"Crooked officials rampant in Florida"
Scott Maxwell: "To see how bad political corruption in this state is, look no further than the Tallahassee Democrat. Not the news pages — though there's plenty of evidence there, too. No, I'm talking about a front-page ad that the FBI took out not long ago. ... That's right. Crooked officials are so rampant in Florida, we actually have the feds taking out front-page ads … in the state capital, appropriately enough." "Legislators ignoring Florida's rampant corruption cost you money".
Kingsley don't do public transportation
Kingsley Guy just doesn't grasp the concept of sitting in a bus, or train, with a bunch of strange looking people who aren't bringing him cocktails: "High-speed rail: Gov. Scott was right to reject this fantasy".
Ending Medicare to be a big issue in Florida
Lesley Clark: "The question sounded simple enough: Would you vote for or against a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare?"
But state Senate president Mike Haridopolos — a U.S. Senate hopeful calling into a St. Augustine radio station — wouldn’t answer, calling the question, "hypothetical.""Haridopolos’ refusal to be pinned down in the radio interview to a yes or no was a stark reminder of the 'third rail' potency that Medicare wields in Florida — the state with the highest proportion of people over 65 in the country. Some 3.2 million Floridians depend on the federal health insurance program — second only to California’s 4.4 million."
The frustrated host, Ray Junior, eventually hung up on him, telling his producers, "Get rid of him."
Politicians on both sides have successfully used — or misused —- the issue to battle their opponents: In 1994, then-Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles famously [and correctly] suggested in a series of late in the campaign robo calls that his Republican challenger, Jeb Bush, considered Medicare, "welfare.""Haridopolos, whose radio interview unleashed a daylong torrent of criticism from conservative blogs, answered the question by day’s end:"
And in the 2010 election, the 60 Plus Association, a conservative leaning group that touts itself as an alternative to AARP, ran TV ads against several Florida Democrats, accusing them of cutting $500 billion from Medicare for voting for the Democrats’ health care overhaul.
That attack line is being revived again this year by Republicans looking to take out Nelson.
"Senator Nelson’s decision to ignore Florida voters and cast the deciding 60th vote for ObamaCare’s[*] tax hikes and Medicare cuts will be a key issue as he prepares to face voters at the polls next year," said National Republican Senatorial Campaign spokesman Jahan Wilcox.
Fact checking organizations like PolitiFact have reviewed that claim and found it wanting: The 60 Plus ads rated a "barely true" from PolitiFact, which found the $500 billion isn’t an actual cut, but reductions to future spending for a program that would still grow significantly in the next 10 years.
He’d vote 'no' on the Ryan plan — a move that delighted his GOP rivals, but could blunt a Nelson line of attack —if he secures the GOP nomination.Bottom line is that the Ryan plan would result in an increase in out of pocket expenses for Floridians of $7,383.
In the competitive GOP Senate primary, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner challenged his rivals to embrace the plan, saying his only criticism would be that the plan — part of a budget proposal aimed at taming the deficit, "just doesn’t go far enough, fast enough." Rival George LeMieux, praised the House plan, but has said he preferred his own plan which he said would balance the budget faster.
The plan wouldn’t affect those over 55, but would give future Medicare beneficiaries a government subsidy [more accurately a "coupon"] to purchase private health insurance. Independent analysts have concluded beneficiaries would end up paying more — and Democrats highlighted a study that suggested no state beneficiaries would pay more than those in Florida.
According to the analysis done for the Joint Economic Committee chaired by Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, while the increase would vary state by state, residents in all states would see out-of-pocket expenses more than double when they turn 65 in 2022. Florida’s increase: $7,383.Much more here: "Medicare: The issue that could really shake up Florida".
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*"Obamacare" is a Teabaggish, right-wing slur for President Obama's Health Care Reform legislation (More here and here). By using the term "Obamacare", Clark is apparently unaware she is channeling right wing propaganda.
"On one side of the fifth floor: linoleum tile, industrial fluorescent lights, white drywall and metal doors. On Jenne's side: oak wainscoting and moulding, wood floors and wood shades or blinds." "Broward's ex-Sheriff Ken Jenne spent $1.6 million on posh office".
West rails against pirates
"U.S. Rep. Allen West urges vigilance against China, terrorists, pirates".
"Florida the Wild West of money in politics"
Howard Troxler: "There's an old joke that members of the Florida Legislature should be labeled like NASCAR drivers to show who is paying for them."
The modern problem in Florida is that traditional "campaign contributions," given directly to a candidate under strict limits, are less and less important."Florida is the Wild West of money in politics, and it is getting worse. Remember that this year, the Legislature even re-legalized "leadership funds," or campaign accounts operated directly by the leaders of the House and Senate."
More and more important are the "committees" or similar outfits that take unlimited money from interest groups seeking to buy influence.
These committees can be:
• The political parties, which have been reinvented as giant money-laundering schemes.
• The universe of PACs and "committees of continuous existence" formed to raise large amounts of money and funnel it into campaigns.
• A relatively new breed of committees operated by politicians themselves — even sitting members of the Legislature — that free them from the traditional limits.
Legal bribery.Read Troxler's ideas here: "How to fix money in Florida politics".
