Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Disclosed E-Mails Expose GOPer Shenanigans

"More than 500 pages of emails kept secret during an ongoing redistricting legal battle shed light on the behind-the-scene efforts by a handful of GOP political consultants to influence Florida’s political lines, according to documents obtained by the Scripps-Tribune Capital Bureau."

They highlight, among other things, an early plan that would have drawn the then-longest serving GOP member of Congress out of office, the admission that former state Sen. John Thrasher did not live in his district, and a strategy to use a well-known GOP consultant to recruit people to submit maps as part of the formal process.
"The documents are scheduled to be made public on Dec. 1, but the Scripps-Tribune Capital Bureau obtained copies of the 538 pages."
The stars of the emails are [Pat Bainter, the founder of Data Targeting], Rich Heffley, a consultant who advised the Republican Party of Florida on redistricting matters, Frank Terraferma, who led the party’s House redistricting efforts, and Anthony Pedicini, a Tampa-based political consultant. . . .

The emails also indicate that Stafford Jones, a political consultant and head of the Alachua County Republican Party, recruited people to submit maps drawn by political consultants as part of the formal state process.

“I can direct Stafford to have his people send these maps via email,” wrote Matt Mitchell, a firm staffer, in an Oct. 17, 2011 email to Bainter.

It was a reference to sending maps to the redistricting email address setup by the state for public submissions. That chatter referred to state Senate maps, but it did follow a pattern that was laid out during the trial focused on congressional districts.

Heffley and Terraferma both testified that maps they drew were identical to those submitted by members of the public. That includes a map submitted by Alex Posada, a former FSU student, who became a star witness during the trial.

"Emails reveal GOP consultants’ plans to redraw voter lines."

A Seminole (and Brevard) County Thing

"The 18th Judicial Circuit is small. It's made up of Seminole and Brevard counties and has just 43 judges, about 4 percent of the state's total, yet there's one area where it leads the state: Judges formally charged with ethics violations." "Small judicial circuit has big problem with judges in Central Florida."

Just Another Day at the Office

Sit back and enjoy your morning coffee, reading about how our courageous lawmakers are "likely to try again on pension reforms; by the way, yesterday morning a "deputy was ambushed and killed by a gunman while responding to [a fire in Tallahassee]. A second deputy was shot and injured before the man was shot and killed by Tallahassee Police Department officers who provided assistance." "Leon County Sheriff's deputies shot in ambush."

Update: "Deputy Chris Smith killed in ambush."


Carl Hiaasen: "Predators follow prey to Florida" (subscription only).

Hypocritical Rubio blasts Obama's support of his bill

"Even before President Barack Obama's speech on immigration Thursday night, GOP voters weren't thrilled that Sen. Marco Rubio, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, had supported legislation calling for comprehensive immigration reform — including a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally."

"Rubio was a co-sponsor of a Senate bill that would grant legal status to some 11 million undocumented immigrants, toughen enforcement of rules against overstaying work and student visas, and double the number of border patrol agents. That's the same bill that Obama castigated House leaders for failing to bring up for a vote."

Yet the hypocritical "Rubio blasted the president's announcement Thursday, saying it will make compromise much harder." "Obama's immigration order could cause problem for Rubio."


The Tampa Tribune editorial board worries that "competing interests are now threatening to either weaken or eliminate the compact as the five-year [gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe] giving the Seminoles exclusivity for those games nears its end. When they meet next year, lawmakers should resist the pressure from out-of-state casino interests and work with Gov. Rick Scott to renew the Seminole Compact." "Lawmakers should respect the Seminole gaming pact."

45 percent of Florida households face "ongoing financial hardship"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board points out that Scott's attention to job growth has been good for both his political career, "yet a recent, thorough report -- a project of United Ways in Florida and five other states -- offers a stark reminder that having a job does not ensure economic survival."

The report is the product of a wide-ranging study by the ALICE Project. The acronym stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed.

One purpose of the study is to determine how many people who are employed consistently struggle to afford the basic costs of living -- housing, care for family members (children and seniors), food, transportation, health care, taxes and some miscellaneous expenses.

