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Steve Schale: Florida, persuasion or turnout, or both?

In the never-ending quest to simplify Florida, one of the ongoing debates about winning the state is whether Florida is a state won by winning persuadable voters, or whether it is all about turning out one’s base.

I remember when I started with Barack Obama, I got a ton of advice — most of it unsolicited (much was helpful), though a significant portion went something like this:

“Steve, nothing matters but I-4 … Steve, if you don’t maximize the Jewish vote, you can’t win … Steve, the field is dumb, it is an air war state … Steve, TV is dumb, it is a field war state … Steve, you have to do better with absentees … Steve, don’t waste money trying to convince Democrats to vote by mail … Steve, you have to watch your floor in North Florida, or you can’t win … Steve, you have to take Obama to Condo X, or you won’t win … Steve, you have to pay for bus benches in Miami, or you can’t win.”

You get the point.

Here is the secret — all of it matters. Florida is neither a persuasion state or a turnout state. It is, in my honest opinion, both. It doesn’t matter if it is a presidential cycle or a midterm year, Florida is a state about managing margins, everywhere.

Avid readers of my blog (thank you to all three of you) have read me refer to Florida as a self-correcting scale. The bases of both parties do a nice job of balancing — or canceling themselves out, almost regardless of population or demographic shifts.

Before we go any further — it is important to note that this phenomenon is almost exclusively a result of my party losing vote share among non-Hispanic whites. If we were winning non-Hispanic whites at a level anywhere near Obama 2008, based on the demographic shifts in Florida, we would be a leaning to likely Democratic state.

At the same time — if Florida wasn’t experiencing demographic changes — and the Republicans weren’t losing share among voters of color — particularly Hispanics, we would be a predictably Republican state. Functionally, if either party can broaden their own coalition, Florida quickly gets less competitive.

But these two factors have largely canceled each other out — hence the self-correcting scale.

Let’s review quickly how Democrats and Republicans win Florida.

Because I am a Democrat, let’s start there. Democrats earn their votes in a handful of counties, specifically: Leon, Gadsden, Alachua, Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade.

Winning Democratic candidates typically do a few other things: win Pinellas, win St. Lucie, win a few North Florida counties like Jefferson, maintain reasonable margins counties like in Duval, Sarasota, Volusia, and Seminole. They also maintain a reasonable floor in North Florida, suburban/exurban counties around I-4 and the Fort Myers media market.

For Republicans, their math is a little different — they win a lot more counties but by relatively smaller counties. Their win comes from winning in places like Pinellas and St. Lucie as well as running up the score in places like Duval, the suburban and exurban counties around I-4, and in southwest Florida.

I’ve written extensively about this dynamic in presidential cycles. You can read my primer on Florida here, or my 2016 debrief here and here, but in short, I would argue there was a lot of misreading of the Obama wins in Florida.

Yes, they were driven by significantly increasing the margins in the Democratic base counties over John Kerry and growing them in 2012. But here’s the thing — that alone wouldn’t have won the state. In both 08 and 12, Obama generally kept the margins in check in the GOP counties — and he won the few battleground counties that exist in Florida.

Take Obama 12 and Hillary Clinton 16 — both races decided by a roughly 1 percent margin. For all the chatter about a “less than enthusiastic” Democratic base, Clinton won the base Democratic counties by more than Obama did.

Her problem wasn’t turnout. Her problem was Trump winning the few battleground counties and setting records in both share of the vote and actual vote margins in those places where they must run up the score to win, and where we need to keep it in check.

I can read your mind — “That’s interesting Steve, but this is a midterm cycle, and you know it is different.”

Yes, it is — and no it isn’t.

Yes, it’s different because the electorate is smaller, and at least in the last two cycles, been more Republican (a fact impacted by two consecutive midterm waves for the GOP), which was a change from 06, where turnout marginally leaned Democratic (and Dems won 2 statewide races).

But there are a lot of similarities between the presidential and midterm cycles. Both Republicans and Democrats still need to carry their margins in the same counties as they do in presidential cycles. While the vote totals are different in individual regions and counties are different, the functional roadmaps for winning isn’t.

Rick Scott won two elections by a point. However, the shape of those wins was quite different, and in those differences lies the path to how the Democrats can win in 2018.

