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Critic of gift ban, Putnam coy on King Ranch trips

PutnamphotoAgriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam minces no words when talking about the 2006 gift ban.

In a 2010 interview, Putnam called it "dumb."

He said the ban was a "disincentive for fellowship" and said: "You're forbidden from hanging out unless somebody is giving you a check." 

Yet when asked about trips he has taken to King Ranch that appear to give him plenty of opportunity to hang with big sugar lobbyists, Putnam clammed up. Here's a transcript from the June 17 interview conducted after a Cabinet meeting as Putnam walked back to his office.
Can you explain when you've gone to King Ranch and for what purposes?

I have been there for campaign purposes as well as to see more of their ag operations.

Which ag operations?

You know, they are significant agricultural players in the state of Florida.

How so?

They are one of the largest citrus growers in the state, as well as, they continue to be active in cattle, sod and sugar.

Did you hunt during these trips?

The campaign event was a hunting trip, yes.

How many times have you been?

I'll have to check.

More than a handful?


What game did you hunt?

Deer, hogs.

Who paid for the trips?

They were Republican Party of Florida fundraisers.

Can you get us the dates?

I'll ask the Republican Party to work with you on that since it was a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida.

Can you describe who attended with you?


You weren't by yourself?

No, no. It was like a fundraiser.

So who were the other attendees?

I couldn't give you an answer straight out of a Cabinet meeting, and we don't typically comment on everyone who participates in all of our campaign activities either.

But isn't it prudent to ask the agricultural commissioner about a trip to King Ranch in Texas?

I'm the ag commissioner. I don't play golf. So I use hunting trips frequently as a method of raising funds to campaign for both my re-election and for the party.

 How did you get there?

I'll have to refer all of the details to the Republican Party of Florida since it was a fundraiser for them ...

But you don't recall how you got there?

... but I flew.

 Who flew you?

Thank you.

Can you just say who flew you?

You'll have to talk to the Republican Party of Florida since it was their fundraiser.

Why can't you answer the question?

Putnam spokeswoman Erin Gillespie: Thank you. (closes door of Putnam's Capitol office so reporter can't follow Putnam)

Postscript: If Putnam asked the party to get information to a reporter, officials did not do so. When told of this, Gillespie, in a July 9 email, referred all questions to the party.