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Pitbull not talking about Florida tourism deal even as pressure mounts

Pitbull performs on stage at Amalie Arena in Tampa during the 2016 Bad Man Tour in July. (Luis Santana  |  Times)
Pitbull performs on stage at Amalie Arena in Tampa during the 2016 Bad Man Tour in July. (Luis Santana | Times)
Published Dec. 14, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — Pitbull and his attorneys are not talking, but pressure is mounting in the Florida Legislature against the Miami music icon over a secret contract he has with the state's tourism marketing agency to promote Florida beaches.

A day after Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran filed suit against Pitbull's production company to force disclosure of the deal, attorneys for the pop star were refusing to talk about the case.

"We have no comment on this matter," said Leslie Jose Zigel, an attorney representing Pitbull and his company, PDR Productions Inc.

Corcoran's strong-arm legal tactic is gaining support as state legislators express moral outrage at the music video Pitbull released in the summer that includes bikini-clad women frollicking on the beach. The Sexy Beaches video ends with the social media hashtag #ILoveFL.

"I'm not against people having bold ideas and executing on those," said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who is chairman of a committee with oversight of the state's tourism budget. "But I want to make sure that at the end of the day that it reflects the values of the state of Florida. That's the major concern here."

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz called the video offensive because of the "sexualization and degradation of women."

"It's demeaning to women," said Cruz, a Tampa Democrat.

She said if Pitbull wants to make those types of songs and videos, Florida taxpayers shouldn't be paying for it.

Corcoran has called the lyrics "reprehensible" and called the video terrible.

How much Florida helped pay for that video is a mystery. Visit Florida has refused to release details of its contract with Pitbull. Visit Florida officials say terms of the deal are protected as a "trade secret." Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe said he'll never do another contract that doesn't disclose the terms because of the position the Pitbull contract has put everyone in, but he insists the deal was a good one, allowing Visit Florida to reach an audience that avoids traditional advertising and media.

Pitbull's attorneys as recently as last week warned the Florida House that disclosure of a trade secret would violate state law and could result in a felony against anyone who discloses the information. Corcoran has seen the terms of the deal and wants it made public. But instead trying to force Visit Florida to disclose the deal, Corcoran has sued Pitbull's production company, PDR Productions Inc., arguing the contract is not eligible to be protected under the state's trade secrets confidentiality clause.

Even Gov. Rick Scott, who has been supportive of Visit Florida's mission over the years, said Tuesday that he has issues with the Pitbull contract being shielded from the public.

"This is ridiculous and must be fixed," Scott said on Twitter. "Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent."

Corcoran has threatened deep budget cuts for Visit Florida if it can't provide more detail on deals to advertise the state. Since 2009, the Florida Legislature has increased Visit Florida's budget from $29 million to $78 million. Visit Florida has requested a $76 million budget for 2017-2018.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at Follow @JeremySWallace.