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Frank White

New website slams Frank White as ‘liberal’ using ‘family money’

While Frank White continues pumping money into his campaign, newly formed political committee Truth in Politics is up with a new website blasting the Republican Attorney General candidate as a ‘liberal’ using his ‘family money’ to seek the statewide seat.

The website, FamilyMoneyFrank.com, promises to be updated daily and the first round of attacks shows the financial connection between White’s Attorney General campaign and liberal politicians and organizations — namely, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama.

The connection: The Automotive Free International Trade PAC.

White’s father-in-law and employer, auto dealership mogul Sandy Sansing, donated to the fund during the 2008 election cycle. The fund later made contributions to Democratic politicians. During the 2018 cycle, Sansing Holdings has contributed $150,000 to his son-in-law’s political committee, United Conservatives, while several of his businesses have chipped in $3,000 apiece to White’s official campaign account.

“The same shady money that has bankrolled liberals like Obama into the White House and Pelosi into the Speaker’s chair is now bankrolling liberal Frank White as he attempts to go from the showroom to the Attorney General’s office,” the website says. “We can’t trust this salesman with his family’s money. Florida shouldn’t trust him as Attorney General.”

The website also highlights a recent complaint filed with the Florida Elections Commission accusing White of accepting political contributions outside the legal limits.

That complaint, filed by Raymond Mazzie of Tallahassee, seeks to source the large cash infusions White has made to his campaign —his first month in the race saw him pump $1.5 million into his campaign account, and he followed that up with another $1.25 million in May.

Citing White’s 2015 and 2016 financial disclosures, the complaint alleges White would have had to liquidate all of his assets to come up with that money. The White campaign says his wife, Stephanie White, contributed the money from a stock dividend.

White is running against former circuit court judge Ashley Moody in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Current AG Pam Bondi cannot run again due to term limits. The winner of GOP nomination will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election.

Florida Politics reached out the Frank White campaign and it responded by sending a press release about an unrelated attack on Moody.

Images from the website are below.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Weathering the storm

Clouds are brewing over the journalism industry, but the long-term forecast is promising.

That’s according to Diane McFarlin, the former publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and current dean of the University of Florida College of Journalism. She delivered a media ‘forecast’ to an audience of UF alumni in Tallahassee this week.

Diane McFarlin offers a grim warning for the short-term, with hope on the horizon.

In the short term, “It’s all clouds and storms,” according to McFarlin. And it’s not getting any better soon, in fact, it “looks like a hurricane is coming upon us.”

“Financially, a decline that began more than a decade ago for the newspaper industry has accelerated,” McFarlin said, adding that newspaper employment pales in comparison to its glory days stats.

But there’s hope.

Describing the “silver linings from what has probably been the most tumultuous decade in the history of American media,” McFarlin expressed faith in the future of journalism. Her extended forecast: “Partly cloudy skies with rays of sunshine.”

She cited reputable recent polling that found increased trust in professional journalists and other “voices of expertise.”

As well, the proliferation of fake news and deceitful information has been met by a push for media literacy, noted McFarlin.

She also estimated that the shuttering of local news publications will be counterbalanced by an increased demand for journalism, perhaps through new media publications.

And from her post overseeing prospective journos, she is optimistic about the upcoming professional class of Americans.

“They are not impressed by power and influence, they are impressed by authenticity and veracity,” McFarlin said. “That’s what they want in their bosses. That’s what they want in their leaders. That’s what they want in their country.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Scott battles wealth lawsuit — Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott are encouraging a state appellate court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Scott’s financial disclosures. An attorney representing the Governor this week asked the court to let wealth disclosure compliance issues be decided by the Florida Commission on Ethics, as the law prescribes. But Donald Hinkle, who filed the original lawsuit challenging Scott’s 2017 disclosed net worth, argued the Commission does not provide a reasonable avenue for appeal. “It was dismissed. We cannot appeal. That’s the end of the road,” Hinkle said, according to the News Service of Florida. “Is there to be no opportunity to review the disclosures of any elected official, every constitutional officer in this state?” The appellate court has not yet ruled on the matter.

Lawmakers plan to boost election security — Federal funding is on its way to county elections offices. During a Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting this week in Tallahassee, lawmakers approved a request from Secretary of State Ken Detzner to distribute $19.2 million from the federal government to Florida’s 67 counties. Each county will at least receive $50,000. The money will be used to beef up elections security systems and voting facilities. It will also be used to fund five cybersecurity specialists and voter education. The news is welcome to those who fear election systems can be compromised, but concerns still were raised over how the money will be spent. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told the News Service of Florida that he fears counties could spend the money recklessly if they are forced to spend it all ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

Extra citrus, medical marijuana dollars approved — More money than originally planned is on the way for regulators of the state’s medical marijuana industry and citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission agreed in Tallahassee this week to dole out another $13 million to cover operating costs at the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The group of lawmakers also approved a $340 million federal grant for citrus growers to cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation and repairs to irrigation systems. The extra money requested by OMMU will be used to fund ongoing litigation, review four new provider licenses and develop a new computer tracking system. The citrus grant money was announced by the United States Department of Agriculture in May, and Gov. Scott urged the Commission to approve the dollars ahead of its meeting.

