JaxPoliticsOnline.com

Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Hottest 2010 Campaign Issue? Travel On State Planes

One of the hottest issues emerging in the statewide races coming up in 2010 appears to be travel on state aircraft.  Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp was the first to come under fire for what some deemed as “excessive” travel on state aircraft on the taxpayers dime.  Kottkamp, a rumored candidate for Attorney General, has moved to put the accusations to rest by reimbursing the state and hiring a well-respected legal team to assist in fighting ethics complaints.

The issue has not stopped with Kottkamp; however.  Attorney General Bill McCollum and CFO Alex Sink are now both facing ethics complaints over their own use of state aircraft.  Today, the first attack ad of the political cycle emerged with a YouTube video targeted at Sink.  The ad was produced by the 527 group “Don’t Bank on Sink”, which is headed up by Gainesville businessman Jay Navarrete.  The ad appears below: Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Attorney General Race Starting To Heat Up

Who knew the hottest race of 2010 might turn out to be the Attorney General race?  At the least, it could turn out to be the most crowded race of the year.

Last week, State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Ft. Myers) announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination.  Today, State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) made a quick switch from the US Senate race to the Attorney General race.  Despite the best efforts of Bill Nelson, the Democrats appear headed for the exact scenario they were determined to avoid—a contended primary.  Rod Smith, a former state senator from Alachua, is also rumored to be considering the race.

On the Republican side, Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp looks like he might have an open field to the nomination.  The Lt. Governor is facing numerous ethics complaints over extensive flying at taxpayer expense.  He faces additional controversy over the revelations that he recently used the Florida Highway Patrol to drive him to Atlanta for a Kenny Loggins concert.  While Kottkamp has not officially announced his candidacy, the clean shaven look he debuted this past Friday would seemingly indicate his intent to pursue higher office.

Both parties may be successful in clearing the field for their preferred Gubernatorial and Senatorial candidates, but the Attorney General’s race is starting to look like the place for variety.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Ethics-challenged Lt. Gov to run for Attorney General

Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp said today that he was “likely” to run for Attorney General.  Kottkamp’s candidacy could make a typically boring race rather interesting.  After all, he is currently facing a barrage of Ethics complaints from the state’s Ethics Commission.  Perhaps he would investigate himself if he won…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

Fire Up The FHP Plane, Lt. Gov Is In The Mix

Warning:  This article contains excessive satire.  The conversations relayed are simply figments of a warped imagination.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Mere days after learning his mentor, Charlie Crist, was leaving him at the Tallahassee altar to pursue a Senate seat, Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp emerged from a strategy session with his top aides to announce he would likely run for Florida Attorney General.

“Charlie bailed on me,” the Lt. Governor complained to the assembled press.  “Seriously, you try explaining to your wife that she might have to share in the driving duties on the next road trip to see Kenny Loggins.  I’m telling you, she was teed off.  Next thing I know, she’s run off to tell the kid that Daddy’s losing his private jet.  What was I supposed to do?”

“Charlie’s left me no choice.  I’ve got to run for something,” Kottkamp said.  “No one’s running for Attorney General, so it seemed like the easiest choice.  Besides, I’m a lawyer.”

An anonymous source in the Governor’s office later shared insights into the strategy session.  “Jeff was totally pissed at Charlie,” the aide said.  “It had been his understanding that if Charlie left for DC, he would have at least been able to retain use of one of the Florida Highway Patrol’s jets.  Once he found out that wasn’t the case, he went ballistic.”

According to the aide, Kottkamp isn’t sure he even remembers how to drive anymore and was worried about losing the blinking lights on his Tahoe.  After a three hour strategy session; however, reason prevailed and Kottkamp was finally persuaded that being Attorney General was “almost as cool” as being Lt. Governor—at least he could still use the jet.

So fire up the jets, Florida Highway Patrol, the crisis has been averted.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

Pimpin’ Out The Florida Highway Patrol

Jeff Kottkamp.  Some may still draw a blank when they hear the name, but others may remember the controversy—a family vacation to St. Augustine courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol’s aircraft (an expense that wasn’t reimbursed until nearly two years later after multiple media outlets, including JaxPoliticsOnline.com, starting making records requests about it), bodyguards that cost the taxpayers of Florida $700,000 and multiple controversies involving state aircraft.  Well, Charlie Crist’s Lt. Governor seems not to have learned a thing from the spate of ethics complaints that have flooded into Tallahassee.

According to the St. Pete Times, just as the Lt. Governor was under full attack for his extravagant traveling ways (on the taxpayers dime, of course), Messr. Kottkamp engaged the Florida Highway Patrol to drive he and his wife to Atlanta for a surprise birthday party—for a Tallahassee lobbyist.

In a state-owned vehicle, Kottkamp and his wife joined lobbyist Steve Metz and family members at a Saturday night concert in Peachtree City, Ga. featuring Kenny Loggins, a soft rock singer-songwriter popular in the 1970s and ’80s.

Kottkamp said the taxpayer-funded drive was legitimate and noted that the law requires the Florida Highway Patrol to provide security protection for him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a public or private event. They’re there to provide safety and security, whether it’s the governor or for me,” Kottkamp said. “If I’m traveling, whether it’s state business or not, if they’re going to be providing meaningful security, it’s going to be all the time.”

Perhaps the most amusing piece to arrive out of this newest scandal is the revelation that Kottkamp is considering a run for Florida Attorney General if Crist decides not to run for re-election.  I’m sure the Democratic Party would love nothing more than to run a race against a man facing multiple ethics complaints, but Kottkamp doesn’t appear ready to give up those Tallahasee perks.  (Although…one wonders…would he actually move to Tallahassee if he were to theoretically win the Attorney General post?  After all, becoming Lt. Governor certainly didn’t necessitate a move.)

