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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 11, 2009

Sink slams McCollum

    "Democrat Alex Sink said Saturday that she has the background to help make Florida's economy strong while Bill McCollum, her Republican opponent in the governor's race, is a career politician who is all talk."
    Sink pointed out her current job as Florida's chief financial officer has been her only elected office, while Attorney General McCollum served in Congress 20 years and will be on the ballot for the 14th time next year. She also noted he was a Washington lobbyist between elected positions.

    "Leadership should mean caring more about everybody else's job than about your own," Sink said during a Florida Democratic Party dinner. "I'm running for governor because with new leadership, we can build a new economy, an economy with good jobs — jobs that allow you to support a family and carry yourself with dignity."
    "Sink criticizes McCollum as career politician".

    FlaDem Conference

    "About 3,000 Florida Democrats are gathered in Orlando this weekend to prepare for an election year they hope will bring the return of Democratic political power in the state. Their optimism centers on Alex Sink of Tampa, who Democrats think can win them the governor's seat for the first time since 1994." "Sink giving her party new hope".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "The issue of how federal dollars are spent is critical in Florida, where 90 percent of all businesses have fewer than 20 employees and government contracts represent a valuable lifeline amid a tanking economy."

    The Small Business Administration recently reported that, nationwide, small firms received a record $93.2 billion in prime contracts in 2008. While that was $10 billion more than the previous year, it only represented 21.5 percent of all deals.

    In Florida, more than 12,000 companies won small-business contracts worth $4.8 billion, according to the FPDS-NG, the government's procurement database.

    But a Miami Herald analysis of more than 88,400 contracts performed in the state suggests that the numbers are bloated by companies that either don't belong on the list or defy all reasonable definitions of what makes a small firm. ...

    Among the top 20 small business contractors in Florida, seven had revenue of $100 million or more, and one boasts annual revenue of $1 billion. In addition, nine of the top 20 firms have more than 100 workers and three have more than 1,000 employees.

    Deeper in the data, massive public companies such as Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and Raytheon were all counted as small firms doing business in the state.

    Some of those corporations are in the database under rules that grandfather them in, said Joe Jordan, the SBA's associate administrator for government contracting and business development.
    "Under federal guidelines, companies that start small and grow large -- as well as small companies that are acquired by larger firms -- can maintain the small-business status of their long-term contracts for up to five years.".
    For example, one of Florida's top 20 small-business contractors is engineering company Morgan Research Corp., of Huntsville, Ala. The firm was bought in 2006 by Virginia-based consulting firm Stanley. With 3,600 employees and annual revenue of $604 million, Stanley is large.

    Even so, under federal rules, $36.7 million in Florida contracts that went to Morgan in 2008 were considered small-business deals even though that money is lining the pockets of its corporate parent. ...

    The multiple loopholes, incomplete government data and the challenge of prying information out of privately held companies make the problem difficult to quantify.
    Much more here: "U.S. contracts meant for small businesses in Florida often go to huge companies".

    As Charlie campaigns ...

    "Just months after patching together a budget by cutting spending, raising fees and gobbling up federal money, Florida lawmakers are bracing for more tough times next year. Florida could face a budget shortfall of as much as $2.6 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year that starts in July, as state tax collections continue sagging and costs increase for programs such as Medicaid." "Fla. faces $2.6 billion shortfall".

    The media has their story ...

    ... And they're damn sure gonna run with it: "asked about the Democrat whose name is likely to be on the tip-top of the 2010 ballot -- U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek -- they are not so sure."

    On one hand,

    Democrats are chomping at the bit to see Sink, the state's chief financial officer, take on Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, while the Miami congressman is still fighting the perception that he can't beat the sitting governor. ...

    The doubts about Meek -- coming at a time when the governor's Republican rival, Marco Rubio, is gaining ground -- were widespread enough to persuade former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre to jump into the Democratic race last week. Most activists are skeptical of Ferre's chances but say his campaign shows Meek doesn't have the race locked down. ...

    Meek's team dismissed questions about his Democratic challengers and his strength in a general election, pointing to an internal campaign poll they said showed Crist was beatable. The Feldman Group survey of 800 Florida voters in late September found 47 percent behind the governor and 31 percent for Meek. The margin of error was plus or minus four percent.
    "Florida Democrats are not yet sold on Meek as the nominee for Senate".

