"Since 2004, the U.S. government has paid Boca Raton-based International Oil Trading Co. $1.4 billion to deliver jet fuel through Jordan to U.S. troops and their allies in Iraq, according to federal contracts. At least $70 million of the profits appears to have gone to one person:"
Gulf Stream resident Harry Sargeant III, former finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and fund-raiser for Gov. Charlie Crist and the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain."If the defense department had been able to hire another bidder, taxpayers could have saved at least $180 million, according to a congressional investigation completed last year."
But it couldn't because Sargeant's company was the only U.S. company authorized by the Jordanian government to ship through Jordan."The advancement of the case also "
Sargeant and his associates established the monopoly through tens of millions of dollars in bribes to corrupt Jordanian officials, according to a lawsuit from a would-be competitor that this month got the go-ahead to continue from a federal judge in West Palm Beach.
shines an unwelcome spotlight on Crist at a time when his U.S. Senate campaign is fighting the rising momentum of former House Speaker Marco Rubio's campaign. Rubio is Crist's GOP primary opponent. Sargeant, whose relationship with Crist dates back to their fraternity days at Florida State University, has donated at least $358,000 to Crist and the state party through his family and businesses. ... Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer also defended Sargeant last year when he questioned the timing of the report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was released less than a month before the November general election."U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., accused Sargeant of engaging in 'a reprehensible form of war profiteering.'"
According to the report and court documents, Sargeant formed IOTC Jordan in 2004 with Abu-Naba'a and Mohammad Al-Saleh, the brother-in-law of Jordan's King Abdullah II, to bid on contracts for the shipment of fuel from Jordan to the U.S. troops in Iraq.Much more here: "Legal woes continue to swirl for former finance chair of the Republican Party of Florida Harry Sargent".
"As the Florida House prepares for an unrivaled investigative hearing in January into its former leader, new information undercuts key parts of Rep. Ray Sansom's defense."
A budget document clearly links Sansom to a Panhandle college's $6 million airport project and a statement from an official raises new questions about Sansom's ties to a private developer and major political donor."Document damaging to Sansom".
Prepare for "momentous" political year
"The upcoming year promises to be one of the most momentous, not just for the 365 days ahead but reaching into the future for a decade to come."
For the first time ever, every member of the state's Cabinet will be up for grabs in the same election. Governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner will each be filled by new people.In addition to that,
The U.S. Senate race will lead the parade.
All 120 state House seats are up for grabs, and more than half of the Senate.
There are four proposed amendments already on the November ballot.In addition,
FairDistrictsFlorida is trying to meet the Feb. 1 deadline to get 676,811 signatures.
(A) Amendment 1, proposed by the Legislature, would repeal the state's public-finance system for elections.
(A) Amendment 2, by the Legislature, would expand property-tax credits for deployed military personnel.
(A) Amendment 3, by the Legislature, would cap annual assessment increases for non-homestead property at 5 percent and provide tax protection for first-time homestead buyers.
(A) Amendment 4, proposed by Florida Hometown Democracy by initiative petition, would require local votes on significant changes to comprehensive development plans.
The 2010 U.S. Census will define politics for the next decade."2010 set to be momentous year for Florida". Related: "Redistricting a puzzling chore".
First, there's the count. Florida is likely to vault to become the third most populous state and gain a congressional seat. Population for the state is a factor in federal funding formulas, including for counties and cities.
Then, after the count's in, state lawmakers get to work drawing the political lines for congressional districts and state House and Senate districts.
The whole process could get even more complicated if FairDistrictsFlorida makes the ballot with its redistricting criteria.
No brain required
"2009's political no-brainers".
Running Florida on the cheap
"The UC trust fund fell from $1.3 billion at this time last year to nothing in August, forcing the state to borrow more than $600 million from the federal government. If the fund dips below 4 percent of taxable payroll for a fiscal year, rate increases kick in automatically." "Businesses struggle with higher tabs for unemployment tax".
Evil teachers' unions
The Sun-Sentinel editors channel their owners this morning: "Teachers union sends not-so-merry holiday cards".
"Virtually every politician in America fantasizes about achieving what Robert Wexler has attained: Constituents who love him so much that he could cruise to an easy congressional re-election until he's ready for retirement. But Wexler, 48, is giving it up. On Jan. 3, he resigns from Congress, a year before the end of his seventh term." "Wexler's legacy: Loyal constituents, bipartisan bonds, passionate critics". See also "Robert Wexler: Farewell interview", "From both sides of the asile, colleagues weigh in" and "Looking back on Wexler's career".
