Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Why special interests want John Thrasher to be the next president of FSU: 'cuz he does their bid'ness… by gimleteye

Poor Florida. Here is the case of John Thrasher, former speaker of the Florida House, and political operative whose campaign to be the next president of FSU got waylaid by a faculty furious that a political hack might be tapped to run the fabled institution. Way down here in Mi-am-uh, we tend to think of FSU as an outpost of Georgia … but in all seriousness, we wouldn't wish John Thrasher on a skeeter with the West Nile virus.

Our files regurgitated two examples of Thrasher in motion.

The first dates from 2003, when Thrasher -- former Speaker of the House -- led the lobbying team for Big Sugar that flooded the hallways of government and re-wrote the Everglades Forever Act. Passage of the bill, fully supported by Gov. Jeb Bush, triggered a massive federal lawsuit by Friends of the Everglades (of which I am board president).
At the time (read the news report below), Robert Coker, senior vice president for U.S. Sugar -- yes of the same corporation that Tampa Bay Times recently disclosed had been secreting away top GOP officials for all-expense, private jet travel to hunt at the King Ranch in Texas -- including Gov. Rick Scott), said the bill simply represented the sugar industry's attempts to get on with the cleanup. "There's no hidden boogie man here, there are no gotchas," he said. "This is the next logical step in restoring the Everglades."

Friends of the Everglades won in federal court and extracted, after nearly a decade, a $900 million settlement that Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature TAKE CREDIT FOR AS THOUGH IT WAS THEIR IDEA!

Then in 2008, EXHIBIT TWO. Thrasher was hired to stop a populist endeavor to amend the Florida Constitution. If the measure had passed, it would have required that changes to local growth plans be subject to popular vote. It was called Florida Hometown Democracy and caused panic among members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries -- representing the Great Destroyers -- , the likes of which had never been and probably never will because Gov. Rick Scott last year decapitated growth management in Florida, putting an end to THAT.

Thrasher, under his own name, sent voters a disinformation letter -- in other words, pure bullshit -- in which he warned "this bad amendment will open the door for big developers to ruin Florida 's natural and scenic beauty, but you can help stop the special interests." The Thrasher letter went to every likely voter in the state of Florida. Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas wrote, "It may be the most stunning lie ever told in Florida -- the audacity of desperation. The person behind it was John Thrasher, a former speaker of the House, now a hired-gun lobbyist for the state's biggest developers."

That's who will be the next president of FSU?

So there you have it: two reasons why special interests want an ideologue to be the next president of FSU. Even down here in Mi-am-uh, it smells so bad we ask to send this stinker of a nomination away; to the 800,000 acres of the King Ranch in Texas would be a good place, if Georgia is too close for y'all in North Florida. (for 2003 Sun Sentinel report and the 2008 OPED, click, 'read more')

Big Sugar takes aim at state plan to reduce agricultural pollution
By David Fleshler & Neil Santaniello
Posted April 1 2003, 7:50 AM EST

TALLAHASSEE · Backed by a lobbying team, the sugar industry has begun to chip away at Florida's plan for reducing agricultural pollution in the Everglades.

U.S. Sugar Corp., Flo-Sun Inc. and other sugar growers have persuaded House leaders to introduce a bill that could curtail the state's effort to cut phosphorous runoff from the sugar farms south of Lake Okeechobee.

Among the industry's lobbyists are two former House speakers and the former chiefs of staff to two Florida governors.

The bill, which will go for its first hearing Wednesday, has horrified environmentalists. Under their interpretation, it would put off for 20 years the deadline for reducing phosphorous, a major threat to the Everglades. They say it would ultimately allow 50 percent more phosphorous into the Everglades. The bill would also continue a property tax that was to expire this year in Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and other counties within the South Florida Water Management District that was used to pay for the cleanup.

Robert Coker, senior vice president for U.S. Sugar, said the bill would not alter the strict phosphorous standard. He insisted the bill simply represented the sugar industry's attempts to get on with the cleanup. The bill is intended to amend landmark Everglades cleanup legislation passed in 1994, which needs to be updated, he said.

"There's no hidden boogie man here, there are no gotchas," he said. "This is the next logical step in restoring the Everglades."

Used in fertilizer, phosphorous washes off farms into the Everglades, where it destroys an ecosystem that depends on a low level of nutrients.

Phosphorous encourages non-Everglades vegetation, eventually generating thick stands of cattails that allow little room for snakes, frogs, fish or birds. If the sugar industry prevails with this bill, environmentalists say that phosphorous will continue to overwhelm the Everglades' fragile ecosystem.

"The effect on the ground is that you're going to lose substantial portions of the northern Everglades," said Charles Lee, senior vice president of the Florida Audubon Society. "You'll lose the base of the food chain."

The industry began exploring its options when it became clear that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would propose a strict phosphorous standard sought by environmentalists. The agency proposed a deadline of 2006 for reducing the phosphorous level to 10 parts per billion. The sugar industry said they would have to spend enormous sums to filter their water to this standard, and that even with a heavy investment the task may be impossible.

