Adam Putnam Archives - Florida Politics

Conservative seniors group applauds Adam Putnam for IRS warning

Right-leaning group 60 Plus Association is formally supporting a warning released last week by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for seniors to watch out for IRS scams.

Putnam Friday called for Florida seniors to be cautious of people impersonating IRS agents claiming they can sort out tax refund payment problems or get big deductions for previous tax years over the phone.

The warning was seconded by the 60 Plus Association, the chairman of which said Putnam was among the “strongest advocates” for seniors. In the past, the group has awarded Putnam its “Guardian of Seniors” award.

“In recent years, seniors have increasingly been targeted by IRS scams which are what makes public warnings by those like Commissioner Putnam so valuable,” 60 Plus Chairman Jim Martin said in a statement.On behalf of 60 Plus’s 7 million members nationwide, I’d like to thank him for his actions and direct seniors to our website www.60plus.org for more information on protecting yourself.”

Putnam said seniors should be on the lookout for anybody claiming to be from the IRS that asks for a Social Security number or other personal financial information over the phone.

The IRS typically contacts taxpayers by phone and never asks for a credit card, prepaid debit card, money order or wire transfer immediately over the phone. Putnam’s release also said that the IRS will never threaten to involve local law enforcement to issue an arrest or suspend a license.

Floridians who are unsure about their tax situation can call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.

Florence Snyder: Whether Adam Putnam likes it or not, it’s still OK to tell the truth

If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to dial down the #Stupid in his own office.

The Baron of Bartow went full #FloridaMan on Ocheesee Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm an hour’s drive and a world away from what former Gov. Jeb Bush derisively — and correctly — referred to as “Mount Tallahassee.” The Wesselhoefts are central casting’s idea of decent, hard-working people being run out of business by “regulators” running wild. They dote on their small herd of Jersey cows like the Donald dotes on Ivanka.

Visitors to the Creamery’s website learn that the “Jersey girls” are “an intelligent cow breed, and we enjoy being around them because they are known for their calm, gentle and docile nature.”

The “plush green grass and open fields of fresh air and sunlight” at Ocheesee would make an ideal backdrop for those ubiquitous FreshFromFlorida commercials. Instead, Putnam and his lawyers at the firm of Orwell, Kafka and ? and the Mysterians are in their fifth year of spending public funds to force the Wesselhoefts to add vitamin A to their skim milk, or add the word “imitation” to their skim milk labels.

Yesterday, it was Putnam’s turn to get creamed.

A panel of Reagan, Bush, and Obama appointees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circled the constitutional wagons around strict construction and decided that it is not deceptive to refer to skim milk as skim milk.

Nobody claimed otherwise before Putnam was elected as the state’s agricultural regulator-in-chief. His jihad on Jerseys has attracted embarrassing international attention, including the No. 4 slot on an April Fools’ Day roundup of “stories you thought were pranks but are in fact genuine.”

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft suspects that Putnam and his Label Police are carrying water, currying favor, and otherwise doing the bidding of bigger, richer, more politically connected dairymen. At some point, he’s going to have to explain to the rest of us why she’s wrong.

Rick Scott 03-13-2017

Rick Scott rallies allies for VISIT FLORIDA

With VISIT FLORIDA chief Ken Lawson acting as hype man, Gov. Rick Scott held a Tuesday rally inside the Florida Capitol to “save” the embattled tourism organization.

Scott, not normally a high-energy performer, worked up the crowd of hundreds in the building’s rotunda with the help of CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. In the background, Lawson hollered, “That’s right!” and “Yessir!”

“We need to remain the tourist capital of the world,” Scott said to cheers and whistling.

Meantime, dozens of hotel and restaurant employees and others in tourism-related businesses packed the Plaza level, many holding signs of support, such as “Tourism = Tax revenue,” while others recorded on their smartphones.

“I find it so hard to comprehend that all of you needed to leave your businesses to come here to fight for what the most obvious brand of Florida is, a family-friendly tourist destination,” Putnam said to applause.