In 2010, the Democratic struggles were a creature of three real problems: Hispanic drop-off from 2008, lower participation among white Democrats particularly in Central Florida, and a wave of GOP and GOP-leaning NPA voters who saw voting for the GOP as a way to send a message to President Obama.

From a math standpoint, this led to lower than necessary margins in South and Central Florida base counties. But here is the thing, Scott ran up some very large margins in parts of the state, Alex Sink kept him in check in many others. In fact, she kept him in check by more than enough in many GOP counties to have a winning coalition if the Democratic counties had performed well. But they didn’t.

The lesson of Sink: Florida isn’t alone a persuasion state.

Charlie Crist’s math in 2014 was quite different. Crist ran on a far more progressive platform than Sink, with a fairly robust turnout operation — certainly not the size of Obama, but the largest in midterm cycle history for Florida Democrats, and as a result succeeded to run up the score in the base Democratic counties, winning the three South Florida counties by almost 100,000 more votes than Sink. He also did well enough in the “Crist counties” — the stretch from Pasco through Sarasota, where his brand is most established, winning those counties by almost 2.5 percent, where Sink lost them by a half of a point.

But the floor fell out for him in North Florida. Despite North Florida shrinking as a percentage of the electorate from 2010 (20 percent) to 2014 (19 percent), Crist lost the region by 8 percent more than Sink did, netting Scott’s margin roughly 107,000 more votes, more than wiping out the gains Crist made in the base Democratic counties (97,000 votes).

One other way of looking at it, Crist won the base Democratic counties by 92,000 more votes than Sink did. He lost everything else by 95,000 more votes than Sink. The lesson of Crist, as was also the lesson of Clinton: Florida isn’t alone a turnout state.

If Clinton has her margins in the base counties, plus Obama’s elsewhere, she wins by a point or two.

If Sink had her math, plus Crist’s margins in the base counties, he wins by about a point. If Crist has his margins, plus Sink’s margins only in North Florida, he wins by almost a point.

2018 will be different yet.

The Democratic nominee will benefit from an electorate that is more diverse, meaning the base county margins should rise, and I think there is a lot of room for growth in the Orlando urban core. However, at the same time, they will be unlikely to be able to count on some the margins Crist won in his corner of the state and will have to contend with areas where the GOP population is growing.

The questions aren’t as simple as how do we turnout more voters, but also have to include questions like how do we keep Duval looking more like it did for Obama, Clinton, and Sink than it did for Scott in 14 or Rubio?

For Republicans, they must deal with the fact demographics are changing in a way that helps the Democrats, and that 2018, unlike 2010 and 2014, will almost surely not be a very good Republican year, as we’ve seen in each of the competitive special and off-cycle elections this year.

I believe that in Scott/Nelson, as well as in the Governor’s race, Florida starts this year somewhere around 47-47 — maybe even 48-48, and we will be fighting over the path to that remaining 150,000 votes or so that a winning candidate will need.

Some of those votes are found by increasing turnout, others won and lost in the persuasion fight. The candidate who wins in 2018 won’t find those votes by getting just one of those things right, they will succeed in building the right answer to a puzzle.

That is just how Florida works these days.

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist joins effort to block newspaper tariffs

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has signed on to bipartisan bill that would send the Trump Administration’s new tariffs on newsprint into the shredder.

In a Friday statement Crist made clear that he wasn’t lining up behind the PRINT Act simply to take a jab at the White House, but because the tariff is already costing jobs within his Pinellas County district.

“An unnecessary trade war with some of our closest partners is already having real, negative consequences for our economy and the newspaper industry in particular. The Tampa Bay Times recently announced 50 employees would be laid off due to new tariffs — shrinking newsrooms at a time when thoughtful, credible reporting is needed most,” said Crist. “Newspapers are an integral part of our communities, employing our neighbors and keeping us informed. It’s encouraging to see bipartisan and bicameral support for protecting local news.”

The Tampa Bay Times said the tariff would cause the price they pay for Canadian sourced newsprint to jump by a third. That would cost the paper, and by extension their readers, more than $3 million a year.

That bipartisan support includes the bill’s principal sponsor, South Dakota Republican U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, and another 10 Republican representatives.

Sean Shaw

Florida Young Dems endorse Sean Shaw, Jeremy Ring, 11 congressional candidates

Sean Shaw and Jeremy Ring have gotten the backing of the Florida Young Democrats in their quests for the Florida attorney general and chief financial officer posts, as have 11 candidates in their congressional races.

