Pam bondi – Florida Politics

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.

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.

State urges dismissal of challenge to gun law

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office this week urged a circuit judge to dismiss a challenge to a law that imposes strict penalties on local governments and officials who violate a restriction on regulating guns and ammunition.

Numerous local governments and officials are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in April in Leon County circuit court. The case is rooted in a decades-old law that gives the state power to regulate firearms and ammunition and “preempts” the ability of local governments to approve such regulations.

In 2011, the Legislature approved stiff penalties for local governments and officials who violate the state preemption law, including potential removal from office and fines. The municipalities allege in the lawsuit that the penalties are unconstitutional. But Bondi’s office this week filed a motion to dismiss the case on a number of grounds, including that the local governments’ arguments are “speculative” because the state has not threatened to enforce the law against the plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the defendants named in these actions (or any other state official) has ‘actually threatened’ them (or anyone else) with enforcement of the challenged provisions,” the motion said. “Instead, plaintiffs allege only that, because they wish to enact and enforce ordinances that may be preempted … they are concerned that they may, at some indeterminate point in the future, be threatened with enforcement by some entity or individual they do not identify. Accordingly, these actions should be dismissed for a lack of judiciable case or controversy.”

The case has been assigned to Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson.

Frank White now leads Ashley Moody in AG race, poll says

A new poll of the Republican primary for Attorney General finds Pensacola state Rep. Frank White with an outside-the-margin-of-error lead over former circuit court judge Ashley Moody.

The St. Pete Polls survey, commissioned by Florida Politics, showed White with 26 percent support among active Republican primary voters compared to 19 percent support for Moody.

The results represent a major shift over last month, when the same pollster found Moody in the lead with 15 percent support with White one point behind. That poll was taken when Jacksonville Rep. Jay Fant was still a contender in the race to replace Pam Bondi. He has since bowed out to apply to be commissioner of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR).

The new poll also found that White has measurable advantages in favorability and name recognition.

Nearly two-fifths of GOP voters knew enough to give an opinion on White, who was seen favorably by 32 percent of GOP compared to 7 percent who said they found him unfavorable. Moody registered 10 percentage points behind in name recognition, though her favorability score was still very positive at plus-17.

Part of the shift in the Cabinet race is likely attributable to White’s TV ads. Last month, White’s campaign announced a $1 million ad buy and an “80 day strategy” that would keep his ads running through the primary election.

The first ad claims “liberal judges and elites threaten the constitution and mock our values.” The second touts his support from the National Rifle Association and “100 percent pro-life” views.

White has put more than $2.7 million of his own money behind his campaign. As of June 22, White had about $2.4 million banked, while Moody had about $2.2 million.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election. Two recent polls show Shaw leading both Moody and White among likely general election voters.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted through an automated phone call polling system. It took responses from 1,387 registered Republicans which were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active Republican primary voter population.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

Frank White releases ad touting Florida Right to Life endorsement

Republican Attorney General candidate Frank White announced an endorsement from Florida Right to Life Tuesday by rolling out a new campaign ad.

The hardline pro-life group, which opposes all abortion even in cases of rape or incest, sent the Pensacola Republican a letter saying that their endorsement “indicates that you are the best pro-life candidate in the race and is a recommendation that our members and supporters vote for you.”

White, who works as general counsel and chief financial officer for his father-in-law’s auto dealership chain, included that endorsement letter in an announcement touting his credentials as a pro-life candidate.

“I am 100 percent pro-life. Our Constitution’s primary purpose is to protect our God given rights, including the right to life. As Attorney General, I’ll ensure defending the rights of the unborn is a priority just as I have throughout my career,” White said. “My wife Stephanie is an adoption attorney and has dedicated her life to finding forever homes for children. For our family, we don’t just talk about being conservative. It’s our way of life.”

The announcement also included a new video ad featuring Stephanie White talking about her career and her husband’s pro-life stance.

“Soon after Frank and I got married, life threw us a surprise and blessed us with twin boys. I decided to pursue a career as an adoption attorney and child advocate,” she says in the ad. “Like me, Frank believes that all life is precious. That’s why he’s spent his career fighting for the unborn and those who can’t defend themselves.”

