The attorney general said in a statement that R.J. Reynolds “recently sold three of its most iconic cigarette brands – Winston, Kool and Salem – along with a legacy Lorillard Tobacco Company brand, Maverick, to ITG for $7 billion.”
But neither company included the sale into consideration when making their payments to the state under the settlement, she said.
Bondi says they’re now “liable for millions of dollars of missed payments to Florida,” and her motion seeks a court order “requiring payment to Florida for the past and future sales of these cigarettes.”
“The sale of major, pre-existing tobacco brands to another company for billions of dollars does not cause the payment obligations to vanish like a puff of smoke,” Bondi said.
Florida and other states settled lawsuits in the 1990s against the major cigarette makers, including RJR, for “past, present, and future public health care expenses from citizens’ consumption of … cigarettes,” according to the motion.
“RJR and the other major tobacco companies agreed to make annual payments to Florida of several hundred million dollars, in perpetuity,” Bondi’s office said.
ITG did not respond to a request for comment.
Reynolds spokesman BryanHatchell, in an email, said the company “believe(s) we have strong legal and factual defenses to the motions filed today in this case and will vigorously defend against them. However, as this is ongoing litigation, we decline any further comment at this time.”
While giving his blessing to state Rep. Jason Brodeur to run for his current post, state Sen. David Simmons says he’s weighing his options to go after the Florida attorney general’s post, Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat, which Democrats just flipped, or staying full-time with his growing law firm.
The attorney general option could come sooner rather than later, as Attorney General Pam Bondi is widely reported to be in the running for a position in President-elect Donald Trump‘s administration.
If Bondi leaves, Gov. Rick Scott would be appointing a successor. If she stays, she’ll be term-limited out in 2018, the same year that U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy comes up for her first re-election bid in CD 7, a seat Republicans had held for generations before her arrival. Simmons said it was premature to say if he has spoken to Scott about the prospect of being appointed as attorney general.
One way or the other, Simmons, a Longwood Republican, leaves by 2020, when he term-limits out. That’s the year for which Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, announced he was filing to run to succeed Simmons in Florida Senate District 9, which covers Seminole County.
“I am looking at my options,” Simmons told FloridaPolitics.com.
“I know that in 2018 the attorney general position will be open, and maybe earlier. And so, at this point in time, we’ll see what happens,” Simmons said. “And then of course, with the events that occurred in Nov. 2016, I believe that there is a need to have a Republican who represents Congressional District 7. And so I’ll look at option as well. When it gets to be 2020, or 2018 — you know how politics is volatile that we don’t’ know what’s going to happen, and who is going to be running for what positions — predicting what is going on is a very difficult thing.”
Becoming just a private attorney with de Beaubien Simmons Knight Mantzaris & Neal also is attractive, he added. That firm, now using the logo DSK Law, has been growing rapidly and now has 50 lawyers and a full-spectrum practice, headquartered in Orlando with offices in Tampa and Tallahassee. Simmons is the financial managing partner, and practices large commercial litigation trial law.
Simmons first entered the Florida House in 2000 and was elected to four terms. He ran and was elected to the Senate in 2010.
The state attorney general’s prospect appears to be leading his current interests. Simmons said he and Bondi are close friends, and was hesitant to speculate about whether she would leave early, or — out of respect — whether he already was posturing to replace her.
Yet Brodeur’s relatively early announcement of interest in Simmons seat may signal that at least Brodeur anticipates that Simmons’ seat might open up soon.
“Certainly I am very interested in the attorney general’s position,” Simmons said.
“I am an attorney who has been involved in the practice of law, has three board certifications, all of them relating to the active practice of law, and having been now the Legislature and the Senate, and having been actively involved in many major issues.”
Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the latest high profile Republican to back Blaise Ingoglia in his bid for re-election to be the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
“I have been active in the RPOF for 20 years and I cannot recall a chairman that has shown the commitment and dedication to the Republican Party of Florida as Blaise Ingoglia,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued out by Ingoglia on Monday. “That is why I am proud to stand behind him for his reelection as our Chairman, and I encourage our entire Republican Party of Florida to do the same.”
Lopez-Cantera joins his fellow cabinet member, CFO Jeff Atwater, in backing Ingoglia in his election bid. The other members of the cabinet – Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – have yet to weigh in on the race.
