The Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight - Florida Politics

The Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight

Who will it be?

Who will be the Florida politician(s) laid low by the kind of sexual assault and harassment scandal which has dethroned one-time Hollywood king Harvey Weinstein?

Please don’t tell me there is no equivalent in Florida politics to Weinstein. After all, politics is show business for ugly people.

The Process — my capitalized term for the ‘business that we’ve chosen’ and involves elected officials, staffers, lobbyists, fundraisers and donors, campaign consultants, and the media which scrambles to cover it all — is nothing if not a patriarchy.

State government is a massive system constructed, partially if not primarily, around a handful of men holding power over everyone else.

The number of women elected statewide can be counted on one hand. Just two women have held the title of Senate President; none have served as House Speaker.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker watches pornography while sitting in the Senate chamber. Another joins a website known for enabling extramarital affairs. A third hires a Hooters ‘calendar girl’ with no political experience as a consultant.

And the rest of us point and giggle while young women were ‘crowned’ Miss Rotunda, a title bestowed on the best-looking female intern each legislative session.

Right after the New York Times revealed the disgusting horrors about Weinstein, a prominent, well-regarded (those two terms are not interchangeable) state lobbyist urged me to examine “whether Tallahassee has a casting couch problem.” This veteran insider clearly believes there is,resigning that they “would not encourage either of my daughters to become lobbyists.”

Indeed, a cottage industry has long existed where some male lawmakers and some female lobbyists intersect. Many of us see it and have said/say nothing.

One lawmaker ON THE VERY NIGHT I proposed to my wife (who worked in the Governor’s office), wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her because he wanted to “feel her breasts one last time.”

And that’s a polite story. God only knows what other women have endured.

It’s just a matter of when, not if, someone will step forward and level a charge.

Yet, in some way, it’s almost ironic that Florida politics, as inept and corrupt as it is perceived, is not embroiled sex scandals more often. Perhaps the bogeymen I believe exist are just in my head?

The lobbyist referred to above tells me I’m not wrong. He sees a similarity between Florida politics and Hollywood, where it was once accepted that women give sexual favors in return for professional advancement.

“These women were young and naive and were simply trying to get their big break,” the lobbyist said. “Tallahassee is no different.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was 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.


  1. I wince and immediately feel discomfited; a cross between anger, disgust and acute embarrassment over the actions of so many men who sexually prey upon young girls and grown women, or use physical force or ever strike a woman in anger or to dominate over her. God help the man who engages in such actions in my presence — it stops fast!

    I recall “cheating” on women in my past, and understand how easy it is for men to fall prey, themselves, to our more base forms of disreputable behavior. Perhaps an element of my “discomfort” and “embarrassment” figures into my remarks due to my own past in this way.

    I picked a woman up in the process of leaving in her car, and sat her down on the hood to speak with her. Not surprisingly in hindsight, that action was not warranted and indeed, counter-productive. She left shortly thereafter. I will never forget this long ago learned lesson, nor would I ever wish too.

    The Love I lost was instructive. It is a hard way to learn some things.

    Perhaps my initial reaction and remarks “shows” my age and a different set of moral attitudes, however I am happy and proud that my own son, now in his mid-20’s, told me a few days ago out of the blue how happy he was that I “coached” him, as his Father.

    He told me how much he appreciated what I always had to say about these matters — how to properly conduct himself around women — with utmost courteousness in all measures, in all ways; to never use violent physical force of any kind, nor issue any threat; and to never engage in disdainful, nor dishonest, nor abusive or improper sexual behavior. When an employer or supervisor, never leave a wrong impression that to get ahead, sex is a tool to be used. He understands that such actions do debase himself and the women involved.

    My son thanked me for my fatherly advice and moral guidance, same as I thanked my Father when he was alive, and continue to thank him today, all of these sixty-six years later.

    I have hope “men” in general will all learn some things regarding the above issues. I do my best to share these views.

    And I apologize to all women for my past behavior, and say my thanks to the stars above it was never any worse than it was; which was not good by any means, because “cheating” can mean breaking hearts and trust between true Lovers, destroying relationships, disrupting families. Every thought, word and deed. I know.

  2. I would say name names if you got them. Otherwise you are just hoping whatever you are slinging will stick.

  3. A $47,000 payment of taxpayer money (in 1988) to former regulatory committee aide Kathryn Jennings.
    She alleges:
    — That she had sex atop an automobile in a wooded area with current Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, a charge the former House member denies;
    — That she snorted cocaine with state Rep. Mike Friedman, D-Surfside, who has also denied the allegation;
    — And that Jennings witnessed a sex party featuring former House Speaker Jon Mills, D-Gainesville.
    “Untrue. Absolutely untrue. I don`t recall any of the activities she talks about,“ Mills said.
    Tallahassee-area State Attorney Willie Meggs took almost 1,700 pages of statements from more than two dozen current and former state employees as part of the investigation into the 1988 payment, made in exchange for Jennings` silence.
    The payment came after Jennings, now 36, accused and her former boss, Sarvis, of sexually harassing her off and on for several years in the early 1980s.
    Statements taken from those interviewed by the state attorney also failed to substantiate any of Jennings` harassment charges against the two men.
    In addition, the grand jury report criticized Mills, House attorneys and Comptroller Gerald Lewis` office for approving the payment of what jurors called “hush money.“

  4. When I was a poli sci student at FSU (BA 1971) an esteemed professor in that dept heartily urged his male students to seek elected office and just as emphatically urged his female students to stay away from the Florida capitol.

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