He added that many agritourism and ecotourism attractions are thriving because “VISIT FLORIDA was there to help give them a leg up.”

The House voted last week to rein in VISIT FLORIDA, a public-private partnership largely funded with taxpayers’ dollars. It acts as the state’s tourism marketing agency, subsidizing advertising and PR for the industry.

The House wants to subject it to stricter oversight and reduce its budget. Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran took aim after the agency was embroiled in controversy after striking a secret deal, later revealed to be worth as much as $1 million, for Miami rap star Pitbull to promote the state through song, video and social media.

The House also passed a bill last week to abolish the Enterprise Florida economic development organization and a host of business incentive programs.

The Senate, however, generally backs business incentives and tourism subsidies, suggesting the House effort won’t find traction there.

Supporters said the agency gave their marketing boost that they couldn’t alone achieve with their smaller budgets. Putnam urged lawmakers to stay the course, and continue to promote the state.

“As Lawton Chiles used to say, it’s a poor frog that won’t croak in his own pond,” he said.

Scott later told reporters VISIT FLORIDA “is important for jobs in our state. And people care about jobs.”

When asked if he would veto a budget that cut money for the organization, he added, “I never talk about what I’ll do at the end of a (legislative) session.”

“… I can tell you this: I’m going to fight every day for VISIT FLORIDA because it’s about people’s jobs. Look, it’s about families.”

 

In Tampa, potential CFO candidate Jeremy Ring tells his story

Broward Democrat Jeremy Ring isn’t officially a candidate for Chief Financial Officer, but he talked the part during a stop in Tampa on Friday.

Speaking at the Oxford Exchange as part of the Cafe Con Tampa weekly event, the former Yahoo executive introduced himself to the audience by humble-bragging about his private sector background, describing himself as the first salesman for the internet search engine company when he started there as a 24-year-old (he’s 46 now).

As proud as he was of his private sector career, Ring was self-deprecating when it came to his knowledge about politics when he decided to first run for the state Senate in 2006.

“I had never been to Tallahassee,” he says. “I barely knew that Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. When I lived in Silicon Valley, Nancy Pelosi was my Congresswoman – I never heard of her (actually, Pelosi represents San Francisco, an hour north of Silicon Valley, which is located in Santa Clara County). All true. I was the least experienced candidate in the history of the state of Florida.”

The meat of his message is on making Florida an innovative economy, a theme he campaigned on during his first run for office a decade ago. And he’s produced results.

In 2008, he helped create theFlorida Growth Fund, which invests in state and local pension funds involving technology and high-growth businesses with a significant presence in the state, and the Florida Opportunity Fund, a multimillion-dollar program that directs investments to high-performing funds committed to seed early stage businesses.

Ring says that Florida has one of the most complete innovation “ecosystems” in the country, not that it’s something that many lawmakers know or understand.

“Most elected officials in Tallahassee will inspire you instead of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll inspire you to be the next homebuilder or land use attorneys,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re lacking in this state to build an innovation economy is not the pieces. The pieces exist. It’s the culture. We don’t have the culture.”

Ring’s legislative record shows that he is definitely unorthodox compared to his Tallahassee colleagues. Last year he sponsored a bill that would make computer coding a foreign language option, an idea he received from his 14-year-old son. The bill failed, though St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring it again this year (Brandes and Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant were singled out by Ring as understanding innovation).

Ring is adamant that the worst thing the state could do was to “starve our universities,” and he was critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new offensive scrutinizing state university foundations. And he said that Florida cannot afford to freeze college tuition.

He tends to think that lawmakers (and the press) are in a bubble in regards to the general public’s attention span. In describing the uproar over former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli pulling the House out of Session days before it was scheduled to end (only to have to come back in a special session), he says ,”Not a single person called my office caring about that. It just wasn’t relevant to their lives.”

Acknowledging that it’s like a cliche, but Ring describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. And he is coldly realistic about his chances of success in capturing the CFO seat next year.

