GOPers reimbursing as fast as they can
Crist follows Sink's lead and calls for a federal investigation of the Republican Party of Florida:
Crist asked federal authorities Friday to investigate the Republican Party of Florida amid growing concerns about secret deals and misspent money."In an interview, Crist said the U.S. attorney's office needs to take over the criminal investigation of former Chairman Jim Greer and examine the use of party credit cards by top GOP lawmakers." (Which presumably will include Rubio)
"It's a mess,'' he said. "This thing stinks.''
"A federal comprehensive investigation is . . . fully appropriate,'' the Republican governor said. "Particularly because of the significant IRS implications throughout this thing.''RPOFers are reimbursing as fast as they can:
Crist's call for federal intervention followed a similar request from Florida Chief Financial officer Alex Sink in a letter to the state attorney general Friday.
At the same time, new records obtained by the Times/Herald expose how another top GOP lawmaker -- incoming Speaker Dean Cannon -- used a party credit card to charge $200,000 in a two-and-a-half-year period ending in early 2009."Crist requests probe of GOP 'mess'".
The charges include more than $3,000 in personal expenses, some of which he didn't reimburse until just weeks ago as controversy swirled around the use of party credit cards. ...
Cannon, who becomes leader of the Florida House after the November election, used his party American Express for a variety of expenses, ranging from a $24.90 baby toy for a donor and a $47.47 Hooters charge to $945 for dining at a popular sushi restaurant in Tallahassee and a $1,786.43 dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, according to itemized records.
The reports, though incomplete, show Cannon spent the most in a single month in December 2006, when he swiped $41,245.48 in charges. About half -- $19,151 -- came from a single expense: a chartered jet service to New York for a party fundraiser. The same month he also racked up more than $26,000 in limousines, taxis and rental cars.
A birthday dinner at Hot Olives in Winter Park cost $2,530 -- a charge he later reimbursed to the party because it was a personal expenditure, party officials said.
But Cannon didn't reimburse another nearly $500 of personal expenses until just recently when party officials found the questionable tabs.
"Crist's call to forward the investigation of former state Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer to the U.S. Attorney's Office is being hailed by some as an appropriate step. Others say it's pure political theatrics. For now, officials at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say the case is still theirs." "On Greer's Case". See also "Crist, Sink call for outside probe in GOP stink", "Crist: 'Tax implications' dictate feds should probe state GOP" and "Crist says feds should investigate potential criminal activities at Republican Party".
The wingnuts respond in their usual fashion - avoiding personal responsibility: "What did Gov. Charlie Crist know about Jim Greer’s alleged shenanigans and when did he know it? And shouldn’t the media be looking just as deeply into the fundraising and expenditure records of the Florida Democratic Party?" "Time for Democrats -- and Gov. Crist -- to Come Clean".
"Florida legislators have worked out a tentative deal with the Seminole tribe that would bring the state $1.5 billion in return for allowing the Seminole Tribe to expand slot machines at its casinos and give it exclusive rights to certain games in the southern part of the state." "Lawmakers reach gambling deal with Seminole Tribe". See also "Fla. reaches $1.5B gambling deal".
Florida's wacky urologist
"Urologist stands firm, appears on national news as blogosphere erupts over sign telling Obama voters to go elsewhere". "Mount Dora Dr. Jack Cassell's anti-Obama stance sparks firestorm nationwide". See also "Health care reform starts now for Mount Dora doctor, who posts sign telling Obama supporters to seek care elsewhere".
Don't forget the giant Confederate flag
"Tampa Bay's business, political leaders form RNC host panel". See "Larger Confederate Flag Unfurled Near I-75 In Hillsborough".
Running government like a business
"Members of the Florida House tried to vote to reduce their own pay today, but the chamber ended up inadvertently giving themselves a raise — at least temporarily." "Florida House members bungle their own pay cut".
Estefan record sales to take a nose dive
"Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, will host President Obama at their Miami Beach home April 15 for a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, when the president comes to Florida to talk about cuts to the NASA space program." "Emilio and Gloria Estefan to host President Obama at Miami Beach home". See also "Obama’s April trip to Miami Beach to be hosted by Gloria and Emilio Estefan".
Teacher bashing continues next week...
"Florida House members will get their chance next week to debate at length a controversial education reform measure that would link teacher pay raises to student performance on standardized tests. And public school teachers will be packing the room in protest of the legislation."
The measure (HB 7189, SB 6) has turned into an ugly source of controversy, pitting Republican lawmakers against the teachers' union in a fight over how educators should be paid. Proponents contend that teachers should be compensated based largely on results produced. Teachers say that is already the case and that the bill unfairly targets them by not taking into account external factors that could affect a student's performance on test day."Teachers setting up for a fight on merit pay Monday in House". See also "Giuliani to help Rubio's Senate campaign in Miami".
The House Education Policy Council has scheduled an eight-hour meeting for Monday to take testimony on two pieces of legislation: HB 7189 on merit pay and HB 7053, which requires students to take more difficult classes to graduate high school. But the bulk of the day will be spent on the merit pay bill.
