"In an attempt to end the turmoil within the embattled Florida Republican Party, its leaders agreed Friday to disclose three years of credit-card statements detailing the spending habits of elected officials and staffers under ousted party chairman Jim Greer."
The American Express statements, which party officials said will be made public in the next two weeks, will reveal about $7 million in purchases between January 2007 and Feb. 20 of this year, and offer a window into the culture of excess that the party has now ended, party chairman John Thrasher said."Florida GOP exiles Greer". See also "Former state GOP head averaged $15,000 a month on AmEx" and "RPOF ousts Greer, moves to release financial data".
"Gosh, no — those guys were pikers" compared to the RPOF
The RPOF has taken the privatization quid quo quo for campaign contributions to new extremes, As Paul Krugman reminds us, Jeb Bush "blazed the trail" Jebbie was:
an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.""Victors and Spoils".
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
So am I saying that we are going back to the days of Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna? Gosh, no — those guys were pikers. One-party control of today's government offers opportunities to reward friends and punish enemies that the old machine politicians never dreamed of.
The RPOFers at at it again, this time with Medicaid.
"With a major Coral Gables healthcare entrepreneur and others stepping forward with major campaign contributions, Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature is steering the way to let for-profit companies compete for contracts overseeing nearly every Medicaid patient, including those in nursing homes and the disabled."
Republicans, who control both chambers, are pressing the change and commercial health maintenance organizations have courted them heavily. The Florida GOP, its candidates and their fundraising committees received $1.4 million from HMOs like Aetna, Humana, Centene and others. That's three times the $440,948 given to the Democratic Party, its candidates and their committees."New Direction for Medicaid".
Miguel "Mike'' Fernandez of Coral Gables has suddenly become one of the biggest donors to the Florida Republicans by giving $15,000 on Feb. 8 and $90,000 on March 18, according to state records. On April 13, Fernandez announced he and fellow investors were putting $150 million into the purchase of several Medicaid HMOs that will be combined into his new company, Simply Healthcare Plans.
Rubio's "campaign of losers"
Daniel Ruth is on fire today: "If the race to become Florida's next U.S. senator was merely a contest to see who could line up the endorsements of the most failed presidential contenders, well then Marco Rubio would be well on his way to savoring the refreshing waters of the Potomac."
Rarely has a candidate attracted a more impressive list of concession speeches to his campaign quiver — Mitt Romney, who inspired the nation for a good 20 minutes or so before he got to Iowa; Mike Huckabee, for whom there will always be Kansas, and, finally, Rudy Giuliani, who ran as a fiscal conservative yet managed to blow tens of millions of dollars and earn zero delegates. And just yesterday Rubio locked up the Dick Cheney air-kiss, which should cinch the "Constitution? We don't need no stinking Constitution!" vote.Ruth shifts gears:
Say, there's some keen political savvy for you.
At this rate, the Rubio campaign is probably trying to line up that pivotal nod of support from the Harold Stassen estate.
The rap on Crist is that he hasn't been Republican enough — especially by vetoing two bills, one the insane union-busting teacher tenure debacle, which it seems was cooked up by GOP state chairman and Florida Sen. John Thrasher after he talked to his daughter, and another that would have allowed Republicans to raise gobs of unaccounted for de facto legalized bribes to fund phony political committees."A campaign of losers, barking about loyalty".
And oh, yes, there was the whole Barack Obama man-hug thing, when the governor apparently committed an act of political treason by appearing with a president to accept gobs of stimulus money when he could have been having lunch with Jeb Bush, the official state sourpuss. What fun.
For all these trumped-up Tallahassee Tokyo Rose-esque transgressions, Crist is now being encouraged to turn in his Grover Norquist decoder ring and ride off into the sunset in disgrace — for the good of the party, of course, of course.
In fact, Charlie Crist has been a loyal Republican. He simply hasn't opted to sign up with the hand-wringing of spats who dominate the Roundhead wing of the GOP.
"House and Senate budget chiefs agreed Friday on money for Florida Forever and a range of other issues, but will spend the weekend haggling over items ranging from crisis pregnancy counseling to trading state-run prison beds for private ones." "Legislators inch toward budget pact".
