Martinez and Abramoff?
Incoming RNC Chair, and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez has managed to sidestep the Abramoff scandal. That may change, according to an article today in the Miami Herald.
Recall that Mel claims he "barey knew" Republican Jack Abramoff, even though, just weeks after Mel quit HUD to run for the Senate, "Abramoff co-chaired a Washington fundraiser for Martinez's campaign that raised $250,000" for Mel's Senate run.
And, when questions were raised about Abramoff's connections with HUD after the Abramoff's very successful fundraiser for Mel,
Donna M. White, a HUD spokeswoman, said the agency knew of no lobbying that Abramoff or his associates had done there.Today we read that Black Jack was in fact very active in lobbying HUD while Mel was there:
Now, though, e-mail and billing records turned over to a congressional committee by Greenberg Traurig, the Miami-based firm that employed Abramoff, say that Abramoff and others conducted a coordinated lobbying campaign at HUD in 2002-03 on behalf of Michigan's Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe [one of the tribes swindled by Abramoff's crew].Indeed,
The campaign involved lobbying contacts with at least three high-ranking HUD officials, including current HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, the records say.
Abramoff's team members boasted to colleagues about their influence at HUD, according to the internal records, which were made public by the House Committee on Government Reform.The documents do not show direct contact with Martinez. However,
Three top Martinez aides -- Deputy Secretary Jackson, Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Michael Liu and Deputy Assistant Secretary Greg Hill -- were among those who met with lobbyists, the records say.Obviously, "Abramoff's apparent high-level push into HUD could raise sensitive questions for Martinez". But Mel's not talking, at least not yet:
The nature and dates of the meetings are not disclosed in the records. And the names of many other officials who met with Abramoff or his partners are blacked out. ...
Abramoff's team bragged in the billing report that in October 2003, a HUD official asked if the tribe would be willing to host a visit by Martinez or President Bush the following spring.
Sen. Martinez's spokesman did not return repeated telephone messages seeking comment for this story."Did Abramoff lobby HUD?".
And he so loves to dance.
"Citing hardships faced by many Floridians, Gov.-elect Charlie Crist on Saturday abruptly canceled his inaugural ball, the lavish centerpiece of a celebration that was expected to cost at least $2.5 million."
Crist also announced that he would follow the example of Gov. Jeb Bush and cap donations to the inaugural committee. Crist said he would return any money already received that exceeds the cap, which four years ago was $10,000 per donation."Crist cancels inaugural ball". See also "Crist retreats on ritzy debut", "Crist Cancels Inaugural Ball, Will Return Big Donations", "Crist cancels inaugural ball", "Crist cancels inaugural ball following criticism", "Crist Cancels Inaugural Ball", "Catching Heat, Crist Tosses the Ball", "Crist cancels inaugural ball" and "Crist: Inaugural plan was mistake".
Initially, Crist had asked his supporters, including high-profile lobbyists, to raise as much as $500,000 each to pay for a series of events, including a breakfast in Miami.
The Governor's Ball was scheduled to be held the night of Jan. 2 at the Civic Center in Tallahassee, with tickets costing $100 each.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board adds (a belated), but welcome, shot at our silly "self-described 'people's governor'": "Fit for a king" ("The self-described 'people's governor' hadn't even taken office yet, and was already acting more like the special interests' governor.")
CD 13 Update
Another development: Even though "Florida law requires that all sample ballots 'shall be in the form of the official ballot as it will appear at the polling place on Election Day'",
in an effort to save money, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent mailed a simplified sample ballot to every voter in the county."Sample ballot was different from screen".
The sample ballot was similar to what voters saw when they entered voting booths. But key differences between the two ballots may have helped stoke voter confusion and exacerbated problems voters had finding the District 13 congressional race on touch-screen machines, experts say. ...
Dent's decision to stray from the actual ballot in her sample ballot could bring further criticism to an office already under scrutiny.
It also raises questions about how elections are run across the state.
The St. Pete Times editors, in the wake of a pathetic editorial yesterday (see our post "Rewarding A Political Stunt"), gives us this beaut: "Butt out, Dean; Buchanan won".
We missed this yesterday: "Sarasota election raises specter of partisan warfare". See also "Congress might intervene in fight over Sarasota seat".
"Judge rules in favor of single-member districts for Osceola".
"If signed, this will allow the first drilling off Florida's shores in 20 years." "Senate approves oil, gas drilling off Panhandle". See also "Senate OKs tax reduction, opens drilling".
The state maintains public, online profiles of Florida's doctors and other health practitioners. But how accurate are the profiles?" "State's files on doctors fall short".
Jebbie's legacy is multifaceted, and little of it is good. Two constant themes include: (1) his deliberate underfunding of programs for the disadvantaged (while at the same time cutting taxes on the wealthy and outsourcing work to political contributors), and (2) his insufferable arrogance.
