The Speaker of the Florida House is suing music star Pitbull's production company to force the company to allow the state to publicly disclose what the state's tourism agency is paying the Miami celebrity to promote Florida's beaches.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
In Pitbull's Sexy Beaches music video and on social media, he promotes Florida destinations and uses the hashtag #ILoveFL. But how much the state is paying him to do so has been a mystery. Visit Florida's CEO Will Seccombe said under terms of the contract with PDR Productions, they are not allowed to discuss the deal because it contains "trade secrets"
But in the lawsuit filed in the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, argues that the terms of the contract with Pitbull should not be considered a trade secret and should not be protected from public view.
In a sternly worded email sent to the Florida House last week, an attorney for Pitbull, whose real name is Armando C. Perez, warned that disclosing the contract would violate trade secret protections, which is a felony in Florida.
"In the event of a violation of the trade secrets provision of this Agreement and the confidentiality provision under which the legislature is reviewing this, we reserve all rights against any individuals violating this," attorney Leslie Jose Zigel of Greenspoon Marder wrote.
Corcoran however is pressing on.
"We operate from fundamental and immovable principles in the House," he said in a statement to the media. "Two of those principles are that taxpayers have a right to hold those who spend their money accountable and that when asked, those responsible for that spending are transparent. This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation. This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never ending river of riches they get to play with. The House will protect the taxpayers and will utilize all means at our disposal to hold government accountable.”
Seccombe told the Times/Herald last week that he doesn't regret the contract with Pitbull but has vowed never to do another deal where terms of the agreement cannot be released publicly.
“I’m never going to do another deal where they say I can’t release that,” Seccombe said. “It’s not worth it in the environment we live in.”
Seccombe said he’s gone back to Pitbull’s attorneys to get them to reconsider the confidentiality of the deal, but was rebuffed.
“We cut a great deal, it was a such a good deal, Pitbull wouldn’t allow us to release it,” Seccombe said. “He’s a smart businessman and doesn’t want that to be his market rate.”
It all comes at a time that Corcoran has vowed to scrutinize spending at Visit Florida, which has seen its budget grow from $29 million to $78 million since 2009. Corcoran said while the state has seen record tourism, the number of visitors has grown slower than the amount of money put toward the part public, part private agency.
Seccombe said Visit Florida is trying to reach future travelers, like Pitbull fans, who are not easily influenced by traditional media. Seccombe said marketing studies show the millennial generation gravitating more toward places like California than previous generations. Seccombe said long term, Florida has to do more to attract younger vacationers.
Gov. Rick Scott has been a defender of Visit Florida and its mission to attract tourists. But Scott has also questioned the secrecy around some of the deals.
"Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent," Scott said Twitter earlier today after a speech in Tampa.