Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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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 Monday, September 21, 2009

"'100 percent fundraising and 0 percent public policy'"

    "Dialing for dollars has become the Florida governor's new favorite pastime as he raises record amounts of cash for his U.S. Senate campaign -- one phone call at a time."
    As Florida led the nation this summer in foreclosures and jobs lost, Crist raised an average of $86,000 a day. He partied with billionaire Donald Trump at the home of Jill Zarin, one of the reality TV stars of The Real Housewives of New York City, at a Tampa developer's Colorado vacation home, and at exclusive Washington addresses.
    But critics say the governor's fervid fundraising -- which began just 17 months after his inauguration -- has gotten in the way of his day job.

    "You've got the highest unemployment rate in Florida since 1975. It's fair to ask, 'Who is in charge? Who is working on these things?' '' said Rubio, who has challenged Crist to a series of debates. "When your campaign is 100 percent fundraising and 0 percent public policy, I think voters should be asking questions.''
    "Dialing for dollars: Crist turns on the charm -- and rakes in the campaign dough".

    Back at the ranch ...

    ... "Straw polls show GOP base not with Crist".

    Alleged Dems

    Alleged Dems pony up for Crist:

    Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan remembers walking through the mall on a weekday afternoon when a familiar name popped up on his cellphone: Charlie Crist. ...

    Florida's governor wanted to talk logistics about a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign. Morgan offered to host a series of events, but Crist preferred a single blowout.

    "What's our target?'' Morgan asked.

    "Let's do a million,'' Crist replied.

    Morgan reeled. "One thing I love about Charlie Crist,'' he said later, "he never gives you the opportunity to underperform.'' ...

    Democrats get the same treatment, earning Crist raves for bipartisanship while quietly swelling his fundraising pool.

    The day after Democrat Rod Smith lost the 2006 gubernatorial primary, Crist placed a sympathetic call to one of the campaign's top money men, attorney Danny Ponce. Crist was also one of the first to call Ponce after his father died.

    Last January, the governor appointed the diehard Gator fan to the University of Florida's Board of Trustees.

    "He practices politics in a very personal way, and it's hard to say no,'' said Ponce. His fundraiser for Crist last week in Gainesville was the first he ever hosted for a Republican.

    Crist's most successful campaign event so far was hosted by some of the state's best-known Democratic trial lawyers, including Morgan.
    "The June 12 cocktail reception at an Orlando hotel and steak dinner at Morgan's home raised about $300,000, approaching Rubio's three-month take."

    More alleged Dems

    "The only way Floridians will ever learn who's behind Florida Energy Associates is if the Legislature approves letting the company drill near the state's gulf beaches."

    We're not shadowy, or we don't want to be,'' said Doug Daniels, a Daytona Beach attorney touring the state for Florida Energy Associates to promote overturning the drilling ban. Once the law is changed, he said, the process for applying for the leases will require making their names public.

    For now, the only oilman identified as a principal is M. Lance Phillips, 49, who boasts that his family has been involved in drilling ``since there's been oil in Texas.''

    When Tampa Bay's Agency on Bay Management put on a forum about overturning the drilling ban last week, Daniels showed up in person while Phillips listened on a speakerphone. The oilman said little, but chuckled loudly at the arguments put forward by drilling opponents.

    "He's from a good Texas family,'' Daniels said afterward. "He's a third generation oilman. I'm a Democrat but he's a big Republican. He's friends with George W. Bush. He's somebody you'd instantly like.''
    "Texas oilman leads effort to drill off Florida's coast". Related: "Florida Energy Associates pushing for offshore drilling".


    "An embattled Public Service Commission is beginning hearings in another major electric rate case." "Fla. panel hearing Progress Energy rate request". See also "PSC scandals, rate-hike proposals draw scrutiny".

    "A loopy attempt at carnival sideshow"

    Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board is less than happy this morning: "You may not have heard about the Florida Health Care Freedom Act, a loopy attempt at carnival sideshow by state Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, and a score of his "line in the sand against socialized medicine" (Baker's words) cohorts over in the state House. They propose an amendment to the state constitution to exempt Florida employers and individuals from federal requirements to participate in any health care system should Congress enact them. And no you shouldn't take them seriously."

    Baker et al are pitching this partisan twaddle knowing full well, though, that federal law's primacy would invalidate the state act. Not that it's likely three-fifths of the Legislature would approve the amendment for the November 2010 ballot or that 60 percent of Florida voters would be duped into passing it anyway. Make no mistake: This is mischief orchestrated to scare off support for the Democrats' reform effort and distract public attention from the hard work of overhauling a broken health care system. The Baker cabal's effort mirrors those in more than a dozen other states, ostensibly as a principled states' rights defense. They also want Congress to think Floridians oppose a health care overhaul that assures universal coverage, that we're all happy with the status quo and that these state legislators can be trusted to fix any problems with health care in Florida.

