Florida House speaker sues over state’s contract with rapper

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Saying taxpayers have a right to know how much Pitbull has been paid to promote Florida tourism with the help of his song “Sexy Beaches,” a top state lawmaker filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the famed rapper’s production company.

Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, signed a contract last year with Florida’s tourism marketing arm to promote the Sunshine State, splashing it up with a new video for his 2014 song. Attorneys for his production company have insisted that most details of the contract – including its worth and what he was required to do under it- are trade secrets exempted from Florida’s public records law.

The lawsuit filed by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran against PDR Productions in a Tallahassee court asks a judge to make the contract public. It also requests that lawmakers who reveal any details to be shielded from any liability.

The Republican lawmaker from the Land O’Lakes area made the move after lawyers for Pitbull told legislative employees last week that they could view the contract but that none of the terms could be “disclosed to the media or elsewhere.”

Taxpayers in Fort Myers said Wednesday that details like that need to come out.

“I think you’ve got to have clarify whenever you’re going to get taxpayers’ money,” taxpayer Lawrence Taylor said. “They have right to know where their money is actually going to and how it’s benefiting them.”

Terry Clunk is a fan of Pitbull’s work, but he’s also a fan of the lawsuit.

“It makes me very happy to know that our lawmakers are taking an extra step to do something to make sure our taxpayer dollars are protected,” Clunk said.

In a testy statement, Corcoran said lawmakers have a right to review how state tax dollars are spent. Visit Florida receives more than $70 million a year to promote the state to tourists. Its funding has risen significantly under Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure.

Scott referenced the lawsuit in a tweet Tuesday, calling for transparency in the distribution of taxpayer funds.

“This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation,” Corcoran said. “This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never ending river of riches they get to play with.”

An attorney representing the Miami music star declined to comment on Corcoran’s lawsuit.

As part of the contract, Pitbull promoted a new video for his 2014 song “Sexy Beaches” that includes scenes from nearly two dozen beaches stretching from the Florida Panhandle to Key West. The video features images of women frolicking in surf and sand along with pictures of such iconic Florida hotels as Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau. It ends with an image of #LOVEFL written in the sand.

Several media outlets had sought details of the Pitbull contract in the past year. Visit Florida has responded by releasing an 11-page contract, nearly all of it blacked out.

An attorney for Visit Florida wrote The Orlando Sentinel in 2015 and said that tourism marketing organization had agreed to keep the contract confidential because “other parties could gain an advantage over Visit Florida” if they found out compensation stipulated by the contract.

The contract expired this past summer and was not renewed by Visit Florida.

Last week, Corcoran questioned the need to spend money on tourism marketing, saying that tourists have been flocking to Florida even before the state began spending millions on advertising. His lawsuit states that the House is now “investigating Visit Florida’s use of public funds.”

Scott tweeted in support of tourism spending.

Florida, with miles of beaches and theme parks such as Disney World and Universal, relies on tourism as its leading industry. Last year about 106 million people visited Florida, with the vast majority of tourists arriving from other states. The state also draws many visitors from countries beyond.

WINK News reporter Britni McDonald contributed to this story.

Author: Associated Press
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