Ingoglia is being challenged by Sarasota committeeman Christian Ziegler for the position. Governor Rick Scott has also to weigh in, but he and Ingoglia have never been on the same page, ever since Ingoglia defeated Scott’s hand picked choice for chair, Leslie Dougher, two years ago.
The Senate Republicans and Scott still fundraise separately from the party, an issue that Ziegler has seized on as part of his candidacy. Ingoglia responds that while fundraising is down with the RPOF, it’s still going to the same places to help Republicans win races, and he points to the state turning red with Donald Trump as the most concrete proof that he’s on the right track in leading the party.
Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a good friend of Lopez-Cantera, has also previously endorsed Ingoglia.
In his statement, the Lieutenant Governor said that he has traveled tens of thousands of miles across the Sunshine State in his duties to meet with Republicans, and says more than he can remember, Ingoglia was always there too.
“As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a Chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action,” Lopez-Cantera said.
The election for the RPOF chair takes place this Saturday in Orlando. A third candidate in the race, Lafayette County Republican state committeeman Alan Levy, has announced that he is withdrawing from the race.
Since beginning her tenure as Attorney General six years ago, Pam Bondi has made the combating of human trafficking in the state one of her signature issues. Appearing at Tampa International Airport on Friday morning, Bondi announced the partnership with the airport to encourage travelers to spot human trafficking and report suspicious activity. They can do so by going to a new website, YouCanStopHT.com.
“Thousands of people walk through our airport every single day,” Bondi said. “Partnering with the airport gives us a unique opportunity to spread awareness about human trafficking to thousands of people every single day.”
Bondi said regular citizens can act as the eyes and ears to observing and reporting such transgressions, citing an Uber driver out of Sacramentolast week who grew suspicious after picking up a 16-year-old girl (who he originally suspected was only 12) and contacted local police. The teenager was being sold for sex at a Holiday Inn, the police reported, and her eavesdropping Uber driver had saved her. “That is proof that one person…can make a difference if you know what to look for, because sadly it is all around us,” said Bondi.
“The awareness program will be made available for all of our employees,” said Tampa International Airport Police Chief Paul Sireci.
“We’re trying to save that one person who’s drowning out there,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who said he wanted to deliver a message to the people who might be sexually trafficked right now: “Your captors are lying to you,” he said, adding that his department only wants to help such victims, assuring them that if they come forward they won’t be going to jail. “You’re a victim. And we’re going to treat you like one.”
And Bondi, who joined a lawsuitwith other Republican attorneys general in December of 2014 disputing President Obama’s executive order granting additional protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, said that the undocumented who are being enslaved should not worry about their status if they come out of the shadows.
“That is often how your captor will keep you – by saying we will grab you, and we will deport you, and you are not a victim. That will not happen,” she said, insisting, “We will protect you. We will keep you safe. Because you are a victim.”
Dover House Republican Ross Spano has made the issue of combating human trafficking since being elected to the Legislature in 2012. He said at the news conference that while he didn’t want to “cast any aspersions” regarding Monday night’s national college football championship game in Tampa, but he did say that the ad campaign in Tampa’s airport could only be a plus in trying to heighten awareness this weekend on the issue. Bondi said traffickers bring their victims into cities like Tampa like the NCAA championship game or next month in Houston at the Super Bowl. “That’s why we’re here at the airport.” (Some critics dispute that there are an influx of prostitutes who attend events like the Super Bowl, as this Snopes.com site alludes to).
The state of Florida has over 80 investigations of human trafficking at this time, Bondi said, and over 70 of those cases are active.
Bondi was also asked by reporters about reports about joining Donald Trump’s incoming administration. While she downplayed those reports (which you can read abouthere), she did say that she has talked about the issue of human trafficking with him, and said that he is “committed to fighting human trafficking in our country.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi attempted to deflect questions about the possibility she may soon leave her job to join the administration of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday in Tampa.
Speaking at a news conference highlighting a new human trafficking awareness with Tampa International Airport, the Tampa native said, “I’m very happy being Attorney General of the state of Florida right now. I get to work with these great people behind me every day.”
“And,” she added, “I’m also committed to the President of the United States — elect — to make our country a better country, and get back on track.”
