"In the 'pay to play' world of Tallahassee politics, legislators seeking favors are more the rule than the exception -- at least according to a convicted Broward County doctor and GOP fundraiser who spilled his secrets to a federal judge Thursday."
That disclosure by Alan Mendelsohn, a prominent ophthalmologist, was the highlight of his plea hearing in Fort Lauderdale federal court, where he said he had funnelled $82,000 to a former state senator through her associate."U.S. District Judge William Zloch asked Mendelsohn if that practice applied to other state legislators."
Mendelsohn, who raised millions for Republicans, said that he and a lobbyist were pressured by one-time Fort Lauderdale Sen. Mandy Dawson to hire her former aide, Venica Blakely, to work for their political action committees.
The RPOF hits keep coming:
"Absolutely,'' he said.
The judge expressed disgust: "This is a pretty sorry state of affairs with regards to what goes on in the statehouse.''
The unusually candid exchange came as Mendelsohn, 52, pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy charge, which accused him of bilking the U.S. government by failing to report more than $700,000 in income diverted from his political action committees, his lobbying clients and his medical practice.
The puffery also got him into serious trouble when he promised a wealthy Fort Lauderdale businessman [who himself was] facing potential fraud charges that he could exploit those supposed relationships to derail state and federal criminal investigations into the businessman's company."Conspiracy lifts veil on 'pay-to-play' politics". See also "South Florida power broker Mendelsohn pleads guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud".
In 2007, Mendelsohn asked Joel Steinger, the top executive at Mutual Benefits Corp., which sold AIDS patients' life insurance policies, if Steinger could contribute $400,000 to a state Senate campaign in Ocala. ...
Steinger later turned the tables against Mendelsohn, wearing a wire for the FBI to help bring him down in a sting operation in which Steinger gave the doctor $150,000 for one of his political action committees.
Steinger was later indicted on fraud charges related to Mutual Benefits. He and others await trial next year.
The Mendelsohn case was among a string of corruption investigations in recent years, including Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and, most recently, a federal probe into credit-card spending sprees by former leaders of the Republican Party of Florida.
More RPOF folly: "Feds subpoena finance records of Republican Party of Florida".
Another RPOF stunt
"At the urging of President Mike Haridopolos, a Senate panel voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to revive a constitutional amendment that attempts to block federal health-care mandates." "Haridopolos ready to fight health care".
Like talking to a brick wall
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board gives a little advice to the small man:
The state is facing a $3 billion shortfall in next year's budget. You would make it worse by phasing out the corporate income tax, which generates $1.6 billion a year. Where's the urgency? Florida already has one of the nation's lowest corporate tax rates."Dear Gov.-elect Scott …".
And you would cut school property taxes by 19 percent, but make up the dollars lost to districts with additional state funds. That would squeeze another $1.4 billion out of the budget. Where, exactly?
You insist that billions could be saved by running state government like a business. We're all for cutting the fat, but we're skeptical that so much has been left behind by Republican governors like Jeb Bush, and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
We suspect the only way to cover the costs of your proposals and balance the state budget would be deep spending cuts that would take a toll on schools, public safety, transportation, parks, cultural facilities and other quality-of-life components.
If that happens, the state will find it much harder to attract and keep world-class institutions like Sanford-Burnham. Why would a nationally coveted employer choose Florida if its employees were stuck with substandard schools and gridlocked highways?
West already "vulnerable"
"Because the makeup of Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West's Palm Beach-Broward congressional district is likely to change when new boundaries are drawn to reflect 2010 census data, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report has pegged him as one of the top 10 vulnerable House incumbents for 2012." "Before swearing in, Rep.-elect Allen West already on a 2012 vulnerable list".
The attack on public employees begins
"Facing the possibility of a $3.5 billion budget shortfall, some state senators see the state employee pension plan as ripe for the plucking." "Senators Sharpen Knives for State Employee Pension Cuts".
