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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Palm Beach Post calls for investigation of Jebbie

    The Palm Beach Post editors follow up on the recent Bloomberg.com expose of Jebbie's shady dealings and ask some tough questions. First, the time line:
    # Until January 2007, Jeb Bush, as governor, is one of three trustees of the State Board of Administration. The SBA administers $180 billion in Florida assets, including the Local Government Investment Pool.

    # In February, out of office, Mr. Bush forms Jeb Bush & Associates.

    # In June, the Lehman Brothers investment firm hires Jeb Bush & Associates as consultants.

    # In July and August, Lehman Brothers sells the Florida pool $842 million in mortgage-backed debt. At the time, the SBA's executive director is Coleman Stipanovich. Promoted to the job in 2002 by Gov. Bush and the other SBA trustees, Mr. Stipanovich is the brother of Jeb Bush's former campaign manager.

    # In November 2007, local governments and school districts that kept their short-term cash in the supposedly low-risk investment pool find out that the investments sold by Lehman Brothers and other brokerages have gone bad and rush to withdraw $12 billion, nearly half the pool's assets.

    # In December 2007, after the state temporarily freezes accounts to stop the run on the state pool, Mr. Stipanovich resigns.

    # In December 2007, after the Lehman Brothers link to Florida is reported, the former governor sends an "emphatic" denial of wrongdoing to The St. Petersburg Times. A Lehman Brothers spokeswoman insists that "there's no link between Bush and Lehman's sale of debt to Florida."
    To be sure, this sequence of events is insufficient in itself to establish wrongdoing. However,
    like so many other timelines involving Bush brothers and business deals - think Neil Bush and Silverado, George W. Bush and the Texas Rangers, Jeb Bush and foreign sales of water pumps - the timelines feature Bushes in business deals that have more to do with political connections than real business acumen. [For more, see the St Pete Times' expose on Jebbie: "Make the money and run"].

    The role of Jeb Bush and political crony Stipanovich in the Lehman Brothers deal is just one issue for the state to investigate. Another is the extent to which Lehman Brothers knowingly took advantage of what one expert called "less-sophisticated investors" to dump subprime-tainted securities. If there is grounds for a lawsuit, Florida should file it.
    "At end of political trail was risk to state money". See also Forbes' "Where Was Jeb?"

    It is a no-brainer to call for an investigation, but the Post deserves credit for being the first traditional media source to call for one. Indeed, we submit that it may be necessary to conduct a criminal investigation of "Jeb!"'s role in all of this.

    After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let's go back in time a bit. Recall the sad story of up and coming Dem political star Buddy Dyer. Poor Buddy made the unfortunate mistake of standing up to Bushco while in Tallahassee:
    The Democratic leader of the Florida Senate, Buddy Dyer, has never been on very good political terms with the state's governor, Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother. So as the senator tells it, when he learned ... that the Bush boys' father, former President George Bush, would be making a speech to the State Legislature on March 9, he concluded that some partisan politicking was afoot and called on fellow Democrats, as well as fair-minded Republicans, to boycott the affair.

    The visit, he noted, would take place just five days before Florida's Republican primary, a contest in which George W. and John McCain will be duking it out once again, but this time for one of the largest batches of convention delegates.

    Then Senator Dyer followed up with a letter telling the former president not to expect to see him at the Capitol for the speech. Jeb Bush fired back at Mr. Dyer on Wednesday with a letter accusing him, according to The Orlando Sentinel, of being a ''petty partisan'' and adding:

    ''Buddy, this isn't about politics, not for me. It's about family. I love my 75-year-old dad more than life itself and I will not subject him to petty partisan attacks directed at me, through him, in the golden years of his life.''
    "Political Briefing; Brouhaha Over Visit By George Bush" Jebbie holds grudges, and a few years later got his payback. Dyer was indicted and removed from office while there was a GOP election challenge (over precisely the same issues) pending over his reelection as Orlando Mayor. In essence, both the election challenge and the indictment (for which Dyer was cleared) concerned his allegedly giving gas money to old ladies to pick up absentee ballots.

    When Jebbie got hold of the allegations, he
    assigned Mr. [Brad] King, prosecutor for the state's Fifth Circuit, to the case because the state attorney's office for Orange County had a potential conflict of interest. Governor Bush was not legally required to suspend Mr. Dyer but did soon after the indictments were unsealed on March 11. He reinstated Mr. Dyer by executive order on Wednesday [after six weeks out of office], as required when municipal officials are cleared of charges. ...

