Florida regulators "aided" investment swindler suspect
A lengthy article in the The Miami Herald this morning: "Florida regulators -- over objections by the state's top banking lawyer -- gave sweeping powers to banker Allen Stanford, accused of swindling investors of $7 billion."
Years before his banking empire was shut down in a massive fraud case, Allen Stanford swept into Florida with a bold plan: entice Latin Americans to pour millions into his ventures -- in secrecy.
"Over objections by the state's chief banking lawyer -- including concerns that Stanford was laundering money -- regulators granted sweeping powers never given to a private company."
From a bayfront office in Miami in 1998, he planned to sell investments to customers and send their money to Antigua.
But to pull it off, he needed unprecedented help from an unlikely ally: The state of Florida would have to grant him the right to move vast amounts of money offshore -- without reporting a penny to regulators.
He got it.
The new company was also allowed to sell hundreds of millions in bank notes without allowing regulators to check for fraud.
"Officials for the Florida Office of Financial Regulation are now reviewing the decision made a decade ago, but they refuse to comment."
Over the next decade, the Miami office was among Stanford's busiest in the sale of controversial investments now at the heart of the federal government's sweeping fraud case against Stanford and his lieutenants....
Represented by a powerful Florida law firm, Stanford got approval to create the first company of its kind: a foreign trust office that could bypass regulators, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald.
Andrew Stoltmann, an adjunct professor of securities at Northwestern University, said the state failed by not performing routine examinations.
Much more here: "State aided suspect in huge swindle".
''You have to put yourself in a position to at least try to catch people committing fraud,'' said Stoltmann, who practices securities law in Chicago
"The race for Florida attorney general may be one of the hottest contests in 2010, but on Independence Day, the presumed Republican frontrunner has yet to step in the ring." "Kottkamp has yet to enter AG race".
"'Reckless, out-of-control expansion of government'"?
In Florida, the Republican U.S. Senate primary sums up the opposing views.
"Do Americans want less or more?".
Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed Obama's stimulus package, saying it would help government meet the needs of Floridians. His opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, calls it a "reckless, out-of-control expansion of government."
"Americans understand that constitutional limits on government involvement in our lives and economy are the foundation of our prosperity," Rubio said. "They understand that government has never created enduring jobs or prosperity."
But even Rubio softens his rhetoric to take note that voters are mostly approving Obama's performance and giving his program a chance.
"We all agree that when government can help, it should help," he said.
A big tent
"South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer have left the state and are spending their holiday weekend in Florida." "SC gov, lt. gov both head to Fla. for holiday".
How many idiots ...
... can you fit in a phone booth: In Brevard County,
About 3,000 opponents collectively criticized the current administration as a free-spending government that is leading the nation with a socialist agenda.The brilliance was overwhelming:
Rebecca O'Dell Townsend, a St. Petersburg lawyer, told the crowd they cannot be asleep any more to the government turning toward socialism.
"Stadium tea party protests taxes". Tallahassee:
"Socialism is immoral and illegal because it is illegal under our Constitution," she said....
Virginia Heard, a grandmother from Cocoa Beach, carried a sign: "If you are not outraged you're not paying taxes." The reverse side said: "Charlie Crist -- A tax and spend socialist."
A stand offered "tax free tea," and there were tables containing petitions and fliers. They held signs with slogans such as "American, Not Socialist," "Don't tax me, bro" and "R.I.P. GM. Murdered by bailout."
"'Tea Party' protests spending".
The protest featured musical performances and a series of guest speakers, including 11-year-old Sara Warmack, whose speech on America's freedom has garnered more than 3,700 views on You Tube.
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board think it "is probably time for a review of the rules governing use of state aircraft for statewide elected officials — the governor, lieutenant governor and three Cabinet officers."
Going forward, use of state aircraft should acknowledge that whereas top state officials once moved themselves and their families to Tallahassee to live while they were in office, sometimes for decades, today's culture is different. Spouses often have their own professions or jobs and home base for the children is often outside the capital city.
And even if the Tallahassee regional airport offered more frequent and convenient in-state flights, statewide officials who are obliged to travel around Florida would not find commercial flights to be efficient use of their time. These jobs are not easily defined by office hours or even weekdays, and make demands 24/7.
