of the FRLA. “His goal in attracting 100 million visitors to our state is one that FRLA not only supports, but is working together in providing both residents and tourists the best possible experience in our hotels, our restaurants and all that Florida has to offer.”

U.S SUGAR SUPPORT NO LONGER “DISGUSTING” TO SCOTT via Criag Pittman and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

Before he was governor, Scott attacked another Florida politician for accepting campaign funds from U.S. Sugar. He even said Bill McCollum, his opponent in the 2010 Republican primary, had been “bought and paid for.”

Four years later, Scott has received at least $534,000 for his reelection campaign from the corporate giant, and went on a 2013 hunting trip to its hunting lodge at King Ranch in Texas.

“The governor enjoys hunting and doesn’t get to go as often as he’d like,” said campaign spokesman Greg Blair in a Tuesday night e-mail. “But he enjoyed the experience. He was even able to shoot a buck on the trip.”

While Scott bagged a buck, his hosts may claim the bigger prize: access to the state’s most powerful politicians.


The first sign that the much ballyhooed Tampa Bay Times investigation into Florida Republican fundraising at South Texas’ King Ranch is more smoke than it is fire is the fact that its headline is a question, “Why won’t Florida GOP leaders talk about hunting trips to King Ranch in Texas?”

If reporters Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler had nailed this story, they wouldn’t have to ask that question.

But what Pittman and Van Sickler did do is make the otherwise ordinary — political fundraising financed by a “special interest” — read like the scandal of the summer. Their well-written work includes a reference to the movie “Fight Club,” an anecdote about a door being “slammed” on a reporter, and a head-turning quote from a lobbyist who should have known better than to open his mouth.

Yet, like many whose worlds revolve around the 32301, I am still having trouble understanding where is the meat of this story. So U.S. Sugar made significant in-kind contributions to the Republican Party of Florida to pay for the travel expenses of Republican leaders to visit King Ranch so that said leaders could raise significant money for the party and their campaigns. This is everyday life in Florida politics. This is how candidates and parties raise money under the system we have.

This is the law.

This is the post-gift ban world which the Tampa Bay Times editorialized for in 2005-6. Like so many of the remedies the newspaper thought would “clean-up” the political system — term limits, lobbying fee disclosures, etc. — the gift ban has had the exact opposite effect intended: state politics is more closeted, not less; there is more money in the system, not less; lobbying firms are more powerful, not less.

VID DU JOUR: Charlie Crist debates Charlie Crist via the Republican Party of Floridda here.

CHARLIE CRIST NEEDS HELP TO ‘QUITE LITERALLY’ PAY THE RENT via Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner

Is Crist having a harder time fundraising than generally understood?

The once and possibly future governor sent out a fundraising pitch saying that he “quite literally” needs the money to be able to pay the rent.

All political fundraising pitches are calculated to create a sense of urgency, of course, and often use a fair amount of artistic license to do this. Even so, the one sent out by Crist’s team was unusually stark, saying that the campaign could become homeless if donations were not made.

“We’re doing things like buying TV air time for the fall, and putting together hiring budgets for our organizers. This isn’t money that gets spent now — this is money that determines whether we can (quite literally) pay rent in October,” the message said. 

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Crist will make a stop in Lake Worth in Palm Beach County to highlight his First Day of Fairness Plan released earlier this week. Compass Community Center, 201 N. Dixie Hwy, Lake Worth. 1:30 p.m.

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When Angel Cardenas, a single mother with a modest income, was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, she struggled to pay for her treatment, which ultimately involved a double mastectomy.

She tried applying for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That’s when Cardenas, who owns a small house cleaning business, learned her income was too low to qualify for financial aid to buy a plan on the exchange — and $16 too high for her to receive Medicaid.

Cardenas is one of about 800,000 Floridians who are stuck in the so-called “coverage gap,” in which they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be eligible for federal tax credits under the ACA. She took part in a conference call, part of an effort by healthcare advocates to persuade Florida legislators to expand the state’s Medicaid program, which now sets an annual income eligibility ceiling of roughly $6,930 for a family of three and denies any assistance to individuals and families without dependent children, regardless of how low their income may be.

Under the ACA, Medicaid could be expanded to Florida residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $27,310 for a family of three. So far, Florida legislators have declined to act.

Working poor make up a large number of those who fall into the coverage gap.

