Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 264

Peter Schorsch

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.

Last Call — A prime-time look at what’s going down in Florida politics — 8.14.17

A prime-time look at what’s going down in Florida politics.

— First Shot — 

Now that Gov. Scott has announced his 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate … er, um, disclosed his plan for a constitutional amendment on tax increases, the questions have started on what it really means.

The Naples Republican “will propose an amendment to Florida’s Constitution during the upcoming legislative session to require a supermajority vote by future Florida legislatures to raise any taxes or fees,” his press release said. “… More details of the Governor’s proposal will be made available in the coming weeks.”

Associated Press Tallahassee scribe Gary Fineout began fast and furious with his own puzzlement.

“Scott has yet to say how big a supermajority should be required in #FLLeg for tax/fee hike,” he tweeted. “Nor does he define it.”

Later, Fineout noted, “As @FLGovScott pushes for supermajority to prevent tax/fee hikes — some history. In 09, motorist fee hike passed > than 2/3 vote in House … that’s because Democrats voted against it — Fla Republicans in 09 voted for the motorist tax/fee hike … including @JimmyPatronis,” then a state representative, now Scott’s appointee as state CFO.

Challenged that “legislators at the time said they had to increase fees to close budget hole during recession,” Fineout replied, “Just noting the ramifications of Scott’s policy initiative.”

And state Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, weighed in with his own tweet: “Governor Scott’s supermajority proposal on tax increases should apply to tax cuts, too.”

— Evening Reads —

National GOP slams Bill Nelson on Cuba, Venezuela in Spanish-language radio ad” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

“Governor wants tax measure on next year’s ball” via The Associated Press

“Family behind the villages gives Rick Scott super PAC $100,000” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

“Committee backing felon rights amendment adds $500K in July” via Florida Politics

“Email shows Larry Ahern disagreed with law he drafted” via Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times

State troopers get time off for writing tickets — that’s wrong, too” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

“FIU won’t be conducting a controversial Airbnb study paid for by the hotel industry” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald

“Money flows in special election to replace Eric Eisnaugle” via the News Service of Florida

Quote of the Day

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say: It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism; I don’t believe in bigotry … I believe that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, they don’t belong in our society.” — Gov. Scott, speaking Monday after being asked about President Trump’s initially tepid response to a white nationalist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend.

— Bill Day’s Latest —

— Breakthrough Insights —

— Wake Up Early? —

Tomorrow is Election Day in Central Florida. Voters will decide which of the four GOP candidates — Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Robert Olszewski or Bruno Portigliatti — will be on the ballot in the Oct. 10 general election for Orange County’s HD 44. Lone Democratic candidate Paul Chandler will get to take the day off.

Tuesday also brings updated estimates on the state’s general revenue fund from the Revenue Estimating Conference when it meets at 9 a.m. in the Knott Building. GR is used to fund many programs, and Florida lobbyists worth their salt clamor to get their clients a slice of it every legislative session.

Plenty of state lawmakers will show at events throughout the day.

Sen. Bill Montford, and Reps. Halsey Beshears and Ramon Alexander of the Leon County delegation will spend the morning in Hosford for an announcement on the “Gulf to Gadsden Freight Logistics Zone”; Rep. Michael Bileca will speak to the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club in Miami; Sen. Aaron Bean will wrap up the 2017 Session for the Rotary Club of San Jose; Reps. Julio Gonzalez and Joe Gruters will speak to the NOVA Republican Club in Nokomis; Sen. Dorothy Hukill will make a presentation to the Port Orange City Council.

Tuesday’s 2018 watch is the Leon County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Barbecue, where GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is expected to make one of his first campaign appearances since Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala filed paperwork to challenge him in the primary. The party will be held at 620 Cody Church Road, Monticello, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Assignment editors — On Tuesday, Gov. Scott will announce Florida tourism numbers for the first half of 2017 at a 10 a.m. media event at The Florida Aquarium Mosaic Center East Room (Second Floor), 701 Channelside Dr. in Tampa. Florida welcomed an all-time high of 112 million visitors in 2016 and 31.1 million visitors in the first quarter of this year.