The answers are: a lot and too many, especially in Florida.

In our state, the ALICE Project found, 30 percent of households earn less than what's needed to reach a "household survival budget" -- an average of $47,000 annually for a family of four.

Add in the 15 percent of Florida families with incomes below the federal poverty level -- about $23,000 for a family of four -- and a total of 45 percent of our state's households face ongoing financial hardship.

"The project found that, in 2012 (the latest year for which comparable data was available), 54 percent of the jobs in Florida paid $15 per hour or less. That percentage was the highest of the six states in the study; the others were Indiana, Michigan, California, New Jersey and Connecticut. Furthermore, Florida and Indiana had the highest percentages (69 each) of jobs that paid $20 or less."
Clearly, then, one of the challenges for Florida is to generate not only more jobs, but jobs that pay higher wages.
"Jobs are not enough."

FlaGOP to go after Deputies, Firefighters and Teachers' Retirements

Disappointing to see Bill Cotterell fall into the "pension reform" trap. It ain't "reform" unless the change leads to "an improved form or condition." The Florida Legislature has no intention to "improve" FRS, and Cotterell should know that. Using the word "reform," instead of - say - "deform," falls into the FlaGOP spin-trap.

In any event, Cotterell writes that "we will hear more about the Florida Retirement System in the 2015 legislative session. This time, though, it appears that legislators are not going to let their wishes get in the way of their political capabilities."

Shortly after formally assuming his office, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said last week that he has heard from some members who remain interested in overhauling the FRS. Whether anything happens next March, when the session convenes, will depend on the Senate – where past pension proposals have died.

The situation is this: The FRS has a $22 billion unfunded liability, with assets equal to about 86 percent of its overall liabilities. Legislators put up $500 million a year to keep the system going, and the conservative Republicans who run the House and Senate (and governor) would like to use that money for other things — schools, ports development, environmental restoration or (what really makes their hearts go pitter-patter) more tax breaks for the folks who write campaign contribution checks.

Words like “unfunded liability” sound scary, but the FRS is not in any trouble. Actuaries consider anything above 80 percent to be a healthy funding ratio. It’s a little like your home mortgage — if you had to pay it off tomorrow, you might have a problem, but that’s not going to happen.

"Lawmakers likely to try again on pension reforms."

"Lawmakers refuse to revise idiotic provision"

The Tampa Trib editors write that "lawmakers have no one but themselves to blame for this mess. A measure that allows a write-in candidate to close what should be a universal primary open to all voters is the source of this farce. Yet lawmakers refuse to revise the idiotic provision." "Change stupid write-in law."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Obama "kneecapped" Jeb Bush's 2016 prospects

"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's opposition to President Obama's executive action on deportations puts him in the uncomfortable position of running counter to policy moves taken by both his father and his brother during their presidencies."

It's the latest example of the complications Bush has faced on the immigration issue as he considers a 2016 presidential run.
"Jeb Bush ignores family history in Obama immigration hit." See also "Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects."

Talk about weak benches

Jeff Henderson: "David Jolly's Star is on the Rise."

Florida one of the biggest pigs at the federal trough

Aaron Deslatte points out that "a sober look at the numbers . . . shatters the myth that the state somehow pays far more taxes to Washington than what is promptly returned." "Florida still draws gobs of cash from Uncle Sam."

SOE Blues

"They were all there—all the ogres and bugaboos who’ve animated Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks’s little shop of horrors for the past months: Sheriff Jim Manfre, County Administrator Craig Coffey, County Commissioners George Hanns, Charlie Ericksen, Frank Meeker and Barbara Revels (how Nate McLaughlin escaped the list is a mystery), the city of Palm Coast, the media—albeit in a minor role–and the star of them all, Weeks’s reigning bĂȘte noir, County Attorney Al Hadeed."

