Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Senate Plans Could Go Up In Smoke

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 1:30 PM
Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Senate Plans Could Go Up In Smoke

Last week, Guy wrote about Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s future political ambitions, where she could potentially run for Senate in 2016. Yet, this new direction for Schultz could be closed given the allegation that she planned to switch positions on medicinal marijuana if a Democratic donor withdrew his criticism of her.

Schultz was critical of a medicinal marijuana initiative on the ballot last year, which drew the ire of Orlando lawyer John Morgan; he was a major donor in the campaign. When it failed, he lobbed some sharp criticism of the Florida Congresswoman, according to Politico.

In emails obtained by the publication, Schultz allegedly offered Democratic donor Ben Pollara the deal of switching positions if Morgan withdrew his criticism of her. Morgan then forwarded the email exchange to Politico:

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to change her position on medical marijuana if a major Florida donor recanted his withering criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier. Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”

“No,” Morgan responded. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”

The clash with Morgan began in June when Wasserman Schultz issued a rare public statement criticizing the medical-marijuana initiative he helped draft, and to which he committed $4 million of his own money to pass.

Echoing Republican talking points, Wasserman Schultz suggested the proposal could lead to a variant of OxyContin-distributing “pill mills.” Wasserman Schultz has previously expressed concerns, as a parent, about marijuana decriminalization because she doesn’t want to make it easier for kids to get the drug.

At the time, Morgan blasted Wasserman Schultz, calling her “despised…an irritant…irrelevant.”

The congresswoman’s more recent dispute with Morgan unfolded Wednesday afternoon. POLITICO sent an email at 3:50 p.m. to Wasserman Schultz’s office seeking comment on criticisms from Morgan and other medical marijuana advocates. Three minutes later, an adviser replied that she had no comment.

In the meantime, Wasserman Schultz’s office sprung into action. Her team reached out to the campaign manager for the medical marijuana initiative — Ben Pollara, a top Democratic fundraiser and consultant in Miami — and offered him a deal.

Pollara, who refused to comment, detailed the offer in an email to Morgan a few hours later, the donor said, with the subject line: “DWS.”

“In a tizzy over this politico story. Saying she might be willing to support new amendment. Any chance you’ll retract your statement,” Pollara wrote.

Morgan responded about two hours later in his email calling her a “bully.”

“Actions have consequences,” Morgan told POLITICO on Thursday. “Her days of pushing people around are over.”

This only adds to Schultz’s headaches with the marijuana wing of the party. Advocates of medicinal marijuana and drug decriminalization have already pledged to campaign against her if she decides to run for the U.S. Senate:

“She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, which has received funding from liberal luminaries such as George Soros.

“This issue is evolving very quickly, and hopefully she will evolve,” Piper said. “But if she doesn’t, you can expect medical marijuana patients and supporters to dog her on the campaign trail.”

Wasserman Schultz’s office declined to comment.

The threats from Piper’s group — echoed by People United for Medical Marijuana in Florida and the national Marijuana Policy Project and Americans for Safe Access — marked the only major public reaction to the news, first reported by POLITICO, that Wasserman Schultz might leave her safe South Florida congressional seat. She is said to be considering a Senate bid if Republican Sen. Marco Rubio relinquishes his seat to run for president.

“There’s no ‘Run Debbie Run’ caucus,” said one Florida Democratic consultant who has worked with her. “I don’t say that to be mean, but she’s not a statewide candidate for us. She’s a very good congresswoman and I hope she stays there.”

Yeah, this is quite the mess, and it’s given the chair of the Florida Democratic Chairwoman the blues. We shall see what comes of this fiasco.  So far, she's denied the allegations telling the Sun-Sentinel, "I wouldn't change my position in exchange for support under any circumstances – ever. I stand on principle. I'm always very proud to stand in front of my constituents and explain when I have a difference of opinion with them."