Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Pam Bondi's Clearwater fundraiser organized by Scientologists

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who already has raised millions for her re-election campaign, can expect to pull in more dollars tonight at a Clearwater fundraiser where all six organizers are prominent members of the Church of Scientology.

Bondi's "special guest,'' the invitation says, will be U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.

Hosting the event are Liz and Michael Baybak, owners of a 23rd-floor penthouse in the swank Water's Edge condos downtown. The tower, perched on a 40-foot bluff, affords stunning views of Clearwater Harbor to the west and, in every other direction, Scientology's many buildings.

Baybak is chief executive of Michael Baybak and Company, a Clearwater-based business services consulting firm. Baybak and his wife have been major donors to Scientology. They also have been occasional contributors to congressional candidates, federal elections records show. They could not be reached for comment.

Other organizers are Brett Miller, who has been active for years in local Republican politics, and his wife, Dr. Jill Hagan, a Clearwater dentist; and Joanie and Steve Sigal, co-founders of a Clearwater marketing company, SJS Associates. The two couples also have contributed to local, state and congressional candidates, most of them Republicans.

Reached by phone Monday, Miller and Steve Sigal hung up on a reporter, refusing to discuss how many guests are expected and whether any non-Scientologists are invited, other than Bondi and Jolly.

Bondi is aware Scientologists are staging the event, said campaign spokeswoman Christina Johnson. She said Bondi first connected with Scientologists in 2010 when she and other elected officials toured some of the church's Clearwater facilities. Bondi spoke then to a group of Scientologists about human trafficking and the evils of pill mills, a topic that resonated because Scientologists sponsor what they tout as the largest antidrug program in the world.

At Tuesday's fundraiser, she will return to those themes, Johnson said. "It's like-minded folks sharing the same goals: Protecting children against drug overdoses and human trafficking,'' Johnson said.

One of those topics rings with irony. From 2009 to 2011, the FBI investigated church work sites, primarily in California, focusing on physical and mental restrictions and probing whether they constituted human trafficking. The investigation ended with no charges filed.

Jolly will attend the fundraiser as a supporter of Bondi and because the event is in his congressional district, said aide Preston Rudie.

Bondi has been aggressive in propelling her campaign coffers. Last year, she took heat after persuading Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution because it conflicted with her re-election kickoff reception.

Tonight's reception likely will produce an added surge — contributions are suggested to start at $1,000.

Democrats George Sheldon and Perry Thurston are waging a primary fight to oppose Bondi in November. Both lag well behind in campaign contributions.

Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed to this report. Contact Joe Childs at [email protected]

 
Comments
PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is using the controversial topic of sanctuary cities to drum up Republican support in his bid for governor.At a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Putnam warned voters that one of his Democratic opponents want...
Updated: 10 hours ago
St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

BY CHARLIE FRAGOTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — It was a big promise made by Mayor Rick Kriseman more than two years ago: Get the Sunshine City to eventually run on 100 percent renewable energy.In a few months, the city will take small but tangibl...
Published: 12/11/17
The Daystarter: No concession call in St. Pete mayor’s race; Bucs turn over another game; light shows get even fancier; Pinellas works to reduce 911 calls

The Daystarter: No concession call in St. Pete mayor’s race; Bucs turn over another game; light shows get even fancier; Pinellas works to reduce 911 calls

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecast•?It won’t be quite as chilly this morning, with lows in the 40s, according to 10Weather WTSP•?As you head out for your morning commute, che...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Sunny day floods become new norm

WASHINGTON — The tide watchers start patrolling whenever the celestial forces align. From coast to coast, hundreds of tide watchers come out with their cameras to record the latest ‘‘king tides,’’ brief episodes of tidal flooding that could become th...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

Tiny snowmen appear in Florida as Sunshine State gets snow

The "Welcome to Florida" sign in the northwest part of the state was covered in light snow as winter weather dipped into the Sunshine State. It was part of a winter storm that hit the Deep South over the weekend and left thousands of people without p...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

Florida professional wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wrestler Rich Swann is being held without bail in a Florida jail after he was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Swann, who is 26 and a former WWE cruiserweight champion, was arrested Saturday. According to ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Updated: 8 hours ago
Getting around Cuban customs control

Getting around Cuban customs control

HAVANA, CUBA — Ernesto Machado will never forget that cold morning in 1968 at José Martí International Airport in Havana, when an immigration official seized his parents’ gold wedding bands and ripped up his passport."This is property of the revoluti...
Updated: 9 hours ago
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Updated: 9 hours ago