"Former Republican Party Chair Jim Greer expanded his lawsuit against the state party Tuesday to include Senate President Mike Haridopolos just days after taking a sworn statement from Haridopolos."
The original lawsuit named the party and former Chairman John Thrasher in a bid to collect $5 million in damages. Greer claims the party cheated him out of $123,000 in severance pay after he resigned in January 2010."On his way out, party leaders signed a secret severance agreement pledging to pay Greer, but denied there was an agreement after he actually resigned."
Greer says the party later sent political consultants Pat Bainter and Marc Reichelderfer to offer him $200,000 in "hush money'' if he would forgo making a claim against the party"Former GOP Chair Jim Greer adds Senate President Mike Haridopolos to lawsuit".
Damon Chase, the Orlando lawyer who represents Greer, said Haridopolos was added after he testified that he did nothing to enforce the severance agreement despite a clause that required it.
Haridopolos could not be reached for comment.
GOP front group goes after Nelson
"On Tuesday, the team at Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies continued to attack President Barack Obama and Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson -- both of whom appear to be headed for fights in the Sunshine State as they seek another term in office." "Conservative Group Takes Aim at Obama and Bill Nelson".
Scott's approval ratings still slumping
"Two polls show Florida Gov. Rick Scott still struggling for approval almost a year into his term." "Gov. Scott still struggles in polls".
Progress Energy customers get rate hike, shareholders get a pass
"Progress Energy customers have to pay $140 million next year for electricity the utility purchases while the company's broken Crystal River nuclear plant is off line, the state Public Service Commission unanimously ruled Tuesday." "PSC votes in favor of passing $140 million in fuel costs along to Progress Energy customers". Related: "PSC OKs $140.1 million in replacement power charges for Crystal River nuclear plant" and "State regulators approve nuclear costs paid to FPL".
Public hospitals for sale?
"A proposal to require the sale of all public hospitals and their assets to the private sector got a chilly reception Monday from a majority of those on the state panel charged at looking at public hospitals." "Commission is asked to require the sale of all public hospitals and their assets".
Gambling lobbyists laffing their way to the banks
"The only winners so far in the effort to allow luxury resort casinos in South Florida, which has widespread implications for every form of gambling in the state, are lobbyists." "Gambling groups spend millions on lobbyists".
Scott's jobs czar
"As Gov. Rick Scott's jobs czar, Swoope (rhymes with "hope") must open the door to more business in Florida, finding a better calculus than his predecessors to lure new companies across the state line while keeping existing employers from escaping."
There have been early signs of success. The state's 10.3 percent jobless rate is its lowest since June 2009. In September, Time Warner announced plans to create 500 jobs in Hillsborough County. The company got state and local tax incentives worth $3 million."Tall order for Florida jobs czar".
But there have been hints of trouble, too. CCS Medical, one of Tampa Bay's biggest private employers, moved its headquarters and 230 high-paying jobs to Dallas. Foreclosures in Florida hit an 11-month high in October, statewide construction expenditures have dropped three consecutive quarters, and the number of children living in poverty in Florida — nearly one in four — is growing faster than the national average.
Florida had second highest number of mass layoffs in October
"Florida had 91 mass layoff actions during the month of October, the second highest number in the nation, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics summary released Tuesday. The Bureau summary also indicates that Florida had the second highest number (more than 6,500) of initial claimants for unemployment insurance in October, behind only California." "Florida second in the nation in mass layoffs for October".
Florida had second highest number of claimants for unemployment in October
"Florida had 91 mass layoff actions during the month of October, the second highest number in the nation, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics summary released Tuesday. The Bureau summary also indicates that Florida had the second highest number (more than 6,500) of initial claimants for unemployment insurance in October, behind only California." "Florida second in the nation in mass layoffs for October"
"Agencies governing health, transportation and elder affairs have made several staff in upper mangement changes this week." "Hello, goodbye: Staff come and go at state agencies".
The best he can do?
"In an email sent out to supporters Tuesday morning, Republican congressional candidate Mike Yost writes that 'Washington Democrats' like Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, his 2012 opponent, 'are so far out of touch with reality that it is no wonder the $15 Trillion of current debt is growing.'" "Corrine Brown opponent pounces on ‘Super Committee’ failure remarks".
Another right wing "foundation"
As if Florida's James Madison Institute wasn't enough: "Tarren Bragdon, the president of the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability, has sent a letter to federal health officials lobbying for approval of the state’s Medicaid reform plans."
Bragdon’s new Naples-based “free market” public policy group, which has so far declined to disclose the source of its funding, is telling federal officials in a letter that the program “is a decided success.”"New ‘free market’ think tank asks feds to approve state Medicaid overhaul".
Bragdon’s new group has ties to right-wing organizations such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. These groups also have deep ties to the controversial Koch brothers. The billionaire brothers have pumped millions of dollars into groups that lobby and advocate on behalf of big business and seek to undermine labor rights around the country.
At the federal trough
"South Florida Congressman Allen West and defense industry leaders in Florida hope to fend off budget cuts that they fear will severely squeeze contractors in the state who do $14 billion worth of business." "Floridians try to shield defense from budget cuts".
Broward "campaign funding that can verge on bribery"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Broward residents once watched the corruption follies of Miami-Dade with a bit of schadenfreude; since 2007, they have watched their own, from a once-revered sheriff who mixed public and private business to a School Board member who stuffed money into her luncheon doggy bag."
