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John Thrasher camp calls ethics complaint ‘politically motivated’

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A former educator says that because a firm where state Sen. John Thrasher worked received up to $190,000 to lobby for educational testing companies, the St. Augustine Republican’s recent push for more state standardized tests is a conflict of interest.

That claim was formally laid out Thursday in a state ethics complaint filed by former teacher Todd Byars.

“John Thrasher was a paid [lobbyist] for the firms until very recently. As such he is paid to promote these causes,” the complaint reads. “This is a conflict of interest when he proposes legislation that benefits his testing companies and charter schools statewide.”

The crux of the complaint is this: For eight years Thrasher was a partner at a lobbying firm that, for a potion of that time, represented educational testing companies. That connection, the complaint contends, made it a “conflict of interest” when this year Thrasher sponsored a bill that would have required school districts to develop or acquire end-of-course assessment tests.

It was filed after a Times-Union story that reported Thrasher’s former lobbying firm, Southern Strategy, was paid between $60,000 and $190,000 by two out-of-state testing companies in 2008 and 2009. Thrasher accepted a $695,169 buyout from Southern Strategy in May 2009, and is no longer associated with the firm.

When reached Friday morning, Thrasher said he had no comment. Later, in a statement, a Thrasher spokeswoman downplayed the situation.

“This complaint has no merit and we are confident that it will be dismissed. This complaint is politically motivated and we will not give it any more credence,” read the spokeswoman’s statement. Continue reading here.

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.

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