"Florida deserves action on corruption crackdown"
News Journal editorial board: "Misconduct and scandal plagued Florida government in 2009. That has some hoping that 2010 will be a good year for ethics reforms and other changes to make public officials more accountable." "Cleaning up politics".
Entrepreneurs in action
"2 Broward doctors settle insider trading case".
"Yes, Charlie ..."
Paul Flemming: "Yes, Charlie, there is a Federal Stimulus. It exists as certainly as love and generosity and pork-barrel politics exist, and you know that they abound and give to your agencies and political allies their highest budget requests and most profligate rail projects. Alas! How dreary and in deficit would be the state budget if there were no Federal Stimulus. It would be as dreary and in such arrears as if there were no trust funds to sweep. There would be no childlike faith in them, no poetry of jobs created, no romance of road contractors with larded bids to make tolerable this economy. We should have no political future, except in sense and sight and an endowed chair at Florida State. The eternal light of optimism with which your politics fills the world would be extinguished." Much more here: "Yes, Charlie, there is a Federal Stimulus".
Voting machine monopoly
Miami Herald editorial board: "The only people who benefit from monopolies are their owners. For the rest of us, monopolies mean being powerless because we have no choices."
ES&S officials have tried to quell these concerns, saying the new acquisition will result in "better products and services.'' Maybe so, but it would be more reassuring to know that election officials throughout the country had access to competition to keep integrity in the voting process and uphold citizens' trust that their votes will be counted."An unhealthy monopoly on voting machines".
Mr. Browning can go a long way toward reassuring Floridians by certifying additional voting equipment manufacturers, thus giving election supervisors more leverage when dealing with ES&S.
Who writes this garbage?
Rush Limbaugh's favorite minority after from Clarence Thomas, one Walter Williams, wants you to know that the "Prospects for improvement in black education are not likely given the cozy relationship between black politicians, civil rights organizations and teacher unions." "Liberals ruin black education".
This, we suppose, pleases the tea party crowd?
"Florida’s low stimulus share comes despite having the nation’s eighth-highest unemployment rate in October, second-highest rate of foreclosures this year and highest growth rate in new food-stamp recipients in 2009. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report said Florida was the second-most economically distressed state behind Nevada." "Florida still low in per-capita stimulus funds".
"Oily sales pitch"
The Tampa Trib editors: "It is becoming increasingly evident that the shadowy group promoting oil drilling immediately off Florida's shores is playing fast and loose with the facts."
Florida Energy Associates, an independent group of oil producers that won't identify its members, claims in its literature, "New technology allows for safe, sub-sea energy exploration without creating a visual blight. No visible, permanent structures need be seen from the shoreline.""Consider other claims."
Rep. Dean Cannon, the Winter Park Republican who is the Legislature's leading champion of drilling, continually claims there will be no unsightly rigs.
The drilling proponents said as much as 3 billion barrels of oil lie beneath Florida's waters. But the 3-billion-barrel figure is based on a U.S. Geological Survey report that included not just Florida's waters but much of the Gulf of Mexico and land deposits under most of the South."Facts sink new drilling technology".
Another assertion is that Florida would realize $2.25 billion a year in royalties. But that is based on the assumption Florida waters would produce 150 million barrels of oil a year - more than Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and California combined produced in their peak year. And remember, almost all the exploratory wells that were drilled before Florida's coastline was protected came up dry.
Of course, the oil crowd's mantra is that the rigs pose no risk to the environment. But just last August, a blowout occurred on a new "jack-up" rig like what is proposed for Florida, and it spilled 300 to 400 barrels of oil a day for weeks in the Timor Sea off Australia.
Such an accident would ruin our white sandy beaches, considered among the best in the nation, and demolish Florida's $65 billion-a-year tourism industry. And small oil spills remain routine in Gulf of Mexico operations.
The check's in the mail
"Flagstone Island Gardens developer Mehmet Bayraktar, who said he'd make good on $500,000 in overdue rent to the city of Miami by Tuesday, instead received a five-week reprieve." "Miami gives Watson Island developer a reprieve on back rent".
Another lazy public employee
"Fire-rescue dispatcher helps revive child pulled from pool".
Thank you, Mr. Nelson
"The Senate's version of healthcare reform approved Thursday has a provision to protect Florida seniors from losing a rich benefit package they have as members of Medicare Advantage Plans. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., inserted the language to help 800,000 Florida seniors enrolled in the HMO plans, including 300,000 in South Florida." "Senior health benefits preserved".
Beetles, crabs and pythons
"FL avocado farmers enjoy high prices, fear beetle", "Crab claws a lucrative catch" and "Reptile breeders say python ban will hurt business".