On Thursday, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobsreportedthat Bondi would take a job with the Trump White House, though no particular position was mentioned in the story. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if that were the case, as Bondi was seen visiting the President-elect in Trump Tower last month. She endorsed him at the Tampa Convention Center on the day before Florida’s presidential Republican primary election, an election that Trump won decisively, taking 66 of the state’s 67 counties. With Bondi frequently at his side at campaign events, Trump ultimately won Florida in November over Hillary Clinton by just 1.2 percentage points.
The issue of working under President-elect Trump first surfaced at the news conference at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority’s board room at Tampa International Airport when Bondi was asked if she would be able to continue her efforts in the White House.
“That’s a good trick question. I can tell you that I talked to the President-elect for half-an-hour. We talk frequently, as well as members of his family and his transition team on many issues that don’t involve me. But he is committed to fighting human trafficking in our country. He is committed to backing up the great men and women standing behind me, and we talk about that very frequently. So whether I’m there or here as Attorney General, where I’m very happy being, by the way, I plan on staying involved in that.”
When asked if she had been invited directly by Trump to join his team, Bondi said: “I’m not going to say anything confidential, nor should anyone, including in the Obama administration.”
When a reporter asked if she had a replacement in mind if she were to leave Tallahassee for Washington, Bondi joked, ” You already have me replaced?”
“I try to be grounded,” she added. “We’re doing a lot of great things.”
If and when Bondi is selected for a position in the White House, both she and Trump will undoubtedly be asked again about the $25,000 campaign contribution that her political committee received in 2013 from Trump’s charitable foundation. Shortly afterward, Bondi’s office opted not to pursue an investigation into charges by some Florida citizens that they had been defrauded by Trump University.
After an ethics group had filed a complaint with the IRS regarding the contribution, Trump’s foundation paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS.
Bondi’s office has been vehement that they never were pursuing a case in Florida against Trump U. Although her office said she had only received one complaint, the AP reportedthat complaints against Trump University actually numbered in the dozens and that Bondi had personally solicited the donation from Trump weeks before she learned of the charges.
Her office decided not to pursue a case after the donation was received.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi might be saying farewell to Tallahassee.
Jennifer Jacobs with Bloomberg Politics reported Thursday that Bondi will likely take a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s White House. According to the report, it was not immediately clear what her title would be, and she wasn’t among a list of White House appointments announced earlier in the week.
Bondi’s name has been floated as a possible appointee since Trump won the presidential election. She was an early supporter of the New York Republican, but found herself under a microscope because of a $25,000 donation Trump’s foundation made to a political committee associated with Bondi back in 2013.
Bondi later declined to pursue claims that Trump University defrauded Florida residents.
The Tampa Republican has been tight-lipped about her future. She has met with Trump, but in December said she wasn’t prepared to answer whether she would finish her term as Attorney General.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported Bondi wouldn’t comment on whether she was being considered for a position, saying she would “never discuss anything confidential.”
Rob Johnson, a long-time, respected policy advisor and legislative affairs director, has left the Attorney General’s Office to join The Mayernick Group.
“The Mayernick Group is excited that Rob is joining as a partner in our firm,” said Frank Mayernick in a statement. “We have experienced significant growth and know that as a well-respected professional, Rob has strong relationships and knowledge of the process that will help us continue to serve our current and future clients.
Long on the wish list for private sector recruiters, Johnson served as the Director of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs in the Florida Attorney General’s Office since 2007. He began his time there under Attorney General Bill McCollum, and stayed on after Bondi was elected in 2010.
“I want to thank Rob for his 16 years of service to the State of Florida as a policy advisor, cabinet aide and legislative affairs director,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement. “Rob had a great opportunity in the private sector that he couldn’t pass up and he will be greatly missed.”
Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Johnson served as Gov. Jeb Bush’s deputy director of Cabinet affairs. He was also extensively involved in the 2003 workers’ compensation overhaul during his time working as legislative advisor to the state’s first Chief Financial Officer.
Started by Mayernick and his wife, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group is one of the leading boutique government relations firms in the state.
Often ranked among the Top 20 firms earning more than $250,000 in the state, the firm saw steady growth in the first three quarters of 2016. According to an analysis by LobbyTools, the firm brought in an estimated $430,000 in the third quarter of 2016.
Among The Mayernick Group’s roster of clients are heavyweights like HCA Healthcare, Florida Power & Light and U.S. Sugar.
