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Tampa Bay Times shows bias in inauguration story

Plainly put, ‘Florida’s Best Newspaper’ whiffed it

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wouldn’t accept sugar industry contributions for his campaign, so it’s no surprise that the Tampa Bay Times is wrongly filling in the blanks on the political money story du jour.

Looking at all the inaugural events last week, the Times asked: “Who paid for this?”

The newspaper then wrung its collective hands since money came from the Republican Party of Florida, making it “impossible to separate donations used for the inaugural festivities and other party needs.”

Then they found their bogeyman: U.S. Sugar, which “donated $350,000 to the Republican Party of Florida between the midterm election and the end of 2018 – making it the No. 1 donor for that time period.”

Except, well, the Times whiffed it.

When asked about whether U.S. Sugar’s donations paid for the inaugural festivities, RPOF spokeswoman Yohana de la Torre was clear in her response. None of those funds were “earmarked” for any specific purpose.

The Governor’s office, via Meredith Beatrice, reiterated that point.

And to be clear, that’s the same way all contribs given to RPOF, the Florida Democratic Party or any of their affiliated committees are handled. Even money funneled into party committees from candidates isn’t “earmarked.”

Either those answers weren’t good enough or the Times simply chose not to understand them. Perhaps that’s to be expected as the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau gets younger and less experienced in sussing out the fine points of campaign finance.

Rather than seek further clarification, the Times turned to The Everglades Trust Director Kimberly Mitchell and gave her a platform to speak for the Governor.

“It’s not a concern. I know Ron DeSantis and … this is not a man who can be bought,” Mitchell said of the U.S. Sugar contributions. She went on to call the six-figure checks the Clewiston company gave to RPOF “troubling” and lamented the state of modern campaign finance.

There are many arguments that can be made about money in politics, a few are valid, a few are fallacious and most fall somewhere in the middle.

But there’s no middle ground when it comes to this article. The Times is wrong — and verging on irresponsibly so — now that they’re speculating.

For those needing a little more proof that their theory is bunk, let’s play it out to its logical extreme.

Here’s a snippet of the expense on the Florida GOP’s report.

Save Our Everglades tossed $625,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in the 2018 cycle.

Now, here’s a snippet of Save Our Everglades’ report.

The Everglades Trust gave that committee $800,000 in the 2018 cycle.

By the Times’ logic, The Everglades Trust paid for DeSantis’ inauguration. If they asked Mitchell whether The Everglades Trust paid for DeSantis’ inauguration, I’m sure she’d have parroted the same line as de la Torre and Beatrice, that those contributions weren’t “earmarked” for anything in particular.

In the end, U.S. Sugar probably would liked to have donated to the DeSantis inauguration — but I’m guessing they had other priorities.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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