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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sansom plotted behind scene for his college



In the past two years, House Speaker Ray Sansom got $35-million in extra tax dollars for the college where he now works, an exceptional feat in tightening budget times. But that may not have been his biggest gift to Northwest Florida State College.

A4s_sansomemail121408 Plotting behind the scenes with the college president who would become his boss, Sansom pushed legislation last spring that created a new, exclusive tier of local colleges that could offer an array of bachelor's degrees. Along the way, the pair arranged a secretive meeting (click image to enlarge) that skirted Florida's Sunshine laws.

Sansom, serving as House budget chairman, seemed at once a lobbyist and lawmaker for his friend, who championed the state college idea. He provided Richburg the kind of access that lobbyists and their clients crave. Richburg coached Sansom, offering changes to the bill and pushing Sansom to bring home more money. "It's a pricey list ... hopefully we can make it a reality," Richburg wrote on Feb. 26.

When then-House Speaker Marco Rubio seemed cool to a controversial proposal reorganizing the university system governance, Richburg tried to convey that other college presidents were concerned. "The bottom line is a request for you to help shore up support of the speaker," Richburg wrote on March 28. "If I am meddling, forgive me — otherwise message delivered."

Sansom quickly replied, "I will get right on this." (story here.)

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:09pm]


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