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 Friday, September 25, 2009

Martinez a "Quitter, Lobbyist"

    Daniel Ruth kicks some derriere: "When he announced his plans to cut and run from his U.S. Senate seat well before his first term was to end, Mel Martinez insisted his only motivation was to return to the warm, welcoming bosom of his family."
    The incredible rigors of working at least three days a week in Washington, sitting through the back-breaking stress of committee meetings, the slave labor demands of making his way to the Senate floor to vote on stuff, the draconian imposition of delivering the odd speech now and then, was simply too much to expect of one man — all for a lousy, stinking, measly $174,000 a year in chump change.

    Too much, too much.
    Ruth continues:
    And thus, Mel Martinez decided to follow in the footsteps of that other renowned quitter, Sarah Palin, and run away from the public responsibilities his constituents, his supporters, his donors, his state and his party helped elect him to fulfill. ...

    Spared the prospect of spending too much time with his children and grandchildren, Martinez has landed a gig with the mega-law firm DLA Piper, which is crawling with 3,500 mouthpieces, spanning 29 countries in 67 offices. Chances are, if Martinez never darkens the firm's doorway, no one will hardly notice — just like his Senate service*.

    At the time Martinez announced his wish to stiff the people of Florida by surrendering faster than a Dale Mabry floozie, the senator insisted he had absolutely nothing on his platter, no future plans, no aspirations beyond reading Dr. Seuss to his grand tots, To Whom It May Concern and Occupant.
    The reality is despite the two-year [lobbying] ban, Martinez most certainly is joining DLA Piper not because of his keen, Matlockesque legal acumen**, but as a de facto lobbyist. Or put another way, his all too brief time in the U.S. Senate was little more than a four-year, taxpayer-funded master class on how to succeed at influence peddling.

    This much is pretty certain. One area Martinez, who beat a hastier retreat from his public vows than Britney Spears from Kevin Federline, won't be consulting clients on is contract law — you know, irritating legal concepts such as when someone hires you for a job for a specific period of time, you are expected to honor your word even if a better deal comes along.
    "A deal Martinez couldn't resist". See also "Mel Martinez: Quitter, Lobbyist".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *A similar observation with respect to Mel's vacuous HUD tenure was made more than five years ago, by Slate's Timothy Noah, in "Bush's Mr. Cellophane - Goodbye to Mel Martinez".

    **Ironically, Mel's legal career, before being propped up as a Hispanic Republican face by Bushco, was that of a dreaded plaintiffs trial lawyer, although a search of WestLaw's "FL State & Fed Cases (FL-CS-ALL)" database for "Mel Martinez", "Melquiades Martinez" and "Melquiades Rafael Martinez" discloses only a handful of state and federal reported cases where Mel was a party, but none where he actually served as a lawyer representing a client. It must be noted, however, that state cases in this database (unlike federal cases) are limited to appellate decisions, so it is possible - even likely - Mel actually represented a client in a state proceeding that was not appealed (or he was not involved in the appeal), or in some other unreported proceeding before entering political life.

    That said, there do not appear to be any "reported cases" where Mel represented a client as a lawyer.

    Nelson speaks

    "This week Sen. Bill Nelson has thrust himself into the health care debate with a controversial plan to protect seniors covered by Medicare Advantage, a plan some fellow Florida Democrats oppose." "Nelson seeks to save Medicare Advantage".

    "Charlie is ... never really completely there"

    Scott Maxwell: "Just like Casper [the Friendly Ghost], Charlie is always smiling, always friendly — and yet never really completely there."

    Both are incurably optimistic.

    Neither one ever wants to make any enemies.

    And both are quite transparent.

    Heck, even when our governor decided to up and marry someone just in time to raise his national profile, he was basically taking a page from Casper — Volume 20, when the ghost spiced up his story line by introducing a gal pal, Wendy the Good Little Witch.

    The only thing unsettling about this analogy is that Casper did have one pseudo-nemesis — which leads us to the visually disturbing image of the diaper-clad devil baby ... Marco "Hot Stuff" Rubio.
    "Crist like Casper? How spooky is that?".

    Fess'n up

    "Trial lawyers fess up to racial mailer in Senate race".

    Get this ...

    ... from the fellow Mel Martinez called the "anti-family" "darling of homosexual extremists". "McCollum: Trial lawyers apology 'too little, too late'".

    George Crist supports drilling closer to the state of Florida

    "On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted against an attempt to keep in place a plan by the Bush administration to allow oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts."

