Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 13

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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s SachsFact is brought to you by the public affairs, integrated marketing and reputation management experts at Sachs Media Group: Elvis left the building – and not as well dressed as when he entered. In Jacksonville 60 years ago today, young female fans rushed to accept Elvis Presley’s teasing offer to “see you backstage” after a performance at the Gator Bowl Baseball Park. Elvis, then just a regional phenomenon, had his shirt and coat torn to pieces in what has been called the “first Presley riot.” When he returned to the ballpark nine months later, Elvis was #1 on the charts – and popular music was forever “all shook up.”

DAYS UNTIL Jacksonville’s Mayoral Election: 6; Debut of Mad Max: Fury Road: 1; Special Session 18; Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: 19; Sine Die: 38; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 61; First GOP presidential debate: 84; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 219; First Day of 2016 Legislative Session: 244; Iowa Caucuses: 264: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 306; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 475; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 546.

TWEET OF THE DAY: @MaryEllenKlas: Breaking: Gov. Scott makes case with outdated pop cultural reference

BEST NEWS YOU’LL READ IN SUNBURN: “Cuba is Airbnb’s fastest-glowing marketvia Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN: “Allen West corrects Walmart-sharia story” via Erik Wemple of the Washington Post

JEB BUSH TO SKIP IOWA STRAW POLL via Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register

No Iowa Straw Poll for Jeb Bush … The likely Republican presidential candidate will instead attend a competing event, the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, the day of the Iowa event … Bush … is the first among the Republican 2016 presidential field to officially opt out of the straw poll, a nationally renowned event that has drawn significant criticism over the years.

The Republican Party of Iowa, which hosts the Iowa Straw Poll, has been working to shore up the event’s reputation and lure candidates by addressing some of the most prevalent complaints … bashed as having outsized importance, even to the point of having losing candidates drop out of the race. Campaigns sometimes spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at the straw poll as a sort of dry run for the Iowa caucuses.

But polling has shown that Iowa isn’t exactly friendly territory for Bush. In a Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll from late January, 43 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers rated Bush as mostly or very unfavorable, the second worst after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie … Bush ranked in seventh place out of 14 GOP contenders tested in a April 25-May 4 Quinnipiac University poll. When Quinnipiac asked likely GOP caucusgoers whether there is any candidate they would definitely not support, 25 percent named Bush. Bush was at the top of that negative list.

Bush will be in Iowa this weekend for several events, including a town hall meeting in Dubuque, fundraisers for Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner, a big fundraiser that has attracted a total of 11 presidential contenders.

TWEET, TWEET: @KaufmannGOP (Iowa State GOP Chairman): We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grassroots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them. … The RedState Gathering is a four day event and other candidates have already indicated that they will be attending both. … We don’t buy this excuse and neither will Iowans.

FLASHBACK from May 6:  “More of those surveyed view Bush unfavorably than favorably, compared to Walker’s 5-1 positive ratio. And 45 percent say Bush is not conservative enough. It’s among the GOP conservative base that Bush finds himself trailing Sen. Ted Cruz, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul.” — Quinnipiac Iowa Poll

TWEET, TWEET: Big story of the day is @JebBush blowing off Iowa Straw Poll . @SeanHannity never asks him the question in 15-minute interview.

BUSH: ‘MISTAKES WERE MADE ON IRAQ WAR’ via Rebecca Nelson of National Journal

Bush’s confident affirmative answer this week that he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq “knowing what we know now”? All a misinterpretation, he says.

On The Sean Hannity Show Tuesday, the former Florida governor said that he thought the question, asked by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly during an interview that aired Monday night, was under the stipulation “given what you knew then.”

“I don’t know what that decision would have been. That’s a hypothetical,” he said. “The simple fact is mistakes were made.”

