The International Franchise Association is starting to look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The group, a coalition of franchisers that includes international corporate conglomerates with highly recognizable brand names, has engineered a series of ham-handed blunders over the past several weeks, including a false claim wrapped in an insult of Senator Jack Latvala.
More on the insult of Latvala in a moment. First, a recap of the first set of blunders by the IFA, which launched a social media campaign urging people to contact Florida lawmakers and tell them to oppose Senate Bill 750. The problem is, they superimposed Florida lawmakers’ photos over a picture of…California.
It didn’t take long for IFA’s opponents, the Coalition of Franchisees Association, to use the incident to point out that IFA was comprised of a bunch of out-of-state corporate types who couldn’t be bothered with such trivial details as remembering which state they were in.
When asked, IFA declined to comment on whether they, or a third-party public relations vendor, botched the campaign. But even after IFA’s social media team fixed the image, they then proceeded to tag Senator Dorothy Hukill in their campaign – another major blunder. As Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch wrote when he broke the original story:
You see, even a cursory Google search would show Hukill is not even in Tallahassee this Session. She is contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.
Fast forward to April 4th, during a hearing before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, where Senator Latvala, the bill’s sponsor, presented it before the committee. Latvala explained that the bill proposes increased protections for franchisees that would create more parity between the franchisee and respective parent companies. When the bill passed by a comfortable margin out of committee, the IFA took a direct shot at Latvala. This time, it was Matt Haller, the Washington D.C.-based senior VP of communications and public affairs, who stepped in it (emphasis mine, below):
“Even the bill’s sponsor [Jack Latvala] seemed confused about the impact of the legislation when he had to break from the hearing to ask questions of a hired lobbyist about how to respond to a question from Senators on the panel,” Haller said.
But as the Florida Channel video of the hearing shows, at no point did Latvala ever break from the hearing to ask questions of anyone.
Latvala responded today, shooting down the claim by IFA, and pointing out there was never any confusion on his part.
“The only question that came up was when [Senator Travis] Hutson asked about what happens with a renewal versus a new contract,” Latvala explained.
On the video, Latvala answers Hutson, “You know, Mister Chairman, I’m not a lawyer, you probably ought to ask one of your lawyers.”
Hutson then refers his question to the committee’s staff lawyer, and afterward, Latvala’s presentation rolls on without interruption.
Jeff Hanscom, the IFA’s state director, insists that Latvala did confer with a lobbyist while Hutson spoke with the lawyer, but admits it occured off-camera, where the IFA’s Washington D.C.-based spokesman couldn’t possibly have seen it take place, and acknowledged he wasn’t privvy to the details of the conversation.
“Unfortunately the conversation with the lobbyist Matt referenced is off camera,” Hanscom said via email, explaining that the lobbyist worked for IFA’s opponent, the Coalition of Franchisees Association (CFA).
Latvala blasted IFA for the claim in a statement released by his office this afternoon.
“People in Washington think they are so smart they can comment on things without even being there to see them in person,” the statement read. “That’s why we are all tired of people from Washington.”
Despite the blunders, IFA may yet succeed in defeating Latvala’s bill, as SB 750 faces at least one other stop in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and an even tougher pathway to passage in the Florida House.