FLORIDA POLITICS
Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary

 

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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.

 

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The Blog for Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Greer affair exposes questions about Crist and Rubio

    The Tampa Tribune editors point out that "there is more to this case than Greer's criminal behavior. Much more."
    All Floridians — especially Republicans, fund-raisers and campaign contributors — deserve a full accounting of what happened. The party should reveal all that happened — not continue to simply blame everything on Greer, as executive director Mike Grissom did immediately after Greer's plea. . . .

    All Floridians — especially Republicans, fund-raisers and campaign contributors — deserve a full accounting of what happened. The party should reveal all that happened — not continue to simply blame everything on Greer, as executive director Mike Grissom did immediately after Greer's plea.

    "For the past three years," Grissom said in a statement, "Jim Greer has tried to damage the reputation of the Republican Party and its leaders, but the truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from the (state party) and then he said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes. Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light."

    "Instead of wearing blinders and breathing a sigh of relief that what promised to be an embarrassing trial for the party was avoided, Grissom and other Republican leaders should answer some questions:"
    Were prostitutes indeed present during a fundraising trip to the Bahamas organized by Greer and the party's then-finance chairman, Harry Sargeant III? Did the Republican Party of Florida work to suppress the votes of black people? Was Greer retaliated against because he supported former Gov. Charlie Crist's U.S. Senate bid? And what about the reports of lavish spending, including at luxury hotels and restaurants, by the party that prides itself on financial conservatism?

    It's curious that Greer decided to admit wrongdoing on the morning jury selection was to begin when he and his lawyers repeatedly had said the case was bogus and that he would be cleared. But it doesn't really matter whether Greer fell "on his sword for a lot of other folks" with his guilty plea in Orlando, as one of his lawyers claimed.

    "Come clean, Florida GOP".

    Adam C. Smith: "You could practically hear the gasp of relief from Florida Republican leaders Monday when ex-GOP chairman Jim Greer pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering charges, sparing them a sordid, two-week trial."

    The whole sorry story of the Florida Republican Party under Jim Greer is exhibit A on how near-absolute power, combined with astronomical campaign accounts, can and did breed breathtaking arrogance and entitlement, if not outright corruption, among party leaders professing conservatism.

    Don't buy the hogwash about this being an unfortunate chapter isolated to the tenure of one buffoonish chairman hand-picked by former Gov. Charlie Crist. That is as much nonsense as Greer's contention that he was the victim of intolerant Republican hard-liners out to destroy him because he supported Crist's moderate ways.

    Crist,
    now a Democrat, may or may not have been seriously damaged by trial testimony, but he still is tarnished. If he runs for governor again, he has plenty to answer for. He anointed Greer party chairman and ignored repeated red flags while standing by him until the end. And in his legendary enthusiasm for raising campaign money, Crist repeatedly showed suspect judgment in embracing less than savory political benefactors: longtime friend Harry Sargeant, accused of war profiteering and illegal campaign donations; convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein of Fort Lauderdale; and Alan Mendelsohn of Hollywood, now serving a four-year sentence for public corruption.
    And then there's Mr. Rubio:
    Rubio's name may not have surfaced during the trial, but he epitomized the culture of the state GOP in recent years as much as anyone. As legislative leaders today talk about reforming the campaign finance system, so politicians can no longer operate personal slush funds, they are talking about Rubio and plenty of others.

    The leading candidate for president in 2016 used his party credit card to charge everything from groceries to personal flights to family reunion expenses — charges for which he had to reimburse the party [only] after they were exposed by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald.

    Rubio has declined to release two years of earlier party credit card statements, so we don't know the scope of his spending. But he has never denied telling a disenchanted former supporter, political analyst Chris Ingram of Tampa, that during that period he charged to the party card — and later paid off, he told Ingram — $4,000 to $5,000 in new flooring for his home.

    "Greer not alone in scandal".


    Greer falls on his sword

    "Update: Former Florida GOP chairman Greer pleads guilty". See also "Jim Greer: I'm guilty on five counts" and"Mike Haridopolos on Jim Greer Shocker: Vindication for Myself and RPOF".

    Background: "Jim Greer Trial: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why".

    The Miami Herald editors: "Guilty, your honor".


    "Tallahassee, where probity goes to die"

    Daniel Ruth: "In three weeks the 2013 session of the Florida Legislature will commence, otherwise known as the annual gathering of beagles rolling over to have their tummies rubbed by the Capitol's Sugar Daddy class."

    There are even more professional candymen attempting to canoodle the governor's office and state agencies, with 4,925 registered influence-peddlers roaming the executive hallways.

    Since 72 percent, or $50.4 billion, of the state's $70 billion budget is set aside for contracts, it is little wonder the sway of Florida's lobbying corps is pervasive and pernicious. So much money, so little time.