The YoungDems did not endorse in the governor’s race, the agriculture commissioner’s race, or 16 other congressional races, including several in which incumbent Democrats are seeking re-election, notably U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Al Lawson, and Stephanie Murphy.

Shaw, the state representative from Tampa, faces attorney Ryan Torrens in the August 28 Democratic primary. The winner would face one of several possible Republican nominees, state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, and former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody of Tampa.

Ring, the former state senator, is unopposed among Democrats heading toward a November showdown with incumbent Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

The Florida Young Democrats’ board recommends endorsements, and the candidates were voted on at the annual young Democrats convention, May 18-20 in Miami, by the organization membership.

The organization said it did not endorse if there were two or more Democrats and the vote was close and the candidates were all considered strong progressives, or if the candidates did not meet the organization’s vision on issues. The organization’s bylaws require two-thirds vote backings from both the executive board and the voting membership.

The congressional endorsements went to former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg in Florida’s 6th Congressional District; Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in Florida’s 9th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District; Andrew Learned in Florida’s 15th Congressional District; David Shapiro in Florida’s 16th Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District; U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson in Florida’s 24th Congressional District; Mary Barzee Flores in Florida’s 25th Congressional District; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

“Our priorities in races were trying to support young people and trying to support candidates who had messages that support young people,” said Florida Young Dems President Jake Sanders.

“We’re endorsing our own; that means we’re endorsing some young people against people who are favorites,” he added. “We want to make sure that people who speak to youth issues get recognized for it.”

In the governor’s race, which features two Young Dems, Chris King and Andrew Gillum, along with Philip Levine, Gwen Graham and newly-filed candidate Jeff Greene, “We have people on our executive board for every single candidate,” Sanders said, adding, “Except no one for Jeff Greene.”

In one race – Florida’s 18th Congressional District – the Florida Young Dems decided not to endorse because Sanders has been involved in the campaign of Lauren Baer, who faces Pam Keith in the primary.

Personnel note: Eileen Stuart departs Mosaic Co. for Hopping Green & Sams

Big news in the influence industry: After almost 10 years leading fertilizer giant Mosaic’s lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and Washington, Eileen Stuart is moving on to a new role.

She’s joining the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) in June to helm its government affairs practice.

Stuart will be a shareholder of the firm, though her practice will center largely on state and federal government and regulatory affairs.

“Her expertise in environmental, energy, permitting and tax issues will complement HGS’ deep roster of professionals,” a news release said.

The firm “is a powerful combination of the state’s top environmental and land development lawyers, along with a robust and loyal client base,” Stuart said in a statement.

“HGS’ widely recognized expertise and reputation provide an unparalleled platform, and I am excited to work alongside the exceptional team there to help our clients achieve their objectives.”

Added HGS shareholder Gary Hunter: “We are thrilled to welcome Eileen to the firm. Having worked closely with her over the last decade, we appreciate firsthand Eileen’s substantial talents.”

“Her deep relationships, substantive command and understanding of the key levers in state and federal government will greatly enhance our growing presence in the Florida government affairs arena. Most important, our clients will benefit from her expertise.”

Stuart, a known and respected name in Tallahassee, most recently served as Vice President for Government and Regulatory Affairs for The Mosaic Company, directing the Fortune 500’s state and federal government affairs strategy and engagement in the state and national capitals.

Before that, she was Vice President for Public Affairs and led the company’s strategic communications and community engagement. She will continue to represent Mosaic in Tallahassee and serve as a key voice and face for the company.

Prior to joining Mosaic, she worked in the Executive Office of the Governor under Gov. Charlie Crist where she served as Deputy Policy Director.

She also has worked at the Florida Senate and the Public Service Commission. Stuart received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law. She and her husband live in Tallahassee with their two sons. 

Personnel note: Philip Levine names two deputy campaign managers

Democrat Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign is bringing in a couple of deputy campaign managers to bolster its operations in the South Florida and Tampa Bay regions.

Campaign manager Matthew Van Name said Friday that West Coast area director Jocelyn Mund is moving up to the deputy campaign manager position for Tampa Bay, and former SEIU political director Alex Ring would fill the same role for South Florida.

