Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review of Today's Political News and Punditry

Don't miss "Wasserman Schultz Rekindles Allen West Feud". Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"No maximum amount"

Steve Bousquet: "When state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, held a fundraiser to promote his bid for Senate president, the invitation was straight and to the point: 'No maximum amount.'"

Latvala is one of dozens of state lawmakers taking advantage of a legal loophole that allows them to raise and spend millions from special interests, even though a ban on lobbyist gifts prevents them from accepting a cup of coffee from a lobbyist. Any lawmaker or candidate for the Legislature can operate a fund much like a personal bank account — after notifying the state in writing. ...

The campaign funds, known as CCEs or committees of continuous existence or 527s in reference to part of the IRS code, have existed for years, but are multiplying — and more than 100 now exist. Another 30 lawmakers have recently created them so they can rake in four- and five-figure checks from influential donors such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, U.S. Sugar, Progress Energy, Disney, Florida Power & Light and the Geo Group, a for-profit prison operator.

The money is often funneled to shadowy political groups and spent on hard-hitting ads and mailers in legislative races.

Disney Worldwide Services gave $130,000 to Protect Our Liberty, a fund controlled by six Republican senators including Andy Gardiner of Orlando, Joe Negron of Stuart and Anitere Flores of Miami. Disney's agenda includes opposition to expanded gambling, which it sees as bad for Florida's image as a family friendly tourist destination.

Another leading donor to lawmakers' funds is Automated HealthCare Solutions, a Broward-based medical software company that repackages drugs for doctors to distribute to patients with on-the-job injuries. For years, business groups have tried to break the company's grip, claiming it drives up workers' compensation costs, but Automated's lobbying team killed a bill in the Senate in 2012.

Automated HealthCare is a major donor to the Republican Party and to lawmaker-controlled CCEs. It recently sent $25,000 to Florida Forward, a fund controlled by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, who's slated to become House speaker in 2016.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who will be Senate president in November, has raised $754,000 through the Florida Conservative Majority fund, along with Sens. Gardiner and Negron. Another $1.9 million in Republican Party money has passed through Gaetz's fund to help Gaetz allies in Republican Senate primaries including Tom Lee, a Senate candidate in Hillsborough.

A big chunk of the Gaetz money has flowed to an electioneering group, Liberty Foundation of Florida, which has run ads touting Lee as a pro-family Republican.

"It's destructive to the political process," said Lee's Republican opponent, Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview. "They're collecting all this money from Republican donors, and they're using it against a conservative Republican to defeat her."
"Loophole opens donor floodgates".

Mica outraises Adams

"New fundraising figures confirm what many Central Florida Republicans already expected: veteran U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park will hold a major edge over freshman U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams of Orlando going into their Aug. 14 primary." "10-term incumbent Mica outraises Adams by 3-1 margin".

"Bowery Boys meets the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles"

Daniel Ruth writes that, "if one aspires to become part of the power-broker cabal in the Florida House and Senate, which is akin to leading the Bowery Boys meets the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, one must declare one's ambitions years in advance." Jim

Frishe made the horrific error of aligning himself with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who is vying to become Senate president in 2016. Latvala is something of an apostate among Florida Republicans since from time to time he engages in original thought. And to be fair, Latvala has transferred $100,000 from his Florida Leadership Fund to the Committee to Protect Florida, which has sent out leaflets critical of [Frishe's opponent, "fellow Republican House member Jeff Brandes, R-Eddie Haskell"]. There are no clean hands in this mud-slinging.

It comes as no surprise the forces at work to deny Frishe a Senate seat include state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who also wants to be Senate president. Negron is part of the phony political action committee Alliance for a Strong Economy, which has contributed $70,000 to Accountability in Government, an umbrella PAC, to spend on ads attacking Frishe.

Poetic irony, isn't it, that the group endeavoring to sabotage the political process and avoid accountability goes by the initials AIG?

Alliance for a Strong, Odious Stench of Political Duplicity also counts among its membership those paragons of virtue Sen. JD Alexander and outgoing Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon's bogus Florida Freedom Council tossed in $20,000, and incoming 2014 Speaker Chris Dorworth, whose personal financial acumen makes Greece look like a robust economy, sent $50,000 from his sham PAC to AIG to undermine Frishe's campaign.

But for sheer shamelessness, nothing quite measures up to the disingenuous explanation offered up by Brandes, who claimed he knew nothing about who was supporting AIG even as he was donating $38,000 from his own PAC, Floridians for Liberty — or Craven Politicians Conning the Public With Fake Patriotic Names — to go after Frishe.
"Clear and present danger of sleaze".

"Compromising position" allegation may lead to more charges

"The bitter feud between Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and a disgruntled aide escalated Monday as the aide’s attorney called for a state arson investigation into a trash can fire in Carroll’s office and the state attorney said he may expand the charges against the aide, Carletha Cole."

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs, who charged Cole last October with giving an illegally taped conversation to a newspaper reporter, told the Herald/Times that he is considering additional charges against her for illegally recording the conversation she had with Carroll’s chief of staff, John Konkus.

