Saturday, September 29, 2012

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

Florida Republican registration fraud scandal engulfing RNC

"Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant."

The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states to hire the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting.The RNC paid the company at least $3.1 million -- routed through the state parties of Florida, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia -- to register voters and run get-out-the-vote operations. Wisconsin and Ohio had not yet paid the firm for get-out-the-vote operations it was contracted to do.
"Now elections officials across Florida are scrutinizing voter registration forms turned in to their counties on behalf of the state Republican Party. The state elections division is also investigating."
Strategic Allied is run by an Arizona-based man named Nathan Sproul, who has been dogged by charges in the past that his employees destroyed Democratic registrations. No charges were ever filed.

But his reputation is such that when Sproul was tapped by the RNC to do field work this year, officials requested that he set up a new firm to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations, Sproul told The Times. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.

Filing fraudulent forms that alter the addresses of actual voters could create delays at the polls. For example:
If someone’s address is changed within the same county, they could still cast a ballot once poll workers were able to establish that the voter was in the correct precinct.

“It’s another step the clerk, the poll worker and the voter would have to go through in order to cast a vote,” Davis said.

Things would get more complicated if a voter’s address has been changed to another county. If that were the case, the voter would be forced to cast a provisional ballot, which would be evaluated later in the week by a local canvassing board.

More than 2,000 provisional ballots were cast in Florida in 2008; less than half of those ballots were ultimately counted, according to University of Florida election law professor Daniel Smith.

"Suspicious voter registration forms found in 10 Florida counties". See also "Voter registration fraud probe spreads to other counties", "GOP firm fired for flawed voter registration in Palm Beach County had issues in other counties, states" and "Voter registration problems widening in Florida".

True the Vote protects us from them "non-American looking" people

Jan Rogers: "There was some really good news a couple of weeks ago for those paranoid folks who are sure that voter fraud is sweeping the country. An Austrian who has Canadian citizenship was actually convicted of fraudulently casting a ballot here in Florida. Alleluia!"

Election fraud has a rich history in Florida, generally involving bottles of whiskey and folding money, but these voter fraud laws aren’t about good old-fashioned vote buying. No, the effort is to raise the bar so high that voting becomes discouragingly hard or impossible for some.

Those who are the targets are generally the young, the old and the poor. By requiring certain kinds of ID, purging voter rolls and restricting early voting, the effort is to constrict the number of people eligible to vote. There are good arguments that only men who own property should be allowed to vote. They are, after all, the ones who pay most of the taxes, and we all know that women are too foolish to be able to make valid political judgments. That was a very good argument in the late 18th century, but we have moved on — at least some of us have. The argument has been reframed in terms of people who don’t vote the right way.

There is an organization called True the Vote, a national association of busybodies who are determined to find voter fraud even if they have to conjure up nonexistent buses full of non-native Americans turning up to register and vote in Wisconsin. Sadly, nobody took any pictures with an iPhone, nobody made a note of the bus’ tag, despite the oddity of a busload of “non-American looking” people doing this. Hmmm.

"It's not about election fraud but about franchise".

Even FlaGOPers have limits

"Two separate polls from Republican and Democratic third-party groups have arrived at the same conclusion: Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera is losing his reelection effort. Rivera, under separate federal criminal investigations into his personal and campaign finances, trails Democratic challenger Joe Garcia by nine percentage points in a Democratic poll and he’s behind by 10 points in the Republican survey — just outside the poll’s error margin." "GOP poll: embattled David Rivera trails Joe Garcia".

Scott denies Florida unlawfully warehouses disabled children

"The war of words between Florida health administrators and federal civil rights lawyers continued Friday as the administration of Gov. Rick Scott rebuffed the U.S. Justice Department’s offer to help remove hundreds of children from nursing homes."

In a letter to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Florida social service chiefs called “unfounded” the claim that the state needlessly warehouses disabled and medically fragile children in nursing homes meant to care for elders. Agency heads reached that conclusion after a two-week investigation in which they interviewed the parents or caregivers of many disabled children “to ensure that they were aware of the services available for them in the community.” . . .

Earlier this month, the Justice Department sent a scathing, 22-page letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that said state health regulators were violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a 1990 law designed to protect frail and disabled people from being warehoused in large, isolated institutions. In all, more than 220 children — some of them infants and toddlers — are being housed in institutions along with frail elders. Many of the youngsters, the Justice Department said, get no education, and spend much of their time sitting in bed or in wheelchairs watching television. Some have lived almost their entire lives in nursing-home beds.

