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Staff Reports

Florida state Senators raise $720K in Q2 of 2017, doubling state party

Senate Republicans brought in more than $700,000 in the second quarter of 2017, more than double what the Republican Party of Florida raised in the same time frame.

State records show the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $720,000 between April 1 and June 30. While the sum is down from the first three months of the year, it is still significantly more than the state GOP raised in the same three-month period.

The top contributor to the committee during the three-month period was Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, Innovate Florida. Galvano’s committee gave the FRSCC $160,000.

Records show AT&T gave the committee $55,000; while six organizations — Arda-Resort Owners Coalition, Duke Energy, Teco Energy, American Traffic Solutions, Florida Medical Association PAC, and The Geo Group Inc. Political Contribution Account — gave $50,000.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is the fundraising arm for Senate Republicans. The committee has raised more than $26.9 million since October 2014, according to state records.

The three-month haul is more than double what the Republican Party of Florida reported during the same fundraising period.

State records show the Republican Party of Florida raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. The fundraising period covered a portion of the 2017 Legislative Session and a three-day special session, during which state lawmakers are prohibited from raising money.

State campaign finance records dating back to 1996 showed the state party’s quarterly numbers are the lowest in more than two decades. Records show the next lowest fundraising period was Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1996, when the party reported raising $572,531. There were three fundraising periods, state records show, where the state party reported raising no money.

The FRSCC spent $549,919 during the three-month fundraising period. Records show the committee spent $258,200 on consulting services and $155,704 on direct mail services.


Florida GOP raises nearly $339K in second quarter of 2017; figure marks one of lowest totals in two decades

The Republican Party of Florida raised nearly $339,000 in the second quarter of 2017, marking one of the lowest quarterly fundraising hauls in more than two decades.

State records show the Republican Party of Florida raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. The fundraising period covered a portion of the 2017 Legislative Session and a three-day special session, during which state lawmakers are prohibited from raising money.

Disney Worldwide Services was one of the top donors during the three-month period, giving the state party $50,000. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts also made an in-kind contribution of food, beverage and event expenses worth $83,907 in April. Records show Florida Blue also gave $50,000 during the fundraising period.

Other top donors include Innovate Florida, the political committee backed by Sen. Bill Galvano; Jobs for Florida; and Costa Nursery Farms. All three organizations gave $25,000. Charter Communications gave the state party $20,000; while Floracann and West Flagler Associates each contributed $12,500 to the Republican Party of Florida.

The three-month fundraising period pales in comparison to previous fundraising periods by the Republican Party of Florida. The Florida GOP raised more than $4.1 million in the second quarter of 2016; one year earlier it raised more than $1.9 million in the same three-month fundraising period.

State campaign finance records dating back to 1996 show this year’s quarterly numbers are the the lowest in more than two decades. Records show the next lowest fundraising period was Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1996, when the party reported raising $572,531. There were three fundraising periods, state records show, where the state party reported raising no money.

POLITICO Florida reported the three-month period marked the first quarter that Rep. Jose Oliva, the incoming House Speaker, was at the helm of House Majority, which raises money for House raises.

Gov. Rick Scott and state Senate leaders no longer raise money for the state party.

Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work — raised $681,110 during the same three-month period, $485,100 of which was raised in April alone. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, meanwhile, raised $720,000 between April 1 and June 30.

While the Republican Party of Florida had a slower than normal fundraising period, it didn’t appear to slow its spending during the three-month period.

Records show the state party spent more than $1.05 million between April 1 and June 30. That’s slightly less than what it spent in the first quarter of 2017, when it reported spending $1.18 million between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Personnel note: Ken Kahn named to EFI board

Ken Kahn was appointed to the Enterprise Florida (EFI) Board of Directors, Senate President Joe Negron announced Monday.

The appointment begins immediately and expires July 5, 2021.

“Ken understands firsthand the opportunities available to businesses seeking to locate or expand here in Florida,” Negron said.