It would require raising an “incredible amount of money,” having a solid campaign team and essentially ignoring the Florida Democratic Party. The bigger challenge, he said, is that most Floridians don’t give a hoot about the CFO race, and that part of the campaign will be out of his control.

“What’s the Governor’s race going to look like?” he asked. “Is Donald Trump at one percent or 99 percent?”

Though he said he’s confident of raising substantial money both inside and outside of Florida and having a strong campaign team, “If Adam Putnam is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then no, but if John Morgan is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then a Democrat’s probably going to win.”

Matt Caldwell raises more than $700K in anticipation of agriculture commissioner run

Matt Caldwell raised more than $700,000 ahead of the the 2017 Legislative Session, building up his coffers ahead of an anticipated 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner.

State records show Friends of Matt Caldwell, the North Fort Myers Republican’s political committee, raised $412,075 in February. That one-month fundraising haul marked the largest fundraising raising period since August 2016, according to state campaign finance records.

The committee raised $66,000 in January. And according to contributions posted to the committee’s website, Caldwell raised another $224,980 between March 2 and March 6. All told, the committee raised about $703,000 between Jan. 1 and March 6.

“I am deeply honored by the broad support we have received,” he said in a statement. “We far exceeded our pre-session goals.”

Caldwell, the chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, told FloridaPolitics.com in February that he intended to file to run for Agriculture Commissioner in August. That decision is meant to honor a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran that members of his leadership team hold off filing to run for higher office until after the legislative session.

Caldwell isn’t the only 2018 Agriculture Commissioner hopeful posting big numbers. Sen. Denise Grimsley, who filed to run in February for the seat being vacated by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, raised $735,000 between her Feb. 1 announcement and March 7, the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Sebring Republican brought $295,000 for her official campaign and $440,00 for her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland.

“Denise is so very honored by the support she received in these first 35 days, and while she is working during the Session to represent her constituents and work for a greater Florida, her campaign team will focus on the road ahead to the primary,” said David Johnson, who is serving as the general consultant to Grimsley’s campaign.

Putnam can’t run again because of term limits; however, the Bartow Republican is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Bob Buckhorn says after Donald Trump, voters may not be interested in a ‘guy like him’

On Thursday, Bob Buckhorn explained why he chose not to pursue the Democratic nomination for Florida governor in 2018.

The Tampa mayor’s decision was mainly predicated on two factors: He did not want to be away as his 15-year-old daughter spends her last few years at home, and he loves being Mayor of Tampa more than he could imagine running for statewide office for the next 18 months.

But lurking below that was a realization; if he ran, Florida voters may not be interested in buying what he would be selling next year.

“I would have been running on the fact that I was qualified, that I had managed large institutions, that we had a track record of accomplishments, that we were not particularly partisan, but I don’t know if that really matters anymore,” the mayor told reporters gathered at City Hall Thursday morning.

“I don’t know what the American public is looking for in their elected leadership. It is a disconcerting time in our country, and for those of us who aspire to lead, it’s the most unusual time that I’ve seen in 30 years.”

Of course, Buckhorn was referring to the electoral earthquake leading to Donald Trump winning the presidency last fall over Hillary Clinton, the woman he campaigned hard for both in and outside Florida.

Although the mayor’s decision was expected, over the past few years, his trajectory about being a candidate had evolved.

Based on his successful leadership leading Tampa out of the Great Recession in the last decade — as well as his outsized personality — Buckhorn was a prominent part of the Democratic bench of candidates for statewide office, and had been for several years.

That speculation went into overdrive after he created his own political action committee (One Florida) in December 2014.

And while he won a huge re-election victory in 2015, the rest of the year was troubled, partly due to a negative newspaper report about the Tampa Police Department, which triggered the progressive activist community, demanding the city create a citizen’s review board. It was a proposal Buckhorn initially resisted.

