UPDATE: (6 p.m.): Minority Leader Perry Thurston called after the initial post and announced that House Democratic leaders, including Rouson, agreed to disband the committee this afternoon. Those in agreement were himself, Rouson, Jones, James Waldman of Coconut Creek, Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, Janet Cruz of Tampa, and Joe Gibbons of Hallandale Beach, Thurston said. "They all agreed to shut it down," Thurston said. "Fundraising for House Victory will go through the Florida Democratic Party and through no other entity." Asked if Rouson agreed to this, Thurston said "I want him to tell you." Rouson wouldn't return phone calls. The committee was still listed as active, however. "We're thinking it's going to be shut down as we speak," Thurston said minutes after 5:30 p.m. "We love our donors. We want to make sure they're not getting any mixed signals about who they need to contribute money to." Thurston said he wasn't worried about relations between party leaders and Rouson. "Things will get smoothed over," he said.
UPDATE (9:45 p.m.): Rouson called back, but wouldn't confirm that he will shut down the committee. Asked if he agreed with Thurston's recollection that he agreed to shut down the leadership fund, Rouson would only say "I respect leadership and I am considering what was suggested." He defended his decision to open a leadership fund, which he had once opposed, as being pragmatic. "My role is singular and focused on raising money, protecting returning members and increasing our numbers by getting new members elected," Rouson said. "I think I'm doing my job." He questioned how Tant handled the matter. "I never wanted to play this out in the press," he said. "Having said that, there was a way (the party) could have talked about this and communicated without a letter going to 44 members. If the letter is addressed to (Thurston), why did she send it to all the members?"
Just how dysfunctional is it within the Florida Democratic Party?
Consider what incoming House Minority Leader, Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, just did.
Unbeknownst to other party leaders, he filed papers at the Florida Department of State last month opening up the “Florida House Democratic Caucus Affiliated Party Committee” that made himself the sole designated person in control of the fund, which will raise money for House Democratic candidates.
Since Rouson’s set to take over the Minority Leader duties from Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, in 2014, that sounds all fine and good. After all, the Minority Leader is indeed responsible for recruiting candidates and raising money for the 2014 and 2016 races.
The only problem is that Rouson created what’s called an “Affiliated Party Committee”, which is also known as a “leadership fund.” For many years in Tallahassee, APCs were a discredited and illegal way to raise money because of long-ago “pay-for-play” abuses by Democrats. They were prone to such abuse because they were controlled directly by legislative leaders and spent solely at the discretion of those leaders, a structure that caused many to label them “slush funds.”