State readies Hope scholarships — Florida students who are bullied could be eligible for a new remedy as early as the upcoming school year. The Florida Board of Education approved a rule this week that authorizes school districts to send parents a form giving them the option to enroll their student in another public school or charter school if he or she is bullied, harassed, or is the victim of other violent acts at school. That action follows a new law passed this year that created the Hope scholarship program. The voucher-like scholarships will fund bullied students’ transitions to different schools. Reports the News Service of Florida, “State analysts project 7,302 partial-year Hope scholarships being awarded in the 2018-2019 school year, with some $27 million in funding.”

Marsy’s Law challenged — A South Florida defense attorney is challenging a proposed amendment that seeks to expand rights granted to victims of crime. The attorney, Lee Hollander, filed the amendment last week, arguing the ballot summary is misleading. The suit alleges that the amendment “fails to inform voters that it will result in the loss of current constitutional rights of criminal defendants, purports to ‘create’ constitutional rights for victims of crime even though rights for crime victims already exist in the Constitution (and) fails to inform voters that it curtails time allowed for criminal appeals,” according to the suit. Known as Marsy’s Law, the bundled provisions are set to appear on the ballot this November as Amendment 8. The language focuses largely on enumerating certain rights to victims of crime and their relatives. Amendment 8 was placed on the ballot via the Constitution Revision Commission. It needs 60 percent voter approval to pass.

Scott, Nelson appear at sportfishing convention

Last Friday, a niche audience attracted two top-ballot Florida candidates in Orlando.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and challenger Gov. Scott spoke separately to fishing industry leaders at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades — or ICAST.

“Fishing is more than a pastime in Florida: it’s part of our heritage. And I believe it’s part of our future. So we must restore and conserve the lands and waters, the corals and the mangroves, and ultimately: the fish. The fishing industry supports thousands of jobs and helps our local economies in Florida,” said Sen. Nelson.

In 2016, Rick Scott proclaimed July as Keep Florida Fishing Month.

Scott, citing 128,000 supported by the fishing industry, told the crowd, “We’ve worked hard to protect fishing opportunities in our state by offering license-free fishing days, fighting to expand the federal red snapper season and securing legislation to encourage safe boating. We have also stepped up and made major state investments in the natural resources that help make Florida the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’ such as our iconic Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.”

ICAST, the largest sportfishing trade show in the world, drew more than 15,000 attendees. It’s produced yearly by the American Sportfishing Association.

Jobs numbers still strong

Gov. Scott announced Friday that “Florida businesses have created 16,900 private-sector jobs in June and 172,600 in the past year, for 1,554,800 jobs since December 2010.”

Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 74 of the past 75 months, according to the Governor’s Office. The only month that Florida did not exceed the nation was due to Hurricane Irma.

Rick Scott touts job growth at a campaign stop in Jacksonville.

In June, Florida’s unemployment rate remained at a low 3.8 percent, a drop of 7 percentage points since December 2010; this drop is faster than the national decline of 5.3 percentage points.

“We proudly serve as a model for the nation on how to build business and secure continued economic growth and success,” Scott said in a statement. “Our playbook of cutting taxes and eliminating thousands of burdensome regulations has created real momentum in Florida, allowing us to make historic Investments in things families care about — like education, safe neighborhoods and our environment.

“As our economy keeps booming and bringing thousands of families to Florida, the entire country is taking note.”

Florida’s annual job growth rate of 2.3 percent continues to exceed the nation’s rate of 1.9 percent. In the past year, 130,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 1.3 percent, which is greater than the national labor force growth rate of 1.2 percent.

USDA launches disaster-relief sign-up

Florida growers are one step closer to receiving some of the more than $2 billion in disaster-relief funding passed by the federal government this year.

United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week the farmers nationwide who were affected by wildfires and hurricanes in 2017 can now apply for assistance money approved by Congress and President Donald Trump.

Farmers can now apply for federal assistance money, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week. (Image via Getty)

“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”

The funding spawned the creation of the USDA’s 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP), which seeks to distribute $2.36 billion worth of federal funding to “agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,” according to the USDA.

The program will cover losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines for producers.

WHIP will distribute individual payments to farmers worth up to $125,000. But, per the USDA, “Producers who derived 75 percent of their income in tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be subject to a $900,000 payment limitation.” Producers who did not insure crops will receive 65 percent of their expected crop value if they are eligible for WHIP funding. Meanwhile, insured producers could receive up to 95 percent of their expected crop value.

FDACS targets phony charities

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now part of a growing list of government bodies seeking to help Americans avoid fraudulent charities that claim to aid veterans or current members of the military.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week announced that his agency joined “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide partnership, spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission.

Adam Putnam is teaming up with FTC, Pam Bondi to crack down on veteran charity scams.

