Pinellas congressional candidate David Jolly said he supports the ban that prevents oil drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast, a perennially important issue in local politics.
But he's facing questions over his own 2011 federal lobbying report, which indicates he lobbied for a House bill designed to expand oil drilling in the gulf and elsewhere.
Under the "specific lobbying issues" listed in his report, Jolly included House Resolution 909, "A Roadmap for America's Energy Future."
But Jolly said Thursday he "did not lobby for that legislation." He said he felt obligated to list it on his disclosure report because the subject came up during a meeting he attended while lobbying on other issues.
"I had a practice of always overcomplying" with disclosure requirements, he added.
Some of Jolly's opponents questioned his explanation.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said it was clear Jolly registered "to lobby specifically for the Roadmap for America's Energy Future, which would expand offshore drilling. Either Jolly wasn't being truthful on the forms he filed with the United States government, or he's lying to voters now."
Kathleen Peters, Jolly's fellow Republican in the race, referred to comments her opponent made at an event earlier this week. "He says he never lobbied for oil interests and clearly he did," she said, adding that "people have to have confidence in their elected officials. They have to be confident that they'll be forthright."
Jolly is among three Republican candidates seeking the nomination for Pinellas County's open congressional seat. All three — plus Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby — want to succeed Republican C.W. Bill Young, who died in October and was a longtime opponent of offshore oil drilling near Florida's Gulf coast.
During the campaign, Jolly has said he supports the current oil drilling ban.
"I am proud to support the current ban of 230 miles," he said Monday at a candidate forum sponsored by the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. "I don't think we need any encroachment."
When an audience member said Jolly had lobbied on behalf of oil-drilling interests, Jolly called it "a complete fabrication."
Afterward, however, Jolly said he checked the lobbying reports and saw the reference to House Resolution 909, which did not become law.
At the time of the 2011 report, Jolly was representing a group called Free Enterprise Nation on right-to-work matters and issues related to public employee pensions. The organization was devoted to "raising awareness of unsustainable spending by the government," according to its Facebook page.
The CEO of the group, Jim MacDougald, backed up Jolly in a recent statement: "While FEN did publicly support the Roadmap for America's Energy Future, David Jolly was never employed to advocate on its behalf," said MacDougald, who also is finance co-chairman of Jolly's campaign.
Referring to the energy legislation, the conservative Weekly Standard said at the time that it "would open up the Outer Continental Shelf to offshore drilling — which is estimated to contain enough oil and natural gas to meet America's energy needs for about 60 years."
After Tuesday's primary, either Jolly, Peters or Mark Bircher will face Sink and Overby in the March 11 general election.
Staff Writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.