From the "values" crowd
"State lawmakers pondered money for libraries, students and state workers as the session heads into the final stretch with the budget still unfinished." "State lawmakers still debating school, library funding". See also "Mental-health programs, drug treatment on Fla. budget chopping block".
"Crist one step away from a perilous path"
Steve Bousquet: "By extending the guessing game about his future, Crist owns this news cycle, and the next and the one after that, as he ponders whether to run for the U.S. Senate as an unaffiliated or independent candidate. By dangling himself as a middle-ground alternative to Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, Crist is drawing more attention than he ever could otherwise."
Crist would be targeting the political center: not just independents, but partisan voters with little enthusiasm for Rubio or Meek. He doesn't need a majority to win, only one more vote than the next candidate. The GOP governor fond of quoting Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan appears to be on the verge of abandoning his political party as a means of preserving and prolonging his political career."At a political crossroad, Crist is front and center". See also "Crist, GOP moving closer to a political break-up", "Crist expected to file as independent next week", "If Crist runs as an independent, can he win?", "Crist's Friends Turning Into Liabilities" ("Probe of GOP allies could tar governor -- and fuel his independent bid") and "A seismic shift for Charlie Crist".
Still, Crist is one step away from a perilous path. He faces fundraising challenges and a likely shakeup of his campaign staff. He'll be called disloyal, a traitor, an opportunist.
If he runs as an NPA candidate of no party affiliation, will voters see him as the refreshing third option they've been waiting for, or as a typical politician who will do anything to survive?
Some close friends have urged Crist to drop out and remain a loyal Republican, quickly and enthusiastically endorse Rubio, stockpile his campaign money, finish his term as governor and focus on defeating Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012. Crist has little enthusiasm for this, which political insiders call "rehab."
Poor George: "George LeMieux stuck between Charlie Crist, Republicans" and "Times: LeMieux in awkward spot over Crist".
"GOP, or not GOP — that is the poll question"
Paul Flemming: "Our prince of a governor faces a decision. Some would say he's already made up his mind. I prefer to think he's dithering, pacing the dark reaches of the mansion's backyard, over there by the grotto, perhaps along the lines of a certain Dane immortalized by Mr. Shakespeare." Read it here: "Hamlet has nothing on the drama of a Senate race".
"The State Report". See also "House Readies for Busy Final Week".
St Petersburg Times: "As suspense builds over whether Gov. Charlie Crist decides this week to skip the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and run as an independent candidate in November, there is a broader issue at play. The governor would not be confronted with this difficult decision and more Florida voters would have a voice if primary elections were open to more voters and more hospitable to more mainstream candidates." "Florida's voting system leaves too many out".
"Republicans are having a tough time agreeing on things"
"Florida Republicans are having a tough time agreeing on things as the 2010 legislative session winds down. Amendments backed by Republican senators derailed a key insurance bill Thursday, while Sen. John Thrasher - who doubles as the state Republican Party chairman - barely advanced one of his largest priorities on virtual charter schools despite heavy GOP opposition." "GOP senators fight over insurance, virtual schools".
Charlie's angels no more?
"If Gov. Charlie Crist surprises no one and announces next week that he'll mount an independent bid for U.S. Senate, a lot of his Republican friends and financiers will face an ugly choice. Do they abandon a politician they have supported, in some cases, for more than a decade, or do they break from the party? For even the governor's most stalwart allies, it's not a easy decision." "If Crist runs for Senate as independent, will fundraisers flee?".
"Dwindling road dollars"
Jane Healy: "Dwindling road dollars a reminder for the pols".
RPOFer pushes "abuse tax breaks"
The St Pete Times editors: "At a time Florida is closing parks and cutting jobs to cope with declining tax revenues, state Senate budget Chairman J.D. Alexander is pushing to allow big landowners to further abuse an already abused property tax break. The legislation could cost local governments millions of dollars that communities desperately need to avoid further cuts to child care, public safety and other essential programs." "A galling abuse of tax breaks".
Governing by lottery ticket
"Machines that sell scratch-off lottery tickets have proved profitable. The state may buy more." "State may buy more lottery ticket vending machines".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "LeMieux thrust himself into the debate on energy and climate in his meeting with the Sentinel's editorial board last week. For Congress to pass sweeping legislation, he said, 'There has to be an open mind and an ability to work together — and I'm one of those kind of folks.' It's time we saw whether, in fact, he is." "LeMieux’s time to shine".