“The brave men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom deserve all the support we can provide. It is deplorable to exploit our nation’s heroes by scamming Floridians out of hard-earned money,” said Putnam.

Putnam’s agency joins the FTC, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and law enforcement officials and charity regulators across the country in the partnership.

Offering tips to prospective charity donors, FDACS suggests Floridians ask questions like: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request?”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?” Charities registered with the agency can be found at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

Florida Independent Living Council

Tyler Morris and Whitney Harris were reappointed to the council. Morris, 33, of Jacksonville is the executive director for Independent Living Resource Center, Jacksonville Center for Independent Living. His new term ends June 30, 2021. Harris, 27, of Tallahassee, is the comptroller for the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology. Her term also ends June 30, 2021.

Pinellas County Commission

Jay Beyrouti fills the vacancy created by the passing of former Commissioner John Morroni. A Redington Shores resident, Beyrouti, 66, is a small-business owner. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and international business from Sacred Heart Business School.

Holmes County Hospital Corp.

Joseph Sowell, 76, was reappointed for a term ending Aug. 10, 2021. He is a retired district supervisor with General Telephone and Electronics.

North Florida Community College District Board of Trustees

Alton Williams Jr., 75, of Live Oak, is the retired sheriff of Suwannee County. He also served in the Florida Army National Guard from 1960 until 1968. Williams is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Billy Washington, 42, of Pinetta, is the past president of Briggs, Washington and Thompson Land Surveying, Inc. and serves as the Madison County Clerk of Court. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Washington is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Sandra Haas, 70, of McAlpin, is a retired attorney for the 3rd circuit for Guardian Ad Litem in Florida. She received her bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Florida. Haas is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Public Swimming and Bathing Facilities Advisory Review Board

Gerald D. Robinson, 47, of Auburndale, is a professional engineer with the Florida Department of Health. He succeeds Darrel Graziani and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.

Eastern Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Bruce Deardoff, 70, of Cocoa Beach, is the chairman of Deardoff Automotive Group. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University. Deardoff succeeds Dewey Harris and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.

Dr. Edgar Figueroa, 62, of Melbourne, is a trauma surgeon with Health First Melbourne. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Central del Este. Dr. Figueroa succeeds Myra Haley and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Group urges AHCA on behavior analysis

The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, or FABA, is calling on the state Agency for Health Care to address delays in approval and authorization of behavior analysis centers.

FABA is faulting a third-party contractor, for harmful delays that last a month or longer. Children with autism or other developmental disorders are hurt by these delays, FABA claims.

“These delays are inexcusable and are causing heartache for so many children and families who desperately need the services provided by qualified behavior analysts,” said Nikki Dickens, president of FABA. “Our state government simply cannot sit back while these vulnerable children suffer as a result of an ineffective and inefficient bureaucratic system.”

The contractor, eQHealth Solutions, was hired by AHCA “to process Medicaid assessments, authorizations, and claims for behavior analysis services.” But once working under AHCA, eQHealth terminated all prior approvals from a different contractor and required all behavioral analysis providers to once again seek authorization by the state.

“AHCA has repeatedly said there will be no loss of service for children who need behavior analysis services, but we are hearing from countless providers and families across the state who say that is simply not true,” Dickens said.

“This problem must be addressed immediately, and it must be addressed with the top priority on helping those Floridians who need the services that skilled professionals can provide.”

FHP breaks ground on new training complex

The Florida Highway Patrol this week began construction of the state’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex.

It’s an addition to the agency’s Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana and will feature a 1.4-mile driving track to sharpen law enforcement officers’ driving skills.

Construction has begun at Florida’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana.

“I am incredibly proud to break ground on the Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex. The support for this new, innovative complex is a testament to the state’s commitment to law enforcement officer safety and the safety of motorists on our roadways,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “This new facility enhances training for law enforcement by providing real-world scenarios, best preparing our Troopers and officers to safely navigate the events they will undoubtedly experience as they work to protect us each day.”

The Legislature, Governor and Cabinet supported funding the new complex, according to the DHSMV.

The agency said its officers drive 32 million miles each year and expressed confidence that the track will make a significant difference in statewide vehicle operations.

“The complex will offer advanced training to include traffic incident management, high-speed driving and comprehensive vehicle operations to improve public safety,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Florida shines at UK airshow

Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs incentive initiative, once again displayed the largest exhibit of any U.S. state at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.

Dubbed the Florida Pavillion, the exhibit housed 12 participating Florida aviation-related companies and organizations. Per Enterprise Florida: “Last year, leading Florida-origin exports reached $6.3 billion in civilian aircraft, engines and parts. Another $678 million in turbojets, turbo propellers and parts was exported to countries around the globe.”

Florida reaps millions in contracts from the Farnborough International Airshow.

Enterprise Florida and businesses demonstrated to airshow attendees Florida’s competitive advantage in aviation.

