March 10, 2011

A girl's death and the sadness of John Thrasher

A tough-as-nails vet and political heavy-weight like John Thrasher isn’t the type of Republican you’d expect to challenge the NRA and get misty-eyed about limiting some gun rights.

But all that changed Jan. 9 when 20-year-old Ashley Cowie died in the arms of her twin sister, whose boyfriend’s AK-47-style rifle accidentally shot her at point blank range at an FSU frat house.

In some ways, the Cowie twins were there because of Thrasher. Their father, Bob, has been his dentist for decades. And Thrasher, like any good Seminole booster, taunted Bob Cowie because his oldest daughter went to the University of Florida.

“I told them they shouldn’t be Gators,” Thrasher recalled. “I had them get a VIP tour of FSU and they loved it. They really wanted to come here.”

In the wake of the shooting, Thrasher struggled with the fact that one of his fellow North Florida Republicans, Greg Evers, was sponsoring an open-carry bill that incidentally allowed concealed-weapon permit holders to carry firearms on college campuses for the first time.

Bob Cowie called his friend and Senator and asked a favor: Don’t let that provision in the bill pass. Thrasher has that power. As the Rules Committee Chairman, he can keep legislation off the floor of the Senate. Thrasher’s wife brought Bob Cowie last week to testify about his daughters, bringing many to tears.

Thrasher wasn’t there. But behind the scenes, he let his stand be known. “I oppose this,” he said. “It’s beyond personal for me,” Thrasher said. “Any other time I might support something like this, but I just can’t. Two families lives have been destroyed by this. It's so unbelievably sad and personal and emotional."

Yesterday, due to an amendment from another Republican, Sen. Paula Dockery, the college language was stripped from the bill. Normally, the NRA doesn't lose in the Florida Legislature. But this is a process dominated by powerful anecdotes and personal and political connections. Facing that, the NRA had little chance with this provision.

 Full story here

February 21, 2011

Wisconsin pt. 2? John Thrasher goes after union cheddar

Sen. John Thrasher, former state GOP chairman, looks like he has filed a bill (SB830) to starve unions like the Florida Education Association, SEIU, AFL-CIO, firefighters, police unions or AFSCME by banning the Democratic-leaning organizations from using salary deductions for political purposes. The legislation also says any "public employer may not deduct or collect" union dues, etc. Lastly, it says that any public employee who didn't specifically authorize the use of his money could be entitled to a partial refund.

The bill doesn't seem to go  as far as Wisconsin's by ending collective bargaining rights in Florida, though in a right-to-work state there's only so much union bargaining that can take place. Still, the language about union dues sure looks like it's right out of the play book of the tea party/Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker (who incidentally is not a high-speed rail fan, either).

Here are some excerpts from Thrasher's bill, SB 830, which doesnn't seem to have a house sponsor. Yet.

"Deductions may not be made for purposes of political activity, including contributions to a candidate, political party, political committee, committee of continuous existence, electioneering communications organization, or organization exempt from taxation under s. 501(c)(4) or s. 527 of the Internal Revenue Code."

"A public employer may not deduct or collect the dues, uniform assessments, fines, penalties, or special assessments of an employee organization from the compensation of any person employed by the public employer..."

"Unless an employee has executed a written authorization, the employee is entitled to a pro rata refund of any dues, uniform assessments, fines, penalties, or special assessments paid by the employee and used by the labor organization of which the employee is a member to make contributions or expenditures, as defined in s. 106.011. The written authorization must be executed by the employee separately for each fiscal year of the labor organization and shall be accompanied with a detailed account, provided by the labor organization, of all contributions and expenditures made by the labor organization in the preceding 24 months."

December 02, 2010

Thrasher reject's Scott's appeals to remain as RPOF chairman

John Thrasher For weeks, Gov.-elect Rick Scott has been urging state Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville to remain as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, serving as Scott's crucial liasion to the party rank-and-file and the Tallahassee establishment. Today, Thrasher today finally formally told him "no."

