The campaigns are heating up:
Davis Asks Smith To Return Contributions
"Disclosures of scandal inside Florida's prison system prompted the sharpest exchanges to date within the Democratic primary race for governor Thursday. U.S. Rep. Jim Davis' campaign challenged state Sen. Rod Smith to donate $30,000 to the state treasury. That matches the amount given to a political committee supporting Smith from a company implicated in the scandal. The company is run by one of Smith's lifelong friends. State and federal agents searched the Gainesville offices of the American Institutional Services last month. The company is not named but appears to be referenced in plea agreements released Wednesday in which the state's former corrections secretary and a top lieutenant admit to receiving $130,000 in kickbacks. Smith has not been implicated in the scandal in any way. His friend, AIS founder Edward Dugger, has not been charged." "Davis Seeks Smith Gift For Fla." See also "Davis: Scandal touches Smith", "Trying to Keep the Spotlight Shining" and "Davis uses prison scandal to attack Smith in governor's race".
Harris Says Nelson Took Illegal Cash
The pot is calling the kettle black:
[A]fter a question from a member of the audience about illegal contributions made to her campaign by a defense contractor in 2004, Harris said that she had not known the $32,000 donation was illegal and she has since donated the money to charity."Harris alleges Nelson took illegal money for campaign".
She then upped the political ante by suggesting Nelson had made a similar mistake.
"That actually happened in the past, and it happened to Bill Nelson," Harris said. "The difference is that when I did find out, I donated that money to charity. . . . He received some $80,000 the same way and he never did reimburse. So there is a little bit of difference, and I'm happy to draw attention to that."
She never identified the money to which she was referring.
Tom on TV
"Tom Gallagher, whose quest for the Republican nomination for governor has taken a beating recently, will start running his first television ads today, a move supporters hope will rejuvenate his campaign." "As His Campaign Falters, Gallagher Turns To TV". See also "Urgency grips Gallagher campaign", "Gallagher's Going Up", "Gallagher to launch his first TV ad in governor's race" and " Too Late for Gallagher?" ("With nine weeks before Florida Republicans anoint their preferred successor to Gov. Jeb Bush, Gallagher is on the verge of being left in the dust by Attorney General Charlie Crist."). See generally: "Campaign Ads May Swamp Small Screens Soon".
Another "Jeb!" Appointee Goes Down
"It's bad enough for any government official to be corrupt. But it always seems worse when it's law enforcement. That's one reason a guilty plea by former Florida prison chief James Crosby is so disturbing. Mr. Crosby has agreed to plead guilty to the king of all government corruption -- taking bribes. He and another former prison official, Allen Clark, will agree to charges that they took as much as $12,000 a month in kickbacks for more than a year, according to court documents." "Betrayal at its worst". See also "Affidavits: Officers misused labor" and "Former prison director pleads guilty to kickback charge".
Will Jebbie suffer any fallout? There has been little criticism of Jebbie, notwithstanding the fact that this occurred on his watch; the Tallahassee Democrat does offer an oblique acknowledgement that the privatization boondogle played a role: "strong encouragement to privatize as many services as possible and DOC apparently went from cozy to corrupt." "'Culture of corruption'".
And the St. Pete Times observes that: "The state's former prison chief is going to prison himself, but his actions could have consequences for Gov. Bush's future."
Now, in the twilight of Bush's tenure as governor, Crosby's admission that he accepted kickbacks from a vendor who ran cash prison canteen services adds a stigma of scandal to the administration and is likely to put the former prison boss behind bars."Stigma of prison scandal could stretch past Crosby". See also: "Culture of corruption" ("Bush and state lawmakers seemed all too willing to brush aside the stories that accumulated during Crosby's tenure.")
The lingering question is whether Bush had too much faith in Crosby for too long, and it's a question that might arise if Bush ever seeks national office. ...
What investigators told Bush and when is still not known. But the governor remained publicly loyal to Crosby throughout 2005, even as revelations of steroid abuse, theft of property, no-show employees and a drunken brawl at an employee softball tournament rocked the nation's third-largest prison system.
"Don't let the 'blanks' get you down," Bush told Crosby in one widely quoted meeting last fall, encouraging him to ignore mounting criticism of his leadership. ...
"Are you confident that the DOC is being properly run?" Bush was asked.
"I am. I am," Bush said, "and if there are any particular issues that people become aware of, they'll act on them. ... Maybe you guys get the FBI investigation fact sheets that are sent out on a daily basis. We don't get those." ...
