Florida Governor Rick Scott and former Alabama Governor Bob Riley along with their millionaire corporate HUBBARD_ON_WAY_TO_JAILwelfare partners, who  financed their political campaigns, are putting Florida and  Alabama schools up for sale through a “Pay to Play” scheme that borders on the criminal.

For example, in Florida millions of dollars are contributed to politicians, including Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Florida State Representatives and Senators, to put $millions and soon to be billions of dollars into the pockets of those making the contributions—and the Florida Attorney General cannot be bothered.

Last July, the Alabama Attorney General convicted the Alabama Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard for receiving a $90,000 bribe to promote a similar “Pay to Play” scheme to the one now going on in Florida. Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison for the “Pay to Play” scheme and eleven other felonies.


The scheme in Florida involves shifting state funds to private schools, while giving more tax breaks to businesses and big corporations through corporate scholarship funds. The rapidly growing program diverts public tax dollars into private school scholarships

In Florida, the corporate scholarships scheme gets $550 million this year and by state statute gets an automatic 25% annual increase. This means their funding will more than double every 4 years. $1 billion by 2020, $2 billion by 2024, $4 billion by 2028 and explode to $16 billion in 20 years!  

How can the Florida State Legislature continue this type of program and still cut the corporate income taxes and taxes in corporate leases if they earmark those dollars for vouchers? What about other state needs while all these funds are being diverted for their private school friends?


This “Pay to Play” scheme indeed borders on the criminal, and if it doesn’t, it sure sounds like it does. For example, a Florida corporate scholarship program called “Step up for Students” run by John Kirtley, who contributed $millions to Florida politicians in a scandalous “Pay to Play” scheme has received $286 million in 2013 from this program, according to Orlando T. V. Station, WFTV.


Kirtley, who is a Tampa based venture capitalist, controls a political committee in Florida that spent nearly $2.4 million to influence races in 2010 and 2012. He spent over $1.5 million in the 2014 election cycle and the same, if not more, in this election cycle.

Kirtley’s political committee, “Florida Federation for Children” (FFC), has channeled more than $2.3 million into political advertisements and direct mail to assist favored candidates since 2010 in order to promote his “Step Up for Students” program, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Kirtley’s FFC PAC is connected to “American Federation for Children” (AFC) PAC, which contributed a major portion of the $4 million to Kirtley’s PAC in Florida.  AFC, spends $millions more throughout the United States promoting the takeover of public schools.


A report by an Orlando, FL television station in 2013, revealed that Kirtley’s “Step Up For Students” program, which receives hundreds of millions in tax dollars, has ties to big money being used to influence Florida legislators. This report by WFTV cited a 2011 video wherein Doug Tuthill, who is President of Kirtley’s “Step up for Students” (SUFS) organization, unwittingly revealed Kirtley’s organizational political strategy. It reported that hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions were coming from the organization’s address, even though non-profits are not allowed to make political contributions.

Tuthill, knows SUFS is not allowed to make any political contributions, but in the video posted on YouTube, he talked about utilizing a PAC to defeat Democratic Party candidates.

In the video, Tuthill, said, “One of the primary reasons we’ve been so successful is we spend about $1 million every other cycle in local political races, which in Florida is a lot of money.”

“Step Up For Students” received $286 million in 2013 alone, according to WFTV. The rapidly growing program diverts public tax dollars into private school scholarships.

Reporters for WFTV said they discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions coming from “Step Up’s” address over the past decade.

Kirtley claimed “Step Up” didn’t contribute any money to political committees or candidates. He said he used the “Step Up” mailing address because he is also the Chairman of the Board for the organization.

But charter school voucher and online education companies poured more than $2 million into last fall’s political campaigns in Florida; primarily those of Republicans who are again demanding more alternatives to traditional public schools. Kirtley alone channeled nearly $1.5 million into the 2012 campaign to support voucher and charter school legislation, and has already donated $100,000 to Governor Rick Scott.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Kirtley has personally given $769,267 to Florida legislative candidates since 1989.

Kirtley’s campaign contributions to Scott and Florida legislators have paid off.  $91 million dollars for fixed capital outlay for Florida charter schools, as part of the Governor’s proposed 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget, was passed by the Florida Legislature.


Kirtley, who successfully lobbied in 2001 to get the corporate tax credit scholarship program approved by the Florida Legislature, is now involved in a similar program in Alabama with a major Alabama lobbyist, Bob Riley, who was the former Governor of Alabama.  Riley, was a political ally of the disgraced Hubbard and according media outlets was close in joining Hubbard in prison.

In December 2013, Riley, who is a lobbyist for many of the corporations he helped lure to Alabama with state funds, announced he had set up his own version of “Step Up for Students”.

Riley said he had established the “Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund”, advocating that a similar program was working well in Florida and Alabama students deserved the same opportunity.

What Riley failed to mention was that Kirtley sits on the Board of Directors of his group.  Riley will be following Kirtley’s Florida model, allowing his allies to skim millions of taxpayers’ dollars off the top.

Like Florida, Alabama’s voucher law allows an administrative fee for Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). That’s how “Step Up for Students” is collecting millions of dollars each year in Florida, and presumably Riley hopes to duplicate the same scheme in Alabama.

Although there are nine SGOs in Alabama, Riley’s group has, by far, the highest profile and has received the most funding—$20 million, from corporate donations.

There is amble evidence to document that Riley’s “Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund” and Kirtley’s, “Step Up For Students” in Florida, serves as a mechanism by which corporations and wealthy individuals donate to scholarships in return for substantial state tax credits.

With the tax credits, the state doesn’t technically write the check. A business or corporation writes a check, for example, to Riley’s nonprofit for the scholarship, and then the business or corporation gets a 100 percent tax credit — money that would have otherwise gone to state education coffers.

