FLORIDA GOP RAPID RESPONSE

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An open “thank you” letter from polluter James Finch to Charlie Crist

Dear Charlie,

Thank you so much for letting me take you to that environmental press conference last Friday in Tallahassee. I know the trip from Gainesville to Tallahassee is short and most people would have opted to just drive – especially since your press conference was on “the environment!” ;) But, I really needed to be a part of that skillful messaging … you truly are a great speaker, by the way.

You see, times have been tough since my company, Phoenix Construction, was fined TWICE for violating those pesky Department of Environmental Protection regulations. Those DEP tree-huggers fined me $1.7 million in 2009 for polluting! Can you believe that? Almost $2 million just for some storm water pollution…

Anyhow, being a part of your “environmental press conference” where you committed to protecting the environment will hopefully go a long way to reforming my image. I was a little afraid on Friday when a reporter asked you about my pollution record that you wouldn’t want me involved with transporting you and your campaign anymore (not to mention that whole NASCAR debacle, LOL). But, Charlie, you are a true friend. And, it was a privilege for me to fly you again yesterday as well. I do love St. Pete!

Your friend,

James Finch 

PS – I attached some photos from our time together. Let’s make some more memories soon.

PPS – Don’t let those annoying campaign finance limits stop you from using my plane! Those are really more of “suggestions” and no one really looks into your flight records anyhow. 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR PARODY LETTER ABOVE

Miami Herald Last Friday: “Charlie Crist Flies To Enviro Press Conference – On Jet Of Developer Fined For Pollution” “Democrat Charlie Crist flew to an environmental press event [Friday] on the private jet of a developer fined for pollution.Almost as soon Crist stepped off the 2005 Cessna 560XL, Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign had photographed its tail number and traced its ownership to developer James Finch, whose company Phoenix Construction was fined at least twice for violating environmental rules …”  (Marc Caputo, “Charlie Crist Flies To Enviro Press Conference – On Jet Of Developer Fined For Pollution,” The Miami Herald, 7/28/14)

  • Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo:“[M]aybe He Could Have Held The Event In Gainesville, Where The Governor Had Flown From. That’s Less Than A Three Hour Drive From Tallahassee. It Would’ve Saved Fuel. And The Drive Would’ve Spared Crist A Bad Headline He Didn’t Need.”(Marc Caputo, “Charlie Crist Flies To Enviro Press Conference – On Jet Of Developer Fined For Pollution,” The Miami Herald, 7/28/14)

Phoenix Construction, Owned By James Finch Was Fined $1.7 Million By Department Of Environmental Protection For Polluting Waters Near Panama City Airport Construction Site. “The Department of Environmental Protection is fining Phoenix Construction $1.7 million for environmental permit violations at the new airport under construction near West Bay. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) notified the company Friday. The DEP’s judgment follows an investigation over runoff violations from heavy rains this spring that already resulted in airport fines of $250,000 and $200,000 in fees for an outside environmental consultant.” (Pat Kelly, “Phoenix Fined $1.7 Million: Officials Say Issue Will Not Affect Opening Date, Recruitment Of Low-Cost Airline,” Panama City News Herald, 9/19/09)

  • DEP Said Phoenix Construction Was Cutting Corners On Best Management Practices. “The DEP calculated that Phoenix cut corners in what the industry calls ‘Best Management Practices,’ saving itself $964,500, according to a DEP investigation conducted by complaints and enforcement manager Jessica Kleinfelter, who did not return calls for comment Friday.” (Pat Kelly, “Phoenix Fined $1.7 Million: Officials Say Issue Will Not Affect Opening Date, Recruitment Of Low-Cost Airline,” Panama City News Herald, 9/19/09)
  • DEP Said Phoenix Construction Was Disregarding Its Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. “Phoenix didn’t follow its Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) by covering the soil with a synthetic covering or hydroseeding ‘for at least a period of three months,’ according to Kleinfelter. The average cost of seed and mulch is $1,500 per acre, according to EPA guidelines.” (Pat Kelly, “Phoenix Fined $1.7 Million: Officials Say Issue Will Not Affect Opening Date, Recruitment Of Low-Cost Airline,” Panama City News Herald, 9/19/09) 