With all this money, these committees buy elections at the local level. The quaint idea of American legislative democracy at the district level is almost a fiction. It is not a question of who St. Petersburg wants in the Legislature, or St. Augustine, or Gainesville or Palatka. It is an orchestrated statewide machine.
These committees churn the money among themselves, launder it, pour it into local elections and hide the origin. This is the key point. The entire purpose of campaign finance laws — to tell the public who is paying for the campaign — is defeated.
When we get a campaign brochure in our mailbox that says, "Paid for by the Committee for Florida's Future and Cute Little Puppies," that does not tell us that it is actually being run by a powerful legislator, taking payoffs from Corporations X and Y so they can get favorable laws.
Can we do this better?
Mind the raw sewage
"State easing of beach rules risks human, environmental health, group says".
Vern slips one by the voters
"On Oct. 17, two weeks before the November election, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan refunded $5,000 in contributions made by five former employees — one of whom had claimed that he and others were pressured to donate to Buchanan in violation of federal law. But voters never knew about the refunds. It was not until March — four months after the Sarasota Republican won a third term — that the ex-employees' names finally showed up on a report that Buchanan's campaign filed with the Federal Elections Commission."
The race for the 13th District congressional seat proved to be extremely close, with Buchanan initially trailing his main opponent in raising money."It was not the only time in recent months that Buchanan faced problems with the elections commission."
The Nissan Dodge employees each wrote a check for $1,000 and received $1,000 back in cash. Federal law bans "undisclosed conduit reimbursements'' in which a donor makes a contribution by funneling it through someone else.
Buchanan, whose district includes Manatee County, denied wrong doing, and Bell's FEC complaint is still pending. But a Buchanan finance report filed after last year's general election shows that the campaign had refunded $5,000 to the "United States Treasury c/o Federal Elections Committee'' on Oct. 17.
No names appeared on subsequent finance reports until the FEC told the campaign to be specific. In March, the committee identified the donors as Bell and four other former Nissan Dodge employees.
The FEC requires campaign committees to send contributions thought to be illegal to the treasury department, not to the donor.
An expert on campaign finance law says the refunds likely meant that Buchanan's campaign made a deal with the FEC last fall.
Then the campaign "went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the settlement, including violating the (law) again by not properly reporting the refunds,'' says Brett Kappel, an attorney with the Washington D.C. law firm Arent Fox and a former member of the American Bar Association's election law committee.
In December, the FEC sued Sam Kazran, owner of a now-closed Jacksonville Hyundai dealership, alleging that several of his employees and their relatives were illegally reimbursed for contributing to Buchanan's 2006 and 2008 campaigns while Buchanan was a partner in the dealership."Buchanan slow to reveal campaign refunds".
Buchanan was not named as a defendant in the suit. But shortly after it was filed, his campaign committee paid $50,000 to the Washington D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, which often represents clients in dealings with the FEC.
Scott don' need no stinkin' consumer protection
"It's called the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but the name might have to change if Gov. Rick Scott gets his way. In a side note in his recent state budget veto message, Scott questioned the value of the agency's two consumer-oriented divisions and implied they should be abolished next year without more justification." "Scott wants agriculture department to justify consumer protection role".
"Rewarding friends and punishing enemies"
John Kennedy: "The biggest tax break created by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature will let the average homeowner in Palm Beach County knock about $28 off his or her property tax bill next year."
But for some of the state's biggest companies, including several that helped power last year's GOP political campaigns, the tax cut will yield tax savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars and maybe even more than $1 million for a few."Political payback? GOP donors enjoy huge tax breaks".
Nothing new here. As Paul Krugman explained years ago, in the context of privatization:
Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been 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.
Ricky kills jobs
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Scott calls it his 'jobs' budget. But in reality, the $69 billion state budget, which takes effect in July, could force thousands of Floridians into the ranks of the unemployed." "Scott's budget brings job losses".
Surely, Walt Disney World will use its massive tax cut to create more high paying Disney jobs in central Florida. Recall that in recent negotiations "Disney is offering a 25-cent pay raise to workers on the lower end of the pay scale, but [the workers wanted] 35 cents."
Ricky kills death penalty Commission
Nice of Ricky to have "killed the Florida Commission on Capital Cases. He signed into law a bill passed in haste late on the final night of the legislative session. The elimination of the commission saves $400,000 and gets rid of five positions. It completely eliminates the only clearinghouse for death-penalty case information, the status of court cases of the 397 people on Florida's death row and archival cases on the 69 people Florida has put to death since 1979." "Gov. Scott signs bill killing Florida Commission on Capital Cases".
"Teacher contract talks never stop in Hillsborough".
The sorry state of higher education
An "intern at the [winguttish*] James Madison Institute" (in part funded by Koch Industries (see p. 12) (.pdf)) doesn't understand what the FSU-Koch fuss is about; the alleged college student sees no problem with FSU economics department hires being approved by an advisory committee handpicked by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch. Read it and weep: "It's a 'coveted academic opportunity'".
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*For example, see "How long until Florida's knuckle-draggers go after emails?". It is also worth noting that The James Madison Institute thinks Andrew Breitbart is just marvelous.
"A year after BP oil spill, Panhandle towns seeing signs of recovery".