So many children are in nursing homes, the Justice Department said, because Florida has failed to set aside enough money to pay for in-home nursing care, therapy and other services that would allow parents to care for their children at home. Other states, the department contends, have done a better job of keeping children out of institutions.

"Florida fires back at feds over kids in nursing homes".

Already working the refs?

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It's a sad state of affairs when the disgraced former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida has more appreciation for an independent judiciary than the speaker of the Florida House. It's even worse that so many prominent Republicans are biting their tongues as their political party and its allies wage an unprecedented partisan assault on three Florida Supreme Court justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot."

This is no time for Floridians who respect the law and the courts to remain silent against a very real threat that seeks to corrupt the process for political gain.

Former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer is awaiting trial on charges of stealing about $200,000 from the party through a secret fundraising company. But even Greer had the good sense to say last week that as the party chairman he would not have allowed the party to oppose the merit retention of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara J. Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. At least he recognizes a partisan political power play and acknowledges the danger of allowing Gov. Rick Scott to pack the Supreme Court with three new justices if voters remove the well-qualified incumbents.

Contrast that clear thinking with the bellicose attacks on the court by departing House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican and a lawyer with no respect for the state Supreme Court, the Florida Bar or the judicial branch in general. Cannon contends it is "ludicrous" to be critical of the Republican Party for wading into the nonpartisan merit retention process. He misrepresents the purpose of merit retention and lashes out at the Florida Bar for trying to educate voters about the process.

"In court threat, GOP hides behind silence". See also "RPOF Chair Lenny Curry Defends Opposition to Retention".

Curtis Krueger reminds us that three months before calling for their ouster of three Florida Supreme Court justices, the party issued a pointed and partisan attack titled: 'Remember the Democrat [sic] Justices of the Florida Supreme Court During Bush v. Gore?'" "'Egregious' trial isn't first attack on state justices".

Could it be the Florida Republican Party expects the courts will again have to get involved in counting votes, and they're already working the refs?

Teabaggers on fire

"What they’re doing is probably not illegal, but from now until Nov. 6 city officials across the Sunshine State are being urged to use taxpayer-funded instruments to convince their citizens to oppose the Florida Property Tax Amendment, and the amendment's supporters are not happy about it." "Are City Officials Fighting Florida Property Tax Breaks on the Taxpayers' Dime?".

Scott intent on delivering the state to the GOP

Fabiola Santiago: "Here he goes again, round two of Gov. Rick Scott vs. the voters of Florida.

Instead of focusing his stewardship of the state on getting relief for beleaguered homeowners being priced out of their homes by skyrocketing insurance rates, instead of putting his energy into making good on the “let’s get back to work” promises that got him elected, Scott continues the hunt for those phantom noncitizen voters.

Never mind that federal law prohibits voter roll purges within 90 days of an election.

Never mind that his previous purge did not reveal substantial evidence that there are any significant number of noncitizens registered to vote in Florida — but did reveal embarrassing cases in which citizens were targeted for removal.

This Republican governor is intent on delivering the state of Florida to the GOP, and if he has to suppress the rights of minority voters, in violation of federal law, that’s just the price of winning the presidential election on Nov. 6.

"Gov. Scott vs. Florida voters: Round Two".

"Of late, the political world has been dominated by allegations — almost all of which have come from the conservative end of the spectrum — that the media (and its pollsters) are part of a grand conspiracy designed to re-elect President Obama."

The simplest conclusion to draw from the [data] is that while majorities of Republicans seem to believe the coverage is tilted toward President Obama, there’s little actual evidence that pollsters and the media are “rooting” for anyone or anything in the race.

Instead, complaints about polling methodology and coverage are almost certainly the result of a party who sees itself behind and is looking for a reason why. Our guess is that if Mitt Romney experiences a bit of a comeback in these next two weeks or so, the same polls that Republicans are decrying as skewed today will become useful data points in their argument for a GOP resurgence.

"Does the 'skewed polls' crowd have a point? Not really.".