“Events like the Farnborough Airshow allow us not only to help small and medium-sized Florida businesses expand their international footprint, but also to meet with leadership and decision-makers for some of the world’s leading aviation and aerospace companies,” said Joe York, vice-chair of Enterprise Florida’s Board of Directors. “The Florida Pavilion demonstrates the state’s leadership in the industry in a way no other state can match.”

Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development organization, attended the airshow.

“Space Florida is again pleased to join Enterprise Florida in representing the State of Florida at the Farnborough Air Show,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “Such opportunities significantly help Space Florida and Enterprise Florida continue our path to make Florida the leading U.S. state in the global aerospace industry.”

FSUPD releases active shooter PSA

An unfortunate sign of times: Florida State University Police Department is instructing students on how to act during active shooter scenarios.

Titled “Run. Hide. Fight,” the law enforcement arm of the university released a nearly 7-minute-long instructional video this week depicting an active shooter storming a campus building in broad daylight.

The university warns that viewer discretion is advised. According to campus authorities, the video “is designed to educate and prepare citizens to deal with an active aggressor in any setting.” The actors in the video, who depict law enforcement and students, offer realistic tips throughout the clip.

To view “Run. Hide. Fight.,” click on the image below:

While the attack in the video is fictional, its rooted in some truth at FSU and the state. In 2014, a gunman opened fire at Strozier Library on the campus, injuring three students. Earlier this year, a shooter killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“The video was created to enhance the in-person training provided to employees and students at the university. We hope people will remember these important and potentially lifesaving tips when they are on or off campus,” said David L. Perry, FSU chief of police and assistant vice president for Public Safety. “Being prepared mentally is a major component to surviving a serious event, and we believe the video will encourage people to consider their options when an emergency occurs.”

Summer safety in Tallahassee

Authorities this week convened at the FHP Troop H building in Tallahassee to promote safety tips for the hot summer months.

Visuals depicted the dangers of leaving pets or children in the car during times of extreme heat. Specifically, observers were shown a life-size doll in a hot car. The doll was later transported by Leon County EMS for treatment.

To prevent accidents this summer, parents must be proactive, says DCF Secretary Mike Carroll.

The effort is ongoing via a partnership between the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the state Department of Children and Families. Local law enforcement personnel throughout the state also are involved.

“It only takes a moment to be proactive and ensure your child is safe, to prevent a fatal accident,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “During the upcoming months, take advantage of the information shared with you today and throughout the next few months, so that your summer will be filled with wonderful memories and fun times.”

“Florida summers are extremely hot and leaving a child in a car for any amount of time is neglectful and can have deadly consequences,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “DHSMV encourages all motorists to Arrive Alive by not only driving safely but by also confirming that all passengers are out of the vehicle when they reach their destination.”

FAC recognizes Leon commissioners

The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) recognized Leon County Commissioners for their commitment to public service and leadership during the 2018 FAC Annual Conference in Orange County.

At the conference, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox rose to president-elect of the association. Next year, Maddox will serve as President and oversee the direction of policy, advocacy, and the administration of the Florida Association of Counties.

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is among those recognized by the Florida Association of Counties.

In addition, some Leon County commissioners were recognized:

— Commissioners Maddox, Bryan Desloge, Kristin Dozier, and Mary Ann Lindley received the Presidential Advocacy Award, given annually to county commissioners “who have shown exceptional leadership in partnering with FAC to advance the legislative agenda of counties.”

— Commissioner Jimbo Jackson was honored with the Certified County Commissioner (CCC) designation, “a voluntary program of study designed for county commissioners who want to learn the ins and outs of county government while enhancing their skills as an elected official. To earn the CCC designation, participants must complete 45 hours of coursework, the majority of which is offered during FAC conferences and events.”

— Dozier received the status of Advanced County Commissioner (ACC), “a program that consists of three sessions that focus on leadership development and issues affecting Florida’s future. Altogether, the courses total 27 hours. To earn the ACC designation, participants must have completed the CCC program and all three ACC sessions.”

— Desloge, Lindley and Maddox received Torchbearer Recognition, “ACC alumni who continue to be engaged in FAC activities and education programs. The Torchbearer program recognizes those ACC Alumni for their ongoing commitment to FAC and continued learning.”

Dozier elected vice chair of Florida Counties Foundation

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier was elected vice chair of the Florida Counties Foundation. She will assist with “providing high quality and comprehensive educational opportunities for county commissioners and staff throughout Florida,” a press release said.

The Florida Counties Foundation has continued to build FAC’s educational offerings over the last 20 years. Specifically, the programs are designed to educate commissioners and county staff on their duties and to encourage them to be leaders within their communities as well as FAC.

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier.

Dozier said, “As county commissioners committed to serving our citizens, we do our best work with an in-depth knowledge of government structure, ethics laws, budgeting methods and strategies, as well as economic development and growth management. This role is an exciting one to help set curriculum and goals that will shape our future.”

The Foundation oversees the County Commissioners Voluntary Certification, Advanced County Commissioner Education programs and the content for FAC’s Annual Conference.