Charlie Crist Was “Audibly Annoyed” With Questions About His Ride On Private Plan Owned By James Finch, Who Has Contributed $150,000 To Crist’s Campaign. “Minutes before the meeting began, a staffer from Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign showed up to hand out information about Crist’s ride to the event: a private jet. The plane is owned by Crist donor James Finch, a Panama City developer whose company has faced fines in the past for violating water pollution laws.‘That is not the issue of today,’ said Crist, who was audibly annoyed by the question … Finch has contributed $150,000 to a committee supporting Crist and given the campaign flights on his plane worth $2,268, according to the most recently available campaign finance reports.” (Matt Dixon, “Governor Candidate Charlie Crist Working To Formulate Climate Change Policy,” Naples Daily News, 7/25/14)

Finch Sponsored NASCAR Vehicle For Crist’s Campaign Before It Was Stripped Away By The Team’s Owner. “Charlie Crist is out of the race — at least the Coke Zero 400 … The Republican-turned-Democratic candidate for governor’s name was going to appear on Josh Wise’s No. 98 car, but his decals were removed Friday after the Republican Party of Florida filed a complaint earlier in the week alleging the sponsorship broke campaign finance laws, said car owner Phil Parsons and Mike Curb, the car’s entrant and associate sponsor … James Finch, a Panama City businessman, told The News-Journal Thursday he brokered a roughly $25,000 deal with Parsons to promote Crist during the nationally televised Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. Curb put the deal’s value at $50,000. Parsons declined to discuss how much the sponsorship cost.” (Skyler Swisher and Chris Graham, “Charlie Crist’s Name Stripped From Race Car,” Daytona Beach News-Journal, 7/4/14)

By the numbers…nothing to see here

If Charlie Crist and Florida Democrats want to talk  about “dodging,” here are a few numbers to remember:

35:      Days since Charlie Crist DODGED Governor Scott’s challenge for full transparency by refusing to release his and his spouse’s tax returns.

177:    Days since Charlie Crist first DODGED debating Nan Rich.

259:    Days since Charlie Crist announced his candidacy, yet has DODGED releasing a single policy initiative. 

When it comes to Charlie Crist’s campaign, there’s nothing to see here. 

It’s Been One Month…

Floridians have waited 30 long days for Charlie Crist to be fully transparent after he was challenged by Governor Scott to release his and his spouse’s tax returns.

After Crist’s campaign promised to release both his and his spouse’s tax returns, we’re still waiting.

Florida has a tradition of transparency for candidates running for statewide office, yet Charlie refuses to give the voters what they deserve – a clear and accurate picture of his finances. Instead, he and Florida Democrats resort to baseless attacks to try and distract from his broken promise of transparency.

And, with yesterday’s uncovering of a deed document with Charlie Crist’s name but never reported on his income taxes or personal financial disclosure, we have to ask, what’s he hiding?

State Attorneys and Sheriffs Blast Charlie Crist’s Waffling on 10-20-Life

Last Thursday, Charlie Crist continued the inevitable process of waffling on previously held positions. This time it was crime-prevention policies that have helped Florida reach a 43-year crime low.

23 Florida Sheriffs said:

“Policies that have kept violent criminals behind bars are a big part of Florida being at a 43-year crime low. Charlie Crist’s reversal on his support of 10-20-Life legislation and mandatory minimums threatens the incredible progress we have made over the last 15 years to make Florida safe for families and visitors.”

5 State Attorneys said:

“Laws like 10-20-Life give us the ability to keep violent criminals off the streets and are a big reason why Florida is at a 43-year crime low. In the same week Governor Rick Scott vowed continued support for strong sentencing measures, Charlie Crist has reversed his position on 10-20-Life, sending a terrible message to law enforcement and prosecutors who work hard to keep Florida families and visitors safe.”