Committee backing felon voting rights amendment adds $500K in July

The political committee backing a ballot initiative to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons brought in over $500,000 last month.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy” received $250,000 of the July haul from the American Civil Liberties Union, with another $150,000 coming from the The Advocacy Fund, a San Francisco-based group that funds a variety of progressive causes across the country.

The remaining $100,000 in contributions came in from Robert Wolthius, a San Francisco software engineer

Spending clocked in at about $662,000 last month, with the vast majority of the money going toward collecting and verifying petition signatures.

The bulk of expenses were paid out by the Clearwater-based committee went to Calabasas, Calif.-based petition management firm PCI Consultants, which took in $583,183.

Also on the payroll was Miami-based Accurate Business Systems, which received $36,429, and Columbus, OH-based EMC Research, which was paid $23,318.

In all, Floridians for a Fair Democracy has raised just shy of $1.1 million and had about $93,000 of that money on hand on Aug. 1.

In order to make the ballot, initiatives need signatures equal to 8 percent of the voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. That equals 766,200 signatures for initiatives aiming for the 2018 ballot, which is a significant jump from the 683,149 needed to make the cut in 2016.

As of Monday, the voting rights amendment had 54,700 confirmed signatures. Initiatives must get 76,632 signatures before they are reviewed by the state Attorney General.

Bryant Miller Olive’s lobbyists could post maximum earnings of $159K in Q2

A two-man government affairs team doesn’t seem to be slowing Bryant Miller Olive PA down.

The team of Foyt Tipton Ralston and Frederick Springer earned the firm at least $110,000 — a quarterly average of $50,000 for legislative work and $60,000 for executive branch work — during the second quarter, which included the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a brief special session.

The firm’s governmental consulting team could earn a maximum of $159,990 — a maximum of $69,996 for legislative work and $89,994 for executive branch work — during the second quarter of the year, according to an analysis of compensation reports conducted by

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

Ralston and Springer had six legislative clients and nine executive branches during the second quarter.

Three clients — the City of Dunedin, Florida Association of Restoration Specialist, and NTT Data Inc. — paid an average of $15,000 for legislative work during the second quarter; while AT&T reported paying an average of $5,000 for legislative work.

Motorola Solutions, Inc. clocked in as the firm’s highest paying executive branch client during the second quarter, paying an average of $25,000; followed by AT&T which paid an average $15,000 for executive branch services. Four clients — CanDo Tech Consulting, Inc.; the City of Cape Coral, Florida; the Florida Association of Restoration Specialist; and NTT Data Inc. — paid an average of $5,000 for executive branch work.

Gunster’s Q2 earnings could reach more than $669K

Gunster Yoakley & Stewart continues to position itself as one of the Top 25 lobby firms in the state, recently filed quarterly earnings reports show.

The firm charged through the second quarter of 2017, which included the second half of the annual Legislative Session and a brief special session. The firm’s maximum earnings are expected to reach $699,950 — $439,971 for its legislative work and $229,979 for its executive branch work — for the second quarter, according to an analysis of lobby compensation reports by

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter — which spanned from April 1 through June 30 — are due to the state on Aug. 14.

Led by Lila Jaber, Gunster’s team of Kenneth Bell, Joanna Bonfanti, Derek Bruce, Beth Keating, Gregory Munson, Larry Williams, and Cameron Yarbrough tackle a wide variety of issues ranging from energy and transportation to education and health care.

In the legislative corner, top paying clients included the Coalition of Affordable Housing providers, Q Link Wireless, RAI Services Company, and the Town of Oakland, all of which paid an average of $25,000 for the firm’s services.