About 23 percent of people in the gap are considered unemployed, and another 26 percent are classified as “not in the workforce,” including people with disabilities, students, non-working spouses, and people who have left the workforce.


The Obama administration isn’t moving fast enough to release hundreds of millions of dollars slated to help the Gulf Coast recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Florida officials said.

Congress passed the bipartisan RESTORE Act in 2012, creating a way to distribute billions in civil fines levied against BP and other companies involved in the spill, which befouled coastal beaches, ravaged marine ecosystems and damaged the tourist trade.

But regulations setting up the distribution mechanism have yet to be finalized, leaving communities unable to move forward with plans to improve water quality, rebuild habitats and promote tourism.

“Those of us who wrote and passed this law, we’re impatient. We want to get on with it,” Sen. Bill Nelson told administration officials at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on the implementation of the two-year-old law. “The message from us to you is, get on with it.”

Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, told lawmakers he expects the Treasury Department to issue rules by the end of the summer that would begin releasing the money. The delays stem from time spent “exploring a number of options to try get money quickly” to communities, he said.

The spill remains the nation’s worst environmental disaster.

About $1 billion already has been collected from a settlement with Transocean, which operated the oilrig. That money is sitting in an escrow account until the Treasury Department finishes writing the rule that sets the distribution in motion. That rule also will apply to the BP money when the case is over.

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A misdemeanor charge of violating public meetings law has been dropped for one person in the Expressway Authority investigation.

The final investigative report on the toll agency scandal has been obtained by WESH 2 News, and in it, prosecutors claim to have documented four violations of Sunshine Law.

Rebekah Hammond, who works for Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and District Five Secretary Noranne Downs, is now available to testify after the charge was dropped, State Attorney Jeff Ashton said.

Hammond’s boyfriend, former Rep. Chris Dorworth, and former Expressway board member Scott Batterson still face charges of violating public meetings law. Former board member Marco Pena already pleaded guilty to a charge.

Batterson is also charged with one count of bribery and soliciting unlawful compensation as a public official.

Ashton has been investigating the toll authority for months, after Batterson, Pena and then-Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Downs voted to oust former Expressway Executive Director Max Crumit in August 2013.


Two state lawmakers have been cleared of alleged ethics violations regarding their involvement in a project to bring high-tech jobs to a poor, rural Florida county.

The state Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause” that either state Rep. Jamie Grant or state Rep. Ben Albritton misused their elected position.

They were accused of wrongly benefiting themselves in the Hardee County development project.

The commission also dismissed a complaint against Hardee County Commissioner Sue Birge. That allegation had been that she had “misused her position to … benefit herself and her son.”


America’s largest senior citizen advocacy group is giving Florida voters a way to see how state legislators voted on key senior issues, through a new interactive online tool released on Wednesday.

AARP Florida Legislative Voting Record announced the third annual Legislative Voting Record, which provides detailed information on how individual legislators voted on matters such as support for living independently, assisted-living facility reform and other topics.

The online record now makes it easier than ever to find out how state legislators voted in the 2014 Legislature, according to AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson.

“Florida voters 50+ wield strong influence in nearly all elections in Florida,” Johnson said, noting that in a typical Florida election, voters ages 50 years and older cast more than 40 percent of all ballots.

The AARP Florida legislative voting record tracks legislators’ votes on a number of issues relevant to older voters, such as  assisted living facility reform, fraud protection and state support for caregiver services and care recipients, Johnson said.

“To hold your state House or Senate member accountable,” he added, “you need to know how they voted on key issues. AARP Florida offers its Legislative Voting Record to make it easier for you to track legislators’ decisions on key issues in each year’s legislative session.”


The Republican Party of Florida has given a quick $425,000 to a new political committee controlled by outgoing House speaker Will Weatherford.

The Committee for a Stronger Florida was created July 9 and is chaired by Kris Money, a Republican fundraiser who until recently was Weatherford’s deputy chief of staff. He no longer works for the state.

“It’s a political committee that will be utilized to elect Republicans,” Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican, said in a text message.

The state GOP’s July 21 check is the committee’s only contribution so far. It has contributed $1,000 to Gov. Rick Scott, and Hillsborough County Commission candidate Rick Cochran. Pinellas County School Board candidate Maureen Ahern, wife of state Rep. Larry Ahern got a $500 check from the committee. She is running against Linda Lerner, the board’s longest serving member.


The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC), the state’s leading advocate for pro-medicine candidates endorsed State Representative Eric Eisnaugle in his re-election bid for House District 44.

