How many times in the last three years has George Orwell’s 1984 towered like a tombstone over democracy and basic human freedoms right here in the US? This week the echoes of goose-stepping Soviet boots could be heard in the halls of Florida’s state legislature, and they were being worn by one particular Republican, Florida Senator Jason Brodeur.
Senator Brodeur’s latest bill in the Florida legislature specifically targets the alternative press that exists mostly in blogs and small websites like my own with a stranglehold on uninhibited free speech. If he gets his way, every writer on every blog in the nation will have to register and file regularly with the State of Florida whenever they write about Floridian politicians if they receive payment for their writing.
Brodeur has included an odd exception (coming from a Republican as it is) for those who work for the mainstream media. Journalists employed by major media are expressly excluded; however, independents like me and thousands of others like me must step in line with the goose-steppers if Brodeur’s bill passes the Florida state legislature. His exception may be intended to avoid intense lobbying against the bill by mainstream media who have the money to crush it. If so, that’s not working.
Brodeur wants to know who is writing about him, what they are saying and who might have paid them to say it and how much … even if no one paid them specifically to say anything. It is enough that they said it about a Florida official and they got paid! If they sell an article about a Florida state politician to a publication as a freelancer or they are funded by supporters who pay in general for their writing, as I am, they must register.
The bill defines a blog as “a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content.”
Yep, that would be me, and It would include this article I’m writing now.
However, the bill also says,
the term does not include the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.
So, it focuses on independent bloggers — often cross, media-critical voices the mainstream might like to shut out. I wouldn’t be writing this exact article if I had no supporters for this website because a lack of supporters would tell me louder than anything there isn’t any real interest in my writing. If didn’t have the website, I wouldn’t be writing it unless I thought I could sell it to someone because income is essential to survival.
In fact, continuance of this site is always borderline with me anyway because support has never come above $5 per hour for the time spent, so it is mostly a labor of love, and I am always wondering how much longer I want to give that much time to it. Still, I’m paid for what I post here, so I don’t see an exclusion for me.
I write a blog as a website. It’s updated frequently with opinion, commentary AND business content, checking all the boxes in this proposed law. I am paid by donors for writing what goes on this blog. Sure, they don’t tell me what to write or about whom, but this sweepingly broad, anti-constitutional law doesn’t say anything about someone expressly asking me to write particular content.
Ostensibly, Brodeur’s bill is intended to control campaign finance by stopping lobbyists and political-action committees and campaigns from paying bloggers to write specific content:
“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?” Brodeur said of his bill.
Except that his bill doesn’t say any of that! The man is dimmer than a match at fifty miles away if he thinks many bloggers fit his description of them as lobbyists, and his distinction between writing and talking (as if writing were not covered under free speech) is less than Neanderthalian. If controlling lobbyists were really the intent, the bill would focus on demanding those lobbying groups — and not individual writers — disclose exactly what they are doing with their money, and leave the writer completely out of it. Instead, it seeks to suffocate the little guy with intimidation because he doesn’t have the lawyers to fight it.
The proposed law may be pitched as campaign finance control, but it seeks to regulate any independent writer paid by anyone for articles about any elected Florida state politician. In fact, if it is really about campaign-finance control, why does it apply ONLY to articles about already elected officials and not to articles about candidates? That is beyond telling. It seeks to save the likes of Brodeur — established political officials — from unrestricted ridicule, but not those who are not yet in office.
Is that the nation you want? One where free speech requires state registration of any independent journalist in the country if they get paid something for writing about state politicians? Does this proposed law’s reach eventually spread from here to my having to register in every Republican-controlled state in order to write about their politicians? Do I have time for that when I’m only making $5 an hour as it is?
Brodeur’s bill as IT stands
(Patrons who receive access to The Daily Doom may have already read this particular section of this article, as they receive each weekday the news that often becomes the seed for my next article; so, I recommend they skip to the following section if they know the gist of Brodeur’s bill from my last edition of The Daily Doom.)
In one of the slyest and, yet, most brazen moves to date to oppress free-and-open political speech, Jason Brodeur’s proposed law not only requires registration with the state, but will also require monthly reports about who was written about for every future article that comes out on Florida government officials and will require disclosure of income made off those articles — source and amount. Mention of Ron DeSantis is specifically named in the articles about the bill. His office has only said he is reviewing the bill.