The ad then turns over to Frank White, who says he believes “that life begins at conception” and that “the most vulnerable people in our society are unborn children.”

Stephanie White continues, “For us, our conservative values aren’t just words. They are a way of life.”

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 has put more than $2.7 million of his own money behind his campaign. As of June 22, White had about $2.4 banked, while Moody had about $2.2 million.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election. Two recent polls show Shaw leading both Moody and White among likely general election voters.

White’s ad is below.

Money flows in GOP Attorney General race

Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody continues to post six-figure contribution totals, while her opponent in the Republican primary for attorney general, state Rep. Frank White, has started to dig into his campaign treasury to pay for ads, new finance reports show.

On the Democratic side of the race to replace term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi, Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa maintains a big lead in the fundraising contest over Ryan Torrens, a lawyer from Hillsborough County.

White, a Pensacola Republican, spent more than $1 million, mostly on advertising, from June 1 to June 22, while raising $84,200, according to campaign finance reports posted on the state Division of Elections website.

White released a pair of commercials last month that are part of a statewide TV ad buy that is expected to run up to the Aug. 28 primary.

The first criticizes politicians, liberal judges and elites that “threaten the Constitution and mock our values.” The second ad highlights White’s pro-life stance and support for the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump.

White, who serves as general counsel and chief financial officer for the chain of Sandy Sansing auto dealerships, has put $2.77 million of his own money into the race.

White had about $2.4 million on hand as of June 22.

Of the $84,200 raised between June 1 and June 22, $39,000 came from other auto dealerships and real estate companies tied to those dealerships.

Braman auto dealerships and real estate companies in South Florida accounted for $24,000.

Moody, meanwhile, posted $285,655 in contributions during the same time frame to her campaign account and the political committee Friends of Ashley Moody.

With $19,150 from attorneys and law firms, and $45,085 from bankers, insurers and real estate interests during the time frame, Moody was sitting on a combined total of more than $2.2 million as of June 22.

Moody, who continues to receive in-kind support from the Republican Party of Florida, also claimed $23,000 from auto dealers in the three-week span.

The Republican Party, through expenditures for research, staffing and consulting, has provided Moody with $382,057 in-kind assistance, including $48,995 in the first three weeks of June.

Moody and her political committee spent $143,647 during the same time, with the largest expenditure being a $100,000 contribution to the state GOP.

She also spent $19,142 on advertising and printing.

Shaw, a Tampa attorney who released his first campaign biographical video on Monday, posted $60,468 in contributions to his campaign account and the political committee Sean Shaw for Florida between June 1 and June 22.

Shaw also benefited from $40,187 worth of in-kind assistance from the Florida Democratic Party.

Shaw put $3,810 of his own money into the contest, and lawyers and claims adjusters accounted for $22,352 of Shaw’s three-week total.

Shaw, a former state insurance consumer advocate, had $388,111 available in the two accounts as of June 22, $16,858 less than when the month began.

Torrens, who is counting on increasing his finances through state’s public matching-funds program, posted $11,696 in the three-week span, including $5,450 in loans. He had $2,901 on hand as of June 22.

Jeff Siskind, an attorney from Wellington who opened a campaign account on June 20, posted a $5,250 loan to himself the same day. Almost all of the money, $5,210,92, was used to pay his filing fee to run without party affiliation.

Pam Bondi up, Carlos Lopez-Cantera down in new wealth report

With much of her wealth in her home and a condominium, Attorney General Pam Bondi reported a net worth of $1.84 million as of the end of 2017, according to a financial-disclosure report filed last week.

Bondi’s net worth was up from about $1.7 million at the end of 2016. Bondi reported a nearly $1.16 million personal residence as of December 2017, and her one-third interest in a condominium was valued at $375,000 — with the value of the home and the condominium both increasing over the previous year.

Bondi also reported $549,000 in household goods and personal effects. Her only reported income was $128,871 from the state. State officials are required to file financial-disclosure forms by July 1 of each year, though they receive a grace period until Sept. 1. The reports typically reflect finances in the previous calendar year.

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