Republican Party of Florida's "crisis of confidence"
Beth Reinhard and Adam C Smith: "As a volatile election season gets underway, the Republican Party of Florida is facing its biggest crisis of confidence in decades."
Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment."Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas."
The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses -- at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising.
But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist's hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. ...Much more here: "Secrets rock state GOP". Related: "The secret fundraising contract (PDF)".
Greer made a show of rescinding the party credit cards of top elected Republican officials and publicly cutting up his American Express card last summer to stem criticism of party spending.
But internal records obtained by the Herald/Times show heavy spending continued -- on Johnson's card: $100 flower arrangement for the wives of Greer and Gov. Crist; thousands of dollars in meals, $15,000 to charter a jet to George LeMieux's swearing in as U.S. senator, and another $1,800 for in-flight catering services.
The spending helped Johnson rack up more than 1 million American Express points. Greer declined to talk about the matter, but said in a message he was proud of his three years of leadership with the state party. ...
Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican gubernatorial front-runner, has been deeply involved in the controversy, while trying to keep it quiet.
Perhaps Billy should be doing some, you know ... kriminal investigatin' and stuff, instead of "trying to keep it quiet".
After all, McCollum claims he is "the statewide elected official directed by the Florida Constitution to serve as the chief legal officer for the State of Florida ... is responsible for protecting Florida consumers from various types of fraud ... [and within] the Attorney General’s Office is the Office of Statewide Prosecution which targets widespread criminal activities throughout Florida including ... gang activity."
Meanwhile, the The Orlando Sentinel reports that "as Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer announced last month he would resign amid criticism for his profligate spending, House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon was clearing out $655,000 from the party's bank account."
Public records show the money was transferred into a separate political committee called Florida Liberty Fund created by the Winter Park Republican last November."Florida GOP's financial woes continue -- lawmaker takes back $655,000 he raised"
The move is yet another example of how Greer's spending, fundraising woes and subsequent ouster have left the party in a financial pickle even as the GOP brand nationally and in Florida is on the upswing.
State Sen. Paula Dockery,"Republican candidate for governor challenged both major contenders for her party's chairmanship to disclose all of the Florida GOP's finances, including credit-card bills of party officers. " "Candidate calls for full disclosure".
"Double down on everything that is wrong with Florida"
Mike Thomas: "The newest plan to save Florida involves turning it into Nevada."
Line the state with casinos, rake in the billions and live tax-free ever after. It's enough to make the conservatives in Tallahassee swallow their principles and sit down to deal."And now a growing number of Florida legislators want to emulate the Vegas model."
It spares them from making responsible choices about taxes and budgets.
It would double down on everything that is wrong with Florida.
Rep. Alan Hays even wants socialized gambling, with the state owning the casinos. If Charlie Crist loses his U.S. Senate race, I can't think of a better door-greeter."Will legislators gamble away state's future?".
Hays says we could fund schools — just as we did with the lottery money.
And then in the next recession, we could legalize medical marijuana and Rep. Hays could set up pot clinics next to the casinos. Or do what a leading Nevada lawmaker proposed: slap a $5 tax on all acts of prostitution.
With gambling, Hays says, we could cut taxes. Shrink the tax base even more. Make us even more dependent on tourism. Keep those low-paying jobs flowing in. Make the next budget crisis even worse than this one.
These people are dangerous. There is no light at the end of their tunnel vision.
"South Florida's 2,000-mile grid of canals has proven too efficient at draining the landscape. The Everglades is now half its original size. Water is increasingly scarce. Every time it rains, the canals flush billions of gallons into the sea. Now the water that so tormented Florida's early ranchers could become a cash crop for hundreds of Central Florida landowners, if an unlikely alliance of ranchers and environmentalists gets its way" "Farming water: new plan for Everglades restoration would pay ranchers to use land for storing water".
"Hands Across the Sand"
"Black-clad opponents of offshore oil drilling hope to mount the biggest protest in Florida history by joining hands along the coastline Saturday." "Offshore drilling opponents to join hands in protest Saturday".
Pass the tea-bags
The Tampa Tribune editorial board loves their Charlie - heck, according to them, President Obama should be listening to that economic giant, Charlie Crist: "Simply cutting taxes for everyone is the most visible, direct way to encourage more spending and more production."
