Only 35% believe Florida heading in the right direction
Even a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll has Florida Republicans in deep trouble:
The chamber survey of likely voters, conducted by telephone March 22-25, found that 35 percent of Floridians believe the state is heading in the right direction, up 3 percent from a month earlier."Optimism over Florida Grows with Voters, while Buying Prospects Remain Uncertain".
Usual suspects already bankrolling Scott
"A political committee that played an important role in Gov. Rick Scott's 2010 election raised $910,000 in contributions during the first three months of this year, according to state records."
The Let's Get to Work Committee also has started quickly in April, reporting on its website that it has already brought in about $438,000 --- with large contributions coming from private prison operator The Geo Group Inc., and a Florida Optometric Association political committee."Scott Committee Rakes In Contributions".
With a possible Scott re-election campaign still two years away, the committee has stockpiled cash. The committee spent only about $25,500 between Jan. 1 and March 31, with most of that going to consulting, catering and accounting costs.
A handful of large donors have shelled out most of the contributions, including some people and businesses with stakes in state-government issues.
Developer Gary Morse and other people and a company associated with The Villages community in Central Florida gave a total of $180,000 in March, according to the records. Morse has long been a major Republican donor, and The Villages has become a frequent campaign stop for GOP candidates, including Scott.
Miami-Dade health-care executive Miguel Fernandez, meanwhile, contributed $125,000 in January. Fernandez heads Simply Healthcare Plans Inc., an HMO that was established in 2010 and is part of the Medicaid and Florida Healthy Kids programs.
Other large contributors during the first quarter included Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and United Group Underwriters Inc., which each sent $100,000 to the committee. ...
United Group Underwriters is affiliated with United Automobile Insurance Co. With auto insurers complaining about fraud and increased costs, Scott and legislative leaders in March pushed through changes in the personal-injury protection insurance system. ...
The list also indicates developer Donald Trump contributed $50,000.
Buchanan’s alleged shady business dealings
"In a deposition given on Jan. 9 and obtained by The Florida Independent, a former employee of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, alleges that he reported Buchanan to the U.S. government in 2008 for tax evasion and conspiracy to evade U.S. income tax, and that he has been in contact with federal officials about Buchanan."
According to his deposition, which was taken under oath, Rosa first started working for Buchanan in 1998, when he was hired as CFO of Sarasota’s Buchanan Automotive Group. Rosa says in the deposition that he also acted as treasurer for many of Buchanan’s other organizations during the span of his employment."In deposition, ex-employee charges Florida congressman with wide variety of misdeeds".
But his tenure with Buchanan ended only five years later, in December 2003. And throughout “virtually the entire period” of his employment, according to Rosa, he was witness to “fraud and crime” that led him to request an IRS investigation into Buchanan.
The January deposition, which was given to the Independent by Duane Overholt, a consumer fraud advocate, was taken as part of a lawsuit filed by William Brooks (who owned a car dealership eventually bought by Buchanan’s company) against Mark Ornstein, Buchanan’s lawyer. Though Buchanan himself isn’t a party to the case, Rosa makes several references to Buchanan’s business dealings throughout the deposition.
“There was a fraud and crime that predated my employment and went on through virtually the entire period of my employment,” Rosa says in the deposition. “I’m going to reference to one incident, which was an evasion of U.S. income tax, also a conspiracy to evade U.S. income tax. I reported it to the federal government. I’ve received recent correspondence that the matter has not been terminated by the federal government. And this federal crime predates my employment and went on virtually the bulk of my employment with Buchanan.”
According to an email sent by Rosa to law enforcement officials in June 2011 (also given to us by Overholt), his former employer “described during the employment interview process what [Rosa] later came to understand (and also has confirmed through the review and concurrence of his two legal counsels) to be a scheme which Employer should have known to be a tax fraud, and that such scheme was implemented by Employer through a conspiracy to commit Federal income tax fraud.”
"Florida as one of the 'five worst' worst states"
"The Center for American Progress released a report today on voter suppression efforts carried out by Republican-led state legislatures around the country, listing Florida as one of 'five worst states for voting rights in 2011.'"
The organization listed Florida as one of the “five worst” worst states because state lawmakers enacted some of the worst voting restrictions all at once."Report: Florida one of the ‘five worst states for voting rights in 2011′".
According to the group, Florida’s new law:
- Succeeded in placing onerous new restrictions on nonprofit organizations that help register new voters. The group explains that “voter registration drives by groups such as the League of Women Voters have been a staple of our democracy for years, helping thousands of citizens to register, regardless of their political affiliation.”
- Sought to eliminate the long-established practice of early voting on the last Sunday before Election Day. According to the Center, “substantial evidence points to Sundays as a day when African-Americans vote in proportionately far greater numbers than whites.”
The group also reported that Florida lawmakers “took away the right to vote from ex-felons who had completed their sentence” last year.
A report from the NAACP found that, as of last year, Florida actually has the “most restrictive” felon disenfranchisement “laws in the country.” According to the report (.pdf), Florida is one of only four states in the country that “denies the right to vote permanently to all individuals convicted of any felony offense.”