The husband-and-wife duo with deep connections in the Florida Senate also does work for several “white hat” clients including maternity and infant health charity March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida, Lutheran Services and the PACE Center for Girls as well as industry-centric “food fighters” such as AT&T, Alkermes Plc and Dredging Contractors of America.
Johnson’s years of public sector experience will likely mesh well with the team at The Mayernick Group. Before striking out on his own, Frank Mayernick served as the legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
He also served under the Speaker’s Legislative Fellowship Program, working in the House Rules Committee, and worked as an aide to both Sen. Charlie Clary, a Destin Republican, and Rep. Jerry Melvin, a Fort Walton Beach Republican.
Tracy Mayernick, meanwhile, boasts a strong appropriations background, as well as a history of working on healthcare, telecommunications, environmental, agriculture, economic development, transportation and criminal justice issues.
Johnson’s last day at the Attorney General’s Office was Tuesday. His first day at The Mayernick Group is Wednesday.
“I look forward to working with professionals like Frank and Tracy and am committed to providing the firm’s clients with sound strategic counsel as we move into the 2017 Legislative Session,” said Johnson in a statement Wednesday.
A Florida State University graduate, Johnson is married to Alia Faraj-Johnson, the senior vice president and Florida public affairs leader at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. The couple lives in Tallahassee with their 8-year-old daughter.
Over the weekend, the Times’ Rick Danielson and Sue Carlton shared a byline online where they essentially discussed the Bob Buckhorn Experiencein Tampa, close to six years after he was elected mayor.
Although the initial thrust of the story was how the Mayor wasn’t above looking a little silly on occasions to sell a particular program or event, it ultimately evolved into an overall review of his time in office to date.
“ … it’s clear that Tampa has been reshaped — and in some spots, resurrected — during Buckhorn’s years in office,” the authors write, and the mayor clearly approves, including a link to the story in his weekly email newsletter he sends out to constituents.
As is commonly known, Buckhorn is still kicking around the idea of running for a statewide office next year. And while his timeline has shifted from immediately after the election to early in 2017, there seems to a shift in plans.
Once considered a shoo-in to run for governor, that’s hardly the case now. Some advisers have suggested that he consider running for the Chief Financial Officer position, because unlike the role of governor, he’d still be able to return home most weekends in Tampa to be with his family (You don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pam Bondi over the years has held a number of Tampa public events on Thursdays or Fridays, do you?). Also, the fact of the matter is there aren’t any heavyweights in Florida politics that have been publicly associated with running for CFO yet, as opposed to the governor’s race (where Richard Corcoran, Adam Putnam, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine are all strongly thinking of entering the contest).
There is also the likelihood that Buckhorn shucks those ambitions, and hunkers down to finish the work that he was re-elected to original do in 2011. Unlike in some other cities, Tampa’s charter limits the mayor to two terms (hence the fact that Rahm Emanuel‘s predecessor as Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley, ruled the roost there for more than two decades), or there’s a decent chance Buckhorn might prefer to stay on after 2019, if the electorate were to continue to have him.
However, that’s not the case today, meaning the mayor’s options are limited politically if he doesn’t take a run for statewide office next year.
Tampa Bay area state Sen. Tom Lee has filed legislation killing the recently created state agency responsible for parceling out potentially millions for the construction or improving of sports facilities.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised more than $2 million in 2016, boosting his war chest ahead of a likely 2018 gubernatorial bid.
State records show Florida Grown, Putnam’s political committee, raised more than $2.3 million through Nov. 30. The committee has raised more than $6.3 million since February 2015, according to state campaign finance records.
Records show Florida Grown spent nearly $1.4 million in 2016, including at least $240,000 for political consulting and $51,450 for advertising and advertising design work.
Putnam is one of several Republicans pondering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. While he hasn’t formally announced his plans for 2018, many consider Putnam to be the man-to-beat in what will likely be a crowded Republican field.
Former House Speaker Will Weatherford announced on Dec. 22 he decided against a 2018 bid, saying his role in the 2018 gubernatorial election “should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate.”
“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”
But Weatherford is far from the only Republican considering hoping in the race. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is believed to be considering a run, and a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer tested how Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and former Rep. David Jolly would fare on the ballot.
The field is expected to be just as crowded on the Democratic side. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham; John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and top Democratic donor; Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all considering a run.