Lobbying for the industry are former House Speakers John Thrasher and James Harold Thompson, as well as Mac Stipanovich, former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Martinez and a top campaign strategist for Gov. Jeb Bush, and Jim Krog, former chief of staff to Gov. Lawton Chiles.

The industry has also continued its practice of making substantial campaign contributions. U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and the other growers have given at least $800,000 to state candidates since 2001.

"They give huge amounts of campaign money to the Legislature," said Eric Draper, a lobbyist for the Florida Audubon Society. "And the legislators becomes their puppets."

The bill would also continue a one-tenth mill tax on property within the South Florida Water Management District that was to expire this year.

Staff Writer Kathy Bushouse contributed to this report.

David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sun-sentinel.com or


So you want to halt sprawl? Fat chance!
Orlando Sentinel.com
Mike Thomas
May 15, 2008

It doesn't matter that Florida has a huge glut of abandoned homes thrown up in the hinterlands, dragging down the economy.

Our political leaders want more.

Not only are they refusing to control sprawl, but they also are making sure you don't either. It's the biggest disconnect I've ever seen between public desire and political action.

Consider Florida Hometown Democracy, an amendment proposed by a small band of environmentalists that would require voters to sign off on changes to local growth plans. Supporters are gathering signatures to put it on the 2010 ballot.

The very notion has terrified the state's business/political cartel, which treats growth plans like disposable diapers. So the business lobby has joined the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist to pull every dirty trick possible to keep it off the ballot.

One tactic was legislation passed last year. It allowed amendment opponents to try to persuade those who signed the Hometown Democracy petition to revoke their signatures.

This started a disinformation campaign in which the business lobby warned that "this bad amendment will open the door for big developers to ruin Florida 's natural and scenic beauty, but you can help stop the special interests."

It may be the most stunning lie ever told in Florida -- the audacity of desperation.

The person behind it was John Thrasher, a former speaker of the House, now a hired-gun lobbyist for the state's biggest developers.

It's one sleazy, incestuous stew up there in Tallahassee . Do you really think they're going to let you muck up their good thing by letting you vote on growth?

Last month a state appeals court threw out the signature revocation law. The Crist administration plans to appeal.

All the so-called responsible environmentalists and growth-management gurus sit on the sideline because they say Hometown Democracy is just too radical. As if sending bulldozers ever farther out into the rural abyss of a state already overbuilt is more responsible.

Meanwhile, legislators once again squashed growth-management reforms this year.

Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park , the future House speaker, actually tried to weaken citizen input. Maybe he's after John Thrasher's job.

Said Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham: "I expect that the sponsors of Hometown Democracy are very happy with the way things turned out. All of this will add fuel to their cause, I'm sure."

It is past time.

Back in 2004, more than 70 percent of Volusia voters supported a referendum to limit rampant growth. Home builders got it tossed with a legal challenge.

This year, nearly 80 percent of Sarasota voters passed a referendum requiring a unanimous vote by the County Commission to increase zoning densities outside the urban-service boundary.

Earlier they passed a measure requiring a supermajority County Commission vote to increase density in the comprehensive growth plan.

"There is much more debate now," says Bill Earl, an activist behind the measures. "Smart developers are going to neighborhood associations and to environmental groups to ask what they can do to make projects acceptable."

Backroom deals are out in Sarasota . Guess who loses power?

It is why the politicians, lobbyists and developers are so desperate to keep this movement from growing.

Mike Thomas can be reached at 407-420-5525 or mthomas@orlandosentinel.com.
Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel


Anonymous said...

Great photo showing who's behind Thrasher. With Rick Scott stickers on both shirts. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Anonymous said...

Jim Kroger no longer lobbies for sugar. He has been dead for several years

Anonymous said...

Are we sure Jim Kroger is dead? Anyone see a stake in his heart?

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why these political operatives feel they are academically and experientially qualified to lead a college or university, or any community of scholars. They are simply looking for a big important position so they can be a "big person". There are plenty of big titled positions for empty suits and dresses. But university presidency is ill-suited for these kinds of people. By and large they are not thought-leaders, have made no significant contributions in the expansion of knowledge in any field of human endeavor, have no idea what it means to push the frontiers of knowledge, know very little about education in general and higher education in particular, have no working knowledge of the issues, the mechanics, and the dynamics of leading these kinds of institutions - in short, they are severely unqualified to lead an academic institution. Thank goodness they had a strong faculty!

Anonymous said...

Follow the money...

Anonymous said...

Successful universities will attract money based on who they are, the significance of their research, the quality of their faculty, and good leadership. No need for these political pimps who operate in the back rooms of legislatures to use public money as leverage for control of day-to-day operations of universities.

Anonymous said...

One can only hope that the FSU Board comes to their senses. I did some research and found that very few state colleges and/or universities have Presidents without a PhD and without some kind of educational experience. This guy was a lawyer and lawmaker.

Anonymous said...

What happened to my comment about govt unions being a special interest? Oh that's right ... you only allow people who agree with you to post comments.

Liberals are just like a Nazis - they don't tolerate dissent.

Geniusofdespair said...

Putz. We don't take off subject posts but this shows your wicked heart.