    The 56-42 vote killed a proposal by Sen. David ["in the ho's black book" Vitter, R-La., that would have blocked the Obama administration from pursuing its own policy on offshore drilling.

    And the Florida Legislature, most agree, will consider legislation when it reconvenes to lift at least part of the ban on drilling in the Gulf .

    Florida Energy Associates contends that the two sides debating drilling in the Gulf are more interested in the politics than in solving the nation’s energy needs. The group’s financial backers are a "group of American patriots [sic] who would not be doing anything that would damage our environment," said David Rancourt, a lobbyist with the Southern Strategy Group who also represents Florida Energy Associates*.
    And thanks to LeMieux, err ... Charlie, for this:
    At the federal level, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has been fighting for years to keep drilling off Florida shores, especially in the Gulf.

    In Wednesday’s vote, Nelson sided with the majority, and "viewed the vote as an attempt to bring drilling closer to the state of Florida," said Bryan Gulley, spokesman for Nelson. Newly appointed Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., voted for the amendment.
    "Group pushes for Gulf drilling legislation".

    Related: "Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer and the leading Democratic candidate for governor, said she’s following 'very closely' state legislation that would allow oil drilling near the coast." "Alex Sink is following legislation 'very closely'".

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *Try not to laff too hard at this description of these oil grubbers: "Rancourt called the investors 'wildcatters or independent oil men,' mainly from Texas and Louisiana." "Wildcatters"? Spare us, please.

    Record enrollment

    "Recession fuels Florida college enrollment: 8 state universities hit records".

    Florida parole board incompetence

    "Audit blasts Florida parole board's performance".

    "It's a made-up quote"

    Congressman Kendrick Meek's U.S. Senate campaign was stunned to hear that St. Petersburg City Council candidate Vel Thompson has a campaign flier including a photo of her and Meek with this quote:

    "As a home-grown boy from St. Petersburg I hope you will vote for Vel to represent District 6 this November and vote for me for U.S. Senate next November."

    It's a made-up quote, said Ana Cruz, senior adviser to the Meek campaign.
    "Congressman drawn into St. Petersburg City Council flier flap".

    Crist's "shadow panels"

    In an obvious attempt to keep his wingnuts under wraps, "Crist has created shadow panels that include lawmakers, a retired Supreme Court justice and other outside advisers to help him make court appointments."

    That's drawn criticism from a political opponent who says Crist may be trying to circumvent nominating commissions set up by the Florida Constitution. The commissions, designed to take some of the politics out of the appointments, vet applicants and submit a list of finalists to the governor.

    Shadow panelists have been asked to interview applicants for judgeships in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties and the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee over the past year, according to records obtained by the Daily Business Review, based in Miami.

    They don't indicate how extensive the practice is but show that panelists usually got the same information given to nominating commissions.

    Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is opposing Crist for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination next year, said the panels operate "outside the public light" and have politicized the process.
    "Crist shadow panels to vet judges bashed".

    Meggs says he has the goods on Sansom

    "State Attorney Willie Meggs"

    told Leon County Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday morning that he will soon submit discovery evidence showing that e-mails sent to former House Speaker Ray Sansom regarding the $6 million airport hangar sought by developer Jay Odom were in fact opened.
    "Sansom attorney Steve Dobson recently told Lewis that the state has no evidence to prove Sansom received any such e-mails."
    "We keep hearing them say there is no evidence Sansom received those e-mails from (former Northwest Florida State College president) Bob Richburg, but our IT people say they can tell they were received and opened," Meggs said.

    Meggs and Dobson appeared before Lewis on Dobson's motion to have the perjury charge against Sansom dismissed. Sansom also faces an official misconduct charge in the case, in which he is accused of working with Richburg and Odom to get money for the building that Odom would partly use for his corporate jet business. Odom and Richburg also face felony official misconduct charges.

    Lewis heard from the two attorneys for about 45 minutes as Sansom looked on, but he made no promises as to when he might rule on the dismissal motion.
    "State attorney says he has proof hangar e-mails to Ray Sansom were opened".

    More: "Sansom lawyer urges judge to dismiss perjury charges" and "Former House Speaker Sansom, Meggs at odds over perjury charge".

    Florida Parole Commission's backlog of 33,000

    "A state audit criticizes the parole commission for errors and a backlog of 33,000 felons whose applications for civil rights restoration were ignored." "As the governor and Cabinet today consider requests from 99 ex-felons seeking to regain civil rights, the Florida Parole Commission is again fending off criticism about its performance.".