Leon County tops in tech

For six consecutive years, Leon County has earned top honors by “harnessing technology to increase services and efficiencies for its citizens,” a press release this week said.

The county ranks among the top 10 in the nation in its population category for implementing the best technology practices, according to the 2018 Digital Counties Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo).

“Leon County is proud to yet again be recognized as a local government leader in the area of technology,” Commission Chairman Nick Maddox said in a statement. “We’ve raised the bar in many areas, such as in disaster communication with our Citizens Connect mobile app, which provides up-to-the-minute emergency updates right to your phone.”

NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase.

In the past year, Leon County has completed or made substantial progress on important technology projects. Just a few examples include implementing digital signage at county facilities and continuing to deploy an updated permitting system that takes advantage of mobile and online technologies to further improve service.

Leon County’s “embrace of cutting-edge approaches has benefited residents while ensuring good stewardship of taxpayer resources,” added NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase.

It’s spiny lobster season

The 2018 spiny lobster mini-season will soon be upon us.

The two-day recreational mini-season takes place July 25 and 26. In 2016, more than 69,000 people participated.

It’s spiny lobster time!

“Florida residents and visitors look forward to the start of spiny lobster season all year,” said Bo Rivard, chair of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “This Florida tradition is one of the many reasons Florida is the fishing capital of the world.”

You can learn about bag limits, size limits, where to harvest and other regulations at MyFWC.com/Fishing and click “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

Get your license and spiny lobster permit at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Lobster mini-season is followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, 2019.

Capitol Directions

Adam Putnam dismisses concealed weapon permits reports as partisan attacks

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam on Thursday dismissed a steady stream of reports raising concerns about his Department of Agriculture’s handling of concealed weapons permits as an extension of the Democrats’ gubernatorial campaign.

Speaking to reporters in Winter Park alongside Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida’s agriculture commissioner said the reports are purely political and not legitimate concerns.

Bondi spoke up too, first saying that the attorney general’s office has no jurisdiction to look into any of the complaints, and then that she doesn’t see the need anyway because she said they have been thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Inspector General’s Office.

“It’s become an extension of the Florida Democratic Party’s governor’s race,” Putnam said of the reports. “It’s not legitimate, and it’s trying to undermine the hard work of our sworn officers and officials who are serving Floridians every day.”

Putnam was responding to a series of recent reports that first found that an official in his office who vetted concealed weapons permit applications had failed for more than a year to use a key federal background check database; that a whistleblower was fired after she tried to raise red flags about misconduct in the Bureau of Licensing; and that the department had reportedly put in a quota of approving at least 75 concealed weapons permits a day.

Bondi, who had joined Putnam at the opening of his Central Florida gubernatorial campaign office to offer him her support, also was responding to inquiries about a request by state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, that someone conduct an outside investigation of the concealed weapons permit program.

She said the inspector general’s office includes sworn law enforcement officers who should be trusted to report any misconduct they uncovered “right away.”

“I’m sure it’s been done,” she said of the investigation.

Pam Bondi gives full support to ‘dear friend’ Adam Putnam

Needing a little love in a month that so far has gone largely his opponent’s way, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam drew full support from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday, as she said the Florida agriculture commissioner “is like family to me.”

Bondi has long supported Putnam but Thursday’s appearance, as he opened a campaign office in Winter Park, gave her the opportunity to make the strongest public endorsement of her fellow cabinet member whom she called “a dear friend,” and to place the two together on the campaign trail.

“Ethics, intelligence, and humility I think are so important for these jobs. And Adam Putnam epitomizes that here in the state of Florida. I know him personally. He’s like family to me. I know his wife, his kids. I know his heart. He’s a great human being,” Bondi said.

“He cares about the state of Florida. He knows Florida inside and out and he will do everything he can to protect Floridians and take care of our great state,” she added.

Putnam’s primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has surged well ahead in the polls since the June 28 Republican gubernatorial debate, in large part by waving his endorsement from President Donald Trump, has been trying to short-circuit any Florida endorsements Putnam receives, telling rallies, derisively, that all the Tallahassee insiders like Putnam.

Bondi could be different, given her popularity among Florida conservatives and ties – for which she has received her share of criticism — to Trump.

Still, Putnam finds himself in defense mode from DeSantis’ direct attacks, and from the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman’s 20-point surge in many polls in recent weeks, after Putnam had been stumping for 13 months. While DeSantis has been drawing huge, raucous crowds to rallies, Putnam said he’s confident that he’s drawing just as many people to his barbecues.

“Here’s why we’re going to win. We’re going to win because we have the strongest grassroots group of volunteers. We’re going to win because we have a message that resonates across the state.  We’re going to win because I’m the candidate who knows Florida best,” Putnam told dozens of supporters who came to his campaign office opening, including former U.S. Rep. John Mica, state Sen. David Simmons, and state Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon.

