RPOF is "one of the nation's biggest jokes"
Scott Maxwell writes this morning that, "in Florida, the GOP is a train wreck."
And we're not talking a minor slipping-off-the-tracks, tip-over-the-caboose kind of wreck. We're talking a head-on collision.Maxwell continues, pointing out that
The party chair has been ousted, he and his deputy exposed for credit-card spending sprees so extravagant, they'd make the Real Housewives of New York City blush.
The previous House speaker is embroiled in scandal and facing charges.
And here in Central Florida, Republicans are in such disarray, they are going through congressional candidates like Kleenex, trying to find one they like. ... the Sunshine State GOP is suddenly one of the nation's biggest jokes ... only it's the Dems who are laughing hardest.
perhaps the best example of Republicans causing themselves problems can be found in the party's inability to consistently back their own candidates in either of its two most coveted congressional races — when they can find a candidate, anyway.Much more here: "GOP soap opera is comedy of errors".
The GOP routinely calls freshman Democrat Alan Grayson one of the most vulnerable incumbents in America. But just about every time the GOP makes that claim, another potential Republican challenger is caught running away with his tail between his legs.
Last week's tail-tucker was 28-year-old Armando Gutierrez. A few months ago, Republicans described the Central Florida newcomer as the next big thing in local politics. He snagged endorsements from everyone from a former head of the state GOP to one of Jeb Bush's sons. Gutierrez was in it to win it … until something else flashy caught his eye. He dropped out last week, saying he was more interested in baseball.
And he's not alone. About a dozen Republicans — everyone from Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty to House Speaker Larry Cretul — have talked big about taking on Grayson, only to slink off into the shadows when asked to back up their talk with action.
Another liberal "journalist" explains why unions are bad.
"Crist is depending on more money from the feds"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida lawmakers, facing the onerous task of building a 2010-11 state budget with the glimmer of modestly increasing revenue but fast-growing expenses, have largely dismissed Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed spending plan. They've balked at its $69.2 billion size, roughly 4 percent higher than the current year, and lamented his use of creative financing. "
Yet Crist is right that the state should start investing again in improving education and protecting the environment — even if he is on shaky ground about paying for it."Getting Florida back on track".
Underlying Crist's budget premise is his belief that the state economy is finally turning a corner. Home sales were up in 2009 and Florida is adding residents — 70 per day — after losing them for a period last year. The growth is expected to increase sales taxes and real estate transaction fees, but not nearly enough to cover the higher cost of state government without more revenue. ...
To finance a bigger budget, Crist is depending on more money from the federal government, both in stimulus dollars and money for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the state's low-income people, the disabled and children. ...
Michael Mayo: " Mom of Rothstein's daughter: 'He left us high and dry'".
It is just a matter of time
"Picture a Vegas-style Bellagio on the beach. Rows of neon-lit slot machines, blackjack dealers and craps dice."
In Florida? It might not be as unlikely as it seems."Florida lawmakers consider new gaming options".
For the first time, the Florida Legislature's conservative, anti-gambling façade is showing cracks.
As Gov. Charlie Crist pushes his Seminole gambling deal yet again, legislators are beginning to think bigger — with even anti-gambling conservatives weighing the idea of trying to use Florida's tourist appeal to create lucrative casino complexes.
Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who strongly opposed the expansion of slots in South Florida, now says that since gambling is everywhere in Florida, she supports a "free market" approach. She is pitching a "Gaming Equalization Act" to lure a half-dozen gambling executives to build beachside hotel-casinos.
One of the Legislature's staunchest conservatives, Rep. Alan Hays, says he wants the state to get into the gambling business directly by owning casinos and hiring private operators, similar to the state Lottery.
Not tuff enuf
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Legislature's plans to toughen ethics laws overdue".
Rockin' the free world
"Did Gov. Charlie Crist determine the leader of Free World in 2008?"
It's really not that crazy a notion given the importance of Crist's surprise endorsement of John McCain on the eve of Florida's presidential primary. And as journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin note in their bestseller Game Change, Crist welshed [sic] on his earlier plan to endorse Rudy Giuliani, who based his entire campaign on winning Florida."Charlie Crist, acknowledged as '08 game changer, is seen at risk in Senate primary".
