A political action committee created to oppose a prospective “energy choice” constitutional amendment claims sponsors are engaged in “a campaign of lies in order to perpetrate the wholescale destruction of reliable and affordable energy in Florida.”
Floridians For Truth PC has dispatched a letter to Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee demanding petition signatures submitted to the state’s Division of Elections (DOE) therefore be “revoked” or it will file a lawsuit.
Sponsored by Alachua-based Citizens for Energy Choices, supporters had submitted 625,122 validated petition signatures to the state’s Division of Elections (DOE) as of Monday – about 140,000 shy of the 766,200 sponsors must have by Feb. 1 to qualify for November’s ballot.
Citizens for Energy Choice (CEC) has raised $5.53 million in its campaign, nearly all from the Coalition for Energy Choice, which includes Infinite Energy of Gainesville and two Texas-based companies, NRG Energy and Vistra Energy Corp.
The initiative calls for allowing individual customers to choose energy providers or produce their own. It would limit investor-owned utilities to building, operating and repairing the grid, which would dramatically curtail the operations of the state’s largest utilities, including Florida Power & Light, Duke, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power.
It is opposed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, House and Senate leaders, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Public Service Commission and utilities among an array of others.
Moody and opponents have challenged the wording on the prospective ballot measure as deceptive in anticipation of the Florida Supreme Court’s mandated review of the measure.
But Coral Gables-based Floridians For Truth PC (FFT) wants the petition signatures themselves disqualified as “deceptive.”
“Thousands of Florida voters were deceived into signing the petition by the signature collectors and told that the petition would allow them to choose who to purchase electricity from,” FFT stated in its letter to Lee. “The reality is far different.”
FFT maintains CEC is misleading voters that “energy choice” would mean lower rates, more jobs and more renewable energy.
“Each of these claims is easily proven as being false and misleading, and thousands of voters who signed the Energy Choice petition agree that they were tricked by these false claims,” FFT states.
FFT told Lee that it has numerous specific examples of how CEC petition-gatherers were deceptive in convincing voters to sign onto their proposed measure.
However, a 2010 Florida Supreme Court ruling does not allow voters to revoke their signatures on a petition to put an amendment on the ballot, but FFT cites another court ruling – “Hatten v. State” – that determined if a voter’s signature “was obtained through fraud, then the signature is invalid.”
There have been three "Hatten v. Florida" rulings dating back to the late 1980s, two regarding the same case and all three involving criminal pleas and sentencing.
It is uncertain which ruling the letter was referring to, how it applies to petition-gathered signatures and, to some extent, who or what is behind FFT.
FFT was formed in October 2018, a month after CEC filed its “energy choice” ballot measure. It is chaired by Kristopher Guzman, who is also chair of a Truth In Politics PC PAC, and has raised $73,175.
FFT’s Coral Gables phone number is also the phone number for Preserve Florida, a conservative PAC. Phone calls Monday were unanswered.
The PAC has a checkered record of compliance with the DOE for incomplete treasurer’s reports and failures to meet other filing requirements.
FFT is funded exclusively by the Building a Brighter Future for Florida PAC, chaired by Tom Piccolo of Strategic Image Management in Tampa, a political consulting firm established in 2009 by Republican operative Anthony Pedicini.
Its largest expenditure came in October when it spent about $30,000 of the $40,000 it received that month to circulate eight-page mailers claiming CEC’s petition is “a bald-faced lie” and provided a form for recipients to demand their signature be removed.
The mailer acknowledges those who sign petitions cannot legally “revoke” their signatures, but says that signing the form would “go a long way to letting the Supreme Court know you were lied to.”
The pre-addressed envelope that came with the mailer asked recipients to send the signed forms to the “Petition Revocation Division” at the same Tampa address as Strategic Image Management.
CEC Chair Alex Patton told Florida Politics that the FFT campaign is nothing more than sour grapes designed to “sow chaos.”