Steve Crisafulli Archives - Florida Politics
Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson raise more than $100K in May

Political committees tied to incoming Senate President Bill Galvano and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson have pulled in more than $100,000 combined so far in May.

Galvano’s committee, Innovate Florida, has received four checks for a combined total of $55,000 raised so far this month. Topping the donor list is Opa Locka-based Dosal Tobacco Corporation, which pitched in $25,000 on May 5. Prosperity Florida, a political committee tied to former Naples Republican Rep. Tom Grady followed with $10,000 while the Pharmacists for Improved Health Care Outcomes PAC and Mag Mutual FL PAC each gave $5,000.

As of May 25, Innovate Florida’s ledger also showed about $113,000 in spending, including a $75,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida and nearly $21,000 in payments to Tampa-based Ground Game Solutions for fundraising work.

The committee had $380,485 on hand at the end of April. It finished last week with $322,380 in the bank.

Innovate Florida was Galvano’s main fundraising vehicle when he was campaigning for Senate President, a role he’s set to fill after the 2018 elections. Since he was named Senate President Designate, however, he’s also been tasked with raising cash for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee — in his three quarters at the helm, he’s helped that committee reel in nearly $7 million.

Simpson’s committee, Jobs for Florida, had also received four contributions for a total of $66,000 raised as of May 24. Florida Power & Light and Growing Florida’s Future, a political committee tied to former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, chipped in $25,000 apiece, followed by the Florida Medical Association PAC at $15,000 and Sysco Corp. with the remaining $1,000.

Jobs for Florida is also reporting more than $56,000 in spending through Monday, with about $44,000 of those funds heading to Capitol Finance Consulting for consulting and fundraising work. Simpson’s committee finished April with $2.36 million banked.

The Trilby Republican, who is slated to take over as Senate President in 2020, also has more than $330,000 banked for his 2018 re-election campaign in Senate District 10.

Campaign finance reports for the entirety of May are due to the state on June 11.

Jimmy Patronis

Former House Speakers back Jimmy Patronis’ bid for Chief Financial Officer

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Tuesday that five former Florida House Speakers had endorsed his campaign for a full term in the Cabinet position.

The nods came from Steve Crisafulli, Will Weatherford, Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul and Allan Bense, who are the five most recent House Speakers outside of now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who held the post from 2006 through 2008.

Patronis was a member of the House from 2006 through 2014.

“CFO Patronis is a devoted watchdog over taxpayer money in Tallahassee. I’ve known him for years and his tremendous work ethic along with his heart for his job and genuine care for the wellbeing of Floridians make him an excellent Chief Financial Officer for our state. I’m looking forward to helping him secure another term in this job,” Weatherford said.

Crisafulli also cited his years-long personal relationship with Patronis, adding that he “has been an outstanding leader and has worked diligently to ensure the people of Florida are well represented.”

Cannon said he was “proud to support CFO Patronis because he is committed to rooting out waste and abuse in state government and protecting Florida’s finances. Jimmy has been an incredible consumer advocate for Floridians who face issues with their insurance provider.”

Cretul said “Serving as CFO, Jimmy Patronis has been dedicated to improving Florida’s economy and business climate. He is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. He fights for policies that support our first responders and protect consumers. I am honored to stand by his side.”

Bense, whom Patronis succeeded in the House, added that the sitting CFO “is a proven leader who shares my conservative values.”

“He addresses each issue he encounters with Floridians’ best interest in mind. He truly understands the needs of Florida families. Jimmy’s strong commitment to serving the citizens of our state makes him the right person to serve as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. I know he will continue to serve our state well,” Bense said.

Patronis is currently the only major Republican running for Chief Financial Officer. He’s finishing out the term won by Jeff Atwater, who left the post last year to take a job at Florida Atlantic University.

Since announcing he would run for a full term in November, Patronis has brought in nearly $2.5 million between his campaign and political committee, Treasure Florida.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee is widely expected to challenge Patronis. He had about $2.3 million on hand in his political committee, The Conservative, at the end of January.

The Republican nominee is likely to face former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring on the November ballot.

The Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics — Part 1

Once the hanky dropped on the 2013 Legislative Session, my family headed to St. Augustine Beach to recuperate from the 60 days of working in that pressure cooker.