Unlike DeSantis, who goes after Putnam by name in his speeches, Putnam referred to his opponent only vaguely, as he talked about knowing every inch of Florida, and thereby implying that DeSantis does not.

“You can’t solve problems from a television studio in Washington,” Putnam said, referring to DeSantis’ frequent appearances on FOX News, which, until late June, had been his prime campaign venue. “You can’t solve our problems with bumper sticker slogans. You have to have solutions. I’m the candidate running for governor who has specific plans, a real agenda, and real-world experience in business and public life.”

Frank White’s pro-life cred earns him Family Research Council backing

Another major pro-life group announced Wednesday that it was backing Pensacola state Rep. Frank White for Attorney General.

The new endorsement came in from the political arm of the staunchly-Christian-conservative Family Research Council, which takes hard-line stances against abortion and LGBTQ rights and in favor of increasing the role of Christianity in public life.

“During Rep. Frank White’s tenure in the Florida House of Representatives, he has stood boldly for life, family, and religious liberty. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, he sponsored a bill that requires H.H.S. to partner with organizations that support and promote childbirth. He also supported a bill that allows parents to challenge politicized public school curricula, a bill that provides pregnancy and wellness services to women in need, and a bill that bans dismemberment abortions,” said Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of FRC Action PAC.

“FRC Action PAC is confident that Rep. Frank White will be a dedicated advocate for limited government, for individual liberties, and for strong family values. He is the leader that Florida needs, and we are pleased to offer our endorsement of his candidacy for election to Attorney General of Florida,” concluded Boykin.

FRC Action PAC joins Florida Right to Life, another stalwart anti-abortion group, in endorsing White, who has already made his pro-life views the subject of a TV ad.

White is one of two Republicans running to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall. He faces former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, who has Bondi’s support, in the primary.

White is up seven points, 26 to 19, in the most recent public poll of the race and he holds a fundraising lead thanks to more than $2.7 million in self-funding. At last check-in, White had raised $3.95 million including self-funding and had $2.15 million banked, while Moody had raised $3 million and had $2.3 million banked.

The winner of the Republican contest will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in November, who leads both Republicans in two recent polls.

Court moves forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issue in gun case

A federal appeals court Monday cleared the way for considering a dispute about whether two teens can remain anonymous in a challenge to a new Florida law that raised the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a two-page document that said it “appears that this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal,” though it said a final determination on that jurisdiction will be made later by a panel of judges who will hear the anonymity issue.

The appeal stems from a ruling in May by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that a 19-year-old Alachua County woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” could not remain anonymous as a plaintiff in a National Rifle Association challenge to the gun law. The NRA also sought to add to the case a 19-year-old man, identified as “John Doe,” who could be affected by the law.

After Walker’s ruling, the NRA went to the Atlanta-based appeals court seeking to allow the teens to remain anonymous. The appeals court, however, raised a question about whether it should consider the anonymity matter and said that if “it is determined that this court is without jurisdiction, this appeal will be dismissed.”

The NRA contended the appeals court has jurisdiction over the anonymity issue. Also, Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, which has objected to the teens remaining anonymous, agreed that the appeals court could take up the dispute.

The anonymity issue is rooted in a federal lawsuit that the NRA filed March 9 after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a sweeping school-safety measure that included new gun-related restrictions. The legislation was a response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and faculty members dead. In part, the law raised from 18 to 21 the minimum age to purchase rifles and other long guns.

After filing the lawsuit, the NRA moved to add the two teens to the case but sought to keep their identities private. NRA attorneys argued in a brief filed June 27 in the appeals court that the teens feared “that being publicly named in and associated with the case would subject them to harassment, intimidation, threats, and potentially even physical violence.” It also pointed to numerous harassing and threatening emails and phone calls received by prominent NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer since the shooting in Parkland and the filing of the lawsuit.

“The context of this case — and of Jane Doe and John Doe’s request to remain anonymous — cannot be understood apart from the tragic February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and its aftermath,” the NRA’s lawyers wrote in the brief. “That event not only led to the enactment of the ban (on people under 21 buying guns) challenged in this case; it was the catalyst for a nationwide effort to restrict the possession and use of firearms. Funded by a group of anti-gun organizations, activists have barnstormed the country advocating restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.”

In ruling against the anonymity request in May, Walker wrote that if “it were entirely up to this court, this court would not hesitate to grant the NRA’s motion.” But Walker indicated he was bound by previous legal decisions.

Based on precedent, “this court finds that mere evidence of threats and harassment made online is insufficient to outweigh the customary and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings,” Walker wrote. “This is especially true where the targets of such threats and harassment are not minors and where the subject at issue does not involve matters of utmost intimacy.”

While the NRA and state await action from the appeals court on the anonymity issue, the underlying challenge to the law signed by Scott has largely remained on hold. After the anonymity issue is resolved, Walker will consider the legality of the gun restriction.

