Tampa Bay Times shows bias in inauguration story

tampa bay times David Straz
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.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Ron Ogden

    January 15, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    And we’re surprised at the St. Pete Times why?

  • Vintage V.N. Veteran

    January 16, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    Good one Mr. Schorsch! As a resident of Saint Petersburg for the last few years, and a resident of Florida since 1944, I have found the TBT, FKA The Saint Petersburg Times to have fallen into the same trap as many of the formerly great or at least really good newspapers of my younger days: Partisanship!
    When we moved back here, my spouse and I started up again, as formerly, subscribing to TBT for every day; now, Sunday only so we can get the coupons, and if it were not for that, good bye.
    When and if TBT and others of similar ilk decide to present reporting sans opinionating, and label their opinionating appropriately rather than inserting it in what should be the facts, and just the facts, we may once again subscribe full time; somehow, I don’t think that likely.
    Please keep up the good work, and continue to do your best to present both sides of the aisle as objectively as possible.

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.


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