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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tea Party activist says Rep. Tobia threatened her



A group called Tea Party in Action is running a radio ad in Brevard County blasting two local Republican lawmakers for sponsoring a bill that would impose a new fee on Dosal Tobacco Co., a Miami cigarette manufacturer. One of the ad's targets is Sen. Thad Altman and the other is Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, who met on Thursday with TPIA's director, Marianne Moran, a West Palm Beach lawyer.

Moran says Tobia directly threatened her and said that if she didn't take the ad off the air by nightfall, he would withdraw his support for the so-called repeal amendment, a memorial (HM 1429) that seeks to let states opt out of federal laws and regulations.

"I was disgusted," Moran said, "that he would use such a great piece of legislation as a bargaining chip. "Why would he file the bill if he didn't believe in it?"

Tobia said: "I did not make any threat. I'm just not in the business of directly helping folks who are in the business of trying to hurt me. I would rather have her help and push forward with the repeal amendment, but I'm certainly not going to stick my neck out and help somebody who is trying to cause problems."

Tobia accused Moran of profiting off the Tea Party name. Moran said she's an unpaid volunteer activist. She declined to provide the sources of the money to pay for the radio ad. Tobia says the ad is fair game, and he says Moran should disclose who's financing the ad "if she has nothing to hide." Moran says she has no intention of taking the ad off the air. 

Tobia wondered why a Tea Party group would be so interested in a fee on a cigarette manufacturer. "Because it would put a Florida business out of business," Moran said.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 2:59pm]


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