Bush appointed Crosby to run the prison system on the eve of the governor's second inauguration in 2003. ...
He was a darling of the corrections officers' union, the politically influential Police Benevolent Association. ...
He aggressively played politics. He donated money to statewide candidates, was a delegate at the 2000 Republican National Convention and organized rallies for Bush in the governor's 2002 re-election, giving his appointment the air of a patronage plum.
More Rate Hikes
"Even as Nationwide filed Thursday for a statewide average 71-percent increase in home insurance rates, State Farm warned a similarly large hike it had sought won't be enough." "Insurers want more rate hikes". See also "Nationwide seeks hikes up to 99%".
"Allies become foes over Babcock Ranch deal". See also "Environmentalists urge Sierra Club to drop suit".
Meet The New Boss
"Christa Calamas was named Thursday to head the Florida Agency for Health Care by Gov. Jeb Bush in the latest personnel change in the governor’s final year in office. Calamas replaces Secretary Alan Levine who was recently selected as the new chief executive officer of the North Broward Hospital District." "Gov. Bush names new health care chief".
"Webster's With Lee"
"While he still hasn't said whether he's for Charlie Crist or Tom Gallagher in the governor's race, state Sen. Daniel Webster today endorsed Senate President Tom Lee in the Republican primary for chief financial officer." "Webster's With Lee".
"Bush, elected in 1998, has seen his net worth diminish 41 percent since taking office, when he authorized a third-party trustee to make investment decisions. Last year, his net worth was $41,000 higher. Bush was vacationing in Maine this week and couldn't be reached for comment. But the two-term Republican governor has lamented publicly that his family's finances have taken a hit because of his public service." "Being governor hits Bush's wallet".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board contends that the "Gallagher vote [concerning the St. Joe Company] should be investigated."
Tom Gallagher should know better. First, he's been in politics a long time. Second, he's running for governor and should be especially alert to anything that casts suspicion on his ethics. And third, he's already being investigated by the state's Commission on Ethics for similar activities."Ethics".
Nevertheless, in February 2005, Gallagher voted with the rest of the Florida Cabinet to prioritize for state acquisition some of the land holdings of a company in which he held a financial interest. He did so despite the fact that the St. Joe Co. depends so much on governmental actions for its financial well-being that, according to the St. Petersburg Times, it listed the Cabinet as one of its potential growth "risk factors" in a 2005 report to investors.
Will the Crosby affair have negative consequences for Rod Smith?
Crosby's appointment was wildly popular with the corrections constituency, and with politicians, too. Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, who represents thousands of prison employees, described Crosby's selection in 2003 as "a dream come true," according to the Bradford County Telegraph."Stigma of prison scandal could stretch past Crosby".
Smith, a former state attorney who is a candidate for governor, recalled that morale was at rock bottom before Crosby arrived in 2003.
"I kept thinking this would be great for morale, and for a while it was," Smith said Thursday. "To find out that the boss was getting kickbacks - it's got to be heartbreaking."
And "Representative B" surely won't appreciate this picture.
Davis and Smith have plenty of supporters in PB: "Primary Positioning in Palm Beach".
Mack Endorses McCollum
"Another Florida congressman has lined up behind Bill McCollum's bid for attorney general. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, today endorsed McCollum, a former U.S. congressman himself who is vying with state Reps. Joe Negron of Stuart and Everett Rice of Treasure Island for the GOP attorney general nomination." "Looking for Friends in a Familiar Place".
"Broward County Chief Judge Dale Ross has delivered a half-solution to his judges' peculiar -- and probably unconstitutional -- secretive habits. In response to The Miami Herald's revelations that more than 100 cases had been sealed unnecessarily or put in a secret docket, Judge Ross has issued new rules to make it harder to seal civil cases. But he didn't address the fact that some criminal cases were also placed on a secret docket." "Playing hide-and-seek".
Smokers' Suit Snuffed
"Smokers' damages, class suit snuffed". See also "Court tosses tobacco verdict", "Court relieves cigarette makers of $145 billion liability", "$145 billion tobacco suit reversed", "Tobacco Companies Win In Fla. High Court", "Tobacco stocks soar after Fla. Supreme Court throws out $145 billion verdict" and "Ruling reaps dividends for tobacco firms".
"The Charlie-Crist-for-governor mint is still printing money, as Crist's campaign announced [Thursday] afternoon that he raised another $1.8 million over the last three months." "Another $1.8 Million for Crist".
"Harris takes her campaign to Latino voters". See also "Harris courts Hispanics with a stop at Versailles".