Setting the Record Straight on FDP’s Upcoming “New” Ad

The Florida Democratic Party is set to release a “new” Spanish-language ad today; in reality they translated an old ad full of untruths into Spanish.

Here’s a quick fact-check of the Florida Dems’ misleading ad:

CLAIM: Rick Scott “didn’t side with students and parents.”

  • FACT: After Charlie Crist Left Florida With A $3.6 Billion Budget Shortfall, Governor Rick Scott Cleaned Up Crist’s Mess And Has Now Provided K-12 Schools With The Highest Total Education Spending In Florida History
  • FACT: Last Year, Governor Scott Provided $480 Million In Teacher Pay Raises, Receiving Praise From President Of Florida’s Teachers Union

CLAIM: Rick Scott doesn’t side with working and middle-class families because of tuition.

  • FACT: Rick Scott And The Legislature Repealed Charlie Crist’s Policy That Allowed Colleges And Universities To Raise Tuition Automatically By Up To 15 Percent Per Year
  • FACT: Because Of Rick Scott’s Repeal Of Charlie Crist’s Tuition Increase, “Cost Of Prepaid College Tuition Will Fall By Thousands In Florida”

CLAIM: Rick Scott cut education for tax breaks for big corporations

  • FACT: In May 2009, Charlie Crist Signed Budget That Included $2.2 Billion In Tax And Fee Increases Including Higher Fees On Drivers Licenses And Motor Vehicle Tags
  • FACT: Governor Scott Has Signed 40 Tax Cuts For Small Business and the Middle Class Including Rolling Back Crist’s Vehicle Registration Fee Increases This Year, A Nearly $400 Million Tax Cut

Across the street from YOLO

One would think that Charlie Crist would avoid all association with convicted Ponzi-schemer Scott Rothstein. But hey, you only live once.

Charlie Crist is hosting a fundraiser at YOLO in Fort Lauderdale tonight, a restaurant Rothstein frequented. Why? It’s across the street from the law offices formerly known as Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, where he managed his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme and organized illegal political contributions to the likes of Charlie Crist.

If it weren’t for that pesky 50-year prison sentence, it’s easy to imagine Charlie Crist and Scott Rothstein planning Crist’s next birthday party at YOLO.

“As Charlie Crist’s campaign stumbles and Crist continues to avoid full transparency with his tax returns, it’s fitting that he would return to the scene of Scott Rothstein’s crime tonight to raise money from trial lawyers and career politicians.”Susan Hepworth, Communications Director, Republican Party of Florida

Sunset on Charlie’s work ethic

Charlie Crist is out with a new TV ad saying “I’ll fight for you from sunrise to sunset.” But that’s not what happened when Charlie was Governor. Even the Florida Democratic Party launched a website blasting Crist for being an empty chair Governor, taking time off from governing instead of focusing on the tanking economy.

Here’s a quick look back at the sunset that was Charlie’s work ethic.

  • Crist’s Schedule Showed After 2 Years In Office, He Had Taken 70 Days Off Work. “According to a review by The Associated Press, the Republican governor’s schedule shows no work on the equivalent of 70 days, or 14 work weeks, including half and partial days.” (Brendan Farrington, “Fla. Gov. Crist Has Lots Of Blank Time On Schedule,” Associated Press, 4/17/09)
  • Over The Course Of One Year While Crist Was Angling For McCain’s VP, Crist Only Worked 72% Of Time. “The AP reviewed Crist’s public schedule for one year beginning April 16, 2008. Excluding weekends and nine state holidays, Crist’s schedule shows him working about 72 percent of the time.”(Brendan Farrington, “Fla. Gov. Crist Has Lots Of Blank Time On Schedule,” Associated Press, 4/17/09)
  • During That Time, Crist Was Paid $35,000 For Time He Didn’t Work. “With the governor’s annual salary at $132,932, Crist got paid more than $35,000 for the days where his schedule shows no work.”(Brendan Farrington, “Fla. Gov. Crist Has Lots Of Blank Time On Schedule,” Associated Press, 4/17/09)

Charlie’s Summer of … NOTHING?

