Wasserman Schultz denies charge she offered deal on medical marijuana

Anne Wernikoff

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) pushed back on Friday against an allegation that she offered to change her position on medical marijuana if one of the issue’s prominent supporters retracted his public criticism of her.

“I wouldn’t change my position in exchange for support under any circumstances — ever,” she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I stand on principle. I’m always very proud to stand in front of my constituents and explain when I have a difference of opinion with them.”

{mosads}Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and is thought to be considering a run for the Senate if Marco Rubio decides to run for president, said that she and her staff had reached out to a political consultant supportive of medical marijuana after a prominent financial backer of the cause, John Morgan, slammed the congresswoman in an article in Politico.

Morgan was a major donor to the campaign for a 2014 ballot measure opposed by Wasserman Schultz that would have amended the state constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.

But she said that she and her staff had not offered to shift her position in return for Morgan retracting his statements.

Instead, she told the newspaper that she had expressed that she was open to discussing the issue because she was “more comfortable” with the revised language that may be used if the ballot measure is reintroduced in 2016.

“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.

The allegations from Morgan emerged Thursday night, when Politico published an article reporting that Wasserman Schultz’s office had reached out to a campaign manager for the medical marijuana initiative to offer a deal.

Politico on Friday also reported on the existence of more emails and text messages between the ballot initiative’s campaign manager and Wasserman Schultz’s office.

A Wasserman Schultz political aide, Jason O’Malley, asked campaign manager Ben Pollara to call him when it became clear that Morgan had gone on record criticizing the congresswoman.

The campaign manager then approached Morgan, saying Wasserman Schultz was willing to support the new amendment and asking if he’d retract his statement.

Pollara later confirmed to O’Malley that he had sent an email to Morgan.

Morgan sent an email back calling Wasserman Schultz a “bully.” Pollara then forwarded the email to O’Malley with the message “Tried. Failed,” Politico reported.

Pollara later sent a message to O’Malley after Morgan leaked the initial emails, saying he knew “no good” would come from him reaching out to the donor.

Friday afternoon, the campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida sent out a fundraising appeal under Morgan’s name referencing the growing story about Wasserman Schultz.

“We don’t negotiate with prohibitionists,” he wrote. “Or bullies.”

He said that Wasserman Schultz had hurt the ballot measure with her criticism.

“Now she wants to have a conversation in exchange for me toning down my criticism of her position last year (and the damage she caused)? Not a chance,” he said.

This post was updated at 4:16 p.m. 

Tags Debbie Wasserman Schultz medical marijuana

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