In a statement issued Tuesday night, CD13 GOP candidate David Jolly reiterated a comment he made Monday morning at the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce forum — that, contrary to speculation, he has never lobbied for offshore drilling interests.
The issue is an important one for Pinellas County residents, who have made it clear over the years that they want nothing to do with offshore drilling endangering the beaches that bring so much tourism to the area.
"Let me make very clear, my position has always been that the current moratorium on expanded drilling in the eastern gulf should be protected and continued," Jolly said in a statement.
The 41-year-old lobbyist and former aide to longtime Pinellas Congressman Bill Young is considered the front-runner in the Republican primary special election taking place on January 14, but has now twice had to fend off allegations that he lobbied for an unpopular cause. Last month his opponent in the primary, state representative Kathleen Peters, charged that he had lobbied for a company in Washington state that has tried to implement the Affordable Care Act, about the worst thing a Republican can be accused of in early 2014.
In both instances, the Jolly camp has trotted out a top-ranking official from his lobbying firm, Free Enterprise Nation (FEN), to refute the charges.
“While FEN did publicly support the Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, David Jolly was never employed to advocate on its behalf," said Jim MacDougald, the founder and former CEO of Free Enterprise Nation. "David represented FEN on issues related to transparency for public employee pension funds, right-to-work matters, and a reduction in corporate and individual taxes.”
An error in a previous CL post inadvertently helped fuel the current controversy. I inaccurately quoted Jolly spokeswoman Sarah Bascom as saying that he had never lobbied for Free Enterprise Nation, when what she'd actually said was that he had lobbied for FEN, but not for off-shore drilling. We issued a correction, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee still had issues. DCCC issued a statement Monday afternoon accusing Jolly of lying about having never lobbied for off-shore drilling interests, as CL reported Monday evening. They stated that Free Enterprise Nation supported "the Roadmap for America’s Energy Future," an initiative that would open up the Outer Continental Shelf to offshore drilling, as well as open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling.
In his statement, Jolly confirmed that Free Enterprise Nation did endorse a proposal that including offshore drilling, but he maintains he had nothing to do with that.
"At the January 6 Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce forum I was unequivocal in stating I had never personally lobbied for offshore oil drilling interests," he said. "I remain unequivocal in that statement. A later review of public documents did reveal that a former client of mine endorsed a comprehensive energy independence blueprint that could have possibly expanded drilling in the Gulf, but I did not lobby on its behalf."