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The Buzz: Florida politics

If you're in my House, you'll do no lobbying

By Times staff writers
Published March 6, 2005

Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, has made no secret of his disdain for lobbyists.

But for House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, the issue is more personal. His daughter, Courtney, was a lobbyist in 2004, with more than two dozen clients.

But Bense told her she couldn't lobby the Legislature as long as he's speaker.

Eager to set a fresh tone of professionalism and integrity, Bense decided there was no way his daughter's lobbying of his House would pass a straight-face test.

"I made it the hard way," Bense said. "She can make it the hard way."

Courtney has a new business interest, a Tallahassee boutique called Fancy Pants.

STARTING WITHOUT SCRATCH: It appeared Jim Davis might start his gubernatorial campaign with a slight advantage after Congress late last year revised campaign finance restrictions to allow members of Congress to transfer federal campaign money into campaigns for state or local office.

That would have meant the Tampa Democrat could start his gubernatorial bid with more than $100,000 in the bank.

Unfortunately for Davis, Florida law includes no provision for that. He's not expecting the GOP-controlled Legislature would be interested in amending the state rules to help him.

Davis appears to have lined up extensive support among South Florida fundraisers, but he's still assembling his campaign team.

Meanwhile, a Democratic rival, state Sen. Rod Smith, is lining up his own experienced finance team. It includes: Sen. Bill Nelson's former finance director Richard Reeves; Buddy MacKay's former finance director Michael Spellman; Ben Eley, who led Florida fundraising for Bill Bradley, Wes Clark and Joe Lieberman; Joe Perry, fundraiser for Democratic state senate campaigns; former state party executive director Screven Watson; and James Harris, a former adviser to Bob Graham, Bill Nelson and Janet Reno.

DOUBLE CRIST: In a state the size of Florida, a candidate can spend millions of dollars before enough voters recognize his or her name. But if state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, runs statewide next year, he'd have an edge over opponents: his last name.

Attorney General Charlie Crist has made no secret of his intention to run for governor. Sharing the ballot with him could help a lesser-known candidate like Victor Crist.

One job Victor Crist is said to be considering is chief financial officer. Tom Gallagher plans to step down from that post to run for governor.

Victor Crist also is considering a run for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican, where he wouldn't need the attorney general's name recognition. He's already well known there.

JEB IN 2012? The latest presidential speculation involving Jeb Bush comes courtesy of Larry Sabato, the oft-quoted pundit and political scientist from the University of Virginia. The governor has repeatedly insisted he's not running for president in 2008 and Sabato says that's "probably wise."

In his latest Crystal Ball newsletter, Sabato writes: "After all, voters in a nation born of anti-monarchial revolution will naturally recoil from the establishment of a political royal line. After a few years past 2008, Jeb may be a possibility, and who would bet against another Bush serving in the Oval Office at some point in the future? (Don't forget about Jeb's dashing Latino son, George P. Bush, who possesses the perfect profile for the century of ethnic diversity to come.)"

THROWING MONEY AWAY: The prize for wasting the most money in the 2004 election goes to the Florida Chamber of Commerce for spending nearly $5-million in a bid to kill a Constitutional Amendment increasing the minimum wage.

About 72 percent of voters approved the measure.

And we're not kidding about the prize. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a Washington group that applauds initiative campaigns, awarded it. Unfortunately for the chamber, the prize does not come with a check.

Times staff writers Steve Bousquet, David Karp, Lucy Morgan and Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's buzz.

[Last modified March 6, 2005, 00:13:18]

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