    Mr. Dyer's lawyers were planning to ask a judge to dismiss the case, saying that prosecutors were misusing a broadly written and poorly understood law meant to prevent crimes like vote buying. A special election to replace Mr. Dyer temporarily, scheduled for May 3, has been canceled.

    Soon after Mr. Dyer won last year's election, his Republican opponent sued, charging that several thousand absentee ballots should be disqualified as fraudulent and seeking a new election. Though Mr. Dyer, a former state senator, won by nearly 5,000 votes, he avoided a runoff by only 234 votes. A judge dismissed the suit last month.

    The state investigation was politically charged from the first, drawing criticism from Democrats during last year's re-election campaign of President Bush, Governor Bush's older brother. Some elderly black residents of Orlando said that agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducted the investigation and reports to Governor Bush, had intimidated them during interviews at their homes about the absentee ballots they cast in the mayoral race last March.

    Democratic groups then accused Governor Bush's administration of trying to suppress the black vote in Orlando, a coveted swing city, before the presidential election, an accusation that Mr. Bush dismissed as outrageous.

    Politicians from both parties have paid Mr. Thomas to get out the vote, including Glenda Hood, Florida's secretary of state, when she was running for mayor here and Senator Mel Martinez when he was seeking a county office. Both are Republicans.
    "Orlando Mayor Is Cleared of Election Law Violation". [Note: Hmmm ... wonder why Senator Mel was never indicted?]

    We don't mean to suggest that Jebbie would ever have misused Florida's criminal justice apparatus to suit is personal and political ends - then again, maybe we do.

    Consider this low point in Florida history: "Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents was 'en route' to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but the agents stopped short when local police told them they intended to enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned." )

    More generally, it is no secret that Jebbie used the political justice system to further his personal objectives. Recall that in a June 16, 2004 Orlando Sentinel guest column, "FDLE Sheds Core Values" (available on LEXIS), former FDLE spokeswoman Elizabeth Wimberley Bernbaum wrote that
    during his first term, Gov. Jeb Bush regularly inserted himself into ongoing investigations of political or particularly sensitive natures while I worked with FDLE by requesting continuous updates and tacitly pressuring the agency at every level.
    Will it now be Jebbie's turn to be investigated and if necessary, prosecuted?

    Update: The St Pete Times editors add this: "Former Gov. Jeb Bush has even been drawn into the controversy, according to an expose by Bloomberg News, and he has some explaining to do beyond a terse e-mail denying any involvement. ... Crist, Sink and McCollum should fully investigate Lehman's actions involving the fund and take legal steps to recover the loses, if justified. Florida has learned the hard way that playing with the big boys on Wall Street is fraught with danger." "Investments demand explanation".

    That's why we call them dead enders

    Floridians are coming to recognize that Jebbie's FCAT scheme was merely a "a Jeb Bush brainstorm [sic] originally intended as a means to provide vouchers to private schools". Some of these schools, in turn, use public dollars to "teach[] that Jews and other non-Christians were bound for hell."

    Although this of course makes sense to Jebbie and his fellow knuckle-draggers, most Floridians probably don't believe that public funding for, say ... language classes, ought not include "speaking in tongues 101".

    While most folks with a reading range broader than only the "Good Book" see the light, the readers subjected to Florida's mainstream "media" continue to get the same drivel from the usual Bushco derrière-wipes: "Using the FCAT to grade schools is the most successful education reform in Florida history." "Mike Thomas: FCAT a successful reform tool, and no poll changes that" ("If Jeb Bush was a Democrat and achieved these results by spending another $100 billion on schools, he'd be hailed as a hero.")

    Raw political courage

    John Kennedy and Aaron Deslatte: "Budget chiefs Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, and Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, are already playing the Grinch role. Setting a Jan. 4 deadline for accepting hometown requests, the pair recently sent a memo to lawmakers warning that lumps of coal were more likely this year than shiny new bikes."

    Laff riot

    It is no secret that the Tampa Trib editors are a collection of right-wing ding bats; an editorial we missed the other day brings the point home yet again. The editors criticize a local pol because he

    doesn't believe government should be run as a business ....
    They said it.

    What kind of "leadership" is this?

    "Despite a hiring freeze and other cost-savings measures now in place at the state's 11 public universities, President Bernie Machen has received an extension and a healthy pay boost from the University of Florida trustees." "UF president nets $1 million contract".

