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Ex-House speaker works for deal in ethics misstep

Former House Speaker John Thrasher is negotiating a settlement that would let him pay a $500 fine for illegally lobbying his former colleagues.

The Florida Ethics Commission accused Thrasher of violating a constitutional prohibition against lobbying for compensation within two years of leaving office. The accusation came after he invited senators to a Governor's Club luncheon with University of Miami officials.

Since leaving the House in November, Thrasher has registered as an executive branch lobbyist for a number of private clients, including the university. He issued the luncheon invitation earlier this year.

Eugene Danaher, a retired General Motors executive who filed the formal Ethics Commission complaint against Thrasher, is not happy with the proposed settlement.

"This is outrageous," Danaher said Friday. "He'll make a million dollars. He should be fined $100,000 and banned from the halls of the Capitol."

The proposed settlement will be considered by the commission at a Sept. 6 meeting.

Thrasher and Ethics Commission advocate Virlindia Doss have signed an agreement in which Thrasher admits to two counts of violating the law and agrees to pay a $500 fine. The maximum fine for each violation is $10,000.

Contacted at his law office in Jacksonville, Thrasher said he apologized for his mistake earlier and just wanted "to get rid of the thing and get going."

Thrasher said he initially thought his lunch invitation complied with the law, but he later realized it was wrong.

"I treasure my tenure as a public servant in the House," Thrasher wrote. "And I genuinely regret doing anything that reflects poorly on that institution or the position I formerly held."

Thrasher practices law in Jacksonville and is president of Southern Strategy Group Inc., a firm that includes Paul Bradshaw and David Rancourt, two lobbyists with close ties to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Thrasher is registered to lobby the governor and Cabinet, and state agencies on behalf of 52 clients including Associated Industries of Florida, Blue Cross Blue Shield, DuPont Pharmaceuticals, the Florida Medical Association, TECO Energy Inc., the University of South Florida and The St. Joe Co.

Bush recently named him to the Florida State University board of trustees.

Danaher noted that the violation is not the first time Thrasher has run afoul of state ethics laws. Shortly after Thrasher was elected in 1992, the House publicly rebuked him for representing the Florida Medical Association before a state agency in violation of state law.