"From golf-course fees to charter jets to the nation's capital, Republican Party of Florida Executive Director Delmar Johnson racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, food and expenses to his party-issued American Express card last year."
Delmar Johnson flew to Las Vegas and San Francisco, to New York and Boston."Florida GOP fundraiser charged huge sums to Republican Party of Florida American Express card". See also "Florida GOP: Follow the story of ex-chair Jim Greer and fundraiser Delmar Johnson,"Florida GOP fundraiser's hefty pay angers party leaders" " and "GOP fundraiser's AmEx charges".
He picked up $3,000 tabs at posh restaurants such as Del Frisco's steakhouse in Orlando and at cheaper spots such as Regina Pizza in Boston; he chartered jets; bought flowers for the wife of party Chairman Jim Greer; and charged greens fees at the Torrey Pines championship golf course in San Diego, according to internal RPOF accounting records and credit-card invoices obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
Johnson and Greer have said the travel and spending were a requirement in order to move in big-league political-fundraising circles, and the party says many of the charges covered travel and meals for big donors or party staffers, as well as day-to-day operating expenses such as phone bills and copying fees.
But they have also steadfastly refused calls to open the party's finances to outside auditors in the wake of accusations by GOP critics that money was being misspent.
Mary Ellen Klas: "A lucrative secret contract awarded to the top deputy for Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer has Republican leaders livid as they try to repair the financially ailing party during this key election year."
The contract between Greer and Delmar Johnson -- the 30-year-old staffer named by Greer to be the Republican Party of Florida's executive director -- paid Johnson's company more than $260,000 for fundraising and $42,000 for expenses. Combined with Johnson's $103,000 executive director salary, he was paid at least $405,000 by the party in 2009, according to year-end reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission."Payments to GOP official irk state Republican leaders". See also "" and "".
Both Greer and Johnson are now being forced out of office amid widespread Republican displeasure with their management of party finances. ...
House Republican Leader Adam Hasner, a Delray Beach Republican, called the arrangement "a slap in the face'' for all Republicans "who have given their hard-earned money to the party to see it supporting a lavish lifestyle through secret contracts.''
Sink 'agin 'The Governator'
William March: "Florida Chief Financial Offical Alex Sink is, well, petite, but still seems quite ready to take on 'The Governator' of California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who trashed Florida on Wednesday."
At a Silicon Valley conference, Schwarzenegger glibly opined that Iowa is uninteresting, Florida is nothing but old people, and who'd want to go to either place?"Florida CFO Alex Sink takes on 'The Governator'".
What would Tebow say?
Scott Maxwell: "Wednesday's column about gay adoption prompted a tidal wave of response. Most readers said they were sick and tired of the extremists putting politics ahead of children — and were particularly disgusted by the Florida Family Policy Council's* use of phony pictures"
"Many readers angry about Florida's ban on gay adoption"
"Stemberger: Wrong pics of gay couple was ‘mistake’".
- - - - - - - - - -
*The Florida affiliate of the delightful organization that is using the Tebow family in an anti-choice advertisement during the Super Bowl.
Rubio "temporarily" in "damage control"
"U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio backtracked Thursday from his statement that the U.S. Census should count only 'legal American citizens,' temporarily shifting his surging campaign into damage control." "Marco Rubio, Charlie Crist clash on who should be counted in Census". See also "Rubio backtracks from 'legal American citizens' census comment".
And they're off ...
"U.S. Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek announced he's in the race. Literally."
"I will be the lead sponsor of Mike Wallace's #01 race car at the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race on 2/13," he said Tuesday via Twitter. ..."U.S. Senate candidate puts his name in a different kind of race". See also "" and "".
But the Meek campaign is in a position where it must get creative. Although he's the Democratic frontrunner, not many know of Meek outside Miami.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 72 percent of registered voters said they hadn't heard enough about Meek to have an opinion about him. This goes up to 86 percent among voters in Southwest Florida. Kids pictured on milk cartons have more name recognition.