DNC REAX: “He’s joking, right? Yesterday the answer was yes, and now he doesn’t know? Leave it to Jeb Bush to make George W. Bush look ready for primetime.  At least he’s right about one thing: mistakes were made. And one thing conservatives and progressives agree on is that we paid an incredibly high price for those mistakes.  So, Governor Bush, what more do you need to know? To the rest of us, this isn’t a hypothetical.  It’s clear, and in this one case, we’d like you to be more like your brother — be a decider.” — Mo Elleithee, DNC Communications Director

BUSH ALLY: JEB ‘MISHEARD’ IRAQ QUESTION via Eli Stokols of POLITICO

A close ally of Jeb Bush said Tuesday that Bush “misheard” a question about the Iraq war, suggesting the former Florida governor was walking back his remarks in the fallout from an interview that aired Monday.

Ana Navarro … said she had exchanged emails with Bush about the interview Tuesday morning and that he wrote that he misheard a question regarding the authorization of the invasion of Iraq.

“I emailed him this morning and I said to him, ‘Hey, I’m a little confused by this answer so I’m genuinely wondering did you mishear the question?’” Navarro said. “And he said, ‘Yes, I misheard the question.’”

— “Chris Christie hits Jeb Bush on Iraq War” via Alexandra Jaffe of CNN

MORE JEB ISSUES — BUSH VS. KARL ROVE via Alex Isenstadt and Kenneth Vogel of POLITICO

Bush was running for reelection as Florida’s governor in 2002 and needed the help of his brother, the president. But there was one person standing in his way … Karl Rove … the storied strategist who helped steer George W. Bush into the White House two years earlier, had laid down a strict rule for candidates seeking presidential assistance: No one — not even Jeb — would have unfettered access to the commander in chief.

When word got back to Florida, Jeb was furious — and he went right over Rove’s head. He called up his brother, who assured him that he’d get whatever he wanted. No questions asked. From then on, White House staffers were under the firm understanding that Jeb Bush wasn’t just another candidate on the ballot that year. He was a priority.

By now, after more than a decade’s worth of backstage disputes between the man who was the president’s political gatekeeper and the brother who now hopes to follow him into the White House, the frostiness has become the stuff of legend, attributable, people close to them say, to everything from personality differences to professional circumstances. Many have simply come to view them as two ambitious, sharp-elbowed men in a hurry who, at various points in time, have found themselves standing in each other’s way.

Now, at the onset of the 2016 campaign, Bush and Rove find themselves on another collision course.

Part of the struggle is playing out on phone calls and private meetings, as both compete for the nation’s most sought-after Republican donors. As Bush intensifies fundraising for his Right to Rise super PAC, expected to reach $100 million by the end of this month, he finds himself approaching many of the same contributors as Rove, whose American Crossroads super PAC is also financially dependent on many of the givers who have long supported the political causes and campaigns of the extended Bush family network.

But with Bush gobbling up record amounts of cash, there is an increasing sense that the two groups are destined to clash — and that Rove’s American Crossroads, which spent $325 million on a disappointing 2012 presidential election, will ultimately be the odd man out.

BUSH LEASES MIAMI OFFICE FOR LIKELY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN via Patricia Mazzei and Nick Nehamas of the Miami Herald

There’s no “Jeb Bush for President” sign — at least, not yet — outside the sturdy, six-story office building on West Flagler Street. But inside, the former Florida governor’s political team has begun to organize his likely 2016 Republican presidential bid.

Bush’s political action committee, Right to Rise, recently leased space on two floors of the Flagler Corporate Center at 9250 W. Flagler St. in West Miami-Dade County. For now, they remain a campaign headquarters in need of a campaign, since Bush has yet to formalize his candidacy.

… Bush’s communications staff and some of his finance team have already moved into the newly leased Miami headquarters. Team Jeb has only leased a small portion of the building. But it seems ready to house a large operation: It has ample parking and an atrium cafeteria. A large American flag hangs over the fifth-floor balcony.

MUST-READBloomberg’s Sahil Kapur explores Marco Rubio’s shift in foreign policy from moderate to ultra-hawk ahead of the presidential hopeful’s speech Wednesday.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bush will be in the early state of Nevada for two events – a morning town hall in Reno and a Clark County GOP dinner in Las Vegas. Rubio will deliver a major foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

SAVE THE DATE: MOJITOS FOR MARCO via Tarini Parti of POLITICO

(There is a) “Mojitos for Marco” fundraiser Wednesday, May 20 on Capitol Hill, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO Influence. Hosts include International Franchise Association’s Steve Caldeira; McBee Strategic’s Rob Chamberlain; McGraw Hill Financial’s Courtney Geduldig; Wiley Rein’s Scott Weaver; and The Keelen Group’s Matt Keelen. The fundraiser will cost hosts $1,000 and individuals $250.

