By POLITICO’s Marc Caputo
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran filed a lawsuit Tuesday that asks a judge to allow the public disclosure of how much tax money a state tourism agency paid rapper Pitbull to market the state as part of his “Sexy Beaches” promotional campaign.
The production company tied to Pitbull, PDR Productions, has blocked the public disclosure of the contract’s bottom line, saying it’s a trade secret and that any legislator or staffer who publicizes the details will be in violation of Florida law and thereby face a third-degree felony charge.
“PDR’s overbroad trade secret confidentiality claim, and the attendant threat of litigation against anyone violating that claim, will impede the ability of the House, its members, and committee staff to fulfill their duties to monitor and investigate the expenditure of public funds, to ensure that public funds are properly spent in the public interest in the manner intended by the Legislature, and to participate in the development of a General Appropriations Act for the coming fiscal year in an open and transparent process,” the lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit court, said.
Corcoran noted that, “by law, a House committee or the whole House must conduct its meetings in public, so there is no feasible way that the Contract’s details (and the expenditure of funds pursuant to that Contract) would not be publicly disclosed as part of legislative inquiry into and consideration of Visit Florida’s past and future appropriations and expenditures.”
After POLITICO Florida reported Tuesday morning about the matter, Gov. Rick Scott took to Twitter to call the secrecy “ridiculous,” but he also said he supports spending advertising money to promote Florida.
The head of Visit Florida, Will Seccombe, said he made a “mistake” in agreeing to the trade secrecy terms with Pitbull, but he said the promotional campaign and well-watched “Sexy Beaches” video were well worth the cost to taxpayers, which he could nevertheless not disclose.
Visit Florida’s initial intransigence in cooperating with the House irked Corcoran who has threatened to cancel out the agency’s entire $74 million appropriation in the state budget. Corcoran said any agency that can’t justify its spending and show how it spent tax money could suffer the same fate.
“This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation,” said Corcoran Tuesday in a statement announcing the suit. “This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never ending river of riches they get to play with.”
“.. Taxpayers have a right to hold those who spend their money accountable and that when asked, those responsible for that spending are transparent,” Corcoran said. “The House will protect the taxpayers and will utilize all means at our disposal to hold government accountable.” [READ MORE]
Read the complaint filed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran “to force release of secret visit Florida contract.”: http://politi.co/2gXsmby