After her epic, almost Job-like accusations leveled week after week against what she sees as a world of law-breaking, malfeasance and illegal prohibitions of microwave usage (one of her poll workers was apparently denied the use of one at the Palm Coast Community Center), Weeks on Wednesday delivered a four-page, single-spaced coda to her Tribunal of One. She once again indicted a slew of local officials on evidence no less fictional than before while portraying herself as voters’ last great hope. The document is replete with the language of conspiracy and a deep sense of persecution, with phrases such as “hidden agenda,” “stunt and false accusations,” “those who have proven to be the problem,” “outside interference, obstruction and manipulation”—and all those in just the second paragraph.
"Election Supervisor Kimberle Weeks Caps Final Canvassing Session With Hit List Frown Song."

FlaBaggers in a dither

"GOP-led House report debunks Benghazi allegations."

The spats-and-ascot crowd goes off deep end

The Tampa Trib editorial board loses it this morning: "Obama’s immigration actions fly in face of democracy." Credit Daniel Ruth for the phrase "spats-and-ascot set."

Weekly Roundup

"If there was any positive feeling on the Democratic side of the aisle, it might have been relief. Senate Democrats dodged the fate of their House counterparts, clinging to enough seats to avoid irrelevance. And nothing more than battered feelings ultimately came of a threatened rebellion against House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach." "Weekly Roundup: Celebration and Tragedy in Tallahassee."

Yee haw!

"Florida approves silencers for game hunting."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Cloud of Uncertainty Lifted for Many Floridians

The Tampa Tribune's Jerome R. Stockfisch writes that, Millions of immigrants in this country illegally could "be able to get a work permit, driver’s license and Social Security card under the executive action on immigration that President Barack Obama outlined Thursday."

Thousands of undocumented immigrants in West Central Florida "could feel the direct impact of Obama’s decision. Many of them watched the president’s nationally televised, prime-time speech, eager to hear the details of who would be affected and how the process would work." "Obama lifts cloud of uncertainty for Tampa-area migrants."

Cue the wingnuts

"Florida Republicans Steam over Obama's 'Unconstitutional' Immigration Action." See also "Pam Bondi Well-Positioned to Lead Florida Conservatives Against Obama Amnesty."

Failure as immigration reformer, Rubio nevertheless lashes out at Obama

"Marco Rubio Takes Aim at Obama's Immigration Plan."

Jeb Blasts Teachers’ Unions; as usual "he's wrong"

"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush blasted public school districts and teachers’ unions on Thursday while promoting education reforms [sic]."

Bush, a prospective presidential candidate in 2016, urged a crowd of hundreds to take bold action to disrupt school systems that work for some students but not for many.

An ideal system, he said, “wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized, politicized monopolies, who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system that nobody can escape.”

Bush pitched his reform [sic] ideas while kicking off a two-day reform "summit" in Washington held by a group he founded, The Foundation for Excellence in Education. Bush's stance has angered many educators, who say his reforms would siphon off funding from public schools, stigmatize teachers and rely excessively on standardized tests.

Bush did not back off on Thursday.

He boasted that his reforms in Florida had helped large numbers of low-achieving students raise their performance.

"Jeb Bush blasts public school "monopolies""

Jeb is quite the one-trick-pony: "Jeb Bush’s disdain for public education."

Here's the problem, as put by the Washington Post: "The way Bush tells it, charter and voucher schools are doing things traditional public schools 'haven’t achieved in decades.' His comparisons aren’t valid. He’s wrong." "Jeb Bush bashes traditional public schools (again)."

Musical chairs

"Members of the Florida congressional delegation are starting to move up the leadership ladder as the new Congress reconvenes in January." "Florida Delegation Members Move Up the Congressional Ladder." See also "Despite Opposition, Corrine Brown Back as Ranking Democrat on House VA Committee."

"Republicans can do pretty much what they want"

"As they organized this week for the 2015 legislative session, both parties began facing the new realities in the Florida House: With a two-thirds majority in place, Republicans can do pretty much what they want for the next two years." "Backroom Briefing: Balance of Power."

"Beyond personal"

"Florida State University President John Thrasher, who started the job only earlier this month, was in New York at the time of the shootings and immediately returned to Tallahassee. As a state senator three years ago, Thrasher was instrumental in blocking legislation that would have allowed guns on campus in some cases. He called it 'beyond personal.'" "FSU president John Thrasher played key role in 2011 defeat of NRA guns-on-campus bill."

