With "friends" like these: Kim McDougal joins Tampa General Hospital and Sheriff Chad Chronister PACs to help Texas criminal James Dunn's Polk school candidate
PAC that paid Anthony Pedicini $250K weaponized the School Board Association lobbyist, Hillsborough sheriff, and TGH in a failed, criminal-led campaign against incumbent Polk school board member.
I have posted screen shots at the end of this article of the U.S. Attorney’s 2009 sentencing statement in Texas for convicted felon and fraud James Dunn.
You’ll see that Dunn lied in his own sentencing hearing and deliberately swindled people with developmental disabilities. He also enriched himself with up $1.2M in fraudulent billing claims and was ordered to pay $350,000 in restitution, which he appears never to have done.
I only got my hands on this document this weekend. Read it. And then think about supposed lawman Chad Chronister helping (but failing) to advance Dunn and attacking a good, honest, decent school board member in a neighboring county with his “Friends” PAC’s money. (Also, the images in this article may truncate it in the email. Click through to actual site to read the whole thing.)
Corrupt political power in Florida worked hard to stack the deck against incumbent Polk County School Board Member Lisa Miller, who is one of the best, most honest, most humane board members in Florida.
This is illustrated clearly and grossly by PACs connected to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Tampa General Hospital, which joined Kim McDougal, lobbyist for the Florida School Board Association, to viciously oppose Miller. I’ve circled all three in the image above.
They all helped pay for false attack ads on behalf of Miller’s opponent, Jill Sessions, whose campaign was led by convicted felon James Dunn, who recently cheated a church and collected six very shady PPP loans.
Sessions was part of the so-called County Citizens Defending Freedom’s slate of slimy Polk County GOP school board candidates. She paid $7,500 to hire James Dunn to run her gross “book-banner” campaign. She never disavowed him. You can see Dunn’s recent background and connection to Florida/Polk school board politics below. (Much more coming in the future; I have new documents from farther in his past. They are bad.)
Let me repeat: political affiliates of these vital civic institutions chose a criminal-led book banner campaign over one of Florida’s best school board members. They should all be ashamed, if they’re capable of shame, which I suspect they’re not.
It’s especially galling that the Florida School Board Association’s (FSBA) lobbyist chose a criminal-led campaign over an excellent incumbent school board member. But that’s basically par for the course for Kim McDougal, as I tried to tell ya’ll some time ago. When the association representing public schools hires an anti-public school lobbyist to do its politics/legislative relations, well … what do you expect?
More on Kim in a moment.
But all that’s on top of soft-on-crime Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and State Attorney Brain Haas refusing to do their jobs to protect Miller or the people of Polk County from openly declared election crimes. See link above and article below:
And Lisa Miller still won 56-44 after enduring endless insults, including insults about her profoundly disabled son, to whom she is a devoted and awe-inspiring parent.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it, gross, corrupt power. Lisa achieved a truly amazing victory for decency. I’m proud to have played a small role in it.
“Educators and Parents for School Excellence” PAC seems to have no parents or educators. LOL.
Florida PACs are like nesting dolls. PACs contribute to PACs contribute to PACs.
The Chronister and TGH “Friends” PACs and McDougal all contributed to a PAC called “Educators and Parents for School Excellence.”
If you take a look at the various contributors beyond the three I’m focused on, you’ll see a who’s who of Florida political money doing gross Florida political things. But you won’t see parents or educators.
Here’s how The Ledger’s Gary White described the PAC’s handiwork in Polk in an article published just before Election Day:
The commercial looks and sounds much like one that might run in an election for governor or member of Congress. A female narrator, speaking in a stern tone over a background of unsettling sound effects, offers reasons why one candidate “doesn’t fight for us.”
The announcer switches to an approving tone, accompanied by bouncy, percussive music, as she explains how the other candidate “fights for us.”
The campaign ad, which has run recently on cable channels in Polk County, isn’t devoted to a statewide or congressional race. The 30-second commercial blasts Polk County School Board member Lisa Miller, who is seeking a second term, and promotes her opponent, Jill Sessions.
Look at what the Anthony Pedicinis make you give
Gary White’s article pointed out that $100,000 of the “Educators and Parents” PAC’s $271,000 came the “Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy,” which is run by this clown:
The chair of Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy is Anthony Pedicini, a longtime Republican political operative in Florida. Pedicini has served as an advisor to former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland and former U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Okeechobee, among others.
“Influence” Magazine is the yearbook for the degenerate high school prom court that is Florida government and politics and money. We’ll talk in a future article about the meaning of “influence” and the endless parade of feckless Pedicinis eager to spend rich people/company money on badly made ads so that they get on the cover of Peter Schorsch’s Tallahassee “Tiger Beat.”
As you can see below, “Educators and Parents” PAC spent $250,000 of its $270,000 on Pedicini’s campaign firm (Strategic Image Management, or SimWins). So I think it’s a safe bet that he controlled this PAC in every meaningful way.
So if anybody mentioned here has a problem with this article, call Pedicini. He put your brands in bed with an arch criminal, not me.
And you have to admire Pedicini’s business model/grift, PAC contributors: leverage $100K of his own PAC investment into $250K total income on your backs.
He gets Schorsch’s cover and podcasts; ya’ll get me — and the distinction of getting your asses kicked in service of a criminal-led campaign. Congrats.
No comment from anybody who wrote the checks
I asked the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa General Hospital for comment on why their “Friends” PACs chose to support a criminal-led School Board campaign in Polk County. I got silence from Chronister and a bunch of fake responsiveness — over weeks — signifying nothing from TGH flack Phil Buck and another nameless flack.