    But what have Baker and the Legislature's Republican majority accomplished to that purpose? Let's see, these free-marketers pushed Florida Healthy Choices last year as panacea for the state's high rate of uninsured residents, now numbering some 3.6 million. So far, it's a bust, no insurers and no employers have signed up. There's little incentive for either to do so.
    Much more here: "Lines in the sand".

    Scott Maxwell: "[W]hen you hear that a growing number of Florida legislators are pushing something called the "Health Care Freedom Act," it sounds promising. After all, the Freedom Act now has 29 sponsors in the Florida House. And proponents are traversing the state, touting its merits and spending more time on this aspect of health care than any other. So what would this miraculous health-care bill do to lower your health-care costs?"
    Absolutely nothing.

    Nor would it advance any kind of reform.

    Perhaps that is why it's becoming so popular.

    In modern politics, doing little with great fanfare often scores more points than substance without it.

    Even to describe this act as "doing little" might be generous — since many legal experts say that portions of it would almost certainly be deemed unconstitutional ... and consequently wouldn't do anything at all. ...

    The act — a proposed amendment championed by state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and state Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis — essentially says that Floridians would not have to abide by all of the provisions in whatever reform Congress may pass.

    Specifically, Plakon, Baker and their 27 GOP peers specifically want to allow Florida businesses and residents to be exempted from any requirement to carry insurance or pay penalties.

    It is important to protect businesses' right not to offer insurance for their employees, they say.
    "Health Care Freedom Act will do nothing but protect the status quo".

    Although we made this very point back in July ...
    after all, Article. VI. of the U.S. Constitution, that pesky "Supremacy Clause", is pretty clear that "... the Laws of the United States ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land ... any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
    ... "10th amendment wingnuttery" (scroll down), it is worth noting that Congress could permit states to pass legislation opting out of any federal federal scheme that may be adopted. This would be akin to the egregious Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which permits states (Florida being the first) to prohibit union security provisions in Florida labor contracts negotiated under the NLRA. Fortunately, such opt out in language does not appear to be in any of the version of the reform legislation pending in Congress.

    More preemption follies

    The hullabaloo about federal preemption was indirectly at issue in the SD 8 election. Aaron Deslatte wrote:

    The trial bar used organizations called 527s — named after a section of the IRS code and off limits to state regulators thanks to a recent federal court ruling — to buy TV ads to blast accusations about Thrasher's past.

    Public records suggest the FJA also ran an absentee-ballot operation to identify GOP voters and push them to vote for one of the other three Republicans in the race.

    Most politicos think the trial bar was behind the Conservative Voters' Coalition, a group that sent out thousands of direct-mail pieces warning that Black Panthers and "armed thugs" could try to intimidate voters. The mail bore an elephant graphic and used the word "Republican," leading voters to conclude it was a GOP-leaning group.

    The mail pieces asked voters to request absentee ballots — but instead of sending them to an elections supervisor for processing, voters were asked to mail them to a post-office box in Jacksonville. That meant the group got the first crack at influencing those voters — with calls or more direct mail — before it turned in the ballot requests.

    Of the 2,600 absentee ballots cast in Duval County, the heart of the senate district, roughly 1,900 were the result of requests dropped off by the Conservative Voters' Coalition. In Volusia, 478 of the nearly 800 absentee ballots cast came from the group.

    Of the 33,771 total votes cast in the race, about 4,500 were absentee. Since Thrasher beat second-place finisher Dan Quiggle by only about 4,000 votes, those absentee voters could have been hugely influential.
    "GOP's primary was distasteful 'test case'".

    Good little RPOFer Hasner jumps ...

    ... on an opportunity to suppress voting: "ACORN video scandal fallout: Hasner eyes elections law changes".

    Tom Blackburn: "Congress sank to steamy levels of hypocrisy in de-funding ACORN, the community-organizing group that we have been carefully taught to vilify. A body that has never been able to condemn torture was able, in the end, to condemn what it saw on a made-for-propaganda video."

    When ACORN, which began as a housing advocacy group, got into voter registration, its doom was as good as sealed. It could not afford to screw up. One of our major parties [(guess which one)]opposes voter registration.

    The last straw - or so ACORN's enemies pretend - was a video showing a hooker and her pimp (played by amateur actors) getting housing advice from ACORN functionaries. For the sins of the functionaries, Congress pulled the plug.
    "Give ACORN defense contract".

