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 Sunday, October 04, 2009

Crist's buddy, "the Bernie Madoff of 527s"

    Alan Mendelsohn
    used the little-known [the Florida Society of Ophthalmologists] to raise his profile in the prominent Florida Medical Association, launching an improbable role as a tour-de-force political fundraiser on a first-name basis with Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and other top Republicans.

    Today, Mendelsohn, 51, is accused of being a crook.

    An indictment returned by a Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury last week portrays the eye doctor as a boastful rainmaker turned criminal opportunist: He is accused of defrauding doctors and other major contributors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations. He led them to believe he could perform behind-the-scenes miracles in Tallahassee, the indictment says.

    Mendelsohn, who pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday, used the money to support a more than comfortable lifestyle, prosecutors say. He spent it on himself, his mistress and his four children's private schools -- including donating $250,000 in political funds to his medical school alma mater when his son sought admission, the indictment says. It is illegal to divert political contributions to personal use.

    He also conspired with an unnamed "accomplice'' to set up a series of political action committees and corporations to conceal the illegal diversion of donations to state lawmakers -- including one unnamed public official who received $87,000, the indictment says.
    "He frequently referred to politics as 'smash-mouth football' and would talk about going after political rivals with baseball bats".
    He liked to talk trash and wasn't afraid to make enemies, say those who know him.

    "I hated the guy,'' said former Democratic Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, who lost a notoriously ugly 1998 race to a Mendelsohn-backed candidate, Ellyn Bogdanoff. "He would do whatever it takes to win.''

    Bogdanoff, who described Mendelsohn as a "friend,'' declined to talk about their relationship.
    "One of Mendelsohn's most important relationships was with former state Senate President Ken Pruitt, who resigned abruptly last spring."
    "Whatever Ken wanted him to do, he did,'' said former Sen. Debby Sanderson of Fort Lauderdale, who did not seek reelection after Pruitt and other Republican leaders redrew her voting district to favor a Mendelsohn-backed candidate, Jeff Atwater. "Ken needed to raise money for the presidency, and Alan wanted votes.''

    Pruitt told a Herald/Times reporter he would not comment about Mendelsohn. He has said he received campaign contributions from the doctor but is not involved with the federal investigation.

    Still, Mendelsohn was tight enough with Pruitt and Gov. Crist that both men wrote letters recommending the University of Florida medical school admit the doctor's son in 2007. He was accepted.
    "Despite his high-level connections, Mendelsohn earned the ire of the Tallahassee lobbying corps by frequently advocating for people and apparent clients while failing to register as a lobbyist."
    Case in point: Mutual Benefits Corp., a Fort Lauderdale life insurance company headed by Joel Steinger. According to the indictment, Mendelsohn convinced Steinger to donate more than $1.5 million to Mendelsohn's political action committees on the promise that the eye doctor could help kill legislation that would hurt Mutual Benefits.

    Mendelsohn also told Steinger he could get Crist and other senior officials to hinder a state investigation into Mutual Benefits, the indictment charges.

    Steinger worked hand-in-hand with Mendelsohn's influence-peddling efforts on behalf of Mutual Benefits.

    But Nielsen, one of the state's top political strategists, said Mendelsohn would manipulate donors into believing he could fix their problems.

    "He conned the con men,'' Nielsen said. "He's the Bernie Madoff of 527s,'' referring to issue-oriented political groups that raise and spend campaign funds.
    Much more here: "Indictment portrays a life of sex, lies, power".

    "Lawyers, citing confidentiality concerns, declined comment"

    Greenberg Trauig has quite a track record. See "Greenberg Traurig Executive Describes Misconduct by Abramoff, Other Lobbyists" and "Abramoff Ex-Firm Settles With Tribe (washingtonpost.com)". And remember this "Incoming RNC Chair Martinez and Abramoff?".

    Oh yeah, on top of all that, Dubya's lawyer in the 2000 election fiasco also happened to be a Greenberg Trauig attorney?.

    The latest ...

    The law firm of "Greenberg Traurig's effort to help Stanford in 1998 was one in a string of instances in which the Florida law firm propelled Stanford's business interests and helped rescue him from crisis. The Miami Herald sought interviews with five lawyers who represented Stanford while working for the law firm, but only two responded. Those lawyers, citing confidentiality concerns, declined comment, saying they were simply giving legal support and were unaware of any illegal schemes by Stanford." "Did lawyers' legal advice aid Allen Stanford's banking empire?".

    "Crist running, problems staying?"

    "Crist Lauds Insurance Reform's Results".

    "Alan Grayson will continue getting away with being Alan Grayson"

    Mark Lane writes that

    for all the furious denunciations by Republicans this week, they aren't exactly lining up against him. Big names get mentioned. Big names demure.

