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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

ACU's Cardenas opposes Obama's stimulus but lobbies for the money in Tallahassee



Gary Fineout of the Associated Press has this story from Tallahassee:

The head of a prominent national conservative group is lobbying on behalf of a company seeking to win a Florida contract backed by federal stimulus money. Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union and opposed the $787 billion stimulus package.

But Cardenas and his firm represent a vendor pushing a legislative proposal to transfer control of a stimulus-funded project from one Florida agency to another. State records show the firm was paid at least $40,000 last year.

The bill (HB 945) passed the Legislature on Friday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. The legislation comes after the Department of Management Services decided it would not renew a contract with Connected Nation to map broadband services in the state.

Cardenas said he had nothing to do with his firm being hired by the company, but he defended the decision to represent the company. He said moving the program to another agency will help cut down on government bureaucracy, which fits in line with his "conservative principles."

The legislative proposal was so closely aligned with Cardenas' lobbying firm that the Senate bill sponsor referred questions about the bill to a lobbyist working for Cardenas.

Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, said he backed the bill because the state's broadband initiatives should be handled by the new state agency dealing with economic development.

But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that DMS has warned internally that the transfer of the program to another state agency will require federal approval and could put millions in federal grants in jeopardy.

DMS officials have already sent emails to federal officials in charge of the broadband program complaining about employees of the Cardenas firm — including the husband of Scott's campaign manager — interfering with the state's effort to carry out the grant program.

[Last modified: Friday, March 9, 2012 3:51pm]


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