Monday, July 16, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

"Arrest of David Rivera seemed all but certain"

"In the summer of 2011, the arrest of U.S. Rep. David Rivera seemed all but certain."

Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had waded through piles of credit-card receipts and banking records, tracing thousands of dollars from Rivera’s political campaigns to his personal accounts. Miami-Dade prosecutors were preparing a “draft” complaint charging the Republican congressman with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering.

The lengthy probe of Rivera’s finances “unequivocally explains the theft and/or fraud of campaign funds,” FDLE inspector Brett Lycett wrote in a July 5, 2011, e-mail to a prosecutor. “We believe the violations are quite evident.”

But in the ensuing months — after Rivera’s lawyer poked holes in the case — the investigators’ confidence gave way to prosecutors’ increasing skepticism about the potential charges. The 52-count complaint accusing Rivera of systematic misspending of campaign funds was never filed; instead, prosecutors would write a 16-page memo explaining why they believed they could not arrest Rivera for anything.
"Newly released e-mails and other records from the Rivera investigation show the increasing tension between the FDLE and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office as the case dragged on through this past April, when prosecutors — under pressure from the FDLE to make a decision — finally dropped the high-profile case."
Some six months earlier, in November 2011, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey urged Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle to move more quickly, worried that the time lag would prevent them from bringing some charges against Rivera.

“While I appreciate the need for careful deliberation in matters such as this, I am concerned that the statute of limitations may become an issue if a decision regarding prosecution is further delayed,” Bailey wrote in a Nov. 3 letter to Rundle.

By then — unbeknownst to Bailey or his investigators — Rundle’s prosecutors had already offered to drop the criminal charges against Rivera if the congressman agreed to admit to civil election-law violations, e-mail records show.

FDLE agents grew so frustrated with the delays that they approached the state attorney in Leon County, Willie Meggs, to see if he would be willing to pursue the case, according to an internal FDLE memo from January.
On Oct. 26
Rundle told Bailey, the FDLE commissioner, that her staff was “still reviewing the facts” and had not yet decided whether to charge Rivera, FDLE records show.

A week later, Bailey wrote Rundle a letter urging her to expedite the case, but the state attorney did not respond for more than two months. Rundle later told Bailey the letter was misplaced over the holidays.

On March 21, an FDLE supervisor, Cindy Sanz, asked [Prosecutor Jose] Arrojo for an update but received no response. Two weeks later, she wrote again to the prosecutor: “Since I have not heard from you, I will presume that no progress has been made,” Sanz wrote. “As you and Ms. Rundle have already indicated that your office does not intend to pursue prosecution of Mr. Rivera, FDLE has now closed our investigation.”

Arrojo then urged the FDLE not to release any information to the press, arguing that the investigation was “still in the end stage,” e-mail records show. But an FDLE lawyer said it was difficult to consider the case an active investigation, making the records inaccessible to the public, because “nothing is happening.”
"State cops, prosecutors were ready to charge U.S. Rep. David Rivera before case fell apart".

Monday is deadline to register

"Monday is the deadline for Florida residents to register to vote in the upcoming state primary elections or change their party affiliation. The state's primary for U.S. and Florida House and Senate elections will take place on Aug. 14. Only residents registered with a political party can vote in their party's primary." "Monday is deadline for primary voter registration".

"A field of up-and-comers as dull as a dead parrot"

Nancy Smith asks, "How desperate are the Democrats in Florida? "

With no rising star of their own, with a field of up-and-comers as dull as a dead parrot, they spent this past weekend ripping into Gov. Rick Scott.

They had to. Lurching toward the main event in November and lacking a weapon in their own arsenal, Florida Dems have latched onto Scott as the whipping boy who can make them believe they have a future. Or, so they hope. Scott's low approval numbers and conservative policies are the best they can come up with.
Read the rest of it here: "Florida Democrats: Nothing to Work With, Nowhere to Go".

Sarasota GOP scrapes barrel for "Statesman of the Year"

Jeremy Wallace: "Whether or not Mitt Romney was planning on inviting Donald Trump to the Tampa Bay region for the Republican National Convention in August is now a moot point thanks to Sarasota Republicans. The local GOP announced last week that they will honor Trump as the 'Statesman of the Year' on Aug. 26, a day before the curtain rises on the national convention in Tampa." "Wallace: Sarasota Republicans bring Trump to the GOP convention's doorstep".

Costly primary

"With Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, headed to the sidelines due to term limits, two Republicans -- former Rep. Aaron Bean and Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville -- are battling it out in a costly primary to replace him in representing parts of Duval and Nassau counties." "GOP Senate Hopefuls Aaron Bean, Mike Weinstein Raking in Big Cash on First Coast".

"Volunteers streaming into Romney for President storefronts"

"They come because of Barack Obama. They stay because of Mitt Romney."

So say the volunteers streaming into Romney for President storefronts in Florida. The Romney campaign is opening campaign offices across the state and cranking up phone banks — all focused on what the campaign says is a sure-fire motivational tool:

President Obama.
"Romney revs up Florida volunteers eager to oust Obama". Related: "Romney's fundraising potential far from tapped".

There's always faith healing

"Rick Scott, Iowa Governor Reaffirm Opposition to Obamacare Medicaid Expansion".

Sink will make her decision after November election

"Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010 in an election where Republicans far outperformed Democrats, said she is thinking of running for governor again."

"There's an enormous amount of buyers' remorse. I have strangers come up to me and say, 'Oh I made a mistake,'" Sink said. "Here we are almost two years away from that campaign and every day I get stopped somewhere — the Circle K in Thonotosassa — and people say 'Please run again. We need you.'"

She said she will make her decision after the November election.
"Democrats' 2012 strategy includes attacks on Scott".

Has Republican Party "devolved"?

"Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon will square off next month against the incumbent she beat out six years ago to win her countywide seat. The presence of only a write-in candidate as general election opposition prevents a primary from becoming a universal primary in which all registered voters can vote. Then in the general election, the write-in candidate’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot. Instead, the Nov. 6 ballot will include only Gannon’s or Carney’s name, and a blank space for a write-in. Carney was a Republican in 2006 when former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to replace former Tax Collector John Clark, who abruptly retired from the post. ... Carney switched parties last spring, saying that the Republican Party had 'devolve' and was no longer 'welcoming.'" "Carney switches parties for rematch of 2006 tax collector’s race he lost to Gannon".

Yee haw!

"Poll: Most Floridians want no changes to 'stand your ground' law".