Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – May 28

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

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: State songs aren’t typically controversial, but Florida’s is certainly an exception. Designated the official state song 80 years ago today, “The Old Folks at Home” – better know as “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” – has been criticized for decades. Composer Stephen Foster never actually saw the Suwannee River and his 1851 original, an ode to Southern plantation life, hardly reflects modern racial sensibilities. The Legislature crafted a solution of sorts in 2008, modifying the lyrics and adopting another song as the “state anthem.” So now you can take your pick.

DAYS UNTIL Special Session 4; Gov. Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: 5; Sine Die: 27; Gina Herron & Chris Spencer’s wedding: 29; Independence Day: 36; Major League Baseball All-Star game: 47; First GOP presidential debate: 70; Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts: 198; First Day of 2016 Legislative Session: 232; Iowa Caucuses: 252: Florida’s Presidential Primary: 274; Florida’s 2016 Primary Election: 463; Florida’s 2016 General Election: 533


Florida is where immigration, climate change, Cuba policy, Medicare and other issues Democrats are trying to use to rally voters in 2016 all come together. It’s also home to two of the Republican presidential candidates they’re most worried about.

And President Barack Obama just happens to have landed there again Wednesday, on his third trip to the Sunshine State so far this year — his fourth, actually, if you count his quiet Palm City golfing weekend at the end of March.

The White House insists this is all coincidence, that there’s nothing to the fact that in 2015, Air Force One has landed in Miami more than anywhere but Andrews Air Force Base, and more often than in the past few years.

It’s a coincidence too, the White House says, that when Obama is in Florida, he talks about major potential Democratic wedge issues in next year’s election: immigration reform during a town hall at Florida International University in late February, a feel-good environmental and save the wetlands Everglades tour on Earth Day, and, this time, to talk about the Jerry Bruckheimer-style disaster effects of climate change as he tours the National Hurricane Center on Thursday.

MONEY QUOTE: “It’s the old Ian Fleming adage: once is happenstance, twice is circumstance, three times is enemy action,” Florida-based Republican consultant Rick Wilson said.


Obama … attended a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee that raised at least $1.6 million, according to pool reports.

… Clinton will visit Miami today for a pair of fundraisers. She’ll also attend a fundraiser in Parkland on Friday before heading to the Orlando area for a fourth money stop at the home of trial lawyer and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan.

As of late Wednesday, the Clinton campaign had not announced any public events during the Florida visit, prompting Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ali Pardo to accuse her of hiding from the press and the public.

“Every time Hillary Clinton dodges questions surrounding shady foreign donations, her secret email server and her tumultuous record, she highlights why Florida voters can’t trust her. But instead of coming down to Florida to talk to everyday voters, Hillary Clinton will continue to hide behind closed door fundraisers and staged campaign events,” Pardo said.


The lingo was more reminiscent of talks to end a war or a labor strike. In this case, the impasse is between Washington and Tallahassee … the White House said it’s ready to talk to … Scott about Medicaid expansion if he’s ready to come to the table.

“The refusal of Republicans in Florida to put the interest of their citizens ahead of their own political arguments is something that we’ve been disappointed by,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told several South Florida newspaper reporters … in a telephone conference call.

The state Senate rolled out a revamped version of its plan to provide health coverage to 800,000 low-income Floridians, but met renewed opposition from Scott and House leaders.

[The] call with Earnest was in advance of President Obama’s travel to South Florida to get an in-person briefing at the National Hurricane Center for the hurricane season, which starts next Monday, June 1. When a reporter turned the subject to the Medicaid imbroglio, Earnest took a shot at Scott and his colleagues … the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in contact with Scott’s office “and we continue to be ready and willing to engage in serious discussions about a Florida-tailored Medicaid expansion proposal that would let 750,000 people in Florida get access to affordable coverage.”


Gov. Scott will be front and center before the national media … as he hosts his Economic Growth Summit at Disney World, where most of the top tier presidential candidates will be talking about the vision for growing the economy.

Overlooked on this high profile cattle call is how the entire thing was put together through Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, rather than the state GOP. This is unprecedented and a reminder that the leading elected Republican in Florida still has a rocky – at best – relationship with the Republican Party of Florida. It’s been that way since party officials snubbed him early this year by electing state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia the party chairman, rather than Scott’s preferred candidate.

