Rick Scott

Scott drops $3.2 million on TV this week in “dogfight” against Nelson

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan told us this morning that incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson “is in for a dogfight” against Rick Scott, the Republican outgoing governor who’s trying to oust the veteran senator.

Judging by the amount of money Scott’s campaign dropped on TV ads this week alone, Morgan’s characterization of the race may be an understatement.

According to Scott’s camp, they dropped $3.2 million on TV spots this week alone — including on two Spanish-language ads as the governor relentlessly woos Hispanic voters.

That brings to $8 million the total Scott’s campaign has spent on television in a little more than a month since he announced his entry into the race.

The latest ad, “Cambiar,” focuses on Scott’s pledge to “change” Washington.

We did notice that the two Spanish-language ads feature some of the same stars, but no matter.

A second ad, “Presente,” tambien en español, highlights Scott’s efforts to aid Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The third ad relies on an English-speaking cast of characters who blast Nelson for, well, being too much of a Democrat and “voting the party line.”

Which is a bit odd, since — until this year, when he supported a school-safety measure that included some gun restrictions — Scott had never been viewed as a politician who was known for bridging the partisan divide.

 

John Morgan: “If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried”

IMG_0124Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan held court with reporters moments before a hearing in a lawsuit he initiated kicked off Wednesday morning.

Morgan is a political rainmaker who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida and was overwhelmingly approved by voters nearly two years ago.

Morgan, who had toyed with the notion of running for governor, spoke about his decision to stay out of the governor’s race.

“I’ll tell you. To run for governor, you’ve got to be done making money. And I’m not done making money. Or you have to be a professional politician. And I’m not a professional politician,” he said.

Morgan said he spoke yesterday with Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach Miami who is a contender in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not in ‘cause I would win in a landslide,” Morgan said, adding that he didn’t know which Democrat would capture the nomination.

“All I know is I’ve never known any governor that’s ever done anything for any of us. Ever. So it’s not a job that I really think I’d be good at every day. I’m better at this,” he said, standing outside the courtroom.

Morgan also said he supported House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s decision to stay on the sidelines in the governor’s race.

Morgan said Corcoran visited him a few weeks ago.

“I said, look, here’s the deal. It’s all about money. And if you don’t got the money, you can’t run. I said at the end of the day, questions answer themselves. And I think the question was answered for Richard Corcoran when the money froze up,” Morgan said.

While Corcoran is a friend and someone he would have helped, Morgan said the Land O’ Lakes Republican made the right choice.

“I think he made the right decision because I think he would have gotten beat and I think he knew he was going to get beat. And if I’m going to get beat, I don’t like to go to my own ass-kicking,” Morgan said.

Morgan also had what appeared to be a dim view of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s odds against challenger Rick Scott, who’s finishing his last year as governor.

“I think Sen Nelson is in for a dog fight. I think he’s got to get busy. You cannot underestimate this Rick Scott. He is a methodical, Eveready bunny, a bald-headed Eveready bunny who just never stops. He’s focused, and he’s got the money, and he’s got the message, and if I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried,” he said.

 

Ho-hum. Chamber endorses Scott.

Surprise, surprise.

Days after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rolled out a six-figure ad buy to attack Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Chamber — along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the political committee affiliated with the Jacksonville Chamber —  endorsed Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his bid to unseat the veteran Florida Democrat.

Scott’s campaign declared that “this is the first time in Florida history that local, state and national Chambers of Commerce have come together to announce a joint campaign endorsement.”

The announcement is the focus of Scott’s day, according to the schedule distributed by the governor’s office.

His office schedule simply lists “staff and call time (via phone)” at 10:35 a.m., while the campaign is holding events today in Jacksonville and Orlando for a “major announcement.”

By Jim Turner.

Adam “Florida First” Putnam launches first campaign ad

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is releasing his first ad as the GOP primary battle to replace Gov. Rick Scott heats up.

The one-minute ad — an expensive buy, compared to the typical 30-second spot — started airing this week, according to a press release from Putnam’s campaign.

“For me, it’s always been Florida first,” Putnam, a fifth-generation Floridian whose family made a fortune in the cattle and citrus industry.

