Floridians are used to news stories that might have a connection to St. Petersburg. Just not this St. Petersburg.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that a Florida Republican operative reached out to Guccifer 2.0 — which American intelligence agencies believe to be a cover for Russian operators — and ended up getting a treasure trove of information about Democratic voter turnout data in the state.
“I don’t think you realize what you gave me,” the GOP operative, Aaron Nevins, wrote to Guccifer in Twitter direct messages in September. The messages were posted by the Journal. “I’m still going through that stuff and I find buried deep the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign. This is probably worth millions of dollars.”
Nevins then used the information on his pseudonymous blog, “Mark Miewurd’s HelloFLA!” The Journal was able to link the blog, which boasts of “gossip, news, rumors and politics from insiders of the nation’s most infamous state,” to Nevins.
Nevins was apparently willing to practice some unconventional means of gathering political intelligence long before he turned to Guccifer.
“About a decade ago I tried to build a ‘Bluetooth sniper rifle’ where you turn on the mic on a cell behind a door using the Bluetooth,” he wrote in one of the messages posted by the Journal. “I walked around the Capitol but it didn’t really work.”
Nevins spoke openly to the Journal about his interactions with Guccifer, though Nevins said he’s not certain the hacker is Russian.
“If your interests align, never shut any doors in politics,” he told the paper.
The report, of course, comes after nearly a year of controversy about how, American intelligence believes, Russian-backed hackers stole information from the Democratic Party and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and released it to the public in leaks aimed at damaging Clinton. That spurred many of the Russia-related stories and investigations that have dogged President Donald Trump ever since.
Democrats and left-leaning media outlets like the New Republic automatically leaped on Thursday’s news as an example of, in the New Republic’s words, “a blueprint of how ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and Russia could have worked.”
In an October story, Nevins told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper he didn’t support Trump.
“The election hasn’t excited me so much,” he said. “I thought maybe I’d do something else.”
DID YOU SEE OUR CROWDS
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam shook up his gubernatorial campaign after what was considered a successful statewide bus tour.
But, oh, did you see the crowds?
“We had a fantastic launch,” Putnam said when pressed after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting about the departure of campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small.
“Two thousand people in downtown Bartow; a minimum of 22 stops across the state,” Putnam continued. “You missed a good barbecue in the big city of O’Brien, where we had 630 people.”
Then, to pull from Coach Norman Dale of the “Hoosiers” movie when asked about playing a man down, Putnam did his own “my team’s on the floor.”
“I’m very excited about the team that we have and I wish the team members that have moved on to other things the very best,” Putnam further told reporters. “You’re always adjusting and modifying as you move forward.”
WHAT THE CASH ISN’T FOR
Attorney General Pam Bondi’s political action committee has been drawing contributions since April 8, after going more than a year without receiving any cash.
She’s yet to announce future plans, she is unable to seek re-election in 2018 due to term-limits and the talk of her taking a job with the Trump administration has tapered off.
Bondi said Tuesday she isn’t running for any office “right now.” But she wanted to quickly quash rumors about her seeking to replace Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, who has announced he’s retiring Sept. 30.
“The newest rumor I heard today is that I want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County,” Bondi said after the Cabinet meeting. “I do not want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County, seriously, I heard that today. We’ll see, but I need a political committee to continue when you all have political questions to ask me.”
What about any other office?
“No,” she said. “No, I’m not. Not right now, I’m not. I’m not.”
Her committee — “Justice for All” — posted $82,500 between April 8 and May 1, according to paperwork filed with the state Division of Elections.
Among the contributions was $10,000 from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, $14,500 from the Florida Phosphate Council and $10,000 from the phosphate company Mosaic Global Sales LLC.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “As Agriculture commish he had no interest in helping w cannabis reform when I asked. Now he’s running for gov and is full of opinions #weird”—Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz), responding to reports that Putnam was pushing for the Legislature to enact rules to carry out the November medical-marijuana constitutional amendment. Gaetz worked on pot issues as a member of the state House before running for Congress.