“Jocelyn’s keen understanding of the Tampa Bay area allowed us to put down roots in the community early, where we continue to build a real network of grassroots support and grow our engagement in local events. She is motivated, highly skilled, and will enhance our campaign’s organizational strengths as we move towards August,” Van Name said.

“Alex will build on our campaign’s strength in South Florida and work to bring Mayor Levine’s message directly to voters. His breadth of experience in the region strengthens our dynamic approach to continue building the infrastructure necessary to win in August and November, and deliver a win for the working people of Florida.”

Prior to joining Levine’s campaign, Mund managed outreach and public events for the St. Petersburg area in her role as Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s deputy finance director. Ring’s background includes the SEIU job and three years as the legislative assistant to Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne during his first stint in the House.

Both newly deputized campaign operatives touted the Levine platform in a press release announcing personnel move.

“This election is a pivotal moment for our state — it’s an opportunity to take Florida in a new direction and elect a Governor who will put people over power,” Mund said. “Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee’s top-down, controlling approach, Mayor Levine will bring the government back to the people.”

Ring added, “This year unequivocally brings the best opportunity for Floridians to change the course of history in Florida and elect a Governor who will empower working families by investing in public education, preserving the right to unionize, and ensuring access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Mayor Levine is the right leader at the right time — he has the experience and proven record of success to build a Florida that works for all.”

Levine is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Democratic Primary to replace termed-out Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Levine leads the Democratic field in fundraising thanks to hefty self-funding and also has a narrow lead in the most recent poll of the primary race, though more than 40 percent of voters were undecided.

Belinda Keiser

Belinda Keiser’s Democratic donations may trouble SD 25 Republican voters

Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser announced her bid for Senate District 25 Tuesday, but her past political contributions to Democrats should raise some questions about her attractiveness to Republican primary voters.

SD 25, held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, covers St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as a piece of northern inland Palm Beach County.

Keiser University’s home base is also in Fort Lauderdale, though it has campuses all over the state, so a donation or two to Democrats in the largely blue South Florida county could be spun by Keiser as being pragmatic — in the age of Donald Trump, she may well say it’s evidence that “our system is broken” and, as a businesswoman, she had to do it.

That might serve as adequate cover for her donation to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Keiser’s Parkland home in Congress. Ditto for her contribs to CD 20 U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Keiser University’s main campus, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who represents neighboring CD 23.

That same logic could apply to the checks she wrote former U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch, Ron Klein and Robert Wexler, but at that point the “had-to-do-it” column is overfilled to the point of bursting.

Assuming Republican voters can look past those, which is a big ask, there’s a veritable host of candidates Keiser has supported that simply won’t be glossed over.

Keiser has cut checks to the failed presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, to St. Petersburg U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. To top it all off, she’s donated to the Democratic National Committee and former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sure, Charlie was a Republican once. And yes, he’s one of the Sunshine State’s most likable pols — he could teach a masterclass in retail politics. But that kind of logic won’t play well among Rick Scott voters. Same goes for Nelson. It doesn’t matter that SD 25 voters re-elected him by 10 points in 2012 — Keiser’s task of making them remember that is doomed in an election year where Nelson is standing in the way of a Scott Senate campaign.

And those Clinton and Gore donations. Yeesh. That’s going to be a hard one to sell in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Then there’s the donations to Boxer and the DNC. There is simply no way to sidestep those.

A Republican who gives to their Democratic congressman? Fine. No GOP candidate is going to take down Deutch, anyway. A Republican who prefers Clinton to Trump? Not the best look in a primary campaign, but she’s definitely not alone on that one.

But in what world is someone who cuts checks to the DNC and boosts the campaign accounts of out-of-state Democrats considered anything other than a Democratic fundraiser? Not this one.

Good luck, Belinda. You’ll need it.

Nancy Pelosi in St. Pete tonight to raise money with Charlie Crist

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg Wednesday for a high-dollar fundraiser benefiting the campaign arm of Congressional Democrats.

“Right now, we’re on offense holding Donald Trump and congressional Republicans accountable for their reckless agenda. Across the country, Americans of all walks of life are standing up and saying no to the Republican vision,” the former House Speaker wrote in the invite.

“Countless supporters have stepped up to fight back. We have the momentum, and we need to do everything we can to take advantage of it. We will take back the House this year, but we need to make sure we have the resources to do it.”