ALAN GRAYSON, FLORIDA MAN via Hunter Schwartz of the Washington Post

Know all of those strange stories that come out of Florida? One member of the Florida delegation does, because he’s often been the protagonist.

And he just might run for Senate now. With Sen. Rubio … running for president and (apparently) giving up his Senate seat in 2016, among the pols looking to take his place is Rep. Alan Grayson, the outspoken and aggressively confident liberal Democrat — whom national Democrats clearly do not want to run. … here’s some of his comments, campaign ads and greatest hits to give you an idea what could be in store.

On winning the primary: “I would be very surprised if I ever lost a primary in my life. Our voters will crawl over hot coals to vote for me.”

On being Florida’s Obama : “The only Democratic candidate who has been able to [get out the Democratic vote in Florida] in the past six years is Barack Obama, who won twice statewide because he ran a populist, exciting campaign that motivated our voters to vote. I told [establishment Democrats] I’m going to run a Barack Obama type campaign if I run for the Senate.”

Gloriously random campaign ads: In a 2010 ad for his House campaign, he stood in a football stadium and talked about Wall Street banks taking billions of tax dollars. And then he kicked a field goal, for no apparent reason. We could expect more ads like this!

On the Tea Party being like the KKK:”[T]here is overwhelming evidence that the tea party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the shoe fits, wear it.”

Not Ready for Hillary: He isn’t that impressed so far. “I listened very closely to her announcement video, and I have to say that if I were grading it, I’d have to grade it at this early point as incomplete. We need to hear about what the solutions are, and for that, we’re still waiting.”

AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: GRAYSON HAS MORE CONSERVATIVE VOTING RECORD THAN PATRICK MURPHY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Florida progressives have been slamming Patrick Murphy ever since the Jupiter-based U.S. representative entered the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Senate seat earlier this year, slamming him as a “Wall Street Democrat,” among other choice comments. Their hope is that … Grayson enters the contest, giving them a classic choice between a perceived centrist and a tried and true liberal.

We’re wondering what they might say about the new rankings that have just been released from the American Conservative Union, which ranks Grayson ahead of Murphy in terms of who voted more conservatively in 2014.

Among the 10 Democrats who represent the Florida’s congressional delegation, Grayson is given a score of 13, ranking him one number higher than former Miami Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, who lost his bid for re-election last November. Murphy gets a score of 4, putting him toward the bottom of the group in terms of conservative votes, tying him with Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and Palm Beach U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel.

The ACU determined their ratings based on 25 separate votes conducted in the House in 2014, with a 4 being the highest grade for each vote. Among those specific votes include the farm bill, federal land use, defense funding and taxpayer funding of abortions. Taken from that perspective, there really is probably only a couple of votes that separates a 13 grade that Grayson received, and a 4 score that Murphy earned. Neither man voted very much along the lines that the American Conservative Union would have preferred them to.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson received straight zeroes from the ACU.

On the GOP side, Ron DeSantis, the Jacksonville U.S. representative who announced his candidacy for Senate last week, tops the entire delegation with a perfect 100 score. Marco Rubio is next with a 96 score.

CARLOS CURBELO BUCKS HIS PARTY ON CLIMATE, CALLS FOR ACTION via Evan Lehmann of E&E Publishing

Curbelo says it’s “vital” that lawmakers begin working on legislation to address climate change, which he says could damage both the economy and environment of his district in South Florida.

His views diverge sharply from those of other Republican lawmakers, including the state’s two presidential aspirants in former Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio. And although Curbelo has not endorsed a policy by which to reduce carbon emissions, some observers describe his openness to the issue as a thawing moment in the seemingly frozen congressional debate over global warming.