    "A pernicious wrinkle in the election law"

    Bill Cotterell thinks the Legislature "ought to make quick work of eliminating a pernicious wrinkle in the election law that wastes money and makes elections un-democratic."

    We'll see an illustration of this next month, as five Northeast counties spend almost $700,000 installing former House Speaker John Thrasher in the Florida Senate.

    Thrasher polled nearly 40 percent of the vote in a Republican primary this month, besting three GOP competitors, and no Democrats ran for the seat of the late Sen. Jim King. But election officials will have to open the polls Oct. 6 and print ballots containing only Thrasher's name and space for voters to write in one of three men who signed up for the race.

    Only 22 percent of eligible Republicans voted in the primary. Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland told the Florida Times-Union he expects turnout of 4 percent to 6 percent in the finale next month.

    But the counties will still have to operate scores of polling places, all day, paying staff and providing security. The Times-Union said cost estimates range from $38,000 in little Nassau County to $300,000 in Duval.

    With all due respect to people who offer the voters an alternative, write-ins are not serious candidates. But law and custom require the state to provide a method for people to put themselves out there when they can't or won't pay the qualifying fee.
    "Write-in law hurts budgets and voters".

    "Rubio is the most confounding of foes"

    Mike Thomas: "Marco isn't dead."

    In fact, he was on the cover of National Review last week, looking very much alive.

    And the longer he lives, the greater the threat he poses to Charlie Crist's plan to ascend to the U.S. Senate.

    Rubio is the most confounding of foes.

    He should be in the attorney general's race, where there is no serious Republican opposition. That could give him a statewide win, and unlimited time and opportunity to seek higher office.

    If he followed the playbook, he would be a good team player, pay his dues and wait his turn.

    Yet he remains fixated on the seemingly impossible task of taking out Crist. This raises a disturbing possibility for the governor's campaign.
    But it is hard for Rubio to compete when
    Crist gutted the state's growth-management laws, then ran off to a Colorado fundraiser put on by developers, where seats went for $2,400.
    "Marco Rubio stars in 'Survivor: U.S. Senate race'".


    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "SunRail's supporters have been handed more time to convince the Legislature of the project's worthiness. " "Still time for SunRail".

    Lake O

    "An EPA memo documents a troubling trend of nutrient pollution in Lake Okeechobee, which is at the heart of South Florida's water supply system." "Polluted Lake Okeechobee getting dirtier".

    Who writes these headlines?

    "Citing 'mistakes' by the Florida Parole Commission, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink tried Thursday to revoke the unauthorized restoration of civil rights to 13 people, including a man who raped a minor."

    But her colleagues on the state Board of Clemency, including Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum, Sink's opponent in the 2010 governor's race, opted for a more deliberative approach and agreed to consider the cases at their next meeting in December.

    State auditors uncovered the 13 cases last week in a report that faulted the Parole Commission for lapses in processing civil rights restoration requests.

    "We probably ought to rescind those rights that were awarded,'' Sink said. In addition to a case of statutory rape that was not eligible for automatic restoration under the new rules, she said two other cases involved aggravated battery and that four ex-felons failed to make financial restitution to their victims.

    "We should look at them,'' McCollum agreed. "I don't think a decision needs to be made today but it needs to be looked at.'' Added Crist: "I agree.''
    "Florida CFO Alex Sink tries to take away ex-cons' restored rights".


    Paul Flemming: "Let's take a (legal) drive down Statistics Lane".


    "The president of Jackson Health System -- Miami-Dade's government safety net for healthcare -- cautioned members of Congress on Thursday that some healthcare-reform efforts could penalize the state's largest Medicaid provider."

    Eneida Roldan, president and CEO of Jackson, said proposals to cut the disproportionate-share program, designed to protect hospitals that provide significant uncompensated care, would be devastating to the healthcare system that already faces a $168 million shortfall.

    "We are supportive of healthcare reform, but we'd like it to enhance, not detract from the safety-net providers,'' she told members of the Florida Congressional delegation during a meeting with Florida hospital and insurance executives.

    Some of the proposals to pay for universal healthcare would involve gradually reducing payments to hospitals that handle more than their share of uninsured patients. Roldan said one Senate proposal would reduce the funds by $20 billion nationwide. In House proposals, the number is closer to $10 billion.

    Proponents argue that the reductions would be phased in and that when more people have health insurance, they won't need to seek out emergency-room care.

    But Roldan said the safety-net hospitals are worried that people won't be fully covered. And she noted that though some people might be covered, they might not seek out primary or preventive care -- and still show up in the emergency room.
    "Jackson boss cautions lawmakers".

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