The contestants in the Florida chief financial officer battle waded into the guilt-by-association game in full force this week.
Incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday rolled out a website attacking Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring’s contributors. But the hit also opened Patronis’ own donors to public scrutiny.
In announcing the new webpage attacking Ring, Patronis’ campaign declared its intent was to show his opponent’s “connections to criminals and scandalous donors.”
The site, dubbed “Ring’s Criminal Ring,” listed contributors to Ring’s personal campaign account or his political committee, Florida Action Fund, who the Patronis' pack deemed to have questionable pasts.
Among those highlighted:
--- Paul Wharton, who got five years probation after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misappropriating public money. He gave $1,000 in August 2017 to Ring’s political committee.
--- Daniel Shooster, whose Pomano Beach business The Festival Flea Market gave $1,500 to the Florida Action Fund in May 2017. According to the website, Shooster was accused in a lawsuit by his company’s former chief financial officer of making inappropriate comments about female customers and “smoking marijuana, popping pills at work, sexual harassment of female employees and tenants, and bribing Broward sheriff's deputies to run personal errands for him.”
--- Donald Scattergood, a Little Gasparilla man arrested in a 2015 prostitution sting, who gave $100 to the Florida Action Fund in October 2017.
--- Wayne and Marlene Spath, the owners of Brandy Bail Bonds, who have donated $14,000 to Ring’s campaign. They hosted a party that has drawn “criticism for gift law violations” for raising $15,000 worth of graduation gifts for the kids of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, according to the attack site.
Ring’s “connections to criminal and scandalous donors yet again reveals his stunning lack of judgement,” Patronis’ campaign spokeswoman Katie Strickland said in a release.
The attack elicited an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” response from Ring’s campaign, which released a list of suspect activities tied to a handful of the chief financial officer’s contributors.
“Does this make Jimmy Patronis a hypocrite or just incompetent? Or, both?” Ring’s campaign said in a release.
Among the Patronis contributors highlighted by Ring’s campaign:
--- Panhandle developer Jay Odom, who donated $5,000 to Patronis’ political committee, Treasure Florida, in January. Odom, who was sentenced to six months in federal prison after pleading guilty to illegally funneling campaign contributions, played a key role in an airplane-hangar controversy that led to former House Speaker Ray Sansom’s premature exodus from the Legislature in 2009.
--- Mike Horner, a former state representative who dropped his re-election bid in 2012 after his name was connected to a prostitution operation in Orange County. Horner gave a $250 donation in November 2017.
--- Palm Harbor resident Jeffrey Bragg, a former executive director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Terrorism Risk Insurance Program who was accused in a 2000 federal lawsuit of signing "a false and misleading" statement involving a flood-insurance venture. Bragg, who was Gov. Rick Scott’s pick for insurance commissioner in 2016, has given Patronis’s campaign $1,500.
Neither camp showed their opponent appearing in public or speaking with an individual or group the other considered eligible for the “most dubious” distinction.
Republican Ron DeSantis’ campaign has enlisted GOP heavy-hitter Susie Wiles, who managed Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign and guided President Donald Trump’s Florida strategy in 2016, to lead the former congressman's gubernatorial effort.
“She has the knowledge, expertise and acumen to carry our message to voters all across Florida,” DeSantis said in a release.
The move reinforces DeSantis’ ties to Trump, and comes as his race heats up against Democrat Andrew Gillum.
Gillum’s campaign acknowledged Wiles’ hiring as part of a release Thursday asserting that the “ ‘wobbly’ DeSantis campaign continues to struggle.”
GUNNING FOR AMENDMENT 13
The Humane Society is bracing for a showdown, after Tallahassee’s top gun-rights advocate targeted Amendment 13. The proposal, placed on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would ban commercial greyhound racing in Florida.
In a message to members of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, influential National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer contends the intent of the amendment goes beyond its stated purpose on the ballot.
“If Amendment 13 is passed, extreme animal rights organizations will have a new constitutional standard to challenge any and all activities they find objectionable,” Hammer wrote. “In short, many suspect their first action will be to immediately begin work to ban all hunting and fishing.”
Hammer set her sights on amendment language that says the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” The phrase doesn’t appear on the ballot, but is part of the wording that would be inserted into the state constitution if 60 percent or more of voters approve.
“Since reasonable people don’t want animals treated inhumanely, at first blush many Floridians would agree with that statement in general terms,” Hammer wrote. “However, there is a vast difference between what the public believes is ‘inhumane’ and what animal rights extremists groups and their supporters would call ‘inhumane’.”
Calling out “extremist groups,” Hammer points to the Humane Society of the United States, which backs the amendment.
“In fact, the list of activities HSUS and other animal extremist organizations find objectionable is huge and includes hunting, fishing, farming, animal husbandry, marine parks and more,” Hammer wrote. “That’s what this is really about. Those groups even claim that animals shouldn’t be owned as pets because it’s inhumane.”
The Humane Society’s Yes on 13 campaign issued a statement that called arguments like Hammer’s a “cynical trick” that show opponents of the amendment “are incapable of debating the merits of commercial dog racing.”
"Amendment 13 phases out commercial greyhound racing, and does not address any other issue,” the statement said. “Opponents of Amendment 13 are circulating wild conspiracy theories, including outright falsehoods, because they know that voters support this humane proposal.”
The society also noted that the Supreme Court, in a Sept. 7 ruling that kept the amendment on the ballot, stated the “provision is devoid of any legislative or judicial mandate: it bestows no rights, imposes no duties, and does not empower the Legislature to take any action."
TWEET OF THE WEEK:
“I set out to determine which of the @NelsonForSenate and @ScottforFlorida education ads was telling the truth, and it turns out the answer was "none of the above." --- Sun-Sentinel state politics reporter Dan Sweeney (@Daniel_Sweeney).