THRA$HER was barred from lobbying for two years. He broke the law. As a State Senator, Wikipedia reports, lawyer THRA$HER was Chairman of the Rules Committee and the Vice-Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations. Additionally, he served on the Budget, Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, Community Affairs, Judiciary, Reapportionment, Regulated Industries, and Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections.
HERRON has a quote at the end of this article that expresses the ethically impaired milieu of the foul fetid sewer that is Tallahassee under one-party Republican rule -- he actually defends THRASHER: with hauteur ignoring the law on lobbying by ex-legislators, HERRON emits an unctuous ukase: "'You need to consider the job of a university president would be to raise money,'” said Herron. "Then you’ve got to think if he’s representing FSU by lobbying or if he’s just acting as the president.”
Foornote: Trashy THRA$ER ran for re-election in 2014 knowing he would be FSU President created a vacancy, for which two state representatives ran (Travis Hutson was elected, defeating Ronald Renuart, M.D., who illegally campaigned for re-election with video from him walking in St. Augustine National Cemetery with Ray Quinn, the former Chief of Protocol and Command Sergeant Major of the Florida National Guard, a former County Commissioner -- both should have known campaigning in a national cemetery was low-class, asinine and illegal). So at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, there were three (3) by-elections in 2015, electing Senator Hutson (R-HUTSON DEVELOPMENT), Cyndi Stevenson, and carpetbagger PAUL RENNER, a Jacksonville resident.
Did FSU President John Thrasher violate lobby ban?
Arek Sarkissian ,
1:41 p.m. ET
Feb. 17, 2017
TALLAHASSEE - Florida State University President John Thrasher's push for a special law school appropriation includes a 2015 form with Thrasher named as the requester and dated before the former senator's ban on lobbying expired, records show.
Thrasher denies he unlawfully lobbied the Legislature for the $1 million a year, and said he's been careful to follow the rules as FSU president. But one gun rights group accused him of violating the ban during last year's legislative session when Thrasher opposed a failed plan to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry handguns on campus.
The $1 million, tucked away secretly in this year's $82.3 billion state budget, is among the special lawmaker requests that have surfaced in a battle between House and Senate leaders over how to write the spending plan. Thrasher's name also was on another secret appropriation for the engineering college.
The Naples Daily News reported Sunday that lawmakers over the past seven years hid nearly $315 million for their projects into state budgets, hiding them in the billions they give to universities to operate with the understanding that this is extra money for special purposes.
Thrasher said his request for $1 million each year for FSU's law school was to pay for more scholarships and faculty. The request bearing Thrasher's name and his university title was dated Dec. 4, 2015, less than a year into a state mandate banning the former senator from asking for money from the Legislature for two years. The contact listed on the form is Kathleen Daly, who served at the time as the university's lobbyist.
The College of Engineering shared by FSU and Florida A&University also received $2 million in a one-time secret appropriation that lists Thrasher as the requester on a form also dated Dec. 4, 2015 with Daly identified as the contact, records show. FAMU President Elmira Mangum's name was not included on the form.
The Florida Commission on Ethics has said former legislators can visit the Capitol when invited. Cases from the ethics commission cite examples of allowable activities during the visits such as providing lawmakers with specific information or appearing before a legislative committee.
But asking for money, a form of lobbying, is strictly forbidden, according to a 2009 opinion written by the nine-member ethics commission.
"Former members are prohibited from representing, for compensation, another person or entity, be it public or private, before the Legislature for a period of two years following their leaving office," the opinion states, paraphrasing the actual ban listed in the state Constitution.
When asked last week about his special request for FSU, Thrasher said the law school needed the money to compete against other law schools in the region. He said he asked Sen. Joe Negron to include money in the budget.
"I had asked my old friend, Sen. Joe Negron, to come pay a visit to the law school," Thrasher said. "He saw the things that we're doing over there."
Negron, in turn, sent Thrasher to Sen. Bill Montford, a Democrat whose legislative district includes FSU.
But when asked later if this request violated the state law that forbids former lawmakers for a two-year period from lobbying the Legislature, Thrasher said he confused the years that he made the request. He said he made the request to Negron in 2014 while he was a senator. Thrasher left his senate position in September 2014 to become FSU president.
Thrasher said he did not violate the lobbying ban, and he only visited the Capitol at the invitation of lawmakers requesting information.
“I took the lobbying ban seriously, and, with the help of my team, I was careful not to violate it," Thrasher said. "We were responsive to legislators when they requested to speak with me. I visited the Capitol only when I was invited by legislators, and I provided information only when asked.
"I have a very good lobbyist in Kathleen Daly, and she and I made sure that all rules were followed,” he said.