"Charge of the Ultra Light Charade"

Daniel Ruth describes "Florida Democratic Party's plans for self-reflection, meditation and thinking deep thoughts as its rendition of 'Yawnberry Fields Forever.'"

After coming off an election debacle best described as the Charge of the Ultra Light Charade, as Florida's Democrats pretended to be a political party, state Chairwoman Allison Tant, the Gen. Halftrack of the Hustings, created a blue-ribbon panel of prominent Democrats (all 14 of them) to study the election's outcomes and recommend ideas to transform the party in time for the 2016 campaign. Forget the pig. This is going to be like putting lipstick on Lenin's corpse.
"You don't need to be some well-paid consultant to figure out this is a faux political party with all the bench strength of the Little Rascals when it comes to cultivating future candidates who have a chance to win a statewide election."
No doubt the Tant Consortium of Hand-Wringing will spare no amount of cogitation on how to attract a new generation of candidates and win elections. Let's start with a pulse.

This may come as a revelation to the elite assemblage of mourners, but how about creating a slate of candidates who aren't afraid to stand up for party principles instead of turning themselves into the red badge of porridge every time a Republican sneers in their general direction?

It might be argued voter turnout could improve if voters were given candidates worth voting for. And while we're at it, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is a co-chair of the Tant Convocation of Alibis, might explain why he was a virtual no-show during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign when his presence alongside Democratic nominee Charlie Crist might have helped to convey a sense of party unity in an election decided by a 1.2 percentage-point margin for Gov. Rick Scott. It's not as if Nelson was all that busy in Washington.

It's not entirely clear how much money the Tant Privy Council On What, Me Worry? has to do its work. But it might not be a bad idea to scrape up a few dollars to hire a medium to conduct a seance with the late Republican Party of Florida Chairman Tom Slade.

It was Slade who was one of the key architects of the GOP's rise — from just about where the Democrats are now (irrelevant) to political dominance in the Florida Legislature and around the state.

After Slade died recently at 78, his political skills were recalled and admired by both his fellow Republicans and by Democrats.

Slade played hardball. Democrats play canasta. Slade was an adept strategist, a cunning marketer, a relentless fundraiser and a skilled kneecapper when the occasion arose. He was able to bring factions together, recruit talent and stay relentlessly on message.

In 1993, when Slade assumed the chairmanship of the state GOP, Democrats held the Governor's Mansion, controlled the Florida House and shared the Florida Senate. Five years later Republicans had seized control of … everything.

Why? Perhaps Slade said it best when he mused: "We must be careful not to be our own worst enemy." And that pretty much sums up the challenge for the Tant Round Table of Concession Speeches.

"Democrats navel-gaze, Republicans win."

"Why Charlie Crist, Why Florida?"

A Rick Scott cheerleader wonders "Why would a Houston multimillionaire with no current business in the Sunshine State out-donate billionaire George Soros, giving it to Democrat Charlie Crist's Florida gubernatorial campaign and the Florida Democratic Party?" "The Mystery of Millionaire Donor Steve Mostyn: Why Charlie Crist, Why Florida?"

Will "Politicians in Robes" Help Out GOPer Operative?

"Florida's Supreme Court today gave a Republican political consultant 10 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the Florida court's earlier ruling ordering the release of certain redistricting records." "GOP operative gets 10-day delay on release of redistricting records." For the "politicians in robes" remark, see Linda Greenhouse's "Law in the Raw."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

"Another round of wonderful political voyeurism"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's two-year legal fight over redrawn congressional and legislative maps is about to provide another round of wonderful political voyeurism."

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that Republican strategist Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based campaign-consulting firm, Data Targeting, must make public hundreds of pages of emails, maps and other documents that will provide more insight into the role they played in the state's redistricting process. But like every page in this drama, the smoking gun will probably be elusive by design.
"Bainter has until Thursday to try to reverse the court's ruling."
He has argued for nearly two years that disclosing the documents would violate his constitutional right to free speech and reveal trade secrets. The trade-secret argument might be a heavy lift, because the data we're talking about are publicly available and have been crunched by everybody from Boston political scientists to college students and tea-party activists since 2012. How they analyze it to decide where lines could be drawn to maximize GOP gains in Congress and the Legislature might be unique but hardly a "trade secret."

