TALLAHASSEE — Six!
That’s the number of women who say they were sexually harassed by State Senator and candidate for governor Jack Latvala.
And the married Latvala, a Pinellas County Republican who’s now under investigation by the office of Senate President Joe Negron, is one of several senators in the sights of women who, emboldened by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, are blowing the whistle on sex rogues nationawide.
Last week, former Democratic Senate big Jeff Clemens, a former mayor of Lake Worth who’s been married since 2013, resigned after admitting he had an affair with Broward County lobbyist Devon West. Politico also blew the lid on this one because West, who was said to be in love with Clemens, called Clemens’ wife to let her know her husband was a love rat.
With more revelations about philandering married senators about to be released, the question is how these flawed individuals end up behind a state lawmaker’s desk.
The voters’ fault? Ultimately, yes.
After all, Latvala is known as a hound in the halls of power.
But political donors and enablers are as much to blame, and they usually wash their hands of scandals that befall their prized elected officials.
Donors and Enablers
In the case of Latavala and, in a lesser measure, Clemens, look no further than Palm Beach and West Palm Beach for those to point the finger at.
From his $72 million-mansion on Palm Beach’s South Ocean Boulevard, billionaire hedge-funder Paul Tudor Jones has been one of Latvala’s big donors and has been generous with Clemens — while hoping his own women issues, including some brought on by Pulp Fiction producer Weinstein, go away.
Two weeks ago, the 63-year-old high-finances guru and founder of the Miami-based environment-saving Everglades Foundation was picketed by female protesters during a symposium organized by the foundation at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach. The ladies, from a grassroots group called Women Deserve Respect, were unhappy with Jones’ response to the Weinstein scandal.
Paul Tudor Jones was on the board of Weinstein’s movie company when the scandal blew up but, the women said, Jones was slow to resign. Jones also failed to issue a statement repudiating his friend the filmmaker, and explain why the board appeared to condone Weinstein’s groping and harassment.
The protesters also reminded passersby that Jones was skewered three years ago for saying he believes women stop being top Wall Street traders once they have babies.
State records show Paul Tudor Jones gave $10,000 to Latvala’s campaign for governor earlier this year and, two months ago, $50,000 to Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee.
Records show Jones poured another $60,000 into the political action committee last year and yet another $25,000 in 2014 — huge donations by state politics standards.
Total: $125,000, according to records pulled by sunshinestatenews.com boss Nancy Smith.
Paul Tudor Jones, who’s also known for his famous friends like U2 frontman Bono and Jimmy Buffett, also gave Clemens $1,000 for his senate campaign in 2016.
We called Jones’ publicist to ask of the billionaire discussed the issues with Jack Latvala and Clemens, but all we received was a “no comment.”
Connecting The Dots
Latvala’s conduit to Jones’ deep pockets, meanwhile, was the Everglades Trust, according to two local political sources.
The mission of the West Palm Beach non-profit, which also benefits from Jones’ largesse, is to apply political pressure to force tax dollars into projects for the conservation of the Everglades. And it has been of Latvala its champion.
It so happens its top officials are two politically-connected women who also have remained silent about their ties with Latvala and his behavior.
“The Everglades Trust has wined and dined Latvala in Palm Beach for months,” one of the sources said, “and provided a necessary introduction into Paul Tudor Jones’ world.”
As a matter of fact, the links between Latvala and the Everglades Trust have become so tight that Jessica Pinsky, who is registered with the state as lobbyist for the Trust, also moonlights as consultant for Latvala’s campaign for governor.
According to the latest elections financial reports, she received $4,000 from Latvala’s campaign for governor for “finance consulting” in September. Jessica Pinsky also happens to be the wife of high-profile lobbyist Richard Pinsky.
And over the past months, Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell has been most complimentary of Latvala.
Many West Pam Beach residents are familiar with Mitchell. She was a seven-term city commissioner who ran for mayor two years ago.
At the time, Mitchell was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. But she raised eyebrows when she took over the non-profit that’s mostly lines itself up with democratic politics.
In true Florida politics fashion, Mitchell is Jessica Pinsky’s boss and, at the same time, the ex-wife of her employee’s current husband, lobbyist Richard.
We reached out to Jessica Pinsky and Mitchell to ask if their support for Latvala tainted the Everglades Trust but have yet to hear back from them.