Per the Voting Rights Act of 1965, five counties in Florida currently require federal preclearance whenever the state passes a new voting law that could affect the voting rights of minorities. Typically the U.S. Department of Justice is tasked with reviewing the law, but Florida officials instead asked a D.C. court to preclear new rules. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice filed documents with the court panel reviewing the law, claiming that the state did not meet the “burden of proof” for its effort to crack down on voter registration and impose other onerous restrictions.
There are reports that the court panel reviewing the law will not reach a decision before Florida’s August primary, however.
A court in Tallahassee is also currently considering a challenge to the law by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, Florida PIRG and others. The groups filed a lawsuit this past December charging that the law “unconstitutionally and unlawfully burdens their efforts, and the efforts of other individuals and community-based groups, to encourage civic engagement and democratic participation by assisting Florida citizens in registering to vote and exercising their fundamental right to vote.”
Circular firing squad
"In a sign of Democratic struggles in Florida’s biggest county, Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s main opponent dropped out, leaving no clear replacement to challenge the ethics-hobbled incumbent."
State Rep. Luis Garcia, who had struggled to raise money and accused top Democratic leaders of double-crossing him, left the congressional race for a Miami-Dade County commission bid at the urging of a top financier."Garcia quits congressional race over dispute with Democrats".
Garcia said he’s planning to leave the Democratic Party following a dispute with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel, who both recruited former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas to jump into the race. Wasserman Schultz, a Weston congresswoman, disputed Garcia’s suggestion that she was rude or mean to him. She added that she didn’t betray him.
Meanwhile, Penelas hasn’t jumped at the chance to get back into politics. There are no other big names weighing a bid, putting Democratic leaders in a bind.
“They’re going to revive a couple of political cadavers that have lost other elections,” Garcia said. “They missed a big opportunity to take that seat back.”
Garcia wouldn’t name names, but at least one perennial candidate is weighing a Rivera challenge. Joe Garcia, no relation, who ran unsuccessfully against Rivera and Rivera’s predecessor, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, said Tuesday that Garcia’s exit has “forced” him to reconsider seeking the seat.
Saunders, Weinstein in crowded primaries
"Count state Reps. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, and Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, among the latest House members to go after the seats of term-limited senators. Both lawmakers, who had earlier hinted at a run, officially filed for their Senate races Monday, and both find themselves in crowded primaries." "Reps. Saunders, Weinstein make Senate bids official".
Fasano, Legg swap?
"Mike Fasano, John Legg Hoping to Swap Seats in Florida Senate, House". See also "Sen. Fasano wants to head back to the House".
Rat contractor runs up the public's tab
"The largest [nonunion] contractor building Orlando's overdue VA Hospital told Congress on Tuesday that red tape and design errors could add $120 million or more to the original $665-million price tag – an overrun that ultimately would fall on U.S. taxpayers." "Orlando VA hospital delays could cost $120 million".
Republican National Convention protest rules
Daniel Ruth: "Alas, political conventions also attract all manner of malcontents ticked off over stuff like wars, poor people being poor, women being treated as if they were vassals, rich people paying $1.25 in taxes and if global warming isn't for real why is it 90 degrees in Fond du Lac in January?"
For the sake of public safety, demonstrators will be prohibited from carrying knives, axes, clubs and Mace. That probably means any effort to coordinate a Renaissance festival is out of the question."Democracy is loud and rarely 'clean'".
Oddly enough, because of Florida's dippy gun culture, while protesters would be barred from bringing their personal samurai sword to Buckhorn's "Clean Zone," if they have a valid concealed weapon's permit (and who doesn't?) they could probably feel free to show up locked and loaded.
So don't even think of bringing your Super Soaker squirt gun to downtown Tampa. But your TEC-9 ought to be okay as long as you keep it in your pants.
Whew, feeling so much safer, aren't we?
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Tampa's City Council gets its first crack today at the rules that would govern public assemblies and protests at this summer's Republican National Convention in Tampa."
The ordinance proposed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn would in many ways expand the rights the public has under current city rules to gather and demonstrate. But several proposed restrictions are too broad and would violate free speech rights. Others are pointless and impractical, and the council should suggest some changes."Protest guidelines need work".
GOPers spend tax dollars at rate of "$695 an hour plus expenses"
"After being slapped by the Florida Supreme Court for creating a redistricting map that "was rife with indicators of improper intent," Senate Republican leaders have hired former Supreme Court justice and Miami lawyer Raoul Cantero to handle the case when they return to the court."
Cantero, who was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush to serve on the Supreme Court, was a member of the bench from 2002 to '08 and is now with the White & Case law firm. He will be paid $695 an hour plus expenses. Last summer, the House and Senate had spent close to $1.2 million on legal fees on redistricting, and that was before the public hearings were held and the maps were drawn."Florida Senate hires former justice to defend new maps, at $695 an hour Florida Senate leaders hire ex-justice to defend new maps".
Cantero's contract says he will be representing the Senate on its "remand from the Court and advising the Senate on how to draw legislative districts that comply with the court's opinion."