"Many Jewish voters remain solidly Democratic"

"Voters and speakers in South Florida spent relatively little time talking about Israel and Iran with Vice President Joe Biden, and far more about Medicare and Republican plans to change it. It was another sign that many Jewish voters remain solidly Democratic." "Biden seeks seniors' votes".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Sept. 24 to Sept. 28". See also "Campaign Roundup: Suspicious registration and prostitution pitfalls".

Condo commandos

"They always turn out – strong – for the Democrats, but just to make sure, Vice President Joe Biden lavished attention on South Florida's retiree condo dwellers Friday." "Biden tells South Florida retirees Romney doesn't care about older Americans". See also "Biden, in Boca’s Century Village, says Romney view of “dependent” Americans is skewed".

But he isn't "Mike Horner"

"Republican Party executive committee members from Osceola and Polk counties will meet Saturday to determine who to run on the ballot in a Central Florida district under the name of Mike Horner." "Replacement For Mike Horner Expected on Saturday".

Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain

"Thousands of cellphone text messages accidentally released by [Orange County] Mayor Teresa Jacobs paint the clearest picture yet of how the sick-time ballot initiative was kept off the Nov. 6 Orange County ballot."

They also show the influence of corporate lobbyists and legal confidantes on Jacobs, who ran as a maverick outsider willing to take on powerful interests.

The messages show how she, her staff and a ring of informal advisers worked with businesses to defeat the measure, which would require many employers to provide sick time to their workers.

The battle over the sick-time initiative raged for weeks, ballooning into one of the most fierce Orange County political fights in years.

"Texts show coordinated campaign with foes of sick time".

Housing market improves

"Housing market better, but we're not there yet".

Pusillanimous Chavez haters travel to spill their venom

"Casting a ballot in the upcoming presidential election in Venezuela will require Oscar Ganem to drive 832 miles from his home in Pompano Beach to a polling station in New Orleans. That's no sweat, he says, for he despises President Hugo Chavez so much he's willing to travel great distances to help oust the socialist leader." "Many Venezuelans in Florida head to New Orleans to vote".

More concerned about Medicare than Iran

"Voters and speakers in Boca Raton’s Century Village and Tamarac’s Kings Point spent relatively little time talking about Israel and Iran, and far more about Medicare and Republican plans to change it." "Jewish voters concerned more about Medicare than Iran".

Runnin' gub'ment like a bidness

"A legislative aide to state Rep. Daphne Campbell was arrested Friday for grand theft after she allegedly charged constituents phony fees for assistance that never materialized. . . . The victims, all of Haitian descent, would arrive in Campbell’s office seeking help from the lawmaker. Shackleford would often have them sign court forms and documents, charge them fake fees of as much as $1,110 and fail to follow through." "State rep’s aide arrested for grand theft involving Haitian constituents of lawmaker".

"There's a Margaret Thatcher moment for you"

Daniel Ruth: "You think it's easy being a political consultant? How would you like to have a client like Jennifer Gottlieb, who turned out to be the Kim Kardashian meets Madonna of the Broward County School Board?"

Gottlieb, who transformed serving on a school board into the Body Heat of education, wound up as the femme fatale of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into high finance hanky-panky.

The report noted that while she was serving as a School Board member, Gottlieb took up with Citigroup executive Richard Patterson, who was pitching to win some bond business with the School Board.

This, as Richard Nixon might have said, was wrong. Gottlieb was then married to a prominent judge, and it probably doesn't look good for a School Board member to be conducting her own sex education classes.

Still Gottlieb, ever the savvy politician, sensed that maybe, just maybe, canoodling with people trying to do business with the School Board could possibly be misconstrued by some people as declasse. . . .

Gottlieb was no dummy. She had to good sense to terminate the coo-coo-ca-choo with Patterson, which was a good thing. Because cutting off the illicit romance made it possible for her to begin an affair with Patterson's Citigroup colleague, Michael Baldwin, who was also lobbying for School Board business.

You have to give Gottlieb credit for taking one thing at a time.

While certainly salacious, not to mention embarrassing to everyone involved, the FDLE could not determine if Gottlieb had actually violated any laws.

Indeed, Baldwin told FDLE investigators that while he and Gottlieb were making whoopee, she steadfastly insisted on never accepting any gifts from her paramour.

Who says there are no standards anymore?

In fact, while making hay in various hotels, Gottlieb assiduously avoided ordering room service. Now there's a Margaret Thatcher moment for you.

"South Florida's school for scandal".