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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida House Speaker Blaise Ingoglia?

13

April

We're a little late to this internal squirmish within Florida House GOP, but chatter that Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia could replace Orlando state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle as Speaker-to-be in 2020, has ticked off a bunch of folks.

Here's the letter former Florida GOP Chairman sent to Ingoglia Saturday:

Chairman,

It has recently come to the attention of some of the members of the state committee of a challenge by you to supplant Eric Eisnaugle as speaker in waiting.

I know many accounts that have and will be written by the press can be complete fabrications of the actual events and none of us will ever believe everything that is written on a blog but this has caught some attention. 

I write to you hoping that you will continue the great work you've begun in bringing our states' 29 electoral votes into the Republican column in November and use the leadership of the Party to focus all Republicans in Florida to that goal.  I know as well as most that the rumor mill in Tallahassee can work overtime and I urge you to continue to create the best Republican Party you can in such an important year.

Good luck to you as you wind down this legislative session and if there is anything we as a committee can do to help gear up for 2016 we are with you Chairman.

Leslie Dougher

And here's the missive Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver sent Sunday:

Dear Fellow RPOF Members:

I have just read Leslie Dougher's email (below) regarding the controversy
surrounding the election of a future speaker designate of the house, and I
have 3 levels of concern that range from dismay, to serious objection, to
extreme outrage, and I think it is vitally important that I share those
concerns with you for your own evaluation and action: 

I had previously heard rumblings of antics similar to those described in
Leslie's email, but dismissed them as paranoia occasioned by watching too
many episodes of House of Cards.  After speaking to some house members
personally, I have been forced to conclude that House of Cards is indeed
doing location shots in Florida.

On the first level, I am somewhat dismayed to learn that there are some
House members who are apparently engaged in convoluted ethical gymnastics
designed to justify reneging on written (unconditional) commitments of
support for a future speaker of the house. 

I'm disappointed to hear that because I have on many occasions in my
political and business life made firm commitments to people that I
occasionally had reason to reconsider in light of subsequent events, but I
have always bitten the bullet and followed through on my word REGARDLESS
because I think it is a core value of an ethical life that while we will
never EVER know on our deathbeds if our decisions are WISE, we will ALWAYS
know if we kept our word, and I would rather be known as someone who keeps
his word than someone who was wise.  Wisdom is a CALCULATION, keeping your
word is a VALUE, and the 2 are NOT interchangeable.  

Every commitment in life is made knowing full well that SOME material
assumption underpinning the commitment could change after the fact.  There
is a word for people whose unconditional commitments are later withdrawn
because some unidentified material assumption later changes, and that word
is not "honorable".

That said, it's really not my business how 19 people in Tallahassee choose
to engage (or disengage) their honor among themselves in internal power
struggles, and I certainly wouldn't bother to write you all if that were all
that was involved here.  Also, I am partly biased on this score because the
target of the power struggle in question is a friend of mine, from my
county, and he has been hugely helpful to the local party and to our other
candidates, so I'm not pretending to be impartial.

However, there is MUCH more involved here than internal arguments in the
house.   

My second level of concern is rather more serious and clearly involves all
of us and the RPOF.   This is because a central player in this controversy
is our own party chairman, Blaise Ingoglia.  I am given to understand that
his name may have been used in vain, and without his permission, but it has
nonetheless been used a LOT, and directly by House members with direct,
firsthand knowledge.  Blaise has been broadly touted as the "alternative"
speaker of the house, notwithstanding the fact that he and 17 other members
of the freshman class (18 out of 19) signed written pledges of support for
Eric Eisnaugle, and notwithstanding that he has at no time indicated to the
RPOF that this was or is a goal of his.

This is a serious matter.  It is difficult enough for anyone to wear two
hats and serve two masters under the best of circumstances.  However, when
an RPOF chairman may be actively engaged in, or even used as an involuntary
pawn in (I will assume the latter), an effort to undermine or even
potentially remove or defeat another house member who was elected and
supported by other members of the RPOF family, the myth of the RPOF as a
"safe harbor" or "neutral ground" is smashed into little pieces.  We have
seen this movie before.

Underscore this concern TWICE when the Chairman himself is the chief
beneficiary of the conspiracy.  This is the textbook definition of "conflict
of interest".  And Blaise PROMISED there would be no conflicts.  I took him
at his word, and so did most of you.  That is why this situation must be
"clarified" immediately.  A clear motivation for many of those who voted for
Blaise was a desire to keep our volunteer organization from being a tool of
any elected official.   It would appear that it is possible that nothing of
the kind was accomplished.  Instead, we may have merely traded the (alleged)
influence of one elected official for the (actual) influence of another.  

My third level of concern rises to the level of OUTRAGE, and ought to be of
the most EXTREME concern to all of you.

As many of you know, central Florida accounted for 4 of the 6 house seats
taken from the Democrats in 2014.  All 4 seats are contiguous, 2 are
entirely contained inside Orange County, and one is 1/3 Orange.  Not
surprisingly, all 4 of these freshmen, plus one other freshman in a
friendlier already-republican district also touching Orange, pledged their
support in writing to their fellow Orange County friend and neighbor Eric
Eisnaugle (who also materially helped all of them significantly, and who
also is a remarkably solid and sincere, if slightly boring, guy).  

