Influence Archives - Page 6 of 499 - Florida Politics

Personnel note: Rebecca Kapusta made interim DCF Secretary

Rebecca Kapusta will become interim Secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after the resignation of Secretary Mike Carroll, who’s leaving the post Sept. 6.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the move Tuesday afternoon. He did not say when he expected to name a full-time replacement, if any; the term-limited governor departs office in January.

“Rebecca has served the Department for more than 10 years, and I’m sure she’ll continue to work to better our communities and protect Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” Scott said in a statement.


Kapusta was most recently Assistant Secretary for Operations after being the department’s General Counsel.

Before that, the decade-plus department veteran was Chief Counsel for DCF’s SunCoast Region in Children’s Legal Services, as well as Assistant Regional Counsel and Assistant General Counsel.

Kapusta, who once was a general magistrate in the 12th Judicial Circuit, received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Central Florida and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law.

She follows Carroll, whose “tenure as secretary is the longest in DCF’s 21-year history,” Scott has said. Carroll was appointed in December 2014.

He inherited a system documented earlier that year, by the Miami Herald’s “Innocents Lost” investigation, as “clearly broken, leaving children unprotected and at risk.”

And a 133-page internal review commissioned by Carroll in 2016 depicted a dysfunctional agency, with workers feeling “unsupported,” “overwhelmed,” and “defeated.”

But a previous press release from Scott’s office said Carroll oversaw “expanded substance abuse treatment services statewide, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders; achieved record numbers of adoptions; (and) championed anti-human trafficking efforts,” among other achievements.

Knock on a half-million doors? No prob, For Our Future Florida says

For Our Future Florida (FOF-FL), a progressive advocacy group, announced it reached a new milestone in its canvassing efforts across the state, having now knocked on more than 500,000 doors.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned, talking with voters across the state—and as our volunteer program ramps up through Election Day, hundreds of Floridians will be channeling the tremendous progressive energy we’ve seen throughout 2017 and 2018 into turning out their family, friends and neighbors to the polls,” said Ashley Walker, the group’s state director.

“As we work to re-elect Bill Nelson and to end Republican dominance of Tallahassee, FOF-FL is building a permanent, community-based progressive infrastructure across all of Florida.”

The group is clearly putting in some major manpower into those efforts, given this new milestone. Nelson in particular may need it, as Democrats are reportedly increasingly worried about Gov. Rick Scott flipping his seat red come Nov. 6.

FOF-FL will continue its canvassing work throughout the general election season.

“The statewide canvasses are currently focused on the the U.S. Senate race, defeating the CRC-proposed education amendment, passing felon rights restoration and down-ballot State Senate contests,” read a release from the group on its canvassing campaign.

FOF-FL had already announced its intention to flip seats belonging to Republican state Sens. Keith Perry and Dana Young.

“Since the 2016 election, For Our Future has been working in key communities and listening to voters about issues impacting their families and communities.”

The group says it knocked on about 3 million doors during the 2016 election, and aims to up that to 4 million this cycle, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

FOF-FL describes itself as “a grassroots organization that advocates for policies that benefit families and communities in Florida, including creating shared economic prosperity, building strong public schools, addressing climate change, supporting racial justice, and protecting immigrant communities.”

Amol Jethwani

House candidate spends campaign cash on haircuts, clothes and burritos

Democratic state House candidate Amol Jethwani has been successful in getting young voters energized for down ballot races in Gainesville, a quality that hasn’t gone unnoticed by established Democratic politicians such as St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who has endorsed his bid for House District 21.

Though he surely has a promising future in politics, the campaign finance reports for this first-time candidate show a troubling trend: Using donor money for personal expenses.

No, Jethwani isn’t paying for his car insurance or his apartment on the backs of those who support him. He has, however, dipped his hand into the kitty for things like haircuts, meals and a suit.

For those imagining the University of Florida poli sci major snagging a $1,000 suit from Brooks Brothers followed by a $400 John Edwards-style haircut and filet at Bern’s, think smaller. Much smaller. Think a $344 trip to Dillards, a $30 trim at Hair Plus and $14 lunch at Chipotle.

When it comes to the suit and haircuts, Jethwani does seem to be take a Scott Maddox-like approach to justifying the spending: It was necessary for the viability of his campaign.

“The charges to Dillards and Zara were for formal clothing for campaign events — a suit and formal wear which I was not able to afford at the time as a student. In that same category, the haircuts expensed to the account were specifically for candidate appearance for campaign events and media production,” Jethwani said in a statement to Florida Politics.

