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Committee to defend justices launches first television ad

 The Committee to Defend Justice from Politics, the political committee operated by Republican Stanley Tate and former City of Coral Gables general counsel Elizabeth M. Herhandez, is up with its first ad in Tampa, Orlando and Miami today defending the three Supreme Court justices up for merit retention.

"What do the politicians in Tallahassee want?'' asks the announcer in the 30-second spot. "Absolute power,'' he answers. "Even over our courts." The announcer then quotes a series of newspaper editorials critical of the Republican Party of Florida's decision to get involved in the issue and asks voters: "Want to stop the politicians from trying to take over the Supreme Court? Then stand up for our justices against this political power grab."

The problem with the accusation is that there is no politician in Tallahassee who has openly admitted to being out to get the three justices up for merit retention.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz both said they were not consulted before the RPOF's executive board took it's unanimous vote to oppose R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

Although the board took a two-day recess in its deliberations and then came back to vote unanimously to oppose the justices, no one seems to have been consulted. RPOF chairman Lenny Curry said the recess was needed to allow him to consult with board members.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have both said they were not aware of the decision prior to the vote.

Gov. Rick Scott stood by the decision today but said he was not aware of whether anyone in his office was consulted. The governor's former communication's director, Brian Burgess, went to work for the party that week.

The ads follow a television ad campaign against the justices announced last week by the conservative Americans For Prosperity. The ad focues on the justices' decision to reject a constitutional amendment proposed by legislators that would have served as a referendum on the federal health care reform act. Lawmakers rewrote the amendment and placed it on the November ballot.