Charlie - the man who put the "free" in "free trade"
"This summer, as the state's economy plunged, Gov. Charlie Crist took an entourage to Europe on a 12-day trade mission."
The business-development trip to London, Paris, St. Petersburg and Madrid was supposed to cost taxpayers $255,000. The actual tab was far higher -- in excess of $430,000, the Sun Sentinel found in a detailed review of the July trip's costs.
"The bodyguards alone spent more than $148,000 on meals, hotels, transportation and incidentals, including nearly $630 in dry cleaning."
Taxpayers paid for more than two dozen people to accompany Crist, including a photographer, a spokeswoman, four aides, two agency heads and nine bodyguards.
Their boss, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, went along to sign a crime-solving agreement with British police, billing taxpayers $5,135 for less than 12 hours of official duties during four days. Bailey stayed an extra week at his own expense and brought his wife. His spokeswoman said he was on call around the clock and complied with state travel and vacation policies. Heaven help us, "a crime-solving agreement" between Florida's keystone kops and Scotland Yard?
To the extent there is any confusion about who the "people" are when the media adoringly describe our "Peoples Governor", this ought to help:
Crist's expenses, totaling more than $30,000, were not paid by taxpayers but by business executives who went on the trip. The governor did not scrimp.
"Taxpayers fund Gov. Crist's $430,000 European tour".
His London hotel suite, originally estimated to cost $1,800 per night, actually was $2,179, the Sun Sentinel found.
He flew first class for about $8,000 round-trip, courtesy of a Miami travel agency. He ran up room service and minibar tabs of more than $1,300. And he spent $320 on electric fans to keep him cool while giving speeches.
Crist defended the trip, saying: "I think it's important to promote free trade."
That's our Charlie, the man who put the "free" in "free trade".
Not so tuff after all?
"Miami-Dade lobbyist Ron Book says Bush may not be as formidable as conventional wisdom holds, owing in part to the tanking economy and toxic Bush brand."
During the past year, Book said, his casino clients have continued to poll Bush's popularity, and noted it has dropped since the governor left office.
"Jeb Bush: a shoo-in for U.S. Senator?"
Democrats could also relish pouring money into another fight against the Bush dynasty.
"I do not consider him a shoo-in," Book says. "In this economy, if somebody loses a job, they're no longer a Republican; they're a Democrat."
Treating teachers like trash ...
"Teachers Can Hold Off Retirement No Longer".
How low can the RPOFers go?
"The family of former Gov. Lawton Chiles said they will sue state leaders if they decide to raid the Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund for children and seniors in an attempt to balance the budget." "Former Gov. Chiles' family threatens to sue state". Yesterday: "Chiles pleads with state not to 'raid' children's fund".
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "With all those scandals to choose from, the public seized on the Santa ban. OK, it was dumb. But Florida needs the people who vote on budgets to play Santa - or possibly even Saviour - to our universities." "No room at the Real Scandal Inn".
"Politicians all over Florida re-writing their career plans"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Here in Florida, Campaign 2010 is already in high gear."
Just this past week, brand-new members of the state House and Senate started positioning themselves for re-election, while veterans were already setting their sights on moving up to the next level.
"Ready or not, here come the candidates".
Meanwhile, the announcement by Republican Mel Martinez that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate quickly revived names — such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — you might have thought you'd heard the last of.
It's all about intimidating the opposition, controlling donors and keeping elected offices within the party.
The Martinez announcement left politicians all over Florida re-writing their career plans.
Battle of the pipsqueaks?
Recall that "a rivalry among allies of both leaders - the men and women who make up the Republican Party of Florida - developed as soon as Crist was elected as Bush's successor."
After Crist largely ignored such social conservative issues as gay marriage and abortion in his 2006 campaign in favor of such populist concerns as insurance and taxes, Bush loyalists mounted an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to block Crist's pick for party chairman, Jim Greer.
Then again, it could come down to this:
Greer is being challenged for his reelection this year by conservative Martin County Republican Eric Miller, who said the party needs to sharpen its focus on social issues. Greer, however, received endorsements last week from state Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, and House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin.
In the two years since that intra-party squabble, Crist has faced more adversity from conservative Republican lawmakers, who identify Bush as their conservative standard-bearer, than Democratic leaders in the legislature.
Democrats have criticized Crist on budget issues but have more often praised the governor for his efforts to restore voting rights for felons and, most recently, his executive order to extend early voting hours in the November election.
But when Crist showed little appetite for pushing for public school vouchers, Bush allies persuaded the state's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to offer a set of constitutional amendments to Florida voters. The state Supreme Court removed those amendments from the ballot.
Republicans insist having Crist and Bush in elected office would be a "good problem to have.""Bush run for Senate could ignite Crist rivalry".
News 4 sale
"Report: McClatchy putting Miami Herald on sale".
"Central Florida landed some prime real estate in the state Senate last week when local lawmakers were named to head up the budget, transportation, environmental protection and legal committees. The jobs give them greater influence over legislation." "Senators on committees".
"2.6 million voters constitute more than a 'pop fad'"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: Deland Republican "State Rep. Pat Patterson is taking a cautious approach. Before agreeing to any changes to Florida's early-voting law, the recent chairman of the House Ethics and Elections Committee wants to make sure it's just a 'pop fad.' ... xthe Florida Legislature has made it harder to vote early. The changes that lawmakers approved in 2005 -- strangely enough, in response to the impressive early voting turnout in 2004 -- require local elections supervisors to conduct early voting only at their offices, at city halls or at public libraries."
Kudos to the editors for recognizing that RPOFers are all about suppressing the vote:
So why would Mr. Patterson, a Deland Republican, worry about giving local supervisors more authority to expand early voting hours?
