Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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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 Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rubio's credit card imbroglio

    "Marco Rubio charged personal bills on GOP card"
    Senate candidate Marco Rubio said he reimbursed the state GOP for expenses put on an American Express card given to him by his party.
    The question of course is when and under what circumstances were the reimbursements made?

    We are told this much by the Miami Herald/St. Pete Times: "Rubio said the party allowed him to put personal expenses on the card -- and the party reviewed his bill monthly."
    "I was as diligent as possible to ensure the party did not pay for items that were unrelated to party business,'' Rubio said in a written statement. "There was no formal process provided by the Party regarding personal charges.''

    Party spokeswoman Katie Gordon said the card was not supposed to be used for personal expenses. "The RPOF American Express card is a corporate card and is meant to be used for business expenses.''

    Donations to parties must go exclusively toward influencing elections under IRS rules.

    Records show Rubio sent payments to American Express totaling $13,900 for his personal expenses during his tenure as House speaker. But those payments were not made monthly. He made no contributions to the bill during a six-month stretch in 2007, records show.

    Charges covered by the party as political expenses include:

    • $765 at Apple's online store for "computer supplies.''

    • $25.76 from Everglades Lumber for "supplies.''

    • $53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for "food.''

    • $68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for "beverages'' and "meal.''

    • $78.10 for two purchases at Farm Stores in suburban Miami.

    • $412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for "supplies.''

    Rubio's campaign could not find records to explain many of these expenses Wednesday night. But Rubio stressed that GOP staffers also may be responsible for some expenses because they also had access to the credit card.
    There clearly were other questionable, unreimbursed expenses - although
    Rubio said he tried to pay all his personal expenses, at least some ended up on the party ledger, records show. Three payments to a Tallahassee property management group, which Rubio described as personal, were paid by the party, totaling $1,024, state and the credit-card records show.

    Rubio also booked six plane tickets for his wife using the card. It was unclear how many, if any, of those trips his wife actually took; in some instances, she did not fly and Rubio was credited by the airline.
    block Much more here and at the St. Pete Times' companion story: "Records show Marco Rubio spent thousands with GOP credit card" (leaked records indicate that "Rubio charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House"). See also "Rubio charged bills to state Republican Party".

    Rubio accuses Crist of leaking these credit card records: "It is clear these internal documents were taken from the RPOF by former Chairman Jim Greer, or someone working for him, and were leaked to the media by the Crist Campaign. These actions are an appalling act of political desperation." "Letter from U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio to Florida Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher" (.pdf). See also "Rubio: Crist leaked American Express statements; charges legit".

    More to come.

    "A funhouse-mirror U.S. Senate race"

    "Leave it to Florida to offer a funhouse-mirror U.S. Senate race. The two Republicans battling for their party's nomination are positioning themselves as much in reaction to Obama as the 2008 Democratic candidates pivoted off George W. Bush."

    "Gov. Charlie Crist, 53, plays the Hillary Clinton role, the early favorite among party insiders, awash in campaign money and ready to depress the cruise control button. Until. Marco Rubio is you-know-who." "GOP race may hinge on history".

    Herald coddles its right-wing readership

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "Stop coddling Cuban dictatorship".

    Rubio closing in money race

    Adam C Smith and Constance Humberg: "Crist leaves no doubt he intends to spend a lot of money telling Florida Republicans that Marco Rubio is not all he says he is."

    Certainly the fundraising numbers released by the Republican campaigns - $7.5 million in the bank for Crist at the start of the year, compared to $2 million for Rubio - look pretty daunting for former House Speaker Rubio.

    But a closer look at their finance reports shows Rubio is not so out-gunned in financial resources. Crist actually has about $5 million available for the primary compared to roughly $1.9 million for Rubio, according to a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald analysis.

    That's because donors can give only $2,400 per election, and Crist has relied heavily on big check-writers who gave money both for the primary and the general election.

    If Crist loses the primary he will have to refund at least $2.5 million in general election contributions. Crist as of Jan. 31 had 2-½ times more money on hand than Rubio. That's a big money lead, but a not nearly as huge as the 5-to-1 advantage Crist had over Rubio three months earlier.

    Given Rubio's momentum- consistently leading in the polls, loads of national media attention, more than $800,000 raised in recent online "money bomb" solicitations - Rubio is likely to have closed the gap still further by the end of this fundraising quarter. He also has national conservative groups like the Club for Growth ready to spend money on his behalf.
    "Crist's fundraising advantage tightens with Rubio".

    Watch the GOPers put a hold on this one

    "President Barack Obama nominated Miami native Wifredo Ferrer as the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida Thursday." "Obama nominates Hialeah-born lawyer Wifredo Ferrer for U.S. attorney".