Seven of the firms 35 legislative clients — Advanced Disposal Services American Pharmacy Cooperative, American Water Works Association Florida Section, Edgeunity Inc., Frontier Communications Corp., NorthStar Contracting Group, and Treadwell Nursery — paid an average of $15,000 for the firm’s services during the second quarter.

Gunster had a roster of 37 executive clients during the second quarter, including Frontier Communications and Treadwell Nursery, both of which paid Gunster an average of $15,000 for executive services.

Ranked among the top 25 earners in the first quarter of 2017, Gunster reported earning a median of $350,000 during first three months of the year, according to LobbyTools.

Capital City Consulting’s Q2 earnings could top $3 million

Capital City Consulting is holding on to its place in the Big Six.

The 10-member firm juggled a full roster during the second quarter of 2017, which included the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a brief special session, earning it an average of $2.225 million — more than $1.5 million on average for legislative and an average of $720,000 for executive work — between April 1 and June 30.

Capital City’s maximum earnings are expected to reach more than $3.25 million total — maximum earnings of more than $2 million for legislative and maximum earnings of more than $1.2 million for executive work — during the three-month period, according to an analysis of compensation reports.

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

The team of Nick Iarossi, Jim Boxold, Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Ashley Kalifeh, Andrew Kethchel, Ron LaFace, Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, and Gerald Wester. juggled 116 legislative clients and 120 executive branch clients during the second quarter of 2017.

Health care giant Aetna clocked in as the top paying legislative client, paying the firm approximately $45,000 in the second quarter.

Six clients — The Everglades Foundation, Florida Optometric Association, Jacksonville Greyhound Racing Inc., Melbourne Greyhound Park LLC, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and RAI Services Company — paid $35,000 for legislative work during the three-month period; while 17 companies paid$25,000 for legislative in the second quarter.

When it comes to executive branch clients, four companies — Accenture LLP, Phillips Lighting North America Corporation, Pollard Banknote Limited, and SHI International Corp. — paid the firm an average of $25,000 for its services.

Capital City regularly ranks among the top 6 firms in the state. According to LobbyTools, it reported median earnings of $1.65 million for its legislative lobbying work alone during the first quarter of 2017.

Metz Husband & Daughton brings Pierce Schuessler aboard

Metz Husband & Daughton will announce today that it added a new lobbyist for its Tallahassee office.

Pierce Schuessler joins MHD from Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee’s office, where he worked as the former Senate President’s chief of staff.

“With nearly a decade of experience in state government, we have no doubt Pierce’s background will give our clients a key advantage that will enhance their success,” MHD President Jim Daughton said. “Pierce’s relationships, skills and knowledge are a welcomed addition to the team.”

Schuessler’s résumé also includes stints with former Sen. Ken Browning, Secretary of State Ken Detzner and in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget. He was also the one-time Director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, where he was instrumental in the department’s 2013 effort to secure $880 million in funding for the Everglades Restoration Plan, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s priorities.

“The MHD team has earned their reputation as leaders in legislative and executive branch advocacy, consistently delivering winning results for their clients,” the FSU poli sci alumnus said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to contribute to such a well-established firm.”

MHD is a full-service lobby and law firm based in Tallahassee. In the first quarter of 2017 the group brought in $882,000 through lobbying, earning it a spot among the top 10 grossing firms.

Sunburn for 8.14.17 – Florida reacts to #Charlottesville; Jack Latvala makes it official; Francis Rooney snags some pythons; Pierce Schuessler joins MHD; Happy b’day, Jack Cory

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

There are many lessons to be learned from what took place over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters.

As it applies to Florida politics (which is on what this email focuses), Charlottesville is a reminder that the 2018 gubernatorial race will be a referendum on Donald Trump, no matter what else.

Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with many Florida lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. Photo credit: Ryan Kelly: The Daily Progress.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis, the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

Rubio’s tweet was pitch-perfect and was echoed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

Note that Rubio and Corcoran, along with former Gov. Jeb Bush, used language directly criticizing Nazism, racism, and/or white supremacy.

