Another UPDATE: Fant wants “true liberal” Moody blackballed from RPOF meeting

SECOND UPDATE: This response from Ashley Moody campaign spokeswoman, Christina Johnson:

“It is laughable that a candidate running to be Florida’s Chief Legal Officer would offer up such erroneous and egregious attacks on the proven record of a former and well respected federal prosecutor and circuit court judge. Ashley Moody is pro-Second Amendment and the only candidate who has supported Second Amendment priorities like Stand Your Ground in the courtroom. These are real world distinctions that matter to voters, and issues which Ashley Moody has shared with Republican activists across the state these last months and throughout her career. Not only is Ashley Moody a staunch supporter of our President, but she has secured the endorsements of those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the President’s campaign, including law enforcement officials and elected leaders across the state. We look forward to highlighting these conservative values at the January RPOF meeting.”

UPDATED: RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia gave us this smackdown about Jay Fant’s request to have Ashley Moody banned from the party’s annual meeting next month:

“All Republicans running for statewide office are welcome to attend RPOF meetings. We will not, and should not, interject ourselves in the middle of primaries. Nor, should the RPOF become the arbiter of a candidates conservative credentials. If Rep. Fant thinks this will resonate with the electorate, then take it directly to the primary voters,” said RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.

Here’s the original post:

Ouch. Our eyeballs are on fire after reading GOP attorney general candidate Jay Fant’s blistering attack against opponent Ashley Moody.

Fant, a Republican state House member from Jacksonville, sent a letter to Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia — who, oh by the way, serves in the House with Fant — asking the party boss to ban Moody from the RPOF’s January meeting because she’s “a true liberal and proud of it.”

Moody, a former judge, has garnered a mile-high pile of endorsements from law enforcement leaders and others throughout the state and amassed a finance team that’s  a veritable GOP who’s who, including influential lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Fant, who’s’ trailing Moody in fundraising even after dumping $750,000 of his own money into his campaign, accuses Moody of having close ties to the Clinton family — her father was appointed by Bill Clinton to the federal bench. Moody once worked as a speechwriter for “left wing” former American Bar Association President Martha Barnett who is a “close ally” of Hillary Clinton,  Fant wrote to Ingoglia. And Moody even sued President Donald Trump (long before he moved into the White House) over a failed development project, Fant pointed out.

Fant says it’s “in the party’s best interest” to blackball Moody from the RPOF’s annual meeting in January.

“The 2018 election ballot is absolutely critical from top to bottom and we simply cannot waste time with candidates who have to hide their past involvement with the Clintons in order to win,” he wrote.

Fant’s asking that the party leadership “refuse Ashley Moody access to the annual meeting and immediately discontinue RPOF’s indirect support of her campaign” through in-kind resources like staff, “that already total more than $23,000,” according to campaign finance reports.

Moody and Fant will face off in the GOP primary against two other state reps — Frank White of Pensacola and Ross Spano of Dover.

We’ve reached out to Moody’s camp for a response, and we’ll update if we get one.

 

 

Latvala accuser’s lawyer puts Senate on notice

A lawyer representing Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her on numerous occasions over the past four years, has asked Senate President Joe Negron to preserve nearly eight years of records in anticipation of a lawsuit regarding the alleged sexual harassment.

In a letter sent to Negron Wednesday, lawyer Tiffany Cruz asked that Negron preserve “documents, tangible things, and electronically stored information potentially relevant to the claims which may be brought against the Florida Senate and Senator Jack Latvala.”

“This letter comes in anticipation of litigation under related to violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, and other statutes related to such violations and the concomitant conduct which my firm has been retained to investigate,” Cruz wrote.

The federal Civil Rights Act protects against employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin. The statute referenced by Cruz in the letter deals with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Complaints filed with the state commission and/or its federal counterpart would be the first step in pursuing a civil action against against the Senate or Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who maintains he did not touch Perrin Rogers inappropriately.

The request for records includes emails, texts, voice messages and instant messages, as well as documents, spreadsheets and images.

Cruz asked that Negron not only preserve records dating back to Jan. 1, 2010, but intervene to prevent loss due to routine operations or malfeasance and employ proper techniques and protocols to preserve” the records.

Negron, R-Stuart, has remained tight-lipped about Latvala, amid twin investigations into the sexual harassment allegations. A special master who’s conduct a probe for the Senate Rules Committee is said to have completed his interviews, and his report — and recommendations — could be released any day.

 

 

Brandes — and his mom — head back to college

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is heading back to college this week.

 The 1999 Carson-Newman University graduate will deliver the winter commencement address at his alma mater on Friday, where his mother — Mary Tibbets Brandes — will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Brandes’ mother is a 1971 graduate of the private Baptist school. She would later become the first teacher hired at Northside Christian School in St. Petersburg, eventually becoming the head of the school.