To make matters worse, the Republican Senate primary race gets all the attention. Gov. Charlie Crist's transformation from prohibitive favorite to underdog running behind former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio is a dramatic story with national implications. People tend to forget the winner will have to face a Democrat.
So maybe this will help.
Running government like, err, a political party
Florida Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman and three high-ranking deputies have surrendered their free take-home cars after a state investigation said the vehicles might violate federal tax rules on unreported income. The department issued the cars to Peterman and three top aides because they frequently visit field offices and must be on call to respond to emergencies. The cars are considered perquisites, or perks. "Florida Juvenile Justice officials give up car perks amid probe".
YouTube election law issue
"Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey was called on the carpet by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday for improperly using the word "re-elect" in a YouTube campaign posting and padding her legal resume." "Court recommends formal reprimand for Dempsey's campaign errors".
Crist extends hands for federal help
"Florida will appeal to the federal government for help investigating the cancer cluster in The Acreage, Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday, just a day after state health officials said they didn’t plan to search for an environmental cause." "Crist vows to devote 'every ounce of energy' to finding Acreage cancer cause".
Mica rips "the Obama approach"
Joel Engelhardt: "Florida is focusing on an 84-mile connection between Orlando and Tampa."
The administration is offering $1.25 billion as the "down payment" on a $2.6 billion project. The goal is to achieve speeds of 168 mph."High speed, low thinking: Obama set to waste $8 billion on rail?".
But no high-speed train could get up to that speed while making two stops in 20 miles, the plan for the line's most popular stretch — from the Orlando airport to the Orange County Convention Center to Disney World. From there, how useful is a train crossing rural Florida to terminate at a Tampa parking garage, wonders U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park. He ripped the Obama approach, despite its billion-dollar award to Florida.
Crist insists he's a wingnut
"Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no 'RINO.'" "Charlie Crist: I'm no RINO".
"State Farm has started to send letters to the holders of 125,000 policies in Florida that they will no longer be insured by the largest private property insurer in Florida just as the hurricane season approaches it peak." "State Farm to start sending out policy nonrenewal letters".
"Serious ethical questions"
"A prominent law firm seeking lucrative pension work from Florida pulled out of the running Thursday after the firm's senior partner acknowledged making inaccurate statements to a selection committee."
The selection of the firm, New York City's Bernstein Liebhard, had been put on hold by the State Board of Administration after Attorney General Bill McCollum got an anonymous letter in December alleging misconduct by the firm's partners."Law firm admits inaccuracies in applying for state pension fund work, withdraws".
Bernstein Liebhard had been ranked No. 1 by a State Board of Administration evaluation panel, but a two-page letter allegedly written by a former employee said the firm's lawyers had complex financial ties to charities and investors that raised serious ethical questions.
"A virtual prisoner"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Samantha Burton wanted to make her own decisions about her obstetrical care, but the state of Florida wouldn't let her. Claiming it was protecting her fetus, the state took away her rights as a patient and a citizen and made her a virtual prisoner in a Tallahassee hospital. A state appeals court now considering the case must slam the door on such tactics before other pregnant women are victimized."
Burton, a 29-year-old working mother with two young children, was 25 weeks pregnant when she was hospitalized in March 2009 at Tallahassee Memorial. Her obstetrician, Dr. Jana Bures-Forsthoefel, told Burton that because of ruptured membranes and premature contractions, she would have to stay in bed in the hospital for the rest of her pregnancy — potentially 15 more weeks for a full-term pregnancy."Florida trampled woman's rights".
Burton wanted to leave and get a second opinion, but the hospital blocked her departure and set up a hasty court hearing in her hospital room. Burton was sworn in and handed a telephone, with Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper on the other end of the line. She had no lawyer and no legal experience, but Burton was expected to argue her case against her obstetrician and the hospital's attorney.
Her request to go to another hospital was denied. The judge ordered Burton to remain in Tallahassee Memorial and submit to any medical treatment that doctors decided was necessary to preserve the life and health of her fetus. And because the fetus was in the breech position, the judge also ordered Burton to submit to a caesarean section whenever her doctors said it was time.