The law is absurdly broad in applying to people outside the state’s own jurisdiction and surely must be unconstitutional throughout the US; but why, I suppose, should a Republican politician care about that?
Ron Kuby, a First Amendment lawyer in New York, said the law would not survive a court challenge if it is passed. “It’s hard to imagine a proposal that would be more violative of the First Amendment,” Kuby said. “We don’t register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register.”
(Hey, here’s of the big news publishers pointing out how this law violates the constitution, even though they are excluded from its regulation. Maybe it’s just so bad that, while exempted from it, they cannot stand it on principle!)
But, why would a Republican care about whether or not the law violates the constitution, so long as it protects him? Obviously, the constitutional violation doesn’t cause Jason Brodeur to bat a false eyelash.
The law imposes heavy fines of as much as $2,500 per failure to report an article, and it initiates what could become a burden of registering state-by-state just to exercise one’s US right of free speech when writing about Floridian politicians.
I will, if such an oppressive law requiring this extra effort of me just to write what I want to about Ron DeSantis or any other Florida politician (such as this article) never comply! In fact, I will go out of my way not to compley. And I think I’ll start writing against Jason Brodeur more than anyone (without declaring it), as I am doing right now … if this putrid heap of political garbage ever becomes law. I’ll come up with more names for him than Trump has for DeSanctimonious because, if any mug ever looked sanctimonious it Brodeur’s. The State of Florida will have to come and extradite me across state lines.
If that means I can never visit Florida, who cares? If Florida ever actually becomes this draconian in its oppression of human freedom, who wants to ever go there anyway? Besides, it is swampy, full of predatory mosquitos and alligators … and that is just its legislature.
(The photo provided here of Jason Brodeur’s smug mug is for use with your dart board, and the article shall forever remain unregistered.)
Brodeur as HE stands
I can well imagine Donald Trump might like a bill like this, since he many times applied pressure on Jimmy Fallon via Falon’s employer, NBC, to stop doing Trump jokes. Since politicians hate this kind of stuff, let me now go out of my way to bring it on: I’ll start by suggesting a Trumpian name for Brodeur. Let’s call him Boudoir, after the ladies dressing room. After all, he probably spends a lot of time in the boudoir, getting dressed up for drag-queen story hours.
You see, Senator Boudoir knows all about hiding in the closet. One of the big stories about him that probably got him so prickly against bloggers in the first place focused on how he pulled a skeleton out of his closet back in 2020 called a “ghost politician” to run against.
The race for Senate District 10 in Central Florida has remained one of the most closely watched in Florida throughout 2022. But the 2020 election that installed the incumbent has loomed over it the whole time….
The  competition marks a rare occasion when Democrats invested heavily in offense this cycle. Brodeur and Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia are the only GOP incumbents Senate Victory directed major resources toward unseating….
Both Brodeur and Garcia won election in the same class, in 2020 — under similarly scrutinized circumstances. Republican operatives in both their districts allegedly recruited candidates to run with no party affiliation, dubbed “ghost candidates,” in an apparent effort to siphon off votes from Democrats. Both won close contests.
Just as liars believe everyone else lies as much as them, political operatives (or those who hire them) believe everyone else (including paid bloggers) is a political operative. Brodeur would like to control the operating space, believing that any blogger who writes articles like the one just quoted must be a paid operative if he or she is paid at all.
And how did the ghost candidate strip votes from the Democrat challenger?
… “ghost” candidate Jestine Iannotti, who had misleading mailers sent out on her behalf that used a stock photo of a Black woman, took 5,787 votes.
She wasn’t Black at all, but guess who most Black voters still vote for by and in large? Black people who sound like progressive Democrats.
Jestine’s mug shot looks like she should be behind bars.
Babyface Fat Boy, Foglesong, looks like he could sing like a jailbird, too. (Man, I’m racking up an article about all kinds of Florida politicians in one fell swoop, but it’s not hard to find them in that swamp of a state.)
Wanna know what’s hot in Florida? How about the politics? Certainly not some of the politicians, though. Not so hot looking, to use Trump’s downgrading approach since he’s a Florida politician … though not a part of this anti-constitutional stew that I know of.
No wonder Jestine didn’t want her photo used. About as non-Black as you get! Probably also as progressive as a door stop. But Brodeur seems to think the laugh was on anyone who thought the photo used in Iannotti’s campaign brochure was intended to be the actual candidate! Sly. Ha ha.