    The Republican district has turned into an Obama-majority district. Plus Grayson's personal wealth -- Roll Call estimates he's the 12th richest member of Congress -- gives him room to indulge in a certain amount of rhetorical excess without worrying about how he'll raise money. Heck, he's raised more than $100,000 in donations in the wake of his latest controversy.

    Strangely, he's also been applauded by independents, populists and libertarians for his criticisms -- strongly worded criticisms, of course -- of the Federal Reserve system.

    So in a state where Democrats tend to be of a conservative and hands-across-the-aisle mold, it looks like Alan Grayson will continue getting away with being Alan Grayson.
    "Tirade puts District 8 in the news". About Grayson "'Die quickly' just a sample of Alan Grayson's sound bite attack".

    Mike Thomas:
    Conservatives who quibble with the 45,000 figure [cited by Grayson] don't say what number would be acceptable.

    Would 5,000 be OK?

    It's an interesting conundrum for the pro-life party. Save the embryo until she grows up, can't afford health insurance, and dies for lack of a timely mammogram. Demand that a terminally ill grandma be kept alive, but then let her nephew die for lack of an EKG.

    The sanctity of life depends on where that life ranks on the ideological sliding scale.

    I think Grayson's holocaust comment was over the top, and [the statistics wizard] remain suspicious of the Harvard report.

    But I do appreciate Republicans being forced to take a seat on the death panel.
    Pro-lifers can't play both sides

    Scott Maxwell, "pick[ing] up the NRCC's talking points", thinks all them thar politico types are jus' the same. "Civil discourse? But that won't get on TV!".

    When you elect RPOFers ...

    ... you get what the state's banking industry paid for: "A trio of early bills filed in Tallahassee aim to provide more protections to Florida homeowners and tenants in foreclosure cases, but it’s unlikely any will be passed. The bills, all filed by House Democrats, likely will have an uphill battle next year in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which didn’t act on similar proposals in 2009. All three measures also face resistance from the state’s banking industry, which remains politically influential despite the economic beating it has taken." "Foreclosure bills face uphill climb".

    "Some opponents will never be satisfied"

    Jane Healy: "For years, Central Florida has had its eyes on two critical transportation projects — the Wekiva Parkway and commuter rail. But it's becoming increasingly clear that some opponents will never be satisfied no matter how sensible the plan." "What do Fred Brummer and Paula Dockery really want?".

    Atwater looks to walk into cabinet

    "Senate President Jeff Atwater doesn't have much standing in his way at the moment in his bid to become Florida's next chief financial officer in 2010. ... And the Democrat? There isn't a credible one yet — though there's talk that Bud Chiles, son of the late governor, is considering getting in." "Atwater in lead for CFO".

    Press conference ahead

    "Florida lawmakers vow changes after learning of laxness, loopholes in checking child and elder care workers".


    Aaron Deslatte: "[T]rial lawyers are raising cash this week for FairDistrictsFlorida.org, which wants to put a constitutional amendment on next year's ballot changing the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn."

    The organization casts itself as nonpartisan. But Democrats and left-leaning groups have done the heavy financial lifting so far. Big givers include state and national teacher unions ($150,000); Jacksonville trial lawyer Wayne Hogan ($60,000), and the Service Employees International Union ($225,000).

    ACORN is on the list, too, giving $25,000.

    So is Orlando's outspoken U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who mocked Republicans last week for encouraging the uninsured sick to "die quickly." He gave $12,000 before he won his election last year.

    Democrats view the amendment as their best shot to win back control of either the Florida House or Senate in the next decade.
    "Lawyers back change in redrawing districts".

    Hometown Democracy

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board claims to be "as angry and exasperated as anyone when it comes to how readily officials throughout Florida trample local growth plans."

    The plans are supposed to reflect a community's vision of how — or even whether — it wishes to grow. But at the behest of developers, and frequently against residents' wishes, they're stomped on by city and county commissioners as many as 12,000 times a year.

    No wonder Hometown Democracy, a grass roots movement cultivated by land-use attorneys Lesley Blackner and Ross Burnaman, got enough public support for a 2010 ballot to alter that landscape. It would require public votes on any changes to local growth plans.

    If it passes, local officials couldn't grease corpulent developments past land-use restrictions that don't allow them. They couldn't plop 23,000 homes somewhere in Volusia and Brevard counties — the so-called Farmton Plan — when those counties' growth plans don't include them. They couldn't — unless voters say they could.

    Something's needed to get officials to honor growth-management plans. And Hometown Democracy appears an earnest, provocative and intriguing way of making them do so.

    But we can't support it.
    They explain why here: "Wrong Rx for growth woes".

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