He said he wants to make sure the rules are uniform, and that the state doesn't impose rules that local supervisors can't afford to implement.
His caution might also have something to do with the "R" next to his name.
The political arithmetic is simple: Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote early. Florida's Legislature is dominated by Republicans. In this case, 1+1 equals an unfair state law that works against people of any political stripe who want to vote early.
This election showed why legislators need to change early voting rules".
Not the kind of "blue" we were hoping for
Allen Boyd, the "12-year Democratic U.S. House member from the North Florida town of Monticello thinks he'd be a swell Senator:
The 63-year-old farmer and former state legislator is not well known and has a weak geographic base to run statewide. But the leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats is among the more influential Democrats in Congress and should not be underestimated, especially given that Democrats with Southern twangs and rural roots have a knack for winning Florida. Having raised money and campaigned for dozens of House members, Boyd has lots of chits to cash in. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, whose members tend to draw cash like bees to honey."Blue Dog might be in hunt for Senate".
Sounds like a perfect public works project for Obama
Carl Hiaasen: "Crist's plan to purchase 181,000 acres of cane fields near Lake Okeechobee is audacious and unprecedented. But many years will pass before we know whether it's a miracle or just a pipe dream, one more exorbitant disappointment in the long struggle to save what's left of the Everglades."
Assuming that the money for the deal can be raised somehow, getting the land is only the first step.
"Big Sugar deal -- bold or reckless?".
Nobody knows what it will cost to clean up the cane fields, or how long that would take.
Sounds like a perfect fit with Obama's assertion yesterday that "he wants to revive the economy and create jobs by upgrading roads, schools and energy efficiency in a public-works program whose scale has been unseen since construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s."
More from Randy Schultz: "U.S. Sugar: The real deal?
"With just nine days left until water managers vote on a $1.34 billion land deal aimed at rescuing the Everglades, residents of neighboring farm communities have a question for Gov. Charlie Crist: Who's going to rescue our jobs?" "As U.S. Sugar vote looms, job-fearing Glades residents demand action from Crist".
Lightweights gather around Saint Jebbie
The vapid Michael Barone* - who recently warned of the "Obama Thugocracy"** - writes that Jeb "Bush, in my judgment, was the outstanding state governor of this decade, for reasons that Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution sets out." That is, the Herbert "Hoover Institution" - the entity enshrining the achievements of one "Herbert Hoover", which even one of Barone's own employers considers one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.
With friends like that, "Jeb!" ... even Florida's political reporters and newspaper company editors may not be able to save you.
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*Barone shares the stage at the wingnutty Townhall.com with, among others, these luminaries: Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Thomas Sowell, Tony Blankley, and Ann Coulter.
**We understand your deft use of the word "thug", Mr. Barone: "After All, He [Obama] Is Black".
"Students' 'poof! papers' on FCAT exams concerns state educators".
Who knew? But is anyone surprised?
"As a candidate, President-elect Barack Obama singled out the elimination of Medicare Advantage subsidies as one of the ways his administration would economize. Now, new studies reinforce the waste associated with those payments, leaving little reason to continue the program. ... billions of dollars have been directed into private sector profits that could have been spent on direct care for Medicare beneficiaries." "Advantage, insurance companies".
Charlie needs to burnish his exorcist cred, or at least ...
... be blessed by a witch hunter (like Palin) before he has a chance with this (the GOP base) crowd.
"When CNN polled 460 Republican voters nationwide Dec. 1-2 about prospective presidential candidates in 2012, they included Crist among seven contenders." Yee Haw!
"The bad news: Crist came in dead last", even trailing an exorcist by a dozen points.
Thirty two percent said they were very likely (and 45 percent somewhat likely) to support Sarah Palin; 28 percent very likely to support Mitt Romney (33 percent somewhat likely); 34 percent very likely to support Mike Huckabee (31 percent somewhat); 23 percent very likely to back Rudy Giuliani (34 percent somewhat); 27 percent very likely to back Newt Gingrich (25 percent somewhat); 19 percent very likely to back Bobby Jindal (25 percent somewhat); and 7 percent very likely to back Crist (25 percent somewhat)."Crist solidly in last".
"Now, it looks awful"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "At first, the job that one of Florida's three most powerful politicians took at a state college just looked bad. Now, it looks awful." "House speaker sold political soul, and at a bargain price". Why is Sansom gets $6 million for friend's proposal">this man smiling?
"Eight years investing mostly in the wealthy"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Friday's terrible jobs report ... The economy lost 533,000 jobs in November alone. The unemployment rate of 6.7 percent remains much lower than the worst point during the last three serious recessions - 9''percent in 1975, 10.8 percent in 1982 and 7.8 percent in 1992 - but the pace of job loss is increasing. As it does, even people who have jobs pull back their spending, which drives down the economy and causes unemployment to rise."
We've spent eight years investing mostly in the wealthy. Friday showed what we've gotten for it."The Grand Ossified Party".
"... It degenerated into squabbling ..."
"Former Miami-Dade Democratic chairman Bret Berlin announced his candidacy for state Democratic chairman Saturday, saying the party needs to change with the times and heed the lessons of the Barack Obama campaign. ... xif Berlin hoped to convey that he would be a more effective, unifying leader than current state party chairwoman Karen Thurman, his conference call didn't help. As soon as he opened up the call for questions, it degenerated into squabbling as several Miami-Dade Democratic activists took turns accusing Berlin of violating eligibility rules for his candidacy and complaining about assorted local party problems."Miami-Dade Democrat aims to oust Thurman".