Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
Florida's top cop appears to have been painted into a corner by his campaign spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell.
"The Rick Scott campaign for governor has accused Bill McCollum of illegally raising money for a secretive political group running television ads attacking Scott."
In response, McCollum has acknowledged that his campaign has sent information to political donors about at least one of three such groups, including the group's bank account number and wiring address. But a campaign spokeswoman denied that meant the campaign was directly or indirectly helping the group raise money."Scott accuses McCollum of elections law violations".
Under Florida election law, it's illegal for McCollum as a candidate for state office to solicit money "directly or indirectly" for a group that isn't reporting the identity of its donors or organizers.
"We have facilitated the flow of information about the organization for people who are interested," said campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell. But, she added, the campaign "is following campaign finance law law to the letter and intent."
"Facilitated the flow" of cash versus "indirectly" soliciting cash? Hmmm ... sure seems like we need an AG opinion on that one.
More: "Bill McCollum Lacks Money ... and More".
The new front-runner is a guy whose claim to fame is his connection to the biggest Medicare fraud case in American history.Read it all here: "Governor's race worthy of a sitcom". See also "Adopting new belief" (calling Crist a "a pandering flip-flopper").
He's whupping up on the career hack the Republicans used to worship.
And, as big of a mess as both of these Republicans are, both of them are leading the lead Democrat, who has struggled to get her own party's supporters enthused, much less anyone else.
If this field of "front-runners" were any weaker, we'd need the defibrillators.
Overall, the message seems to be that Floridians are ready for change — and aren't too particular about what kind.
How else to explain Republican Rick Scott — the man ousted from a health-care company fined more than $1 billion for defrauding taxpayers — having a 13-point lead over establishment darling Bill McCollum?
Seriously: This dude's company stole from you. And yet primary voters seem more smitten with his tough-on-immigrants talk and "Let's get to work" catch phrases than his actual track record. (Welcome to modern politics.)
Even the blessing of GOP messiah Jeb Bush hasn't helped McCollum much.
"Among the charges by McCollum is that Scott invested millions of dollars in companies that profited by marketing products – such as money transfers and online bill-paying services – used by illegal immigrants, which contradicts his hard-line position on the immigration issue. 'Rick Scott has had a very suspicious background and people need to know, who is Rick Scott?' McCollum said Thursday, adding the investments were 'hypocritical.'" "GOP gubernatorial primary shaping up as expensive and nasty".
Republican favorite Scott qualifies
"Health care executive Rick Scott, a political phenomenon who went from virtual unknown to the leading candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the course of a mere two months, filed his paperwork to make his bid official lateThursday morning. Minutes later, Attorney General Bill McCollum, the one-time front-runner in the race, filed his paperwork and offered harsh words for his Republican rival." "New Republican Favorite Rick Scott Files for Governor".
"Republicans Rick Scott and Bill McCollum filed their qualifying papers for governor within a half hour of each other Thursday, narrowly missing each other outside the state elections office." "McCollum, Scott file for run". See also "McCollum, Scott file for gubernatorial runs" and "A kickoff, with steel-toed boots".
McCollum's "suddenly troubled campaign"
Get this: "Eager to rev up his suddenly troubled campaign, Bill McCollum on Thurday vowed as governor to mandate that all local governments freeze property taxes for at least two years."
"Republican gubernatorial front-runner Rick Scott missed the event, but it was still the largest single gathering of major statewide candidates to date in this hectic political year. It produced some striking moments:"
• Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who has been hazy on his immigration position, for the first time said he would not support Florida pursuing a tough anti-illegal immigration law like the one passed recently in Arizona: "I think it should be solved at the federal level.''Much more here: "Media forum for candidates draws out political fireworks". See also "Fla. Senate candidates talk federal spending".
• Gov. Charlie Crist, running as an independent for U.S. Senate, said he no longer supports Florida's ban against gay couples adopting children: "A better way and approach would be to let judges make that decision on a case-by-case basis.''
• McCollum professed to be unaware of the activities of two stealth political committees attacking front-runner Rick Scott on TV -- even though McCollum's campaign advisors are directing the committees' spending and he has been urging supporters to contribute to one of them.
• Not exactly pandering to the assembled media, McCollum waxed about the limits of open government in the state legislature: "I'm not sure the Legislature is the place for open government,'' he said. "I was a legislator and you can't negotiate and do deals in the Legislature and get business done in 60 days or 90 days or whatever your session may be with open government.''
• Little-known Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Alex Snitker of Pasco County crashed the candidate forum, snatching a microphone and demanding speaking time.
"U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene 'grew up as a Democrat,'' but said the conservative climate of Harvard Business School, the oil crisis of the late 1970s and the battered Carter administration drew him to the GOP in 1982."
"For a year of my life I was a Republican, and then I quickly got back to what I really believed in,'' he said Tuesday of his long-ago bid for Congress in Southern California. Asked what he had learned from the failed race, Greene said: "I learned that I'm a Democrat.''"In an earlier life, Democrat Jeff Greene ran as a Republican".
