Sunday, July 22, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

Nate Silver's Political Calculus in the New York Times: "July 21: Polls Show Forward Movement for Obama in Florida". After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Train wreck, perfect storm, falling off the cliff"

"Gov. Rick Scott was the nation’s first governor to declare he wouldn’t expand Medicaid. So what does the future hold for the state’s poor who depend on it?"

"Scott’s main point is that the state’s annual Medicaid expenses already have ballooned to $20 billion — nearly a third of the entire state budget. But to others — especially health policy experts and the hospitals that treat the uninsured in their emergency rooms — an expansion makes sense. Consider:"

• By most measures, Florida has a thrifty Medicaid program, with a per-person spending rate far below the national average.

• Medicaid spending has gone up primarily because more people have signed up for the program since the beginning of the Great Recession.

• The expansion under the reform law would bring millions in federal dollars to help people who are now uninsured. The federal government foots the entire bill for expanded coverage during the first three years, and 90 percent or more of it until 2020.

In fact, health experts warn that not expanding Medicaid could cost Floridians, because many of the state’s 3.8 million uninsured residents will continue to receive care they can’t pay for in hospital ERs. Those costs ultimately are passed down in the form of higher insurance premiums for everyone else.
"Medicaid expansion spurs debate in Florida".

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott’s oh-so-quick dismissal of the opportunity to provide healthcare to more Floridians under Medicaid, which came just one day after the Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act, should not be the last word on the subject."
His decision was politically inspired, and his facts have been called into question. For Floridians desperate to get basic healthcare the consequences could be dire. Train wreck, perfect storm, falling off the cliff — all of these phrases have been used to describe the impact of Mr. Scott’s decision unless the Legislature takes a more thoughtful approach.

The law upheld by the court expands Medicaid to cover those at or under 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, Florida has a much stricter threshold. (The undocumented are not covered under any scenario.)

The court held that states could not be punished if they opted out of expanded coverage, but there’s a catch: The law also mandates some $18 billion in Medicaid payment cuts nationwide. That was written into the bill on the assumption they’d be offset by a lower burden of caring for the uninsured.

If Florida continues to ignore the “working poor” who can’t afford health insurance, these patients will have no recourse except to continue relying on public hospitals for unreimbursed care.

But they will do so without the increased funding that the new law guarantees as compensation for the states, placing the burden on local taxpayers.
"Not so fast, Gov. Scott".

Robyn E. Blumner found it "depressing to pick up my Tampa Bay Times the other morning to read:"
"Most Floridians still oppose federal Affordable Care Act health reform law." A recent opinion poll indicated that only 43 percent of Florida voters support the health care reform law while 52 percent oppose it. For those who feel like I do that when the law is fully implemented in 2014 it will add significantly to the security of America's middle class, the poll was a real downer.

But as I examined the results more closely, one detail was particularly infuriating: The group most vehemently opposed to the reforms are folks 65 and older. Only 39 percent of this group support the law, compared with 57 percent support from voters ages 18-34. What that means is that seniors on Medicare, a taxpayer-funded program that provides secure health insurance and is a European-style single-payer system, are the ones most interested in denying medical security to younger generations.

My mom would call that being selfish.
"Medicare for you, and nothing for me?".

"He always leaves more popular than he was before"

"Practically every week, Floridians receive visits from the president, the vice president, the first lady or some other top surrogate for the administration. ... 'When he shows up somewhere, he always leaves more popular than he was before he showed up. It really is the power of incumbency,' said Democratic pollster Dave Beattie." "Presidential campaign pauses for now, but Florida remains major stop".

"Ayn Rand didn’t make West turn yellow. It was Big Pork"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Either pork tops poultry in Washington, or U.S. Rep. Allen West is a small-government chickenhawk. How else to explain his about-face on legislating hens?"

After promising to support a proposal that would prevent egg producers from cramming hens too tightly into cages, Rep. West this month withdrew support, calling the proposal anti-business, even though the egg industry supports it as way to improve its image after years of bad publicity and to preempt state regulations. ...

