Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, is getting dragged into a Tea Party civil war. One Tea Party group is suing another linked to the controversial Central Florida operative Doug Guetzloe, who has thrown support toward her but denies major involvement in Tea Party politics.
Enter Michael Caputo (no relation to reporter Marc Caputo, i.e., me). He's an operative with close ties to uber-attack man Roger Stone and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which largely backs Dockery's Republican primary opponent, Bill McCollum. Caputo (who intriguingly worked for Russian Prez Boris Yeltsin once) also helped the 2006 failed Frank Bolanos campaign against Dockery pal Sen. Alex Villalobos.
Caputo's main dog in this fight, though, is South Florida Tea Party, which filed a Jan. 19 federal lawsuit v. TEA Party of Florida, affiliated with Guetzloe. Caputo, saying 33 other groups have joined the suit, sent out an email missive making allegations against Dockery and the senator just responded. Her email is first:
Since I have not met you nor spoken to you, I'd like to ask you a few questions in regards to your following email which was sent to my legislative email address.
First of all, why are you sending out misinformation without attempting to verify any of your outlandish claims or innuendo? Do you believe that will enhance your public relations business?
Second, I have been a lifelong Republican and have spent my adult life building up my Republican party. Can you say the same?
Third, why are you involving me in your personal grudge with Doug Guetzloe and others?
Fourth, Doug Guetzloe is not and has not been paid by my campaign or on behalf of my campaign. I am asking you to refrain from making this claim as you have now been formally told there is no truth to your assertion. Please provide your rationale for making these false claims.
Fifth, please disclose who is paying you to perpetuate your campaign of misinformation.
Sixth, I have absolutely nothing to do with the forming of another party and have, in fact, suggested that the formation of a "tea party" will actually harm reform-minded Republican candidates like me.
Seventh, I am happy to share information with you about a draft Dockery effort. There were many unrelated individuals who came together on facebook. There was no concerted effort or renumeration involved.
Finally, while I met Doug Guetzloe in Tallahassee during my efforts to renegotiate the FDOT/CSX secret deal and appreciate his common interest in the issue, he has not been working for me in that capacity or in any other. I have no idea to what you are referring with your claim of a 10-month working relationship. Please provide documentation of your claim.
While I appreciate your first amendment right to free speech, I do not appreciate your willingness to be fast and reckless with the facts.
In the future, please feel free to call me with any questions you may have regarding my candidacy, my party affiliation, my campaign organization or my fiscally conservative record.
I'm a believer in transparency and am more than happy to lay the facts out for all to see.
Caputo's response is here Download CaputoResp and his original email is below:
YOU GOTTA READ THIS: www.Shark-Tank.net
Shark-tank.net today covers the lawsuit against the fake Tea Party of Florida, noting the defendants have lied to activists across the state in their scramble to force settlement on their terms. The third partiers, led by Republican consultant Doug Guetzloe, listed Florida Freedomworks' Tom Gaitens as behind their ex parte efforts and posted his name all over the Internet as their supporter.
It turns out Gaitens wants no part of the third party scam and he's insisted they stop using his name.
But where is liberal Sen. Paula Dockery in all this mess? In public, she says she will never run as a third party candidate if she loses the Republican gubernatorial primary to conservative Bill McCollum. But Guetzloe has been working for her for at least 10 months - founding and running the effort to draft her into the race, coordinating and promoting her opposition to Sunrail, talking her up as a Tea Party candidate on his brokered radio show, running her efforts to win a recent Orlando straw poll, and much more.
Is Paula Dockery a quiet force behind this third party gambit, awaiting a late-in-the-game endorsement from Guetzloe's fake Tea Party political party? Why is she working so closely with Guetzloe, who an appellate court said ran a "quintessential smear campaign" against a 2006 Winter Park mayoral candidate. For that, he's been sentenced to 60 days in jail he's not yet served.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Guetzloe has also "for years been dogged by allegations that he has taken or solicited money in exchange for his silence."
Will Paula Dockery - or a wealthy supporter - pay Guetzloe in exchange for his fake party's endorsement?
It is time for Dockery to dump Doug.