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GOP Lobbyist Won’t Discuss Role

November 24, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A prominent Florida Republican strategist refused Friday to discuss his role as an adviser to Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the presidential election controversy.

J.M. ``Mac″ Stipanovich met Wednesday with Harris and said he was acting as her personal attorney. He referred all questions to her after that meeting.

Stipanovich, an influential Florida lobbyist, was advising Harris even before she hired the Florida law firm of Steel Hector & Davis to represent the secretary of state in the court battle over vote recounts in the presidential election.

Stipanovich participated in a Nov. 12 conference phone call on Harris’ planned announcement the next day that she would not waive a deadline of 5 p.m. Nov. 14 for Florida counties to get their vote totals to the secretary of state.

Besides Stipanovich and Harris, the participants in the conference call were Republican media consultant Adam Goodman, state election director Clay Roberts, general counsel Debby Kearney, and Harris’ chief of staff, Ben McKay.

The arguments of Harris’s lawyers were rejected Tuesday night by the state Supreme Court. Stipanovich and Steel Hector partner Joe Klock met Wednesday with Harris.

Stipanovich was chief of staff to ex-Florida Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.

Stipanovich and Harris have been friends since 1994. He was a lobbyist during the years she was in the Florida state Senate.

Stipanovich, also a longtime friend of Gov. Jeb Bush, is a partner in the large Florida law firm of Fowler, White, Gillen, Boggs, Villareal, and Banker.

Stipanovich’s past clients include the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Shands Hospital at the University of Florida, Horizon Wireless, U.S. Sugar, Scientific Games, and the Florida Health Care Association.

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