Really? The federal government has no business regulating business? No business writing child-labor laws? Passing the Civil Rights Act? Monitoring nuclear reactors?

Rep. West can’t possibly believe that. In fact, we know he doesn’t. If he did, he never would have supported hen regulations in the first place. Ayn Rand didn’t make him turn yellow. It was Big Pork.
"Editorial: Pork made West turn chicken".

Mini-Mack double-dips

"When he decided at the end of November to run for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Connie Mack IV turned to people close at hand to assemble a campaign quickly."

His longtime aide and political operative, Jeff Cohen, returned from a high-paying public relations job to take over as both chief of staff of Mack's congressional office, a tax-paid job, and Mack's campaign manager.

But Cohen, a Mack loyalist who once worked for the lawmaker's father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, already had been working to boost his boss's political profile, perhaps in anticipation of a Senate race.

In August 2010, when Mack had been talking for months about the possibility of running for the Senate but had not made a decision, Cohen set up a nonprofit charitable committee, the Committee to Free Venezuela, linked to the public relations firm for which he then worked.

Its stated mission was to publicize the threat of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Judging from its IRS filings, the committee appeared to consist almost solely of Cohen and a handful of other Mack loyalists, including Craig Engle, Mack's longtime campaign treasurer, and another former House office staffer, Scott Henderson.

It quickly raised $150,000 from sources it won't reveal. As a nonprofit organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code, it doesn't have to.

The main use of that money apparently was to make what it called a documentary film that consists almost solely of video of Mack giving an anti-Chavez speech to a conservative political group.

The committee also named Mack its honorary chairman.
"Anti-Chavez group run by Mack acolytes".

Everybody is above average!

"Some school grades bumped up".


"John Stemberger, one of Florida’s best known anti-abortion and religious conservative activists, has endorsed the underdog, former Congressman Dave Weldon, over Rep. Connie Mack IV in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The endorsement doesn’t seem likely to change the outcome of the primary race—Mack is far ahead in polling and has a famous name inherited from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, and has endorsements from many of the state’s most prominent Republicans." "Stemberger backs Weldon".

1.4 million unregistered Latino adults in Florida

"Right now in 10 battleground states -- places where both the Obama and Romney campaigns say victory is feasible -- there are 12.1 million unregistered, but potentially eligible, Latino adults, according to new data released late Thursday by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank. In uber-important Florida, the state's 1.4 million unregistered, potentially eligible Latino adults represent a group of voters five times larger than Obama’s margin of victory in 2008." "Number Of Unregistered Latino Voters Large Enough To Transform Red States Into Swing States".

DWS says "no"

"Gov. Wasserman Schultz? She says no".

"Bizarre, if not insulting, remark"

"In an attempt to defend herself against allegations of an improper relationship with a female staff member, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll made bizarre, if not insulting, remark." "Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll’s Comment Offends Gay Community".

"Knuckle-dragging Neanderthals"

"The congressman with a knack for colorful hyperbole and an audible distaste for Republicans is back."

After losing District 8 to Republican Daniel Webster in the 2010 midterm elections, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson now is aiming for the newly configured and Democratic-friendly 9th Congressional District, south of Orlando.

Grayson first came to prominence in the U.S. House floor debates over health-care reform in September 2009. He summarized the Republicans’ plan for health care as “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly,” drawing ire from many of his GOP colleagues.

He stoked further controversy when he described the nation’s current health-care regime as a “Holocaust in America,” and described those opposed to President Barack Obama‘s proposed reform as “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.”
"Firebrand Grayson Picks Up Old Tactics In Race For New House Seat".

A "party planner" protest

"Waving handmade signs and grasping yellow balloons, a small group marched last fall outside State Attorney Michael McAuliffe’s office, angrily calling for him to resign. McAuliffe had just negotiated a plea deal that meant Paul Michael Merhige, who killed four relatives on Thanksgiving Day 2009, would escape the death penalty."

But most of the protesters weren’t there out of outrage. They were there because they were getting paid.