"I will leave on Jan. 15,'' Thrasher said. "We've had conversations with our staff and the governor's for several weeks." Despite entreaties from the new governor Thrasher told him: "I made it very clear I won't stay. That's what I said when I took the job."

Thrasher was ushered in as a temporary chairman in February after former RPOF chair Jim Greer was forced to resign. Greer has since been indicted by a statewide grand jury on charges that he stole $125,000 from the party through the use of a shell company. But when Scott won the primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum, running against the party establishment and promising no more politics as usual, Thrasher arrived at Scott's Fort Lauderdale headquarters and was the first to offer an olive branch.

When Scott won, he reached out to Thrasher to remain on the job as a handful of officials from county executive committees started skirmishing for the title. Among them is Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, an early Scott supporter, Pinellas County State Committeeman Tony DiMatteo, Jefferson County State Committeeman Dave Bitner, Palm Beach County chairman Sid Dinerstein, and Deborah Cox-Roush, vice chairman of the state party and chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Party.

Continue reading "Thrasher reject's Scott's appeals to remain as RPOF chairman" »

October 11, 2010

UPDATE: John Thrasher and Marco Rubio use Obama visit to raise $$$

Republican Party of Florida chairman John Thrasher is using President Obama's fundraising trip to Miami today to do a bit of fundraising himself.

"Floridians have had enough of the Obama-Pelosi agenda. But Florida Democrat politicians haven’t gotten the message yet," Thrasher says in an e-mail. "They brought Barack Obama to Florida today for fundraising help – and they will owe him if they win their elections. That means more votes for his
current agenda. Are you fed up too?? Here’s how you can send a message to President Obama and Nancy Pelosi that Florida has had enough of their agenda:

"1.   DONATE to help elect Florida Republicans focused on jobs and holding Washington accountable. Click here to donate...

Senate candidate Marco Rubio is using the trip to raise money as well: "The millions he raises today," Rubio's campaign said in an e-mail asking for money, ""Will be used to attack the ideas that are at the very heart of this campaign.

September 11, 2010

Crist campaign scoffs at Thrasher accusations

Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner: "Given Marco Rubio is the candidate in this race who's under federal investigation for failing to report income to the IRS, it's probably best that the party bosses stop playing the same old political games and take a hard look at their own nominee before attacking the one truly independent candidate for U.S. Senate."

It's worth noting that federal investigators were reviewing multiple officials connected to the state GOP credit card scandal and the Ray Sansom scandal. GOP fundraiser Al Hoffman said federal investigators interviewed him and were particularly interested in Crist campaign spending by the party.

Rubio has said no investigator has contacted him about anything, and campaign spokesman Alex Burgos scoffed at the Crist statement: "Everyone knows Charlie Crist will say and do anything to win. Now he's trying to distract attention from the fact that his hand-picked Republican Party chairman has been indicted, his close friend Scott Rothstein is heading to jail, and Charlie Crist sits at the center of all of it."

The Florida Democratic party had demanded the audit be released, but today spokesman Eric Jotkoff took the high road, sort of: "Because today is a day to remember those who lost their lives nine years ago on the tragic day of 9/11/2001, unlike the Rick Scott Republicans who are using today for partisan attacks, we are focused on honoring the first responders and troops who keep Florida safe."

August 30, 2010

Thrasher to ask party officials to release full forensic audit

Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher has received and reviewed the long awaited forensic audit of party finances under the administration of indicted chairman Jim Greer and will ask party executives next week to make it public, party officials said Monday.

Katie Gordon Betta, RPOF spokesman, said the 50-plus page report by auditors Alston & Bird, includes "nothing they hadn't seen coming,'' she said. Thrasher ordered the report after allegations surfaced that high ranking legislators and staff had misused party credit cards for personal use, misused expense reports and that Greer entered into a secret fundraising contract with former RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson.