    RPOFer "fundraising setbacks"

    "If Florida Democrats needed any more cheering up on the eve of their state conference in Orlando this weekend, they got it with word that the likely top two Republican contenders on the 2010 ballot had some noteworthy fundraising setbacks this summer." "GOP fundraising slide bolsters state's Dems".

    Registration overcoming RPOFer gerrymandering

    "The 670,000-voter edge in registration that Democrats gained last year has changed the math in dozens of seats around the state."

    For example, Obama captured 50 percent or more of the vote last year in 10 House seats held by Republicans -- including the Central Florida districts held by Cannon; Sandy Adams and Steve Precourt of Orlando; Bryan Nelson of Apopka; and Mike Horner of Kissimmee. Of them, only Adams is not running for re-election.

    Still, re-creating the Obama effect is unlikely in 2010, in part because turnout usually slumps in off-year elections. And Democratic strategists say that the party won't reclaim majorities in either chamber of the Legislature before 2014, or 2016. Republicans hold a 76-44 advantage in the House and 26-14 edge in the Senate.

    Democrats regained a net of eight seats in the House in 2006 but just one last year. In 2010, decisions will have to be made over whether to target some -- or go after many.

    "In my opinion, there are 34 Republican seats that with sufficient funding and the right candidate, we have a shot," said Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat overseeing House campaigns in 2010.
    "Florida Democrats confident about 2010 odds, but hurdles loom".

    Begging Disney

    "What's Disney willing to do for high-speed rail?".

    Zell Corporation slams Grayson

    Jane Healy has a few questions, starting with: "What's wrong with Sen. Bill Nelson?"

    Why is Orlando's Nelson not a leader in this debate? Not only is he a Democrat in one of the nation's largest and most diverse states, he was Florida's insurance commissioner until 2000 when he was elected to the Senate. As a supposed expert in insurance, he would be the ideal person to meld proposals that could serve Florida and the nation well. What's more, Nelson also sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which is charged with coming up with a bill.

    Rather than trying to lead on this, though, Nelson has ceded it to a senator from Montana, a state with fewer people than Orange County. He seems fixated instead on protecting Medicare Advantage from cuts.
    Although these points have validity, Healy quickly moves onto the typical Zell Corporation criticisms of Grayson and Kosmas.

    Healy's shots at Grayson are right out of the GOP playbook, to wit: Grayson's criticism of GOPer obstructionism means he "has decided to have no serious role in this debate. From his acerbic comments, you'd think that he represents a liberal district in Massachusetts." "Nelson, Grayson, Kosmas on sidelines in health debate". Related: "Sen. Nelson sees Obama victory on health care".

    Healy thinks she is more in touch with Grayson's (RPOFer gerrymandered) district than he is. Maybe she is. We'll see about that next November.

    "An incredible story"

    "Wealthy Fort Lauderdale businessman Joel Steinger, the target of a fraud investigation, realized he was in a jam. So he went to the FBI in 2007 with an incredible story ...". "Mendelsohn case started with businessman's tip".

    "Crist's foil has backing from conservative activists"

    "Despite the public relations bonanza, Crist still holds a nearly 30-point lead in most polls, and his financial advantage over Rubio has only increased since the start of the summer. Rubio's fundraising has reportedly picked up, but he is still expected to report in campaign disclosure reports next week that he has about $1 million in his campaign account in a state where it costs a minimum of $1 million a week to advertise on television. Crist's campaign, meanwhile, said this week he will report $6.2 million cash on hand for the 2010 election." "Rubio gains buzz, but lags in fundraising".

    "Anderson spent big"

    "As Palm Beach County's top elections official, Arthur Anderson spent big: $40,450 for children's books, $10,000 for a Haitian cultural festival, $3,697 for jar openers bearing his name and thousands more for computer equipment that has never been found. Now, the former supervisor of elections' spending may force the county to pay more than $58,000 to settle questions over the use of federal money." "Audit questions thousands spent by the Palm Beach County elections office in '07-'08".

    "Secret State Spending"

    "Two safeguards on a secretive process that turns tax dollars into cash incentives for private corporations were quietly removed in the final days of the 2009 legislative session to help a Jupiter Island investment manager quickly secure $20 million for his digital animation company."

    An amendment gave Gov. Charlie Crist's office, which helped craft the language, sole authority to award $42 million in economic development money. As a result, nine companies, each identified only by a code name, were awarded shares of the money within a week this summer. One $7.4 million project in Taylor County was never discussed in public.