Meanwhile, Hammer filed lawsuits Friday in state and federal courts against five men she says have targeted her with harmful emails and phone calls since the massacre in Parkland.

ashley moody

Ashley Moody pushing ‘conservative’ and ‘prosecutor’ in new TV ad

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody is pushing her bona fides as a conservative and a prosecutor in a new TV commercial that contends politicians “are the system” that needs to be fixed.

Moody, the former federal prosecutor and state judge from Tampa, seeks to place herself outside that system in the new 30-second spot, “Prosecutor Not a Politician,” which subtly sets up attacks on her Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Frank White, and likely general election opponent, Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw.

The commercial also holds fast to the “conservative” credential, repeated three times in the ad, as a buffer against White, who is trying to run far to the right of Moody by calling her a liberal. The commercial also implies a link, albeit with a degree of separation, with President Donald Trump.

As the commercial opens with frightening nighttime images, a narrator declares: “Our streets aren’t safe. Our borders aren’t secure. And our politicians can’t fix the system.”

“They are the system,” Moody then declares.

The narrator goes on to say that Moody is the only candidate who has put criminals behind bars. And, as images flash past of current Attorney General Pam Bondi with Trump, and then Bondi with Moody, the narrator notes Moody also has Bondi’s endorsement, as well as those of nearly 90 percent of the state’s Republican sheriffs.

White, of Pensacola, and his campaign quickly blasted the commercial because Moody has applied to use matching tax money in her campaign, something White’s statement implied would not be done by a true conservative.

“Ashley Moody has her right hand in the pockets of the Tallahassee establishment and her left hand in the pocket of Florida’s hardworking taxpayers,” White stated in a news release issued by his campaign.

Frank White

AG candidate​ ​Frank White says he’ll ‘hold politicians accountable’

State Rep. Frank White, a Republican from Pensacola, decided to seek the statewide Cabinet position of attorney general after serving a single term in the Florida Legislature.

White graduated from Southern Methodist University, where he was the 1999-2000 student body president and where he also received his law degree. He is currently the chief financial officer and general counsel for the Sansing Dealer Group, which has stores in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

White is in a primary battle against Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, for the Republican nomination. The winner will move on to the November general contest to replace outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The News Service has five questions for Frank White:

Q: What reforms or improvements do you see as needed within the Attorney General’s Office?

White: I think Attorney General Bondi has done a fantastic job. She has done a wonderful job. She’s saved lives, particularly in the opioid crisis. I think there are some areas where we disagree. One I’d point (to) would be the identity of Jane Doe in the NRA’s lawsuit against the state. It’s just a difference of opinion where I think Jane Doe’s identity should remain anonymous. I think it’s really a difference in terms of emphasis. One important part of it (the job) will be government accountability, making sure politicians are held accountable. That’s just one area where I particularly want to focus on immediately.

(Has she not held politicians accountable?)

White: No, that’s just an area of interest, an area that I particularly think is important for us.

Q: What legislation of which you were the primary sponsor, whether it passed or not, are you the most proud, and why?

White: I’ve been in the House for two years and probably passed two or so bills in those two sessions. But one that I’m most proud of is one that didn’t pass. It was attempting to pull public financing of campaigns out of our Constitution. It was an issue that I didn’t know about until I decided to run for attorney general and realized we’ve given millions and millions of dollars to politicians — established politicians — to run political campaigns. I looked at the results of that program and it looked to me like welfare for politicians. It benefited incumbents and established politicians. I filed a bill to try to try to remove it. Pushed it successfully through a couple of committees, getting support of my colleagues. No surprise other politicians killed it. So, I wasn’t able to make it all the way to put it in front of voters. It’s something a majority of voters agree with me, that it’s a scheme. It isn’t right for Florida. In this race it’s relevant, because I’m not taking any taxpayer dollars to run my campaign and my opponent is. She will be financed by several hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer dollars to be spent so much more widely or given back to taxpayers.

Q: How does your work at an auto dealership translate into being attorney general?

White: My career in law started in private practice. So, I had a great foundational training as a young lawyer with a law firm with a diverse practice and then moved into a group of business, a group of car dealerships. We’ve got 600 employees. We’re in three different states. It gave me a real appreciation for the issues facing job creators in the state. … Being part of a business, I realize the risk that small business owners take. I realize the regulatory pressures. The extra costs of compliance with government regulation is massive and excessive. Just the complexity of it, you have to have lawyers and consultants to do just about anything in business. I understand the issues that you face in real time, particularly the cost of change in regulations. Not having a predictable business climate, a predictable market place, it means you’re not going to invest, you’re not going to invest your capital in a way that will create more jobs and create a healthier economy. Also, just working in business, I know what it takes to run a large organization.

Q: Where do you stand on the legality of Gov. Rick Scott‘s effort to remove cases from a state attorney who said she would not pursue the death penalty?

White: I absolutely support the governor’s leadership on this issue. It’s a travesty that a state attorney is refusing to pursue the death penalty. I sure wish she had said that to voters during her campaign. They would have been able to weigh in then. So, I support the leadership on the issue.

Q: And finally, the Barbara Walters question. You’ve got to make a meal for three people from anytime in history. Who’s at your dinner table and what are you cooking?