    We're Number Two!

    "Florida couldn't navigate out of its housing doldrums in 2007. Around the state, a surplus of homes and condos built during an unprecedented housing boom left the market saturated and sluggish. Foreclosures climbed, lifting Florida to the No. 2 spot nationwide in the number of bad mortgages per capita by November." "Top story of 2007: Housing boom bust".

    For a property tax savings of "67 cents a day" ...

    Floridians are looking at a " potential $1.5 billion, five-year cut to schools" "Tax plan OK could hammer region". All that and no suprises for a mere "67 cents a day".

    Thanks Charlie, what a bargain.

    Imagine if it were the other way around, and Floridians were asked to raise their property taxes a mere 67 cents a day to pump $1.5 billion into Florida schools? Would Floridians vote for it?

    What motivates Floridians?

    "Most voters' concerns come down to money".

    "Bob Allen redux"

    "For those who can't get enough news about former Merritt Island Republican state Rep. Bob Allen, the disgraced lawmaker made current year-end issues of the magazines Campaigns & Elections and Rolling Stone."

    In Campaigns, Allen's misdemeanor conviction and eventual resignation from the House for soliciting sex from an undercover cop is cited in a cover story that touches on the need for politicians to "know thy supporters' resumes." Allen was a Florida co-chair for Republican presidential contender John McCain, whose campaign was forced to answer for its wayward ally.

    In Rolling Stone's Yearbook 2007, Allen is one of five Republicans in a graphic detailing the GOP's proclivity for getting mired in sex scandals.
    "The ins and outs from Tallahassee" (headline original).

    "And one might be wrong"

    "One might think, given the unhappiness over Florida's property taxes, that this group would have its hands full just dealing with taxation. One might also think, given that the state constitution calls it "the Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission," its only concern would be, you know, budgets and taxation." Mark Lane writes that

    one might be wrong.

    At least a few commission members want to use the group to re-fight former Gov. Jeb Bush's old educational fights. There are proposals being floated that would constitutionally guarantee vouchers for church schools and repeal the Class Size Amendment.

    A literal thinker might ask, "What in the name of Ralph D. Turlington is a budget and tax policy group doing taking up educational policy?"

    Probably the same reason the commission is considering an amendment to encourage faith-based prison programs.

    The answer is that since everything under the sun affects state spending, then logically everything under the sun falls under the mandate of the Budget and Taxation Reform Commission.
    "State fiscal reformers need focus".


    It is truly painful reading the traditional media types sharing their discovery of hip new technology, like Twitter, and how it will dramatically impact elections: "Young voters are texting, Twittering and YouTubing their way toward being a force in presidential politics as they use technology to tune in to the campaign, and experts are predicting they will turn out to vote like never before." "Orlando-area young people are a-Twitter over '08 race".

    Sounds like a plan

    Here's the plan: first don't pay them a decent wage; second, label anything they do or say (especially through their union) as special interest whining; and finally, put a "list of 'problem' teachers online".

    Free kindling

    "For months, a stack of Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio's 100 Innovative Ideasbooks sat in the gift shop at the state Capitol, free for the taking."

    "I couldn't give them away," clerk Gilda Morris said. So Morris tapped the buyers' psyche. She put up a big sign that read "free" and placed the books in a more prominent spot. Within 24 hours, they were gone.
    "The 101st idea".

    Rudy goin' down

    "The average of recent Florida polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com shows Giuliani backed by 25 percent of Florida Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 23 percent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 19 percent, Arizona Sen. John McCain with 11 percent, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson with 9 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 3 percent." "Giuliani's lead erodes; Huckabee gaining ground".

    "A wallflower in the face of emerging history"

    "Once again, the Cubanologists in South Florida and beyond were in a tizzy, a real intellectual frenzy, parsing the words in a Fidel Castro letter, this one hinting at retirement."

    What's lost in the hyperventilating over every utterance by Castro on television, or in a written letter, is that while Cuba stares at a future that could be much different from its present, the United States remains on the sidelines, sitting on its hands. It's perplexing, to say the least, to see the world's lone superpower acting as nothing more than a wallflower in the face of emerging history.
    "U.S. policy won't change under the Bush administration, whose policies amount to waiting for the Castro brothers to pass from the scene before taking bigger steps." The bottom line is this:
    This administration doesn't get a simple fact: Waiting for someone to die is not a foreign policy befitting a nation that aspires to lead a free world.
    "Cuba Policy".

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