They were getting paid because the man who wanted McAuliffe’s job, Dave Aronberg, wanted a protest, but didn’t want his name linked to it. Since he could not deliver enough protesters himself, he asked a newfound ally, Gulf Stream millionaire Marty O’Boyle, to help.

An O’Boyle assistant lined up a party planner. And that’s how a protest trumpeted on the nightly news as an outpouring of community anger actually starred a half-dozen actors more accustomed to playing princesses, clowns and dinosaurs.

That was only the start. Over four months, Aronberg and O’Boyle teamed up for a campaign of attacks against McAuliffe, cautiously skirting Florida laws designed to assure transparency in elections, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post.

They worked in strict secrecy. Aronberg — now the front-runner for state attorney — had not yet declared himself a candidate, so he took help from O’Boyle without disclosing to the public what otherwise would have amounted to donations.

For O’Boyle, it was just one act in his relentless quest to wipe a DUI conviction off his daughter’s record. For Aronberg, it was an opportunity to take advantage of a millionaire’s displeasure to undermine a rival. They moved assertively, running advertisements, paying protesters and digging up dirt.
"But in enlisting O’Boyle,"
Aronberg miscalculated. After months together, O’Boyle turned on him, releasing to The Post hundreds of emails — including about 100 written by Aronberg — documenting their contacts in the time before Aronberg announced his candidacy.

Ultimately, O’Boyle would turn on The Post as well.
"Aronberg, ally behind attacks in state attorney’s race".

"Never have so many Floridians relied on food stamps"

"Never have so many Floridians relied on food stamps: 3.47 million as of June, nearly triple the number since the Great Recession began and still growing even as the economy recovers. But under cost-cutting legislation moving through Congress, an estimated 234,100 could lose their eligibility as early as this fall." "Ever more Floridians rely on food stamps, may lose them".

"Jeb!" will grace Convention with his presence

"But former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be there, and you can be sure plenty of Florida delegates will be wishing he were the one accepting the nomination inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum." "George W. Bush will skip GOP convention in Tampa, but Jeb will be there". More: "Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio as Romney's VP Choice -- While Hope Fades, the Dream Lives".

Has it come to this?

"Tampa residents will be able to pay water bills at Amscot".

Courtesy of the "values" crowd

"For decades, Florida's public universities were clearly public. Taxpayers covered the majority of education costs, and students and families made up the rest through tuition." "As funding falls, families carry heavier tuition load".

Movin' out

"State Senate candidate Rob Wallace says his opponent in the Republican primary, Rep. John Legg, should resign his House seat. The reason, Wallace says: When he moved into the Senate district, Legg moved out of his House district." "Wallace: Legg no longer lives in district, should resign from House".


Myriam Marquez wonders "What do a dentist and an attorney from Vero Beach, a landscaping company out of Troy, Mich., and a Pennsylvania treasurer have in common? They’re linked to Conservatives United, one of those stealth 'independent' electioneering communication organizations, or ECO, that drop nasty mailers twisting the facts to attack legislative candidates, freeing the opponents from any responsibility for the dirty tricks."

In this case, the attacks are aimed at state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, who’s in a bitter Republican primary duke-out with Rep. Jose Feliz Diaz for District 116, where legislative redistricting now pits the two freshman incumbents.

One flier sent to voters accuses Rivas Logan of raising property taxes “by billions” when she was a member of the Miami-Dade School Board in 2005. Who knew? In fact, the Herald story for that budget meeting noted that “the board actually reduced the tax rate, but not enough to compensate for skyrocketing real estate values.” Rivas Logan was among the school board majority that expected to have that money go toward teachers’ salaries — a worthy goal, as teachers are poorly compensated.

But the attacks that really upset Rivas Logan, an educator who was a high school assistant principal when she was first elected to the school board, are robocalls and fliers by Tell the Public the Facts, Inc., another ECO. This one has with a Miami address, with Roberto Novoa as chairman and money coming from various interests, including pari-mutuels. One flier makes it seem as if she embraced the controversial Vamos a Cuba children’s book, with a menacing-looking Rudy Crew staring in the background. In fact, she let the process of book selection by a committee of volunteers play out, but when they didn’t see anything wrong with a book that was pure propaganda about the Cuban dictatorship being paradise for the kiddies, she was among the school board members in 2006 who led the charge against the book (upheld in court) and eventually for Crew’s ouster.