White: Oh wow. My wife is a fantastic cook, so I hope that she is with me in preparing it. If I’m involved, we’re grilling. So, it’s steaks or burgers will be served, with some fantastic sides and desserts, which are her specialty. So, any time in history? I’m going with the big man at (the) top. I’m going with President [Donald] Trump. I’d love to be able to spend some time and to break bread with him. Next, I would say, Gov. Rick Scott. He’s somebody who has been a fantastic leader in government and public service, somebody with private sector experience who has helped move our state into the future in real positive way. I’d love to hear his experiences, his perspectives. Beyond that, who’d be the third. … I’m a country music fan, I’d pull George Strait. He’s one of my all-time favorites. To be able to meet George Strait. But I don’t know how the conversation would go. I’m trying to mold it to have a good conversation. So, I’m going to take George Strait off. … So I might pull (U.S. Circuit Judge and U.S. Supreme Court nominee) Brett Kavanaugh. He’s somebody who is just an interesting and fascinating legal mind, an intellectual thought leader on the issues of an administrative state, which is a similar intellectual interest, passionate interest, and I’ve had some practical experience of that fourth branch of government that our founders did not intend to govern so much of our lives. So, to be able to talk with him about his judicial philosophy of the administrative state and how it has altered the structure that our founders intended.

Marion Hammer files million-dollar lawsuit against alleged harassers

Veteran Florida-based National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer is seeking $1 million in damages, saying she was harassed and threatened by four men from across the country.

Hammer filed a lawsuit, including a motion for preliminary injunction, in federal court in Tallahassee on Friday. The case was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat.

She described herself as “a 79-year-old grandmother and nationally renowned civil rights advocate who has spent the better part of her life protecting the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Hammer is the “victim of cyberstalking, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intrusion upon seclusion under Florida statutory and common law,” her complaint says.

Her verified complaint says her troubles began after “the tragic shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and continuing after the national debate over gun control took center stage.” A Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Broward County high school left 14 students and three staff members dead.

She lobbied against the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” eventually passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, billed as a “comprehensive approach to addressing issues (of) firearm and school safety, and community mental health resources.”

Hammer soon became “the target of a coordinated attack intended to humiliate, harass, and cause substantial emotional distress,” the complaint says.

“For example, Hammer received the same postcards from various individuals throughout the United States, often mailed from the same location,” it says. “In several instances, the content of the communications (including email and social media) Hammer received used the same specific terms and phrases, thus demonstrating direction and cooperation.”

The complaint includes a long list of vituperative messages she says she has received, most using epithets and foul language.

“Whenever she is in public she worries that the people who have been harassing her will confront her and that a confrontation could turn violent,” it adds. “… She adjusted her schedule and the places she eats with her family so that they are not predictable. Her entire family group does not go anywhere together any more.”

The named defendants “sought out Hammer’s e-mail address” and one sent her “graphic photos of gunshot victims, including an unidentified person in a hospital bed with gaping leg wounds, and a photo of President John F. Kennedy’s head after he was assassinated.”

Others consisted of “indirect and/or direct threats accompanied by humiliating and abusive personal attacks.”

Hammer said she’s not alone, mentioning Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi being recently “confronted and harassed by protestors” coming out of a theater in Tampa where she had watched a Mr. Rogers documentary, and state Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, being yelled at that she had “blood on her hands” and called a “killer” and “murderer.”

She seeks an court order forbidding further communication to her from the defendants, calling it “beyond all bounds of decency” and “odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

“Harassment is not speech: It is wrongful conduct that may take the form of speech,” the complaint says. “Consequently, it can be enjoined without running afoul of the First Amendment.”

She’s represented by attorney Shane B. Vogt of Tampa.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. — The News Service of Florida reports a similar second lawsuit was filed later in the day by Hammer in Leon County Circuit Civil court against Brian Fitzgerald, identified as a 66-year-old resident of Miami-Dade County.

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Ross Spano

Ross Spano picks up Marco Rubio, Pam Bondi endorsements in CD 15

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano of Tampa received what could be a major boost Thursday in his six-way Republican Primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District with an endorsement by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Earlier, Spano’s campaign released a poll showing he was 12 points ahead of his closest competitor, former state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City. But with six Republicans running for their Party’s nod to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, someone could when with only 25 percent of the vote, making the race still a tossup.

The Rubio endorsement could be an aid in getting higher than that 25 percent.

“It is certainly an honor and I think it validates the very hard work done by our grassroots organizing,“ Spano said. “I am more energized than ever after this.”

Rubio said Spano has a proven history of advancing conservative values and his credentials as a member of the Florida House.

Spano also has picked up the endorsement from Attorney General Pam Bondi as well as three Polk County Commissioners, in part because of what they called Combee’s meddling in the election to choose his successor to his House seat.

CD 15 includes portions of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. The winner of the Aug. 28 primary will face the winner of the three-way Democratic primary in the general election.

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