    Nearly half of the summer's total went to Project Bumblebee - a proposal from John Textor, who is targeting Port St. Lucie for a spinoff of Digital Domain, a visual effects company he owns with Hollywood blockbuster producer Michael Bay.
    Let's follow the money:
    [T]he last-minute state budget amendment has already benefited the election campaigns of Crist and state Reps. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, and David Rivera, R-Miami, whose support was critical for the amendment.

    Just days after the legislative session in May, which ran into overtime as lawmakers squabbled over the budget, Textor gave $5,000 to the Republican Party of Florida's federal campaign account to help Crist, who has raised more than $6 million for his U.S. Senate race next year.

    In June, Textor gathered $2,000 in donations for Ambler and $1,500 for Rivera. Textor also helped arrange for former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, one of Textor's business partners, to attend Ambler's kickoff fund-raiser last month for Ambler's state Senate campaign. Textor said he hopes to host a fund-raiser for Ambler in Palm Beach County.

    Textor said the donations were made out of gratitude. But he and all three elected officials deny any campaign contributions were promised in return for help with his project.

    "If the people you help don't support you, who would?" Ambler asked.
    "A Post investigation: Secret legislative move leads to quick $20 million for project in St. Lucie ".

    "Perceptions of favoritism, and potential conflicts of interest"

    The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Just because something meets the letter of the law doesn't make it proper. Just because an action is legal doesn't make it in the public's best interest. ... So we have:"

    Public officials socializing with public officials who then vote on projects those lobbyists push, often with either our tax dollars or our interests in the middle.

    Public officials moonlighting as lobbyists, leveraging their clout in one arena to influence public officials in another.

    Public officials' spouses involved in lobbying, or getting politically-connected jobs.

    Maybe it's all legal. But it still smacks as ill-advised by raising perceptions of favoritism, and potential conflicts of interest.
    "Even if it's legal, it might not be right".

    "Counties are weathering a 'perfect storm'"

    "Counties are weathering a 'perfect storm' of a worldwide economic crisis, a 2007 legislative mandate to roll back taxes and Amendment 1 — Crist's successful campaign last year to double the homestead exemption and allow homeowners to keep their Save Our Homes benefits when they move — said association spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller." "Counties endure decline in tax revenue".

    Laff riot

    "Thrasher is new ethics chairman".

    Orlando's "urban myth"

    Mike Thomas: "Empty nesters will tire of their big, empty ranch homes. They will move to urban centers and live happily ever after in their skyboxes, enjoying the view, free from the tyranny of big yards and automobiles. The young professionals were to bring energy and buzz to downtown Orlando. But it was the baby boomers who were supposed to bring the fat portfolios, using them to buy the luxury condos, eat at the cafes, shop at the exclusive stores and buy tickets for the new performing-arts center."

    "It was a theory pushed here and around the rest of the country. But this push toward urbanization is becoming an urban myth." "Making move to urban core is urban myth".

    "Because something is legal doesn't make it right"

    Mary Ann Lindley has a lengthy piece this morning on Sansom and the need for campaign finance reform. She begins: "Last week, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis did what judges are supposed to do, which was determine whether state-budget decisions made by discredited former House Speaker Ray Sansom were illegal — or just offensively self-serving and regrettably business as usual in Florida politics." "Abusing power isn't always a crime".

    Snookering voters

    The Miami Herald editorial board 's Myriam Marquez reminds us that "For 18 years [she] sat in on endorsement interviews when [she] worked in Orlando. Everything from presidential candidates to elections supervisors"

    Marquez, who, in "Bush Vision For Florida is JFK-Like" wrote perhaps the most sycophantic piece of doggerel seen in a Florida newspaper in the last decade - jabbering that Jebbie's "vision is universal and timeless...clear and electrifying as the day's cobalt-blue sky", now writes about political endorsements:

    I wrote more editorials than I care to recall. Sometimes, the endorsement made the difference. Other times, special-interest money helped candidates snooker voters with dreamy ads on TV and radio.
    "Local elections more important than ever this year".

    And sometimes, Myriam, "the endorsement ... helped candidates snooker voters".

    Cold cash

    Scott Maxwell: "Whose cash jolts your U.S. House lawmakers' campaigns?".