The First Amendment argument, though, is an important one. The groups fighting for release of the emails — the League of Women Voters of Florida and a cadre of media organizations — have argued along the same grounds that the public was entitled to access these records.

Bainter runs one of the highest-paid political shops in Florida. It just banked at least $3.7 million from House and Senate campaigns, including one supposedly hotly contested for Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; the campaign of Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-DeLand; and newly elected, 23-year-old Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, among many others.

The documents are bound to include lots of juicy tidbits of communication among Bainter, his operatives and lawmakers and their campaign staff.

"Redistricting ruling has ramifications for decades."

"The Florida Supreme Court delivered a stinging rebuke to a top Republican political consultant Thursday, ordering that 538 pages of his documents be made public from the legal fight over the Legislature’s efforts to redraw congressional district boundaries ruled unconstitutional." "Court orders GOP consultant’s redistricting docs made public" (Subscription).

FlaDems "look inward"

"Dems squabble, look inward after brutal losses." (Subscription)

"Scott may reward campaign manager"

"Gov. Rick Scott may reward campaign manager with chief of staff job ("Tallahassee insiders say Melissa Sellers may be the next chief of staff to Gov. Rick Scott.")" (Subscription)

"Scott’s military veteran status is nothing to brag about"

Frank Cerabino: "Gov. Rick Scott’s Navy ball cap, one of his go-to campaign props, has apparently gone to his head. That’s the only rational explanation for his move to put a brick inscribed with his own name in the new Veterans Walk of Honor in Tallahassee." "Scott’s military veteran status is nothing to brag about" (Subscription).

Empty chair

"When lawmakers enter the Capitol next week to organize themselves for next year’s legislative session, state Rep. Jamie Grant may not be among them. . . . But because of a protracted legal struggle involving a write-in candidate, a valid election has yet to be held for the seat, meaning more than 157,000 people don’t have a state representative. " "Legislature might hold first meeting with Tampa seat empty."

Rising Star

"Ron DeSantis is a rising star for Florida Republicans but he could be facing something of a headache in the days ahead." "Ron DeSantis Has Choices to Make as GOP Special Election Primary Kicks Off."

"The kooks are pounding on the door"

"In the wake of the midterm elections, Republicans said they would prove they could govern. . . . But just a week and a half after the elections, the kooks are pounding on the door." "Conservatives: Let’s Prove We Can Govern by Shutting Down the Government and Impeaching Obama."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: A Big Supply of Demand."

Rivera "a bit... paranoid"

"Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera is known in Florida political circles to be a bit... paranoid." "The tale of the tail: David Rivera calls cops on mysterious follower." (Subscription)

"Election could be decided by a coin toss"

"With the high-profile governor’s race safely in the books[*], it seems as though the state escaped major election controversies. That would be true, unless you live in Mount Dora, where a local election could soon be decided by a coin toss." "Coin Toss May Decide Florida Election."

- - - - -

*Actually no, the election isn't quite yet "safely in the books: Section 102.111(2), Florida Statutes provides that the Elections Canvassing Commission doesn't meet until "the 14th day after a general election to certify the returns of the election for each federal, state, and multicounty office."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Low turnouts = dire consequences"

Joy-Ann Reid: "Elections have consequences. For many people who didn’t bother to vote in this month’s midterm elections, those consequences will be painful." "Low turnouts = dire consequences."

United Way: 30 percent of Florida households make less than "survival budget"

"In addition to the 15 percent of Florida households that make less than the federal poverty level — a benchmark that hasn't been adjusted since 1974 — 30 percent make less than a "survival budget" and are struggling to get by, according to a United Way report." "Interactive map: Nearly half of Floridians struggling to get by financially." See also: "Florida gets D grade for preterm births" (Florida’s preterm birth rate is among the highest in the nation, according to a new report from the March of Dimes.)