“The Brandes family has a long association with our university and the Carson-Newman family is proud to claim them as our own,” University President J. Randall O’Brien stated in a release on the school’s website.

The school notes that Sen. Brandes has “earned a reputation for innovative approaches in education, job creation and transportation matters.”

Brandes is the senator who for years pushed for statewide app-based ride-sharing rules and continues to call for laws that would open the roads to driver-less vehicles.

The state lawmaker, who received the school’s “Outstanding Young Alumnus Award” in 2015, graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration from the Jefferson City, Tennessee school that also produced Millard Caldwell, Florida’s 29th governor, and University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes. Stokes served as Florida State University’s interim president prior to the 2014 appointment of John Thrasher.

By Jim Turner.

Senate president: Sexual misconduct inquiry not slowing down process

20171208_105141Senate President Joe Negron covered a vast array of topics —including nursing homes, tax breaks, gambling and the state’s $85 billion budget — during a nearly hour-long pre-session interview with The News Service of Florida this morning.

The news team was warned beforehand that questions about the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levied against  Sen. Jack Latvala by a high-ranking aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson were off limits.

We tried to tap-dance around the restriction, but Negron, a lawyer, stuck closely to comments he’s already made about the investigation and the charges, which have rocked the Capitol and caused what one Republican senator called “paralysis” in the upper chamber.

Even Gov. Rick Scott called Latvala — a Clearwater Republican who insists he is innocent and that he is a victim of a political smear campaign — a “distraction” and said that “it seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better.”

The governor’s critique came more than a week ago; since then, there’s been almost a daily development in the increasingly toxic battle.

But Negron, a Stuart Republican headed into his second and final legislative session as the man with the gavel in the Senate, disagreed that the drama has eclipsed all other business in the Senate.

“That’s not what I see. I’m visiting with senators constantly and talking about projects. There are bills being referenced,” he said. “A lot of bills have been filed. Committee meetings are moving forward. Some bills have been voted down. Some bills have been voted up. So, I think that the people’s business is being done. And we’re going to let the process that’s set forth in our rules move forward and then there will be a resolution.”

Negron relied on talking points from memos distributed in the early days of the investigation, launched after a POLITICO Florida story early last month detailed the allegations against Latvala, when asked if the revelations exposed activity in the Capitol that had been kept under wraps for years.

“In the Senate we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment. We have zero tolerance for any mistreatment of any senator, of staff, of guests and citizens who visit us in their Capitol. That has always been our policy and will continue to be our policy. I believe that the vast majority of individuals who work in the Capitol treat people fairly, treat people appropriately, and show respect to everyone in the process,” the president said.

Negron reiterated that he wants individuals who’ve been the victim of sexual harassment to come forward.

Perrin Rogers has accused Latvala and his supporters of retaliating against her and her husband, GOP political consultant Brian Hughes. The Senate aide hired an armed guard to protect her in the Capitol, and Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, this week filed a complaint against Latvala, accusing him of “outing” Perrin Rogers.

“With regard to the specific instance where there’s been a complaint filed that’s being investigated, the process will move forward,” Negron said, referring to the sexual harassment complaint Perrin Rogers lodged against Latvala. “There will be an outcome to that. And I’m committed personally, in my own role as the Senate president, that we’re going to respect the rights of everyone in the building and that any person who feels that they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should feel free to confidentially come forward and report that and it will be dealt with appropriately.”

When pressed about whether the Florida Legislature was caught up in the #MeToo wave that’s gripped Congress and statehouses around the country, Negron demurred.

“In the culture generally, there’s enhanced attention to this issue. That’s a good thing. In terms of what happens in the Senate and in the Capitol, I’ll stand by my assessment that the vast majority of elected officials conduct themselves appropriately and treat people in this process with respect and in a business-like manner,” he said.

 

Bradley: “Zero tolerance” for intimidation

Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley seemed to deliver a stern message about allegations of intimidation swirling amid investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Sen. Jack Latvala.

Bradley took over the reins as the Senate budget chief after Latvala was stripped of the post, following allegations that the Clearwater Republican had groped several women over the past few years.

The allegations are the subject of two investigations now underway, including a probe by a special master that could result in Latvala’s expulsion from the Senate.

Bradley spoke to reporters about the events following an Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“There is a real chance that at some point in time we’ll be listening to evidence not only of underlying conduct that is alleged, but also potential conduct that has occurred since the allegations have come to light,” Bradley said. “I think it’s important that not only there is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and verbal abuse, but there also be zero tolerance for any behavior that leads to one feeling like they shouldn’t come forward or feeling intimidated.”

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, yesterday filed a complaint against Latvala with the Rules Committee, which will also decide on the sexual harassment complaint filed by Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson’s chief legislative aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers. Book’s complaint accused Latvala of improperly taking steps to “out” Perrin Rogers, who has hired armed security in the midst of the investigations.

