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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Character attack on Lee draws rebuke from GOP boss



tom_lee_mailpiece_back.gif A new attack launched in the state Senate race between Republicans Tom Lee and Rachel Burgin is a third-party group's direct assault on Lee's personal character, and it brought a sharp rebuke from Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

A political group called The American People Committee, backed by Tallahassee lobbyists Jack and Keyna Cory, raised money for a flier headlined "Character Matters" that links Lee with Rob Turner, the discredited Hillsborough County property appraiser who has acknowledged sending pornographic emails to a female co-worker.

"Families are off limits," Curry said in a statement. "I urge all candidates and committees to stay focused on the issues."

Above a head shot of Lee, the mailer says: "While in office, Tom Lee abandoned his marriage for a gambling lobbyist" and "Tom Lee is now married to another woman, and at 50 years old he is again starting a new family. Three women in 10 years. Are these the family values of the Republican Party?"

The Corys are long-time Tallahassee lobbyists who support Burgin, and there's no love lost between Lee and Jack Cory. In a highly publicized 1999 incident, Lee acknowledged shoving Cory as the two men had a nose-to-nose confrontation over a telecommunications bill in the state Capitol. 

The American People Committee reports raising $188,000 so far, including $146,000 from American Legal Media, owner of many niche legal publications. ALM publishes the Business Review newspapers in South Florida. Genting, the New York-based gambling conglomerate, also contributed $5,000 to the anti-Lee effort.

Genting wants its money back. Cory Tilley, a spokesman for the gambling firm, said: "Genting does not support these kinds of campaign tactics and we would never have given the money eight months ago if we knew that this is what they were going to do with it."

While Curry calls the attacker a "Democrat-backed organization," one of the group's backers is a group tied to a prominent Republican, former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

Kottkamp is a registered lobbyist for Keep the Public Noticed Coalition, which contributed $5,000 to the American people Committee.

 Lee accused the Corys of violating Florida election law with the mailer, because the American People Committee is not an electioneering organization but a CCE or Committee of Continuous Existence. "They're going to have me to deal with on that," Lee said. "Game on."

Cory said that if his group needs to re-register as an ECO, it will, but he called it a "technical" matter. Of Lee, Cory said: "He ought to be discussing the issues in the district."  

For a larger version of the ad, click here

--Steve Bousquet

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 4:42pm]


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