"A new report released by the National Institute on Money in State Politics finds that Florida’s campaign finance disclosure laws make it hard to see what effect independent spending has on elections in the state."
According to the report, “researchers discovered that the increasing use of independent spending in Florida allows both large donors and candidates to circumvent the state’s contribution and public financing limits, but poor disclosure laws inhibit analysis of the impact this spending had on the outcome of elections.”"According to the report, Electioneering Communication Organizations (ECOs) — or 527s — provide a loophole for both large donors and candidates to Florida’s 'contribution and public financing limits.'"
The report also points out that the way groups disclose information presents problems. In Florida, it is difficult to tell who is funding independent expenditures, as well as where the money is going. The groups typically have names that do not really describe what candidate or group they are attached to."Report: Florida’s poor disclosure laws hide impact of independent spending".
The study also highlights a problem with the limited number of people involved in managing the funds, an issue tackled by The Florida Independent last month.
According to the report, “of the $96.8 million of total independent spending during the study period, $38.8 million, 40 percent of the overall total, was routed through ECOs controlled by just four individuals.” ...
Lastly, the report raises concerns over the types of connections ECOs are allowed to have with candidates in the state. Because there are no rules against politicians and campaigns working with ECOs, the groups can effectively “function as de facto arms of a candidate’s campaign.” This a glaring difference between rules set in place for independent expenditures.
The report concludes by warning that “Florida is typically one of the largest and most important electoral battlegrounds in the nation, but it lacks a comprehensive campaign finance disclosure system.”
“Absent one,” the report says, “the public’s ability to understand their government will invariably suffer. Its elections will continue to be influenced by a shadowy network of ECOs that obscure the connections between wealthy campaign donors and the public’s elected representatives.”
Surging Gingrich hits Jax
"Surging in the polls, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich took his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to Jacksonville on Thursday." "Riding High in the Polls, Newt Gingrich Hits Florida". See also "Gingrich defends consulting fees with historical style to friendly Jacksonville crowd".
Depos in Greer case deflate fraud allegations
"A lobbyist who was Charlie Crist's chief fundraiser Thursday told attorneys for ousted Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer that the then-governor authorized Greer in early 2009 to take over party fundraising and to be paid extra for it, a Greer attorney reported. The account by uber-lobbyist Brian Ballard is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for Greer, but it makes clear that party insiders had splintered pieces of information about a faltering fundraising operation and that Greer had the authority to take more control."
He did, and now he's awaiting trial on charges he secretly set up a fundraising company and used it to defraud the party of $125,000, part of it by submitting phony bills."Fundraiser: Crist wanted Greer to take over party fundraising".
Greer, 49, of Oviedo, says he did nothing improper.
Ballard was one of four people deposed in closed-door sessions Thursday by attorneys for Greer and those with the Office of Statewide Prosecution. His testimony was summarized by Damon Chase, one of Greer's attorneys. Ballard did not return calls for comment.
Others who were questioned include Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos; ousted party fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke; and pollster and political consultant Pat Bainter.
The sessions, which took place at the Tallahassee offices of RPOF attorney Steven Andrews, were closed to reporters.
Chase described Ballard's testimony as "a huge victory for Jim Greer."
He said it showed that Crist -- entering his final year as governor -- was in control and had authorized Greer to save money by taking fundraising out of the hands of an expensive contractor – O'Rourke - and do it himself, along with the party's then-Executive Director Delmar Johnson.
"Lawmakers are considering a range of options to deal with PIP fraud." "Florida tackles car insurance fraud".
Scott warms up to media
"Scott meets with 'The Post': Hot for jobs, lukewarm on casinos".
"Myriad political connections"
"Even Sen. Don Gaetz, who failed in his effort to push through a complete merger of the expressway authorities earlier this year, says. 'The bill won’t pass.' He attributes his pessimism to the myriad political connections to the authorities." "Toll collection merger plan could be dead on arrival".
Florida "a pathetic, prostitute-seeking John"
Scott Maxwell believes he's "finally figured out what Florida is in the eyes of corporate America: a John."
A pathetic, prostitute-seeking John with a wad of money and a small sense of self-worth."Pitiful legislators woo companies with wads of cash".
Why do I say that? Because Florida has essentially given up on trying to be a state where businesses want to come. Instead, we keep trying to lure them with cash.
