Democratic Party Operatives, Unions Led Florida “Nonpartisan” Protests

Florida For All protest. Photo Credit: Tom Lauder, Media Trackers Florida.

Democratic Party operatives and union activists played key roles in organizing supposedly nonpartisan recent protests against Gov. Rick Scott and voter integrity efforts.

Documents, pictures, and posts across social media platforms revealed the coordination between these groups in organizing the protests.

On October 9, for example, Cynthia Busch, the vice chair of the Broward Democratic Party, joined a handful of liberal activists from the Florida New Majority (FNM) as they urged Floridians to “Purge Rick Scott.” Busch and the activists timed their protest to coincide with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner meeting with elections supervisors from several South Florida counties to discuss ways of ensuring voter integrity in future elections.

The participants claimed to be a coalition of non-partisan citizens determined to protect the right to vote. When asked by Media Trackers Florida if there were any Republican or Libertarian Party members in their coalition, the group turned hostile and sought to prevent further questions. According to Florida New Majority, its allies included Advancement Project, Color of Change, Presente, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Mi Familia Vota, NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and social justice clergy in Jacksonville and Miami. Florida New Majority made no mention of the participation of a high-ranking Democratic Party official.

One day earlier, Busch posted a document from Florida For All urging “Floridians to Rally in Broward to Protect the Right to Vote.” The document claimed voters would gather to “stress the importance of protecting the right of eligible voters to vote without obstacles or intimidation and voice their very serious concerns about the Scott Administration’s second attempt to purge voters from voting rolls.”

Florida For All communications director Neal Waltmire wrote the document announcing the protest, and Media Trackers Florida spotted Waltmire videotaping the protest.

According to campaign reports filed with the Florida Secretary of State, Florida For All on September 27 paid Waltmire nearly $5,000 for consulting and travel expenses. Waltmire is listed as having a Chicago address. On the LinkedIn resume website, Waltmire claims to be a communications assistant with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME). Waltmire was previously a legislative assistant for a Democratic congresswoman and a field organizer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

On October 16, Florida For All organized a protest at the Florida Board of Education meeting in Davie, Florida. While the meeting focused on the controversy surrounding the Common Core standards for Florida schools, Florida For All used it as another opportunity to attack Gov. Scott. The afternoon protest attracted Florida Democratics Rep. Katie Edwards, Sen. Eleanor Sobel and former Sen. Dan Gelber.

Gelber, the first speaker, thanked Florida For All for organizing the event, calling it a “grassroots organization which represents 60,000 people in the state of Florida with similar interests and similar concerns about the direction of our state.”

Michael Allen Long of the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) created a Facebook event page for the protest. While the group claims no partisan affiliation, its directors are staunch allies of liberal Democrats. According to its website, FCAN State Board Members include the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME, and Florida trial lawyers groups. The FCAN secretary is Mark Ferrulo, the Executive Director of Florida Progress.

Alison Berke Morano, the vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, controlled the microphone and directed all aspects of the event.

A week earlier, Morano shared pictures of the Broward voting rights protest on Facebook. Media Trackers Florida could not verify if Morano personally attended that event.

Florida For All’s targeting of Gov. Scott was not surprising, considering its funding sources. In July, published reports revealed the group received $250,000 from the Democratic National Governors Association. Since June 5, 2013 Florida For All has raised more than $670,000 and spent more than $348,000.