“The Florida Medical Association is pleased to endorse Representative Eric Eisnaugle in his candidacy for the State House of Representatives,” said Dr. Ralph Nobo, President of the FMA PAC. “His commitment to the health and safety of others is demonstrated through his involvement with the Guardian Ad Litem program and the Down Syndrome Association, to name a few examples.”

“I am honored to have the support of Florida’s doctors,” said Eisnaugle. “Improving health care is not only important to Florida, it is important to my family. My youngest sister has Down syndrome, and my mom has Parkinson’s. Like so many others, they deserve the highest quality care, and I look forward to working with Florida’s doctors to ensure that we do just that for all Floridians.”


First responders and job creators have given Republican candidate Richard DeNapoli some welcome news as he “fights the smears” in the race for House District 74.

In an email to supporters, the Nokomis Republican announced endorsements from a trio of key groups — the Fraternal Order of Police, District 3, Suncoast Professional Firefighters and Paramedics and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

These organizations represent the men and women who risk their lives daily to protect citizens of South Sarasota County, as well as DeNapoli, his wife, son and baby on the way.

Such endorsements come as a welcome relief in an increasingly contentious and bitter campaign battle — marked by personal smears and underhandedness, such as photos taken by opponents from the bushes of DeNapoli’s home.

This also proves one essential truth —that no matter how much an opponent uses negativity and smears to tear down candidate like DeNapoli, staying on message about issues and defending values will always prevail.


>>>The NFIB endorses Jay Fant in HD 15.

>>>The Northeast Florida Association of Realtors’ endorses Paul Renner in HD 15.

>>> The Tampa Fraternal Order of Police endorses Sean Shaw in HD 61.

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ALMOST TRANSPARENT DATABASE OF THE WEEK via Christine Stapleton and Kavya Sukumar of the Palm Beach Post

With the passage of SB 846 in May, people who lobby any of the state’s five water management districts must register annually and disclose the identity of those who hired them. The state’s water management districts had been the only state agencies that did not require lobbyists to register. Lobbyists who do business with lawmakers, the governor, Cabinet and any state agency employee are already required to register.

The South Florida Water Management District, is the largest of the state’s water management district and is responsible for flood control, water supply and restoration. With a budget of $622 million, the district leases and buys land, issues permits, enforces regulations, creates environmental policies and spends millions of dollars hiring contractors for Everglades restoration projects.

Henry Dean: Lobbyist for Florida Citrus Co. Former executive director of the South Florida and St. Johns River Water Management districts. Dean also lobbies for Florida Crystals in Tallahassee.

Ernie Barnett: Lobbyist for Florida Land Council. District’s former assistant executive director and head of legislative affairs. Barnett is the current executive director and legislative lobbyist for Florida Land Council.

Bob Brown and Tommy Strowd: Lobbyists for the Lake Worth Drainage District. Both are former assistant executive directors at the South Florida Water Management District. Brown is now executive director and Strowd is director of operations and maintenance at the Lake Worth Drainage District.

Michael Collins: Lobbyist for Florida Bay Initiative. Former chairman of the district’s governing board.

Frank Bernardino: Lobbyist for ALICO, Polk County Commission, Calvin Giordano & Associates. Former lobbyist for the district. Clients represented in Tallahassee include Palm Beach County and Florida Crystals.


Ronald Draa, Cynthia Sanz: Department of Law Enforcement

Charlie Dudley, Floridian Partners: U.S. Imaging Network

Chris Moya, The Moya Group: Gibraltar Development Partners

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On Context Florida: As each day passes, Steve Kurlander notes that Israel’s “Operation Defensive Edge” is becoming a bloody, devastating war. Ben Pollara writes that if Florida passes Amendment 2 this November — which polls show is likely, and by a wide margin — there is the opportunity to one-up California, as well as the other 22 states that have legalized medical marijuana. For Daniel Tilson, the wealth lobby has always been on the scene in Tallahassee politics, often unseen by the average voter. The scandal over Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida politicians attending lavish Texas hunting junkets as guests of U.S. Sugar Corporation, a powerful Tallahassee lobby, was uncovered not by the opposition but by a newspaper willing and able to stay on the trail as long as it took to pierce the obfuscations. ToMartin Dyckman, it is proof that newspapers are both indispensable and necessary.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend and MAV-PAC’er, David Cardenas.


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.