“I have concerns about the ecological impact that climate change has on our planet, especially as it relates to rising sea-levels,” Curbelo said in a statement …”It is vital Congress works in a bipartisan manner to mitigate the effects of climate change and I’m proud to be a pro-environment voice in the Republican Party.”

That appears to be the first time that Curbelo talked publicly about addressing rising seas and other climate impacts since he took office in January after defeating Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia by 3 percentage points. He said then that he’s “committed to finding common ground to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Curbelo’s positions outdistance those of his party’s leaders. Rubio questions the extent to which human activity will alter the climate, and he says any action to reduce emissions will badly harm the economy. Bush recently said he’s concerned about warming but didn’t address whether it’s man-made.

RAUL CASTRO: CUBA, U.S. TO EXCHANGE AMBASSADORS AFTER MAY 29 via Nick Gass of POLITICO

Cuba and the United States will exchange ambassadors after May 29, Cuban leader Raul Castro announced … another development in the countries’ effort to thaw the Cold War-era diplomatic freeze.

The two countries will name envoys after the United States removes the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism later this month, according to The Associated Press. President Barack Obama announced last month that his administration would lift the designation, long a point of contention with the Cuban government.

Castro and Obama held a historic face-to-face meeting last month in Panama City, marking the first meeting between leaders of the two formerly hostile countries since 1956. The two leaders announced last December that they would work to restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years.

Asked about Castro’s comments, White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest said only that Obama “may” have chosen an ambassador, but declined to comment further.

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RICK SCOTT’S WASHINGTON TRIP YIELDS GOP-LED HEARING INTO CLAIM OF OBAMA WRONGDOING via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

Scott’s full day of meetings in Washington with Republican members of Congress produced plans for a hearing into the state’s claim that it is being bullied by the Obama administration … U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to take testimony into whether federal officials are attempting to force the state to expand Medicaid coverage in order to continue drawing $1.3 billion in aid to hospitals treating the uninsured.

Upton’s committee involvement in the issue likely stems from the Energy and Commerce panel having oversight of the House’s Health subcommittee.

Scott met … with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and scheduled other sit-downs with 14 Republican members of the Florida congressional delegation.

EDITORIAL: RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA’S SOCIALIST GOVERNOR via the Tampa Bay Times

Meet the latest version of Rick Scott, wealthy hospital executive turned tea party candidate turned free-market governor. And now, it would seem, a socialist. The man who bought the Governor’s Mansion with millions from building the nation’s largest hospital chain wants Florida’s hospitals to share their profits if they receive public money to treat the poor. That is quite a transformation, but this is a governor who will say anything to avoid acting responsibly and accepting federal Medicaid expansion money.

As long as he is interested in redistributing wealth, here are some other suggestions for the governor:

The state puts public money at risk to protect property insurance companies from insolvency after major hurricanes. … Scott should tell Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric to share their profits with ratepayers. … Privately run charter schools get millions in public dollars for construction while needs go unmet for traditional public schools. … Taxpayers send billions to contractors to build roads and private companies to run prisons. Scott should tell those companies to share their profits. … Local governments routinely change land use plans and zoning for developers who get rich building housing developments and big box stores. Scott should demand they share the profits with local taxpayers.

Don’t look for the governor to embrace these profit-sharing brainstorms, of course. But they are no different in principle than what Scott proposes for hospitals. And they are not as ridiculous as his Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. Scott named just one doctor and not a single hospital executive to the nine-member board. … This is Scott’s effort to blame someone else for this crisis … This is about the governor’s disdain for nonprofit hospitals that care for most of the Medicaid patients and uninsured in this state and receive most of the public money. And this is about seeking retribution against the safety net hospitals that have strongly supported accepting Medicaid expansion money.

To a governor without core values, that’s worth pitching socialism.

— “Annotating Rick Scott on Medicaid expansion” via Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida

— “Rick Scott’s profit-sharing idea not getting love from the Legislature or the hospitals” via Christine Jordan Sexton if Florida Politics.