That's why Gov. Charlie Crist's straightforward proposal to reduce the state corporate income tax is a reasonable, if necessarily small, step in the right direction."Tax ideas to spur jobs".
In contrast, several of the job-growth ideas pushed by President Barack Obama are quite complicated and unlikely to help the economy. ...
It would be smarter and simpler to follow Crist's example. Crist is asking the Legislature to cut the state corporate income tax by one percentage point, from 5.5 percent down to 4.5 percent, on the first $1 million of a company's taxable income. It's "a pretty good stimulant," Crist says, with his usual optimism.
Gotta do what you gotta do
"Kendrick Meek hopes to get his name before a new segment of the electorate by paying to have his name splashed on a NASCAR race car Saturday. " "Meek adds name to NASCAR race car".
"Rubio smashes Crist"
"For a while there, it looked as if U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio might win over the right-wing activists in Brevard County but not rank-and-file Republicans. That appears to have changed. ... Rubio beat Crist 321-45 in balloting at the local GOP's annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Radisson at Port Canaveral, which Watchdog reporter Jeff Schweers attended. It was at least the 18th such poll Rubio has won in recent months among local executive committees, loyal party donors and members of various Republican clubs." "Rubio smashes Crist in straw poll".
Bobbing and weaving
"Crist, who has proposed a $500 million increase in spending on state schools, declined to acknowledge that the increase depends largely on voters in counties, including Hillsborough, approving a property tax increase." "Governor ducks talk of schools tax hike".
"Rove was in Vero Beach on Monday as part of the Riverside Theatre’s Distinguished Lecturer series, giving his opinion on the Obama presidency, partisanship in Washington and the 2010 mid-term elections." "Rove says he's "still wired" for politics".
"Republican gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery will address the Bay County Republican Roundtable on Tuesday night." "Governor candidate to speak in PC".
George Bennett: "South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson predicted in December that conservative activists would make a national statement in the April 13 special congressional election to replace “fire-breathing liberal” Democrat Robert Wexler."
But Wilkinson and conservative fellow-travelers are sounding more cautious after the sobering math lesson of last week’s primaries."Congressional primaries a cautionary note for Tea Party, 9-12 activists".
Democrats, who begin with a 2-1 voter registration advantage in District 19, outnumbered Republicans more than 3-1 at the polls last week. The Dem primary was a landslide win for Wexler’s handpicked successor, Boca Raton state Sen. Ted Deutch.
In a GOP primary in which all three candidates aggressively courted the tea party/
9-12 vote, only 7.4 percent of Republicans voted. Ed Lynch eked out a 40.7 percent win over low-budget rookies Joe Budd and Curt Price, who criticized Lynch’s business dealings and didn’t endorse him after the primary. ...
"I was disappointed in the Republican voter turnout," Wilkinson said. The squabbling over Lynch’s tax liens and the court judgments against his contracting business weren’t productive, Wilkinson said."If the Republicans are going to win, they’re going to have to focus on issues and what the American people care about.”
Ed Fulop of the Glenn Beck-inspired South Florida 9-12 group was “really surprised with how lousy the turnout was. I was expecting at least twice as many voters as that."
"Russell Adler, a name partner in convicted lawyer Scott Rothstein's former Fort Lauderdale firm, was sued Monday for more than $1.2 million by bankruptcy attorneys who claim the money was the fruit of Rothstein's massive investment scam."
During his tenure with the firm, Adler and his wife Katie also gave about $185,000 to state and federal politicians. Among them: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his presidential bid and later John McCain, when he became the Republican nominee for the White House."Bankruptcy attorneys sue Rothstein partner".
"State utility regulators and Florida Power & Light's parent company said Monday they would investigate anonymous allegations that FPL managers broke the law and committed fraud by forcing employees to provide inaccurate and misleading information to regulators and shareholders." "Claims of misconduct at FPL prompt investigation". See also "PSC, FPL vow to investigate anonymous claims of fraud".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Raising the tax just 14 cents a gallon (which works out to less than 2 cents for a 12-ounce can of beer) would produce an estimated $72.5 million. Unlike other alcohol taxes, which are simply swept into Florida's general fund, any alcohol-tax increase should be devoted solely to addiction prevention and treatment."
Florida lawmakers are averse to raising taxes -- but they should not have a hard time explaining this decision, in terms of money and lives saved."2-cents per beer to save billions for Floridians".