The latest news has Gov. Rick Scott wanting to more than double his incentives bankroll — we're talking $230 million of your tax dollars to throw at companies next year.
Sure, some states attract companies with an educated workforce, good transportation and a high quality of life.
And then there are states like Florida that rely on corporate welfare.
Unfortunately, we're not even very good at it.
Not only is Florida's economy still worse than most states, but as the Sentinel's Aaron Deslatte has been reporting, many of the jobs we've tried to buy never even materialized.
Yep, even when we pay for it, we don't always score.
State officials can't explain why. Heck, they can't even tally how many jobs we're owed.
You'd think that would be a call for greater accountability. Instead, the Department of Economic Opportunity called for another $130 million of your money.
"Free Market Sugar Act"
"The high costs of American sugar, coupled with quotas that make it near-impossible for the product to be imported, have led two congressmen to file a bill that would overhaul the way the industry does business. One of the bill’s sponsors, Danny Davis, D-Ill., tells the Independent that filing the 'Free Market Sugar Act' was a no-brainer, considering the impact that sugar prices have had on his constituents." "Free Market Sugar Act sponsor: High sugar prices have caused ‘outflow of jobs’".
Florida remains in the lead for housing woe
"With 24.5 percent of the nation's foreclosures, Florida remained in the lead this week for housing woe - an unenviable position it will hold long after other regions of the country recover, economists said Thursday." "Longer recovery forecast for Florida".
Meanwhile, The Palm Beach Post editorial board writes that although "Floridians cannot expect Gov. Scott to solve the foreclosure crisis by himself, but Floridians should expect Gov. Scott at least to understand the crisis." "Editorial: Scott must start to buy in".
"About 100 people protested Thursday night during rush hour at the Interstate 4 overpass ... in south Orlando." "Occupy Orlando demonstrates on I-4 overpass during rush hour".
Nelson, Mack race "a tossup"
"A potential U.S. Senate matchup in Florida between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Connie Mack was rated a tossup on Thursday by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics." "Nelson-Mack Senate race rated a toss-up".
Immigration detention center delayed
"Decision on South Florida immigration detention center delayed till December".
AIF, Chamber gambling kerfuffle
"The battle over "destination resorts" in Florida is pitting two of the state's largest business organizations against each other, with one rejecting a casino company's $25,000 check and bid for membership. An aggressively pro-gaming stance by the Associated Industries of Florida has renewed speculation about AIF's agenda and members."
Erika Alba, who chairs the AIF's board of directors, is public affairs director at Foley & Lardner, a law firm that lobbies for the Genting Group, a gaming company vying to build "the world's largest" hotel-casino in Miami."While AIF Touts Casinos, Chamber Rejects Genting's $25,000 Check". See also "AIF gets behind destination casino plan".
But AIF officials point out that their casino crusade pre-dated Alba's chairmanship.
“The full AIF board votes on all association positions. Our position on destination resorts this year is consistent with positions taken in prior years by previous AIF boards," said Jennifer Fennell, spokeswoman for AIF.
"Any assertion that a single member of AIF’s board guides the association’s positions is patently false," Fennell said.
Meanwhile, the Florida Chamber of Commerce continues to tilt in the opposite direction -- rejecting any casino expansion.
“The Florida Chamber has a longstanding position, dating back to the early 1990s, opposing the expansion of gambling. Our position is not for sale," said chamber spokeswoman Edie Ousley.
"Florida's unique failure"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "If Florida is going to continue to use the death penalty despite its cost and potential for killing people for crimes they did not commit, it should let no lesser standard apply. It's time for the state to join other death penalty states in requiring a unanimous recommendation from the jury before a death sentence."
Florida's hand is already being forced on the issue. In June, a federal district judge in Miami ruled that Florida's unique failure to require unanimous agreement by juries in recommending the death penalty is unconstitutional. The state has appealed."Jurors should be unanimous in recommending death sentence".
But Florida lawmakers should have gotten the message long before this past summer that something was amiss. Florida has the dubious honor of leading the country in death row exonerations: 23 since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. That raises the very real specter that Florida has executed individuals who were not guilty of capital crimes. ...
Florida needs to have a broader conversation on the overall efficacy of capital punishment. Until then, the Florida Legislature should embrace the notion of unanimous jury recommendation as a small but long-overdue step to provide a bit more fairness in administrating the ultimate sentence.
