Before he was hired by Gaetz in 2005 at $128,000 to run Gaetz’s first Senate campaign, Clark made $82,500 as chief of staff at the Department of Corrections. But what Gaetz didn’t mention was that between May 2009 and November 2012, he gave Clark nearly half the year off to work on his and other Republican campaigns. His compensation: more than double his state salary.
From 2009-2012, Clark’s company earned the following, according to state campaign finance records:
• $56,000 from Gaetz’s political committee, the Florida Leadership Alliance.
• $162,000 from Gaetz’s state Senate campaign.
• $126,000 from the Republican Party of Florida.
Gaetz’s top contributors were health care companies and doctors, Big Sugar, utilities, and the private prison industry, each of whom had high stakes bills before lawmakers. In addition, Clark was paid $62,500 directly from the party for what the party lists as “payroll.”
Gaetz said he doesn’t know how much his campaign paid Clark over the years but the amounts include campaign victory bonuses as well as compensation “for his time and skill.”
He emphasized that Clark was the sole consultant he hired and noted that since Gaetz became Senate president, Clark has not taken a leave of absence or worked on any campaign activities.
Dan Krassner, executive director of the independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the public is entitled to know more about the ties between Clark’s consulting firm and legislation before the Senate.
“The public deserves to know if this official used the authority of his position to secure support for any candidates or political party,’’ he said. “There needs to be a clear line where the campaign trail ends and a position of public trust begins.”
State law prohibits government employees from working on partisan political activities while on the job. Clark said he refrained from campaign activities while on state time saying, “they were two separate roles.’’
During the final days of the legislative session, records and media reports show that Clark made himself available to lobbyists who exchanged numerous text messages with him about what bills were coming up for a vote and which amendments were getting considered. The series of text messages over a five-minute period of time on May 1, two days before the Legislature was scheduled to adjourn, offered a window into the close relationship Clark has with lobbyists.
“Chris, I’m begging you for your help here,’’ wrote Randy Enwright, a lobbyist for fertilizer manufacturer Scotts Miracle-Gro, in a text message obtained by the Jacksonville Times-Union. Enwright is a former director of the Republican Party of Florida and is a political consultant during campaign season.
Enwright complained to Clark about an amendment that would remove a measure fertilizer lobbyists helped get added to an environmental bill, (HB 999.) The measure imposed a three-year moratorium on new local fertilizer rules and was vigorously opposed by environmental groups who believe the phosphorous runoff is contributing to the degradation of the state’s rivers and estuaries. Environmentalists brought in former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat, to lobby against it.