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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida legislator threatens to sue Pitbull over Visit Florida deal



The leader of the state’s tourism marketing agency insists the state of Florida will never do another deal like the one it had with Miami music star Pitbull in which it cannot release details of the contract.

But that is not stopping the criticism of the deal that continues to hound Visit Florida as it prepares to defend its place in the state budget among growing scrutiny.

New Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has already questioned Visit Florida’s spending practices and has threatened to zero out the agency’s nearly $80 million budget if it does not do a better job justifying their expenses. Now, Corcoran has told Politico in an interview that the Florida House is prepared to go to court to force the details of the Pitbull contract to be released, something Visit Florida and Pitbull have refused to do.

“The House is prepared to litigate this and we feel it’s worth fighting this in court on behalf of taxpayers,”  Corcoran told Politico Florida.

But instead of suing Visit Florida, Corcoran is going after Pitbull himself. The House requested Pitbull’s production company - PDR Productions Inc - give them a copy of the contract. Attorneys for Pitbull have agree to disclose the contract to the House but they “fully expect the confidentiality of trade secrets will remain confidential and not published.”

Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe insists Florida got a really good deal with Pitbull which allowed the state market its beaches to a younger audience that is hard to reach through traditional media. But Seccombe said under the contract with Pitbull, Visit Florida is not allowed to release details of the deal publicly because it is considered a protected trade secret.

“I’m never going to do another deal where they say I can’t release that,” Seccombe said. “It’s not worth it in the environment we live in.”

Seccombe said he’s gone back to Pitbull’s attorneys to get them to reconsider the confidentiality of the deal, but was rebuffed.

“We cut a great deal, it was a such a good deal, Pitbull wouldn’t allow us to release it,” Seccombe said. “He’s a smart businessman and doesn’t want that to be his market rate.”

But the deal has brought ire from socially conservative Florida House members who say the music video done by Pitbull in which he promotes the state’s beaches is too sexually explicit.

"The lyrics are reprehensible. Half the women are barely dressed in swimsuits," said Corcoran, a Pasco County Republican said. "It's terrible."

"Completely inappropriate," State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said after playing the video for colleagues last week. "It's really disturbing. It's just sending an awful message."

Seccombe said Visit Florida did not make the video. He said Visit Florida got a hashtag at the end of a music video and got to get footage of Florida beaches incorporated into the video.

“It’s not Visit Florida promoting Pitbull to the world, it’s Pitbull promoting Florida to the world and to an audience that doesn’t believe in advertising.”

It’s not just Pitbull that has Visit Florida under greater scrutiny. The agency has also been criticized for spending on advertising with a British soccer team and on a race car. Visit Florida is spending $1.2 million on the Fulham Football team contract this year. And the agency said it’s sponsorship of the IMSA racing team is for almost $2.9 million.

Gov. Rick Scott continues to be supportive of Visit Florida's efforts.

"I think it's very important to invest in Visit Florida," Scott said during a stop in Tampa today. "They've done a great job but I also believe we need to be very transparent in how we do business."

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 2:22pm]


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