Only Thrasher and two others, party CFO Richard Swarttz and executive director Ronnie Whitaker, have reviewed the report, she said. Thrasher will ask party officials to release the report at the Sept. 11 quarterly meeting in Orlando. The discussion will take place behind closed doors, Betta said.

August 23, 2010

GOP censored Scott response to Thrasher

Florida Republican Chairman John Thrasher sent a message to party faithful titled "Rick Scott" on Sunday night, blasting him (again) for invoking the Jim Greer scandal in the campaign. (See his message below.)

Scott's camp sought to respond, but the party refused to send the message, which says "denying the facts to paint a better picture of Bill McCollum is the wrong way to do it." (Read the whole thing here.)

Party spokeswoman Katie Betta explained the party routinely sends campaign emails to its list. But it also reserves the right to reject those "that contain personal or otherwise inappropriate attacks towards other Republicans." As for the email from Thrasher, which contained some choice words, Betta said the chairman can send what he wants.

Continue reading "GOP censored Scott response to Thrasher" »

August 22, 2010

McCollum gets sermon on how to 'be nice'


Bill McCollum brought the right person to First Baptist Church in Jacksonville this morning: former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The 2012 White House hopeful received a whooping (for church) standing ovation and pastor Mac Brunson, a person friend, brought him to the stage to share a few words. (By contrast, McCollum received just polite applause when he was introduced.) In his brief remarks, Huckabee didn't mention McCollum but the connection likely stuck.

The lesson of the sermon, however, did not. Brunson spoke about the hurtfulness of criticism and attacks on character. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” he urged those gathered at the mega-church, citing Ephesians 4:29. “Be nice!”

Moments later, McCollum – and Huckabee, less so – went back on the attack a rally at a GOP office. McCollum scolded rival Rick Scott for trying to buy the election and lying about his own record.

Continue reading "McCollum gets sermon on how to 'be nice'" »

August 16, 2010

Greer needs money for lawyers, asks Crist for money back

Crist Hugs Greer - Low Res UPDATED: Jim Greer, the indicted former chairman of the state Republican Party, is asking Gov. Charlie Crist to refund $9,600 in campaign contributions made to Crist's U.S. Senate campaign. "As you know circumstances have caused me to need money to defend myself and take care of my family," Greer wrote in a letter to the campaign. "I know sending the money back is hard, but with what has happened it may be politically beneficial for you to do." (Download the letter here.)

The letter goes on to hammer the Republican Party of Florida leaders who helped oust Greer. "The current RPOF leadership, including (gubernatorial candidate Bill) McCollum, (Party Chairman John) Thrasher and many of the state committee members are simply liars, racists, and extremists ... the current bunch that are running the show will stop at nothing to cover for their own misdeeds," it reads.

Continue reading "Greer needs money for lawyers, asks Crist for money back" »

July 17, 2010

Thrasher: Blocked vote on drilling not linked to oil industry promises

With word that that the GOP-led legislature is going to prevent a vote on Gov. Charlie Crist's proposal to put an amendment to ban oil drilling on the November ballot, rumors are swirling and accusations hurling that there might be a tidy reward in the fall to RPOF coffers from the oil industry.

For example, Rep. Scott Randolph, an Orlando Democrat, believes Republican House leaders won't take the issue to the floor because "they have taken so much money from offshore drilling and spent it all on their lavish credit card spending'' that they don't want to cancel out the prospect of oil industry drilling in the future.

Republican Party of Florida chairman, and state senator, John Thrasher forcefully denies those allegations. He said he has not personally spoken to any oil lobbyist and the decision not to put the amendment on the ballot has more to do with giving voters time to carefully review the issue than to rush to judgment on the emotional issue now. "Nothing in this special session, as far as I'm concerned, is in anyway linked to any kind of a quid pro quo from the oil industry," he told the Herald/Times.