"Without (Crist's) support, Giuliani would not have pursued the strategy he did, and in the end without the governor's support for McCain it's quite possible Mitt Romney would have won ....
Not your daddy's RPOF
"As the event officially kicked off at noon, the protest paused as 'The Star-Spangled Banner' played over the loudspeakers. Attendees then recited the Pledge of Allegiance before breaking out into 'Happy Birthday' for former President Ronald Reagan, the hero to conservatives who would have celebrated his 99th birthday Saturday." "Naples Tea Party draws hundreds with Rubio support, counterprotest from Obamarmy". See also "Gainesville Tea Party rally draws more than 1,000".
"For the FCAT, a retooled approach to writing instruction".
A Nixon man
Frank Schwerin "took over this past week as chairman of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee, filling the slot vacated by Carla Dean. ... Schwerin’s first real political activity was cheerleading for President Richard Nixon in 1972. Schwerin was in prep school and organized a Nixon re-election pizza party, Schwerin said." "Daily News: Collier’s new GOP leadership sees exciting future for Republican Party".
Emptywheel has been
puzzling all week since this happened last Saturday (January 30, from the pool report)."Hopey Changey Bipartisany Bush!"
President Bush 41, with former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush rolled up to the White House at 9:35 for a meeting with POTUS. At 10:09, the two emerged to fat, driving snow flakes. Responding to a called question, 41 said only, "Good meeting. Good meeting."But it does intrigue–nay, concern–me that Jeb! started preaching the gospel of bipartisanship shortly thereafter.
"Florida has more students in its classrooms than other states"
"After spending almost $16 billion to implement Florida's voter-approved plan to reduce class sizes, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republican Legislature are now talking about reining it in. But a leading Democrat [House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands of Weston] says the idea would leave the state not much else than a big bill to show for the investment."
His broader point -- that Florida has more students in its classrooms than other states -- is largely true, as measured by pupil/teacher ratios.Read the caveats and the rest of it here: "Politifact: Class-size claim misleading".
But Sands said "Florida still averages more students in its classrooms than any other state in the Southeast,'' and there are at least three caveats to his statement ...
"Old Folks at Home"
Mark Lane: "Last Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, pitching his sad, bankrupt shell of a super-state at the Next American Economy Conference, dissed the competition as boring places known only for one thing each."
"Like one state is known for its potatoes, one state is known for its oil, and another state like Florida is known for the old people," he said."Car vs. train the wrong argument".
Florida, obviously, is known for much more than "the old people." Even though our state song is "Old Folks at Home." Even though a surprising number of Florida drivers appear to be centenarians whose heads may not be spotted over the back of their driver's seat. ...
Old people -- or the chronologically enhanced, as we prefer to say -- make up only a small part of this complex equation.
And the Alex Sink for Governor campaign was quick to be the first to register its umbrage.
"It seems that Florida, one of the most beautiful, diverse and business-friendly states in the nation, with no state income tax, has intimidated the 'Governator' -- given that his state may be best known for its high taxes and ballooning deficits," scolded the state CFO.
Note how she worked in that state income tax part without actually addressing the too-many-old people part of Schwarzenegger's putdown.
"South Florida tea-party activists stayed away"
"South Florida tea-party activists stayed away from the national gathering in Nashville, with local leaders preferring to work locally."
Hundreds of attendees convened for the tea party's first national convention in Nashville, Tenn., last week -- without movement leaders from South Florida."S. Florida tea-party activists shun national convention".
"It's expensive. It's not grass-roots. It's more bureaucracy. And it's for-profit, and I just don't think that's what the tea party is supposed to be about,'' said Danita Kilcullen, co-organizer of the weekly tea-party protest in Fort Lauderdale. "It piqued my interest at first, and then the more I read I had this sinking feeling.''
Money is one issue. The event costs $549 per person plus a $9.95 processing fee and travel and lodging costs. Someone who wanted to attend just the keynote speech Saturday night featuring Sarah Palin, the unsuccessful 2008 vice presidential candidate, paid $349 plus $9.71.
And the convention is a profit-making event for its sponsors.
