Saturday, January 12, 2013

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

The Self-Immolation of Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is apparently counting on the teabaggers and other assorted wingnuts that control the Republican Party presidential nomination process to have forgotten his just announced immigration program when he formally begins his long, slow march for the GOP presidential nomination.

To be sure, much of the Republican base will have expired from old age two years hence, but enough will have remained to recall Rubio's it-ain't-"amnesty" amnesty plan to make sure he doesn't get out of Florida. And that would be unfortunate for we Floridians who desperately want to see him take his empty suit and self-exile -- or self-deport, or whatever -- his way out of Florida politics.

Rubio is sure to offend even Florida Republicans with his freshly proposed pathway to citizenship plan for adults who have overstayed their visas or simply sneaked in to the country:

"Here's how I envision it," he says. "They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check." Anyone who committed a serious crime would be deported. "They would be fingerprinted," he continues. "They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country."

The special regime he envisions is a form of temporary limbo [which might be called "neo-indentured servitude"]. "Assuming they haven't violated any of the conditions of that status," he says, the newly legalized person could apply for permanent residency, possibly leading to citizenship, after some years—but Mr. Rubio doesn't specify how many years. He says he would also want to ensure that enforcement has improved before opening that gate.

Here's the key: Under Rubio's plan: "No one would be asked to leave the country to qualify". And, to make it dreamy, for the over one million younger illegals, just as under
the Dream Act that stalled in Congress last year, [Rubio] says people who came here unlawfully with their parents should be accommodated "in a more expedited manner than the rest of the population" to gain a way to naturalize.
"Marco Rubio: Riding to the Immigration Rescue".

Three of four campaign donor dollars were unlimited checks to Political Committees

"Florida’s sputtering economy did not stop interest groups and donors from spending $306 million this election cycle on state political campaigns, according to final election year tallies released Friday."

The number is lower than the $550 million reported in the 2010 election cycle and does not include the massive amount of federal cash spent in the presidential race. But it points to a new trend: more dollars are going to campaign committee rather than individual candidates.

Three out of every four dollars were unlimited checks to political committees, while the rest went into the campaign accounts of individuals, which are capped at $500 a check.

The shift is a sign that Florida’s $500 limit is outdated and dysfunctional — and ripe for reform, said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, which did the analysis of the campaign finance data released by the Florida Division of Elections.

“Candidate accounts have become nearly irrelevant,’’ said Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida. The current system allows corporations to write unlimited checks to political committees with loose affiliations to candidates but require them to give no more than $1000 to individual candidates for both the primary and general election. The result is, he said, “the public cannot easy follow the money.’’

"Unlike individual campaigns, it’s not always possible to know which candidates political committees support. State law requires committees to name a treasurer, chairman and registered agent but some groups fill those positions with obscure individuals so the committee can’t be tracked to the public officials they were formed to help."
One of the largest political committees this election cycle, the Liberty Foundation of Florida, is an Electioneering and Communications Organization that is run by Gainesville political consultant Pat Bainter. It received much of its money from the Republican Party of Florida and the political committee controlled by Gaetz. The committee spent money on ads attacking Senate candidates, but Gaetz was not linked directly to any of the spending.

Because political committees can transfer money from one political committee to another, “we don’t see who’s getting and giving,’’ Krassner said.

"2012 campaign dollars poured into unlimited accounts".

He's all yours

"George P. Bush weighing run in Texas".

A "turbulent, paranoid, erratic, vindictive political career"

Fred Grimm writes about the latest chapter in Joe Carollo's "turbulent, paranoid, erratic, vindictive political career" "For Joe Carollo, an erratic career, an erratic return".

Another "True the Vote" flop

"FDLE has closed a case against a person accused of voting in the states of Florida and Rhode Island due to a lack of evidence that the person existed. The case was initiated by a group called True the Vote." "Florida finds no wrongdoing in several voting cases".

"Drama in Palm Beach County"

"U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is one of the most powerful and recognizable Democrats in America. Retired teacher Bunny Steinman isn’t well known beyond the ranks of Palm Beach County Democratic activists."

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is one of the most powerful and recognizable Democrats in America. Retired teacher Bunny Steinman isn’t well known beyond the ranks of Palm Beach County Democratic activists.

But in the contest to determine who will lead the Florida Democratic Party, Steinman and other grass-roots operatives appear to have more say than Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Bill Nelson and other party elites.

Steinman, a resident of unincorporated Boynton Beach who is Palm Beach County’s Democratic state committeewoman, is one of several county committeewomen and committeemen who have publicly declared their support for Hillsborough County Committeeman Alan Clendenin for state party chairman.

Wasserman Schultz, Nelson and most of Florida’s U.S. House delegation are backing Allison Tant, a Tallahassee fundraiser who has helped generate campaign cash for President Barack Obama and others but doesn’t have much history with party activists and organizers around the state.

Clendenin’s camp says it has lined up more than 500 of the 580 votes needed in the chairman’s race, primarily from county activists like Steinman. Tant’s consultant, Christian Ulvert, said Tant has pulled ahead of Clendenin, though he would not share specific numbers.

"Drama in Palm Beach County this week shows how votes could shift between now and the Jan. 26 election, which will be held at a party meeting in Lake Mary near Orlando."
To maximize South Florida’s influence, Democratic leaders from the three counties agreed last month to vote as a unit in the chairman’s race. They decided to support Clendenin at a meeting on Monday and signed a document declaring their endorsement.