"Secret alter ego"
"Fellow politicians blasted Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche on Thursday for using a secret alter ego to zing them, straining city-county relations and the commission's own dynamics at a crucial time." "Fellow officials slam Roche".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Roche's conduct unfit for public office".
Runnin' gub'ment like a bidness
"State investigators say Vicki Lopez Lukis, a well-connected former Lee County commissioner now living in South Florida, used her contracts with state juvenile justice administrators for personal gain, buying meals at steakhouses and sushi restaurants, gifts for friends and lawmakers, tickets to a film festival and flowers, spending taxpayer dollars on cell phone roaming charges in Europe, and paying off staffers' parking tickets."
Using state money, a report says, she purchased office furniture and computer equipment — at a cost of thousands of dollars — from a company owned by her husband and son. And, documents say, she "falsified" records to justify being paid for services that weren't rendered."Investigators says former county commissioner used taxpayer dollars for personal gain".
The report issued by the Department of Juvenile Justice's inspector general in June said at least $111,000 meant to provide services for delinquent girls was misused. The state's financial watchdog recommended that DJJ get its money back.
But just a week later, the juvenile justice department — now headed by Lopez Lukis' longtime friend, Wansley Walters — inked a new contract with Lopez Lukis' group, the Girls Advocacy Project. The state has yet to ask for a refund.
Easing foreclosure crisis
"With Florida atop or near atop the list of foreclosure-ridden states, lawmakers on Thursday began looking again at ways to speed up the handling of foreclosure cases that now can take two years or more to wind their way through the courts." "Senate Eyes Ways to Ease Foreclosure Crisis".
Budget talks may be delayed
"Haridopolos open to delaying budget deliberations".
GOPers suddenly like that reger'lation stuff
"Just months after Florida lawmakers tried to strip away crucial protections for residents of assisted-living facilities, legislators are now radically reversing course in what could lead to the biggest changes in state law in a generation."
The hearing was held just months after some of the same lawmakers pushed nearly two dozen bills in the past session calling for removing key regulations — including portions of the residents' bill of rights."Reversing course, lawmakers now want tougher regulations for ALFs". See also "Two Senate committees to tackle assisted living regulations".
Most of those bills died just days after a Miami Herald series was published in May revealing that residents were dying nearly once a month of abuse and neglect, but most of the homes were allowed to keep their doors open.
Teamsters oust PBA as state corrections officers rep
"The Teamsters union ousted the Police Benevolent Association as the leader of the bargaining unit for the Department of Corrections in election results announced Thursday."
The PBA, which represented correctional workers for more than three decades, has 15 days to contest the election, but executive director Matt Puckett said that appears unlikely. After the waiting period, the Teamsters will become the official bargaining unit for nearly 19,000 corrections workers. "Teamsters union elected to represent corrections workers". See also "PBA Loses to Teamsters".
Puckett said the PBA would continue to its involvement in two lawsuits against the state: one challenging the privatization of prisons in South Florida, in which the Legislature has appealed an initial ruling in favor of the union, and one challenging mandatory pension contributions that local Teamsters units also have joined.
"One-Third of Florida's Congressional Delegation Worth Millions".
Bembry, D-Madison to challenge Southerland
"Leonard Bembry, a businessman and farmer, was elected to the state House in 2008 and re-elected in 2010. He challenges Republican Steve Southerland, elected to the congressional seat in 2010." "Rep. Bembry to seek 2nd District congressional seat". See also "Leonard Bembry to Challenge Steve Southerland".
Florida makes "American Dream-killers" list
"The Center for American Progress recently highlighted what it considers to be the 'Top Five Efforts by Conservatives to Make It Harder to Escape Poverty.' Included in this list of 'American Dream-killers' is Florida’s controversial law requiring welfare beneficiaries to take a drug test before receiving benefits." "Welfare drug testing law makes list of top five efforts to ‘kill the American dream’".
Medical-loss ratio waiver request delayed
"A state request to free Florida health insurance companies from spending at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs has been delayed by the federal government. The U.S. Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight extended its own deadline by 30 days." "Florida health care waiver request delayed". See also "Current: Feds to take more time on Florida’s waiver for health insurance profit cap".