Traditionally, the state party has used the events featuring presidential candidates to raise money through sponsorships, speaking fees, and the like that ultimately helps pay for the Republican nominee’s general election campaign in Florida. But Brecht Heuchan, who is helping Let’s Get Together put together the event, said the summit is different from party events in the past … because it includes no straw poll and is not a rally. It is more focused on one issue, jobs.

Ingoglia said he had no hard feelings: “The “Let’s Get to Work” summit is an excellent platform for Republican leaders – many who are running for president – to reach out and share their vision for the economic future of our nation,” said the party chairman, who will not be there. “Economic growth and opportunity is an important issue to every American, and we applaud Governor Scott for his leadership in organizing this summit.”

ANOTHER HEALTH CARE BUDGET HEADACHE FOR FLORIDA? via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

Amid an ongoing dust-up over Florida’s health care spending, there are troubling signs that one of the reforms touted by … Scott … may not be saving taxpayers money as initially promised.

Scott signed into law in 2011 a measure that shifted Florida’s 3 million plus Medicaid patients into managed care … now with the overhaul complete, Medicaid HMOs have been pressing the Florida Legislature for rate increases citing losses.

That request, however, is drawing scrutiny from the Scott administration, which is questioning a request for a $400 million mid-year rate increase as well as a 12-percent increase in the upcoming year.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek said in a letter to health plans that — if justified — the rate increases the managed care plans are looking for “raise the question of whether (statewide Medicaid managed care) is able to save money after all.”

The Florida Association of Health Plans sent a letter May 20 to Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Justin Senior. The health plans, she said, have reported a $295 million loss through December 2014. Citing reports with the Office of Insurance Regulation, the HMOs say the losses are much higher–in the $500 million range.

While the losses generally are associated with pharmaceutical costs Dudek’s letter says illegal hospital contracts also could be driving losses. Florida law requires any hospital contract valued at more than 120 percent of Medicaid levels to be approved by the agency. Dudek says that many plans are reporting contracts that exceed the 120 percent value and some plans have reported to the agency that their average contracting relationship is over 120 percent. Yet, she said, no contracts have been sent to the state for approval.

— “House leadership takes anti-Medicaid message to the Internet” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics

— “Kathy Castor rallies support for Senate Medicaid plan” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

— “Orange Dems rally for Medicaid expansion in Downtown Orlando” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Faith leaders from the Florida Council of Churches, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Interfaith Florida, Unitarian-Universalist Justice, and Florida Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will hold five press events to support legislators in expanding health care coverage during the upcoming special legislative session beginning June 1. In Clearwater at 7 a.m. outside Rep. Chris Latvala’s office, 2963 Gulf to Bay Boulevard; Tampa at 11 a.m. outside Rep. Shawn Harrison’s office, 15310 Amberly Drive; Progress Village in Rep. Ross Spano’s district at 6:00 p.m. outside St. James AME Church, 5202 S. 86 St.; Miami at 11 a.m. outside Rep. Jose Oliva’s office, 3798 West 12th Avenue, Hialeah; and Boca Raton, 4:30 p.m.outside Rep. Bill Hager’s office, 301 Yamato Road.


Officials are predicting that a strain of low-potency marijuana should finally be available for medical purposes later this year.

Legislators in 2014 voted to legalize a strain of marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web to treat epilepsy and cancer patients.

But there have been disputes over rules drawn up by the Department of Health to implement the law.

An administrative law judge on Wednesday threw out the latest challenge to those rules.

The department put out a statement that the ruling should clear the way to put in place regulations to govern the distribution of the marijuana strain. The department said it is “moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks, a trusted provider of industry-leading communications and networking services to businesses of all sizes, from startups to large, multi-site organizations. Our Enterprise Solutions provides the fiber connectivity, cloud and managed services  today’s large organizations demand, while our Business  Solutions team works with small- to mid-size companies to ensure they get the right services to fit their needs and their budget. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more at***.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

TWEET, TWEET: @LearyReports: Watch for campaign to emphasize his youth tomorrow – continuing a generational theme.


Watchdog groups want the Justice Department to investigate whether Jeb Bush is improperly coordinating with his Right to Rise super PAC, launched with the goal of giving his campaign an unprecedented financial advantage once he makes it official.

Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center … sent a letter … to Attorney General Loretta Lynch alleging that Bush and the PAC “are engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign … violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The groups, concerned about the Federal Election Commission’s limited ability to enforce campaign finance laws, are calling on Lynch to appoint an independent special counsel to investigate potential violations.

