Saturday, June 16, 2018
Politics

Steve Bousquet: Text messages to Gov. Rick Scott's top aide show behind-the-scenes lobbying

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a policy of not conducting public business through text messages.

But that doesn't stop a lot of people, including elected officials, from texting Adam Hollingsworth, Scott's chief of staff.

They want a heads-up on a pending veto, help getting a friend an appointment or to arrange a meeting for a client.

Text messages that convey official business are public records in Florida, even when sent to a private phone. The Tampa Bay Times received dozens of pages of texts to Hollings­worth's phone, dating to when he began working for Scott in July 2012. Scott's office determined which text messages were official business and therefore public record.

Several weeks ago, Hollingsworth had the texting feature disabled, in part to end questions about whether he used his phone to transact state business. The texts we obtained show he wasn't, though he once texted House Speaker Will Weatherford's chief of staff, Kathy Mears, to ask for a tour of the House chamber for some friends.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman was grateful that Hollingsworth went to Tampa in November to interview her as a possible lieutenant governor. ("Honored to be considered," she texted.)

"Brilliant move today," wrote former House Speaker Allen Bense in January when Scott announced Carlos Lopez-Cantera as his No. 2.

Hollingsworth's ex-boss, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, wanted advice on a proposed constitutional amendment. Amendment 1 would set aside certain future taxes for open space. Whatever advice Hollingsworth gave, Peyton replied: "Sounds like terrible public policy that I need to vigorously support."

Rob Gidel, chairman of the board of Florida Polytechnic University, asked the aide for some advice during the legislative session.

"Latvala has asked me to appear before his committee on Monday at 4," the text read.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, chairman of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, wanted to know why it was taking so long for Polytechnic to find its first president.

Latvala sent texts to Hollingsworth, too. He wanted Scott's help pushing a bill to give in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants.

"I need governor to call (Sen. Joe) Negron to agenda SB 1400," Latvala texted April 11. "I now have 21 signed co-sponsors."

Spencer Geissinger, who handled inaugural events in Scott's transition, is still trying to get airtime for his former boss. He texted Hollingsworth in February that he had a friend at Fox Business in Miami and wanted to book Scott as part of "a daylong series of stories on how Obamacare has negatively affected business. Could he be in Miami on Thursday?"

Gaston Cantens, a sugar industry lobbyist, lawyer, ex-House member and a Cuban-American, wasn't happy with the trend line on Scott's judicial appointments to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami: "I'm hearing this will be the third Hispanic judge to retire from 3rd DCA under Scott and replaced by Anglos," texted Cantens.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, texted his appreciation: "Heard Gov. said really nice stuff about me unsolicited in a meeting. Tell him thanks!!"

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected]

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