The lesson took another decade to sink in, according to election records that show he remained a Republican until 1992, when he moved from Los Angeles to Malibu and dropped his party affiliation. He didn't become a Democrat until 2008, when he registered to vote from his new home in Palm Beach.
"Whether I was a Republican or Democrat, who cares?'' he said at a candidates' forum Thursday in Sarasota.
Feel free to pick up the tar balls
"The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 and dealt a financial blow to Florida's waterfront homeowners Thursday, ruling that private beachfront property is open to the public." "Beachfront owners lose U.S. Supreme Court case over property rights".
Rubio's finances an issue
"Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio is facing foreclosure on a Tallahassee house after missing five months of mortgage payments, according to a lawsuit filed in Leon County Circuit Court. But Rubio's campaign spokesman said Rubio and David Rivera, a U.S. House candidate from Miami who co-owns the home with Rubio, have paid $9,200 owed to Deutsche Bank and the foreclosure has been withdrawn."
Rubio's personal spending has been an issue in his high-profile U.S. Senate campaign after records showed he charged $16,000 in personal expenses to a Republican Party of Florida credit card."Rubio faces foreclosure on Tally home; his campaign says it's resolved".
Rubio said he paid those charges, but later repaid the party $3,000 after a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times report earlier this year showed he double-billed state taxpayers and the party for eight plane tickets he bought when he was a state legislator.
Every last nickel
"Long hounded by tales of underpaid and overworked employees, the Florida Department of Children and Families is once again under investigation for denying fair wages to its workers, the U.S. Labor Department confirmed Thursday." "Florida Department of Children and Families under federal scrutiny over wages and hours".
McCollum's publicity stunt on the line
"The Justice Department has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by 20 states challenging President Barack Obama's health care overhaul."
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Thursday that the government's defenses clash with comments Obama made during the health care debate."Feds seek dismissal of health care overhaul suit".
Tea Party called a "front group" for Grayson
"GOP congressional candidate Bruce O’Donoghue is intensifying his campaign to brand the Florida Tea Party as a front group for Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) In an interview with POLITICO Thursday, O’Donoghue called the Florida Tea Party a 'sham,' alleging that the organization was coordinating with Grayson and fielding a third party candidate, conservative activist Peg Dunmire, in an effort to split the Republican vote in the November general election." "Republican claims tea partier a Grayson stooge".
"Florida labor officials are hoping that May's unemployment report improves for the second straight month. The Agency for Workforce Innovation will announce the May figures [today]." "State announces May unemployment numbers".
"Harvesting oysters in Apalachicola Bay is going ahead full bore through the end of August." "Oyster harvesting ongoing in Apalachicola Bay".
"$20 billion fund expands assistance", "Franklin officials visit Pensacola", "Oyster harvesting ongoing in Apalachicola Bay", "Airborne scientists look for signs of more oil near Florida", "100 dime-size tar balls wash ashore on beach east of Pensacola", "Heavy tar washing up in Destin area", "Fla. sets up website for oil spill job seekers", "BP head says he wasn't in loop, enrages Congress; Heavy tar washes ashore in Destin as tar balls strike Pensacola", "Gulf oil full of methane, adding new concerns" and "Florida company ready to set 'bugs' loose against oil".
"Independent gubernatorial candidate Lawton 'Bud' Chiles III is a defendant in seven lawsuits stemming from a construction business currently in bankruptcy and a foreclosed condo development." "Florida gubernatorial hopeful Bud Chiles a defendant in seven lawsuits".
"What's a voter to do?"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "A television commercial provided by the Florida First Initiative — and who wouldn't be in favor of putting Florida first? — attacks Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, linking him to problems with the hospital corporation of which we was CEO."
The campaign of Mr. Scott's chief opponent in the GOP primary, Attorney General Bill McCollum, denied any ties to the commercial. But the St. Petersburg Times reported that Florida First Initiative used Mr. McCollum's name in fundraising, that his finance director solicited money for the group and that the group uses the same ad producer and media buyer as Mr. McCollum's campaign."Be informed".
So, why doesn't Mr. McCollum just run the commercial himself?
The answer is in the shadowy world of so-called 527 organizations, such as Florida First Initiative, which are not subject to limits on contributions or spending and often disguise who is behind them. Those issues were made even more challenging this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that special-interest groups, from unions to corporations, may spend freely in support of national candidates.
What's a voter to do?
"Florida political history will be made Aug. 24, when two candidates from a third party face off on the primary ballot, according to state elections officials."
Registered Libertarian Party voters in some areas of Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties will get to choose between Ellen Paul and Franklin Perez, who both qualified to run for the District 33 seat in the Florida House."History in making: 2 Libertarians face off on primary ballot".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida tuition: still a good deal".
"Mayor Pam Iorio sent Obama a letter Wednesday asking him grant the airport status as an authorized port of entry and exit for the flights. ... In February 2009, U.S. Rep. Kather Castor, D-Tampa, asked Obama to lift travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans." "Mayor wants flights to Cuba from Tampa airport".