Michelle and I had been married for just over a year and our daughter, Ella Joyce, was only months old. Our business was just starting to take off. It was an exciting time.

For whatever reason, we thought it would be interesting to complicate our lives by Michelle running for a state House seat.

The Republican Party of Florida was looking for a candidate to challenge Dwight Dudley, a one-term incumbent who was not particularly well-liked in Tallahassee and was considered vulnerable in a non-presidential election cycle.

Michelle would have been the perfect challenger to Dudley. She’s a moderate Republican woman with strong connections to the Tampa Bay area and a reputation for loyalty and deeply-held convictions. That she had worked as a special adviser to then-Gov. Charlie Crist (and was based out of the USF St. Pete campus) only made her more attractive as a potential candidate.

For a moment, Michelle was excited by the idea, so we took the temperature of some of our friends in the political process. All of them thought Michelle would be a strong candidate. However, one friend informed us that incoming leadership of the House was recruiting another potential candidate they thought could win in a walk.

We spoke with then Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli and, indeed, the GOP was hoping that Bill Young Jr., son of the local legend C.W. “Bill” Young, would enter the race. It’s probably best if Michelle stands down, Crisafulli told us.

Fortunately for our family, that’s exactly what Michelle did, although she said then that it was a mistake to think Young would beat Dudley.

She was right, of course, about that: Billy Young turned out to be a very bad candidate. In fact, he’s one of the very few candidates for office I’ve ever met who gained weight, rather than lost it, on the campaign trail (an indication he was not opening enough time walking door-to-door.)

Michelle and I talked a lot about our future that week in St. Augustine. A point I made then to her was that as busy as the 2014 and 2016 election cycles would be for us (and, Jesus, had they been busier than we could have ever imagined), the 2018 election cycle would actually be even more chaotic.

What I predicted then is only more accurate today. It is already shaping up to be the busiest election cycle in Florida’s modern history. Busier even than 1994, when Jeb Bush emerged from a brutal gubernatorial primary to eventually lose to Lawton Chiles.

As it stands now, here’s the rundown:

— A competitive race for the U.S.  Senate likely pitting Democrat Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott.

— A wide-open race for the Governor’s Mansion, with competitive primaries on both sides of the ballot.

— Three competitive statewide races for spots on Florida’s Cabinet: Agriculture Commissioner, CFO and Attorney General.

— Four statewide voter initiatives.

— As many as a dozen constitutional questions put on the ballot by the once-every-twenty-years Constitutional Revision Commission.

— More competitive congressional and state legislative races than at any point since Republicans took over the state in the mid-1990s.

The ballot this November will take the average Floridian twenty to thirty minutes to read and complete.

And that’s what we know about today.

As has been said many times, Florida is the Chinatown of politics. Forget about trying to understand it.

But if you run a political website titled “Florida Politics,” this is a wonderful time to be alive.

Our site’s traffic was busier last week than all but one other week in our history. Last month was busier than any other month in our history. This month looks like it will be busier than last month. And there’s no reason to think next month won’t be busier than this month.

And yet … what happens in December 2018? The campaigns will be over. The 2019 Legislative Session will be months away. The presidential campaign, while talked about daily, won’t be for real for almost another year.

Won’t feast turn to famine?

No.

And not just because the average bear is more interested in politics than in half-a-century.

This is the first part of the Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics.

It all starts to go back to normal today.

Gov. Scott signed the $88 billion fiscal plan sent to him Wednesday. He is now officially a lame duck.

Don’t get me wrong, Scott still has enormous power. And it’s not out of the range of possibilities that the Legislature will be called into Special Session for some sort of crisis.

But, for the most part, the sun has begun to set on Rick Scott’s time in Tallahassee. And with that, everything will start to change.

Because none of the seven candidates expected to run for Florida governor can write a $72 million check to buy the Governor’s Mansion, as Scott did in 2010, the four pillars of political life in Florida will now begin rebuilding their stature in the state.

The lobby corps, the news media (as enervated as it is), the fundraising community, and the political parties should see their influence return in the coming months and next four years.

Lobbyists have been of little use to Scott because they were against him in 2010 and he’s never really forgotten that. Only a handful of big-name lobbyists have had access to Scott himself: Brian Ballard, Nick Iarossi, Fred Karlinsky, Bill Rubin, among a few others.