When it came to other questions about the campaign’s ledger, including the food purchases and cash withdrawals that on more than one occasion broke the state elections code regulating petty cash expenditures, Jethwani was willing to take some responsibility.

“Where the petty cash withdrawals are concerned, I accept full responsibility and acknowledge my error in judgement in not understanding the guidelines set forth by the Florida Division of Elections for withdrawing funds for petty cash,” he said. “The withdrawals were to obtain petty cash for campaign expenditures. While not reported correctly, the funds were directed for campaign use and as such I will be repaying the campaign in full for the expenses paid for with petty cash.

“The food purchases encompassed a portion of on-the-go snacks for volunteers while campaigning in addition to on-the-go meals while traveling to events,” he added. “I am taking responsibility for my actions by repaying the campaign for any flagged expenditures, I will be repaying the campaign for a portion of funds expensed on meals, and additionally, I will be repaying the campaign for our petty cash expenditures. It is my continued goal to be transparent and to display accountability.”

Jethwani is running against Jason Haeseler in the Democratic primary for HD 21, which encompasses Gilchrist and Dixie counties as well as a portion of Alachua County.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary battle will face an tough, though not impossible general election against incumbent Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons. Clemons carried the seat with 54 percent of the vote two years ago, though President Donald Trump narrowly lost the district to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Update, 9:30 p.m. — Jethwani’s apology and promise to pay back the flagged expenditures was not enough for the UF College Democrats, where Jethwani served as president. The group put out the following statement hours after Florida Politics published this post:

“In light of recent allegations, the UF College Democrats President, Amol Jethwani, has resigned from his position within College Democrats. Despite not fully knowing the severity of the situation, UFCD in no way condones the described actions, and our executive board members have taken steps to separate our organization from Amol and the claims against him,” the group said in a Facebook post.

“In the meantime, UF College Democrats will continue to work towards our goal of getting Democrats elected to office under our interim President, Kristen Jackson.”

Personnel note: Jennifer Tschetter joins Carlton Fields

Jennifer Tschetter has joined the Carlton Fields law firm’s national medical marijuana task force, the firm announced. 

She departed Tallahassee’s Hopping Green & Sams, where she’d been since 2016.

The former general counsel, chief of staff and chief operating officer of the Florida Department of Health now co-chairs Carlton Fields’ 18-lawyer task force.

There, she will “represent medical marijuana treatment centers and other industry interests as they navigate a complex regulatory landscape,” the firm said.

That’s not all, Tschetter said in a statement.

“At Carlton Fields, I have a national platform and specialized colleagues who can assist my clients with their business and legal needs in areas including taxation, corporate transactions and securities, finance and banking, and cryptocurrency,” she said. “I am excited to join the firm’s outstanding team of knowledgeable and respected lawyers.”

During her tenure at Health, she oversaw rulemaking for the apportionment of trauma centers and presided over the beginning of the rollout of the state’s medical marijuana delivery system.

“Our clients will benefit immensely from Jennifer’s deep understanding of the inner workings of public agencies,” said Nancy G. Linnan, chair of the firm’s Government Law and Consulting practice. “Her proven track record in the rapidly expanding area of cannabis law, as well as several other regulatory areas, is an enormous boon to our capabilities.”

Tschetter also has been appellate and rules counsel for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from South Dakota State University and her law degree from the University of South Dakota School of Law.

Tschetter will remain based in Tallahassee. 

Rick Scott names lawyers to Florida Elections Commission

Gov. Rick Scott appointed two Tallahassee attorneys to the Florida Elections Commission, his office announced Friday night.

Coincidentally, both specialize in representing automotive dealers.

Martin Hayes, 62, is a partner at the Akerman firm. Hayes fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 31, 2020.


Hayes, a litigator, mainly works with motor vehicle dealerships “in all aspects of the motor vehicle dealer-manufacturer relationship,” according to his firm bio.

He “represents auto dealers in litigation, mediations, and informal settlement conferences on issues as diverse as acquiring additional dealerships, warranty audit issues, facility upgrades, terminations, and buy-sell turndowns.”

Hayes received his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University. He was nominated by Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens.

Jason Allen, 39, is a partner at Bass Sox Mercer, which “represents automobile, truck and motorcycle dealers in complex commerical transactions,” its website says.


Allen got his undergraduate degree from Florida State, where he was a member of the golf team, and his law degree from Mercer University School of Law, his bio says.