“He has a strong educational background and the diverse business and community service experiences needed to excel in this position. I am confident Ken will be a strong advocate for Florida businesses, and I am grateful that he has agreed to join the Enterprise Florida Team in this important capacity.”

Kahn is president of LRP Publications, a legal and professional publishing company. He also serves on the Palm Beach County Education Commission and the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness.

Kahn is on the executive committees of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Economic Council of Palm Beach County, and Kravis Center Corporate Partners. He is an active member of the Florida Council of 100.

He graduated from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He has five children and currently lives in Palm Beach Gardens with his wife and two daughters.

Florida Democrats say they’ve raised nearly $3.5 million

The state’s Democrats, in the wake of their Leadership Blue Gala, say they raised nearly $3.5 million through the first half of the year.

Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Johanna Cervone made the claim in a Saturday news release.

“As part of their statewide plan, Florida Democrats will be on the ground working to register voters, organizing door-knocking efforts, and hosting community events,” she said. 

Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, Senate Democratic Leader-designate Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and House Democratic Leader-designate Kionne McGhee of Miami issued the following joint statement regarding the Democrats’ fundraising program:

“Democrats are more fired up and ready to win than ever before. Having raised nearly $3.5 million this year, Florida Democrats are immensely grateful for the generous support of our donors and Democratic legislators from across the state.

“We are committed to supporting Democrats from schoolboard to U.S. Senate, and as we continue to build grassroots enthusiasm and raise resources, we are confident that Florida Democrats will win in 2018.”

As a postscript, the release added: “By this time in 2013 (a similar off-year), the Florida Democratic Party had raised $2,659,000. Recent fundraising efforts mark close to a $1 million increase in dollars raised.”

Jose Mallea sues Daniel Perez in HD 116 race

Jose Mallea‘s campaign on Friday said the candidate sued opponent Daniel Perez in the special Republican primary election for House District 116, saying Perez was falsely claiming residency in his campaign filing documents.

The suit, which also names Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner as a defendant, was filed in Leon Circuit Civil court.

Here’s the rest of the release:

The lawsuit asks the court to declare Perez ineligible to be a candidate for office, to decertify his candidacy, remove his name from the ballot, and refuse to certify any votes cast for him because he is not a legally qualified candidate.

“Daniel Perez’s relationship with the truth is estranged at best,” Mallea said.

“To knowingly identify an uninhabitable building with no roof as his address is the latest in his pattern of lies,” he added. “The voters of District 116 deserve a representative whose campaign and service in office begins and ends on a foundation of truth, and, unfortunately, that is not the case with Daniel Perez.”

Under Florida statutes, it is a felony punishable by imprisonment to file a false sworn statement in connection with an election. Perez knowingly filed a sworn statement listing an address inside House District 116, but no habitable residence exists at the address.

Despite the requirement that state representatives live in the district from which they are elected, Perez has publicly stated that he does not live at the address on his filing documents and does not know if he will live there at the time of the election.

Updated 3:15 p.m. — The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. A copy of the filed complaint is below.


Florida Chamber backs Vern Buchanan startup tax relief bill

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is announcing the Florida Chamber of Commerce is endorsing his bill seeking to make it easier and less costly for entrepreneurs to start a new business.

The Sarasota Republican’s “Support Our Start-Ups Act” seeks a fourfold increase in startup costs small-business owners can deduct from their federal income taxes, raising it from $5,000 to $20,000.

 “in Florida alone, there are more than 2 million small businesses, which create two out of three jobs in Florida,” said David Hart, Florida Chamber’s executive vice president. “The Support Our Start-Ups Act removes some of the initial barriers to creating a business, putting money back in the pocket of our state’s best job creators – setting start-ups on a path toward success.”

Only around 20 percent of new small businesses survive their first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Support Our Start-Ups can help businesses stay afloat and grow by making it significantly less costly to start a new business.

“At a time when millions of Americans are unable to find good-paying jobs, the government should be doing all it can to encourage entrepreneurs to create jobs,” said Buchanan, a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “I want to make it easier and less costly for hard-working Americans to realize their dream of starting a business.”

