December 04, 2009

Kottkamp cleared in travel ethics complaint

Meeting in closed-door session, the state Commission on Ethics Friday dismissed a citizen's complaint that Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp violated ethics laws by misusing state aircraft for personal travel.

The commission's action -- officially known as a finding of no probable cause -- was confirmed by Dave Plyer, a citizen activist from Clearwater who lodged the complaint against Kottkamp based on news accounts. As the complainant, Plyer was allowed to attend the executive session.

Plyer said the commission, in its report on the case, would make a recommendation that the Legislature change state law "to make a much clearer distinction about what constitutes business travel and political travel." Kottkamp on a number of occasions called for a pilot to fly a state plane to Fort Myers, where he has a home, to pick him up and take him to the Capitol, and he has noted that the state initially refused to allow him to reimburse the state for trips taken by his wife and son.

Plyer said he was satisfied that the ethics panel made the right decision based on what he called the "ambiguity" in state law over the use of state planes for personal use. Kottkamp, a Republican candidate for attorney general, could not immediately be reached for comment, but he had predicted that the complaint would be dismissed.

"I'm satisfied. I thought it was done right," Plyer said. "The statutes are not clear, particularly in the Kottkamp case."

-- Steve Bousquet

October 29, 2009

Benson loves Florida, Kottkamp thinks she's 'nice and pleasant'

AHCA Secretary Holly Benson just made official her run for attorney general, pitting herself against Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp in the Republican primary next fall.

Benson made her announcement from the steps of the courthouse in her hometown of Pensacola, which she represented in the state House for six years.

"I am running for Florida's Attorney General because I love Florida and because we need people in government who understand and live by the principles that make this state great," said Benson, who was introduced by Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell.
"At a time when government needs to be at its most effective and responsible, people are deeply troubled that government is even more out of touch, more out of control and is expanding its power, while abandoning the principles that make Florida a great place to live, work and raise a family. Every elected official has a choice to make and a role to play.  Few positions will be as critical to the future in this state as Attorney General."

The LG's campaign folks managed to undercut Benson's announcement, sending the following statement before Sarah Bascom sent Benson's out: "We served together in the Legislature and I have always found her to be a nice and pleasant individual. I look forward to a positive issue-oriented primary campaign."

October 22, 2009

14 sheriffs back Kottkamp for attorney general

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, seeking to build momentum in anticipation of a likely Republican primary fight from former Rep. Holly Benson in the race for attorney general, is touting the endorsements of 14 Florida sheriffs. They include David Morgan, sheriff in Escambia County, which includes Benson's hometown of Pensacola. 

Among the other notables supporting Kottkamp are Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti (appointed to his post by Gov. Charlie Crist, following Ken Jenne's resignation); Duval's John Rutherford; Pasco's Bob White; and Sheriff Mike Scott in Kottkamp's home county of Lee (Fort Myers/Cape Coral).

The other sheriffs represent Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, Flagler, Hardee, Holmes, Nassau, Santa Rosa and Seminole counties. Endorsements by sheriffs are highly prized in statewide races, but particularly by candidates for attorney general, who emphasize their support for strong law enforcement measures.

An historical footnote: Bob Butterworth used his network of sheriff contacts as the ex-sheriff of Broward County as a springboard to his election as AG in 1986. It's largely forgotten that he got in the race very late and was given little chance of winning against then-state Sen. Edgar Dunn of Ormond Beach. 

-- Steve Bousquet

October 14, 2009

No decision from Benson on A.G.'s race (yet)

That meeting Tuesday between Gov. Charlie Crist and AHCA Secretary Holly Benson turned out to be inconsequential, but stay tuned, as it relates to Benson's interest in running for attornuy  general.

"She said she's thinking about it and wanted to give it a little more thought," Crist said.

Asked to state whether he liked the idea of one of his agency heads running against his lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp, Crist said: "My opinion is that people ought to do what they feel is right for them in life. I think the world of both of them."

-- Steve Bousquet

October 13, 2009

Is Holly Benson quitting to run for AG?

Holly Benson It's just a routine meeting on Gov. Charlie Crist's daily schedule: "1 :55 p.m., meeting with Secretary Holly Benson, Agency for Health Care Administration." But Benson asked for the meeting, and it comes amid growing speculation that Benson, a former GOP lawmaker from Pensacola, may quit her state post to challenge Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

Crist said he didn't know what Benson wants to discuss "Well, I've heard the speculation too. I don't know what exactly she's going to say in that meeting, but I have enormous respect for her." The meeting comes a day after Kottkamp posted a modest $180,000 in contributions last quarter.

In a different context (the possibility of Sen. Paula Dockery running for governor), Crist said; "I always think competition is good. I'm an old ballplayer, I thought competition was good."