He served as a staff attorney for then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, now the state’s Republican U.S. senator, and later as a clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston.

Allen succeeds Commissioner Sean Hall and is appointed for a term beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 31, 2020. He was nominated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican.

The appointments are subject to state Senate confirmation.

Joe Gruters, Margaret Good host bipartisan town hall on red tide

As red tide threatens the Gulf Coast economy, it’s also bringing political foes together. Look to a town hall event held in Sarasota by state Reps. Joe Gruters, a Republican, and Margaret Good, a Democrat.

“Environmental crises don’t know it’s election season,” said Good, “and you don’t stop being an elected representative just because you are campaigning.”

The two Sarasota lawmakers hosted their event at Suncoast Technical College and heard from about 150 constituents about specific needs in the wake of algal blooms.

“We have to shine a spotlight on this issue and how people are dealing with it,” Gruters said. “It’s a financial crisis. Our economy here is still largely based on tourism.”

Harmful algal blooms for weeks have caused no-swim orders and shut down beachfront restaurants along much of the coast, and also present a health risk as toxins release into the air.

Good says the Florida Legislature needs to help businesses and residents impacted short term by red tide, but also to solve long-term environmental problems. She’s championed using money more responsibly that should be earmarked for environmentally sensitive land acquisition.

“Land is a natural filter for our water supply,” she said. She also wants to stop fertilizer runoff that feeds algal blooms with nutrients.

Gruters said it’s important for industries contributing pollutants to bear some cost for fixing the problem, but noted many pollutants contribute to red tide. He says one of his top legislative priorities will be pushing limitations on the amount of new growth in Florida using septic tanks instead of hooking into sewer systems.

“My position is everybody who moves to Florida is to blame,” he says.

He wants solutions presented in Tallahassee to be led by scientific input, and he plans to fight for better funding for Mote Marine Laboratory to study the issue.

As for the bipartisan nature of the event, Gruters said having a Republican and Democrat working together helped diffuse potential blame game scenarios.

Of course, Gruters and Good aren’t just any rank Democrat and Republican.

Good surprised the national political world in February by winning a special election in a district won by Donald Trump in 2016. She’s facing re-election in November for a seat Republicans badly want back, and will likely face former Republican state Rep. Ray Pilon in November in District 72.

As for Gruters, he’s chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, and co-chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida. He’s looking to move to state Senate in 2016 representing District 23, but has to defeat Democrat Faith Olivia Babis.

But water is thicker than politics.

“The town hall was about moving forward and working together as a community,” Good said. “I’m working across the aisle and with local and state leaders and associations, anyone who wants to be a part of the solution. Joe reached out to me and said he wanted to be a part of the solution.”

Gruters said as the political season heats up, he’s sure he and Good will play their partisan parts. But in their public service, they have to work together toward solutions.

“Margaret Good and I have a mutual respect for each other,” he said. “When there are issues where we can fight together, we don’t talk about our races. Just about how we can make our community and state better.”


Meet Tammy Garcia, Democrat running for Florida House District 37

Nearly 350 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2018. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email

Today’s feature: Tammy Garcia, a Democrat running for Florida House District 37.

Significant other? Kids?

I have been married to my college sweetheart for 11 years and we have a 2-year-old little boy.

Education background? Professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree and an ABD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution

What was your first job?

I worked at Busch Gardens in the Zagora Café for the “winter season” while in high school.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

I’m running to improve Florida for all future generations. As a trained mediator, I want to work on making solutions to problems, not more conflict.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

I spoke with the chair of the Pasco County Democratic Executive Committee and the State Committeeman.  I wanted to make sure I knew what was going to be involved in running before I made the commitment. They were very supportive and offered me probably more advice than I knew what to do with at the time!

Who do you count on for advice?

I’ve met a lot of people on the campaign trail and I count on so many of them for advice. That includes the chair of the PDEC, the state committeeman, fellow candidates, current legislators, past legislators, and former candidates.  I also look to mentors from groups that have endorsed my campaign.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

This campaign is being run by my husband and myself. We have great volunteers, but not consultant or campaign manager at this time.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

My family members were the first people to donate because they believe in me and what I will accomplish.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith is an incredible inspiration to me. He truly cares about the people of Florida and fights tooth and nail day in and day out for what’s right.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

I think there’s an element of mistrust because our elected officials all too often are looking out for the interests of their corporate donors and lobbyists instead of the people they were elected to represent.  I am out a few days a week knocking on the doors of voters, talking to them about my campaign, asking them what’s important, and giving them my contact information so that they know they have a way to reach me with their concerns.  We’ve seen local elected officials hold closed town hall meetings and kick out constituents so they don’t have to listen to voices of dissent. I have said my entire campaign that if a representative of the people never actually talks to the voters, how can they truly be a representative FOR the people.  