Bush, who reminds every audience that he is not officially a presidential candidate, is doing exactly what would-be presidential candidates do: speaking at cattle calls, restaurants and private board rooms in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states — and raising millions on behalf of Right to Rise, which will work separately but in tandem with his soon-to-be campaign.

Once Bush officially announces, which is likely to happen sometime next month after his trip to Europe, he’ll be barred from collecting unlimited funds from supporters, as he’s been doing — as a private citizen — for Right to Rise.


How good does a candidate’s basic stump speech need to be? Pretty darned good. Excellent, in fact. Because what’s riding on it, at least at the beginning of a campaign, is just about everything.

We get only one chance to make a good first impression; for a political candidate it’s during The Speech … a political and personal precis, a distillation of why they’re running and why they’re the best … summing up of one’s world view and how the candidate fits into it.

I’ve been thinking about stump speeches since I heard Bush deliver his recently in Sweetwater, a small working-class ’burb in west Miami-Dade, with many Nicaraguan-American and Cuban-American residents. It happened only a few days after the shakiest week of his nascent (and still undeclared) campaign when it took four torturous days for Jeb to definitively say that America should not have invaded Iraq.

So I was eager to hear how he would recover his footing, especially with a hometown crowd … about The Speech … good, solid, dependable stuff. Delivered without notes, a script or, God forbid, a TelePrompTer. Clearly, it was the same speech he’s been giving to donor groups for the last few months.

It’s heavy on foreign policy … major domestic theme is how to create an equal-opportunity society … The role of government, he says, is to largely get out of the way and let market forces work …

… Jeb’s stump speech will have to get much better in the coming months to bring in the undecideds and independents or those leaning toward other candidates. His speech needs to be more tightly wound, pithier, studded with memorable phrases that stick with you afterward. Some laugh lines wouldn’t hurt either. The current speech is OK for supporters who know and like Jeb’s conservative record as Florida governor and know he’s the one his parents thought would one day be president.

JOHN KASICH DISSES JEB via The Washington Post: “I don’t know anything about [Bush’s theme]. I really don’t. I’ve never listened to him. What’s “Right to Rise”? Getting up in the morning?”

— “Bush adviser at odds with him on immigration action” via Maggie Haberman of the New York Times

Jeb Bush’s claim that Islamic State ‘didn’t exist when my brother was president’” via Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN — “Bush, Rubio to attend “Fabulous” Economic Summit Held During Infamous Gay Days Celebration via Javier Manjarres of

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS via 2016 Blast: Bush will be in Michigan for two events – an afternoon town hall in Lansing and a Lincoln Day Dinner in Bath Township. Rubio will celebrate his 44th birthday tomorrow in Las Vegas, where he’ll attend a fundraiser at the home of reality TV star and business owner Rick Harrison, an event co-hosted by Rubio’s Nevada chairman, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison.


Fox News and CNN, which will broadcast the first two GOP presidential debates, have decided on a system for excluding candidates that could result in Donald Trump participating in those debates but current or former senators and governors being excluded. Nice going, guys.

I certainly agree having a debate with 16 candidates is simply unwatchable, and there is no easy way to make the early debates fair to the candidates while at the same time more watchable and informative for viewers. But Fox and CNN have both dropped the ball as they try to avoid making tough decisions.

But 10 is a nice round number, and it allows Fox and CNN to claim they have found a reasonable balance between having too many hopefuls and arbitrarily excluding some. It’s a classic cover-your-behind strategy.

STACK UP GOP DEBATERS LIKE ‘THE BRADY BUNCH’ via Roger Smith of the Chicago Sun-Times

The Republican Party suffers from an embarrassment of riches. It has too many really swell candidates for president … those who have announced and those still stacked up in a holding pattern, that the TV networks do not know how to squeeze them all onto the same stage for the debates.

Actually, I think the networks are worrying about nothing. In the olden days, when TV stations were clever, they stacked people. Both ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘Hollywood Squares’ stacked nine people on a single screen, and the screens were often only 19 inches big.

Today 60-inch TV screens are commonplace. Think how many people you could stack! All you would have to do is lift the candidates into place by using cranes. And to save money, you could leave them in place and just move the whole set from city to city.


Mark Danish is entering a new phase of his life. The native New Yorker and lifelong school teacher stunned the local political world at the age of 58 back in 2012 when he upset Shawn Harrison in the House District 63 race. He only made it through one term, however, as Harrison won back the seat in another GOP tsunami in Florida last year.

