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It took a federal lawsuit by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to finally shut down a Miami political action committee bearing his name that collected more than $200,000 in donations toward getting Bush re-elected. Saying a big “no thanks” to the group’s efforts, Bush filed suit in U.S. District Court in Miami last week, seeking to shut down Americans for Jeb Bush. Also named in the lawsuit were the group’s honorary chairman, state Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami, and Desmond Faila, the PAC’s treasurer. The lawsuit was settled immediately after it was filed, according to both parties, with Barreiro sending Bush a letter announcing his resignation from the PAC and the group agreeing to shut down its Web site, pull down the three billboards in Miami, cease radio ads and stop collecting money. “I told the group, this will divide us more than unite us,” said Barreiro. “The governor wants to make sure we’re all working on the same page. I will continue to be a supporter of Gov. Bush and work to get the message out.” He added that lawsuit surprised him, “that things got that far.” The suit alleged that the group did not distribute any campaign contributions it collected, used Bush’s trademarked name and face without permission and refused to stop operating its Web site or fund-raising activities after being asked to cease. The suit, filed by George Lemieux, head of the Broward Republican Party and a partner with the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office of Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, called for all donations to be returned to the contributors and for punitive damages. Mark Goodrich, the group’s consultant, downplayed the lawsuit. “This was about Jeb Bush protecting his name,” he said. “We could have said Janet Reno killed 39 children last week and it would have his name on it. We wouldn’t, but we understand his need for control.” No money will likely be returned to contributors, because it has all been spent on ads, bumper stickers and billboards promoting Jeb Bush’s re-election, Goodrich said. Americans for Jeb Bush was started by two Miami Republican businessmen, Faila and Mike Mita. They hired Goodrich, who worked for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rick Lazio, a U.S. Senate candidate in New York who lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2000 election. “It was really important to organize a campaign from the grassroots up,” Barreiro said, explaining his group’s motivations. The group opened an office in Miami, hired a full-time campaign staff and registered a Web site at which it solicited contributions. Goodrich claims 250,000 bumper stickers were distributed, three billboards leased and radio spots aired. But the group ran afoul of Bush with its hard slaps at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno. Bush angrily denounced the organization for introducing what he called “base rhetoric” into the campaign, including newsletters personally attacking Reno and warning that Reno’s election would provide Hillary Clinton a stepping stone to the White House. In his lawsuit, Bush claims that he and his staff became aware of the renegade group in March. Bush said he immediately directed his campaign manager, Karen Unger, to meet with the PAC and ask them to stop using his name. But, according to the lawsuit, they refused. Bush then personally wrote a letter asking the defendants to stop, and the chairman of the Republic Party of Florida met with them in April with the same request, according to the suit. Not only did the group refuse to disband, but in July it unveiled plans to open five more offices around the state and expand its media campaign. “Having exhausted all options to protect Gov. Jeb Bush’s name, likeness and service marks, he was forced to file this complaint,” according to the lawsuit. “Gov. Jeb Bush and the campaign were forced to hire the undersigned attorneys and to pay them a reasonable fee for their services in prosecuting this action.” Bush sued on six counts: service mark infringement/false designation of origin; false endorsement; statutory misappropriation under Florida statute; deceptive business practices; cybersquatting; and allegations of damage. On the last charge, the Bush campaign claimed it would lose out when confused contributors would donate to Americans for Jeb Bush instead of the governor. The settlement, which is expected to be filed in court this week, does not include damages. “The goal of the governor was to get them to shut down,” Lemieux said. “We will disband immediately, pull down the billboards and close the office,” said Goodrich. “We will have no more fund raising; we’ll ask our 5,000 activists who contributed to continue to support the governor.” The group, which still has debts to pay and contributions rolling in, promises to shut down operations completely by Aug. 31.

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