In Florida's power circles, politicos say dealing with well-connected blogger Peter Schorsch often comes down to the money.
Want to garner his favor or avoid his wrath? Buy an ad.
Want him to write a flattering story or remove a negative post he already wrote? Buy an ad.
According to five people active in politics, Schorsch, 37, has tried to pressure them for hundreds or thousands of dollars in exchange for good stories or the deletion of bad ones.
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and former state Rep. Frank Farkas are among those who say Schorsch tried to trade coverage for money. Three accusers provided documentation and one, Michael Pinson, offered a notarized contract signed by Schorsch.
Since the Tampa Bay Times started asking questions early this month, a 2½-year-old dormant criminal investigation into Schorsch based on some of these claims has been renewed, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri...
The reinvigorated criminal inquiry into Schorsch stems from accusations made by Pinson, a Republican activist who over the last three years Schorsch has frequently criticized and mocked online. Pinson supplied a contract to the Times that Schorsch had presented him in May 2012. In it, Schorsch requested that Pinson pay him $3,200 in order for the blogger to delete all references to Pinson from his websites — and to write nothing more about him for the following three years.
The contract called for a $1,000 bonus if anything Schorsch wrote about Pinson didn't appear in the first 30 online search results.
The contract is notarized and signed by Schorsch. The Times met with the notary, who confirmed its legitimacy...
Pinson, who was mentioned for an open Pinellas congressional seat, said he didn't pay Schorsch, and the attacks continued. Just three months later, in a Twitter exchange with someone Schorsch seemed to believe Pinson knew, Schorsch said this: "Tell Michael I said hi. Just think for 5K he could've made all of this go away. Wait till u see 'The Douchebag Returns' story."
Schorsch acknowledged the tweet but said the recipient was "a fake Twitter account established to harass my family."
To sum it up:
- Arrested in 2006 for writing 16 worthless checks totaling more than $1,200 for cash at Publix. He pleaded guilty and was fined.
- Arrested in 2006 on charges he stole nearly $10,000 from the Democratic club, and from Ed Helm and Eve Joy, who ran for mayor and a seat on the St. Petersburg City Council, respectively, in 2005.After pleading no contest, he was sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years of probation, during which he was prohibited from working in campaigns.
- Still had not paid a $66,500 fine levied in 2006 by the Florida Elections Commission for unrelated election violations over a year after the conviction.
- Under a 2 1/2 year long investigation for writing hit pieces against those who do not pay him and accepting bribes for favorable reporting.