The week-long buy — on broadcast, cable and satellite — totaled about $630,000, according to advertising monitoring companies, and will run just about everywhere in Florida except the Miami market.

The ad features Putnam praying with his family, working on his ranch and appearing at a rally when he announced his bid for governor.

Putnam’s facing off against Congressman Ron DeSantis, a conservative darling who’s got the love of President Donald Trump and who appears to have taken a second job working for Fox News, where the Palm Coast Republican is making nearly daily appearances.

In the ad, Putnam takes a swipe at “liberal elites,” and talks about his “faith, responsibility, perseverance and hard work.”

“Today, those values are missing. Even looked down on by liberal elites. I’ve spent my life fighting back. And as your Governor, I won’t back down,” he says. “Together, we will put Florida First and make Florida the launch pad for the American Dream.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is reportedly mulling whether to enter the race.

Dems throw musical shade at Scott

Florida Democrats have served up a musical serving of sarcasm aimed at Gov. Rick Scott, who finally stopped the (non)suspense and announced this week he’s running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Dems’ “Smooth Criminal for Senate” playlist features hits by Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Kanye West and The Notorious B.I.G.,

Some of the samples are obvious, such as two versions of “Plead the Fifth” (“couldn’t find 75 songs with the title,” the press release accompanying the playlist reads), a reference to the former health care mogul’s repeated use of the Fifth Amendment during a deposition ages ago.

Other selections, like “Robots” by Flight of the Concords, are a tad more subtle.

And of course there’s a reference to onetime First Dog Reagan, a yellow lab who was a brief resident of the governor’s mansion, with “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

We could have lived without “Oil Rigs,” and the G-rated version of “Gold Digger” doesn’t quite cut it, but hey, we get it.

The Fla Dems might be taking a page from President Obama, whose summer (day and night) Spotify playlists — featuring Bob Dylan, The Isley Brothers, Coldplay, Howlin’ Wolf, to name just a few — were a huge hit.

No indication yet if President Trump will carry on the tradition.

Here’s a link to the playlist, and here are the tracks:

  • Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
  • Who Let the Dogs Out by Baha Men – Where’s Reagan?
  • Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Diddy
  • The First Cut is the Deepest by Sheryl Crow -The first cut was just the beginning.
  • Plead the Fifth by Kip Moore
  • Plead the Fifth by Liana Banks – Couldn’t find 75 songs with the title.
  • Me, Myself and I by Beyonce
  • Life’s Been Good by Joe Walsh
  • Selfish by Future and Rihanna
  • Gold Digger by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
  • Criminal by Britney Spears
  • Oil Rigs by Atena
  • Robots by Flight of the Conchords

 

In first digital ad, Graham runs against Trump

Florida gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham’s first digital ad serves up a taste of what’s sure to be a common theme for Democrats in the 2018 election season.

The former congresswoman’s digital spot focuses solely on her favorite whipping boy, President Donald Trump, whom she calls “an embarrassment,” a “bully,” and someone “that could not be more ill-suited to be president” of the U.S.

Graham’s campaign “is placing a significant buy behind the ad across various digital platforms, starting in Palm Beach, where Trump and administration officials will continue to visit Mar-a-Lago through the month of April, before expanding the ad statewide,” according to a press release announcing the ad this morning.

Graham’s entrée into the campaign ad world comes after competitor Philip Levine has forked over more than $4 million in TV spots in advance of the August primary.

 

“Manufactured crisis” or special interest shakedown?

Apparently, Truth or Dara isn’t alone in viewing a potential special session with dread.

John Sowinski, the head of No Casinos, asked legislative leaders to ignore what he’s calling “a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.”

Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Oliva, Republicans who will take over as the leaders of their chambers later this year, last week resuscitated persistently elusive gambling issues, as they explore a deal with the Seminole Tribe.

They — and House Speaker Richard Corcoran — say the urgency is required because of a potential $400 million hit to the state budget, should the tribe decide to stop making payments to the state.

But Sowinski’s not buying it.

Here’s the full text of the letter he wrote to the leaders today:

Dear Speaker Corcoran and President Negron:

I have recently read press reports that there is discussion of holding a special session on the issue of gambling in the hopes of coming up with a “deal.”  If ever there was an issue that the legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling.  And whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a “deal” that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida.

