Putnam or Scott?....Every one is aware that Gov. Rick Scott has been raising money for his own political committee _ Let's Get to Work_ as opposed to raising money for the state Republican Party this year.
But a closer look shows that contributions shows a bit of slowdown in the last three months. His largest contribution during that period hasn't been any actual cash but a large in-kind donation courtesy of Walt Disney World that he got from them in order to hold his economic growth summit with presidential contenders.
So has anything changed?
Yes, Meredith O'Rourke, one of the state's most sought after GOP fundraisers, is no longer working on behalf of the governor.
O'Rourke, who was in Naples celebrating when Scott defeated Charlie Crist last November, stopped work for Scott sometime in April.
Campaign finance records show that O'Rourke's company took its last payment for $25,000 from Let's Get to Work on April 17.
So what led to her departure?
Sources close to O'Rourke say that Scott gave her an ultimatum: Either raise money for me, or raise money for Adam Putnam, a likely contender for governor in 2018. This is apparently not the first time that Scott had asked O'Rourke to make this choice. But this time around O'Rourke chose Putnam.
Scott is widely rumored to be considering running for U.S. Senate in 2018. He has steadfastly brushed aside any questions about it, saying that he is focused on his job as governor. Putnam for his part has also brushed aside any questions about his intentions three years from now.
Still this is another sign of the gulf that exists between Scott, the mega-millionaire maverick who took on the GOP establishment, and Putnam, the native Floridian with long-time connections who has been steadily moving up the political ladder.
The animus between Scott and Putnam dates all the way back to 2011 when Scott insiders viewed Putnam as a potential primary rival in 2014. Scott repeatedly has threatened to veto Putnam's top legislative priorities. This year he vetoed budget items Putnam wanted even after Putnam sought a meeting to discuss why they were important. Putnam's office has said the Scott administration never responded to their request before issuing the vetoes.
Putnam also questioned the forced ouster of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey by the Scott administration and went so far as to have phone conversations with Bailey about his departure afterwards.
Jackpot time at the Florida Lottery...Of course one important advantage that the Scott administration continues to have is that state agencies with huge budgets are responsible for doling out large contracts. This attracts high-profile lobbyists who themselves can raise a lot of money for potential candidates.
And right now some of the bigger contracts up for bid are at the Florida Lottery.
This includes a contract for the department's lottery online games that is at least worth $300 million over the next 10 years. (This contract includes the machines used to issue tickets for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions as well as the instant ticket vending machines.)
And it's already had some interesting twists and turns.
The existing contract with lottery operator Gtech was scheduled to expire at the end of September 2015. The agency put the contract out to bid in March 2014 - in the middle of a heated election year - and then....nothing.
In late January, the department issued a one-page announcement that it was rejecting the bids from Gtech, as well as Scientific Games International and Premier Lotteries Florida.
Why did it do this? Lottery officials won't say, other than department officials concluded it was "in the best interest" to reject them. So they started all over again and issued another invitation to negotiate in March of this year.
But with the looming expiration of the existing contract the department on June 16 extended the existing contract with Gtech. The operator will continue to get paid (largely under the current terms of its $333 million contract) until March 2017 or until a new vendor is selected.
Gtech is represented by lobbyists with deep connections to Scott, including Brian Ballard and his team as well as long-time Scott friend and lobbyist Bill Rubin. (Worth noting: Ballard's representation of Gtech predates Scott but we also know Ballard raised a lot of money for the governor.)
Scientific Games was represented by well-known Tallahassee figures Jim Magill and Mac Stipanovich until June 16 - the same day that Gtech got its extension. Right now the only listed executive branch lobbyist for the company is former Lottery Secretary David Griffin.
The third vendor that bid on the lottery contract is linked to a company called Camelot Global Services, which is represented by lobbyists at the firm of Southern Strategy Group, one of the more successful firms in town.
So it will be interesting to see who eventually winds up winning the lucrative online system contract.
But that's not the only contract worth watching.
Another major contract is the Lottery advertising contract in which a firm gets millions to manage the state's ad campaign. The last time the contract was up it sparked a bid protest after the department awarded a $100 million contract (which includes money for ad placements) to St. John & Partners.
The current contract - which initially ran for three years and was renewed twice for another three years - is due to expire at the end of August.
The bid for a new contract was released in June and it already appears to be drawing fire with complaints reaching all the way up to Scott's office.
Last week Deputy Chief of Staff Jeffery Woodburn directly emailed Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell "in the interest of transparency" to tell her that Slater Bayliss, Nick Iarossi and Dan Russell had raised concerns with the governor's office over the ad contract.
Bayliss is a former aide to Jeb Bush who is a partner at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners. Iarossi is another well-known lobbyist in town who has represented various gambling interests and a long list of other clients including Zimmerman Advertising (which lost out to St. John last time.) Russell is an attorney with the Jones Walker law firm and once worked as general counsel for the department.
The email from Woodburn to O'Connell doesn't include any instructions regarding whether the agency should change the bid.
But it does outline areas cited by the three lobbyists including desired qualifications, disclosure and ownership of reply contents and the staffing plan.
Concerns about the way the contract bid has also surfaced in the questions that were submitted by potential bidders to the Lottery.
The July 14 addendum to the bid documents shows that one vendor was concerned that the department wants bidders to spend "hundreds of hours" working on a presentation before they even know if they have been chosen as a finalist. "The current approach is very different from the standard practice in our industry,'' states the question (which does not identify the vendor that asked.)
In its response the department said it considered the question but left the bid requirements unchanged.
That same document also shows that another complaint is that the agency is requiring that people who would be responsible for managing the contract do the actual presentation and interviews with state officials. This means that senior managers at ad firms would be not be allowed to participate in the pitch to the Department of Lottery unless they planned to do the work. The department also refused to change this item as well.
The flurry of activity comes at a time when many key Republicans in the Legislature remain skeptical about the Lottery, including Senate President Andy Gardiner. O'Connell, who is a holdover from Scott's first term, is one of Scott's appointees who got caught up in the meltdown of this year's regular session when the Senate refused to confirm many of his choices.
She will be forced to step down next year if the Senate fails to confirm her for a second year in a row.