Only one other university president is listed as a requester in dozens of special budget requests for universities included in this year's budget. Republican Sen. Lizabeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers submitted a request with Florida Gulf Coast University President Wilson Bradshaw listed as the requester. FGCU received the $2.8 million secret appropriation to develop new academic degrees.
All other university requests list the lobbyist or another representative on the form as the requester.
Also, other university requests that Montford filed did not list a president as the requester. Montford, for example, earmarked $3 million for Florida A&University's campus in Brooksville, at the request of the university's director of government relations, Tola Thompson.
A copy of Thrasher's university calendar shows he paid visits to Negron and the state Capitol in the months before Montford completed the FSU forms. A Nov. 2, 2015, entry in the calendar notes a meeting with Negron at his office. Another entry for Dec. 2, 2015 was to attend the Senate Chamber ceremony for Negron's ascension to senate president. That same night, Thrasher planned to attend a private celebration for Negron at a venue east of Tallahassee, according to the calendar obtained through a public records request.
Thrasher did not respond to questions about the purpose of the 2015 meetings with Negron.
Negron, R-Stuart, said he followed state law when inviting Thrasher to the Capitol for his November and December visits. Daly joined Thrasher as the university's lobbyist for Negron's chamber ceremony, according to Thrasher's calendar.
Negron said Thrasher took great care not to violate the law. Negron could not recall the topic of his November 2015 meeting with Thrasher.
"President Thrasher is my ally and a friend and someone who I've looked to for advice throughout my career," Negron said. "And I'll say he never lobbied during the ban and for that matter, out of an abundance of caution, he doesn't lobby now."
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, President of Florida Assn of School Supts.
Montford, in an interview last week, initially recalled being asked by Thrasher to set aside the law school cash. But when asked Thursday about the request, Montford said he misspoke by saying Thrasher requested the special money.
"Since he has been gone, he has been very careful not to come to me about any lobbying," Montford said. "His lobbyist has, but John Thrasher has never asked me anything."
The Legislature also gave $1 million for scholarships and salaries to the FSU law school in the 2015 budget. That money would have been added to the budget during the spring 2014 legislative session. Thrasher, then an influential chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, could have filed his own request for the law school cash. But he said he asked Montford instead to handle it.
Thrasher, through spokesman Dennis Schnittker, said he asked Montford to handle the request because his district includes the university and Montford served on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"The Florida Senate is a very collegial body and they help each other," Schnittker said.
However, there are no documents corroborating that request, according to Negron's staff.
Negron, who was then chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recalled Thrasher working on the request with Montford.
"I believe projects like this should come from lawmakers who can tell me their ideas, and not just submit a form," Negron said. "I distinctly recall adding this into the budget after discussing with them."
The FSU law school did not get the $1 million requested for scholarships and faculty salaries in the 2016 budget. A letter dated Feb. 9, 2015, sent by then Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Don Gaetz and Vice Chairman Montford, asked Thrasher to explain why the university should receive the money. Now-former FSU law school Dean Don Weidner responded with a lengthy overview of how the money was spent, which included awarding more scholarships and two professors who specialize in the areas of environment and finance.
"In short, we have spent the money as we promised," Weidner wrote.
On an unrelated matter, gun rights groups accused Thrasher of violating the lobbying ban during last legislative session. Florida Carry lobbyist Eric J. Friday said he believes Thrasher urged lawmakers not to pass a bill allowing concealed weapon permit holders to carry a gun on university campuses.
"Florida Carry absolutely believes he was engaged in lobbying during his two years after the senate,” Friday said.
The 2009 state ethics case that says former lawmakers are prohibited from lobbying as heads of public institutions was brought by former House Rep. Joe H. Pickens, who was appointed as president of St. Johns River State College less than two years after he left public office. Previous rulings allowed former lawmakers to avoid the ban if they accept appointed positions in public offices, but the ethics commission reversed that stance for Pickens.
"Which, you try to do the right thing, I brought this case to them to be absolutely clear and they decide to change their minds," Pickens said. "But it was the law, so I laid low for those two years until the ban was over."
Pickens said even with the ban, his name and title came up on requests his college made for money.
"Can I say my name didn't ever show up on a document or if I never signed something? No, but that doesn't mean I did any lobbying," said Pickens, whose college is within the senate district Thrasher served.
Tallahassee ethics lawyer Mark Herron, the former state ethics commission chairman, said it's not clear if Thrasher's actions amounted to lobbying and, therefore, violated state law. The ethics statute defines a lobbyist as “a person who is employed and receives payment, or who contracts for economic consideration, for the purpose of lobbying, or a person who is principally employed for governmental affairs by another person or governmental entity to lobby on behalf of that other person or governmental entity.”
“You need to consider the job of a university president would be to raise money,” said Herron. "Then you’ve got to think if he’s representing FSU by lobbying or if he’s just acting as the president.”