A relatively unknown Democrat looking to unseat longtime Florida U.S. Rep. John Mica is using the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to play up Mica's family ties to the oil industry.
Mica, R-Winter Park, has represented Florida's 7th Congressional District since 1993. The district, which covers the northeast coast of Florida, has been considered a safe seat for Republicans (John McCain carried the district by 7 percentage points in 2008).
Democrat Heather Beaven, a Navy veteran, said in a May 12, 2010, e-mail to supporters that Mica's brother is a lobbyist for the oil industry and that his daughter represents an interest group that supports increased offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.
"Brother of only Fla. lawmaker to support offshore drilling is an oil lobbyist," Beaven said in the e-mail, copying a headline from the Orlando Sentinel. Later, she said, "John Mica's daughter represents the Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas and the Citizens Alliance for Energy Security in support of increased access to offshore oil & natural gas."
The e-mail includes other ties between Mica and the oil industry then asks "Disgusted yet?" An accompanying link directs supporters to Beaven's online campaign contribution page.
In this item, we wanted to see if Beaven's description of Mica's family connections to the energy industry is accurate.
Mica has been a longtime supporter of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, advocating for drilling well before gas prices neared $4 a gallon in 2008.
Mica was the lone member of the Florida Congressional delegation to not sign a letter in 2003 to stop the federal government from surveying Florida coastal waters for oil and natural gas. In 2006, the Palm Beach Post reported that Mica was only one of two Florida House members to vote to allow gas drilling within 9 miles of Florida's Gulf Coast. That measure failed.
Even now, Mica touts on his campaign website that he scored a 100 percent rating on the "Freedom From Oil Scorecard," published by the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.
Mica maintained his support for offshore oil drilling in a May 13 statement provided to PolitiFact Florida.
My position on drilling for gas and oil remain the same. I have always advocated drilling based on sound science, technology and employing safe measures, taking into consideration depths and currents. Unfortunately most of the past restrictions on drilling have been based on politics rather than sound science and safe procedures.
Based on what has occurred in the Gulf, I would urge Congress to make certain that proper safeguards are required including a failsafe shutoff valve, and having a standby mechanism like the dome in place with tried and proven technology available before rather than after the fact.
With 3,400 oil and 600 gas rigs already in the Gulf of Mexico, action on insuring against another disaster is important. Furthermore, even if Florida has a 100, 125, 150 or 200 mile ban and other states and countries like Mexico allow close or deepwater rigs, our state can still remain at risk without these protective measures.
Now, onto his family.
The brother Beaven is referring to in her e-mail is David Mica. He currently serves as executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, a group that --- the name kind of gives it away --- supports increased offshore drilling.
David Mica has called on the Florida Legislature to open up state waters as close as 3 miles offshore to oil and gas drilling, and has continued to push a pro-drilling position even after the Deepwater Horizon leak.
As Beaven claimed, he also is a registered lobbyist in Florida.
"We've got to keep our commitment to explore, develop, and produce oil and gas," David Mica told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in an article published April 30, 2010. "You can't give up on technology."
And in the Florida Times-Union, he equated the leak to the airplane industry. "At the end of the day, we can't stop flying airplanes when one crashes," Mica said.
Mica's daughter, D'Anne Mica, is the founder of Mica Strategic Communications, a communications and public relations company in Winter Park. Among the clients listed on her website are Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas and Citizens Alliance for Energy Security.
Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas was formed in 2004 by a group of chemical companies to push for, among other things, increased natural gas exploration. The group, however, is dormant. It hasn't been mentioned in a newspaper article since 2007 and we couldn't find the group's website, if it ever had one.
A representive for PR firm Dutko Worldwide, which also has done work for Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas, said the group has not been operating for a few years.
"The Alliance is no longer together," said vice president Tracy Hammond. "I don't believe it's been operating for a couple of years now."
We couldn't find any reference to the other group -- Citizens Alliance for Energy Security -- outside of Beaven's e-mails, D'Anne Mica's client list and her online business profile.
We called Mica Strategic Communications to see if the two groups remain clients, but the phone number appears to have been changed or disconnected. We got this message: "TheOnStar subscriber you're trying to reach is unavailable." And we couldn't find a Mica Strategic Communications listed in the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. That leads us to believe the business may be dormant as well.
In a January 2010 interview with ABC News, D'Anne Mica suggested that her business was still active, but did not discuss her energy clients. D'Anne Mica was being interviewed after being arrested for driving under the influence. After her arrest, questions surfaced about some of her PR work and how it may have overlapped with her father's congressional priorities.
"My father has no idea what I do in my business," she told ABC News. "And I have no idea what he does in his."
In every case, the Micas have denied any connection between their relationships and their work.
That brings us back to Beaven's e-mail. In trying to use the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as a way to play up John Mica's family ties to the oil industry, she claimed that Mica's brother is an oil lobbyist and that his daughter represents a group that promotes offshore oil and gas drilling.
Mica's brother, David Mica, is currently a lobbyist and executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.
Mica's daughter, D'Anne Mica, once listed Consumers Alliance for Affordable Natural Gas as a PR client, a group that lobbied for increased natural gas drilling.
The only real question is if D'Anne Mica currently represents the oil and gas group as Beaven suggests in her e-mail. On that point, there's slim evidence she does. The group hasn't been mentioned in a newspaper article since 2007, doesn't have an active website we can find and a person who worked for the alliance said they've been out of operation for a couple of years.
Finding no additional supporting material, we rate Beaven's claim Half True.