Oh, so funny! Apparently, however, some jurors felt differently:
The Seminole County Republican party chairman at the center of a “ghost candidate” investigation was found guilty by a jury Thursday afternoon.
Well, hold it; what they really hung the Republican Party chair on was an legal approach more akin to using RICO Act tax-evasion charges against drug smugglers:
During closing arguments Thursday morning, prosecutors told jurors that Paris conspired with District 9 Senate candidate Jestine Iannotti and political consultant Eric Foglesong to illegally use the name of another person to make a campaign contribution to Iannotti’s campaign.
If you can’t get the slimy ones for using a nice picture of black lady generically on a campaign flyer because you cannot prove their intent was to fraudulently mislead voters to believe the picture was the actual candidate, then go after them for campaign finance breaches. (If you paid close attention, the flyer showed the Black woman talking on the phone and said, “Hello, Jestine!” So, Jestine was supposedly on the other end of the line. But … seriously? Only slime dogs would argue that most people are not going to see the only face — one taking up a third of the flyer — as being the candidate.
Regardless, Jestine wasn’t even a legitimate candidate in that she did zero campaigning, but was put up to the job according to numerous news articles written about her. As I said, Florida politicians are a swamp of blood-sucking mosquitos and alligators. (Gee, didn’t George Santos hale from there, too, prior to New York? They’re all starting to look like a bunch of Floridian hanging chads.) It’s no wonder Florida Republicans want to know as much as they can about anyone independently writing about them. It’s hard to control what the alternative press writes about you if you don’t know about it.
While Brodeur claims he knew nothing about the faked-up campaign and has not been charged with the fakery, it does seem clear it helped him win by a slim margin. (Brodeur won the 2020 race with just 50.3% of the vote) So, maybe the state should investigate a little more where Bordeur’s money goes. Did he figuratively dress in drag by running fake female opponents while also creating a fake candidate in implied Blackface, as many of the articles in Florida papers indicate?
Maybe not, but his associates sure got taken down, and one of them tried to take him down with them; so, you can see why he’d want to know what everyone in the media is writing about him … including what I’m writing about him right now. If every politician is named in the registration along with the publication that paid for the article, it’s easier for politicians to have staff chase down all the articles written about them. Then they can dog the writers and try to counter the articles … or sue under DeSantis’ new defamation laws that are simultaneously being considered.
Benjamin Paris — the first of three people charged in connection with the sprawling “ghost candidate” scheme to help get state Sen. Jason Brodeur elected in 2020 — was found guilty after a two-day trial in Seminole County Thursday….
Paris wasn’t chair of of the Seminole County GOP at the time. However, he was a former Longwood mayor and vice president of operations at the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, where Brodeur is CEO.
And here is the one out of the three who tried to take Brodeur down with them:
Disgraced former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg is leveling new allegations against Republican state Senator Jason Brodeur.
Greenberg will soon be sentenced for sex trafficking, fraud and stalking, but now he’s talking to investigators and alleging Brodeur was directly involved in a plot to run a bogus candidate, also known as a ghost candidate, in Brodeur’s 2020 state senate race.
Greenburg, also a Republican, said he was present at a conversation with Brodeur about the third (“ghost”) candidate’s campaign. In fact, he said he was often present with Brodeur, Paris, Foglesong and others to discuss political strategy and that Brodeur absolutely had first-hand knowledge that the plan was to run a third-party candidate in his race.
Greenberg is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 1. Foglesong and Iannotti are due in court next month.
What a swamp this Florida place is! Thus, it did not end with just one fake contributor charge when they were unable to nail down a fake competitor charge …
Fogelsong and Iannotti are facing felony charges of skirting Florida election law by falsely using the names of other individuals as contributors in official campaign finance documents.
Ah, such is the Florida swamp on a steamy day. You get these swamp rats on what you can with a slap on the hand for manipulating the public voters (probably less than they got paid for their operative work for those who care about who is paying whom):
Paris’ defense attorney claimed the state did not prove where the money came from, and that there was no proof that Paris donated the money.
The jury returned a guilty verdict shortly after 1:45 p.m.
A judge sentenced Paris to 12 months of supervised probation and $42,000 in restitution for the cost of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation.
But how could you not trust a Republican Party official with a face like this:
Seminole County GOP Chair Ben Paris was found guilty [but only of the illegal donations] for his part in a scheme to run a progressive ghost candidate to siphon votes from a Democratic candidates in a 2020 state Senate race.