The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and the Florida Corporate Scholarship Fund are basically just “Pay to Play” schemes for corporations to get large tax breaks for contributions to the Riley and Kirtley non-profits.


ZUCKERDisturbingly, Kirtley has involved himself with the Sarasota County School Board race through his PAC, by coordinating with local political operative, Eric Robinson and local multi-millionaire developers.  For example, Kirtley put out an attack piece through his PAC against Caroline Zucker, who is the opponent of his choice for the local School Board.


Kirtley and others involved with his “Pay to Play” scheme have engaged local political operative, Eric Robinson as their “bag man” to pump thousands of dollars into the campaigns of hand-picked political puppets in an attempt to buy the Sarasota County School Board.

Funneling “Dark Money” from three local supporters of Zucker’s opponent, Kirtley is using the Robinson’s political tactics that have been corrupting the Sarasota County political process ever since  Robinson and his wife, Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson, moved to Sarasota from Miami.

These are the same tactics that Robinson has used on numerous occasions to move hundreds of thousands of dollars of “Dark PAC Money” out of his CPA office in Venice, where he manages over 50 PAC’s.

For example, thousands of dollars have been funneled into the Sarasota County School Board race from Kirtley’s PAC operating out of Tampa, and a Jacksonville PAC, to promote the establishment of more private schools in the area, with the election of Robinson and Teresa Mast to the Sarasota County School Board.


Local multi-million dollar developers along with a twice convicted felon and local political operative, Bob Waechter are attempting to buy the Sarasota School Board. Those individuals have funneled thousands of dollars into the Robinson and Mast campaigns to support their corrupt “Pay to Play” schemes.

For example, Pat Neal contributed $8,000; Carlos Beruff, $8,000;  Randy Benderson, $4,000; Rex Jensen, $1,500; convicted felon Bob Waechter,  $6,000; Gary Kompothecras, $8,000; William Merrill III, $3,000; James Gabbert, $3,800, along with a few others, joined to buy two hack politicians—Robinson and Mast.

In addition to those individual contributions from local multimillionaire developers, supporting Robinson and Mast for the Sarasota County School Board, there are campaign contributions to  Robinson managed “Dark Money” PAC’s supporting Robinson, Mast and other politicians locally and beyond.

Case in point, additional “Pay to Play” contributions include: $5,000 from Merrill, $10,000 from Gabbert, $10,000 from Beruff, $10,000 from Kompothecras and $20,000 from Benderson to a Robinson managed PAC.



Those thousands of dollars in campaign contributions pumped into “Pay to Play” schemes by local multimillionaire developers are not only for participation in the previously mentioned corporate welfare scam undermining local public schools, but also to lower impact fees for the local developers.

No doubt Robinson and Mast along with another political hack presently on the School Board, Bridget Ziegler, will be keeping impact fees at the level that Neal and his gang desire, in the same way that those political hacks on the Sarasota County Commission do the bidding of Neal, Benderson, and the rest of their gang.


Robinson is also tied to a Jacksonville based billionaire, Gary Chartrand, who is another major financial CHARTRANDsupporter of Charter Schools. Chartrand, who contributed heavily to the Scott campaigns for Governor, was appointed in 2013 by Scott as Chairman of the Florida State Board of Education. Although no longer chairman, Chartrand is a major influence on the education board.

Unfortunately, a Chartrand foray to create a Charter School in a low-income Jacksonville neighborhood was less than successful.  Despite the implementation of a supplement to regular state funding to the tune of about $1,500 per student, the KIPP school created by Chartrand had the lowest FCAT score of the more than 200 schools in the Northeast Florida school districts.

Chartrand is an active contributor to Eric Robinson’s PAC, which moves thousands of dollars in “Dark Money” to various politicians to influence the promotion of Charter Schools and other projects of those involved in various corrupt “Pay to Play” schemes.

For example, a Jacksonville based PAC, “Build Something That Lasts”, managed by Robinson with Chartrand as a major contributor, has funneled $100,000 into two Robinson managed PAC’s based in Venice: “Making A Better Tomorrow” and “Sarasota Citizens For Our Schools”.


The vast majority of the time it’s difficult to determine exactly where the “Dark Money” expenditures from the various Robinson managed “Dark Money”  PAC’s end up, but there are a few clear expenditures.  One is the attack piece directed at Zucker, and another was the “Dark Money” attack ad on the opponent of present Sarasota County School Board member, Bridget Ziegler in 2014.


THE ROBINSONSWhat is also quite clear, is that Eric Robinson received $50,000 in consulting fees for moving “Dark Money” by means of his management of the “Legal Reform Now” PAC. That $50 grand added to the $140,000 that he and his wife, Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson pocketed through their consulting company, “Robbies LLC”— for moving “Dark Money” on May 14, 2014 from an Eric Robinson managed PAC called “Citizens have Rights”— is outrageous.


What is also quite clear is that the last place one should find Mast sitting is on the Sarasota County School Board, joining Robinson and Ziegler. To have Mast joining Robinson, who is a documented liar and  political operative moving hundreds of thousands of dollars in “Dark PAC Money” out of his CPA office in Venice, would be a disgraceful escalation of political corruption..

It’s bad enough that Robinson will be joining Ziegler, who is another political hack on the Sarasota County School Board.  Robinson pumped thousands of dollars of “Dark PAC Money” into Ziegler’s campaign two years ago to get her elected, though her qualifications to sit on the board are laughable.

By the way, both Robinson and Mast send their children to private schools and no doubt when Ziegler’s daughter becomes old enough to enter school—private schools will be on her agenda.

Posted in Breaking News, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics, State News, State Politics

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