Here is the part that should justify exceptional outrage by all of us,
whether you have a dog in the Speaker's hunt or not:  all 3 of these
freshmen have been EXPLICITLY THREATENED by key house leadership, not only
with reduced leadership potential if they fail to renege on their honor and
their word (which doesn't necessarily concern me or you), but with either
reduced support for their re-election in highly competitive districts, or
outright targeting in their primaries.   Furthermore, the suggestion was
that house leadership AND the RPOF would be part of the execution of the
threat.  

Worst of all, it has even been stated that LOSING the 3 "rented" seats
(their words) is a perfectly acceptable price to pay to unseat Eric and
replace him with [potentially] Blaise.  

Yep you read that right.  Let it sink in: an RPOF chairman has been DIRECTLY
implicated in the center of a conspiracy to undermine and potentially
DELIBERATELY LOSE 3 Republican state house seats just so a certain faction
in the state house can retain or grab power by either coercing many members
to renege on their word, or else ridding the House of their presence
altogether.  House of Cards, meet your new home in Florida.  

This ought to make every one of us absolutely furious.  Today, 3 seats we
worked like hell to win in Orange County are at risk, tomorrow maybe a seat
or 2 in YOUR county.  

The threat against these freshmen is a betrayal of trust and utterly
dishonorable, but the threat to sacrifice the seats altogether rather than
allow the members to honor their word is TREASON.   Any action by any
Republican Party official connected with the potential defeat of a
republican by a Democrat is an egregious violation of our oath.  Similar
actions by elected officials are equally risible.

All of us at the local level are constantly exhorted to recruit strong
candidates, and work our tails off for them, with SPECIAL emphasis on the
marginal districts and non-traditional constituencies, in particular
Hispanics.  We did so here in Orange County in 2014 with great success, only
to be told now that, in effect, our efforts are disposable like a used rag
on the side of the road if it happens to conflict with the ambitions of a
handful men (I cannot help but observe that no FEMALE house members are
implicated in this dishonorable mess....)  The betrayal of trust is
breathtaking for both our volunteers AND our donors, as well as our
candidates and elected officials.  

Further, the betrayal and miscalculation looks even WORSE to outsiders
because 2 of the 3 Freshmen are Hispanics who are utterly VITAL to our
coalition building efforts locally and all over the state.  Any party leader
that doesn't get that is doing our party incalculable damage.

Finally, the implicit and explicit threats involved here mean that $10
million PLUS could easily be spent on INTERNAL party fights in the most
important election year in 16 years.  THAT message could be crippling to our
donor efforts, as well as to our efforts in the presidential race.

I'm very, very upset about this.  It is dirty, dishonorable business.   It
involves betrayals of trust and potential violations of RPOF campaign
promises, as well as potential oath violations.  

I do not know from personal, firsthand experience that Blaise is
deliberately involved in any of this.  He may be an innocent pawn.  I hope
so and I think so, and I owe him the benefit of the doubt.  Though I didn't
vote for him, I have every reason to believe that he is working hard, means
well, has good ideas, etc.  he has also been helpful in Orange County since
his election, and he is of course infectiously likeable.   

Therefore, I'm not calling for his resignation.  However, I AM calling for
him to pledge right now that he is not involved in this disgraceful episode,
is NOT running to defeat the speaker designate, is not reneging on his own
written pledge or urging others to do so, and will not use his budget or
power or position as RPOF chairman to influence this race.  

Most importantly, he must pledge that he will not allow party resources or
accounts to be used to pressure members on speaker race votes, will not
allow the party or its funds to challenge incumbent Republicans in
primaries, will not withhold or restrict party funds for that reason, and
will not cooperate in any efforts to do so by others.  Finally, if he
becomes AWARE of such efforts by any OTHER parties, he will disclose them to
our RPOF membership immediately.  

If by chance he wants to be speaker and feels it necessary "play" in
Republican races, then fine, he can  resign as RPOF Chairman and pursue  his
other ambitions.  Otherwise, no one in good faith can run the party on the
one hand and actively associate with those who threaten elected Republicans
on the other.

This is the only way we can have any reasonable confidence that the RPOF is
not being used to further the specific ambitions of a handful of individuals
as the expense of the party, it's members, and the people of the state of
Florida.  For someone who specifically ran on that pledge, it should be an
easy call.  And for those in the RPOF who voted for Blaise on the basis of
that pledge, it ought to be equally easy to hold him to that pledge and put
a stop to this game NOW.

Lew Oliver
Orange Chair

And Ingoglia's comment in response:
“The accusation that the RPOF has made any threats to sitting members of the Florida House of Representatives is flat out wrong and void of any truth.  In fact, one phone call to any of these three members would have cleared that up immediately.

“Since reading the email, I took the time to make phone calls and check my facts before I made any public comments or replied to any emails.  I have personally spoken to the three Orange County house members that Mr. Oliver mentioned in his email.  As expected, all of them affirmed that no threats have ever been made to them and they too have no idea how this false rumor came about.

“As chairman of the greatest party in our state, and despite these unfortunate distractions that often happen in large families, I am focused on the task at hand which is victory for all Republicans on the ticket in 2016.”

 

[Last modified: Monday, April 13, 2015 5:22pm]

    

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