Thursday, October 11, 2012

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.

Obama ahead by a whisker in NBC News/WSJ/Marist Florida poll

Among likely Florida voters, Obama leads 48 percent to Romney's 47 percent. Obama leads 49 to 45 percent among registered voters. The poll has a 3.1 percent margin of error. "NBC News/WSJ/Marist Poll Florida October 11, 2012 Presidential Election" (.pdf).

Florida Republicans play ECO games

"Since the beginning of September, a murky political committee set up by some prominent Republican strategists has been sending mailers attacking Democratic candidates in at least eight state Senate races across Florida."

And yet the group — known only as "Progressives" — claims in state filings that it has not yet raised or spent a single dime.

Democrats accuse the group of flouting Florida campaign-finance laws, which are designed to ensure voters can find out who is paying for any political advertisements. Independent legal experts agree.

"Progressives has the same mailing address as a law firm run by Tallahassee attorney Richard Coates. Coates is also the general counsel for the Republican Party of Florida."
The organization's chairman is Stafford Jones, head of the Republican Party in Alachua County. Jones also serves as an officer for a separate political group controlled by incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, who is in charge of GOP Senate campaigns.

Neither Coates nor Jones responded to repeated requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he "oversees a variety of political operations related to Senate campaigns but is not involved in the day-to-day operations of this or any other outside organization."

Kristen McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida, said the party has no involvement with Progressives and has not given money to the group.

Progressives is registered with the state as an "Electioneering Communications Organization," or ECO. As such, experts say, it should be disclosing its donors and expenditures.

"Obscure committee attacks Democrats — but reports no spending".

"Rich old buffoon longing the days of the robber barons" threatens employees with termination if Obama wins

Fred Grimm: "David Siegel, Florida’s unloved icon of wretched excess, would seem to make it easy for writers of satirical columns. He writes his own stuff."

Siegel, the Orlando timeshare mogul, just fired off an email to his 7,000 employees telling them who should get their vote, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday. Because if Obama wins, they can kiss their jobs goodbye. . . .

What ought to make his edict so delicious is the accompanying recitation of the hardships he’s endured since President Barack Obama took office. “Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools. . . .”

Some dream house. Siegel and his much younger ex-model wife were erecting a 90,000-square foot, $100-million monument to garish pomposity on the shores of Lake Butler, near Orlando, before the timeshare business crashed in 2008. It was to have been the largest single-family home (along with the servant quarters) in America. (Siegel now claims that with his timeshare business back in the black, he’s resuming construction.) The Siegels’ extravagant bad taste and their “struggle” to finish their outlandish home was depicted in a satirical documentary, The Queen of Versailles, released in the summer.

"It would all be great fun, lampooning this rich old buffoon who seems to be longing the days of the robber barons. Except for that word 'old.'"
Siegel — reports of his age range from 75 to 79 — has become another prominent old cuss who’s talked (or emailed or tweeted) his way into the object of public ridicule.

We’ve had old Jack Welch, 77, tweeting a paranoid conspiracy theory about the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Old Clint Eastwood, 82, going off on a bizarre conversation with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention.

"Timeshare mogul David Siegel mouths off".

"Vote Now!"

"Democrats urging people to vote absentee – in person". However, the Miami Herald reports that "In trial run, early voters learn that long ballots mean long waits" ("The Obama campaign’s decision to get voters to cast their mail-in ballots at elections offices gave a glimpse into the wait times voters can expect on Election Day or when early voting kicks in Oct. 27.")

Related: "76,000 Votes Already Cast in Must-Win Florida".

While the pension haters went for donuts . . .

. . . "a construction worker was pulled out alive from under a huge slab of concrete early Thursday" by Miami-Dade firefighters with specialized training in technical rescues. "Man pulled from rubble of collapsed Florida garage".

Where's Rick Scott?

"For the first time since 2005, Florida led the nation for foreclosures, according to a report by a real-estate research group that tracks home sales across the country." "Florida leads nation in foreclosures". See also "Fla. ranks first in foreclosure activity since 2005".

