FEC Auditing Mel Martinez
Today's Florida political news and punditry; before getting to our daily review, please check out the revamped Be-Think site (I just registered, you should too) and consider attending the Sarasota Revote Rally this Sunday, December 3.
One FEC Probe of Mel Down, Another Continues
The new RNC chair is given a pass on one matter under review by the Federal Election Commission:
The Federal Election Commission has dropped a long-standing investigation of Sen. Mel Martinez after finding no evidence that the Florida Republican illegally coordinated 2004 political ads with President Bush.The ruling is unrelated to an ongoing FEC audit of Martinez:
The decision ends a two-year inquiry into allegations that Martinez helped Bush's re-election bid by using the same advertising firm to synchronize TV and radio commercials -- a violation of election law.
FEC officials would not comment on that audit, although letters between the agency and the Martinez campaign show the commission has questioned debt incurred during his Senate run, in which Martinez raised more than $12 million."Feds drop probe of Martinez ads".
CD 13 Audit
"A state test of voting machines in Sarasota failed to resolve the mystery of the missing 18,000 votes in the tightly contested congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan."
State officials said late Tuesday they found no major glitches in four spare machines they tested in a mock election."Vote-machine tests find nothing". There was, however, a very slight discrepancy:
The test was set up to see if workers using a prepared script on how to vote on each race could duplicate the results found on four real machines used on Election Night.
But there were still no clues about why a high number of voters -- more than 18,000 -- did not have votes recorded in the Buchanan-Jennnings race on Election Day.
Tuesday's test was a warm-up for a more important event Friday, when workers will repeat the test with machines actually used in precincts on Election Day.
The results of the test varied from Election Day totals by five votes, but it was unclear what that meant. Jennings' camp said it suggested the machines were fallible; Buchanan's team said the differing numbers proved nothing.The Orlando Sentinel's coverage of this issue has been particularly good. Recall that an Orlando
Today, officials will review videotapes of the tests -- to ensure testers selected the correct candidates -- and the scripts that the testers worked from. At first blush, the five-vote variance didn't alarm state election officials.
Sentinel review of undervotes last week found that the group of voters who registered no choice in the congressional election overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates in the five statewide races."Testers re-enact Election Day -- results differ". In any event, it seems Jennings is in for the long haul; she
And Tuesday, Stanford University professor David Dill said his examination of ballot data supported that conclusion.
Dill, an electronic-voting expert, found that 5,304 people whose ballots showed no selection in the congressional race voted a straight Democratic ticket on the five statewide races. He found that 3,290 voted straight Republican.
"Something's going on there," Dill said. "But I'm not sure what yet."
Dill has argued for an independent audit of the machines, saying the state inspection will only answer some of the questions plaguing the election. Jennings has asked a judge to allow her team to conduct its own examination.
said Tuesday she still wants an independent audit of the voting machines and is prepared for a long fight if necessary."Election workers begin audit of Sarasota voting machines".
"I am here to say I will never give up until we truly, to the best of our ability, know what happened," she said. "I will not let the voters down."
GOP Phone Rate Increase Scam An Abject Failure
Remember this silly piece of Legislation?
Florida lawmakers and regulators said in 2003 that BellSouth Corp. customers could pay an additional $3.16 each month in a rate hike phased in over three years as part of a bid to get other companies to sell local phone service. ... in the fall of 2005, BellSouth raised rates by $1.13 a month, an increase for residential consumers of 10 percent to 14 percent."Now, in a report to be released Friday to Gov. Jeb Bush and the legislature, the Public Service Commission says it's unclear whether the rate hike brought any more competitors into the market." That is putting it politely - in fact, the silly idea to raise rates to lower them has been an abject failure:
State utility regulators are required to tell the governor and lawmakers each year how much competition exists between companies that sell local telephone service and whether consumers can get that service at rates comparable to those of BellSouth, Embarq, Verizon and other dominant local phone companies."Phone hike flops in touted goal of stoking competition, study says".
"The promise of competition hasn't occurred. In fact, it is declining," said Mike Twomey, a Tallahassee-based consumer attorney who represented the AARP in challenging the hike. "If you look at the numbers in terms of actual competitors out there and the number of people they are serving, they peaked and then started sliding off."
On a separate note, our GOP dominated Legislature is always ready willing and able to do "A favor for BellSouth". See also this piece today in the Miami Herald by Brad Ashwell, the legislative advocate of the Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG) in Tallahassee: "Hold on to your wallets" ("BellSouth's campaign to rip off Florida consumers is now in high gear.")
As Ray noted yesterday, "Hastings Won't Chair Intelligence Committee". Today's coverage: "Pelosi won't name Hastings chairman of House Intelligence Committee" "".
The affable Alcee's response:
"You win some, you lose some, and some you get rained out," Hastings said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post. He added that, although he would "not be in the starting lineup, I will still be in the game." ..."Hastings cites '88 impeachment for Pelosi's skipping him as committee head". See also "Hastings Passed Over", "Hastings loses bid for chairmanship", "Pelosi nixes Hastings chairmanship" and "Democratic aide: Hastings won't chair Intelligence Committee".
"Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet," he said later.
Hastings said he would not disclose details of his conversation with Pelosi. He acknowledged, however, that his impeachment was the reason she would not name him chairman.
"Freshman class learning about life in the Legislature". See also "Florida Republicans gather for 'member training' retreat".
"The item in Roll Call, a Washington-based insider newsletter on congressional doings, was intriguing—Katherine Harris wants her old House seat back." "Harris Denies Interest In House Seat".