As funding for his PAC began to dry up in 2016, Buckhorn’s gubernatorial aspirations resurfaced locally after he gave a fiery speech this summer to the Florida delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Buckhorn admitted Thursday his thinking about a run for governor “ebbed and flowed” over the past couple of years, something he said was probably the case with all the rumored candidates, except for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, “who has obviously been committed to this from day one.”

“For me this was not an easy choice,” Buckhorn said. “It was not a straight path. There were a lot of things that I have to deal with that a lot of the other candidates don’t.” He specifically mentioned his two teenage daughters and a full-time job as mayor in the Florida’s biggest media market.

“But at the end of the day, family being first, I just didn’t want the job as bad as I wanted to be the mayor,” he said. “And even though I recognize that two years from now I won’t be the mayor, I’m going to finish strong.”

Buckhorn has more than two years left on the job, which is why he was hardly in the mood to get too retrospective about his legacy. While he championed his role in leading what he called “the Tampa Renaissance,” he drew a blank when asked to acknowledge his greatest failing to date, saying only that whatever mistakes he’s made along the way were “not done with malice or ill intent.”

Buckhorn certainly has the ambition to be governor, and he believes it’s vital for a “regime change” in Tallahassee after two decades of Republican rule in both the Governor’s mansion and the state Legislature.

Speculation has been that while a run for governor wasn’t in the cards, Buckhorn could run for chief financial officer, a job with duties that would allow him more time to return to Tampa on a weekly basis. But he said that decision was always about whether to commit for a run for the top spot in state government, not another Cabinet position. That said, he won’t pursue a run for that office.

A disciple of the 1980s Democratic Leadership Council — the same one that spawned Bill Clinton — Buckhorn’s centrism was always an issue for progressives in Tampa and the state.

With other centrist Democrats like Alex Sink, Patrick Murphy and Charlie Crist losing statewide elections in recent years, there is a part of the party that wants to go further left in 2018.

Buckhorn acknowledges that is a fervent part of the base right now, but he insists that’s not the way to go.

“If we continue to run campaigns based on identity politics or cobbling together interest groups, we’re going to lose,” he said flatly. “We’re a Purple state, and my sense is, and I could be wrong, and certainly the party seems to be heading in a different direction than my governing style, is that if we can’t appeal to the middle, we’re never going to be successful in this state.”

The mayor’s most interested in seeing how other Democrats in the race will fare over the course of the next year and a half. He said that the success of Trump does pave a possible path for attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan as a viable wild card in 2018.

“He could potentially be the Democrats Donald Trump in terms of style and his willingness to shake up political and conventional wisdom, ” Buckhorn mused. “I just don’t know what the voters are looking for. I always thought that experience matters, and that credibility matters, and competence matters and a proven track record matters, but I just don’t know anymore.

“Time will tell, as the country rights itself, if a style of a Donald Trump is what Americans are looking for. If that’s the case, a guy like me, you know, they’re not going to be interested.”

 

Why does Florida use pass/fail for health inspections, not actual grades?

After a local news outlet reported seven Tampa Bay-area Publix grocery stores failed health inspections, the Department of Agriculture pulled all pass/fail grades and inspections from the online database.

“I believe that the pass/fail system is unclear because if it’s a failure, why is it still open?” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam explained to WFTS-TV.

Which raises the question: Why is the state using a pass/fail instead of a simple grading system?

Most regions use either a letter or number grade for restaurant and other health department ratings; restaurants in California and New York are often seen posting “A” scores in full view of patrons and passersby.

Putnam finally decided to kill pass/fail for grocery stores, bakeries and convenience store, which Wendy Ryan of WFTS suggests could be linked to $354,000 in campaign contributions he received from Publix over the past two decades, including flying on the Publix personal jet in 2015.

“Of course not,” Putnam said when asked if the two were connected, “any more than anyone else’s contributions influence. You have to follow the law and do what’s right by the people.”

“I think we need to have a grading scale that is more reflective of the conditions in that store,” he said, “so that the consumers are aware and can make their shopping decisions accordingly.”

