• RINOs, Money And Guns In Tallahassee

    February 24, 2023
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    Guest post by Harpocrates

    Governor DeSantis keeps talking about the “Free State of Florida” and vaunting the fact that his administration is fighting federal overreach on several fronts. He has also said, among other things, that he would be happy to sign a Constitutional Carry bill, if presented to him. This is a gun law which the Free State of Florida has been, to say the least, laggardly compared to other states.

    Republicans have controlled the Florida Senate since 1994 and the House since 1996, and currently have a supermajority in both houses. So why is it that, on gun rights, an issue dear to many Republican voters, their Representatives and Senators have been so keen to pass illiberal and completely unconstitutional gun control legislation like Red Flag laws, and so slow and reluctant to follow other Republican states in putting forward a Constitutional Carry bill? Constitutional Carry is the principle that if you are legally eligible to possess a firearm, you should be able to carry that weapon for self-defense, open or concealed, without government permission, in line with the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.

    Well, one of this legislative session’s proposed bills is HB543, which purports to allow Constitutional Carry in Florida. Great news, you might think. However, as drafted by Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-Gainesville), its introducer, HB543 does not allow for open carry (despite the fact that all of the 25 states that currently have Constitutional Carry laws do allow it), it also excludes law-abiding 18–20-year-old gun owners and imposes other restrictions on gun owners wishing to carry. Its proposed title doesn’t even contain the words “Constitutional Carry”, reading instead “Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License”. Not surprisingly, it has already been the subject of strong criticism from gun owners and gun rights lobbies in the state. Only the NRA backs it as it stands, for which it should be ashamed of itself. 

    Why, you may wonder, is such a half-baked bill being proposed, and by Republicans to boot, instead of the real thing? Is it because the bill will be easier to pass? No; the GOP has a supermajority in both houses and so has no concerns on that score. Could it be, then that, hidden in its wording, there are provisions which are somehow better than those other states’ Constitutional Carry bills? Absolutely not, the bill is every bit as restrictive as its title sounds, and some way from being similar to the laws passed in other states. 

    So, again, why?

    Well, one of the reasons is that our Republican legislators in Tallahassee accept, directly, or indirectly through PACs, anti-gun “progressive” Democrat money, and money from pro-gun control corporations like Disney. Both the Republican House Speaker and the Republican Senate President preside over PACs that accept such contributions. 

    Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) controls the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC which accepts money from, among others, major donors with a history of supporting progressive Democrats and attending their functions, such as Robert Rubinstein, while House Speaker Paul Renner (R-St. Augustine) controls the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, which receives money from, inter alia, the Florida Chamber of Commerce ($247,500 in 2022), and Associated Industries of Florida ($335,000 in 2022), two huge gun control supporting PACs.

    This is why not only have leftist-driven, unconstitutional gun laws, such as Red Flag laws, been passed by Florida Republicans in the last few years, but also why, in a slew of policy areas, the  progressive agenda has managed to move forward so easily. 

    Let’s take a look at some PAC money flows in Florida: 

    • Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Contributions: both 2108 Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) received big money from two of Michael Bloomberg’s gun control PACs, Moms Against Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety. Sen. Flores is also notorious for her bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle to the Democrats. 
    • After receiving two payments from Bloomberg of $200,000 and $300,000, Galvano’s PAC then donated $250,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. This, in turn was dispersed to Florida senators on legislative committees voting on gun control bills.
    • Infrastructure & Safety Committee members who received Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee money between January 2017 and November 2018 included:
      • Sen. Tom Lee (R-Hillsborough): $97,000; voted for gun control.
      • Sen. Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater): $59,825; voted for gun control.
      • Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville): $63,618; voted for gun control.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee:
      • Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland): received $26,992 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and $2,000 from Galvano’s Innovate Florida PAC; she voted for the gun control bill SB7026 (the so-called “Parkland Bill”) which incorporates Red Flag provisions.
    1. Here are some more notable gun control RINOs:
    • Sen. Wilton Simpson: one of the most anti-gun members of the Senate; drafted the Parkland bill/Red Flag law; received $1,000 from Galvano’s PAC, Innovate Florida, $12,000 from Disney groups and voted for SB7026. (It is worth noting that Sen. Simpson received more money in 2022 from Associated Industries of Florida (q.v.) than did Governor DeSantis - $508,000 vs. $345,000.)
    • Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto (R-Fort Myers): received $20,234 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $1,000 from Innovate Florida; voted for SB7026.
    • Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami): initially elected for her stance on protecting gun rights; received $479,567 in 2016 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; in 2017 she vowed to fight against guns; in 2018 she voted for Parkland bill SB7026.
    • Sen. Tom Lee (R-Tampa): received $97,000 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; and $1000 from Innovate Florida.
    • Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples); strong gun control advocate, voted for Parkland bill SB7026; received $6,000 from Disney groups (Disney is anti-gun); she is also against backyard gun ranges.
    • Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Sarasota); received $26,992.05 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; received $2000 from Innovate Florida, and several thousands in donations from Disney; voted for Parkland bill SB7026.

