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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

Gelber quits law firm after BP hires it

Dan Gelber quit his law firm, Akerman Senterfitt, on Thursday after BP hired the firm to represent it in the oil claims process.

BP hired Akerman Senterfitt to handle civil litigation weeks ago. Gelber, a Democratic state senator running for attorney general, submitted his letter of resignation last week, according to campaign manager Christian Ulvert.

In an interview with the Times/Herald on Monday evening, Ulvert disclosed Gelber's resignation after challenger Dave Aronberg called on Gelber to resign. "As a candidate for attorney general, it is an inherent problem when your own law firm is on other side of one of the most important pending lawsuits in Florida's history," Aronberg said in a statement. "Working for the law firm that is defending British Petroleum for damage done to Florida beaches is disqualifying. You don't have to be a lawyer to know that you can't profit from the polluter and then represent those who have been injured by that same polluter."

Gelber initially resisted suggestions about a conflict of interest, telling the Daily Business Review "I know nothing about the case, nor will I ever." Read more here.

Posted by John Frank at 08:04:23 PM on June 28, 2010

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Gelber hosts fundraiser in Tampa

State Sen. Dan Gelber is hosting a fundraiser Tuesday at Mise En Place in Tampa. The host committee features some big name Democrats supporting his bid for attorney general. Here's the invite. Among the hosts: Betty Castor, Mayor Pam Iorio, Jim Davis and Barry Cohen.

Posted by John Frank at 07:14:45 PM on June 28, 2010

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How Dean Cannon's $727k could help Alex Sink

Soon-to-be House Speaker Dean Cannon has joined soon-to-be Senate President Mike Haridopolos in the big-money bashing of fellow Republican Rick Scott, who is now the front-runner v. their governor candidate, Bill McCollum. Cannon's committee gave the cash, $727,000 in three big chunks to the Florida First Initiative, which McCollum is using as a vehicle to bash Scott.

Haridopolos, as we reported last week, isn't far behind with his Citizens Speaking Out group, which has yet to post a web page detailing its financing activity.

All the scorched-earth big-spending against Scott could prove to be a little risky for the GOP. Suppose he actually wins the primary election and he has to face Democrat Alex Sink with his entire party having called him a party to a massive fraud. Now whom does that help?

But wait. There's more. One Republican pointed out to us that the money Haridopolos and Cannon have raised through their committees might have gone to help Republican legislative candidates (Frank Artiles for state Rep., anyone?). Now the cash is going to McCollum instead. That might make some of the tea-party-leaning rank-and-filers not so happy.

** Update: McCollum Friday acknowledged his relationship with Florida First and another group, Sunshine State Freedom Fund, by filing with the state's election division a Statement of Solicitation detailing his involvement. Intriguingly, McCollum's Building Integrity & Lasting Leadership Fund seems pretty dormant, save a few recent expenditures to an accountant and a $40,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida on 8/19/09. Wonder what that was for? Paying the bills when RPOF was almost failed to make payroll?

Posted by Marc Caputo at 04:48:40 PM on June 28, 2010

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Jeff Greene on Heidi Fleiss, Iraq war and Moroccan love dens

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene appeared Sunday on Political Connections on Bay News 9. The full interview is available in Tampa Bay on Ch. 342, Bay News 9 on Demand, but here's a clip http://www.tampabay.com/components/video/?bcpid=2441023001&bctid=104535868001

Posted by Adam Smith at 04:32:29 PM on June 28, 2010

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Tom Grady files lawsuit demanding Charlie Crist return donations

Naples Daily News: Linda Morton of Naples donated $500 to Gov. Charlie CristÕs Senate election campaign, while John Rood of Jacksonville, a retired U.S. Ambassador, donated $4,800 to the Republican.

Now they want a refund.

The two have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all contributors who are demanding their money back after Crist announced heÕd run as an Independent.

"Crist has made it clear that he believes a candidate should not say one thing and do another," says the lawsuit, filed last week in Collier Circuit Court. "É The parties agree with Crist."

The two are represented by Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples, who resigned as regional chairman of CristÕs Senate campaign and from the statewide finance team after the Republican switched parties. Grady couldnÕt immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.

