Backroom Briefing: Are Spouses Fair Game?
Around the State
Is the issue one of transparency, or is it about how much the public should be allowed to know about the families of those running for office?
That's the tricky question raised by the back-and-forth between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist as the two jostle over tax returns and who should release what. Scott's campaign has hit Crist, his most likely Democratic opponent, for not disclosing the tax returns of Crist's wealthy wife, Carole.
Scott's campaign committee, Let's Get to Work, hammered home that message in a television ad released Wednesday.
In return, Crist has tried to shift the focus, blasting Scott for bringing Crist's spouse into the campaign while pledging to release more facts about his own finances than Scott has.
"It’s a shameful new low in the history of Florida politics for a candidate to run TV ads attacking the wife of a candidate. ... Spouses and children are off limits," Crist said shortly after the commercial was released.
By Thursday, Crist had released his own tax returns back to 2001, and promised to release documents dating back to 1991. That's far beyond what Scott has released about his own finances -- but it still doesn't include disclosures about the income of Carole Crist.
The Scott campaign has pointed to then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's run for governor in 2010, when she released her tax returns as well as the tax returns of her husband, Bill McBride. And, of course, Scott has done so himself -- though it should be noted that the Scotts file jointly, making it impossible to release the governor's tax returns without releasing those of his wife, Ann.
And Scott has faced his own questions about transparency, and whether he's used the ability to shift assets into his wife's name to muddy the waters about his wealth.
When the Associated Press pointed out last year that Florida doesn't require a public official's spouse to disclose their assets, Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater gave the AP a response that sounds almost like it could come from Crist's camp now.
"The spouse is not in elected office," Latvala reportedly said.
Entrepreneurs, lawyers and lobbyists have been sniffing out new clients long before the Legislature passed the low-THC pot bill, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last week, in advance of November's vote that could legalize medical marijuana.
Now, lawyers and others with regulatory experience in Florida are stepping up their game as the state gears up for the new industry. The Florida Department of Health will hold its first rulemaking workshop on the issue in Tallahassee on July 7.
The vice beat's inbox is overflowing with pitches from PR mavens representing law firms and other legal "experts" eager to get some free media for their clients.
One lawyer's shill promises her guy can "provide a wealth of insight into the hundreds of different considerations that must go into the legal framework of the medical marijuana industry, how that framework will be developed, and what it eventually may look like."
Another Florida attorney claims to be an expert in setting up medical marijuana dispensaries and promises "to help you avoid the roadblocks and pitfalls along the way."
Some proponents of the new low-THC law -- which will allow doctors to order a strain of marijuana that purportedly does not get users high for individuals with cancer or any other physical condition that produces chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms -- find the lawyers' outreach troubling.
"We're walking a fine line just with being able to advertise services," Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who helped craft the bill and is also a lawyer, said.
Although Florida is now the 23rd state to legalize some form of pot, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Therein lies the rub for lawyers, whose rules prohibit them from assisting clients in conduct they know is criminal.
The Florida Bar Board of Governors issued some guidance on the issue at its meeting in May.
The board adopted a policy not to prosecute Bar members for misconduct if they advise clients "regarding the validity, scope, and meaning of Florida statutes regarding medical marijuana or for assisting a client in conduct the lawyer reasonably believes is permitted" in Florida as long as they also inform the client of federal law and policy.
Edwards said the Bar might also consider offering some guidance to lawyers regarding contacting clients and advertising.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "As @ClawsonOutsider gives his victory speech, footage of @BarackObama comes on television. Shouts of turn off tv ensue," -- Jenna Buzzacco (@Jenna_Buzzacco), a political reporter for the Naples Daily News, at the victory party for Curt Clawson, a Republican businessman who won a special congressional election Tuesday.