Buesing demands TV stations stop airing attack ads in state Senate race

Democrat Bob Buesing has demanded that local TV stations quit running an attack ad in his state Senate race. [Stehlik Foto]

Democrat Bob Buesing has demanded that local TV stations quit running an attack ad in his state Senate race. [Stehlik Foto]
Published Oct. 21, 2016

The state Senate campaign of Democrat Bob Buesing has sent letters to local television stations demanding that they quit running a Republican Party ad attacking him, calling it "false, misleading and deceptive."

Buesing is one of three candidates running against Republican state Rep. Dana Young of Tampa for the Senate seat.

The ad claims Buesing foreclosed on retirement homes, "threatening senior citizens with homelessness," and defended Wells Fargo Bank in a Ponzi scheme case, saying in a graphic, "Buesing defended Ponzi schemer."

In an accusation made in a previous anti-Buesing ad, and largely debunked in aTampa Bay Times story, the new ad also says Buesing's firm was "even accused of overbilling local schools, running fees up to $70,000."

"When powerful people need someone to do their dirty work, they hire Bob Buesing," the ad says.

Tom Scarritt, a local attorney and Democratic fundraiser representing the Buesing campaign, provided the Times copies of letters to the station managers at WFLA, WFTS, WTSP and WTVT television stations.

The letter says the stations should quit running the ad "For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest." TV stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.

According to the letter:

• The law firm where Buesing is a member, Trenam Kemker, never defended the Ponzi schemer, Arthur Nadel. It defended a bank against a civil case alleging the bank didn't monitor Nadel's account closely enough to prevent his activities. Buesing wasn't involved in the case; a judge ruled there were no grounds to hold the bank liable, according to a copy of a 2015 federal court order included with the letter.

• Buesing was "foreclosure lawyer of record" for Barnett Bank 23 years ago in a case involving two Tampa Bay area retirement homes. But state regulators approved of the plans for transferring residents and none were threatened with homelessness.

"The whole process of changing ownership of an assisted living facility is regulated by the state," Buesing said in an interview. "Receivers are appointed to maintain and operate the facilities during the process. The idea that people were pushed out onto the street is absurd."

• The Trenam Kemker firm, without Buesing's involvement, was hired in 2012 to investigate how the Manatee County school system overspent its budget by $8 million. The school board approved the firm's fees; the accusation of overbilling came from the school board attorney, who was excluded from the investigation because of close ties to the personnel being investigated.

Officials at the four local TV stations either couldn't be reached for comment Thursday or had no comment on whether they'll continue to air the ad.

Buesing, Young and no-party candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove are running for the open seat in District 18, which covers South Tampa and northeastern Hillsborough County.

The ad is a "three-pack" run by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee with endorsements of two other Republican state Senate candidates, Lizbeth Benacquisto and Matt Hutson, in the disclaimer at the end.

That means it can be paid for with party money, raised without the contribution limits that would apply to Young's own campaign fundraising.

Buesing said the ad "says more about her (Young) than it does about me."

"It's about matters I had absolutely no involvement in, making statements that are so outlandish and ridiculous that it's time to put the TV stations on notice."

Young did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Erin Isaac, spokeswoman for the campaign committee, said Buesing's firm "was involved in each of the cases … As a partner, leader, and stakeholder, he benefits financially when the firm benefits financially. Bob Buesing and his army of lawyers can run from his record all they want, but we certainly won't let them hide it from the voters."

Previously, Young has said her campaign wouldn't run negative ads.

In a September interview, she said her opponents are " running their race by attacking me. I'm running my race on my record as a proven, effective leader, and I don't believe that I need to say anything negative about any of them."

Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Contact William March at