Most governmental affairs firms have relied on a strategy of focusing on the Legislature while staying under the radar during the gubernatorial veto period. Some firms — Southern Strategy Group, GrayRobinson — have succeeded in their efforts to lobby the executive branch, but, for the most part, this is an administration that has been indifferent to Adams Street.

Before today, the lobby corps would have been unwilling to choose sides in the upcoming gubernatorial race, especially with Richard Corcoran looming as a possible candidate. But the smart firms will start making more significant investments in the candidates so that they are in on the ground floor with who they think will win.

Some firms will win, some will lose, but at least the game is being played again. Scott didn’t even roll out the ball.

The media has been kept at arm’s length by Scott ever since his early communications director, Brian Burgess, positioned velvet ropes between the Governor and the Capitol Press Corps. If Scott didn’t need the lobby corps, he needed the press corps even less.

The math was simple: He could write a check larger than the amount of earned media written against him. Also, the Governor’s Office made two smart decisions. One, it prioritized interactions with TV reporters, preferably those who were not plugged in enough to ask difficult questions, and two, it created a reverb chamber with the wire services.

By this I mean, most major announcements by the Scott administration were funneled to the Associated Press (which can’t editorialize the way Florida Politics, POLITICO, or the Times/Herald can and do). It is, in turn, relied on by many TV stations for their state government content. Once a TV station aired the AP version, the Governor’s Office would push out an ICYMI press release touting the story.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t believe me. Consider this: Point to the one process story written about the Scott administration that details how the Governor makes a decision. You probably can’t. Because this is one of the most leak-proof administrations ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. Donald Trump would give away Ivanka if he could have a White House that operates in the quiet way Scott’s office has.

More double-negative evidence: Point to the feature about anyone in Scott’s administration that includes an on-the-record response from the person profiled. Floridians knew/know virtually nothing about the chiefs of staff, key advisers, etc. who are in Scott’s orbit.

Because none of the seven gubernatorial candidates can’t rely just on paid media to get their message out, they have to create earned media. This instantly makes the press, specifically the Capitol Press Corps and other political journalists, relevant again.

Instead of being kept in the dark, as most journalists have been during the last seven years, now outreach to most favored reporters and bloggers is again part of the communications strategy. What Marc Caputo, Matt Dixon, David Smiley, myself, and others say about the gubernatorial and other races is more important than it was under Scott. A takedown in the press becomes fodder for fundraising emails and digital videos.

Speaking of fundraising emails, get ready to be inundated with them.

Not that you weren’t already, but none of the candidates running for Governor can self-finance in a way that allows them to bypass the need for small donors.

Under Scott, a meeting with him cost an interest group at least $50,000. Only a handful of Floridians or companies can afford that. But Putnam, Gillum, Graham, Levine, etc. are already touting the support they are receiving from donors who can only afford to write checks for $25 or $50.

Whereas Scott was only interested in receiving a $500,000 check from a utility company, almost all of the candidates running in 2018, whether it be for governor or state House, would be happy to receive a check for $500 or $1,000. This returns power to the fundraisers who specialized in bundling, say, 30 checks from a group of local professionals. The entire campaign finance system reverts to pre-2010 levels without Scott and his checkbook.

This brings me to my final point: Look for the return of the political parties.

No, they’ll never be as powerful as they were 20 years ago, but they certainly won’t do any worse than they have the last eight years. Especially the Republican Party of Florida, which has been so neglected by Scott that there are constant rumors that the party can barely make payroll.

Whoever wins their party’s nomination this fall will need the parties if they want to win the general. They will need the activists. They will need the party’s imprimatur. That shifts power back to the Republicans’ Blaise Ingoglia, the Democrats’ Terrie Rizzo, and the party chairs who will follow them.

I wanted to roll out this theory on the Ides of March because Scott’s tenure reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.”

Scott, armed with his checkbook, has bestridden Tallahassee like Colossus, while we petty men and women have walked under his indifferent legs and peeped about.

With Scott’s exit, it’s time again for all of those in The Process to, as Cassius told Brutus, be masters of our own fates.

Mike Miller announces CD 7 campaign finance team led by Todd Wilcox

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller has announced his campaign finance team for his run for Congress, to be led by businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Todd Wilcox and to include former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, former Florida Senate President Toni Jennings and a large number of key Central Florida figures.