And don’t get her started about her “cubania.” During the heated debate to oust Crew, she challenged those of his supporters who referred to his detractors as a “Cuban mafia” — the same way Fidel Castro has long referred to exiles. So she made the point that she had supported many of Crew’s education initiatives, and that she was born in Nicaragua. Now the abuelitas and abuelitos, the so-called supervoters, are getting robocalls saying Rivas Logan isn’t Cuban, which is partly true and false. She was born in Nicaragua because her pregnant mother fled Cuba to that Central American country with Rivas’ father and sister, later moving to the U.S.
"In legislative races, who’s playing the ethnic card in ECO war?".

Universal Studios gives to FlaGOPers over Dems by 14 to 1 ratio

"Campaign contributions by supporters and opponents of gambling in Florida in 2011-12."

Genting New York

Republican Party: $486,000
Democratic Party: $111,000
Candidates: $19,500

Seminole Tribe of Florida

Republican Party: $338,000
Democratic Party: $110,000
Candidates: 0

Disney Worldwide Services

Republican Party: $529,000
Democratic Party: $234,000
Candidates: $154,000

Universal Orlando

Republican Party: $387,000
Democratic Party: $27,000
Candidates: $21,500
"Placing Political Bets"("Source: Florida Division of Elections").

"We get what we ask for"

Scott Maxwell bemoans that, "This time around, there's no promise of hope or change."

From either side.

Sure, there's the occasional positive ad. And there are the less-visible stump speeches.

But generally, we have a contest between two men who aren't promising to make things better — only that the other guy will make them worse.

In some regards, we get what we ask for.

Pundits turned Obama's "hope and change" into a punch line. Sarah Palin once famously and derisively asked America: "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?" The country ate it up.

So Obama has eschewed the promises of brighter days for warnings about darker ones. The campaign is predicated on the idea that, while we might be short on jobs now, Romney will ship whatever's left over to China.

Meanwhile, Romney is on a never-ending quest to highlight the depressing. And because some indexes have improved, it's an ever-shifting affair, focusing on the horrors of gas prices when they're on the rise, for instance, and ignoring them when they decline. No matter the upticks or changes, Romney is determined to convince you that you're miserable … and that it's all Obama's fault.

Americans are noticing the nonstop negativity. In a recent poll from the global PR firm Weber and Shandwick, 81 percent of respondents believed that "incivility in government is harming America's future."

More specifically, respondents believed political campaigns were the most "uncivil" thing in America.

If there was solace in the poll, it was that 83 percent of respondents also said that a candidate's "tone or level of civility will be an important factor in the 2012 presidential election."

Maybe that will catch the candidates' attention.

Because, while it's human nature to point out flaws, Americans want to vote for someone who has visions of brighter days ahead.
"Hope, change turn into mope, blame".

"Casino giant is seeding its bets"

"Genting Group, the Malaysian casino giant, is seeding its bets across Florida’s political spectrum this election year as it continues to secure the foothold it needs to build a Miami casino empire."

The company, which bought the Miami Herald building in downtown Miami with $236 million in cash in 2011 and tried unsuccessfully to get destination resort casinos approved by lawmakers this year, has spent $1.3 million so far in the 2012 election cycle and has embarked on a two-pronged political strategy.

Half of its money has been steered into a petition drive for a pro-casino amendment to the state Constitution that would bypass the Legislature to bring casinos to Florida. The other half of its cash so far — $486,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $111,000 to the Florida Democratic Party — was primarily given before the legislative session and is being used to back incumbents or political committees, according to a Herald/Times analysis of campaign reports.

The company said it has no direct involvement in any local or legislative races, countering rumors that it has recruited and screened candidates, and says that the cash it has sent to the parties is being steered to the campaigns of casino supporters and opponents alike.
"Casino giant Genting’s political strategy: big checks and many bets".