-- Steve Bousquet

October 12, 2009

Kottkamp raised $180,000 in the last quarter

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, the only Republican candidate for attorney general, said he raised more than $180,000 during the quarter, and noted that much of it came in in a two-and-a-half week period. But the L.G., as he's known, clearly isn't benefiting much from his affiliation with the state's reigning fund-raising machine, Gov. Charlie Crist. (The figure is from a campaign press release; as of this writing, Kottkamp's detailed report is not yet online).

Kottkamp's haul is not that impressive, other than the fact that it's a challenging fund-raising environment for most statewide candidates because of a multitude of open seats during a grinding recession. The Kottkamp total may not be enough to scare away an anticipated Republican primary challenge from Holly Benson, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration and a former state representative from Pensacola, who is expected to announce her plans this week or next. 

-- Steve Bousquet

September 03, 2009

Kottkamp files lawsuit over home's Chinese drywall

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and his wife Cyndie have filed a lawsuit over the Chinese drywall that has damaged their new home in North Fort Myers. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported details of the lawsuit, including that Kottkamp has hired his former employer, the law firm of Morgan & Morgan, to represent him and his wife in the case. Kottkamp is a Republican candidate for attorney general in 2010.  The $1.4-million home was built by Aubuchon Homes, a company owned by state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral.

-- Steve Bousquet

August 06, 2009

Kottkamp holds "evening of friendship..." and $raising

Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp, the Republican running for Attorney General, wants you to join him later this month "for an evening of friendship, fellowship and fundraising" at the Tallahassee home of Beth and Jim Thielen.

Suggested donation: $500.

The host committee:

Jennifer &  Ray Green
Jim & Beth Thielen
Harry & Carol Spring
Adam & Jessica Potts
Mark A. Miller
Jim Eaton
David Ramba
Kathy Anderson
John W. Johnson
Herb &  Karen Sheheane
Carol & Walt Dover


July 21, 2009

Pro & con on Kottkamp's travel issues

Will Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's travel issues bring him a lot of baggage in his nascent race for attorney general? Not according to two of the L.G.'s fellow Republicans, who say it's overblown. 

Kottkamp picutres 7-20-09 006 Broward County Republican Chairman Chip LaMarca said the fact that there are travel-related ethics complaints filed against both leading candidates for governor, Bill McCollum and Alex Sink, takes the heat off Kottkamp. "It's the issue du jour in the governor's race," LaMarca told The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard. "If he can stay on message about the position of attorney general, I think he'll be fine." (Photo at left shows Kottkamp talking with kids at Tallahassee's Challenger Learning Center on Monday).

Lawyer George LeMieux, the Charlie Crist campaign "maestro" who vetted Kottkamp as Crist's running mate in 2006, says he doesn't think Kottkamp's extensive travels on the public dime will be much of a distraction. LeMieux says Kottkamp is not to be underestimated as a candidate for attorney general because he holds statewide office -- and has made lots of important contacts as Crist's sidekick. "It would be a mistake to underestimate him," LeMieux said.

Democrats, however, plan to have a lot of fun at Kottkamp's expense. The Florida Democratic Party has christened the song "Back to Georgia" by Kenny Loggins as the Official Jeff Kottkamp Campaign Song, available here. (For late tuners-in, Kottkamp had his state trooper escort drive him to Atlanta in May to attend a Loggins concert as part of lobbyist Steve Metz's 50th birthday celebration). 

-- Steve Bousquet

July 20, 2009

Kottkamp's candidacy for AG takes flight

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp made it official Monday: He's a Republican candidate for attorney general. Inexplicably, he did it at an event highlighting the importance of flight -- the one topic Kottkamp should be trying to avoid for the next 16 months. He'll face Fort Lauderdale lawyer Jim Lewis in the GOP primary.

Kottkamp, who plans a formal announcement Wednesday, faces an ethics inquiry over his use of state airplanes to fly him from his home in Fort Myers to his office in Tallahassee, but he expressed the view that the case would be resolved in his favor. "I feel confident that's going come out just fine," he said as he ended a brief Q-and-A with reporters.

He emphasized he's driving to West Palm Beach on Tuesday for a sheriffs' conference dealing with drug control issues, and he and Gov. Charlie Crist plan a statewide fly-around Wednesday to tout the state's adoption program. (Kottkamp said he had no idea where Crist was on Monday). 

"Serving as attorney general would certainly be a culmination of a lot of experiences I've had in my life," Kottkamp said. "It's something I feel very passionate about. But first and foremost, as I said, I'm going to focus on  being lieutenant governor."   

The setting was the Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee where Kottkamp and other members of the Space Florida board marked the 40th anniversary of man's landing on the Moon. With scale models of space capsules and images of flight all around him, Kottkamp read a proclamation from Crist marking the occasion, and visited with young children taking part in various arts and crafts.

-- Steve Bousquet