We're not making excuses for public officials who knowingly have allowed family to slip onto a state plane, perhaps thinking it wouldn't be noticed or really cost anything extra. They need to follow the rules as now written, which demand an accounting of who travels when and where and requires officials to pay out of personal funds for anything beyond their own official travel.
The The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board has a different take: "There ought to be a state law that clearly states that those who hold full-time state jobs and have been elected statewide cannot commute via state aircraft to their Tallahassee jobs from their homes elsewhere in the state. While current law on state plane use is murky at best, the lack of clarity is being exploited and taxpayers are paying for it." "Taxpayers get bill for frequent fliers".
"Unsavory inner workings"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Some of the unsavory inner workings of how things get done in Miami and Miami-Dade County were detailed in a closed corruption probe of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones and a prosecutor's report with accusations of kickbacks to former Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler." "End pay to play".
Courtesy of our education Governor
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "[A] solid third of the state's high schools moped over their D's and F's. That's a 22 percent jump over last year. ... considering that high school is the launch pad where tomorrow's adults make choices and chart their futures, it's fair to say that Florida no longer can tolerate failing high schools that hamstring graduates who need to compete in an increasingly nimble and global society. Reasons for this shameful showing — 44 high schools across the state got F's — are legion."
No surprise, though, that the Sentinel editors
side with advocates such as the Foundation for Florida's Future, launched by former Gov. Jeb Bush... ."Fix failing high schools". Mike Thomas wants to tell you about smart kids: Schools risk leaving smart kids behind
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice busted a Medicare fraud ring in Miami, indicting eight suspects who allegedly cheated the government out of $30 million."
South Florida, with more than 700,000 Medicare beneficiaries and a large immigrant population, is Scam Central.
"Stop Medicare scammers".
Medicare lost $800 million to fraud in South Florida last year. "It's certainly an epidemic problem in Miami," said deputy chief Kirk Ogrosky, head of the Justice Department's criminal health-care fraud division. "When you have people, in some of our cases, that come from countries that have operated under socialist systems where they're used to taking advantage of the government and to the government providing benefits, there's a lot of fraud."
Somehow I suspect the swells will dig deep ...
... and find some spare cash to share with our bright eyed candidates.
We've seen the grim unemployment and foreclosure numbers for Florida. Now we're about to see another telling gauge about the state of Florida's economy: campaign fundraising reports.Smith "wade[s] into the expectations game, and summarize[s] the conventional wisdom among the political professionals in and outside the campaigns." "Not a good time to raise money— let's see how they're doing".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "In the end, Tri-Rail blinked." "Buying a ticket to oblivion".
Rep. Bill Proctor, chancellor of Flagler College and a Republican representing District 20 in the state House, writes in the The Tallahassee Democrat that "Crist was wrong on insurance veto".
Same old, same old
The Tampa Tribune editorial board wants Florida to repeat the same, failed economic policies of the past:
The state counts on sales taxes paid by tourists to help pay the state's bills, so a shortage of tourists hurts the state budget as well as the tourist industry's motels, restaurants and attractions.
"Warmer welcome for the wealthy".
The Leroy Collins Institute has warned that it's not just tourism that is disappointing. Florida's appeal to young, highly skilled workers also is eroding as other states offer cheaper housing and better education.
It will take more good jobs to attract the creative class, but the leisure class is an easier target. With a number of trends working against Florida, it makes sense to try some fresh ideas to encourage tourism and attract semi-permanent visitors, especially those with plenty of money.
"The group-hug issue of Florida politics"
Randy Schultz: "In Washington's polarized times, a remarkable thing happened last week."
Both of Florida's senators - one Democrat and one Republican - and 22 of the state's 25 House members - 12 Republicans and all 10 Democrats - signed a letter to the congressional leadership agreeing on the same issue. They don't want drilling in federal waters close to Florida's beaches.
The Washington political climate always can treat bipartisanship harshly, but conditions have been especially bad. President Obama's stimulus bill got three Republican votes, all of them in the Senate. The climate-change bill passed the House by just five votes, and the GOP promptly targeted the eight Republicans who voted yes.