Consider this editorial today:
Year after year, Gov. Bush and the Legislature have inadequately financed the state's social services agency. Whether for foster children, vulnerable adults or the mentally ill, any budget increases have failed to keep up with the increase in need. When the agency was ordered to move mentally ill inmates from jail to a hospital within 15 days, as state law requires, the agency simply ignored those court orders. Finally, last month, Pinellas County Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell fined Ms. Hadi, as DCF's top official, after she failed to comply with his orders to move 10 inmates from the Pinellas jail. He told The St. Petersburg Times that he is checking into whether he can charge or fine Gov. Bush: "He's the one who drives the ship.""Indeed, by policy and by budget, Gov. Bush and legislators have steered DCF into a patchwork of privatized contracts, all aimed at diverting state responsibility to cities, towns and counties, with inadequate resources."
"When criticized for his indifference, Gov. Bush has shown predictable disdain for the courts. According to the Times, he said last month of Judge Crockett and others seeking penalties against DCF throughout the state:"
"With all due respect to judges pounding their chest in their big black robes up on top of a big chair looking down and castigating Secretary Hadi, they're not governor. They're not the secretary. They're not the Legislature. There is a separation of powers ... I think that some of the temper tantrums that have taken place have gone too far." If only Gov. Bush could spare the public a final temper tantrum of his own."Hadi's misplaced loyalty".
Can you imagine, this failed pump salesman throwing yet another tantrum ("When Jeb Bush speaks, people cringe"), and actually lecturing the judiciary on the "separation of powers"?
And let's not forget where this legal scholar-Governor comes from; as the St. Pete Times put it, by
trading on the famous family name, Bush gained entry to exclusive business ventures courtesy of wealthy Republicans.""Make The Money and Run".
"Former felons barred from many jobs because of lost civil rights".
"Despite felony, Siplin garners support". Yesterday: "Democrats stand by Siplin despite being convicted felon".
"Florida Democrats have generally embraced the push by state GOP leaders to move Florida's March presidential primary earlier in 2008 to increase the Sunshine State's influence in picking presidential nominees. But Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean recommends caution." "Moving primary earlier risks party penalties".
And so it begins; one of the first of many odes to Jebbie: "Bush leaves powerful imprint on Florida".
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board:
Sarasota's lawsuit-tangled congressional election is far from its finale, but three lessons are clear so far:"Election conformity".
- Rules governing ballot layout need improvements, despite extensive state reforms in 2001.
- The administering of elections would be simpler if all 67 counties in Florida used the same voting technology. Today, some have paperless touchscreens and others have paper-based optical scanners.
- It's time for the state and nation to face the music on current touchscreen technology. Though the paperless systems are appealing in many respects, their recount and audit shortcomings make them virtually unable to provide the level of trust that voters and election credibility require.
"The House's point person" on insurance is Rep. Don Brown, R-Defuniak Springs; his
bright idea for the insurance crisis that the private market caused is to let the private market charge whatever rates it wants, because deregulation will encourage more companies to get back into the Florida market, increase competition and drive down rates. Actually, the state pretty much has let companies raise rates, drop policies and reduce coverage. The state couldn't afford the pain Rep. Brown imagines would produce all that gain for consumers."Objectivity at a premium".
Sun-Sentinel editoral board: "Florida faces a crisis that threatens both lifestyles and livelihoods, but offers no quick fixes. The good news is that erstwhile tone-deaf state leaders are trying to resolve Florida's property insurance problems." "Insurance".
"Lawmaker seeks to make beating up the homeless a hate crime".
"Campaign contributions in Florida are supposed to be limited to $500, but, unlike the federal government and almost half the states, businesses here are allowed to contribute as well as people. That makes it way too easy for special interests to get around contribution limits" "A broken system".
Orlando Gets Project
"At the end of a marathon session of voting, the U.S. Senate agreed to more than $3 billion in vet projects -- including $377.7 million for a new veteran's hospital in Orlando. Earlier in the night, its approval was in question because an anonymous senator had put a hold on the bill, potentially killing the measure until Congress' new session next month." "Vet hospital passes at 3 a.m.". See also "Congress approves veterans hospital".
"FCAT-like testing undermines purpose". "Higher education -- higher accountability".
"Outgoing governor argues his cuts have helped, not hurt, local economy ... Bush says eight years of privatization, reorganization and revision of state employment rules have not hurt the Tallahassee area's economy." "Jeb to Tallahassee: You're welcome". See also "With reform, Florida universities could be international leaders".
"One of only three rules House Speaker Marco Rubio had for entries included in his book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future was that the ideas couldn't expand the role of state government. But one month into his term, the Miami Republican is catching heat for expanding his own operation." "House speaker's ideas cost bucks".