Palm Beach County Democratic Committeeman John Ramos signed the document, but said later he was uneasy about doing so. On Wednesday, after a meeting in Broward County with Wasserman Schultz, Ramos announced he was supporting Tant.

"Party elites vs. grass-roots types in Fla. Dem. chair race". Older: "'I will be the party chair,' Democrat says, but opponent disagrees".

Paul Flemming says "It wouldn’t be a story about the Democrats in Florida without Jon Ausman. Tallahassee’s agent provocateur and Democratic national committeeman with battle ribbons from the 2008 Florida delegation-seating debacle has an analysis, naturally, of the campaign to chair the party. He spins out five scenarios in arguing for his preferred version — that is, a negotiated truce that takes advantage of the respective strengths of both Tant and Clendenin. But in the process, Ausman describes in his Scenario Four, broadcast to Florida Democrats, what’s likely to happen:"

“Both Allison Tant and Alan Clendenin campaign hard for the office all the way through the 26 January 2013 (State Executive Committee) meeting. Their supporters continue to use both negative and positive techniques. Their supporters continue to refuse to negotiate and turn this into a winner-take-all result for their respective candidate. Somehow the (executive committee) heals over the following 120 days.”

Not only does that seem to be the way things are going, but it’s also the most compelling way, from a reporter’s perspective, for “As The Democratic World Turns” to play out.

"Democrats give great entertainment value".

"Expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Now that Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to use more realistic cost estimates for the expansion of Medicaid, the benefits should be even clearer. Expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage to more than 1 million uninsured Floridians is the right choice, and the federal government will cover most all of the cost. Scott's revised 10-year cost to the state of $3 billion still may be high, but it is closer to reality than the $26 billion he cited earlier this week." "Medicaid by the numbers: a bargain".

Central Florida Regional Transit Board

"Don Gaetz Backs Effort to Create Central Florida Regional Transit Board".

"Short-term political calculations, rigid ideology and disdain for President Obama"

Tom Nickens says "We are about to find out if Gov. Rick Scott has learned anything about vision and investing in Florida's future — or whether he remains driven by short-term political calculations, rigid ideology and disdain for President Barack Obama."

"It's hard to be optimistic. The similarities between Scott's approach to high-speed rail and to the expansion of Medicaid are depressingly clear:"

Withhold support and criticize Obama.

During his 2010 campaign, Scott refused to support high-speed rail, one of Obama's top priorities. He vigorously fought the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, the president's top legislative accomplishment so far. The fate of health care reform was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the guts of the law, and by Obama's re-election.

Listen to tea party followers, not business leaders.

Scott rode the tea party wave to narrowly win the governor's race. The tea party folks consider rail part of a government conspiracy to take away our cars and force everyone to live in high-rises. They hate Obama's health care law, which they consider to be socialized medicine, and they are lobbying Scott to reject the Medicaid expansion money. Central Florida business leaders supported high-speed rail, and hospital and insurance executives throughout Florida see the Medicaid expansion as an economic opportunity.

Ignore the facts to appear fiscally conservative.

Scott insisted Florida would be on the hook for too much money for high-speed rail. But the federal government's $2.4 billion would have paid for nearly all of the construction cost, and private contractors would have covered any construction cost overruns or operating losses. In a Tampa Bay Times column last week, Scott contended Florida would be on the hook for $26 billion over 10 years for the Medicaid expansion. That is a wildly inflated figure that does not reflect federal law, which requires the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and never less than 90 percent.

Create an illusion of reasonableness.

Scott met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Washington to talk about high-speed rail, raising hopes a deal could be reached. After he rejected the money, he let local officials try to save it when he had no intention of making it work. Last week, Scott flew to Washington to talk to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to talk about the Medicaid expansion. . . .

Add it all together, and it appears Scott is headed down the wrong path again.

"Will Scott do right for Florida this time?"

"Charter school companies see vast potential for expansion"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board's Jac Versteeg writes that, "For all the hype and official favoritism, charter schools still serve only about 200,000 of Florida’s nearly 2.7 million public school students. The for-profit charter school companies see vast potential for expansion. We see obvious proof that the legislature and Gov. Scott should make traditional public schools their priority." "Editorial: Ease charter-school push".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Health Care -- But Wait, There's More ...".

Florida First Lady Ann Scott

"Florida First Lady Ann Scott finding her voice".

"Lines may have been crossed"

"News that Bernie Machen will remain president of the University of Florida has been widely regarded as a positive step for the school yearning for higher national prominence. But some UF supporters and observers say they are concerned lines may have been crossed in persuading Machen, 68, to postpone his retirement." "Scott's nudge raises concerns at UF".

Scott looks to avoid primary

Bill Cotterell: "Scott is off to a fast start toward his 2014 re-election bid. Meanwhile, legislators in charge of committees of continuing existence transferred thousands of dollars through those organizations, which can collect limitless amounts of money and spread it around." "Politicians report year-end finances, money moves".

Scott "running higher education on the cheap"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, needs visionary members with varied backgrounds who come from throughout the state. But Gov. Rick Scott didn't look much beyond his affluent Naples neighborhood or his simplistic views about running higher education on the cheap to appoint new members. It is a prescription for mediocrity when what the universities need is bold leadership and advocates for investing in their success." "A recipe for mediocrity in higher ed". See also "Rick Scott puts stamp on university system".


"Federal budget cuts and state economic woes loom as a challenge to paying for pending Everglades restoration projects." "Everglades activists hope to maintain progress".