"Allen West entered seemingly enemy territory Wednesday, bringing his brand of fiery conservatism to Century Village, a left-leaning retirement community near West Palm Beach." "Allen who? Conservative firebrand U.S. Rep. West braves Dem seniors at Century Village". See also "Allen West for VP? He has Sarah Palin's vote".
Get a job
"Florida's feuding citrus cousins, JD Alexander and Baxter Troutman, reached a settlement over the weekend over the failed merger of two family-owned companies. ... It does not appear to end the blistering feud between the two grandsons of citrus magnate Ben Hill Griffin Jr., however." "JD Alexander settles lawsuit".
Mack steps in it
"Criticizing the Republican House budget isn't just for Democrats, anymore."
Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Connie Mack called the budget plan, drafted by fellow Rep. Paul Ryan, a "joke" during a weekend Orlando Tea Party forum. Mack, who missed the Ryan plan vote in Washington last week while he was fundraising in Florida, later said through a spokesman that he would have voted for it anyway."Connie Mack disses Paul Ryan budget as "a joke."".
Mack spokesman David James also sought to clarify that Mack didn't mean to criticize the conservative plan itself — which President Obama roundly bashed Tuesday in a campaign-style speech.
"The vote was the 'joke,' as in the process being a joke, not the Ryan plan itself. And Connie said the vote was a joke," James said in an e-mail. "He supports the Ryan plan but the process is a joke when the GOP House continues to do the right things and the liberal Senate under [Majority Leader Harry] Reid and [Florida Sen. Bill] Nelson continue to kill fiscally responsible measures."
Still, Mack clearly criticized the Ryan plan itself when he was asked about a string of missed votes in Congress, including the budget plan.
“I was here in Florida campaigning," Mack said Saturday, according to an undisputed quote reported by the conservative Florida Political Press. "You know that budget was a joke, doesn’t balance the budget for years.”
Comments like that can be deadly to Republicans this campaign season. Last year, conservatives were outraged when Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dissed the first Ryan plan.
"Last week, the Tea Party Network of Florida called on Gov. Rick Scott to veto HB 7117 because it picks 'winners' in the marketplace. Putnam also disagreed with an Everglades Foundation report that shows 76 percent of phosphorous pollution entering the Everglades comes from agricultural operations while that sector pays only 24 percent of the cleanup cost." "Putnam says tea party lacks good information in opposing energy bill".
Fabiola Santiago: "For top law school grad, a dream dashed".
'Ya think the NRA is pulling Scott strings?
"State Sen. Chris Smith, frustrated by what he calls 'stalling' by Gov. Rick Scott following the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, is launching a task force to review the controversial law at the center of the case." "Democratic senator forms 'stand your ground' task force". See also "Democratic Senator Forms Own Task Force to Review Stand Your Ground".
Billy's political stunt
"Seven minutes after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed suit in Pensacola. Last week, McCollum watched arguments in the case from a seat in the Supreme Court." "McCollum's moment at high court".
"Lawmakers trump courts"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board on how Florida "lawmakers tr[y] to force their way into an ongoing court case." "Activist? Sometimes Fla. lawmakers trump courts".
Another 6th congressional district candidate
"The chairwoman of the St. Johns County School Board is the latest candidate to declare for the race to serve the newly drawn 6th congressional district, which includes all of Flagler and St. Johns counties as well as most of Volusia and Putnam. Bev Slough, a Republican, bills herself as the only candidate 'to live, work, raise a family, and to hold elective office within the district.'"
Among Democrats, candidates include Heather Beaven of Palm Coast, who ran for Congress against John Mica in 2010 when the area was part of District 7, and Vipin Verma, an attorney in Daytona Beach."St. Johns Republican enters congressional race". Related: "Craig Miller: Banking on Experience, Volusia in CD 6".
Official qualifying takes place in the first week of June.
State Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, has said he would run so long as neither Mica nor Sandy Adams, the Republican now serving District 24, switch to the race. Costello said he would make an official announcement in the middle of the month.
GOPers open their wallets
"Congressman Connie Mack will report he raised more than $1 million in his first full quarter since entering the Senate race."
His campaign announced the figure Wednesday. Mack entered the race in late November and reported after the end of the year he started the race with about $750,000 raised, including about $300,000 transferred from a House account."Mack raises $1 million in first full quarter".
Former Sen. George LeMieux, who raised $1.7 million in 2011, hasn't released his fundraising totals for the first three months of 2012.
Right-winger takes over as Florida Chief Justice
"Generally considered one of the more conservative members of the court, Polston replaces current Chief Justice Charles Canaday, a former Republican congressman whose two-year term comes to an end." "Ricky Polston to Take Over as Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Florida". See also "Polston chosen as next Chief Justice".
That much we knew
"Rubio: 'I'm not going to be vice president'".
Meanwhile, "Oddsmaker Makes Marco Rubio the Favorite to be Mitt Romney's Running Mate". See also "Sen. Rubio in Palm Beach Gardens: GOP primary is over".