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

Improving the education system by eliminating the high-stakes testing culture/ common core, paying teachers a fair wage, and bringing per pupil spending to a national average; protect the environment by banning off-shore drilling and moving to increased solar production; and ensuring equality for all citizens in all aspects including the workplace, in housing, and in the criminal justice system.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

Stand Your Ground laws

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

They need a real voice and not someone that is only interested in their own financial gains. They need someone that is going to represent them and their issues.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Lawton Chiles

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for yard signs so I’m going to say yes they are.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

My emails.

Where do you get your political news?

A variety of sources- local news, CNN, MSNBC, Sayfie, NY Times, Washington Post are all on my daily list of sources.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

My Facebook and Twitter is @votetammygarcia

In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

This campaign is about giving people a real voice in Tallahassee. Someone that isn’t in politics for themselves, but someone that is looking to make life better for all Floridians. We need to create a state that our future generations will be proud to call “home.”


Playing with my 2-year-old, reading, hiking, swimming just to name a few

Favorite sport and sports team?

Even though I grew up thinking baseball was boring, it has become my absolute favorite sport to watch in these past few years.  I have to support my local team so I’m a Rays fan. I also lived about 30 minutes away from the Rays minor league affiliate the Durham Bulls and went to a few games a week usually while I was living there so they are a favorite.  But I can’t deny that the Chicago Cubs are my favorite team. Attending a game at Wrigley was what really turned me into a baseball fan so they will always hold a special place in my heart.

Meet Karen Skyers, Democrat running for Florida House District 61

Nearly 350 candidates are vying for state House and state Senate seats in 2018. Try as we will, Florida Politics can’t interview all of them.

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email

Today’s feature: Karen Skyers, a Democrat running for Florida House District 61.

Significant other? Kids?

I have three children: Keila, Brian, and Brandon.

Education background? Professional background?


University of Detroit – Mercy;

FAMU Law School.

Professional Background:

I’ve put my professional life on hold so I can dedicate all my time and energy to representing the people of District 61.

Most recently, I worked as an Attorney at Becker & Poliakoff P.A.. Before that, I was an Independent Contractor at the Southern Strategy Group and owned my own law firm.

I’ve also served as an Assistant Public Defender for the13th Judicial Circuit and a Legislative Aide to Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, a Tampa Democrat.

During law school, I worked with Florida Rural Legal Services and interned with the Federal Public Defender’s Office and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

Before becoming a lawyer, I was a Child Protective Investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Lead Adoptions Care Manager at the Children’s Home Society.

What was your first job?

This is the answer to my security questions!

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

Opportunity for everyone. Every Floridian deserves a shot at a good job, affordable healthcare and housing, quality schools and safe neighborhoods for their families.

Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?

Yes. I served as a legislative aide to Senator Arthenia Joyner earlier in my career and her guidance has been invaluable to me during this process.

Who do you count on for advice?

My community. As a public defender, I worked alongside the people of Tampa. As a mother and grandmother, this community helped me raise my family. Now, I’m relying on them to help me elevate the issues that impact our day-to-day lives and start conversations that can move our community forward.  

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

My campaign manager is Stephanie Owens. My political consultant is Meagan Salisbury at Blue Ticket Consulting.

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

The first person that contributed to my campaign was my 27-year-old daughter. She knows that investing in my campaign would be a great way to invest in the future of Florida politics.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

As I mentioned before, Sen. Joyner has been a huge influence on my public service. Watching the way she understands her constituents and channeled their needs and priorities into a cohesive legislative strategy inspires my work everyday. I believe that the ability to translate the wishes of a community into tangible actions is the hallmark of a successful representative.

Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?

In many cases, politicians say what they think people want to hear, not what they believe. True leadership isn’t always popular, but in the long run, voters come to trust leaders who are willing to disagree with the majority on some issues. I’ll fight for what’s right, no matter what the politically expedient decision might be.  

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

Criminal Justice Reform;

Affordable Housing;

Access to Healthcare.

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

Vocational public education. It’s time to overhaul the way we think about our schools. Florida’s children deserve access to cutting-edge alternatives that can prepare them for 21st century jobs.