Buchanan, himself a self-made businessman, said that he knows firsthand the costs of starting a new business. Before even opening their doors, entrepreneurs must often pay legal and consulting fees, marketing research, recruiting expenses and office supplies.

A longstanding principle of tax law has prohibited the deduction of these initial costs until the business opens – with only a $5,000 maximum deduction.

Buchanan is a widely respected leader in the state’s business community. With a 40-year business career, he chaired both the Florida Chamber and the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He also served as a U.S. Chamber board member, and was inducted into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame in 2005.

Jeff Brandes, Dana Young endorse Ed Hooper

Republican state Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Dana Young of Tampa on Friday endorsed former state Rep. Ed Hooper in his quest to replace Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, who is term-limited in 2018.

Brandes called Hooper “a true advocate for his community … thoughtful, collaborative, and trusted.”

“These are some of the best qualities in a Senator and I’m happy to endorse him in his campaign for the State Senate,” he said. “He will help make Florida a more prosperous state for generations to come.”

Added Young, who left the House for the Senate last year: “As a former colleague of Ed’s, I can tell you from firsthand experience that he is a true leader and highly respected. I know he will make an excellent Senator and represent the people of Pinellas and Pasco counties with dignity and honor.”

Hooper said he was “honored” by the endorsements. Senate District 16 includes northern Pinellas and part of southwestern Pasco.

“They’ve set an example of how to work together to seek common sense and innovative solutions to Florida’s challenges,” he said. “Their continued leadership will make Florida a better place to live, work, visit, and retire.”

Hooper, a retired fire Lieutenant, served on the Clearwater City Council before spending eight years in the Florida House. He was term-limited in 2014. His only declared opposition is Democrat Bernie Fensterwald.

In memoriam: Frank Matthews, Hopping Green & Sams lobbyist

Frank E. Matthews, a lawyer-lobbyist with Tallahassee’s Hopping Green & Sams firm, died Thursday in Tampa after a “valiant battle against leukemia,” the firm announced on its website. He was 61.

Arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Matthews’ memory to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The firm’s statement continues:

“Since joining our firm in 1981 after law school graduation from his beloved University of Miami, Frank always represented our clients with grit and determination. He won the results they needed in challenging situations far more often than others expected.

“He achieved these results due to his extraordinary talent for creating a novel solution and a strategy to obtain it, even when success seemed out of reach. He was fearless.

“To us, Frank was a partner in the best sense of the word, in good times and bad. He was always there when any of us needed him. We will especially remember his impish sense of humor which he shared so generously. Frank lit up every room he entered and brought joy to every life he touched.

“Above all else, Frank was devoted to his family. He committed his life to their care, comfort, and security.

“We extend our condolences to his wife, Anne; his daughter Jaimie Matthews Francis of Washington, D.C., and her husband David Francis; his son Ryan Matthews of Tallahassee and his wife Alyssa and their children Emmy and Elliot; and to Frank’s extended family in Florida, New York, and elsewhere. He was so proud of them all.

“Rest in peace, Frank. We miss you already.”

SImone Marstiller

Personnel note: Simone Marstiller joins Gunster

Simone Marstiller, a retired judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, will be joining the Gunster law firm’s appellate and government affairs teams and will be based in the Tallahassee and Tampa offices, the firm announced Wednesday.

“Judge Marstiller brings vast expertise and judicial system knowledge,” said Lila Jaber, regional managing shareholder and head of the firm’s government affairs practice. “Her focus, experience and dedication to the State of Florida fit perfectly with Gunster’s mission of attracting diverse and world class legal talent.”

She joins a legal team at Gunster that already includes former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell and former 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Angel Cortinas.

Marstiller, a Republican, recently said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018, concluding “that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me.”

The Liberian-born lawyer had been in private law practice after retiring in 2015 as a judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, based in Tallahassee.