MEANWHILE … RICK SCOTT’S LET’S GET TO WORK PAC HAS RAISED MORE THAN $2.3 MILLION THIS YEAR via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Scott‘s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee raised $687, 691 in April, including a $100,000 contribution from Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Channelside developer Jeff Vinik. That brings his totals in 2015 to over $2.3 million ($2,368,000).

Other major contributions in April came from the AIF PAC, the political  action committee formed by the powerful Associated Industries of Florida organization. They contributed $150,000. AIF had mixed success during the recent legislative session that ended abruptly earlier this month. They were pushing for a Medicaid expansion bill opposed by the governor and the Florida House but supported by the Senate. It led to the budget impasse that has led to a special session next month.

Another $100,000 in April came via another PAC, Floridians for a Stronger Democracy.

The PAC’s biggest expenditure in April were three separate purchases of over $657,000 to On Message, Inc., the Annapolis, Md., consulting firm that has produced television ads for Scott during his 2014 campaign for re-election, as well as ads that aired back in March.

RPOF AWASH IN DRAMATIC SEA CHANGE TO STEER GOP TO 2016 CAUSES via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News

It’s only been four months since leadership changed hands at the Republican Party of Florida, but the party has wasted no time in a significant change-up in the way it’s running the show. That change is evident in the agenda for the RPOF’s quarterly meeting, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Orlando.

May’s quarterly meeting is chock-full of changes: instead of holding caucus meetings for hours on end, party members will attend seminars on a variety of pressing issues for the party. Meetings will begin earlier in the day. Experts will be called in to help teach party members how to effectively communicate with voters in the next election cycle.

Campaign finance guru Nancy Watkins will show members the ropes of campaign finance in Campaign Finance 101. They’ll hear from political public relations pro, Sarah Bascom, about how to effectively deal with the media. They’ll learn how to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach out to potential voters in a digital engagement seminar.

These are just some of the seminars the party’s put together to mobilize its members to hit the ground running in 2016.

Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who took over the party in an upset over former chair Leslie Dougher in January, says the change is necessary if Republicans want to send one of their own to the White House during the next election cycle.

“We are giving [members] the tools they need to go back and be successful in their counties but also build that grassroots army that we need in order to be successful in the 2016 elections,” he told Sunshine State News.

ANDREW KORGE, SON OF FUNDRAISING KINGPIN, WANTS TO REMAKE FLORIDA’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times

Since January, Andrew Korge has been quietly attending worker rallies and holding small fundraisers for a possible run at public office. But don’t expect to find him on a ballot anytime soon.

The 33-year-old from one of South Florida’s most storied behind-the-scenes political families — himself a veteran money man for Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns — is pursuing a unique strategy for a state senate seat occupied by Gwen Margolis, an 80-year-old legislator who is one of the longest-serving politicos in the Sunshine State.

His plan is to build up a war chest and a public profile for 2020, when Margolis is termed out. And if Margolis decides to hang up her political heels next year, Korge says he is all in. In either race, he’ll square off against state Rep. David Richardson, the first openly gay legislator in Tallahassee, who has already promised to run whenever Margolis retires.

Korge says his ultimate goal is to lead a new generation to the top of Florida’s long-stagnating Democratic Party to actually challenge the Republican status quo in the state capitol. “When I first met President [Bill] Clinton, he was at PortMiami giving a speech about building a bridge to the 21st Century,” Korge says. “In Florida, we are stuck in the 20th Century. We haven’t crossed that bridge.”

Even though Korge’s political action committee, Friends of Andrew Korge, and his 2020 senate campaign raised an eye-opening $251,997 in March, Republicans say they aren’t worried about his candidacy. “He’s going to run for a seat where Mickey Mouse with a ‘D’ next to his name would win,” says Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. “The ideas of the Florida Democratic Party are the ideas of yesterday.”

Korge, who is married and has two children, says he wants to run for the Florida Senate instead of a local post because the legislature and Gov. Rick Scott ignore issues important to his district, which includes most of Miami-Dade east of I-95. “The only way we can accomplish anything is by having people who are bold and will stand up to the corruption in Tallahassee,” Korge says. “The issues I want to fight for are in Tallahassee.”