"11th-hour legal cover"
Aaron Deslatte: "In two weeks, the RPOF executive committee will meet in Orlando to choose either Broward National Committeewoman Sharon Day or state Sen. John Thrasher to finish out Greer's term this year."
The facts are now flooding out in embarrassing detail, with a report in the Orlando Sentinel of credit-card bills showing hundreds of thousands of dollars for chartered planes, fancy dinners and big-time meeting costs. There was also the Sentinel story detailing former RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson's $408,000 in compensation, thanks in part to a secret fundraising contract he signed with Greer.Here's an interesting twist:
Greer seems to have tried to give himself some 11th-hour legal cover on the matter."Florida GOP's challenge: Assure donors money goes to elections, not jet charters".
After Hoffman got a dozen angry major donors to sign an anti-Greer letter in late December, House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, and McCollum had seen enough.
Cannon and Haridopolos were livid that the RPOF was essentially paying its bills and salaries with "millions of dollars" they had raised to support House and Senate candidates. After convincing Thrasher, a former House speaker and lobbyist, to serve as the placeholder chairman, they pressed Greer to resign.
In a hastily arranged conference call on Jan. 5, Greer announced he would leave and accused his critics of trying to "burn the house down" to drive him out.
But at the same time, Greer had RPOF Treasurer Joel Pate and Vice Treasurer Allen Miller travel to Tallahassee to sign off on a one-page document dated that day attesting that "all expense reimbursements of any kind, American Express account expenditures, consultant fees, fundraising fees, agreements, service fees, traveling and dining expenses were proper and authorized and otherwise ratified by RPOF."
Reached at his home in St. Lucie County, Miller, a financial planner, would say only he had looked through the books "in conjunction with the chairman's resignation." He declined further comment. Pate, a Washington County commissioner, would not comment either.
Booting Floridians onto the sidewalk
Mike Thomas writes that "banks want to pick up the foreclosure pace, speeding up the process by which they boot distressed Florida homeowners onto the sidewalk."
Thomas thinks it is a great idea:
Under their plan, owners no longer would have their day in court. Out they would go without so much as a goodbye from a judge.Thomas
The Florida Bankers Association hopes legislators and Gov. Charlie Crist will sign off on this in the upcoming session. The day this bill passes is the day I beat Tim Tebow in arm wrestling.
We are in a huge election year. Voters hate bankers.
So this is not going to happen, even if it should.
would argue there is a good case to be made for a law like this.Thomas' continues here: "Clueless bankers: I'm here to help".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Obama inherited a dysfunctional economy. He also inherited a dysfunctional NASA aiming to be all things to all explorations only to lose its focus and, possibly, its relevance." "Low-Earth budgets: Recalibrating NASA's mission".
The family of a man shot dead in January — by Orange County deputies who fired more than 100 times — wants the state attorney to investigate whether his death was justifiable."Marchers question why suspect was shot 100 times by deputies".
Tiffanye Breedlove said Saturday that she wants answers about what happened Jan. 5 when nine Orange County deputies killed her younger brother, Torey, in what the deputies said started out as an attempt to apprehend him in a stolen sport utility vehicle. ...
He was unarmed when he died.
"Voters are angry"
"Voters are angry. And the most audacious among them are deciding they can help fix the country."
The number of first-time candidates running for Congress in Florida is larger than in any election year in recent memory, says Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida.For example,
Thirteen challengers are vying for the seat held by Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, including 10 Republicans.More:
National analysts view Kosmas' seat as one of the two "toss-ups" in Florida. The other is the seat held by Democrat Alan Grayson, who earned fame last year by summing up Republicans' health care plan as "don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly."
Kosmas, 65, snatched a formerly safe Republican seat in 2008 by riding Barack Obama's coattails and hammering at the incumbent's connection to a scandal-ridden lobbyist but angered Democratic supporters in November by voting against the House health care reform bill and drew a primary challenger, former Winter Springs Mayor Paul Partyka.
In the 3rd District, eight-term Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, has five challengers: three Republicans, a no-party candidate and a Florida Whig. ..."Anger fuels rush of candidates".
