Medical Marijuana

Debbie Does Denial on Doobie Deal

Wasserman Schultz insists there was no proposal for her to switch sides on medical marijuana.


"I need a few more hours to think about ways I can screw this up even worse."
Credit: studio08denver / photo on flickr

It's been a tough 48 hours for Democratic National Committee Chair and South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Yesterday, Politico reported that Wasserman Schultz, who may have ambitions for a transition to the U.S. Senate, was facing opposition by medical marijuana and drug legalization activists because of her opposition Florida's Amendment 2. The failed ballot initiative would have legalized medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Hours later, Politico then reported that Wasserman Schultz's office reached out to John Morgan, a trial lawyer who spent millions trying to get the amendment passed. Morgan was told the congresswoman was willing to switch sides if Morgan would be willing to retract the mean things he said about her. That all blew up last night.

Today, Wasserman Schultz was interviewed by the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida. She denied the allegation and called it "outrageous":

Here's what Wasserman Schultz said actually happened: After the original Politico article, in which some pro-marijuana activists suggested they'd be open to a dialogue a Wasserman Schultz staffer reached out to [medical marijuana consultant Ben] Pollara with the message that she wanted to discuss the issue because she felt new, more restrictive language being crafted for a possible 2016 referendum seemed to address some of her concerns with the 2014 referendum.

She thought the proposal that failed last year was too loosely drawn. "I was worried that it wasn't going to be covering only the people for whom it was intended," she said.

"I've seen the language that they've proposed for the 2016 ballot," Wasserman Schultz said. "I was more comfortable with the way the language was going…. I wanted to see if, before battle lines were drawn again, we could start a conversation." She said that's the kind of thing she's done for years in Congress and before that in the state Legislature.

But Politico has been provided the various e-mails and texts that made up this conversation. The way it worked is that a political adviser to Wasserman Schultz contacted Pollara, who was a political consultant for the ballot initiative. He then passed along the message to Morgan. So Politico put out another story showing the conversation:

[A]t 5:31 p.m. Wednesday, Pollara sent an email to Morgan that bore the congresswoman's initials: "DWS." The email summarized the deal that O'Malley offered on behalf of Wasserman Schultz, Morgan said.

"In a tizzy over this politico story. Saying she might be willing to support new amendment. Any chance you'll retract your statement to Caputo?" Pollara wrote of Wasserman Schultz.

Morgan responded in the negative, calling her a "bully."

So that's how Wasserman Schultz has chosen to deal with this controversy, accusing the people she was allegedly trying to "start a conversation" with of lying, even though there's enough of a paper trail to make it look like her office was at least strongly suggesting, if not outright saying, what Morgan claimed.

This morning Jacob Sullum wrote about Wasserman Schultz's absolutely abysmal record on drug law reform and how shifts in public opinion may be forcing her hand. Nobody's forcing her to play her cards this poorly, though.