West imports wingnuts

"An Israeli lawmaker visiting Century Village of West Palm Beach on Wednesday said President Obama is 'not a friend of Israel.'"

Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, told about 200 people at the heavily Jewish retirement community that his criticism of Obama wasn’t intended to influence the upcoming election.

Danon, who has been in the U.S. promoting a book, spoke at an Israel-themed event put on by the campaign of U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, who faces Democrat Patrick Murphy in the race for congressional District 18.

“Even if you care only about the interests of the American people, you have to stand with Israel. You have to stand and support Israel. And I can tell you very clearly that President Obama was not a friend of Israel,” Danon said.

"Conservative Israeli legislator criticizes Obama to Century Village audience".

Obama at UM

"Obama to speak Thursday at free UM event".

Carroll hiding under her desk

"The administration of Gov. Rick Scott is heading to court to get a protective order so Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll doesn't have to answer questions in a criminal case involving one of her former aides." "Fla. judge to decide whether to shield Carroll". See also "Fla. judge to decide whether to shield Carroll".

Grading controversy

"Florida's public school students will be judged in part by race and ethnicity, under new education benchmarks approved this week."

And that has created a firestorm in South Florida.

Opponents say setting higher goals for whites and Asians and lower goals for Latino and black groups is insulting and feeds racial stereotypes.

"Race in grading prompts controversy in South Florida".

Gov. Scott directs meningitis questions to phone sex chat line

"While outlining Florida's response to the national meningitis outbreak, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday mistakenly gave out a telephone number to a phone sex chat line, WPLG-Ch. 10 reported." "Report: Governor mistakenly directs callers to HOTline".

"Purging those felons"

"Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said Wednesday she yanked five ballots before they could be mailed this week to convicted felons who have been accused of voting illegally." "Elections supervisor: I'm purging those felons".

Marquee Race

"Steve Southerland vs. Al Lawson Becoming a Marquee Race".

Thousands of mail ballots were discarded in August primary

"From Key West to Pensacola, thousands of absentee or mail ballots were discarded in the Aug. 14 statewide primary because voters overlooked a requirement that they sign the envelope containing their ballot, even though the instructions conspicuously remind voters to do it." "Want your vote to count? Be sure to sign your absentee ballot, election officials say".

Republicans form caucus to "defend religious freedom"

"Eight prominent [Republican] lawmakers from around the Sunshine State announced Wednesday they were banding together to form the nucleus of a new 'Religious Freedom Caucus' in the Florida Legislature."

The announcement was made via a press release by the American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP) of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. The release said caucuses had been launched in eight other states, and said plans were underway to establish one in each of the nation’s 50 state legislatures by the end of 2013.

Florida’s caucus is being chaired by Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando. He is joined by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne; Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Janet Adkins, R- Fernandina Beach; Rep. Ben Albritton, R- Wauchula; Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala; Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland; and Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights.

"Florida Lawmakers Form Caucus to Defend Religious Freedom".

Wage Theft

"Wage Theft in Broward County: The Accumulating Evidence of a Spreading Illegal Anti-Business Practice".

Gibbons passes

"Sam Gibbons, Tampa's hero". The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Gibbons represented bay area with dignity".

"Concern is particularly intense among African-American and Hispanic voters"

"With polls showing a close race between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a relative handful of votes either way in a battleground state like Florida or Ohio could make all the difference. The potential for disruptive crowds of observers at some precincts has sparked fears that voters may be intimidated or harassed or have their eligibility to vote challenged directly. The concern is particularly intense among African-American and Hispanic voters, who historically have suffered discrimination and were targeted anew in more recent elections, civil rights leaders say." "At polls, fears of voter suppression, intimidation".

Palm Beach ballot problem

Ashley Lopez writes that "there is no title for a section on the ballot asking voters to vote on whether to keep Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince in their positions on the Florida Supreme Court. Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said that the Arizona printing company that created the ballots is to blame. She also told reporters that titles were only meant to make the lengthy and confusing ballot easier to read. She said she didn’t really need to include the titles."

"60,000 Absentee Ballots Botched in Palm Beach".