For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have wondered how much holiday eggnog I had to drink Friday night after I launched a series of tweets directed at Republican political consultant Brian Hughes.
I ain’t even gonna lie. @GoMeteoric snitched to @FLPressCorps about @FredPiccoloJr moonlighting for me. Hughes thinks that would embarrass me. It doesn’t. It just shows him to be a nickel dick operator who hurts people’s families. Good luck in Jax. pic.twitter.com/XTXI2aTOU6
— Peter Schorsch (@PeterSchorschFL) December 9, 2017
Please allow me to explain what prompted my broadside.
Up until about a month ago, Hughes and I worked closely together on a variety of campaigns and political issues. Although he has a tendency to be antagonistic, if not combative — even with his allies — Hughes can be a very capable operator. I even featured Hughes in INFLUENCE Magazine as one of the top communicators in Florida politics.
I don’t recall what the issue was, but a few months back Hughes had reached out to me (or vice versa) to tout one of his clients for inclusion in our weekly “Capitol Directions” feature that is included in the “Takeaways from Tallahassee” email.
Inexplicably, I copied Brian on an email to Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for Speaker Richard Corcoran, who moonlighted for me as a graphic designer. Piccolo was responsible for building out the graphics for “Capitol Directions,” so I needed to make sure he could update that week’s edition with whatever it is Hughes was asking for.
In tennis, this is what’s known as an unforced error.
That Piccolo did graphic design for me was not a secret, but neither was it well-known. When he took the position in the Speaker’s Office, I casually reminded him that he would need to fill out some form or another about doing outside work. After that, I never thought twice about any conflict of interest Piccolo’s working for me might raise.
Hughes, however, took great umbrage with the arrangement once he learned about. However, for a reason I’ll explain later, Hughes agreed to let the matter drop.
Fast-forward to L’ Affaire Latvala.
If you are a reader of this website, you are likely acutely aware of the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levied against Sen. Jack Latvala by a high-ranking aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson. Rachel Perrin Rogers has accused Latvala and his supporters of retaliating against her and her husband, the aforementioned Brian Hughes.
Throughout this entire scandal, the staff at Florida Politics has remained impartial, reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of that ugly has included stories about sworn testimony given as part of the investigation. That sworn testimony has, for the most part, portrayed Perrin Rogers in an unfavorable light. This is unfortunate because, as Sen. Lauren Book so ably reminded us all, it is not ever OK to publicly attack or shame possible victims with character assassination. But these are court documents and sworn testimonies and have to be reported about whether we’re comfortable with that.
For the record, I never ‘outed’ Perrin Rogers AND resisted any attempt by external forces to do so via Florida Politics. I would have deleted this website before I would allow Perrin Rogers’ name to be made public before she was ready. Keep in mind, the first inkling of Perrin Rogers’ charges against Latvala was in comments she left on a Facebook version of my op-ed, “The Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight.”
Also for the record, I’ve not once judged the merits of Perrin Rogers’ accusations against Sen. Latvala. I haven’t commented on her at all, in fact. Meanwhile, I have been, on several occasions, very hard on Sen. Latvala, although I have never said he should resign.
Admittedly, it’s a difficult, complicated spot, as it is for many people involved in the process. All I can do is what I have done, which is do what I think is best and fair as each new development arises. For example, if a second accuser came to me today and said they wanted to go on the record against Sen. Latvala, I would not hesitate for a moment to share their story.
None of this has been good enough for Hughes, who, although he is in an impossibly difficult situation (what good husband would not forcefully defend their wife?) has moved from friend and strategic partner to a blood enemy.
In addition to some so subtle trolling of my family (here and here), Hughes has attempted to inflict damage on my business by actively contacting advertisers and strategic partners with a message of, “Him or me.”
My response to this has been to let Hughes punch himself out. So many of those he has contacted have described his communications as “bizarre,” that he really is doing more damage to himself than he could ever do to me. To date, not a single advertiser has asked for their ads to be pulled. In fact, two politicians who had been working with Hughes before he took the job as Lenny Curry’s chief of staff reached out to me this weekend to make sure I knew that they were independent of Hughes and did not want to be associated with his efforts.
Hughes has been peddling a four-part tale about me that asserts that a) I accepted a payment from a prominent reporter so as to not out them during the Ashley Madison scandal; b) my business is secretly funded by a major lobbying firm; c) the usual charges about being pay-to-play; and d) I pay Fred Piccolo to be my graphic designer so that I can have heightened access to the Speaker’s Office.
Last week, Hughes narced Piccolo doing design work for me to Gary Fineout of The Associated Press, which prompted this story.
Undoubtedly, Piccolo should have submitted the right paperwork.
But what kind of nickel-dick man tattle tales to a reporter about someone making a few extra dollars designing invitations to a children’s party?
That AP story doesn’t hurt me — Hughes’ supposed target — one iota.
But it does hurt Fred Piccolo. And here’s why this really sucks.
The main reason I’ve kept Fred on is that he battling a horrible degenerative disease, the details of which are not mine to share beyond that disclosure. But Fred has told me that the graphic design work he does is therapeutic. So that’s why he sends me — sometimes unsolicited — Photoshopped images of Rick Baker and Rick Scott or whoever is in the news and our website needs art to accompany those stories. That’s the extent of Fred’s work for us.
For that, he makes from me what he’d make working for Uber.
Oh, and what was Fred earning that money for? So that he and his wife could pay for an adoption.
Yes, it was Fred’s fault for not doing the right paperwork.
But the more I thought about it — with the image of Fred’s slightly shaking hands foremost in my mind — I grew incensed at the collateral damage caused by Brian Hughes.
Hughes knew full well about Piccolo’s health issues and he still dropped a dime to a reporter.
If he wants to come at me by intimidating my advertisers or leaking to POLITICO, that’s one thing; I’ve been down the road of controversy before. But when you rat out a guy just working hard for his family, you’re a coward.