It doesn’t help that a transition to a new system will make it difficult for the average consumer to know exactly what is happening at a location. For example, if there happens to be a serious violation, re-inspection or some other discipline, Ryan says, there is now way to know since the state posts no grades anymore.

Nevertheless, Putnam promises the new system will be better. How could it be any worse?

“That’s why the pass/fail system is a failure because an industry leader [which Putnam openly admits is Publix], who has highly trained and highly qualified, nationally renowned food safety standards ought not be mislabeled based on minor infractions.”

The problem is, under the pass/fail system, those Publix violations were not simply “minor infractions.” A grade score could give a better idea of what is going on.

In November, WFTS found through state inspection records that the Publix stores failing in 2016 had significant “priority violations” – including rodent droppings, dangerous food temperatures and other food safety issues.

So how soon will this new (and hopefully improved) grading system be in place?

Putnam’s response: “I’m very aggressive about this, and I’m pushing them to come up with something very quickly.”

Just be glad we aren’t grading Putnam’s performance here – pass, fail or somewhere in between.

Jack Latvala raises nearly $1M in February

Sen. Jack Latvala’s political committee had one of its strongest fundraising period to date, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in February.

Florida Leadership Committee, Latvala’s political committee, raised at least $870,083 during the one-month fundraising period, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. That number is expected to rise to more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.

That one-month fundraising haul boosts total contributions to the committee to more than $7.7 million.

Top contributors during February included FCCI Services, Altria Client Services, The Voice of Florida Business PAC, Mednax Inc., LEMA Construction & Developers, Broadview Realty, Equestrian Sport Productions, Costa Nursery Farms, and Southeast QSR.

The big fundraising month comes as rumors have been circulating that Latvala is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. The Clearwater Republican can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but earlier this month told the Tampa Bay Times he considering a run for governor.

A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers mark one of the biggest fundraising period the committee has reported since 2013. State records show the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015, the next largest haul posted on the state’s campaign finance website.

Latvala is one of several Republicans believed to be considering a run in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran are often mentioned as possible contenders.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made it official this week, announcing he plans to run for governor. State records show he filed his paperwork Tuesday, and he formally announced his run Wednesday. Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and John Morgan are also considering a run.

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

 

Pam Bondi still a rock star with Florida’s GOP voters, new AIF poll shows

Florida’s top lawmakers and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are struggling with low name identification among likely Republican voters, but that isn’t the case for Attorney General Pam Bondi according to a new poll from statewide business advocate Associated Industries of Florida.

The AIF poll of likely Republican voters obtained by FloridaPolitics.com found that 54 percent approve of the job the second-term Attorney General is doing, while just 12 percent have an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion.

Among Florida’s top elected Republicans, Bondi’s ratings only trailed Gov. Rick Scott, who had a net 67 percent approval rating, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who netted 57 percent approval.

Putnam, who is considered an early front-runner to take over for Scott, scored 38 percent approval from the same crowd, with 3 percent voicing disapproval and 20 percent saying they had no opinion.

Putnam did come out on top in the mock ballot test for the Republican primary for Florida governor with 22 percent support, though 71 percent said they were undecided. The next highest vote-getter was House Speaker Richard Corcoran with 4 percent support.

AIF also tested the waters for the cabinet positions opening up in 2018, though each scenario featured “undecided” winning over 80 percent of the vote.

In other words, “there’s no news here,” notes Ryan Tyson, Vice President of Political Operations for AIF.

The low level of support for Corcoran likely stems from the fact only 44 percent 0f those polled knew who he was. Of those, 16 percent said approved of the job he was doing, while 4 percent disapproved and 24 percent had no opinion.

Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala had even lower name ID than the House Speaker, with just 41 percent and 25 percent recognizing their names, respectively.

Still, both enjoyed relative approval from the Republican base: Negron had a plus-11 approval rating and Latvala came in with plus-8.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican Primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

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