I did get a response from Andrea Messina, executive director the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA), but not from Kim McDougal herself.
Let’s take a closer look at all three
Andrew Warren should use Sheriff Chronister’s Grady Judd-style softness on crime in his upcoming trial
Here’s the email I sent to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office a few days ago:
Hi there. My name is Billy Townsend. I'm an independent writer in Polk County.
The "Friends of Chad Chronister" PAC helped pay for attack ads in the Polk School Board election between book-banning challenger Jill Sessions and incumbent Lisa Miller.
Did the sheriff know his "friends" were supporting Jill Sessions and that Sessions hired an arch-criminal convicted felon to run her campaign?
What sort of message does that send about Chronister's approach to crime?
I’ve received no acknowledgement of this email, which is hardly surprising. I find that most elected sheriffs are “beta” men, who hide when actually challenged on their own behavior without a mob or a governor at their back.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Chronister provided crucial political cover when Gov. Ron DeSantis decided to remove elected Hillsborough prosecutor Andrew Warren, that according to depositions cited by the great Florida reporter Jason Garcia.
DeSantis removed Warren mostly because he isn’t sufficiently bloodthirsty in prosecuting women — including rape/incest victims — who might have illegal abortions. Garcia’s Twitter threads on this are must-reads.
And they lead me to this question:
If DeSantis removed Warren for not “enforcing the law,” what should he do to Chronister, whose “Friends” PAC openly took the side of an unrepentant, convicted felon criminal fraudster in a Polk County School Board race?
I hope Warren’s legal team reads this and can find some use for it.
TGH’s coffee shop likes criminal-led Polk County School Board campaigns for some reason
I tried to get a comment from TGH for several weeks prior to Election Day. Here’s my first text to flack Phil Buck on Oct. 18:
This is Billy Townsend from Lakeland. I’m just following up on an email I sent you earlier today about a thing called “Friends of Tampa General Hospital” getting involved in Polk County School Board politics. I just wanted to make sure you saw it. And would appreciate a response at earliest convenience. Thanks
Buck kept asking me my deadline and not providing content. And I was probably too nice. Then another TGH flack, whose name I can’t remember, called from a D.C. area code number to ask my deadline as well. I never heard back from her either.
Anyway, TGH has had ample time to provide an answer as to why its PAC felt the need to back a criminal-led School Board campaign in Polk. It doesn’t want to.
I did learn in this process that the “Friends of Tampa General Hospital” is funded almost entirely by the hospital coffee shop. Really. Check out this wacky Tampa Bay Times article about it.
House of Coffee has given $307,000 to a political committee — Friends of Tampa General Hospital — since 2019, Florida Division of Elections records show. The coffee shop business is the political committee’s only donor.
Friends of Tampa General has passed along more than $226,000 to mostly conservative candidates and causes since 2019. In September, the committee gave $15,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the governor’s political committee. That same month, it gave another $35,000 combined to the Republican Party of Florida, the political committee for Republican state Senate candidates and a political committee supporting Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.
The FSBA should stop paying Kim McDougal to put a knife in the back of its members
Andrea Messina is the executive director of the Florida School Board Association, which is having its annual meeting this week in Tampa.
I know and like Andrea from my days as a Polk School Board member. I think she has an impossible job in the best of times in Florida; and these are not those.
Andrea did respond promptly when I asked for a comment about McDougal. Andrea contends, based on discussions with McDougal, that the FSBA lobbyist did not know where the PAC money would be spent.
I believe it to have been an honest mistake on her part. Maybe not on the part of of others. I will be amending our contract with Gray Robinson to make it very clear to that this is not acceptable. I have never heard of or seen her act against any sitting board member in any election and have known her to support several in various ways.
What I did not get, despite requesting/offering space for it, was any statement from Kim McDougal herself.
So it’s pretty hard to see Andrea Messina’s position here as much more than wishful thinking. But I do give her credit for speaking on the record and making a change to McDougal’s contract, assuming she follows through. She’s not the beta that the sheriff and the hospital flacks are.
McDougal works for Gray Robinson, which is a giant Florida law firm that makes money on basically every side of every public issue in our corrupt state. I can assure you that the interests of public school board members and public school stakeholders, generally, are waaaayyyy down the list of Gray Robinson’s effort priorities if they’re on it at all.
McDougal herself is the former chief of staff for then Gov. Rick Scott who told education activist Ted Dintersmith: “Educating children is like fixing a car. You take a car to the garage and pay them to fix it. We pay our schools $7,000 per student and expect them to be educated.”
I think FSBA brought McDougal in on the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” theory. But “joining them,” in this case, essentially means participating in your own execution. I wrote about that in some depth three years ago.
This is the full excerpt from Dintersmith’s book that deals with McDougal:
I introduced myself and began explaining what I was doing. I tend to talk fast but after a couple of minutes, KM stopped me. “Look. I know everything I need to know about education. You don’t need to tell me anything. What can I explain to you?”
Me [Dintersmith]: I believe that the more test-driven a school is, the more it puts kids at risk in a world of innovation.
KM: You’re making this too complicated. Educating children is like fixing a car. You take a car to the garage and pay them to fix it. We pay our schools $7,000 per student and expect them to be educated.
Me: How do you know they’re learning anything?
KM: That’s why we have standardized tests.
When I started to respond, KM stood up and informed me, “Look. I’m important to the governor. Thank you for your time.” And left. In a year with a thousand meetings, this was the worst.
Now McDougal is actively trying to purge one of the best incumbent school board members. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m not sure that a contract adjustment is going to make much difference.
Anyway, read this James Dunn sentencing memo and have it in your head as you consider McDougal’s behavior — and all the rest.
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