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg home of Kathy and Joe Saunders.

More details are only available after an RSVP, but prospective attendees will need to get their checkbooks ready — the bottom-level donor will need to shell out $2,500 to make the DCCC’s “supporter” list.

The suggested donation levels only go up from there, topping out at $33,900 for a seat in the “Speaker’s Cabinet.”

The invite is below.

DCCC invite 5.2.2018

Let voters decide on felons’ voting rights, advocate says

The man behind a proposed constitutional amendment to restore ex-cons’ voting rights wants voters — not “politicians” — to decide the issue.

Desmond Meade, who’s backing this year’s “Voting Restoration Amendment,” on Wednesday said an appellate court should issue a “stay” in a separate but related federal lawsuit on restoring felons’ voting rights.

The proposal, which will be Amendment 4 on the November statewide ballot, would automatically give back voting rights to felons, save for those convicted of murder and sex offenses. They also must have served all their prison time and probation and paid restitution to victims.

“Current law outlines a difficult process to restore an individual’s eligibility to vote, and Judge (Mark) Walker recently determined that the restoration process is arbitrary and unconstitutional,” Meade said in a statement.

“The problem is that without Amendment 4, any fix still leaves this decision in the hands of politicians and a person’s eligibility to vote should not be left up to politicians and election cycles,” he added. It needs 60 percent approval for addition to the state’s governing document.

In a series of harshly worded rulings, Walker — a U.S. District judge in Tallahassee — found the state’s vote-restoration process violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights. Last month, he gave Scott and the board until Thursday to overhaul what the judge called a “fatally flawed” process and rejected a request by Bondi to put his order on hold.

Scott and the board immediately appealed Walker’s decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked that court to put a stay on what the governor’s office branded a “haphazard clemency ruling.”

Late Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott‘s office announced a 9:30 p.m. Wednesday out-of-calendar meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The next regular meeting had been set for June 14.

The meeting “will give the 11th Circuit as much time as possible to issue a ruling, while still allowing the Board to meet the lower court’s deadline,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said. “We are anticipating that the 11th Circuit will rule soon, but if a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the Board to consider how to respond to the lower court’s decision.”

Under the current process, felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored. After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete. There’s currently a backlog of 10,085 pending applications, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

“Recent polls indicate over two-thirds of Florida voters overwhelmingly support the amendment,” Meade said. “Let’s take matters into our own hands and vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 4 to give Floridians who have made past mistakes the eligibility to vote only after they have completed their full debt to society …”

“These are our family members, friends, and neighbors that have paid their full debt to society and earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.”

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 

#TheDaySunburnWentDark

If you were expecting to read SUNBURN as you usually do on a weekday morning, this isn’t it.

Nor will Takeaways from Tallahassee, our weekend newsletter, appear in your inbox Saturday.

Both of those products are “going dark,” as they say, today and tomorrow as a message to the four leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor, after their debate this week.

Here’s why: It’s one thing to not know that Janet Cruz is the outgoing House Democratic Leader, or what the precise amount of education spending is in the state budget.

It’s another to admit that, either as novice or career politicians, your “morning reads” don’t include SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.

As I wrote earlier this week, “ … not one of the four candidates, when asked what was the first thing they read in the morning, mentioned the state’s largest newspaper. Can you imagine Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, or Charlie Crist not mentioning the Times?”

And The Times needs all the eyeballs it can get. This same week, we learned the paper plans to lay off around 50 people “after new tariffs sent the price of newsprint skyrocketing,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. (I’m still miffed The Times didn’t break its own layoffs story, instead of merely announcing two promotions that same day, but that’s for another rant.)

Here’s how The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam put it in the lede of her debate story:

“Three of the four Democrats vying to replace Rick Scott as governor of the third-largest state in the nation get their news first from The New York Times, and only one, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, relies on his hometown paper [the Tallahassee Democrat] to find out what’s going on in the world.”

Moreover, Orlando businessman Chris King said his first morning read is The Sayfie Review, which typically isn’t updated until 6 a.m. or later.

So I asked myself, “why do we bother?”

Why do me and my staff, POLITICO Florida aces Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, and all the other scribes who labor to put out morning newsletters summing the political and other news of the day — often with exclusives — do it?

After all, three of the four top Democratic contenders to become the state’s next chief executive admit their go-to in the AM is a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.