    "Sansom said Wednesday he was hounded out of the Legislature by a partisan Democratic attack — aided by a Republican rival chairing a special committee that investigated him." "Sansom blasts House members over his exit".

    Bill Cotterell: "If Sansom had waited a couple of years to take the developmental vice presidency at the college, instead of landing a six-figure job on the same day he became speaker, no one would have been suspicious about the money he had helped steer to the campus. Appropriations chairmen and speakers-designate always put pork in the budget for their districts, and Sansom's largesse to NWFSC was similar to the generosity shown by many of his predecessors."

    You don't question stuff sought by the budget chairman, not if you ever want to fund something of your own. And governors don't line-item a relatively small project wanted by a speaker-designate, who will control everything that moves in the House for the next two years.

    What Sansom did really was business as usual, in that sense, just more egregious. And, in that sense, he was taking care of his constituents who use the college or need a staging area at the airport during hurricanes or other emergencies.

    That two of those constituents were Odom, a major Republican donor, and Richburg, who hired him, are just happy coincidences.
    "Business as usual? Sansom followed his own advice". See also "Sansom is defiant in farewell letter to House".

    As Florida's economy nose dives ...

    ... "Area lawmaker seeks abortion ban".

    It might have something to do with gerrymandering, Mike

    Mike Thomas observes that "in Florida, there is an inverse relationship between Democratic numerical advantages and Democratic election victories. Consider the following statistics:"

    There are about 4.7 million Democrats and 3.9 million Republicans, meaning the Democrats outnumber them by 800,000.

    Yet Republicans outnumber Democrats 26-14 in the Florida Senate.

    They outnumber Democrats 77-42 in the Florida House.

    They outnumber Democrats 3-1 on the Florida Cabinet.

    There are about two Republican politicians for every Democratic politician in Tallahassee and Washington.

    Actually, there wouldn't be any Democrats at all, but the Republicans let them win the occasional race to avoid having to file for an antitrust exemption.

    They can afford losing a few because Democrats are a harmless bunch. You can put a few Republicans in a Democratic Legislature and they'll gum up the entire works. But in Tallahassee, you don't even know the Democrats are there.
    "With rivals like Dems, GOP can’t lose".

    Bill holds a press conference ...

    "McCollum sees progress on Fla. gangs". Related: "Florida a growing gang capital".

    ... so does Alex

    "Alex Sink pushes ethics reform".

    Anti-McCollum ad

    The Saint Petersburg Times takes a

    look at an anti-McCollum response ad aired by the Florida Democratic Party. The ad begins with footage of McCollum telling reporters, "I'm proud of my record of having been a congressman."

    A voice-over continues, "Really? Well, Bill McCollum, you cost the rest of us billions. He voted four times to raise his own pay. $51,000. Our tax money pays his congressional pension. Over $75,000 dollars a year. The national debt skyrocketed. $4.7 trillion. McCollum voted for debt-limit increases five times. Bill McCollum. Just another Washington politician Florida can't afford."
    The verdict:
    In a footnote to the advertisement, the Florida Democratic Party provided bill numbers and dates showing the votes that enabled congressional salaries to increase. We checked the four votes — in 1989, 1997, 1999 and 2000 — with roll call records and confirmed that McCollum did vote yes in all four cases.

    As for the amount of the salary increase, the ad actually understates it. Before the 1989 vote, congressional salaries were $89,500. On Jan. 1, 2001 — two days before McCollum's final term officially ended — congressional salaries went up to $145,100. That's a difference of $55,600 — higher than the $51,000 stated in the ad.

    The McCollum campaign points out that on several of these votes, a majority of Florida's Democratic congressional delegation voted the same way McCollum did, and we think that's fair context to add. But looking specifically at the Democratic ad's charge, this part of the claim is accurate.
    "Florida Democrats say McCollum voted to raise congressional pay, earns $75,000 pension".

    Rate increases

    "Key Florida lawmakers are drafting legislation that would essentially allow additional property insurance rate increases and reduce fraudulent claims and discounts that can drive up insurance costs." "Bills would allow property insurers to raise rates in Florida".

    Tractor pull attendance at an all time high

    "Too few Floridians are earning college degrees, new study shows".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "An angry state senator now wants a law that would force Metro Orlando's main blood bank to be more open about its finances and executive compensation because he doubts the nonprofit really intends to change as promised. ... Anne Chinoda, who runs Florida's Blood Centers ... eventually revealed she had received a 13 percent raise, or $71,000, in 2009, bringing her total compensation to $605,000." "Senator: Law should force blood-bank openness on Anne Chinoda's pay".

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