Candidate runs for Indian River County Commission instead of House District 54” via Michael Kaiser of TCPalm.com

Paul Renner gears up for 2016 re-election bid” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com

Democrat Ryan Yadav formally announces a run in HD 30” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com

Dwight Dudley draws two early GOP opponents in swing House district” via Ryan Ray of FloridaPolitics.com

Curt Clawson endorses Byron Donalds in HD 80 race” via Phil Ammann of FloridaPolitics.com

FLORIDA SENATE COULD PAY LEGAL BILLS FOR 23 SENATORS via the Associated Press

Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner is telling state senators that taxpayers will pay their legal bills as part of an ongoing lawsuit over state senate districts.

The Senate’s top lawyer this month told 23 senators that Gardiner has approved a $5,000 stipend for them to hire their own attorneys. The groups challenging state senate districts in April subpoenaed records from 19 Republican and Democratic senators. Public record requests have been sent to four others.

The trial over the senate districts is scheduled for September. The groups contend the districts approved in 2012 violate a voter-approved amendment that says districts cannot be drawn to benefit incumbents or a particular party. A spokeswoman for Gardiner said it was appropriate for taxpayers to pay for legal representation since the senators received requests as part of their official duties.

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APPOINTED to the Central Florida Regional Planning Council: Hazel Sellers, Donna Howerton, Elvie Posey, Robert “Jeff” Kincart, and Mary Yeargan.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gadsden County officials and attorneys for Gretna Racing will hold a brief media availability after oral arguments are made before the 1st District Court of Appeal to determine if Gretna should be issued a slot machine license. The event begins 2 p.m. at the 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr. in Tallahassee. Slated to appear are state Rep. Alan Williams, City of Gretna Mayor James Payne, Gretna City Commissioner Clarence Jackson, Gadsden County Commissioner Brenda Holt and attorney Marc W. Dunbar.

FLORIDA’S ORANGE CROP TO BE SMALLER THAN ANTICIPATED via the Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a bleak estimate for the state’s citrus industry, saying that the 2014-2015 Florida orange crop will yield 96.4 million boxes of fruit, down from the 104 million boxes produced last year … a decline of 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes in 1997-98.

Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam says it shows just how severely citrus greening has devastated Florida’s top fruit crop … requested $18 million to support research and to remove and replant diseased trees. Florida’s citrus industry is worth $10.7 billion and supports 64,000 jobs.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Paul Bradshaw, Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Taproot Creative

Daniel Russell, Jones Walker: Bally Gaming; Gaming Laboratories International

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WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING — CUBA IS AIRBNB’S FASTEST-GROWING MARKET via Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg

Airbnb Inc. Chief Executive Brian Chesky said Cuba is the company’s fastest-growing market, and President Barack Obama’s decision to reopen ties with the island nation has been a boon to the room-sharing service.

“Forty days ago we launched in Cuba, we launched with 1,000 homes in Cuba — today we now have 2,000 homes,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a market grow as fast as Cuba.”

San Francisco-based Airbnb last month became one of the first U.S. companies to begin operations in Cuba after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro said in December they would restore diplomatic ties after more than 50 years. While Americans still are banned from visiting Cuba as tourists, the policy changes remove several restrictions on travel and trade between the two countries.

During a meeting with Castro in Panama last month, Obama said he would urge Congress to end the five-decade trade embargo against Cuba.

“President Obama has a desire to bring these two communities together — Americans and Cubans,” said Chesky, who was in Washington for a meeting with Obama and other entrepreneurs intended to promote the administration’s global entrepreneurship program. “What better way to bring them together than actually in their homes?”

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY: I love that Kate has her crayons and colored pencils front and center and artwork taped to my desk as I do a TV interview. ‪#‎priorities‬

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of the more interesting men I’ve had the pleasure of working with: Tucker/Hall president Bill Carlson (you only need to check out his Facebook page and read about his travels to begin to understand how smart and intriguing he is) and Gawker/Context Florida writer Adam Weinstein.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD John Christopher Coker — that’s right Robert Coker is a granddad. Born last Wednesday evening, he weighed 6 lbs., 15 ozs., and measured 19 inches long. Mom and Dad are proud as can be and doing well.

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.