Florida Blue

From the Huffington Post: "Why Florida Is About to Turn Blue -- And Is Not Turning Back Anytime Soon."

Will Rubio flip-flop on Senate promise?

"After getting walloped at the polls last week, Florida Democrats now face the challenge of finding a Senate candidate in 2016."

A large part of it depends, of course, on what Marco Rubio does. Earlier this year, Rubio said he would not run for another term if Democrats had a lock on the Senate or if he decides to run for president. Rubio starts off as the favorite if he wants a second term in the Senate, though Republican odds diminish if he decides to aim for the White House.

Either way, Democrats have a decision to make about finding a candidate. Looking at how they can recapture the Senate in 2016, James Hohmann at Politico was spot on with his assessment about the Democrats’ dilemma. They simply don’t have the strongest of benches to find many credible candidates in Florida.

Hohmann mentions Charlie Crist as a possibility. Crist ran for the Senate twice before, losing as a Republican to Bob Graham in 1998 and to Rubio in 2010 when he left the GOP to run with no party affiliation. Last week Rick Scott edged Crist, now a Democrat, in the gubernatorial race. In the aftermath of his defeat, Crist is now facing questions about how he ran his campaign. He could be hard-pressed to build up another campaign war chest so quickly.

It’s tough to see how Crist takes on Rubio, who beat him in the early stages of the Republican primary contest and did so again in the general election in 2010. And Crist could be a tough sale again considering his most recent loss; but Florida Democrats will need a candidate who would do no harm to Hillary Clinton or whoever is their presidential nominee in 2016. Crist could fit the bill, especially if Rubio doesn’t run again.

"Florida Democrats' Priority: Finding a Senate Candidate for 2016."

Bondi denies she is compromised

"Attorney General Pam Bondi adamantly defended herself Wednesday when questioned about news reports suggesting she has cozy relationships with out-of-state lobbyists and corporate lawyers."

The New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times, in a number of recent articles, detailed how Washington lobbyists have sought to influence state attorneys general to the benefit of private corporations.

Bondi was given prominent coverage in the articles. The reports noted she took a free charter flight to a luxury resort on Mackinac Island, Mich., and while there invited Lori Kalani, a lobbyist and lawyer at D.C.-based Dickstein Shapiro, to stay at her Tampa home to recuperate from a foot injury.

"Bondi defends herself over lobbyist ties." See also "Bondi fires back at allegations of lobbyist influence Video."

House Deputy Majority Leader/Whip

"As he readies to take the gavel this month, incoming Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, continues to build his team. On Wednesday, Crisafulli named Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, as deputy majority leader and whip, serving under incoming House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa." "Jim Boyd Takes Over as House Deputy Majority Leader/Whip."

Rubio yawner

"Marco Rubio's new book set for January release."

Pafford challenge ripped

"The head of the Florida Democratic Party blasted a rebellious faction of her party's House caucus Wednesday, less than a week before members are set to vote on a leader for the 2015 legislative session. In an interview with The News Service of Florida, Chairwoman Allison Tant said House Democrats should move on after an ugly defeat in this year's legislative elections instead of trying to oust incoming Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. Last week, Rep. Dwayne Taylor of Daytona Beach announced he would challenge Pafford for the position." "FDP Chair Allison Tant Rips Challenge to Mark Pafford."

Run! Jeb Run!

According to Politico, "Jeb Bush’s Greatest Weakness" is his family name.

Actually, Jebbie's greatest weakness (among many) may actually be, as an article in the Washington Post put it, Jebbie's "shoot-first, take-no-advice method of governing," which resulted in back-to-back terms "marred by frequent ethics scandals, official bungling and the inability of the government he downsized to meet growing demands for state services, including education and aid for the infirm and the elderly."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Bondi gorges on free meals, hotels and trips

Gary Fineout writes that"Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was easily re-elected to a second term, is defending her decisions to take free trips to conferences and socialize with attorneys that represent corporations under investigation by other states."