Opposition to oil and gas drilling, though, remains the group-hug issue of Florida politics. Ander Crenshaw, the country-club Republican congressman from Jacksonville, and Robert Wexler, the South Florida Democrat whom Bill O'Reilly uses when he needs a ratings boost, signed the letter. So did Corinne Brown, the far-lefty from Jacksonville, and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the far-righty from Miami.
It was a crafty letter. The best reason to keep drilling far from the Florida coast is to protect the Gulf Coast beaches that drive tourism that produces the sales-tax revenue that drives Florida's economy. Last fall, however, the Democratic leadership in Congress caved to the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd and removed most bans on offshore drilling.
Two drilling battles lie ahead for Florida. First is this one in Congress, over the area up to where Florida has jurisdiction - 10 miles out. Next year in Tallahassee will come a push for the state to issue leases in Florida waters, between 10 miles and 3 miles from shore. The claim will be the same: Florida can make America energy independent.
"Not the usual partisan drill".
Great. And all Florida has to do is become Texas, or Louisiana or maybe New Jersey. No deal. The hype is bogus. But the threat is real.
What's a "Haridopolos"?
"The floodgates of support have opened wide for state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, who last week witnessed a procession of praise from former GOP rivals for the 2010-12 Senate presidency." "Hand it to Haridopolos: He's got party backing".
Haridopolos is paid about $31,000 as a state lawmaker. At [his other government gig at] UF, he makes more than all but eight of the 41 political science faculty and staff members. His $75,000 salary is $5,000 higher than his predecessor, who had a doctorate and a higher-ranking title.
Haridopolos is seeking his doctorate at Florida State University, expecting to finish his dissertation in May about the rise of the Republican Party in Florida. Before teaching at UF, he worked at Brevard Community College.
In his last four years there, he was paid a $38,000 salary for writing a book [sic] on the state's legislative history. He said he has finally finished the book."UF considered boosting Haridopolos' $75,000 salary".
It seem's Mikey's a bit of a hypocrite: "Haridopolos fights government spending, takes government salaries ...".
He also seems to have a problem with writer's block: "Haridopolos was a Brevard Community College instructor. And for the past four years, his $38,000 salary didn't require teaching, only that he write a book, still unpublished, about his political experiences and legislative history called Florida Legislative History and Processes." More on the book deal: "Haridopolos book deal unusual, unpublished".
Mikey also seems to have a problem remembering where he goes to school: "State Sen. Mike Haridopolos, responding to his controversial hiring at the University of Florida, said ... that he was working toward a Ph.D. in history at the University of Arkansas. ... But officials at the University of Arkansas said Wednesday that Haridopolos hasn't been enrolled there since 2000." "Haridopolos not enrolled since 2000, University of Arkansas says".
That's our 2010-12 Senate President?
Stim cash and TaxWatch wingnuttery
"Floridians have received less federal stimulus money than any of their fellow Americans, despite an unemployment rate here that ranks among the highest in the country and a budget crisis that few states can match. 'It just shows how inept Florida's government officials are,' Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said."
Although that may be true, Mr. Calabro can't help but inject a bit 'o wingnuttery into the conversation:
"Relying on Washington has always been a bad deal for Florida.""Florida ranks last in money received per person from the stimulus package".
Washington "has always been a bad deal for Florida"? Oh really?
It is no secret that Mr. Calabro and his patrons have a tedious right wing agenda, which explains why he is repeatedly quoted as a font of wisdom by Florida's "journalists".
Truth be told, relying on Washington has actually been a very good deal for Florida, to the detriment of Northern states that have subsidized Florida's low tax status for decades. For example, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, in the 25 years through 2005, Florida received more money from DC than it paid in federal taxes, making Florida one of the biggest federal money leeches among all states. See "Federal Taxes Paid vs. Federal Spending Received by State, 1981-2005" ("Comparing the amount of federal taxes sent to Washington with the amount of federal spending coming back to the state"). See generally "Do Southern Senators Really Want to Start a New War Between the States?" ("Southern states have been benefiting from Northern taxes for years.")
"What legal and ethical issues did Schiavo's case raise?"
"After Terri Schiavo".