Cerabino: It’s a crime to know how much you’re paying Pitbull


There is some information that is too sensitive to disclose.

That’s why in Florida the criminal deeds of juveniles, the identities of sexual abuse victims, and the detailed layouts of port facilities that could compromise security are exempted from public records.

So are tax returns, the home addresses of police officers, and the identity of parents who leave their infants at fire stations.

Oh, and, also how much money Florida taxpayers pay Pitbull.

The rapper, whose real name is Armando Perez, had a contract this year with the state’s public-private tourism outfit, Visit Florida, that paid him to promote the state during his concerts, and on his videos and social media.

How much? It’s a secret. At least it was until Thursday.

When Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, suggested last week that the public had a right to know how much money Pitbull was getting, the performer’s lawyer reminded the lawmaker that disclosure of such information could lead to criminal prosecution.

“In the event of a violation of the trade secrets provision of this Agreement and the confidentiality provision under which the legislature is reviewing this, we reserve all rights against any individuals violating this,” attorney Leslie Zigel wrote.

That’s right. You could be busted on a third-degree felony charge for letting Florida’s taxpayers know how much money they’re paying a multi-millionaire rapper.

The Speaker of the House thought that was silly. So he sued Pitbull’s company, asking a judge to allow the state’s financial arrangement with the rapper to be public knowledge.

Corcoran was also making a point about Visit Florida’s spending habits, which includes paying the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars more than $1 million to have the words “Visit Florida” on the jerseys of the English soccer team he owns.

“This suit is not about Pitbull or his compensation,” Corcoran said in a media statement about his lawsuit. “This is about the audacity of government entities who are under the false impression that they are above the law or believe somehow that taxpayer money is a never-ending river of riches they get to play with.”

See? He’s got an axe to grind here. And the secret payment to Pitbull was a good place to start.

After all, you could argue that Pitbull should be the one paying Florida.

He has appropriated Miami’s area code as his nickname, “Mr. 305”, and has built his identity around South Florida. And he’s already getting taxpayer money for his charter school business in Florida.

At this point, paying him to promote the state is like paying Paula Deen to mention “butter” on her cooking show.

The idea that the state’s financial arrangement with Pitbull is a trade secret would indicate that its disclosure would somehow cause great harm.

Translation: It’s either too embarrassing for the state to disclose the generosity of its payment to the rapper, or too embarrassing for the rapper to disclosure how little money it takes him to include “#LoveFL” written in the sand on one of his music videos.

But with the matter now in court, Pitbull decided on Thursday to pre-empt the wave of bad publicity that his claim to secrecy had started. So he disclosed himself how much Florida was paying him.

“It’s been an honor to represent Miami and the Sunshine State,” Pitbull wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “I’ve taken Miami and Florida worldwide — WAY before any contract, and will do so way after. I love my home state. When asked to take on a New Year’s show, I INSISTED it be live from Florida. #LoveFL Since birth…..and till the day I die. Dale!”

Sounds like the $1 million Florida paid him last year to drop mentions of Florida — the big secret that had been a crime to disclose — was an unnecessary taxpayer expense.

Unless you consider it a reasonable price to pay for learning the lesson that embarrassing disclosures shouldn’t be crimes.

After all, if that were the case, what level of felony would it be for the public to know that Florida Atlantic University’s new football coach will be making nearly $1 million a year — more than double the salary of the university’s president?



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