    "Unclear how much of that time is spent together"

    "Nine months after Carole Rome married Gov. Charlie Crist before hundreds of guests in downtown St. Petersburg, the woman once so visible in the Hamptons now cautiously tiptoes around the limelight."

    She has joined the Republican governor at several fundraisers for his U.S. Senate campaign, including Friday at the Gainesville home of Democratic lawyer Danny Ponce[*], whom Crist appointed to the UF board of trustees. But she has not hosted a state event since April, when she and the governor invited foster children to the mansion for an annual Easter egg hunt. ...

    Gov. and Mrs. Crist say they divide their time between his rented condo in downtown St. Petersburg, her home on tony Fisher Island in Miami, and the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee, where he typically lives during the week. It's unclear how much of that time is spent together.
    "The not-so-public Mrs. Charlie Crist".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    See "Alleged Democrats" above.

    Text messages

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Text messages are public records too".

    "Backroom budgeting invites mischief"

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board on the Tally budget process:

    Legislators vote on the final document after a 72-hour waiting period. While they may debate its main issues in public, they often work out the details in private — sometimes in one-on-one bargaining sessions.

    Deals involving millions of public dollars get cut behind closed doors by a handful of powerful politicians. It makes a mockery of Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine laws and its constitutional guarantee of open government.

    Backroom budgeting invites mischief. Consider the case pending against ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom. The Destin Republican has been indicted on charges that he used his former post as his chamber's budget chairman to secretly line up $6 million for an airplane hangar sought by a friend and political contributor. Mr. Sansom also steered millions of extra dollars to a college in his district, which then gave him a six-figure job on the day he became speaker.

    The grand jury that returned the indictment against Mr. Sansom blasted the Legislature's budget process as giving "unbridled discretion" to the Senate president, House speaker and the budget chairmen in the two chambers. It "allows taxpayer money to be budgeted for special purposes by those few legislators who happen to be in a position of power."
    Much more here: "Put light on lawmakers".

    "Not a particularly wise way to spend scarce tax dollars"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida recently announced it will shower more than $122 million on schools that earned an A or improved a letter grade under the state's ranking system. It might as well hand-deliver checks to teachers — some of whom just happen to be in the right place at the right time. The School Recognition Program is not a particularly wise way to spend scarce tax dollars, and the money could be redirected to better uses." "Florida's flawed school bonus plan".

    FHP crackdown

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "FHP crackdown on unlicensed drivers a welcome relief".


    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Crist and the Cabinet correctly defended the state's growth management laws in a crucial ruling last week that also reminds all communities of their duty to protect the general public."

    The ruling led to a rare land-use appeal before Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson. At the urging of DCA Secretary Tom Pelham, and despite pressure from the development lobby, they upheld the ruling.

    The decision reinforces sound growth management at a critical time. Communities are being inundated with developer-backed land-use amendments, and governments are rushing to get state approval ahead of the controversial Hometown Democracy amendment set for a vote in November 2010. Should Hometown Democracy, also known as Amendment 4, pass, voters would have the final say on any amendment approved by local governments.

    Had Crist and the Cabinet sided with Marion County and the developers, it would have opened floodgates that could have proven disastrous for growth management in Florida, where development interests have been getting most of what they want at local and state levels.
    "Upholding integrity in growth laws".

    "Furious doofuses"

    Mark Lane: "The past two weeks have been a setback for those who think of their nation as populated by rational, self-governing adults who aren't poised to turn into furious doofuses at a moment's notice."

    It's sad, then, to see a serious [sic], longtime member of Congress like this area's Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, stand behind Wilson's flouting of House rules by voting against any disapproval of his actions.

    All of this makes one nostalgic for the days when Democrats were always scolded for rolling their eyes when President George W. Bush had the lectern.
    "Reality show attitudes take hold wherever there's a camera".

    Daniel Ruth:
    If you didn't know any better — judging from all the conspiracy theories, propaganda campaigns, and a grasp of history that on a Florida social studies FCAT test would score somewhere between Augusto Pinochet's body temperature and Mel Martinez's final poll numbers — you might well conclude last weekend's rally was being produced by Oliver Stone, who never met a grassy knoll he didn't love.
    Just read it: "Misinformation on stilts".

    "Allegations of creating a hostile workplace"

    "The president of the Florida Keys Community College has shaken the cobwebs out of the sleepy institution, but she could be fired due to allegations of creating a hostile workplace." "Florida Keys Community College president's job on the line".


    "Chancellor departs; a look back on Rosenberg's term".

    Our python problems

    "Wildlife officials keeping eye on new pythons". See also "New, nastier python enters Everglades fray".

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