Posted by Adam Smith at 04:20:13 PM on June 28, 2010

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Atwater is open to a summer session to deal with oil response

After touring the oil-tarred beaches of the Gulf Coast over the weekend, Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, says he now supports calling a summer special session to deal with a host of issues from tax relief for Gulf Coast businesses to adopting incentives for renewable energy. He hasn't heard from the governor on the issue, however, since May 10, when Gov. Charlie Crist first asked him to support a special session to pass a constitutional amendment to ban drilling in Florida waters, and admits the reluctance of House leaders to come into session remains a hurdle.

"I believe there are some things the Legislature could responsibly do to offer relief in the near term and the long term,'' Atwater said, after a reception for Senate staff in the Capitol on Monday. "These neighbors of ours are hurting and are in desperate straits. It's no longer about a lost summer season. It's about a lost culture."

Next door, in the House gallery, was a meeting of the Clean Energy Congress, a gathering of clean-energy advocates meeting to come up with ways to increase public pressure on policymakers to shift Florida's dependence off fossil fuels. Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, urged the group not to leave the two-day meeting without calling for a special legislative session that puts on the ballot both an oil drilling ban and a standard that requires power companies to derive a percentage of their power from clean-energy sources. Florida is one of only 11 states that still don't have such a standard in place.

"We need a special session here in Florida,'' Smith said. "We need it in the month of July É If the Legislature is not going to give us an RPS, then get out of the way and take it to the voters. I guarantee it will win.''

Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, the Senate's presumed Senate president next year, told the Herald/Times that he, too, supports coming back in special session to take up incentives for renewable energy, such as the bill proposed last year that would have allowed electric companies to raise rates to build solar power plants. But he doesn't like Crist's suggestion for a constitutional amendment. "ItÕs so overtly political to ban something thatÕs already banned,'' he said of the governor's suggestion.

Atwater, Republican candidate for chief financial officer, like the governor, a candidate for U.S. Senate, could benefit from the attention of a special session. House Speaker Larry Cretul, who is retiring from office because of term limits, doesn't face the same incentives.

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 01:39:41 PM on June 28, 2010

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Crist will (UPDATE: not) join Vice President Joe Biden in Pensacola

UPDATE 8:20 p.m.: Despite what the White House said earlier today, Crist will not be in Pensacola tomorrow, according to his official schedule, which came out a while ago. That was confirmed by his office. We hear he could be in Miami for campaign reasons.

Vice President Joe Biden will meet with officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist, in Pensacola tomorrow and make a 4:30 p.m. CT statement from Naval Air Station Pensacola. The trip was announced last week, but the details are new.

Also present will be Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

Republicans saw opportunity to criticize the administration, and Crist. "This is a real tragedy with real consequences for Floridians, and instead of simply singing the praises of the Obama Administration, Governor Crist should focus on providing concrete solutions for the people of his state," said RNC spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg, who not too long ago worked for Crist's Republican Senate campaign.

Posted by Alex Leary at 01:35:26 PM on June 28, 2010

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Dan Webster on radio/TV in race to defeat Alan Grayson

Former state Sen. Dan Webster is going up on radio and TV tomorrow as he tries to emerge from a large GOP field and take on U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. Here's the TV spot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOhJ8O6OtQo&feature=player_embedded

Posted by Alex Leary at 12:01:57 PM on June 28, 2010

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Who's that Alex Snitker fellow?

Howard Troxler: A paradox faces any third-party candidate for office: People don't take you seriously because not enough people take you seriously. So I feel some empathy for Alex Snitker, a Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida this year.

Snitker showed up the other day at a meeting of the Florida Society of News Editors, which was hearing from the "legitimate" Senate candidates, and even we wouldn't let him talk. He isn't high enough in the polls. So I called Snitker up and said, okay, I got a few hundred words; what are you for?

Posted by Adam Smith at 10:51:25 AM on June 28, 2010

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Newt Gingrich endorses rookie-acting Bill McCollum

Good news/bad news on the Bill McCollum front today. Newt Gingrich endorsed him for governor ("At a time when the size and scope of government is increasing at an alarming rate, our nation is looking for leaders who will fight for the principles of limited government, fiscal restraint and economic and personal freedom. Floridians have such a leader in Bill McCollum," Gingrich said) while Gary Fineout says McCollum is making rookie mistakes.

Another issue: Does McCollum agree with Gingrich about the oil claims escrow account? On Fox News this month, Gingrich said this about the McCollum-backed escrow fund idea: "I mean, has America degenerated into a Venezuelan-style country where the leader gets to pick somebody to hand out $20 billion and we think that's not going to be corrupt? All of this is outside the law."

Posted by Adam Smith at 10:22:40 AM on June 28, 2010

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