Gift disclosure records show that in the last four years Bondi has accepted more than $51,000 worth of meals, hotels and free trips - to conferences in locales ranging from California, Wyoming and Michigan as well as for trips to Mexico and Israel with other attorneys generals.
"The trips have been scrutinized by news outlets including The New York Times, which has noted that the one of the main outfits paying the bill for many of the trips, the Republican Attorneys General Association, receives money to pay for the trips from corporate sponsors."
The Times this week reported that Bondi allowed a Washington, D.C., attorney with the firm of Dickstein Shapiro to recuperate from surgery at Bondi’s house. The newspaper reported the stay came after Lori Kalani and two others lawyers from her firm flew on a chartered flight with Bondi to a conference being held by the GOP organization at a resort hotel located on Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Dickstein Shapiro has represented companies who come under scrutiny by other states and it also represented companies involved in a dispute over hotel taxes. One email obtained by the Times showed Kalani pointing out to one of Bondi’s top attorneys how judges in Florida had ruled for the companies. Bondi’s office in 2013 dismissed a case brought by previous Attorney General Bill McCollum against online travel companies. Another chain of emails show that Kalani also played a role in helping schedule a profile of Bondi for a trade magazine.

Much more here: "Trips and friendships place Bondi on defense."

Voucher madness

"With voucher proponents backing their challengers, three public schoolteachers lost their seats in the Florida House last week." "Election altered balance of Florida’s school choice debate."

And Scott Didn't Schedule A Press Conference?

"Most of the workers targeted are based at the company's Jacksonville headquarters. Spokeswoman Melanie Cost tells The Florida Times-Union ( ) that layoffs are possible if fewer than 300 workers take the buyouts." "CSX Corp. plans to cut 300 management workers."

Run Jeb! Run!

"Former President George W. Bush said he and his father believe Jeb Bush should run for president but ultimately the former Florida governor must make a decision regardless of any pressure from the family." "Presidents 41, 43 want Jeb Bush run for White House."

Rubio 'agin net neutrality

Kevin Derby: "Rubio, Business Community Oppose Obama's Internet Neutrality Plan."

"Floridians are living with the consequences"

The Gainesville Sun editors slam "the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear another challenge to the [Affordable Care Act]. The lawsuit argues that language in the act suggests the federal government shouldn't be able to offer health-insurance subsidies to individuals in Florida and the 33 other states that didn't create their own insurance exchanges."

It's ridiculous that the court would contemplate ignoring the intentions of the act's authors due to nothing more than poorly-crafted legislative language. In 2012, the court found the act's individual mandate to be constitutional but allowed states to opt out of an expansion of Medicaid.

Floridians are still living with the consequences. Our Legislature refused to expand Medicaid, leaving an estimated 764,000 residents in a coverage gap. Research has shown that thousands of needless deaths could be prevented and millions in economic benefits gained through the expansion.

If Washington and Tallahassee had their priorities straight, those stakes would be on the minds of lawmakers as the Affordable Care Act enters its second year of enrollment. Instead, Republicans are more interested in attacking the president's signature accomplishment than protecting the health of their constituents.

"Getting covered."

Amendment 2 without Morgan

"John Morgan ranks as one of the biggest electoral losers in Florida after last week’s elections. Morgan’s old employee Charlie Crist lost against Rick Scott and Amendment 2 on medical marijuana, which the trial lawyer largely bankrolled, won the popular vote, but came up short." "Any Any Amendment 2 Medical Marijuana Do-Over Needs an AWOL John Morgan."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Lobbyists play Bondi

The New York Times:"Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida, after taking a free ride on a chartered jet last year to a resort island far from her home state, made an unusual offer to one of the corporate lawyers from Washington who helped foot the bill: an invitation to stay at her Tampa home while recuperating from surgery."

The hospitality was extended to Lori Kalani, a lobbyist and lawyer from Dickstein Shapiro, the Washington-based firm that specializes in building personal relationships with state attorneys general to help corporate clients avoid becoming targets of investigation.

The circumstances of the trip to Mackinac Island, Mich., and the subsequent offer to host Ms. Kalani in convalescence were uncovered as part of a continuing investigation by The New York Times into the relationship between private lawyers and state attorneys general. They make vivid how aggressively Dickstein and firms like it have worked in recent years to try to influence top state law enforcement officials.