Summer is usually a slower time for politics … but this summer, Charlie Crist’s plans to do pretty much anything at all has fizzled out.

First, Charlie Crist said he expected to release his very first policy initiative in June.

But, here we are in July and … crickets. Just … NOTHING. (Although this is par for the course for say-anything-do-nothing Charlie.) 

Charlie also first pledged transparency and that he would meet Governor Scott’s challenge to release his and his spouse’s tax returns. Then, he changed his mind.

Governor Scott has followed Florida’s tradition of transparency for gubernatorial candidates by releasing both his and his spouse’s tax returns. And Governor Scott has already campaigned on a total of FIVE policy proposals for a second term.

Charlie, meanwhile, is having a full summer of … NOTHING. But, no worries! Any policy he releases in July still gives him plenty of time to change his mind again before November.

Full Transparency “Not Important” For Charlie

Charlie Crist’s no good, very bad last week is extending into this week. And he’s decided to go into the holiday weekend by appearing on national television to double down on his refusal to release both his and his spouse’s tax returns:

Full transparency is “not important,” Charlie? Columnists from Pensacola to Tampa to Orlando to South Florida beg to differ: it is important.

It’s been 17 days since Governor Scott has called for Charlie Crist to follow his lead. So what’s he hiding?

Charlie Crist: Loser of the Week

Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary named Charlie Crist “Loser of the Week.”

Loser of the week: Charlie Crist. He cancels a trip to Cuba, always dicey territory even as the embargo loses favor, and then is put on the defensive by Gov. Rick Scott over not releasing his wife’s tax returns. Scott, who is gaining a national reputation for dodging questions, was proclaiming himself Mr. Transparency. Crist’s campaign is looking a bit shaky.”

Here’s a quick look back at the abysmal week that was for Charlie Crist:

Lack of Transparency

Tampa Bay Times: “Crist Needs To Make Full Disclosure”

“Charlie Crist released 10 more years of his federal tax returns Thursday, but he did not go far enough. Sooner rather than later, he should release his wife’s tax returns as well…The issue is not whether Scott or Crist has released the highest stack of tax returns. The issue is presenting the fullest financial accounting so voters can evaluate any potential for conflicts of interest.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Charlie Crist’s Tax Return Stonewall”

“Crist’s decision to withhold his wife’s returns (and, to be fair, he was forthcoming with his own) involves a sober political calculation — that the blowback from the opposition and in the media will be less damaging, in the long run, than whatever information those returns contain… The fact that he would be willing to take such a hit makes us all wonder what’s in those documents… It was a rare stumble by a seasoned candidate.”

Cuba Flip-Flop

Tampa Tribune: “Crist changes mind, won’t visit Cuba this summer”

“Charlie Crist, who capped his change of heart over the Cuban embargo with the news last month that he would visit the Communist nation this summer, will not go there after all, his campaign said this morning.”

Tampa Tribune: “Crist’s Cuba fumble is latest change of direction”

“Charlie Crist said recently he was considering a fact-finding trip this summer to Havana, but Monday he said his plans have changed. I know you’ll find the notion of Charlie changing his mind is hard to believe, but that’s what happened… It sounds more like he is “pro-Charlie” and whatever sells.”

Ducking Debates

Miami Herald: “Make a date to debate, Charlie Crist”

“What’s Charlie Crist afraid of?… for some reason, Mr. Crist, a newly minted Democrat who’s running hard to regain his job as governor, is also running the other direction when it comes to stepping up and debating Nan Rich for all the world to see… So what is Mr. Crist afraid of? Or is it arrogance? His refusal to debate the former legislator is unseemly and exclusionary. Of course, it’s politics at its worst.”

FDP’s Lead Blue Dinner

Palm Beach Post: “Where’s Charlie? Dems and Republicans question Crist’s absence at event”

Dougher also criticized Crist for not appearing at caucus meetings throughout the day. ‘It’s his party, supposedly,’ Dougher said. ‘You would think he would want to be here to support his party.’ Crist’s opponent, Nan Rich, spent most of the day speaking at various caucus meetings. Asked what she thought of Crist’s no-show: ‘He’s not here. Says something when you don’t speak at caucuses.’”