Rubio gets his
"Florida Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher said Friday that Gov. Charlie Crist's name didn't emerge at the huddle of the GOP's executive board, but those attending clearly see him as central to the troubled era of ousted chairman Jim Greer." "New party chairman blames Gov. Crist for Florida GOP's troubles under Greer".
"Heavy- handed and hypocritical"
The St Pete Times editors: "So much for the party of personal freedom. The Republican Party of Florida last week reminded all its officials — from lowly precinct chairmen to elected legislators — that they would be stripped of their party standing if they voiced support or gave money to any non-Republican candidate. The real message: Don't support Gov. Charlie Crist's bid for U.S. Senate if he drops out of the Republican primary to run with no party affiliation."
The Republican Party's tactics are heavy- handed and hypocritical from a party now ripe with scandal and under federal investigation."Florida GOP cracks whip on free thinkers".
Florida tourism boon?
Douglas C. Lyons: "Arizona’s immigration flap could be Florida’s tourism boon".
The explosion heard 'round the peninsula
"As the drilling rig Horizon burned on the oily surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a small group of environmentalists, government officials and oil speculators gathered at a hotel in Jacksonville to discuss environmental impact of offshore drilling — in the Atlantic Ocean." "Gulf rig explosion 'heard' in Florida as officials ponder Atlantic oil exploration".
Charlie's last hope
Anthony Man: "Political friends and foes of Gov. Charlie Crist are united: He has no hope of winning the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate — unless something huge strikes to take down the frontrunner, former House Speaker Marco Rubio."
As Crist edges closer to abandoning his candidacy and running as a no party affiliation candidate, he might be getting that political gold, but it's too late."Crist losing hope for issue to bring down Rubio".
The simmering questions over Rubio's use of a Republican Party credit card haven't made much of a dent in his standing. Rubio picked up the endorsement of former Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday — a day after Rubio repaid the party $2,417 for double-billed flights, an expense he blamed on an accounting error.
But now the website Politico reports, the criminal investigation into the credit card usage is "raising concerns about its potential effect on GOP front-runner Marco Rubio's campaign and providing hope to Democrats who believe it could be the story line that stalls the conservative's momentum."
The problem for Crist is he faces an April 30 deadline to make a decision on the Senate race. That's when candidates for federal office need to qualify for the ballot. So there isn't time to figure out if the latest developments in the credit card issue have an effect. And not nearly enough time to know if federal prosecutors or the Internal Revenue Service will come up with anything that damages Rubio.
Stephen L. Goldstein: "Appliance Rebate Program aided Floridians and helped save energy". But see "Kingsley Guy: Cash for appliances is simply throwing more borrowed money around".
"Times: Florida House bill relaxes campaign disclaimer rules for social sites".
Entrepreneurs in action
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "It appeared that state lawmakers had a remedy to address Florida's image as the nation's pill mill capital for prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, few things are as they appear during the legislative session. Reining in rouge pain clinics was supposed to be a quick fix. Now it appears to be stalled." "Pain clinic fix stalled in the Legislature".
"Scott, a former hospital chief executive and outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama's health care reform, said on April 19 that his fan page on the social networking website Facebook already reaches more people than the pages of Dockery and McCollum, who have been running for months." "PolitiFact: Rick Scott outpaces the GOP gubernatorial field on Facebook".
"Webster's late entry means he's lost top-tier allies who could have helped him, namely former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, two Republicans who appear firmly loyal to O'Donoghue." "Former Florida Sen. Dan Webster challenges Alan Grayson".
"House is trying to stack the deck in favor of the building industry"
The Tampa Trib editors: "The Florida House of Representatives leadership is holding the state's lead planning agency hostage in the waning days of the session. By refusing to act on bills reenacting the Department of Community Affairs for another 10 years under the state's sunset review process, the House is trying to stack the deck in favor of the building industry. And taxpayers and residents lose when developers are allowed to build without regard for the public costs of their projects." "Playing games with DCA".