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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times




An e-mail flier from the Randy Johnson for CFO campaign invited Republicans to view a picture on rival Tom Lee’s web site of a Jefferson County GOP event last April. “Of particular note, is the picture of Tom Lee holding a beverage in his hand,” the flier reads.

The Buzz dutifully clicked on the website and located the photo in question. Lee is indeed pictured with a plastic cup in hand. It’s water, a Lee spokeswoman said. Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Clyde Simpson says he doesn’t know what the beverage is. But he knows what it’s not: “There was no alcohol there that night.” Just soda, iced tea and water, he said.

The beverage scandal is just part of a flier Johnson sent out accusing Lee, the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee and lobbyist David Bitner of violating elections laws by participating in the April 17 event. Johnson says that because Bitner underwrote the cost of food and drink for the event, which Johnson says was a Meet and Greet for Lee’s CFO campaign, the event was illegal because lawmaker's can't accept gifts from lobbyists.

Lee’s spokeswoman said that because the event was sponsored by the local Republican Party, and because political parties are exempt from the lobbyist gift ban, Lee is in the clear and would be even if his cup had held more than just water. Said the Lee camp: “Their campaign has spent the entire summer criticizing Republicans. It’s sad. Now he’s disparaging a small County Republican Chairman – not exactly in keeping with Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:15pm]


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