Burton, who had broken no law, was essentially imprisoned at Tallahassee Memorial and denied control over her medical care. Three days later, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section, but Burton's fetus was dead.
"Dropping like a rock"
"Florida property taxes dropped by $2.28 billion, or 7.5 percent, over the past three years because of tax-cutting measures approved by the Legislature and voters as well as falling real estate values, according to figures presented to a legislative panel today."
"I would classify that as dropping like a rock," said Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Chairman Thad Altman, R-Viera."Property taxes fall 7.5% due to roll back, falling values".
Gov. Charlie Crist famously said he wanted taxes to "drop like a rock" as lawmakers began considering tax relief in 2007. They passed the law to roll back and cap property taxes later that year and then put a constitutional amendment on the January 2008 ballot that voters adopted for additional tax savings.
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "In theory, the way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service preserved 4,000 acres of raw land east of Fort Myers for the endangered Florida panther seems reasonable. The ranchers who have owned the property since 1947 get to keep grazing their cattle and make a significant amount of money by agreeing to not alter the tract in ways detrimental to the panther."
But make no mistake, Florida's "state animal" loses big time."Land deal is a loser for Florida panther".
As reported Thursday by the St. Petersburg Times' Craig Pittman, the Milicevic family ranch is only marginally useful for panthers. Cats crowded out of their South Florida domain pass through it as they cross the Caloosahatchee River into new territory. In a three-tiered ranking system devised by panther researchers, this land falls in the third-ranked "dispersal zone.''
Expect LeMieux to say "no"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Short-term fixes have caused instability in Medicare, eroding its physician foundation. The impact of these delaying tactics is already being felt by seniors. About one in four seniors nationwide looking for a new primary-care physician already have trouble finding one, according to Congress' advisory body for Medicare."
Sens. Bill Nelson and George LeMieux should take this news as a harbinger of what is to come for Florida seniors if action isn't taken now to repeal the broken Medicare-payment formula."Senate can save seniors a Medicare meltdown".
Consider Florida's situation: The state has an above-average percentage of Medicare patients (16 percent) compared with the rest of the country. At the same time, 48 percent of Florida's practicing physicians are older than 50 — the age at which many physicians consider reducing patient care.
Florida recently landed on an AMA list of 21 "Patient Access Hot Spots" where patients already face problems getting physician care. Couple these facts with the looming 21 percent cut, and access and choice of physician will be greatly diminished for the more-than 3.6 million seniors, disabled and military families in Florida who rely on government health-insurance programs.
This dire outlook does not even take into account the coming tsunami of baby boomers into the Medicare program. If Congress does not take action now to repeal the formula that causes these annual cuts, boomers will be in for a shock when they begin seeking health care under Medicare next year.
Nationally, "the unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly in January to 9.7 percen" "January unemployment rate drops to 9.7 percent; 20,000 jobs cut".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Citizens Property Insurance Corp. did the right thing in dialing back its no-no decision to offer a no-bid $10 million contract to a firm to conduct 400,000 inspections. By agreeing to rebid inspection management work promised to a Jacksonville firm last year, officials at the state's insurer of last resort resorted to some common sense." "Time for Citizens to control costs".
"A habit born of frustration"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Legislating by constitutional amendment has become a habit born of frustration by Florida voters unhappy with state legislative priorities."
It's not a great way to govern on detailed matters such as how many students should be in a school classroom. That's the kind of calculation that, ideally, should be part of school-based management and home-rule systems, which put decisions as close as possible to the citizens most affected."Amendment amending".
Constitutional amendments should deal with the broad structure of government duties and responsibilities. An example of one that sends a broad message was approved by 71 percent of Floridians in 1998, establishing a system of high-quality public education as "a paramount duty" of the Legislature.
Lawmakers have not honored the spirit of this amendment, and in 2002 voters expressed continuing frustration by passing the class-size amendment.
There you go
"Hillsborough keeping class sizes small".
"Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson won't seek 5th term".