Even the Democrat, lucky to have the talent of longtime newsmen Jeff Schweers and Jeff Burlew, too often relies on News Service wire copy for politics and government news in its own front yard. (Disclosure: Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff; we’re a subscriber.)

But staff reporters — like our Scott Powers in Orlando, A.G. Gancarski in Jacksonville, and Jim Rosica in Tallahassee — also beat their brains to get news of local and statewide import and scoops on the competition.

I guess I just answered my own question.  

We all do it to inform and enlighten this state’s elected officials, their staff, candidates, campaign professionals, lobbyists, nonprofit groups and anyone else, anywhere, willing to give us their email address or visit, in our case, Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Let’s not forget the Orlando Sentinel (looking at you, Mr. King), the Miami Herald (ahem, Mr. Levine) or a host of other local news sources that produce frequently-updated websites, blogs, newsletters, podcasts and other vehicles to get pertinent news to those who want to consume it.

How about crediting the hard work of veteran John Kennedy? He rose like a phoenix from his ignominious layoff at The Palm Beach Post to report for The Florida Channel and now as Tallahassee correspondent for GateHouse Media’s Florida newspapers, soon to include — oh, the irony — The Palm Beach Post.

No, that work doesn’t seem to break into the Democrats’ headspace. I won’t get into the staff members of those very candidates who pester and plead with us to get their news releases and campaign updates into SUNBURN and/or on our sites.

In fact, we were deluged with emails of post-debate spin trumpeting “bold proposals” and “debate victory,” while blasting opponents’ “poor record” and “misleading statements.” Even as I type, those campaigns are sending advisories about upcoming appearances of their candidates.

C’mon folks.

So that’s why SUNBURN, save for this editorial, and Takeaways from Tallahassee are going dark today and tomorrow.

Yes, we’re as guilty as anybody else for sometimes shedding more heat than light, to mangle T.H. White.

But all of us working in Florida’s news business collectively aspire, in our “newsman’s cart,” to “hurry from hamlet to hamlet … undertaking to purvey all that the human mind need know or the human soul craves, to that day’s date,” as Frederic Jesup Stimson said.

If only the Democratic candidates gave a damn about our wares.

Charlie Crist, Carlos Curbelo push bipartisan bill on misleading, foreign political ads

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo have joined 16 other members of Congress to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would seek to stymie foreign political online advertising like that alleged in the 2016 campaign by Russia.

The bill, House Resolution 4077, dubbed the “Honest Ads Act,” seeks to improve disclosure requirements for political digital advertising so that other countries or their agents cannot seek to influence American elections by buying advertising on social media or elsewhere online.

The bill aims to expand existing Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements from applying just to “broadcasting stations, or in newspapers, magazines, or similar types of general public political advertising” to applying to “in any public communication.”

It also would require very large online platforms to “maintain, and make available for online public inspection a complete record of any request to purchase on such online platform a qualified political advertisement.”

“Radio, TV, and print political advertisements are required to be transparent — social media should not be exempt,” Crist stated. “Disclosure helps protect the integrity of our elections from foreign interference. This is a smart and much-needed bipartisan election reform.”

The effort is a response to increasing revelations that foreign agents, particularly from Russia, attempted to flood Facebook and other social media with unidentified political advertisements.

The bill is being pushed by Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government reform group, which has just published a white paper that found that 14 percent — a total of $1.4 billion — of the money spent on political advertising in 2016 went toward online political ads, but “because of legal loopholes and the nature of digital advertising, who paid for these ads designed to influence the election has been a secret.”

The bill’s preamble declares:

“It is the sense of Congress that the dramatic increase in digital political advertisements, and the growing centrality of online platforms in the lives of Americans, requires the Congress and the Federal Election Commission to take meaningful action to ensure that laws and regulations provide the accountability and transparency that is fundamental to our democracy;

“Free and fair elections require both transparency and accountability which give the public a right to know the true sources of funding for political advertisements in order to make informed political choices and hold elected officials accountable; and transparency of funding for political advertisements is essential to enforce other campaign finance laws, including the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals.”

In addition to Crist and Curbelo, initial sponsors of the bill include Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom Reed of New York, and David Young of Iowa; and Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Costa of California, Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Derek Kilmer of Washington, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, and Tom Suozzi of New York.

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