Danish has left his Hillsborough County middle school position, and has now transitioned to selling real estate … he says he want to run for the Tampa City Council District 7 seat that will be vacated by a term-limited out Lisa Montelione in 2019. Danish says the place to get things accomplished can only be on the local level, even though he looks back fondly at his two years in Tallahassee.

Danish attended a campaign fundraiser … at the home of South Tampa resident Alan Clendenin, a longtime Hillsborough County Democrat who is a Florida and Democratic National Committee Member, and also serves as the Vice Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Clendenin … was contemplating a run for political office in Hillsborough County next. He still hasn’t made up his mind, but says he still has some time to make such a decision, and is still open to the possibilities.

“Whatever I decide to do, it’ll be a well thought out decision and it’s going to take everything into account,” he says. Earlier this year he told this reporter he was thinking of entering the Hillsborough County District 6 race, an open seat that is already crowded on the Democratic Party side with Pat Kemp, Brian Willis and Marisol Blanco in the contest.

The 55-year-old Clendenin has been retired … after 30 years as an air traffic controller. He says he’s at a juncture in his life where “everything’s an option,” and says that there’s still plenty of time to consider a 2016 run.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***


Florida created the most jobs with people working for themselves of any state in the nation, and positions in real estate and rentals led the way … added more than 63,000 new self-employed jobs from 2012 to 2013, according to figures … by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That represents close to a quarter of the 270,000 new self-employed jobs created nationwide during that period.

Florida had more than 1.8 million self-employed workers. Professional services jobs led the way in pure numbers in both Florida and the nation, but real estate and rental jobs were tops in total receipts earned.

WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING — “Audits show inaccurate billing on Florida toll roads via Steve Andrews of WFLA


Less than 10 percent of the students invited to take part in a new online program at the University of Florida have accepted the offer.

But the 256 high school students who’ve enrolled will be guaranteed a spot at the university once they complete two semesters and at least 15 hours of online course work. … 3,118 students were invited to sign up for the Pathways to Campus Enrollment program after their applications were rejected for regular admission.

Provost Joe Glover says he’s pleased with the results since the program was rolled out at the last minute. With proper time to market the program, he’s hoping for a better turnout next year.

PACE students get a 25 percent discount on tuition.


Registered governmental affairs firms, representing virtually every industry in Florida, reported earning slightly more than $35 million from January 1 to March 31 of this year to lobby the Florida Legislature. previously reported which firms made what, with Southern Strategy Group leading all firms with $2.25 million in Q1 compensation.

Crunching the numbers, here are a few additional thoughts on the first quarter numbers. (None of these numbers include compensation for executive branch lobbying, which can be just as lucrative for firm However, for the purposes of this story, let’s compare apples to apples and focus on just legislative fees.)

— Business is good! Median compensation figures are up at least $525,000 over the first quarter of 2014. Perhaps more telling, compensation is up at least $5,375,000 over the final quarter of 2014.

— Business will likely remain good: Although it might be assumed that firms make more money in fiscal quarters near a legislation session, most lobbyists are paid on a monthly basis, thereby spreading fees out over all four quarters. Accordingly, if compensation increased by over $5 million from 2014-Q4 to 2015-Q1, the industry could be looking at double digit growth in 2015.

— SSG’s eye-popping number: This is only the second time a firm has reported earning more than $2 million in a single quarter. The previous time? When Southern Strategy Group reported earning $2.1M in 2014-Q2.

— The Big 4 is locked in: If lobbyists played in the College Football Playoff, the four teams playing for the championship would be SSG, Ballard Partners, Ron Book PA, and Capital City Consulting. This has not changed in any of the quarters since started tracking the compensation numbers, although SSG and Ballard often trade places. SSG has been on top for three of the last five quarters, while Ballard Partners has claimed the top spot twice in that same time.

— The interesting battle for fifth place: Since there is so little movement among the top four firms, the interesting battle is among the firms fighting for a spot in the Top 5. Since 2014-Q1, the #5 spot has been held by Colodny Fass, GrayRobinson, Colodny Fass, GrayRobinson, and GrayRobinson. At this point, it’s likely GR will hang on to the #5 spot because Colodny Fass’s fees took a bit of a hit after Fred Karlinsky departed for Greenberg Traurig. CF is still in mix for a Top 10 ranking, especially after recent smart hires, like bringing in Donovan Brown.