"With a $1.1 billion deficit looming in the state's employee health and pension accounts, lawmakers are poised to blow up the benefit programs and impose tough new limits on local governments, the chairman of the Senate committee said on Thursday." "State frets over pension debts of St. Petersburg and other cities". See also "Want to save billions? Lower drug penalties and slash pensions says group" ("Florida TaxWatch report has 125 recommendations that could save $4.3 billion") and "Gov.-elect Scott eyes cuts to employee pensions".
He probably expects a pension
"Orange County deputy shot twice in the head during traffic stop in Orlando".
"Cuban-American Republicans from Miami helped House Democrats pass the DREAM Act on Wednesday."
Meanwhile, "Florida Republican Senator George LeMieux joined opponents in the Senate." "DREAM Act backed by Miami Cuban Americans".
The summer of '64
"Top state officials passed a resolution apologizing to civil rights activists who were arrested and beaten in St. Augustine in the 1960s." "Crist, Cabinet pass resolution for civil rights-era activists".
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Floridians today can't erase the history of lawlessness in St. Augustine during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. But the state can set the official record straight by exonerating the accused lawbreakers and making it clear they were victims of a system that denied them equal protection of the laws." "State should clear activists' records". The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Setting right an old wrong".
Michael Mayo: "Things keep getting worse for Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter and husband/lobbyist Russell Klenet." "Stacy Ritter campaign violation woes: Q&A transcript".
State employees are overworked, underpaid
Bill Cotterell: "Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who has promised to shrink the size of state government, will inherit a workforce that is, per capita, the nation's smallest and least expensive."
That's the bottom line of the Annual Workforce Report issued Wednesday by the Department of Management Services. The 69-page compilation contains facts and figures about state personnel ranging from agency-by-agency personnel headcounts to ethnic diversity numbers for each salary classification."Florida's workforce least expensive in nation, report says".
The only major growth in state government is in the unemployment office. With nearly 12 percent of Floridians out of work, the Agency for Workforce Innovation added staff to handle benefits applications swelling its own ranks by nearly 13 percent.
The prison system also posted 2.6 percent employment growth, as the inmate population topped 100,000 this year, and the Department of Children and Families had 3.2 percent growth to serve the needy. ...
The report said Florida ranks lowest in per-capita payroll costs, at $38 per resident. That was a little above half of national average of $72 per citizen.
As of June 30, Florida had 117 full- and part-time state employees per 10,000 in population — also last in the nation. The national average was 216 employees per 10,000 residents.
Scott's seven-step plan to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years calls for a 5 percent reduction in the size of state government. The incoming governor has said he hopes to do it without layoffs, through attrition.
The gerrymandering begins
"Florida will get at least one, and possibly two, more congressional districts after the U.S. Census data is released, but the state Legislature will decide where those new districts will be drawn on the map." "Senators Begin Lengthy Road to Redraw Districts".
Are cartoons next?
"In a preview of the education agenda for the upcoming session, members of the Florida legislature gathered at Tallahassee’s Miracle 5 movie theater on Tuesday for a screening of Waiting for Superman". "Superman screening for lawmakers offers glimpse of school-reform debate".
Ethics laff riot
"The newly appointed chair of the Senate’s ethics committee hinted Thursday that proposals to give the Florida Ethics Commission some muscle may stand a chance this year, after being brushed aside the past few years." "Ethics Chair Hints at Sharper Teeth for Ethics Watchdog".
"Plutocrat Lollapalooza 2010 Tour"
Daniel Ruth: "Gov.-elect Rick Scott could well spend the next four years more out of the sunshine than Dracula."
Gracious, for a chap elected to lead the fourth-largest state in the union, Scott has become so gun-shy around the scribbling corps he is beginning to make Thomas Pynchon look like a craven publicity hound.Ruth continues:
Well, why not? During his campaign for the Governor's Mansion, which must look like a FEMA trailer to the fancy-pants mega-mogul, Scott avoided annoying reporters' questions with greater vigor than he did when he took the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a deposition.