Perrin Rogers accused Latvala of groping her on six occasions over the past four years. Latvala has steadfastly denied the allegations. The rhetoric around the investigations has escalated, with lawyers from both sides releasing text messages and affidavits to the media and supporters of the Senate aide and the senator taking to Twitter and Facebook to air their grievances.

Bradley said he expects the special master report regarding Perrin Rogers’s complaint may be out as early as next week, but he doesn’t know if the Rules Committee will be called in to hold an emergency meeting before the legislative session begins on Jan. 9.

“I do think it’s important that everyone that visits the Capitol, who advocates for or against proposals we consider, that are involved as employees or otherwise, they understand there is zero tolerance for sexual misconduct for verbal abuse or for, even when those allegations are made, for any attempts to intimidate. And that needs to be stated clearly and publicly so that there is no doubt that that is the position of this senator and the colleagues that I stand side-by-side with,” Bradley said.

The special master’s report will be given to the Senate Rules Committee. If the special master recommends dismissal, the committee must dismiss the complaint. The special master, retired judge Ronald Swanson, could recommend censure, reprimand or expulsion. The Rules Committee, headed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, could adopt his recommendation or come up with its own. 

Benacquisto yesterday effectively killed the appointment of Ritch Workman, a former state representative, to the Public Service Commission. Gov. Rick Scott had nominated Workman for the post, which requires Senate confirmation. But Benacquisto said she would not take up his appointment because Workman manhandled her at a charity event last year. Workman subsequently withdrew his nomination.

Rubio on MTV, working out and North Korea

House Speaker Richard Corcoran appeared on C-Span Wednesday morning, pontificating to a national audience about sexual harassment, hurricane recovery and term limits.

A few days earlier, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got in some air time on a somewhat less-auspicious channel.

The celebrity gossip site TMZ caught Rubio, a Florida Republican, at Reagan airport in D.C. on Monday.

Ignoring the sex scandals rocking Florida’s statehouse and Congress, or any other high-minded topics, the folks at TMZ.com instead honed in on what their inquiring minds want to know: Does Rubio watch the MTV reality show “Floribama Shore?” (which we didn’t even know was a thing).

http://www.tmz.com/2017/12/05/marco-rubio-cameo-floribama/

Rubio said he’s heard of the show but hasn’t seen it.

“We’ve been busy cutting taxes,” he said.

Asked if this could negatively impact the image of Florida and paint Panama City Beach, where the reality show is filmed, as a party town, the Miami Republican said he would have to see it see it first.

The inquisitive TMZ reporter pointed out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie created a kerfuffle a few years back when he dissed the MTV “Jersey Shore” show, saying it was “bad for New Jersey.”

Rubio said he’d have to wait and see the show before he could comment and indicated he had loftier problems at hand.

“It’s just a TV show. People have a right to put RV shows together. We’ve got a crazy man with nuclear weapons in North Korea,” he said.

The TMZ guy told Rubio he appeared to be in pretty good shape, but the senator didn’t seem to agree.

Saying he hasn’t been working out lately, Rubio said he doesn’t plan on hitting the beach (on national TV) anytime soon.

“After I get a tan and hit the gym, right?” he joked.

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

Corcoran blames alleged sexual misconduct by veteran politicos on “entitlement mentality”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran made an appearance on C-SPAN this morning, again calling on Sen. Jack Latvala to resign from his post amid an investigation that he allegedly groped a high-level Senate aide.

Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has repeatedly said that Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is running for governor, should step down, and he used his bully pulpit on the C-SPAN bus outside the Old Capitol resign to reiterate that demand.

Latvala has denied groping Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson’s chief district aide, Rachel Perrin Rogers, or any of the unnamed women who accused him of inappropriately touching them and making unwelcome comments about their bodies.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?438169-6/washington-journal-richard-corcoran-discusses-sexual-misconduct-allegations-florida-legislature

Corcoran, who is widely speculated to be considering a bid for governor next year, explained to the national audience that there are two separate investigations now ongoing into Latvala’s alleged wrongdoing. One of them could result in his ouster from the upper chamber, Corcoran said.

“It looks like they’re heading towards expulsion,” the House speaker predicted.

In a lengthy Q-and-A with reporters Monday, Latvala gave no indication that he was heading out the door.

“There’s one overriding principle here to me that’s important. And that is I didn’t do this stuff. So why should I quit and leave town and let everybody think I did it when I didn’t do it?” he said.

In Wednesday’s C-SPAN interview, Corcoran pointed out that a number of high-ranking celebrities — including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose — were quickly stripped of their posts following accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

“But here we have elected officials, who you think would be held to a higher standard are still in office, still fighting,” he said.

When asked why the political world was different, Corcoran said: “There’s an entitlement mentality.”