Miller, of Winter Park, aims to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in Florida’s 7th Congressional District next November. First, though, he must get by a few other Republicans in the August primary, notably Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill who has, until now, shown an advantage on the money side.

That advantage could start to fall away, with Miller staffing his finance committee with the likes of former Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis; timeshare magnate David Siegel; two former Florida House Speakers, Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon; and a host of major players in Florida and Central Florida political fundraising and operations, lobbying, and Republican politics, including Oscar Anderson, Brian Ballard, Daryl Carter, Pat Christiansen, Earl Crittenden, Tre Evers, Charlie Gray, Micky Grindstaff, Phil Handy, Marcos Marchena, Harvey Massey, John Miklos, Rusty Roberts, and Rick Walsh.

CD 7 covers north-central Orange County and all of Seminole County.

Wilcox, president of Patriot Defense Group and a former Army Green Beret and CIA officer, went after Murphy in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign.

“As a former member of our military, I know we need members of Congress who will vote to fully fund and support our men and women in uniform,” Wilcox stated. “Playing games, like our current congresswoman is, supporting the Pelosi Democrats and perpetuating the Schumer Shutdown is irresponsible. I’m supporting Mike Miller because I am confident he will take the tough votes to protect Americans.”

Neil Combee praises Richard Corcoran, others in resignation letter

House District 39 Rep. Neil Combee has set the date: He will officially leave the Florida House for his new job as the Florida’s State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency on Nov. 24.

Combee announced the decision in a Wednesday letter House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and called the five years and change he has spent representing Polk and Osceola counties in the House “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I have and always will maintain there is no greater privilege than to be selected by your neighbors to be their voice in government – at any level,” he wrote.

The Trump Administration tapped the Auburndale Republican for the FSA gig by way of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Friday, and while it was unclear at first whether he would have to give up his part-time job as a state legislator, he told the News Chief Monday that he “can’t do both.”

In his exit, he had nothing but positive things to say about Corcoran and his predecessors who’ve had their turns at the helm since Combee won his first term in 2012.

“I want to take a moment to thank you and your leadership team for bringing unprecedented accountability and transparency to the way the Florida House conducts its business. In light of recent events, these reforms could not be timelier,” he wrote.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out, that under the leadership of members like Representative Jose Oliva and Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Will Weatherford, we have made great strides in protecting Florida’s families, improving Florida’s schools and keeping government accountable.”

“… I must repeat one last time; it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve in the Florida Legislature.”

Combee closed the letter by asking Corcoran to allow his district office to remain open so it could continue serving HD 39 constituents.

The third-term representative’s exit will require Gov. Rick Scott to set another special election, the seventh such contest for the Florida Legislature in the past year and fifth for the House. Even with the most expedient dates, Combee’s exit will leave HD 39 without a representative during the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins in January.

House District 72 is in the same boat due to the abrupt exit of freshman Rep. Alex Miller two months ago, as is Senate District 31, which opened up at the end of October due to the resignation of Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens.

Regardless of when the dates are set, nobody will have to wait on Combee’s endorsement.

Republican Josie Tomkow filed shortly after news of Combee’s appointment spread, and the 22-year-old agribusiness woman and UF alumna has already earned his backing.

“Josie is ready and prepared for this next step in her public service.  She will represent our area well and continue the fight for conservative values in the halls of the Florida capitol,” Combee said when she filed.

Combee’s letter is attached below.

Richard Corcoran committee raised $445K in September

House Speaker Richard Corcoran brought in another $445,000 for his political committee and possible governor’s race fund, “Watchdog PAC,” between Sept. 1 and Oct. 9 according to reports available on the committee’s website.

The committee has now raised $4.4 million total since Corcoran started it up in June, and has just shy of $3.9 million on hand.

The largest contribution last month was a $100,000 check from The Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida. Following the six-figure check is a three-way tie between Miami auto dealer and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, Wal‐Mart Stores, and Conservative Principles of Florida. Each gave $50,000.

A committee controlled by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur chipped in $30,000, while a number of other GOP movers and shakers came in at the $25,000 level.

Among them are former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli through his Growing Florida’s Future committee, political consultant Anthony Pedicini through Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, and Rep. Jamie Grant through Floridians for Liberty and Innovation.

Corcoran’s committee received the money across just 27 contributions. And one of those, a $25,000 check from Orlando law firm Newsome Melton, was refunded.

