House and Senate lawyers have continued to weigh requests from lawmakers about the more than year old gift ban and their opinions show that there is still confusion over how far the zero tolerance law is supposed to work. Some of the more interesting items included in recent correspondence:
Sen. Jim King, a Jacksonville Republican, was given the green light to accept free public relations work from Sarah Bascom, who was his spokeswoman while he was Senate President and also worked on his re-election campaign. Bascom works for DC Navigators, a firm with offices in Sacramento, Washington and now Tallahassee and whose senior team includes campaign consultant Mike Murphy and Todd Harris, both of whom worked on Gov. Jeb Bush's successful 2002 re-election campaign.
Special Counsel Jason Vail wrote King on March 12 and told the senator that Bascom could do work for him since she was not a lobbyist, nor did DC Navigators have anyone else on staff who lobbies the Florida Legislature. (It is worth noting, however, DC Navigators says on its own website that it does lobbying as part of its business and that its client list include BellSouth, the American Insurance Association, Florida Power & Light, WellCare, and the Florida Justice Reform Partnership.)
But while that situation was deemed okay, Senate lawyers are unsure whether or not legislators could accept a free meal from Gov. Charlie Crist, who does have employees who lobby the Legislature, the night before the start of the session. Paul Huck, general counsel for Crist, argued that the state dinner, as well as a luncheon for the spouses of legislators and a reception for all members were "celebratory and ceremonial" and that is in the public interest for Crist to organize events "to foster a positive spirit of comradery." Senate lawyers, however, aren't sure and they have had all senators pay for their meal with the governor while they mull over the legal opinion from the governor's office. Members of the press who attended the dinner were charged $40.
House and Senate lawyers also had an exchange over whether $5 was the right amount to charge legislators who attend the World Famous RV Encampment Picnic Extravaganza organized each year by Rep. Stan Jordan, a Jacksonville Republican. Steve Kahn asked whether $5 "sounds a little short in the money department" to cover the food and non-alcoholic beverages for the event held at a RV campground five miles west of the Capitol. Jeremiah Hawkes wrote back that it was since those putting on the event were buying hot dogs and hamburgers from Sam's Club and grilling it themselves.