Senate President Don Gaetz: What Is Charlie Afraid Of?

TALLAHASSEE – Senate President Don Gaetz released the following statement today on Charlie Crist’s rejection of Governor Scott’s call for him to follow his lead and release both he and his spouse’s tax returns:

"Floridians of both political parties who worked together to pass sweeping ethics reforms during the past two years have to be disappointed today at Charlie Crist’s failure to fully disclose assets and liabilities. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature voted unanimously for full disclosure of assets and liabilities so that the public can know what politicians owe, what they own and who they are obligated to. Charlie Crist has broken the tradition of openness and transparency established by Alex Sink and her husband, Bill McBride, Jeb and Columba Bush and Rick and Ann Scott, to fully disclose the assets and liabilities of candidates for governor and their spouses. I can’t imagine what Mr. and Mrs. Crist are afraid of if the people of Florida learn the details of their assets and liabilities, as other Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates have freely disclosed over multiple elections.

"When he was in office, Charlie Crist made a show of saying he was for open government and transparency. Apparently, transparency is good until it knocks on Charlie’s own door. As one of the principle advocates for raising the standard of public ethics in Florida, I hope Charlie will do what seems to come so easily to him- to change his mind. Charlie Crist should reverse his position of hiding marital assets and instead follow the examples of Alex Sink, Jeb Bush and Rick Scott." 

ICYMI – Orlando Sentinel: “Crist Should Release Wife’s Tax Returns, Too”

From the editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel today:

“Crist switched from Republican as governor to Democrat for his current campaign, and changed his positions on multiple issues. Has he flipped on transparency, too?

“Ten days ago, Gov. Rick Scott released tax returns for 2010-12 that he filed jointly with his wife … Scott also released three years of tax returns before running in 2010. In both campaigns, he went beyond what the law requires.

“Crist, who has more than doubled his net worth since leaving the governor’s office, finally released his 2011-13 tax returns on Wednesday — the same day Scott’s campaign began running a statewide TV ad skewering him on the issue.

“However, Crist has ruled out releasing those of his wife, Carole, who files hers separately …

Crist, by ruling out releasing his wife’s tax returns, is breaking from a precedent set by the last Democratic nominee for governor, Alex Sink. When she ran in 2010, she released not only her own tax returns for 2005 through 2009, but also those that her husband — a successful lawyer and former candidate for governor himself — had filed separately over the same period …

[W]hen it comes to taxes, Scott is right. Crist should release not just his own, but also his wife’s.

In Miami Beach yesterday, Governor Scott asked what many Floridians are starting to wonder: What’s Charlie Crist hiding?

Charlie vs. Charlie: Crist Breaks Week-Old Promise for Transparency

Last week, after Governor Scott released tax returns for himself and his spouse and called on Charlie Crist to do the same, Crist’s campaign announced that he would follow suit:

“‘I think Charlie Crist will follow our lead and disclose his and his wife’s tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012,’ Scott said. ‘I think he ought to do that right away so every citizen in the state can look at that and because transparency is good for everybody.” A Crist spokesman, Kevin Cate, accepted Scott’s challenge and issued one of his own. ‘Let’s do it. And go back further,’ Cate said via Twitter.” (Marc Caputo, “Rick Scott Releases Tax Returns [$8.7m in ‘12], Calls on Charlie Crist To Do Same,” Miami Herald, 6/16/14)

It didn’t take long for Charlie Crist to break that promise, and today he doubled down:

“‘He’s going to out-transparent me?’” Crist said. Crist was adamant that he wouldn’t release his wife Carole’s taxes.” (Steve Bousquet, Scott TV Ad Criticizes Crist for Not Yet Releasing His Tax Returns,” Tampa Bay Times, 6/25/14)

What’s Charlie Crist Hiding?