Politico by Gary Fineout and Matt Dixon
April 13, 2020
Hello and welcome to Monday.
The daily rundown — Since Sunday morning, the number of Florida coronavirus cases increased 2.8 percent, to 19,895; hospitalizations went up 4 percent, to 2,672; and deaths rose 1.9 percent, to 461.
Blocked — The Miami Herald reported Saturday that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top attorney reached out to Holland & Knight, which represents the Herald, to sway them not to file a lawsuit the newspaper was preparing in its pursuit of information the administration has about the names of elder-care facilities affected by the coronavirus. The pressure worked. The firm decided not to file the lawsuit. Let that sink in. The governor of the state of Florida put pressure on the law firm representing a media outlet seeking information during a public health crisis. And it worked.
Pattern — DeSantis’ communications director Helen Aguirre Ferré, apparently unaware of the powerful implicit signal a call from the governor’s office can send, told the Herald it is “patently false to say that the governor’s office” contacted the firm to ask them not to file the lawsuit. Instead, she defended the call by saying, it is “normal practice for attorneys to use the filing of the five-day legal notice to see if there is a possible resolution to avoid unnecessary litigation.” This is the most explosive example of DeSantis’ reluctance to release information during the Covid-19 pandemic, but not the only one. Reporters have asked for numbers related to how many unemployment claims have been paid through the state’s embattled system. So far, no answer. There have also been requests for weeks about how the state is spending nearly $50 million in state business loans doled out under the Covid-19 executive order. On that one, e-mail questions are not even being responded to. And what about how the virus is impacting the state’s corrections system? Good luck getting specific figures.
Just the numbers — We know how these sorts of complaints are viewed sometimes: reporter whining. We are cognizant of that, but let’s deconstruct the situation. In the case of the loans, for example, we just want to know how the state is using $50 million in taxpayer-backed borrowing. The question is, why wouldn’t you release that information?
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official has been announced for Gov. DeSantis.