    There are myriad reasons for the growing ooomph of lobbyists in Tallahassee, not the least of which is no other state in the Southeast dedicates more of its budget to private contractors to provide goods and services. There are more fingers in this honey pot than at a state fair blueberry pie eating contest.

    Because of term limits, the Florida Legislature has become little more than a master class of money changers, training its members how to go forth and multiply as lobbyists after they are forced out of office after eight years.

    It is certainly in the selfish interests of an amateur class of elected representatives who have no clue how Tallahassee works to pay deference to lobbyists. After all, lobbyists know more about writing bills, hiding appropriations goodies and avoiding public scrutiny of favors rendered.

    And the term-limited politician also knows eventually he or she will need a job.

    "The rogue's gallery of former lawmakers turned gladhanders is formidable."
    But an ideal poster child for turning one's political juice into a lucrative career as a paid huckster is former House Speaker Dean Cannon, who opened up his own lobbying business a block away from the Capitol building before his term even expired.

    You might regard this sort of thing as utterly shameless. In Tallahassee, it's considered to be astute estate planning.

    By Florida's gelded ethics laws, Cannon is barred from lobbying his former colleagues in the Legislature. As Richard Nixon once said, that would be wrong. Let the snickering begin. For as a practical matter that prohibition is a distinction without a difference.

    "Money grubbing raised to high art".


    Freshman class

    "The freshman House class of 44 members is tied for the second-largest ever since term limits took effect in 2000. (There were also 44 new members in 2010 and 2008, and the record is 63 in 2000.)"

    The freshman Senate class of 15 members, meanwhile, ranks in size behind only the freshmen classes of 2002 and 2010.

    In total, the new group of legislators includes nearly the same number of Democrats and Republicans, though 10 of the 15 new senators are Republican.

    "Freshman class is large and in charge".


    "Anti-shushing" bills

    The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors write that "a pair of "anti-shushing" bills filed in the Legislature would not be necessary to ensure the right of Floridians to speak before public bodies before they take official actions." "Don't 'shush' the public".


    Bill would require government to sell land

    "Federal and state agencies and local governments own 27.7 percent of Florida's 34.2 million acres, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection." "Hays bill would allow government to buy land only if equal amount sold".


    'Glades

    "Federal and state agencies and local governments own 27.7 percent of Florida's 34.2 million acres, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.".


    "Federal and state agencies and local governments own 27.7 percent of Florida's 34.2 million acres, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.". See also "Federal and state agencies and local governments own 27.7 percent of Florida's 34.2 million acres, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.".


    FlaBaggers claim legislative leadership support

    "In light of November 2012's electoral setbacks, some are ready to write off the 'tea party' as a movement whose time has come and gone, but don’t tell that to Florida’s grassroots activists. 'I think [legislative] leadership is very supportive of what we’re doing, [even if they won’t] come out and stand at a microphone and say it,' Slade O’Brien, Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), tells Sunshine State News." "Florida Tea Party Faithful Alive and Well, Anticipating Shining Victories from 2013 Legislature".


    Committee votes to raise campaign contribution limits to $10,000

    "A House plan to eliminate controversial political slush funds and raise campaign contribution limits to $10,000 in Florida won approval on a bi-partisan vote Monday. But the top priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford faces a fight. Senate critics and ethics watchdogs warn that the bill will create new loopholes, allowing political parties to control big checks with little accountability, concentrate power in the hands of incumbents, and make the system less democratic."

    Those criticisms did not dissuade the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee Monday, however, which passed HB 569 on a 10-2 vote. Democratic Reps. Katie Edwards of Plantation and Mike Clelland of Lake Mary joined Republicans who predicted the bill will result in "dramatic change." Clelland defeated Rep. Chris Dorworth, a Republican designated to become House speaker in 2014, after Dorworth’s used his political committee for personal expenses.
    "House moves ahead with plan to end slush funds, raise campaign contribution limits to $10,000". See also "House Panel Backs Campaign Finance Overhaul".


    Mandatory Medicare cuts regardless of whether the state expands coverage

    Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Sarasota could be one of the 'hardest hit' counties in the nation if Florida lawmakers don’t expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act, Gwen MacKenzie, president and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System testified today."

    Addressing the Senate Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, MacKenzie said hospitals and other health-care providers are facing mandatory Medicare cuts under the federal law regardless of whether the state expands Medicaid coverage.

    In Sarasota County that cut could amount to a $145 million loss in funding for the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System alone over the next decade, MacKenzie said.

    "Sarasota could lose $145 million without Medicaid expansion". Related: "Medicaid expansion seen as benefit to working poor but possible drag on coffers".

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