Expenditures clocked in at $265,814 through Oct. 9, with $68,800 of that money heading to Ft. Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for surveys, consulting and travel expenses.

Rapid Loop Consulting received $42,500 for consulting work and expenses, followed by D.C.-based Go Big Media which took home about $33,000 for consulting and travel, and Jacksonville-based Political Capital with $20,000 for consulting.

Corcoran has said he is waiting to announce his future plans after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March.

Currently, the only two major Republicans running to succeed Rick Scott as Florida governor are Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Putnam’s fundraising has reached the double-digit millions through his committee, Florida Grown, and campaign accounts, while Latvala has a few million of his own in his committee, much of it left over from his campaign to be Senate President.

Wilton Simpson’s committee raised $209K in September

Future Senate President Wilton Simpson brought in more than $200,000 through his political committee last month, and forked over half that sum to the committee supporting GOP candidates for state senate.

The Trilby Republican’s committee, Jobs for Florida, raised $209,500 in September, with a good chunk of that money coming in through a handful of large checks.

Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance gave $50,000, while the Florida Medical Association, Mosaic Global Sales and a political committee tied to former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Growing Florida’s Future, chipped in $25,000 each. Florida Blue and the Florida Hospital Association also made the donor roll with $20,000 contributions.

The committee’s spending clocked in at $204,700 for September, but $100,000 of that money went directly into the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Senate President Joe Negron and used to help Republican senate campaigns statewide.

Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini, got a $20,000 contribution from Simpson’s committee.

Also on the expense report were Capital Finance Consulting, which received $50,500 for fundraising and consulting work, and Meteoric Media Strategies, which was paid $22,500 for consulting.

With September in the books, Jobs for Florida has about $1.63 million in cash on hand. Simpson, who is almost certain to take over as Senate president in 2020, has another $280,000 on hand for his 2018 re-election bid.

Marco Rubio, Mel Martinez, Connie Mack III headline Mike Miller fundraiser

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, former U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Connie Mack III, and former Lt Gov. Toni Jennings headline a long host list for a congressional campaign fundraiser for state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park this week.

The Thursday evening, $500 per person fundraiser at the Country Club of Orlando aims to boost Miller’s campaign to first defeat fellow Republican candidate Scott Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, and then to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the 2018 election.

The list of dozens of hosts, featuring Jennings and Martinez, two popular and once-powerful figures in Central Florida politics, also includes numerous current and former local Republican power brokers such as timeshare magnate David Siegel, airports board chairman Frank Kruppenbacher, attorney Marcos Marchena, financier Phil Handy, and former Walt Disney World President Dick Nunis.

Former U.S. Reps. Ric Keller and Connie Mack IV, and former Florida House Speakers Dean Cannon and Steve Crisafulli. also are among the listed hosts.

Miller, of Winter Park, hopes to re-flip Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat that Murphy won from Republican former U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park, who had served the district for 24 years before Murphy came along. The district covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

Bobby Olszewski HD 44 fundraiser packed with Republican leaders

The Republican primary for House District 44 may have deeply split support from top Republicans but now that Bobby Olszewski has won he’s bringing much of that together behind his special election campaign.

Olszewski’s campaign announced a fundraiser set for the evening of Aug. 30 that will feature the current speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the next three most-likley speakers, several past speakers, plus scores of other Republican leaders, including quite a few who had supported Olszewski’s opponents in last week’s primary.

The fundraiser is set for the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, with contributions of up to $1,000 per person.

Olszewski won the Aug. 15 Republican primary and now faces Democrat Paul Chandler in an Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant seat representing southwest Orange County.

Among those set to attend the fundraiser are Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran and speaker designates Jose Oliva, Chris Sprowls, and Paul Renner, along with special guest U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a longtime Olszewski supporter who also is a former speaker of the Florida House. Other past Florida House speakers Steve Crisafulli, Tom Feeney, Mike Haridopolos, and Will Weatherford also are among the named guests.

The supporters listed for the fundraiser also include Bruno Portigliatti and Usha Jain, two of the Republican candidates whom Olszewski defeated in the Aug. 15 primary. The fourth in that primary, John Newstreet, is not included, but a number of his former backers are, including state Reps. Jason Brodeur, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Mike Miller, and Rene Plasencia.

 

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

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