Some articles have indicated that the reason convening a special session is being considered is because there are concerns about a potential revenue loss if the Seminole Tribe does not keep making payments to the state for banked card games, now that the state has failed to meet a deadline to provide for strict enforcement related to “designated player games” at pari-mutuel facilities.  The urgency of this matter is curious, since no facts have changed since the end of session that would now make this such an enormous priority that it could merit a call for a special session of the Legislature.

Most observers see this as a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.

But of even greater concern is that many people suggest a political fundraising benefit to holding a special session, given the gambling industry’s sordid reputation for seeking gambling approvals by making huge contributions to campaigns and electioneering committees.  Their views on the matter were summed up by one pari-mutuel owner who recently told a reporter that if the Legislature didn’t pass a gambling bill to benefit his industry, “They’ll never see any of my money ever again,” the owner said. “Why bother?”  I know it is not reflective of your intent, but their attitude seems to be that they are owed something because of their political contributions.

You can tell the gambling interests and assure the people of Florida that public policy is not for sale in Tallahassee by resisting gambling lobbyist pressure for a special session.  Convening a special session that will be seen as a genuflection to the gambling industry would provide voters with a perfect illustration of why Amendment 3 is so badly needed.

The simplest way to ensure continued compact revenues would be for the state to take steps to comply with the consent agreement it entered into with the Seminole Tribe.  At the very least, use your oversight authority and budgetary discretion to ask the Division to present to you a plan for vigorous enforcement.  Ensure that they take whatever steps are available to them and have whatever resources are at their discretion and yours to do the job.  At the very most, fixing this problem would require a one page bill. But only in the world of gambling legislation and the myriad of lobbyists who influence it would such an easy fix come at a price of expanding gambling throughout the state.  Sadly, that is what any proposed “deal” has always included.

I’d also like to add two other points to the discussion.  First, it is not just my opinion, but proven history that revenue promises made by the pari-mutuel industry, and specifically their promises about slot machine revenue, simply can’t be trusted.  In 2004, Florida voters narrowly approved with 50.8% of the vote (before 60% was required for constitutional amendment passage) the amendment approving slot machines at seven existing facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.  Voters were promised that these machines would generate a half-billion dollars per year in revenue for education.  These revenues have never exceeded $188 million.  Then a few years ago these same pari-mutuels promised that if their tax rate was cut from 50% to 35%, revenue to the state would increase because of the capital improvements they would make, even convincing state revenue estimators.  Last year your revenue estimators put forth a report showing that they were wrong, and these cuts resulted in less revenue to the state.  Now they want their tax rate cut from 35% to 20%.  Banking on pari-mutuels to provide a reliable source of revenue to the state is, pardon the pun, a bad bet.

 

Finally, I would like to bring to your attention how Amendment 3 would likely impact any expansion of gambling that you might pursue at this time.  When we drafted the amendment, we considered the possibility that some gambling advocates might want to “beat the buzzer” with gambling expansion prior to passage of the amendment.  The last thing we wanted was to have our own amendment trigger an expansion of gambling.  So we wrote the amendment, not to govern “expansion” of gambling, but to set a constitutional standard for whether a form of casino gambling is authorized in the state.  Under Amendment 3, in order for a form of casino gambling to be authorized in the state, it must be approved by Florida voters through statewide voter initiative.

 

As it turns out, the only existing forms of gambling that would be impacted by Amendment 3 are those that exist through loopholes, including the vexing designated player games and internet cafés.  But if the legislature enacts new forms of casino gambling, such as gifting slot machine licenses to pari-mutuel operators outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties without voter approval through constitutional initiative, even before passage of the amendment, Amendment 3 was written to de-authorize any such expansion.  Therefore, any revenue you might seek to add by authorizing additional gambling now is speculative at best.  The analysis done of Amendment 3 by your revenue estimators sitting as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference is consistent with this assessment.

 

We appreciate your leadership, and the fact that the Legislature has, for the past seven years, resisted continued attempts to expand gambling.  We ask you to resist this last ditch effort by gambling interests to force a major expansion of gambling upon our state.