Her long resume includes being Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Interim Secretary of the Department of Management Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, and state Chief Information Officer under Gov. Jeb Bush. 

She also was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill McCollum and Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission.

Marstiller is an adjunct professor at Florida State University’s College of Law and at Stetson University’s law school. She also got her undergraduate degree in business administration and her law degree from Stetson.

Compilation of Independence Day messages from Florida’s elected officials, political leaders

A compilation of Independence Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

Attorney General Pam Bondi:

“Two hundred and forty-one years ago, our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence to ensure our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since that historic day, generations of military men and women have sacrificed everything to protect those rights. It is because of their service that we are able to enjoy this nation’s freedoms and privileges today. So this Fourth of July, as we celebrate our great democracy, let us also honor those brave Americans who have and continue to serve our country.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

Happy 4th of July! I hope you and your family have a fun-filled day by the pool, at the beach, or grilling out and celebrating America. Without question, we live in the greatest country in history because America was created on some truly revolutionary ideas – equality for all, individual liberty, representative government, and inalienable rights guaranteed by God.

In Northwest Florida, we understand the true meaning of Independence Day better than most – that’s because we know first-hand the sacrifices that have been and are still being made today to defend our freedoms and way of life. So as you celebrate July 4th today, be sure to thank a veteran for their service in defense of our incredible country.

Enjoy the fireworks tonight, and may God bless America!

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto:

Independence Day is a day when we come together as Americans to recognize and celebrate our exceptional nation, and its foundation of democracy.  Our founders bravely came together 241 years ago in Philadelphia to change the course of history as they signed the Declaration of Independence. This was more than merely a symbolic method of voicing their discontent, it was the beginning of the freedom that we enjoy to this day.

Let us celebrate an idea that captured the imagination of those brave individuals, which was the birth of an ideal that continues to inspire the rest of the world to this day.

May we also express gratitude to the men and women in uniform who have and continue to sacrifice greatly to protect our many freedoms. These freedoms are the cornerstone of our great country which continues to attract individuals from across the world in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

I encourage us all to take a few quiet moments this weekend as we see a passing parade or our American Flag flying high to remember the opportunities we enjoy daily and often take for granted.

Join me in passing down our rich traditions and remarkable history by sharing stories and pride with your children and grandchildren, so future generations will understand the legacy of those who came before us.

Best wishes for a safe and joyous Independence Day with family and friends!

State Rep. Bill Hager:

Many of you will be taking a long weekend to enjoy time with family and friends. I want to wish you a happy, safe and enjoyable Independence Day! For those of you still looking for something to do this holiday weekend, the Palm Beach Post has put together a list of the best fireworks and fun events throughout Palm Beach County. You can view that article by clicking here. As always, it is my honor to represent you in the Florida House. Please do not hesitate to contact me if ever I may be of service to you.

Former state Rep. Ed Hooper:

On the eve of celebrating the birth of our nation, I wanted to wish you and your family a Happy Independence Day. It is a reminder of the courage it took to hold true to our core American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is a time to reflect upon the sacrifices made by the founders of our nation and their families. And it is a time to recommit ourselves to our country’s success and celebrate just how fortunate and blessed we are to live in this great nation. I wish you a Happy Independence Day and I hope you have a great time enjoying this celebration of our country. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail!

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay:

As we gather today with family and friends to celebrate our country, I’d like to share one more thing worth celebrating: direct advocacy works!

Our opioid battle is gaining traction. Last week, the Florida Association of Counties acknowledged our progress by presenting me with the Marlene Young Presidential Advocacy Award. Governor Scott has now extended the State of Emergency I originally requested in May, and we’ve been approved for much-needed funding.

This is one of the things I love most about our country. When we see something that needs attention, we have the freedom to push our leaders for change. Things don’t always go the way we want. But when they do? It is so encouraging to know we had a small part in making our country just a little bit better.

As always, I thank you for the opportunity to serve.

I wish you a safe and happy 4th!

Republican Party of Palm Beach County:

The Fiorentino Group:

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