What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?

Funding for affordable housing. Tallahassee needs to stop raiding the funds that we’ve already put aside for housing and start allocating more resources to make sure Tampa residents can afford to put a roof over their heads.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Lawton Chiles.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

Yes and no. Visibility is always an important part of campaigning and my district is no exception. But ultimately, this campaign is going to be decided by voters talking to their neighbors about the issues that matter to Tampa.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

The Good Book.

Where do you get your political news?

I read an assortment of local Bay area and Florida blogs and papers as well as several national outlets. I also follow local community leaders on social media and discuss ongoing community issues with them in-person.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?




In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?


Cooking, reading and scrapbooking. 

Favorite sport and sports teams?

Another one of my security answers! But I do enjoy swimming and bowling. 

Bill Galvano continues fundraising streak for Senate campaign arm

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano on Friday said he helped reel in more than $7.2 million over the last four months for the main political committee supporting Republican state Senate campaigns.

The finance report for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC) had not been uploaded to the Division of Elections public website as of Friday afternoon, but the claimed total for the pre-primary reporting period blows away the $5.17 million total FRSCC posted ahead of the 2016 primary election — and that cycle saw all 40 state Senate seats up for grabs.

The new report covers April 1 through Aug. 23.

Galvano, who represents Senate District 21, said his own political committee, Innovate Florida, had a similarly prolific run. Unlike FRSCC, a party affiliated committee, Innovate Florida is required to file finance reports more frequently.

Still, during the same April to August stretch, the political committee tacked on more than $500,000.

“We are pleased to report today the significant support we have received — not only during this reporting period, but for the entire 2018 cycle leading up to the general election,” Galvano said in a press release.

“We will continue to make sure our Republican candidates have the resources they need to win. We have an outstanding ground game, qualified and dedicated candidates, and continue to have the support we need to get their message out.”

The new report for Innovate Florida showed $175,000 in new money raised between Aug. 11 and Aug. 23. That haul was brought in across six checks:

— A $65,000 contribution from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a public employee union;

— A $50,000 check from Floridians United for Our Children’s Future, a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson, the VP of political operations for Associated Industries of Florida;

— $25,000 from telecom giant Charter Communications;

— $15,000 from Publix veep Hoyt Barnett;

— $15,000 from a political committee tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce; and

— $5,000 from rail company Florida East Coast Industries (FEC).

Innovate Florida’s ledger shows about $43,000 in spending during the reporting period, including a $25,000 check to Let’s Grow Florida, one of the political committees supporting Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley in her statewide bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

Galvano and his likely successor as Senate President, Trilby Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, have publicly endorsed Grimsley in the four-way Republican primary for the Cabinet seat.

Galvano’s committee had a little over $344,000 in the bank five days out from the primary election. FRSCC’s current on-hand tally is unknown, though it had nearly $2.3 million in its coffers at the end of March.

While the Innovate Florida cash came in from just a handful of donors, Galvano said that won’t be the case when the FRSCC report pops later today.

“I am also happy to report we have gained an influx of new, individual supporters who have contributed significantly to our fundraising efforts, demonstrating that support for Senate Republicans is growing and that Floridians from all corners of the state are contributing to our efforts to maintain our Republican majority in the Florida Senate,” he said.

“The combined effort of not only FRSCC and Innovate Florida, but also other fundraising activities by Senate Republicans, clearly shows a unified Republican Senate as we prepare to head into the general election.”

Still, as previously reported, finance reports from other committees reveal many of the FRSCC contributions have come in from known players. Simpson has kicked in $500,000 through his committee, Jobs for Florida, while the Florida Chamber, AIF, and the Florida Medical Association PAC have each broached six-figures.

Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley has also chipped in substantially through his committee, Working for Florida’s Families. He gave $375,000 to FRSCC during the April to August period, including $275,000 during July alone.

The prolific fundraising effort makes for more than $14 million raised for FRSCC since Galvano took over as the funds fundraising head last year, including another record-breaking haul in the third quarter of 2017.

The cash comes in as senate Republicans are gearing up for tough re-election fights in seven GOP-held districts, including Gainesville-based SD 8, the Tampa Bay area’s SD 18 and SD 24, as well as Lakeland-based SD 22.

Florida Democrats are also making a play for the open SD 16, where former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy is running against former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, and SD 36, where state Rep. Manny Diaz faces a pair Democrats vying to block his ascension to the Senate.