Rudy repays Charlie
What goes around comes around: "Giuliani sought Crist's endorsement when he ran for president in 2008, but Crist instead endorsed eventual nominee Sen. John McCain." "Rudy Giuliani To Campaign For Marco Rubio In Florida Senate Race". See also "Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Back Rubio For Senate".
"Legislature's dictatorial stance toward teachers"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Florida Legislature's dictatorial stance toward teachers has consequences that will go well beyond Race to the Top ['RTTT']."
Lawmakers such as Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and sponsor of a merit-based pay plan that has angered educators, blames teacher unions for Florida's failure to win a $1 billion innovation grant from the Obama administration. ..."How Florida lost this 'Race': Legislature bashes teachers, them blames them".
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should be telling Florida officials that "reform" virtually at gunpoint isn't the kind of change Race to the Top rewards. It's not certain the Republican-led Legislature would heed the message. Hypocritically, they've criticized stimulus money, which is what RTTT is, but don't mind using it as an excuse to bash teachers. That attitude will drive good teachers away.
Too bad about term limits
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "If only Lois could run again".
The government haters at TaxWatch, who (as a another right wing nut once put it) want to "drown it in the bathtub", are at it again, spouting tea-baggery: "'The government sector has been held harmless as a whole as the greatest recession since the Great Depression ravages Florida,' said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch." "Government Workers Largely Shielded from Job Losses".
We of course understand that these neo-tea-baggers equate the size of government with government regulation, and in turn "freedom". Yet for some reason - not too difficult to discern - Dems and Republicans, and their newspaper company shills, usually (but not always) present TaxWatch as some sort of neutral think tank.
Check out this delightful cast of characters from the TaxWatch website:
ChairmanJeez, I wonder if these folks tilt toward a Republican, right wing, neo-tea-bag, government hating perspective?
David A. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO, PSS World Medical
President & CEO
Dominic M. Calabro, President & Chief Executive Officer, Florida TaxWatch
Marshall Criser, III, President - Florida, AT&T
John Zumwalt III, Chairman & CEO, PBS&J [in the news today]
Michelle Robinson, President - Southeast Region, Public Affairs, Policy & Communications, Verizon
Immediate Past Chairman
Michael A. Jennings, Vice President Government Relations, Prudential Financial
Mark C. Hollis, Retired President and Vice Chairman of Publix Super Markets, Inc.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS AT LARGE
* John Baker, President & CEO, Patriot Transportation Holdings
* Barney Barnett,Vice Chairman, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
* Martha Barnett, Partner, Holland + Knight
* Rober E. Coker, Senior Vice President, United States Sugar Corporation
* Steve Evans, Retired IBM Vice President
* Ed Hannum, President & Chief Operating Officer, AvMed Health Plans
* Martha Korman Zumwalt, Executive Director – Premier Accounts, American Reprographics Company
* Ron LaFace, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig [Of Black Jack Abramoff fame]
* David Mann, Executive Vice President, SunTrust Bank Florida
* Paul Noland, Sr. Vice President, Domestic Business Development, Walt Disney World Resort
End of an era
"With next shuttle launch, end of an era rockets closer".
PBSJ gets a GOPer pass
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Records show the FEC had ample evidence last year that, for decades, Tampa-based engineering company PBSJ had given illegal campaign contributions to political candidates as it sought government contracts. But the commission's Republicans refused to pursue sanctions, forcing a 3-3 deadlock until the statute of limitations ran out this week." "Toothless watchdog on campaign finance".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Florida's Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman has had to reimburse the state for nearly $27,000 in taxpayer-funded travel between Tallahassee and Tampa, after newspapers reported that he was flying back and forth to spend long weekends at home in St. Petersburg."
Frequently, that meant he was working about three days in the capital, a practice not lost on Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who has been pushing legislation to require all state agency heads and other top state officials to live within 50 miles of Leon County upon 90 days of their appointment. ..."Travel fallout".
Some spectators watched the reversal, speculating that lawmakers themselves are often in line for high-paying state agency positions after their terms in the Legislature expire. That doesn't mean they'd necessarily want to pack up their families and relocate to the capital for an appointment of possibly just a few years.
However nice it would have been for Tallahassee to mandate residence of highly paid state officials, the reality is that the provision was more punishing and political than practical in today's working world.
In a global economy and a virtual world, employees are not necessarily tethered to an office desk in the city where their company or agency is headquartered. Employees, even elected ones, are mobile, virtual and yet reliable — or eventually found out and let go.
The key, as always, is accountability and fairness.
"Kosmas touts health care reform’s benefits for children".
"Step down" letters
"An anti-government group is asking more than 30 governors to step down, but the office for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist won't confirm if he's among them. ... Investigators do not see threats of violence in the group's message, but fear the broad call for removing top state officials could lead others to act out violently. ... The FBI expects all 50 governors will eventually receive such letters." "Crist 'aware' of governor letters from anti-government group".