Tuesday, May 26, 2015

State Senator Joe Negron and Florida's shadow government: Polluted politics contaminate the legislature, tying back to Big Sugar ... by gimleteye

As pollution spews from Lake Okeechobee as a consequence of Big Sugar's domination of the Florida legislature, attention has started to focus on one of the industry's biggest supporters and enablers: Florida state senator Joe Negron.
Negron's muted response to the algae blooms in the St. Lucie and his unwillingness to hold his Republican colleagues accountable for tough, strict measures to stop industrial pollution of the Lake, has a precedent.

Negron could soon be the elected by his senate colleagues to president, following in the footsteps of one of Jeb Bush's top lieutenants, Ken Pruitt. Pruitt is not only property tax appraiser in St. Lucie County, he is a lobbyist who has harvested hundreds of thousands of dollars in income from Big Sugar.

Let's hope political opposition mounts to challenge Joe Negron and Ken Pruitt at the polls and that the media show some curiousity about Florida's shadow government.

Joe Negron's net worth quadrupled, annual income doubled since winning first elected office in 2000
George Andreassi
Treasure Coast Newspapers
10:37 PM, May 23, 2015

STUART — State Sen. Joe Negron quadrupled his personal fortune to about $800,000 since 2000, when he first won elected office.

Negron’s annual income, mainly his pay as an attorney, more than doubled to about $300,000 during the past 14 years, a Treasure Coast Newspapers investigation found.

And if Negron — the Stuart Republican whose district spans the Treasure Coast — wins his bid for the Florida Senate presidency later this year, his personal finances are likely to improve even more, judging by the performance of his mentor, former Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie. Now the St. Lucie County property appraiser, Pruitt’s annual income has more than doubled and net worth more than tripled since he resigned from the state senate in 2009.


Some government watchdogs and political activists on the Treasure Coast said the growing affluence of powerful state lawmakers such as Negron eventually causes them to lose touch with ordinary voters and taxpayers. They also said they believe there is synergy between Negron’s legal and political careers.

“In my opinion, they go hand in hand,”said Bill Ramos, D-Jensen Beach, who lost to Negron in the 2009 special election to complete Pruitt’s unexpired term in the state Senate. “He proved himself a smart investment to the special interests that invested in him, so the doors of professional opportunity, and higher political office, were opened to him.

“He has become less qualified to represent middle-class voters with every political victory,” Ramos said. “His words say ‘middle class,’ but his actions and votes say ‘special interests.’ ”

For his part, though, Negron portrays himself as a man of the people who worked his way up from the bottom through hard work and honest ambition.

“I am honored to be an attorney in this community, representing businesses to prevent and resolve disputes and, when necessary, to seek justice in our court system,” Negron said. “As both a House member and senator, I have a track record of representing the interests of all my constituents on the Treasure Coast, without regard to their individual finances.”

“As a teenager, I proudly worked at the Green Thumb Nursery in Hobe Sound for $2.20 an hour,” Negron said. “I unloaded grocery trucks at 4 a.m. and stocked shelves at the Port Salerno Winn-Dixie to put myself through college.”

Negron’s annual income rose about 113 percent since 2000, when he first won a seat in the state House of Representatives in District 82, state records show. Meanwhile, the median household income in Florida rose about 23 percent to $47,886 since 2000, U.S. census data shows.

“Compare Negron’s skyrocketing income over the last few years ... against the financial hardship most Treasure Coast families face,” said Reid Friedson, a government watchdog from Fort Pierce. “His priorities remain clear. Joe Negron has consistently chosen big business over workers, the environment and constitutional rights.”

Negron is not the only state senator whose net worth is rising, according to a Feb. 24 report by FloridaWatchdog.org, an investigative news site covering state politics. The total net worth of Florida’s 40 state senators increased by 18 percent between 2011 and 2013, according to the report.

The base pay of state senators and representatives for the 2014-2015 budget year is $29,697, state records show.

Negron and his supporters said his industriousness led to professional advancement, which brings greater financial rewards. His educational credentials include a law degree from Emory University in Atlanta and a master’s in public administration from Harvard University.

“At first glance, a net worth of $800,000 and annual income of $300,000 ... is not excessive,” said Chuck Winn, a Martin County conservative activist. “No doubt the contacts any legislator makes will benefit their business interests. Joe Negron is not dumb enough to get involved in questionable transactions.”

State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, whose seat once was held by Negron, said he is a hard worker who has won the respect of Treasure Coast voters and fellow lawmakers.

“I am confident that he will continue to put people over politics and work for principled solutions as the senate president,” Magar said.


Negron started his legal career in 1986 with a Stuart-based law firm headed by F. Shields McManus, who has since risen to a judgeship in the 19th Circuit Court. Negron moved on to the Steger & Steger law firm and later the Crary, Buchanan law firm, both in Stuart, before starting his own sole-practitioner law firm in 2003.

Negron’s income and net worth took off in 2005 after he joined a large national law firm, Akerman Senterfitt, and later the Gunster Yoakley law firm, which is among the most politically active in Florida. Both firms have lucrative businesses lobbying the state government in Tallahassee.

