Andrew Gillum is making hay out of a settlement in the ethics probe that contributed to his narrow loss to Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.
Insiders hoping for salacious tidbits about the former Tallahassee mayor’s trips with undercover FBI agents and lobbyists were sorely disappointed Wednesday, when the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and an attorney representing the Florida Commission on Ethics reached the settlement.
Florida Commission on Ethics’ advocate Elizabeth A. Miller dropped four of five ethics charges against Gillum, who agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for taking a private boat cruise around the Statue of Liberty with his onetime pal, Adam Corey, who lobbied the city at the time of the trip.
Gillum, whose attempt to become the Sunshine State’s first black governor made him a national sensation, called the settlement “vindication” that he’d done nothing wrong.
DeSantis made the ethics probe a major theme of his campaign against Gillum, accusing his Democratic opponent of “public corruption” and of lying to the public about trips to Costa Rica and New York City with Corey and undercover FBI agents.
Following the settlement, which still has to be approved by the ethics commission, Gillum sent an email with the subject line “facts matter” to supporters.
“During the campaign --- because you asked for it --- we printed shirts that said, ‘we have his back.’ And it's true. You all have ALWAYS had my back, no matter what the other side threw at me --- and they threw a lot,” wrote Gillum, who’s now a political commentator for CNN.
Wednesday’s results “confirm what I’ve said all along --- facts matter and I never knowingly violated any ethics laws,” he went on in the message from his political committee, Forward Florida.
The committee’s goal is to “elect progressive voices, fight for progressive values” and register a million voters before the 2020 eleciton.
Gillum didn’t directly parlay his agreement to pay a $5,000 fine, along with an admission that he broke the law by accepting a gift worth more than $100 without reporting it, into a fundraising attempt.
But the email included a hot link to a website where donors could contribute to Forward Florida, as did an even more concise Twitter post: “Facts matter. Now back to work at ForwardFlorida.com.”
A GREEN SUPER BOWL
DeSantis is using the Super Bowl as a platform to mix his love of sports with a push to preserve Florida’s environment.
After a week that included a trip to Augusta, Georgia, to watch the Masters, an Orlando Magic playoff game, and first pitches with his 2-year-old daughter, Madison, at a Florida State University softball game, DeSantis joined an effort to reduce the environmental impact of Super Bowl LIV, which will be played in Miami Gardens next year.
DeSantis, who played baseball at Dunedin High School and Yale University and playfully threatened to drag Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis into a steel-cage match during WrestleMania 36 in Tampa next year, participated in the kickoff of “Ocean to Everglades,” or “O2E,” which involves NFL Green, Ocean Conservancy and The Everglades Foundation.
“You really see how just the average citizens, regardless of party, regardless of the part of the state, they all want to see Florida’s environment tended to,” DeSantis during an event in Key Biscayne on Monday to announce the initiative. “They care about water quality. They care about things like the Everglades. They care about our coastline.”
O2E is intended to “leave a positive and sustainable legacy long after the final whistle of the game,” the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee said in a press release.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, who’s leading the host committee, said events will range from coral restoration, beach cleanups and even fresh and salt water fishing.
“Here in Florida, our environment is the economy,” Eikenberg said.
CALLING ALL SENIORS
DeSantis, Florida’s first Generation X governor, has teamed up with the American Association of Retired Persons to try and make the Sunshine State accommodating for people of all ages.
The governor’s office announced Tuesday that Florida has become the fourth state to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.
“As our state continues to grow, we must ensure that we do all that we can to meet the needs of our residents,” DeSantis, 40, said in a press release. “I am proud that Florida is leading by becoming the largest state to commit to this important effort.”
More than 8 million of the state's estimated 21.6 million residents are older than 50. And the population of older Floridians is expected to climb by nearly 40 percent over the next decade, according to Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom.
“So it is essential that communities are prepared,” Prudom said in the release.
New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado are already participating in the program, as are at least 25 Florida communities, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and Dunedin, and Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
Membership isn’t an endorsement by the AARP as a place to live, the organization’s website states.
“What membership does mean is that the community's elected leadership has made the commitment to actively work toward making their town, city, county or state a great place to live for people of all ages,” the site explains.
HOUSE DEMS' DREAM TEAM?
Florida House Democrats avoided a caucus showdown on future leadership after Reps. Bobby DuBose of Fort Lauderdale and Evan Jenne of Dania Beach agreed to share the duties.
Under the agreement reached after a grueling House floor session that ended near midnight Wednesday, Jenne will oversee caucus policy issues for the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions while DuBose runs the caucus campaign arm, House Victory.
With Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg the designated caucus leader for the 2023 and 2024 sessions, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo called House Democrats’ selection “a dream team.”
“I’m confident that together, this leadership team will fight for Democratic values in Tallahassee, stand up to Republicans' extreme agenda, and continue to pick up House seats,” Rizzo said in a press release.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Enough with the racist and unconstitutional efforts to deny people the right to vote. If you are an American citizen you must be able to vote. End of discussion.” --- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders), who is running for president, responding to the Florida House’s passage of a measure designed to carry out a constitutional amendment that automatically restores voting rights to felons who have fulfilled the terms of their sentences.