Representatives from Dickstein Shapiro did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Ms. Bondi declined to comment for this article.

"Link Shows How Lobby Firm Cultivates Influence." See also "New York Times Continues Investigation Into Pam Bondi’s Connection With Corporate Law Firm."

"Where there’s a Bush, there’s a debacle — too often with Florida at the center of it"

Stephen Goldstein writes that, "since Americans have the historical perspective of fruit flies, it’s time to take a walk down memory lane and remind ourselves that where there’s a Bush, there’s a debacle — too often with Florida at the center of it and the rest of the nation wondering what’s wrong with us." Read Goldstein's tame list of Bush debacles here: "Jeb Bush Could Win in 2016, But He’ll Have To Rely on The United States of Amnesia."

FlaGOP dilemma

Jeff Henderson: "Florida Republicans could have a sizable dilemma in the coming weeks. The political waters simply aren’t deep enough for both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. If Bush and Rubio both run for the White House, they would cannibalize each other’s support. Certainly the Bush and Rubio camps are aware of this. The question is, which one will jump in and which one will stay out?"

Bush is starting to get a little more attention. Part of this comes from his brother’s new book on their father, which was the front page story of Monday’s USA Today and is getting national media attention. In the resulting interviews, George W. Bush is pretty clear on what he thinks his brother should do: run for president in 2016.

But Rubio is also testing the presidential waters. He was active in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in this year’s elections and has said he will make a decision about 2016 in the coming weeks.

Still, even as he keeps the door open to 2016, things are starting to shape up to keep Rubio in the Senate. Rubio was pretty adamant that he did not want to keep serving in the Senate if Democrats remained in charge. With the Republicans now controlling the Senate and looking ahead to 2016 when they face a tough fight to keep it, pressure will rise on Rubio to stay where he is.

"Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio? Jeb Is the More Likely to Go for the White House."

Health Insurance Again in the Balance For 1 Million Floridians

"For 1 Million Floridians, Health Insurance Again in the Balance as Supreme Court Rethinks Subsidies."

The Public Records Litigation business

"In Lawsuits Statewide, Questions of Profits and Public Records." See also "In lawsuits statewide, questions of profits and public records."

"The nation's largest swing state"

"Close contests this year reaffirmed Florida's significance as the nation's largest swing state, sharply divided and capable of shifting between political parties." "Florida's close elections set stage for 2016."

Depends what you mean by "Micky Mouse"

"Florida doesn't count votes for 'Mickey Mouse' any more."

"Nine of them failed"

The Gainesville Sun editors: "The Florida Legislature has asked voters to approve a dozen amendments to the state constitution in the last two general elections. Nine of them failed." "Failed attempts."

That's why they're called the "MSM"

Not surprisingly, Lloyd Brown doesn't "understood the liberal fascination with campaign spending."

Liberals relentlessly bombard the electorate with "news" about how much candidates are spending and who is giving them money.

Clearly, the media believe voters are so stupid that they will vote for whoever puts the most ads on TV. The complementary assumption is that politicians are beholden to donors -- although in the liberal media this only seems to apply to conservative politicians.

So, why wouldn't the lib media refuse to run the ads on their TV stations and in their newspapers if it is helping to subvert democracy?

That ain't gonna happen. Election-year ads help TV stations and newspapers earn big, fat profits.

Did you think the media were comprised of charitable organizations?

"Liberals Echo ABBA: 'It's a Rich Man's World'."

Just what we needed . . .

"The state Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a dispute about whether voters should choose a replacement for a Northeast Florida judge, ensuring that Gov. Rick Scott will have the power to fill the post." "Supreme Court Clears Way for Scott to Appoint Judge."

"The Only Mandate From This Election"

"Florida can congratulate itself on yet another dubious distinction: political parties, corporate patrons, gazillionaires, dark money groups, and the candidates themselves spent $345 million on the 2014 elections — the most expensive in the nation." "The Only Mandate From This Election: Protect Florida’s Environment."