Back To South Florida
Jebbie will be regrouping in Coral Gables, in a "high-end building, with million-dollar plus apartments and just one unit per floor." "Jeb Bush will move into Gables condo". See also "Jeb moving on up".
Christian Coalition "Values" Don't Include Poverty?
The New York Times picks up on the story previously reported and editorialized about by the Orlando Sentinel ("Missed chance for Coalition"): "The Florida clergyman in line to be the next president of the Christian Coalition of America, which long served as a model for activism for the religious right, has stepped down, saying the group had resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming." "Florida pastor won't take national post".
"Each year, the state has conducted a "Youth Substance Abuse Survey," this year involving more than 57,000 kids in sixth through 12th grades, who are asked if they have smoked, drank or taken any illegal drugs in the past month." Although the "survey shows drug use among Florida teens still less than it was at the turn of the decade, but stubbornly refusing to budge lower. ... the use of anti-depressants and other pharmaceuticals continues to rise, particularly among girls. Six years ago, 1.5 percent of girls surveyed reported using depressants in the past 30 days. In 2006, that had increased to 2.8 percent." "Survey: Teen drug use holding steady". See also ""Gov. Bush: Teen illegal drug use declines in Florida"." and "Survey: More kids using depressants".
"Some groups sound as if they already know that an audit of some of Sarasota's touch screen voting machines, following a dramatic rate of undervotes in a congressional race, won't end the mystery. So they have announced plans for a "revote rally" for next Sunday. Common Cause, People for the American Way Foundation, VoterAction and the ACLU are sponsoring the rally, to be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Bayfront Park in Sarasota. Other organizers include VoteTrustUSA and the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections." "A 'revote rally' in Sarasota".
More From The "Values" Crowd
"[Y]ou would think that public universities -- especially each state's flagship school, such as the University of Florida -- would be devoting more dollars to helping students who are least able to pay. You would be wrong."
The University of Florida was among universities receiving an "D" overall grade in the Education Trust study. It was given a "D" in minority access; an "F" in low-income access but a "B" in helping enrolled minorities."Flunking diversity".
Acting on a request from The News-Journal by higher-education reporter Mark Harper, Education Trust calculated grades for three other Florida universities. The University of Central Florida and Florida State University both received overall grades of "D," while the University of South Florida received a "C." All troubling assessments.
There's more disturbing news from the study. These universities are spending more money to recruit high-income students, including offering more financial aid. From 1995-2003, aggregate grant aid from these universities for students with household incomes under $20,000 decreased 13 percent from $196 million to $171 million. For households with more than $100,000 in income, aggregate aid increased during that period 406 percent, from $50.8 million to $206.5 million. For incomes between $80,000 and $99,999, the increase was 484.5 percent to $147.3 million.
"Republican Congressman-almost elect Vern Buchanan has tapped for his chief of staff Dave Karvelas, who for 10-years had been the top aide to Republican Nancy Johnson, a prominent moderate CT congresswoman who lost re-election this year." "Buchanan names chief of staff". See also "Buchanan names chief of staff".
Lobbyist Disclosure Fight To Continue
"Now that the main legislative defenders of a lobbyist pay-disclosure law are out of power, will their replacements continue the fight? The early indication from Senate President Ken Pruitt is yes." "Pruitt likely to continue defense of lobbyist law".
Grubbing for Patronage
Current DJJ secretary Anthony Schembri in the wake of the Anderson scandal may be on the way out. "Former Rep. Barreiro would "love" DJJ job".
"Surprise" Citizens' Reversal on Rates
"The chairman of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is calling on the state legislature to repeal the law it passed on the last day of the session that mandates another rate hike for Citizens policyholders on March 1. The surprise reversal by Bruce Douglas, who heads the largest insurer in the state, puts more pressure on the legislature to have a special session in January to address remaining insurance problems. Waiting until the regular session, which starts in March, would be too late for Citizens policyholders, as the increase would have taken effect. Something has to be done now because policyholders are being forced out of their homes, Douglas said." Meanwhile, "legislative leaders did not return calls seeking comment Monday." "Citizens exec: Junk required hike".
Charlie and Mel
William March writes that "U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, the new national party chairman, is a religious conservative devoted to right-to-life issues and tightly allied with the Bush brothers, the party's leading religious conservatives." Nothing surprising there. He continues, "Gov.-elect Charlie Crist is a moderate populist who doesn't advocate action on hot-button social issues and has declared independence of the Bushes." "Crist, Martinez Mark Party's Divide, Path To Unity".
Huh? Charlie's campaign (particularly in the primary) was, if nothing else, little more than I'm just like Jebbie; Charlie's message, sometimes sub rosa and sometimes explicit was clear: "we've got to stay this course". To characterize Charlie as some sort of independent thinker who "has declared independence of the Bushes" does not cut it.
And how about this remark by John McCain: "Crist's win during an anti-Republican wave, McCain said, would make him 'the next generation of leadership of the United States of America' and 'a player on the national stage.'". We can only hope.
Rubio Publicity Stunt
Media darling Rubio announces his first official publicity stunt
While a special session dealing with property insurance has been delayed until at least January, House Speaker Marco Rubio plans to hold a three-day "conference on property insurance'' next week. One day will be dedicated to experts discussing the scope of hurricanes and the history of property insurance, while a second day will dedicated to group workshops to discuss insurance issues while the final day will be "idea day.""House to hold insurance conference". See also "Florida House Will Host 'Insurance Conference'" (the "schedule calls for a "Foundation Day," in which guest speakers and experts will lecture about the insurance industry and its troubles; an "Education Day," to focus on specific issues in the current market and potential policy ideas; and an "Ideas Day," in which members will get to present their own proposals.")