Hat tip to Peter Schorsch, who links to a piece in the The St. Augustine Record, which raises questions about State Sen. John Thrasher’s ties to lobbying firms who you’d think might have a vested interest in expanding high stakes testing in Florida. Thrasher was already a target of some tea party groups, who opposed his becoming the new chairman of the Florida Republican Party, precisely because of his shady history as a lobbyist and politician, possibly at the same time. But this latest story raises even more questions, since Thrasher was the man behind the dreaded teacher tenure bill Charlie Crist vetoed last week. From the Record:
JACKSONVILLE — Two out-of-state companies that offer education testing paid a lobbying firm where state Sen. John Thrasher was a partner between $60,000 and $190,000 over a two-year period, state records indicate.
… Thrasher left the lobbying firm, Southern Strategy, in 2009 and has denied personally lobbying on behalf of the testing companies.
“I never had any connection to (the testing companies),” he said. “I was bought out last May and don’t even have any connection with them anymore.”
The companies — Ohio-based IQ Innovations and New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service — say the lobbying Southern Strategy did on their behalf was unrelated to Thrasher’s bill.
IQ Innovations paid between $60,000 and $150,000 to Southern Strategy in 2008 and 2009, and Educational Testing Service paid the firm between $4 and $40,000 over the same period, according to state compensation reports. Lobbying firms are only required to report a range of payments received from clients.
The companies are still clients of Southern Strategy, but 2010 compensation reports are not yet filed with the state.
The story goes on to reveal that Thrasher reaped major income from Southern Strategy last year — a whopping $1.5 million when you include the nearly $700,000 they paid to buy him out, a nearly equal amount of stock sales, and his $190,000-plus salary. And:
Lobbyists for Southern Strategy gave more than $7,200 to Thrasher’s campaign when he ran for his Senate seat in 2009.
So was Thrasher in touch with his old partners during the course of the SB6 negotiations? Thrasher has already declared the 100,000 or so Democrats in his Senate district to be the enemy, and has vowed to make SB6 the law in the state next year, when he presumes he’ll have a friendlier governor — Bill McCollum — to deal with. But with the proverbial “sleeping giant” of teachers and concerned parents already awakened by his and Jeb Bush’s education blitz, Thrasher could find himself answering a lot more uncomfortable questions.