In recent days, Scott has embarked on a tour of the state that has been half grip-and-grin with the great unwashed and half a Skull and Bones Society sweat lodge attended by a debenture of financiers.Much more: "Public's business best done in public".
The behind-closed-doors soirees have included secret handshakes with all manner of business interests who have been given hoity-toity, For-Your-Checkbook-Only private access to the newly minted governor.
No doubt the closed-curtain chit-chat has been dominated by high-minded great social intercourse calling for good, transparent, accountable government that makes Plato's dialogues look like idle Facebook gossip.
Scott defended excluding reporters from his Plutocrat Lollapalooza 2010 Tour by arguing that many people — especially folks looking to grease more palms than a Chicago ward committeeman on election day — are reluctant to speak candidly in the presence of a bunch of ink-stained wretches who might possibly regard the sight of a governor-elect crawling into bed with the state's silk-stocking crowd as just a tad tacky.
Goin' after them teachers
"Florida is expected to adopt a merit-pay law next year that would tie teacher compensation to student performance on tests. But the sequel to this year's failed and, to many teachers, infuriating effort could be a somewhat milder version than the bill Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last spring." "Merit pay: 2 plans on state lawmakers' radar".
But Teabaggers can't find the word "rail" in the Constitution
"U.S. Rep. John Mica was selected by his fellow Republicans in Congress to chair the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure -- giving a Floridian the gavel over the powerful committee overseeing highways, aviation, rail, maritime shipping, public buildings and the Coast Guard, amongst other tasks." "John Mica Selected to Lead Transportation and Infrastructure Committee".
"Heroic Media, the Austin, Texas-based anti-abortion group that counts Sarah Palin among its endorsers, has been branching out from its Texas roots to create a presence in Florida. In recent weeks, both billboards and television commercials have been showing up in the Jacksonville area." "Texas anti-abortion group targets Planned Parenthood, African-Americans in North Florida ad campaign".
"When it comes to describing his plans for dealing with the state’s $2.5 billion projected budget deficit, Gov.-elect Rick Scott has been short on specifics. In a recent interview on Bloomberg television, he singles out prisons, pensions "and other areas" for spending cuts." "Prison spending plays major role in debate over projected state budget deficit (Updated)".
Billy loses his spine
"McCollum, who said during the meeting that the significance of the case paled in comparison to others before the board, did not cast a vote on the pardon, letting it stand as a 3-0 decision." "Clemency board pardons Jim Morrison". See also "Morrison pardon doesn't change The Doors' history".
Sea cows a comin'
"Manatees are on their way".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Indictment: Scammed $1.2M from 181 investors".
"The county first will try counting votes at one of about 20 locations scattered throughout the county, work that was previously done at a warehouse in Riviera Beach, county Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said. By the end of 2011, she hopes to have modems that work with the county's existing vote scanners, letting her staff send results in directly from the precinct." "Palm Beach County explores ways to count votes faster on election nights".
Little man, big decisions
"The U.S. Department of Transportation with stunning swiftness redirected $342 million to Florida on Thursday to complete financing the construction of a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Despite the extra funding, one hurdle remains. Incoming Republican Gov. Rick Scott must accept the funds, but Scott on Thursday, maintained his previous caution toward the project." "Florida gets high-speed rail funds taken from Ohio, Wisconsin".
The small man "toured the Port of Miami, but did not commit to supporting a deep dredging project that could provide thousands of jobs." "Gov.-elect Rick Scott to study Port of Miami project". See also "Feds Sending Another $342 Million to Florida for High-Speed Rail" ("Republicans and Dems in Congress like the idea; will Rick Scott?")
"Georgia is locked in a tri-state legal battle with neighboring Florida and Alabama over water that has environmental and economic implications for the region." "Lawmakers meet to discuss future of water supply".