Paris enlisted the help of political novice Jestine Iannotti, painting her platform as that of a progressive independent. Iannotti did zero campaigning, but ads placed by GOP operatives placed her campaign to the left of all competition in a bid to siphon off votes from Democrats.
Not just “fake news,” but fake candidates!
Again, you can see why these guys need to keep a close eye on who is writing about them. Too bad these swamp rats don’t keep a close eye on who is paying whom to do what in their own campaigns!
Of course, that was just the top of the heap. There were plenty of others running the same game:
According to an arrest affidavit, Artiles, a Republican, orchestrated what Rundle called a “ghost campaign” to oust the Democratic senator.
“Running a ghost candidate” is not a crime, however, Rundle said.
That is why they have to use the equivalent of RICO charges to get them.
“Is it an attack on our democracy? Is it a dirty political trick? Absolutely,” she said. “What is a crime is making illegal campaign contributions to get a candidate to run. … Sadly, Frank Artiles knew he could manipulate Florida’s election system.”
As Republicans pretend to be all churned up about censorship on social media, maybe they should start within their own GOP party leadership down in the Florida swamps. Ask them why they are not enraged at one of their own — Jason Brodeur — and these other GOP clowns who worked with him?
The Florida GOP monopoly
A state of one-party rule does tend to make you heady like this in how you defend your party’s advantage.
This is one of a number of ludicrous and incredibly dangerous pieces of legislation that have been filed as the GOP enjoys a supermajority in both House and Senate for the first time in the state’s history.
Better guard your rights, or they won’t guard you.
Here are a couple of thoughts to leave you hanging with like a chad in the wind:
Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, told Ars that the “bill raises serious First Amendment concerns about free speech online. It seems very hard to draw a meaningful distinction between paid bloggers who write about the Florida executive or legislative branches and journalists who do the same. The bill regulates speech about issues of public concern—issues that lie at the heart of the First Amendment.”
We also got a statement from Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “When a bill this plainly unconstitutional is introduced it’s essential that journalists explain to the public why it runs afoul of the First Amendment,” Brown said. “Our system of free expression rejected the British tradition of licensing printers because we recognized that it was the essence of self-rule to have complete freedom to criticize the public officials who act in our name.”
The Florida Legislature is separately considering proposals that would make it easier for people to sue media organizations for defamation; these proposals have also been criticized for harming freedom of speech. Brodeur filed one of the defamation proposals on Monday.
The defamation proposals were spurred by DeSantis, who last month held a roundtable discussion on media defamation and called on the legislature “to protect Floridians from the life-altering ramifications that defamation from the media can cause for a person who does not have the means or the platform to defend himself.”
As for Bordeur’s other recent legislative proposal,
Brodeur’s bill SB 1220 and HB 991, filed by Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, propose sweeping changes to Florida’s libel and defamation law. They both would automatically presume information from anonymous sources to be false and would prevent journalists from shielding the identity of sources if they are sued….
“If the House bill is a horrendous, horrendous bill, the Senate bill is [just] a horrendous bill,” said Bobby Block, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation….
“It impacts everybody. It impacts mainstream media, it impacts new media, it impacts conservative media, it impacts social media…. It’s still unconstitutional based on current case law. And it still empowers the rich and powerful to basically go after people who say things they don’t like….”
Under the provision, he said, a person would be able to sue for defamation by arguing, “‘Everything you said is true, but your intention is clearly to make me look bad.’”
It’s all dressed up prettily as protecting the little guy from big-media defamation, but I think Jason Boudoir and the other Republican politicians dragged out of the Trumpian swamps of Florida are a little more concerned about protecting THEMSELVES. They, of course, package all of this in separate laws so their intention of being able to track who says what under one law in order to sue the writer under the other laws for defamation is not as immediately apparent. Think there might be a little intimidation against all political writers when those two sets of law come together in court?
Next time I write an article this critical of Florida politicians — generally a bunch of Swamp People who make Caribbean pirates look like the fun guys — I may need to go register so Boudoir can sue me for associating him with closets used by drag queens and calling him names in true Trumpian style, desanctimoniously and all, since my intention IS admittedly to make him look as bad as he is.
I take it back. They are the swamp snakes. The Swamp People are the good guys, and maybe what Florida really needs is a bounty on politicians:
There’s snakes everywhere.