Michael Van Sickler, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Michael Van Sickler

Michael has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2003. A Cleveland, Ohio, native, he graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and got his master's degree at the University of Florida. He has worked at the Ledger and the Palm Beach Post. For the Times, he has covered everything from mortgage fraud, growth and development in Tampa Bay, and St. Petersburg City Hall. He now covers state politics and government as part of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau.

Phone: (850) 224-7263.

Email: mvansickler@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

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  1. Once a U.S. Sugar foe, Scott now accepts its campaign contributions and hunting hospitality

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE — Before he was governor, Rick Scott attacked another Florida politician for accepting campaign funds from U.S. Sugar. He even said Bill McCollum, his opponent in the 2010 Republican primary, had been "bought and paid for.''

    Four years later, Scott has received at least $534,000 for his reelection campaign from the corporate giant, and went on a 2013 hunting trip to its hunting lodge at King Ranch in Texas....

    During the 2010 race for Florida governor, Rick Scott accused his opponent in the Republican primary, Bill McCollum, of having been "bought and paid for by U.S. Sugar,'' as he says at this campaign event.
  2. UPDATE: In bid for AG, Sheldon's restores eligibility for practicing law

    Blog

    Since October, George Sheldon has been running to be the Democratic nominee for Florida Attorney General, the state’s top lawyer.

    So it didn’t help his campaign any when he learned Tuesday that, according to The Florida Bar, Sheldon could no longer -- wait for it -- practice law in Florida.

    By late Wednesday, Sheldon managed to get his license and membership restored. But what happened?...

    AG candidate George Sheldon holds The Florida Bar letter informing him of his expired status
  3. Democrat's radio ad rips Bondi's record on utilities

    State Roundup

    George Sheldon's new radio spot in his campaign to become Attorney General was unveiled Monday to the sound of crickets.

    That's not how the ad, attacking current Attorney General Pam Bondi, was received. That's actually the sound that begins the 60-second spot: crickets.

    "This is what we hear when utility companies try to cut successful conservation programs and raise our rates,'' a narrator says. "Crickets from Pam Bondi's office. Pam Bondi repeatedly looks the other way when corporations and her big contributors try to rip off Floridians. If big companies want a favor from Bondi, she takes their money then cues the crickets."...

  4. Sheldon's line of attack on Bondi hits the airwaves -- quietly

    Blog

    George Sheldon's new radio campaign for Florida Attorney General was unveiled Monday to the sound of crickets.

    That's not how the ad, attacking current Attorney General Pam Bondi, was received. That's actually the sound that begins the 60-second spot: crickets.

    "This is what we hear when utility companies try to cut successful conservation programs and raise our rates.  Crickets from Pam Bondi's office. Pam Bondi repeatedly looks the other way when corporations and her big contributors try to rip off Floridians. If big companies want a favor from Bondi, she takes their money then cues the crickets."...

  5. A gift ban critic, Putnam won't explain King Ranch trips

    Blog

    Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam minces no words when talking about the 2006 gift ban.

    In a 2010 interview, Putnam called it "dumb."

    He said the ban was a "disincentive for fellowship" and said: "You're forbidden from hanging out unless somebody is giving you a check." ...

  6. Why won't the Florida GOP talk about King Ranch?

    Blog

    On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

    As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses....

  7. A history of Florida's gift ban: Scandal. Reform. Repeat.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Free hunting trips, whether to King Ranch in Texas or destinations closer to home, are a fixture of Florida politics.

    It was nearly 25 years ago that details emerged about lawmakers hunting and fishing with lobbyists. Their crime: not reporting the trips, which was a violation of a 1970 law.

    Back then, all county and state elected officials were required to report gifts worth more than $25, so the public would have an idea of who might be influencing their politicians....

    Willie Meggs charged more than two dozen state lawmakers.
  8. King Ranch's storied history: from cattle rearing to luxury hunting

    State Roundup

    Sprawled across 1,300 square miles of Texas hills, desert and coastal prairies, King Ranch is among the top hunting destinations in North America, and one of the Lone Star State's most historic treasures.

    Established in 1853 by a steamboat captain named Richard King, it was the state's first cattle ranch, the prototype for all the other magnificent spreads that helped define the American West. It's where some of the original cattle drives started and where the first American cattle breed was created. It inspired Edna Ferber's novel Giant and the screen version starring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor — not to mention a line of Ford pickup trucks....

    A horse trainer works at King Ranch near Kingsville, Texas. Hunting accounts for a growing portion of revenue at the King Ranch that rivals, if not surpasses, money made from ranching.
  9. Adam Putnam on King Ranch hunting trips: Better than golf

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The closest any Florida public official came to providing answers about hunting trips to King Ranch came after a June 17 meeting of the state Cabinet. As Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam walked from the meeting to his office in the Capitol, a Times/Herald reporter asked him about his trips. Here is an edited transcript of the interview:

    Can you explain when you've gone to King Ranch and for what purposes?...

    Florida Agriculture chief Adam Putnam said he had been to the King Ranch in Texas “for campaign purposes as well as to see more of their ag operations.’’
  10. Why won't Florida GOP leaders talk about hunting trips to King Ranch in Texas?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE

    On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

    As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses....

    Ex-RPOF chief Lenny Curry wouldn’t discuss the hunting trips.
  11. Scott fundraiser instant comedy classic on HBO's John Oliver

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott tempted the comedy gods with his latest choice of fundraisers.

    And, as Sunday night’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” proved, the comedy gods show no mercy.

    Not with the material Scott gave them Monday night.

     ...

  12. Attorney general candidates look past primary with eye toward Bondi

    State Roundup

    In the state attorney general race, Democrats still must choose between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston in the Aug. 26 primary.

    But nevermind that contest. For now at least, both candidates are focusing on the opponent who awaits — Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Thurston, a state representative from Fort Lauderdale and the outgoing minority leader, on Tuesday launched a website: bondis bungles.com....

    Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is unopposed in the Aug. 26 primary. The two Democrats vying to face her in the November general election lag far behind in campaign contributions.
  13. Dem rivals for AG reach consensus on Bondi bashing

    Blog

    In the Florida Attorney General race, Democrats still must choose between George Sheldon and Perry Thurston in the Aug. 26 primary.

    But nevermind that contest. For now at least, both candidates are focusing on the opponent who awaits -- Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    On Tuesday, Thurston, who is the outgoing Minority Leader in the FLorida House as a representative from Fort Lauderdale, launched a new website: Bondi's Bungles....

  14. Tax records suggest Crist, Scott lag in charitable giving

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE — While Gov. Rick Scott and his Democratic rival Charlie Crist have waged a bitter public relations battle over the release of their tax returns, both sides have been mum about one aspect of the documents:

    They suggest that both candidates are philanthropic laggards compared with their well-heeled peers. The returns show no giving from Crist in recent years, and declining charity from Scott....

    Charlie Crist's tax returns show that since 2002 he's made no charitable contributions, not even when his income jumped from $135,000 as governor to $705,000 two years later while working in the private sector. [AP photo]
  15. One-third of Florida Legislature faces no opposition at polls

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — Millions of voters in Florida will get no vote in choosing who represents them in the Florida House and Senate next year. That's because the deadline for candidates expired at noon Friday with no challengers qualifying to run against a third of the state Legislature.

    The lack of opposition means candidates for eight state Senate seats — all incumbent Republicans — and 38 House seats, all but one an incumbent, automatically won their seats despite no ballots being cast in those districts. That will make 2014 even less competitive than 2012, when 24 percent of lawmakers ran unopposed....