— The more interesting battle to be among the Top 10: No place is the competition more intense than for spots #6-10. As it stands today, the rankings go Corcoran & Johnston, The Rubin Group, Johnson & Blanton, Metz Husband & Daughton, and Greenberg Traurig. Floridian Partners is right there at #11 with only $25K less in compensation than GT, which is posting some impressive numbers on both the legislative and executive side. Still, FP finished ahead of GT in three of the four most recent quarters.

— Stay small and keep it all: Some of the most prosperous firms are two-and-three lobbyists shops with $500K+ in quarterly earnings. In other words, nice cash flow, low overhead. This refers to firms like The Rubin Group, Johnson & Blanton, The Mayernick Group, which sits at #12 on the rankings, and Heffley & Associates.

— Who is on the Top 25 list that wasn’t this time last year? Dean Cannon & Larry Cretul’s Capitol Insight (#15), Trey Traviesa’s Strategies Public Affairs (#17), Heffley & Associates (#22), and The Fiorentino Group (#24).

— Biggest gainers: Among the non-Top 4 firms posting the biggest compensation increases year-over-year are Corcoran & Johnston (+148K), Smith Bryan & Myers (+115K), Johnson & Blanton (+90K), The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, and The Mayernick Group (+75K).

— Biggest drop-offs: As stated, Colodny Fass is down from from 2014-Q1 with the departure of Karlinsky, but its revenues are still significant. Pennington PA came in at #15 in 2014-Q1, but it’s no longer in the Top 30 for compensation after much of its governmental affairs team bolted to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Gunster Yoakley & Stewart has fallen from #17 to #30, while Tsamoutales Strategies dropped out of the rankings after being at #24 a year ago (just last Sunshine State News pegged Frank Tsamoutales’ firm as the #4 overall firm in the state).

— Credit for consistency: Guy Spearman’s been doing his thing for a long time and there’s something to be said for that. As a political consultant in my early 20s, I remember reading the faxed updates he would send several times each day. Well, here he is now, still in the Top 25. In 2014-Q1, Spearman Management earned $355K and came in at #23. In 2015-Q1, Spearman Management earned $360K and comes in at #20.

— Firms on the rise, even if the numbers don’t show it: Sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story, but being a sort-of-professional-analyst of the governmental affairs industry in Florida, here are a couple of firms in or near the Top 25 to keep an eye on: The Fiorentino Group (#24) whose name partner, Marty Fiorentino, is very close to Lenny Curry, the new mayor of Jacksonville; Rutledge Ecenia, which, with Gary Rutledge and Jon Costello, has an interesting mix of tradition and new school thinking; and Jones Walker, which recently integrated Chris Moya’s shop into its Florida operations.


Veteran communications director Chris Cate is moving over to Tallahassee-based public relations firm 180 Communications as the new vice president of corporate communications.

Cate, who most recently served as communications director for the Florida Department of Financial Services, brings over a decade of media and public relations experience.

“Chris’ experience working in a newsroom and as a spokesperson on high-profile and critical issues gives him the unique skillset of someone who has covered prominent stories and successfully pitched them to reporters,” said 180 Communications CEO Don Yaeger. “We’re excited for Chris to join our team and increase our ability to tell the stories of businesses, organizations and individuals that resonate with their targeted audiences.”


Attorney Matthew Leopold of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt has been appointed by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to serve on the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. Leopold, who is based in the Carlton Fields’ Government Law and Consulting practice group, will serve on the Northern District Conference, one of three corresponding to each of Florida’s federal judicial districts.

The Commission recommends candidates to serve as U.S. District Court Judges, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals in Florida. If the Senators agree with the suggestions, candidate names are then forwarded to the White House for consideration by the President.

Based in Tallahassee, Leopold joined the national Carlton Fields law firm this past March. Previously, he was General Counsel of the Florida Department of Environment Protection; before that, he served as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. Leopold has more than a decade of federal and state government experience, with a focus on environmental, energy, water law, and litigation.


Theodore Granger: United Way of Florida

Cynthia Henderson: Florida Association of Licensed Investigators

Susie Wiles, Ballard Partners: Acme Barricades


SeaWorld Orlando plans to build a 200-foot tall roller coaster that will race as fast as 73 mph when it opens next year … the new coaster will be called Mako and will be the tallest and fastest coaster in Orlando.

The coaster will have 4,760 feet of steel track, and will be in a section of the park themed for sharks. The addition of Mako will give the marine-themed park five thrill rides.

A QUARTET OF BIRTHDAY WISHES to Richard DeNapoli, Tammy Perdue and Scott Ross and Clark Smith.

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.