The next finance report for FRSCC is due to the state on Nov. 2, just a few days ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

Olysha Magruder launches political committee as questions swirl over outside ads

Gainesville Democrat Olysha Magruder opened a new political committee Thursday in the twilight hours ahead of her Senate District 8 primary battle with fellow Democrat Kayser Enneking.

The new committee, known as Protect Prepare Provide, is chaired by Magruder, with one of her SD 8 campaign staffers – Kara Jess – serving as treasurer.

Though the committee was acknowledged by the Division of Elections on Aug. 22, Magruder and Jess filed the required paperwork to get it rolling on Aug. 7.

The delay in getting the committee approved was because of the treasurer appointment form, which was marked incomplete by Division of Elections staff the day it was received.

Sarah Revell, spokeswoman for the Department of State, said the treasurer appointment was rejected because the signatures on the document were not originals, a requirement for them to be approved.

An updated treasurer form, which was ultimately approved, wasn’t received by the division until two weeks later.

The approval comes as candidates face a midnight deadline to collect their last burst of official campaign funds — state elections law requires all candidates who are opposed in a primary election to stop accepting campaign contributions for the five days preceding the primary election. Political committees do not have to comply with the five-day fundraising armistice.

Still, the Aug. 7 date sticks out.

Whitfield Jenkins, the head of an Ocala non-profit organization that has supported Magruder and bashed Enneking with up to $100,000 on direct mail campaigns and TV ads, claimed the necessary paperwork to open a political committee and send the mailers and run the ads had been filed on Aug. 7.

The committee he said he tried to start would have shared a name with his non-profit, Liberation Ocala African American Council (LOACC), or so he claims. The Division of Elections said Tuesday that it had no record of receiving any paperwork for a committee by that name.

The fact that the date Jenkins claimed to file paperwork for his political committee matches up with the date Magruder did file paperwork for hers could be a complete coincidence. Or it’s possible the delay Magruder faced in getting her committee approved could have mucked up the late primary ad push.

Political committees in Florida aren’t subject to the same contribution limits as candidate accounts — $1,000 from each unique donor in the case of state legislative races.

If Magruder’s committee got the green light on Aug. 7, the money for those ads could have been dumped in from their original source. The choice to form a committee so late in the game makes little sense otherwise, as relatively few Magruder donors have maxed out their contributions.

As previously reported, the source of the ad funds is likely not LOACC given that Washington DC ad buyer Jamie Andrus signed for the SD 8 TV ads.

Andrus is also the buyer who signed off on the ‘dark money’ attack ads plaguing Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Gary Farmer in his rematch against former state Rep. Jim Waldman in Senate District 34.

Florida Politics reached out to Magruder’s campaign multiple times Thursday, asking for the campaign to directly address whether the decision to start the new political committee was because of the campaign anticipating a late-in-the-game cash infusion for ads and mailers.

The campaign did not address that question, citing the freneticism ahead of its final pre-primary fundraising deadline.

It’s true that reports for both the campaign account and for Protect Prepare Provide are due to the state by midnight Friday, but the campaign’s reticence to answer the question follows Magruder sidestepping calls to directly disavow the illegal outside spending.

Her campaign did issue a statement saying she did not collaborate with LOACC or approve of the ads, adding that “they don’t reflect a strategy my own campaign would choose.” But she’s stopped short of disavowing them outright.

Instead, Magruder has said the ads are true — and they are, to a certain extent.

Enneking has indeed accepted “in-kind” contributions from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which has indeed accepted contributions from the sugar, tobacco, alcohol and private prison industries as Magruder claims.

Enneking’s committee, Florida Knows Excellence, has also made many contributions to FDLCC.

But Enneking’s acceptance of those funds from the state party is no different than the financial activities of candidates who Magruder vocally supports on social media.

Tallahassee Mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum, for instance, has received more than $900,000 worth of “in-kind” support from the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) during his run for Governor. FDP has in turn received contributions from the same sources Magruder rails against.

Like with Enneking and FDLCC, Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, has made many contributions to FDP.

It also smacks of duplicity for Magruder to attack her opponent for such contributions without showing an ounce of concern for where the money funding LOACC’s ads is coming from.

Voters will likely never know the true source of those funds, which for all anyone knows could be from the same corporate interests Magruder derides.

The primary election between Magruder and Enneking comes to an end Tuesday night. The winner of the Democratic nomination will move on to face incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry on the November ballot.

Also running for the seat is former City Commissioner Charles Goston, a lifelong Democrat who is contending as an non-party affiliated candidate.

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