Gunster’s onetime managing partner, George Lemieux, was chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist appointed Lemieux, R-Fort Lauderdale, to the U.S. Senate in 2009 to complete the unexpired term of Mel Martinez, R-Orlando. The Gunster firm earned between $850,000 and $1,949,992 lobbying the state legislative and executive branches in 2014, state records show.

Negron is one of 10 state lawmakers employed by a firm whose activities include lobbying the state government, according to a report by Integrity Florida, a state government watchdog. Two of the others work for Akerman Senterfitt, Negron’s prior employer.


Some watchdogs have expressed concern Gunster’s lobbying clients may benefit from Negron’s role as state senator, which has included a stint as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. But Negron has denied any connection between his legal practice and his work in the Senate.

Peter Butzin, volunteer state chairman of the Common Cause Florida government-watchdog group, has expressed concern about whether Negron’s employment as an attorney with Gunster could pose a conflict with his official position as a state senator. Butzin said he is unconcerned with Negron’s rising legal income.

“I am more interested in learning more about his clients and whether his income was earned from billings,” Butzin said. “I would be bothered if such income were unearned.”

It is common for state lawmakers to benefit professionally from their elevated status as an elected official, Butzin said.

“Does a politician land a prominent position in a prestigious law firm simply because he or she has outstanding legal skills? Perhaps,” Butzin said. “But it’s much more likely that the partners in the law firm recognize the benefits associated with having such a person on their letterhead.”


Negron said he typically spend 10-12 days per year in court but hasn’t appeared in court on behalf of a client since January.

“I currently practice business litigation with the Gunster firm, which is entirely separate from my legislative service,” Negron said. “I do not represent and have not represented Gunster clients before state agencies, and have taken the appropriate legal steps to separate myself from those matters.”

For some Democratic activists who have long criticized Negron’s conservative politics, his growing income from powerful law firms is another reason to distrust his motives.

“Who they are lobbying for will tell you whether Negron is focused on the public interest or private profit,” Friedson said. “The Gunster and Akerman law firms lobby mostly for big-business insiders, not the public interest. Who lobbies for the common man and woman and our environment? Not these firms.”


1983: Stetson University, BA
1986: Emory University Law School, JD
2009: Harvard University, MPA

1986-1989/1990: McManus, Stewart, Ferraro law firm, Stuart
1989/1990-1996: Steger & Steger law firm, Stuart
1996-2002: Crary, Buchanan, law firm, Stuart
2002-present: Joe Negron, PA, Stuart
2004: Gaunt, Pratt, Radford & Methe law firm, West Palm Beach
2004-2010: Akerman, Sentefitt law firm, West Palm Beach
2010-present: Gunster Yoakley law firm, West Palm Beach


Florida Senate presidents from the Treasure Coast
2006-2008: Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie
2010-2012: Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne


Anonymous said...

Stuart's river is toxic from sugar runoff. Why do they put in office a toxic politician? Can Stuart people not connect dots?

cyndi said...

Anonymous. We couldn't vote for the person who ran against him. long story. look it up and connect the dots. I could not vote for either.
Joe Negron is against people. Not just the big sugar connection. He has worked and is working on gutting mental health funding. He would if he could de-fund our community mental health center.

"More specifically, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, advocated cuts to so-called soft services, which include mental health and drug-addiction programs, because many of these services address what Negon views as “a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, a lack of character."

I could just cry that any person could even say that.

miaexile said...

ive lived to see men landing on the moon, the Berlin wall fall, the end of apartheid in south africa, same-sex marriage legalzed by popular vote in Ireland- i hope im alive to see a smarter and better informd electorate in Florida actually go to the polls and vote, period.

Michelle4ourriver said...

Perhaps you all would like to join us in thanking Joe for nothing on Thursday! What a joke! I do not believe he intends to get anything done other than lead his sheeple out to pasture to wander until he has gone on and the next wolf in sheeps clothing comes along. Kinda makes you want to throw up the old double fisted birds! Well come on out...your all invite to do so Thursday!

Subject: Everglades Thank Your Rally and Press Conference
To: Takeata King Pang

Please share with your organization and membership.

This month, the South Florida Water Management District voted to reject the U.S. Sugar land buy that would have provided Florida with the land needed to build a critical reservoir to clean and store water. With that option off the table, we need a Plan B.

Join the Everglades Trust and our coalition partners to THANK Senator Joe Negron for standing up for the Everglades and supporting a plan to find water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

WHEN: Thursday, May 28th at 3pm
WHERE: Senator Negron's District Office (3500 Southwest Corporate Parkway, Palm City, FL)
RSVP: TakeataKing@gmail.com

Feel Free to share this event.

​If you can't make the Rally, please take a moment to Email and Call the Senator to Thank him!

Call Senator Joe Negron- 850-487-5032
Email- negron.joe@flsenate.gov ​

Be sure to let us know you contacted him by sending a short email to takeataking@gmail.com

cyndi said...

Michelle lol. I'm very confused at the everglades trust sucking up like this.

Michelle4ourriver said...

Yes Cyndi lol figured there was more than Mike and I that don't really share the faith. However people keep trying to convince us he's our only hope......we are screwed!!

cyndi said...

this is the issues, people make decisions and then don't communicate.