    "In fact, it's been worse"

    Randy Schultz: "A regulator having private dinners with executives of the companies she regulates. Staff members of regulators giving private access to executives of regulated industries. Has it ever been this bad at the Florida Public Service Commission? Yes. In fact, it's been worse." "Close down PSC club".


    Rhonda Swan: "The Bible is too liberal. That's right, the infallible word of God isn't so infallible after all."

    At least not according to members of Conservapedia, who have created a Wiki-type online encyclopedia of the same name and want to translate what they consider to be the liberal bias out of the King James version.

    Conservapedia is the brainchild of Andrew Schlafly, a lawyer and former engineer, who is the chief editor of the site. His mother is Phyllis Schlafly, a national leader of the conservative movement and president of the conservative interest group Eagle Forum.

    Conservapedia maintains that "liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations.
    "Thou shalt not be liberal".

    SunRail fuss

    Joel Engelhardt: "It began as the Central Florida Commuter Rail. Last year, the proposed Orlando-area line went to a snappier name: SunRail. Now, it is seeking federal stimulus money under the name Central Florida Rail Passenger Corridor. Whatever you call it, the proposed commuter rail line is erroneously trying to tap President Obama's vision for a network of high-speed rail projects linking American cities. ... SunRail no longer threatens only Tri-Rail. Now, the boondoggle stands to end the state's bullet-train dream." "Backtrack on SunRail".

    At least until we get past the next election ...

    "Faced with an edict from Gov. Charlie Crist to 'clean house' at the troubled Public Service Commission, Senate President Jeff Atwater says he'll hold hearings during the next two months to change the way the utility regulator does business." "PSC troubles prompt widespread calls for reform".

    Off topic

    "GOP mocks Obama's peace prize".

    "Transition from public servant to corporate lubricator"

    Carl Hiaasen: "A strange and curious event took place last week."

    Regulators actually denied a rate increase to Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility.
    "It would be swell to report that the PSC acted from a hallowed tradition of protecting customers from being gouged, but it has no such tradition and that's not what happened. The PSC was basically shamed into denying the pipline request."
    The agency is in the midst of a headline-grabbing scandal brought about by staff members becoming too chummy with the utilities. A criminal investigation has been initiated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    Like many regulatory panels, the PSC is uncomfortable in a bright spotlight, and for good reason. Too many commissioners and staff members get cozy with the power companies because they envision future employment opportunities.

    Some would rather play along with an FPL rate hike than jeopardize a juicy job offer somewhere down the line.
    Recall recently non-reappointed PSC Chairman Matthew Carter, who "called an FPL lobbyist and two FPL attorneys 107 times between Feb. 23 and Aug. 20, including on weekends. The flurry of chit-chat began soon after FPL and Progress Energy announced they would seek roughly a 30 percent base-rate increase from customers in 2010 -- a request now pending before the embattled PSC. Carter, who is forbidden by law from directly communicating with any regulated utility, said his aide".

    If history is a guide, somebody in the utility business will find well-paying positions for Carter and his aide. Unless you're cursed with a conscience, the transition from public servant to corporate lubricator can be a breeze.

    The dark side always pays better.
    "Man bites dog: PSC rejects FPL rate hike".


    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It's become known as the cleantech industry. Businesses are cashing in on the need to cut carbon emissions and reduce America's dependence on unstable and unfriendly foreign fuel suppliers. They're developing ways to use energy more efficiently and promoting renewable alternatives." "Go for the green".

    "Judicial bypass"

    "When pregnant minors decide to have an abortion, but they don't want to tell their parents, they can ask a judge." "Teens seeking abortions can get judge's permission".

    AG race

    "Democrats also think they have a strong shot at the second-most important state government office, attorney general, viewed as a step toward the governor's office. The winner of the Democratic primary between state Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber likely will face Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp in the general election. The two Democrats, running what appears to be a close race, will face off in a debate today." "Things are improving".

    And Marion Hammer would say ... ?

    "Police: Fla. man kills fiancee on eve of wedding".

    "Immigration system is broken ... needs a complete overhaul"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: " There's fresh evidence -- not that any was needed -- that the national immigration system is broken and desperately needs a complete overhaul. Exhibit A was a report last week filed not by a chronic critic of immigration but by Dora B. Schriro, a former adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who recently left to become New York City's correction commissioner. The 35-page report described a penal system that lacks standards for managing detainees, suffers from a lack of expertise and falls short of basic expectations." "Dysfunctional detention".

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