Unfortunately, as the AP’s Gary Fineout notes, neither Gov. Rick Scott or the leading candidate to replace him, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, initially condemned white supremacists in their comments.

Scott later tweeted that he was “disgusted by white supremacists/evil/bigotry.”

Of the other Republicans running for governor or considering it, state Sen. Jack Latvala retweeted what Bush and Rubio tweeted, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis wrote that “the attack in #Charlottesville was an act of terrorism perpetrated by a Nazi sympathizer. DOJ should seek stiff sentence for killer.”

Among the Democratic candidates for governor, Andrew Gillum was the most forceful, directly challenging President Trump.

Although he’s not running for governor, state Rep. Neil Combee offered one of the worst responses to the events in Charlottesville by attempting to rationalize the attacker’s actions. Read a complete take down of Combee’s comments here.

Charlottesville reignites Lee NAACP fight for removal of Confederate symbols in Fort Myers” via Melissa Montoya of – The images from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in upheaval and death led James Muwakkil to a Robert E. Lee statue in Fort Myers. Muwakkil, the president of the NAACP in Lee County, placed an American flag at the statue on Monroe Street. It was his way, he said, to remind others that America is for everyone. The Charlottesville rally also reignited Muwakkil’s resolve to have the statue and the portrait of Lee removed from public places in Lee County, which is named for the Confederate general. “When it comes to the Confederate memorabilia or symbols or what have you, they may be good for some, but they are hurtful to others,” Muwakkil said. “I don’t think that we should stand for it. I don’t think we should go along with it. I don’t think anyone should believe that we should support that part of America’s history.” Muwakkil has previously attempted to change a Lee portrait hanging in county commission chambers but failed.

The Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee Memorial is located on Monroe Street in Fort Myers, Florida. It was erected in 1966 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with assistance from Lee County citizens. Photo credit: The News-Press.

White nationalist Richard Spencer may speak at UF Sept. 12” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville SunSpencer, whose speeches on college campuses nationwide has ignited protests, may be speaking at the University of Florida Sept. 12, UF President Kent Fuchs said in a public announcement Saturday afternoon. The announcement, posted on UF’s Facebook page and circulated in an email, said the National Policy Institute reserved space for a speaking event. Spencer is president of the institute. “Per university regulation 2.004, non-university groups, organizations and persons may rent space on campus, provided they cover rental expenses and security costs like all other third-party renters,” Fuchs’ email said. “UF administration, staff and campus police are developing a security plan for the potential event and are working with colleagues across the country who have had similar events on their campus.” The announcement comes as the home of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, was torn by violence that stemmed from a march by white nationalists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.

White nationalist Richard Spencer, shown speaking at Texas A&M University in 2016, may be coming to UF to speak on Sept. 12. Photo credit: David J. Phillip.

Read more

Florida Democratic Party to organize statewide voter registration rallies in response to Charlottesville attack

In response to the hateful demonstrations and violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Florida Democratic Party will organize voter registration rallies across the state.

The FDP says it is inspired by Kentucky’s Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, who recently issued the following tweet:

“They bring torches to push hate. We bring registration cards to promote democracy. Which side are you on? #Charlottesville #RallytoRegister”

After Grimes’ tweet, the Florida Democratic Party issued an email to its local Democratic Executive Committees, Democratic Clubs, and Democratic Caucuses to gauge interest.

The response from local Democratic leaders was overwhelming — “Democrats are fully committed to responding to hate with hope,” reads a release from the party.

As a result, the Florida Democratic Party will be organizing a statewide effort to #RallytoRegister on Saturday, August 19th.

“The white supremacists who organized the hateful demonstrations and violent protests in Charlottesville want to intimidate us — they will not,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel. “We will not fall silent, and we will not allow these acts of terror to subdue us. We are proud to be launching a statewide effort to expand the vote and counteract these acts of hate with hope. We are encouraging every Floridian to participate and #RallytoRegister on Saturday, August 19th. Take a stand — register to vote, join your local Democratic Party, and defend our democracy.”