In the recording, Konkus is heard blaming internal office problems on Gov. Rick Scott’s former Chief of Staff Steve MacNamara and accusing the governor of “not leading.” Cole has declined comment. Cole’s attorney, Steven R. Andrews, denies his client made the recording.

After the recording surfaced on the Florida Times Union website last September, Cole, 51, was fired from her $42,500-a-year job as a senior program analyst for “conduct unbecoming.”

Meggs said Monday he had hoped to settle the initial charges quietly, but said the tenor of the case changed last week when Cole’s attorney filed documents in court alleging that Cole caught Carroll and her travel aide in a "compromising position.”

“We may amend that and charge her with recording it, too,’’ he said. "If you have to go to war, you go to war. I think we’re at war.’’
"Prosecutor says he may expand charges against Carroll aide".

Waiting for the purge

"Rick Scott Waiting for Supervisors to Restart Search for Noncitizen Voters".

Nearly $1 million to assure retention

"Three state Supreme Court justices whom critics have deemed judicial activists have amassed nearly $1 million to assure their retention in November." "Funds to Retain Florida Supreme Court Justices Near an 'Unprecedented' $1 Million".

"Not clean enough"

"For the 17th year, regional water managers say the sugar industry beat the state target for cutting pollution damaging the Everglades. ... it’s still not clean enough to meet the tough standards set for the sensitive Everglades, which focus on the concentration of phosphorus in the water." "Sugar farms cut pollution".

A related column from Nancy Smith: "Obama’s Schizophrenic Everglades Election Strategy".

Fundraising reports

See "SD 17: John Legg Has Solid Financial Advantage in GOP Primary", "GOP Senate Hopefuls Aaron Bean, Mike Weinstein Raking in Big Cash on First Coast", "SD 17: John Legg Has Solid Financial Advantage in GOP Primary" and "SD 24: Tom Lee Has Fundraising Edge on Rachel Burgin".

The best she could do

"HD 11: Janet Adkins Gets Jeb Bush's Support as GOP Primary Looms".

"Jeb!" continues extreme makeover tour

"Jeb!" continues his extreme makeover tour, whining in Orlando that

"Unlike Bill Clinton, who had to publicly flog himself and say he was in error by being critical of President Obama's campaign attacking Mitt Romney for his business career, there is no orthodoxy. Heretics aren't burned at the stake in the Republican Party."
"Jeb Bush says he's no 'heretic' in his party".

More "Jeb!" doggerel: "Same old (correct) Jeb Bush on education reform".

Panhandle passivity

"State Senators in North Florida Appear Headed for Easy Re-election Bids".


"The board of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. received a tongue-lashing from lawmakers and homeowners during a Monday workshop in Miami after unveiling a plan to raise rates by an average of 7.5 percent next year." "Public workshop in Miami turns into public outcry against Citizens Insurance". See also "Cap Breaking Could Cloud the Credibility of Citizens Property Insurance".

Bondi strides national stage

"Pam Bondi Named as One to Watch Nationally".

"Journalists" being played by Scott

Why are alleged journalists flogging Florida's access to SAVE - under the conditions access was always available to the state - as some sort of "victory" for Rick Scott and his purgers? Today's Orlando Sentinel:

Each name submitted to the database by the state, federal officials said, must be accompanied by a "unique identifier," such as the "alien number" given to immigrants who have green cards. It's not clear how many of the state's initial 2,600 names have such an identifier.

In addition, this restriction means the database would be no help identifying immigrants who came here illegally, since they'd have no "alien number."
"State plans to use federal database to identify non-citizen voters". See also "Election officials hope to access federal database by week's end, but issue could be moot".

"Shocking news"

Joe Henderson is "always stunned when politicians come together from opposite sides of the aisle to pass important legislation for the public good. I guess I shouldn't say "always" since I haven't had to test this theory too often in our toxic political climate, but you know what I mean. Anyway, there was U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democrat, visiting the Florida Aquarium on Monday with some shocking news. When they put their minds to it, our leaders still know how to work together. They proved it by passing the RESTORE Act." "Congress can still cooperate".

Fundraising tools created by Miami billionaire businessman

"Newly released campaign finance reports show long-entrenched Miami-Dade commissioners in auto magnate Norman Braman’s crosshairs are facing unprecedented fundraising pressure, and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez enjoys an enormous financial edge over chief rival Joe Martinez for the August election."

The four incumbent commissioners up for reelection — Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Dennis Moss — still enjoy large fundraising leads. But that money is being countered by Braman’s two political groups: an electioneering communications organization called Change for Miami-Dade Now, and a political action committee called Vote For a New Miami-Dade. The two fundraising tools created by the billionaire businessman so far have collected a combined $440,000.

Though the groups must follow different rules than campaigns — an ECO is not allowed to endorse a candidate, for example, but it can attack one — both groups can do something campaigns cannot: solicit unlimited donations.
"Norman Braman’s money gives challengers better shot at Miami-Dade Commission seats".