Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Republican Race For Governor, Rick Scott, and Donald Trump ... by gimleteye

The online blog -- Florida Politics -- has coyly tracked Big Sugar's talking points in the past. Peter Schorsch, publisher and founder of Florida Politics, wrote yesterday from an insiders' perspective of a weekend meeting in Orlando, "At confab, Adam Putnam supporters asked to raise more money, game out Trump involvement." We offer the following comments as "outsiders".
"... If the election for Florida governor was to be decided by the candidates taking a pop-quiz about the Sunshine State’s history, people, and geography, it’s very likely Putnam would not only win, he might just ace the test...

Unfortunately for Putnam, whichever candidate can give the best directions through Florida’s agriculture belt is not how the Republican nominee for Governor will be decided. Instead, it will be fought in the dens of of Florida television viewers who seemingly must make a choice between the candidate they see on all the commercials on Fox News (Putnam) and the candidate they actually see on Fox News (Ron DeSantis)."

So far, so good. Putnam, the favored choice of Florida polluters and industry associations, has raised a fearsome amount of corporate campaign cash, with direct contributions heavily spike by dark money pools. DeSantis, a Congressman from North Florida, has emerged as one of Trump's fiercest defenders in the House and, for that -- at least so far as we know -- earned Trump's early endorsement. So Putnam buys the commercials on Fox. And Fox pundits fluff DeSantis for the networks' intractable and unpersuadable viewers.
It is verboten within Putnam’s circle of influence to describe the Polk County Republican’s gubernatorial campaign as the 2.0 version of Jeb Bush’s failed bid for The White House. This circle is the rear guard of Florida’s establishment, which has been forced to kowtow for the last seven-and-a-half years to Rick Scott and saw its hopes of invading Washington D.C. flummoxed by Donald Trump‘s filleting of not just Bush, but Florida’s other favorite son, Marco Rubio.

Here, Schorch's analysis skews off-track. The forces behind Putnam are not the "rear-guard of Florida's establishment". They are the front line and are not only well-known as such, they advertise their political muscle with swinging cudgels whenever and wherever it suits their interests. Since Citizens United, their actions have been mainly served by superPAC's and other dark money channels. But that's not "rear-guard". That's what the GOP calls "mainstream".

The notion, moreover, that these major forces in Florida have been "forced to kowtow for the last seven-and-a-half years to Rick Scott" and Trump's "filleting of not just Bush ... but Marco Rubio" is plain wrong. In fact, Rick Scott has done an expert job of recruiting Florida's Republican establishment to his side, accommodating their interests even more neatly than either Bush, when he was governor, or Rubio, when he was a state legislator.

So why paint the picture of special interests as "flummoxed"? Here is a good guess: it plays right into Scott's campaign to defeat Bill Nelson for US Senate.

Schorch's: "In 2018, the establishment — scarred by a decade of political water-treading, but flush with a booming influence economy — is determined not to let another interloper defy its well-laid plans" is plain ridiculous. Political water-treading? Polluters and industry associations and well-funded political action committees have NEVER been as anchored and secure as they are today in Florida.

There has never been a question that Adam Putnam was carefully cultivated to be the Republican candidate for governor. It's happening the same way for Representative Matt Caldwell, who is now running for Putnam's job as Agriculture Secretary. Caldwell, an accountant in Lee County, lives in an area heavily afflicted by pollution from Big Sugar. Seven years ago, he was assigned by Big Sugar to "take down" a local county commissioner, Ray Judah, who had been the lone Republican voice in Florida politics to call for Big Sugar to shoulder the costs of cleaning up Florida's badly damaged rivers and estuaries. US Sugar Corporation funneled nearly $1 million into the campaign against Judah, and after its victory, Caldwell was promoted to do heavier lifting for Big Sugar in the state legislature. He was a primary driver behind efforts to turn the 2017 Everglades Reservoir Plan into Big Sugar's Trojan Horse. Now, he has been lined up for political advancement.

The same happened with Putnam. As a Congressman, Putnam vehemently opposed the effort by the US EPA to impose limits on nitrogen and phosphorous standards in Florida to protect the state's badly damaged fresh water resources. He opposed the Crist plan to buy US Sugar lands -- as did Gov. Scott -- a deal that could have helped to mitigate the agony of the planned massive reservoir, to cost taxpayers at least $2 billion. As a cabinet member, Putnam supported outrageous lease extensions of public lands to Big Sugar; another measure that solidified Big Sugar's chokehold on Floridians. So, yes: "The plan for Adam Putnam to eventually occupy the Governor’s Mansion began long before Trump and long before Scott. In fact, it was before Putnam was elected Agriculture Commissioner that a small group of key advisers began to meet in Boca Grande to plot out the then-Congressman’s path to the Governor’s Office."

From Schorch's report, it is clear that Putnam supporters want this story line to reach the White House.
Among those in attendance were Former House Speakers Dean Cannon, Steve Crisafulli and Will Weatherford, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Disney lobbyist Adam Babington, Miami real estate developer Rodney Barretto, Ballard Partners’ Brad Burleson, U.S. Sugar executive Robert Coker, The Rubin Group’s Chris Finkbeiner, Florida Chamber board member Sonya Deen Hartley, Smith Bryan & Myers’ Jeff Hartley, Anheuser-Busch exec Jose Gonzalez, Publix’s Clayton and Beverly Hollis, Greenberg Traurig lobbyist Fred Karlinsky, insurance lobbyist Robert Hawken, Justice Reform Institute president William Large, lobbyist and former state Rep. Seth McKeel, Comcast government affairs VP Brian Musselwhite, Mosaic government affairs VP Eileen Stuart, and AT&T Florida president Joe York.

Schorsch continues to expound on the storyline:
If there was one defining takeaway several of the Putnam supporters wanted to share it is that they are surprised by DeSantis’ less-than-spectacular fundraising efforts.

“It doesn’t look like the cavalry is coming,” said one lobbyist supporting Putnam.

In April, DeSantis political committee raised less than $500,000. What the Ponte Vedra Republican raised in hard dollars during April won’t be known until later this week. Whatever it is, he will have not kept pace with Putnam, whose Florida Grown political committee had another $2 million month in April. Overall, Putnam has raised $28.88 million between his campaign and committee.

Although Schorsch gives a DeSantis spokesperson the benefit of comment, it is clear that the purpose of the article is to attract to the audience of one: Donald Trump.
"... if he (Putnam) is to win — and fulfill the ambitions of his dedicated supporters — it would appear that Putnam’s best bet is not to raise more money or expound on the history of Florida, but to make sure the only place Donald Trump visits in Florida is his home at Mar-a-Lago."

That's probably a message that Gov. Rick Scott is also carrying to conversations with President Trump. As a US Senator, Rick Scott can be of more help to Trump than Ron DeSantis. And the Republican campaign fat cats will be more inclined to support Trump in 2020 than if he upends the carefully laid plans of Florida polluters.

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