Frankel wanted Digital Domain student to appear in campaign adby Andrew Abramson | October 2nd, 2012
Lois Frankel was turned down this summer when she requested a FSU student from the Digital Domain Institute appear in one of her congressional campaign ads.
FSU’s refusal to loan one of its students ultimately saved Frankel from what would likely have been an embarrassing ad. The school cited a policy that doesn’t allow FSU’s brand to be used in an endorsement.
Frankel was mayor of West Palm Beach in 2010 when she urged commissioners to support a package that included $10 million in cash and a $15 million bond issue for Digital Domain, a visual effects company that wanted to partner with FSU to build a digital animation college in the city. The city already gave $2 million to Digital Domain for the FSU portion of the school.
Before Frankel left as mayor in March 2011, the city released to Digital Domain a prime 2.4-acre downtown property valued at $10 million. Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy last month and laid off nearly 300 employees in Port St. Lucie. West Palm Beach is fighting in federal bankruptcy court to regain the downtown land it gave to Digital Domain.
Last month, Frankel said she would give to charity $20,000 in campaign contributions from Digital Domain executives. Frankel made the promise after she learned The Palm Beach Post planned a story about the contributions. Frankel received the donations just days after she announced her congressional campaign and three months after the city deeded its land to Digital Domain.
In July, Andrew Syder, director of digital media programs for FSU, told FSU’s film school dean that Frankel wanted a FSU student from Digital Domain to appear in a campaign ad.
Frank Patterson, dean of the FSU film school, responded in an e-mail on July 5, “you are right to be concerned about how FSU is represented. The university has a policy that clearly forbids anyone from using our brand as an endorsement … I know we all respect Ms. Frankel’s hard work. We also know her to be a straight shooter, who will respect our clear university policy that guides us in these matters.”
Christina Dixon, director of strategic business development for Digital Domain, responded later that day, “I spoke with Lois and she understands our restrictions of both FSU and DDI and thanks us for our consideration.”
The FSU portion of the Digital Domain Institute is still operational, although university trustees said they are unsure if the school will remain in West Palm Beach without the support of Digital Domain. City leaders want to keep FSU in West Palm Beach.
Frankel’s opponent in the congressional, Adam Hasner, was state House majority leader when it voted in 2009 to ease oversight of incentives, paving Digital Domain’s way to a $20 million state grant.
Hasner said recently that it was up to Enterprise Florida and the governor’s office to review specific companies.
“It was probably a good deal in the sense that it was probably a good idea to try to transform our economy through economic incentives like we’ve done with Scripps and others,” Hasner said. “It was probably just a bad person to do it with, bad execution.”
As for Frankel’s role in luring Digital Domain to West Palm Beach, Hasner said, “I’m going to let the voters decide on what they think of her role during that process.”