(Photo used courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel.)

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

Lt. Gov Reimburses State for St. Augustine Trip

On April 28, 2007, Florida Lt. Governor travelled to St. Augustine with his wife and son for two days of rest and relaxation.  According to the Lt. Governor’s official state calendar, the two days (April 28 and April 29) involved in this trip were “Personal Days” and he had no public events scheduled.  After an investigation by the Sun-Sentinel uncovered this trip, I set out to request a number of public records from the Governor’s Office to determine whether or not the Lt. Governor had violated state law with this particular trip.

Of course, the Lt. Governor is entitled to take a weekend of rest and relaxation in the nation’s oldest city with his family—who could fault him for that?  But, what was particularly troubling was Kottkamp’s method of travel.  The Lt. Governor and his family travelled aboard a Florida Highway Patrol aircraft at taxpayer expense.

The Lt. Governor has now apparently agreed with me—he did violate state law. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Is Jeff Kottkamp An Effective Advocate for Children?

According to some of the members of the Governor’s Children and Youth Cabinet, the answer is no. Three of the fifteen appointed members of the panel have complained that the Lt. Governor, who chairs the Cabinet, is not committed to truly standing up for Florida’s children.

Three Crist appointees say their effort to grab the Legislature’s attention on the plight of Florida’s kids this spring was watered down by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, resulting in a muffled message being sent to Crist and legislators.

Kottkamp, chairman of the 15-member advisory panel, called their letter to legislators overly aggressive and signed a much milder version, which one advocate says was significantly toned down and another called embarrassing.

The full story here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

Did Lt. Governor Break the Law?

The question is now being raised whether or not the state’s Lt. Governor broke the law by using state aircraft to whisk him to a First Coast vacation.  

“Chapter 287 of Florida statutes says that state aircraft and motor vehicles can only be used when necessary to carry out official state business,” Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for the Democratic Party, said in an interview. “I would love to hear Charlie Crist’s lieutenant governor answer how it doesn’t violate that. I’m not a lawyer, but the language is pretty simple here.”

The Sun Sentinel first reported on a trip Kottkamp took on a Florida Highway Patrol airplane with his wife and son to St. Augustine on April 28, 2007. He spent two days in the city, which were marked “personal days” on his official calendar, before the plane (a twin-engine Piper Navajo) picked the family up for a return trip to Tallahassee.

Florida law says planes operated by state agencies are “available for official state business.” The criteria for determining appropriate uses, the law says, is “whether the use of a motor vehicle or aircraft is necessary to carry out state official or employee job assignments.”

In addition to the FHP plane rides, Kottkamp logged 365 flights on separate planes that are part of Florida’s executive airfleet reserved for top officials. Two-thirds of those flights involved getting Kottkamp to and from Fort Myers, where he owns a home.

Until July, commuting by state aircraft was illegal. Legislators quietly changed that language last year to allow the practice.

But the Sun Sentinel found that of the 248 flights that involved picking up or dropping off the lieutenant governor in Fort Myers, 208 came before July 1 — when the anti-commuting law was still in place.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

On 2nd thought, that escort cost $700,000

After the revelation that Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp’s bodyguard/driver cost the state more than $210,000 over the last two years, the Sun-Sentinel decided to do a little more digging.  The results are rather astonishing. 

 A personal chauffeur and bodyguard, multiple airplanes and three sport utility vehicles stationed around the state are all part of an elaborate network used in transporting Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp.

Records obtained by the Sun Sentinel this week show that Kottkamp, criticized for his frequent use of the state’s executive aircraft fleet, also has flown extensively on a plane owned by the Florida Highway Patrol, which is charged with protecting the lieutenant governor.

On the ground, the highway patrol drives Kottkamp around in three SUVs purchased for more than $80,000 after he took office in January 2007. One is based in Fort Myers, where Kottkamp has a home, another in Tallahassee and the third in Central Florida.

The total tab for Kottkamp’s travel and protection for his first two years in office: more than $700,000.

So, what do you think?  Does the State of Florida even need a Lt. Governor?  Vote in the Orlando Sentinel’s poll here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

A $136,000 Bodyguard

Bankrolling Florida’s Lt. Governor, Jeff Kottkamp, is a rather expensive task.  We’ve already discussed the $400,000 + that Florida taxpayers spent flying the Lt. Governor to and from Ft. Myers (every other day, apparently) during his first two years in office, but there’s more.  When he’s not flying, the Lt. Governor prefers to drive.  Well, let’s rephrase that.  The Lt. Governor does not drive, he is driven.  (It’s much more difficult to comb a mustache when you  are at the wheel.)  And, how much does it cost Florida taxpayers to have the Lt. Governor driven around?  

For starters, his assigned patrolman billed $62,000 in travel expenses over the past two years—this on top of his $74,000 annual salary and, of course, does not include benefits.  And, while we would never fault the trooper over his assignment, it is rather interesting that while his base station is Tallahassee, he owns a home in Ft. Myers.  Yet, because Tallahassee is his “home station,” he is able to legally claim up to $80 a day in “per diem” while in Ft. Myers with the Lt. Governor.  Now, bear in mind that the Lt. Governor seems to spend more time in Ft. Myers than Tallahassee and you will start to understand why guarding the Lt. Governor is so expensive.

If we are cutting educational funding for our children and slicing healthcare funding for the state’s most needy citizens, everything needs to be on the table.  Which means that Floridians really need to ask the question—does the state really need a Lt. Governor?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

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