    In addition to all this, the Republican Party of Florida receives large donations from two very large state PACs mentioned at the beginning of this article: the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. These receive contributions from a vast base of Florida businesses, which makes them a natural conduit for a large amount of hard to trace dark money from Democrats and other left-wing organizations. 

    Both of these PACs support gun control, and their lobbyists, together with those for the previously mentioned Bloomberg anti-gun PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, are active in the Florida House and Senate on HB543 and its Senate equivalent, SB150. The size of these two PACs and their large member base has made them a natural conduit for a large amount of hard to trace dark money from Democrats and other left-wing organizations. 

    House Speaker Renner and Senate President Passidomo are opponents of full Constitutional Carry provisions (Passidomo is on record as such). They are also taking money from people whose agenda is entirely opposed to the Second Amendment. They have enormous power to control the fate of bills such as HB543 and SB150. Can constitutionalist Republican voters rely on them to protect their rights? It seems unlikely. 

    The Florida legislature has a Republican super-majority, but a conservative minority and a RINO leadership. Florida, like the latter, seems to be a Free State “in name only”, and a large part of the reason for that is, as ever, summed up in the dictum “Follow the money”.

    Sources: Transparencyusa.org; www.myfloridahouse.gov; www.flsenate.gov (Lobbyist Disclosure & Information)


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    1 year ago

    The very reason I won’t be voting for DeSantis in 2024, President Trump is going all out on crime this time around and has even said he would fight against the atf, strengthen Castle Doctrine laws and look at national Constitutional carry. They need to get rid of the NFA and the GCA, they are big packages of Unconstitutional laws that should have never been allowed to happen and as far as the NRA backing Florida’s fake Constitutional Carry law it shouldn’t surprise anyone because they backed the NFA AND THE GCA! I haven’t given them a penny in 20 years because they will compromise our second Amendment Rights right away from us eventually. All of what I can Donate Goes to GOA the SAF & a Large Pro Gun Group in my State

    1 year ago

    I hope all the new conservatives to this state will be paying attention and holding these rino's to account. I have noticed that my own rep sent me back a reply to a message stating the rep will support X if it is proposed I responded with why not propose X or add amendments to help push X and since then crickets. talk about disappointing.

    1 year ago

    Great article. It now makes sense to me why FL only banned gender insanity lessons in grades preK-3 instead of preK-12, why transgender surgeries and hormone treatments on minors are legal, why Disney ended up getting tax breaks that no one else gets and why we have Dominion or ES&S machines in all counties.
    DeSantis is nothing more than a slick GOPe politician. Florida's red wave was a RINO wave to make the establishment's choice look good in their attempt to crush MAGA and President Trump. #Trump2024 #DeSantisNever

    Jersey Prophet
    Jersey Prophet
    1 year ago

    I hear all the arguments against a half-baked carry provision, as I would describe the bill that’s now under consideration.

    But it raises the question: is not a half-baked carry law better than none at all? Or to put it another way, must we throw out the good in search of the perfect?

    Our enemy, the progressive left, uses incrementalism to its advantage in ratcheting its agenda forward, and never permitting any regression from the march towards Marxist Socialism in America. Can we view this bill as an incremental move towards an eventual open carry law in Florida? Must we have all or nothing?

    I’m leaving my mind open on this question. But lingering at the back of it is the question that, if we reject the good in favor of the perfect, will we will end up with neither?

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