Details on event locations and times will be forthcoming.

Florida lawmaker Neil Combee’s atrocious reaction to the terrorism in Charlottesville

Commenting on the domestic terrorism that occurred Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Florida lawmaker’s first reaction was to draw a parallel between the day’s events with the assault on Reginald Denny, a construction truck driver who was beaten nearly to death during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

Polk County Republican Neil Combee, who is in his third term as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, posted on his personal Facebook page Saturday evening that he didn’t “know much about what happened in Charlottesville Virginia today.”

But not knowing much didn’t keep Combee from writing in detail about what happened to Denny on the day of April 29,1992, when a group of African American assailants who came to be known as the “L.A. Four,” pulled Denny from his truck and beat him with bricks, bottles, and a claw hammer — all of which occurred live on national television.

What happened to Denny that day was horrible.

But what happened to Denny has no equivalence — except a false one — with what happened in Charlottesville.

And its disgusting that Combee chose as his first reaction to the terrorism in Charlottesville an attempt to rationalize what happened there.

After he was criticized for his post, Combee wrote, “The point is innocent people who work or live in that area may have been caught up or at least were subject to be caught up by protesters who came into the area looking for a fight. One or more of those hit by the car very well could have been minding their own business, doing their job and disinterested in what this was all about.”

Innocent people, huh?

Rep. Combee, you need to watch this video and see if you think the driver of the car in Charlottesville was ‘subject to being caught up by protestors who came into the area looking for a fight.’

Does the driver of the Dodge Charger look like he’s a Reginald Denny, fleeing in his vehicle from an imminent threat? Or is he more like Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the terrorist who drove through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people?

Witnesses said the car was traveling up to 40 miles an hour when it hit and reversed before ramming into the crowd again and speeding off with someone’s shoe attached to its bumper. Does that sound like someone escaping from a crowd?

No, that’s domestic terrorism.

Again, Combee wrote that he didn’t know much about what happened in Charlottesville before he tried to rationalize the actions of the attacker. But here’s what is now known.

The assailant was identified as James Alex Fields, Jr. of Ohio.

He had had traveled to Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally, his mother told the Toldeo Blade (so much for that ‘innocent people who work or live in the area’ theory Combee attempted to propagate).

An image circulated by the Anti-Defamation League appeared to show Fields standing with members of Vanguard America, a white nationalist group that helped organize the protest.

Several news outlets and social media users captured screenshots of posts from a Facebook account believed to have belonged to Fields. Many of the posts express support for the alt-right.

The account also regularly posted photos that expressed support for Nazism, fascism, racism and President Trump.

Instead of waiting for any of these details to emerge … before expressing any sympathy for the victims of the attack in Charlottesville … before condemning, as other Florida politicians did, Naziism and white supremacy, state Representative Neil Combee attempted to create a rationale for the mowing down of Americans.

That’s atrocious.

Before serving in the Legislature, Combee had a 16 year career on the Polk County Commission, where he burnished a reputation for solving problems “not with force or bluster, but with his country wit, a strong handshake and a kind face round enough to rival Charlie Brown.” (Per the Ledger of Lakeland.)

There is a story from Combee’s early days on the Commission when some rooms in the county administration building were being used for court proceedings. A man left one of the hearings and took his anger out on the women still working in the county attorney’s office.

“They got kind of scared. He was threatening and saying all kinds of crazy things,” Deputy County Manager Jim Roden Jr. told the Ledger.

Police were called. And word of the situation spread around the building and reached Combee in his office.

Combee, a tall, burly man who once played linebacker in high school and junior varsity college football, decided the best thing he could do was tie the man up until police arrived. Because he didn’t have a rope, he used a phone cord.

That’s the man this writer has observed from afar during Combee’s time in the Legislature. If only he had been around to tie up the Neil Combee who took to Facebook Saturday night to rationalize the actions of a madman.

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