Eight-term 7th District Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park usually defeats his Democrat challenger easily in the heavily Republican district that snakes through six counties.
This year he faces newcomer Heather Beaven, a Palm Coast resident and CEO of a state-funded work force development agency for at-risk students. Beaven, 41, says Mica provides "20th century leadership" and vows to help develop 21st-century "green" jobs in the bio-medical and alternative energy fields.
No raids, please
The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "Last spring, before the Legislature convened,"
the state court system cried "help," with Chief Justice Peggy Quince at the time expressing dismay over a 300 percent increase in foreclosure cases in some areas of the state. A huge backlog was being created because "children's cases and criminal cases are a priority." These are matters of public safety, she said, and must be handled swiftly. "Don't raid the courts".
It isn't better this year in terms of foreclosures with Florida having the nation's second highest foreclosure rate in November. That's one in every 165 homes in Florida in some stage of foreclosure, translating to some 400,000 foreclosure cases in 2009, a deluge that threw the court system into near dysfunction. ...
Last session lawmakers did show the courts a little mercy, creating a dedicated court funding stream through the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund. It is fed by fines and filing fees and has helped make the courts far more self-sufficient, relying less on general revenue funds than ever before.
Somewhat ironically, perhaps, that is trust healthier than expected precisely because of those foreclosure filings that are piling up in courthouses far and wide. ...
The courts are the best bargain lawmakers have, being funded with less than 0.7 percent of the entire state budget of some $67 billion. The trust fund has helped make the courts even more self-sufficient, less of a drain on general revenue, and all the while winning accolades as one of the best state court systems in the nation in terms of performance and accountability, fairness and openness, according to a report by Florida TaxWatch.
Lawmakers have seen the value of helping the court system, even in dire economic times, pay some of its own way. It would be a mistake to raid these funds and set back the judiciary even more.
Poor Charlie ...
"Crist has not had a good year. Florida's economy stinks, his job approval and poll numbers have dropped. A race many experts thought would have been easy is now in doubt and the politician who has long been considered to have great instincts has sometimes seemed to be lost." "Crist still giving hugs in Senate run".
Beth Reinhard: "Yes, there's a long, storied tradition of Florida politicians using the Census and redrawing of voting districts to advance their political careers. If practice, practice, practice is the way to Carnegie Hall, then redistricting, redistricting, redistricting is the way to Capitol Hill."
Look no further than Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami and Tom Feeney of Oviedo who, as leaders of the Florida Legislature, drew themselves friendly congressional districts after the 2000 census. (Attention please: Non-stop Flight #2371 from Tallahassee to Washington, now boarding.)Reinhard continues, "Here's the glitch:"
But here comes Rubio marching through the terminal, proposing to exclude illegal immigrants from the Census formulas that determine Capitol Hill clout and federal aid. He supports a proposal by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (yes, that David Vitter of the D.C. Madam client list) to add a citizenship question to U.S. Census forms.
If a question about citizenship status was added to the Census, wouldn't illegal immigrants be even less likely to fill out a form with their name, address and annual income?"Beth Reinhard".
Regardless, the debate is largely theoretical. The 2010 Census forms were printed long ago, and the statewide campaign got under way this week.
Crist supporters see the cooked-up controversy as a way for Rubio to continue stroking the staunch conservatives who tend to dominate Republican primaries.
``He'll say anything to get elected,'' said Rep. Juan Zapata, chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation. ``It may play well in a Republican primary, but if he cared about the state of Florida, he would want everyone to count.''
"An alarming thought"
"As the popularity of social networking sites like Twitter.com and Facebook.com increases, public officials are faced with the need to monitor the content. That's the same challenge they faced when the e-mail craze began to sweep the world."
How will officials track and store all the public documents they create? What can be done to educate officials about how the state's Sunshine Law applies to the technology? Did they jump in too soon? Can they afford to be onboard? Can they afford not to be?"Social Web sites put officials on guard".
"Technology is changing so quickly and we have all of these new means of communicating. But that does not change the fact that if you're blogging about public business, those blogs are subject to public records laws and the Sunshine Law," said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee.
It's an alarming thought for some local officials who believe their social networking pages are private and hadn't considered that open public records laws might apply to them.