Private businesses line up to make millions from government land-use votes, contracts and purchases, and too many are not shy about participating in campaign funding that can verge on bribery plus other gifts and perks."Cleaning up Broward County".
Fed-up Broward voters demanded last fall that a reluctant County Commission impose a new ethics code and hire an inspector general to keep tabs on their elected officials. While similar steps in Miami-Dade haven’t rendered local politics pure, they have helped. It’s just sad that too many people in public life begin their service with honorable intentions and then need such watchdogs.
That was fast
"A week after including a new job training program for unemployed workers in a proposed committee bill, Gov. Rick Scott is giving up on the idea, at least for now."
Florida Works was to be based upon Georgia Works, a program that provides job training at a business and a stipend to people receiving unemployment compensation benefits, which is paid for by an assessment on businesses. In Scott’s proposal, however, there would have been no stipend, no assessment and businesses would not have been required to hire the trainee as in existing job training programs."Gov. Scott gives up on new job training program".
Tom Klendenning, director of the division of workforce services for the Department of Economic Opportunity, presented the bill and the program to the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee the past week, but now the program is shelved.
Runnin' gub'ment lke a bidness
"Fading hopes for Christmastime delivery of more than $100 million in 'A' school bonus checks were dashed Tuesday as state officials acknowledged that a month-long appeal process will push disbursement into the new year. Even more troubling, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson warned that there might not be enough money to fully fund the program." "Tardy 'A'-School Bonuses Could Be Smaller, Too".
The Tampa Tribune editors: "State Sen. Jim Norman may have been cleared of criminal violations, but that hardly restores the reputation of a deceptive, self-interested politician who has displayed little regard for ethical behavior. Nevertheless, U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill was right to announce he had closed the investigation into Norman, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, since investigators found no 'violation of a federal criminal law.' But if no laws were broken, Norman behaved with supreme arrogance, keeping secret his family's financial dealings with a wealthy political power broker who frequently appeared before the commission, where Norman championed his agenda." "Norman is not in the clear". Background: "Federal inquiry clears state Sen. Jim Norman".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "This nation's ethics laws are meaningless when the spouse of a county commissioner can walk away with a $500,000 lakefront home thanks to a political donor. U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill, the chief federal prosecutor in Tampa, announced Monday he could find no criminal violation in a $500,000 loan that political benefactor Ralph Hughes gave in 2006 to Mearline Norman, the wife of then-Hillsborough County Commissioner and now state Sen. Jim Norman. Having the investigation end on terms that give Norman any sense of victory only further damages public confidence in government and the political process."
Prosecutors face a burden in corruption cases in connecting gifts with an overt act that perverts the democratic process. Federal corruption laws require prosecutors to prove that public officials have been unduly influenced by monetary gain. While the federal case against Norman is virtually sealed from public view, several attorneys suggested that because Norman was in lockstep with Hughes' antitax, antiregulatory agenda, prosecutors faced a tougher time showing that Norman carried Hughes' water out of thanks for his generosity. And Hughes died in 2008, leaving the government without a principal witness."The ethics laws clearly need to be strengthened. "
Giving officials a pass because their philosophies align with a benefactor — which is usually the case — overlooks the many ways that gifts manifest as corrupting influences. The legal line blurs even further with donors who exploit loopholes by laundering gifts through family members. There is no defensible excuse for an official to accept any gift of significant value — and certainly not a second home. And disclosure is not good enough. In Norman's case, the gift became public knowledge amid a highly charged state Senate race, which his supporters mischaracterized as dirty politics, not the sleazy behavior it was."Weak ethics laws revealed".
The real crime here is that such an obvious conflict of interest as this one is apparently legal.
Gingrich in Naples
"Newt Gingrich, the latest Republican to rise from the polling ashes to the top tier of candidates, will be in Naples on Friday and Saturday to campaign and sign books." "GOP candidate Gingrich in Naples this weekend".
Internet sales taxes
The Sun Sentinel editorial board wants Florida to "Tap Internet sales taxes".
Union haters gear up for the session
"Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida has contracted the services of a large legal firm [GrayRobinson, P.A] to head its lobbying efforts in Tallahassee for the 2012 legislative session."
The Florida ABC last year supported the “Wage Protection” bill filed by state Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville. Goodson and state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, recently filed a very similar bill for the 2012 legislative session. The measure would prohibit Florida municipalities from “adopting or maintaining” local ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing employees out of wages they are due."Associated Builders and Contractors strengthens lobbying presence in Tallahassee".
Associated Builders and Contractors also has several political action committees “to work within the federal and state election processes,” including several specific to Florida chapters.
ABC has, according to Open Secrets, contributed more than $10.7 million to political campaigns from 1990 through 2012, and over 98 percent of those contributions have gone to Republicans.
Open Secrets also shows that GOP members of Congress from Florida — including Vern Buchanan, Ander Crenshaw, John Mica, Dennis Ross, Tom Rooney, Steve Southerland and C.W. Bill Young — have received contributions from the group.
Never mind the evidence
"Four DNA tests, a judge’s apology and evidence that points to another man all indicate Anthony Caravella had nothing to do with the 1983 rape and murder of a Miramar woman. But attorneys defending the city of Miramar and the Broward Sheriff’s Office in a civil lawsuit filed by Caravella still insist he did it." "Police insist man freed by DNA evidence still guilty".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Florida Keys vacation-fraud suspect facing more than 100 charges".