Saturday, March 02, 2013

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

Crist brags that Harry Sargeant "remains a close friend"

"Harry Sargeant is a Republican financial powerhouse, but congressional investigators have called him a ‘war profiteer.’"

He has long supported Crist while also helping former party chairman Jim Greer, despite the animosity between Greer and Crist since Greer was charged with stealing money from the GOP in 2010. Crist, now a Democrat considering an attempt to return to the Governor’s Mansion, says Sargeant remains a close friend.

Campaign finance records show Sargeant has donated more than $1.5 million to Florida politicians and the state Republican Party since 2000, the year Crist ran for education commissioner.

In recent years, Sargeant has made headlines over fuel he supplied to U.S. forces in Iraq. The brother-in-law of the king of Jordan sued Sargeant in Palm Beach and won a $28.8 million verdict for being cut out of a $1.4 billion defense contract that allowed Sargeant to transport fuel through Jordan. (Sargeant is appealing.) A congressional oversight committee called for an investigation of payments to Sargeant’s company, and last year auditors for the Department of Defense accused the company of overcharging the Pentagon by hundreds of millions. A federal investigation is ongoing.

"Harry Sargeant, Florida Republican money man, is a highly controversial figure".

Grayson's "concerted push for comprehensive immigration reform"

"U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson made an impassioned call for immigration reform during an appearance this morning in Orlando while surrounded by Central Florida Hispanic leaders. Elected in November to a heavily Hispanic district that includes Osceola County and portions of Orange and Polk, the Orlando Democrat was accompanied by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., in a concerted push for comprehensive immigration reform." "U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson makes pitch for immigration reform".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Getting Ready for the Session, Quietly". See also "2013 Session Outlook: Economic Development".

Pension haters drive their clown car to Tally

"A bill filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson would close the traditional retirement plan to elected officials and top managers of state government, while offering financial incentives to other public employees if they join the "defined contribution" investment plan." "Senator proposes FRS overhaul". See also "Weatherford gets revised pension numbers".

Can FlaGOP "find enough diversions to disarm this time bomb"

Aaron Deslatte: "Gov. Rick Scott, is attempting to save his political skin by embracing the very policy he entered national politics attempting to defeat: Obamacare."

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has challenged Scott's support of a three-year expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Putnam has since gone radio silent on whether he plans to challenge Scott.

Even House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is suddenly being shopped as a potential entrant into the 2014 primary.

"I think it's funny I'm being asked about it," Weatherford told reporters. "The governor's a friend. I think he's doing a good job. We agree on a whole lot more than we disagree on."

Here's the real story: Republicans are worried they have a second Charlie Crist on their hands. With Scott flip-flopping on his signature health-care issue, how else might he abandon conservatives over the next two sessions?

So, chairman of the Florida Republican Party Lenny Curry's solution is to call for "'civility' in politics."
Curry's call for "civility" sounds noble. But Republicans and Democrats have been hiring investigators, playing dirty tricks and trying to drive wedges between the other side's factions for years.

Campaigns, including RPOF operations, use all manner of uncivil tactics – from chicken suits and empty chairs to insinuating in a 2009 Jacksonville GOP Senate primary that the Black Panthers would try to minimize white votes.

Last fall, one of the GOP's top direct-mail shops, Pat Bainter's Data Targeting Inc., created a fictitious group called "Progressives" to attack Democratic candidates for supporting GOP issues or candidates. The idea was to make it look like Democrat-on-Democrat warfare.

Then there was the gem of a mailer financed by the GOP against Democratic Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, comparing the teacher to convicted child-molester Jerry Sandusky.

Curry is calling for civility not because he's afraid of Democrats' "dirty tricks." He's worried about having another Tom Gallagher-Crist primary on his hands next year – only bigger, where a native Floridian taps in-state dollars and Scott self-finances with his remaining $83 million.

It will be fascinating to see if Curry can find enough diversions to disarm this time bomb.

"Florida Republicans have a battle brewing in their tent".

Related: "Adam Putnam and Will Weatherford Look Past 2014 and Rick Scott".

Meanwhile, "Coy about his own future, Charlie Crist doesn't shy away from going after Scott".


"What was billed as a dialogue on a hotly contested $6 million donation by the private prison company GEO Group to Florida Atlantic University, turned out Friday to be two sides talking by each other with little or no meeting of minds." "Heated questions, muted answers as FAU defends naming stadium after prison company". Background: "Abuse charges dog GEO prison company".

Letter from Lucy

Lucy Morgan: "Like House Speaker Will Weatherford, Lucy Morgan got her start in Pasco County. She was a Tampa Bay Times reporter in Pasco from 1968 until December 1985, when she was appointed capital bureau chief in Tallahassee. She retired from that post in 2006 and has since worked part time handling special projects. She shared the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting with Jack Reed for stories about the Pasco County Sheriff's Department. She retired again Friday after penning this open letter of advice for the new speaker." "To a new speaker from an old hand".

"Powerful human argument for accepting the Medicaid expansion"

"Legislature could tip hand on Medicaid expansion Monday". The Tampa Bay Times editors: "There is a powerful human argument for accepting the Medicaid expansion. Roughly 4 million Floridians lack health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act offers paths to health coverage for nearly all of them and opportunities for more productive lives." "Medicaid expansion key for Florida". Adam Putnam shows himself to be not much of an expert on Medicaid: "Adam Putnam is against expanding Medicaid in Florida."

“The expansion of Medicaid in FL does not create jobs or strengthen our infrastructure,” wrote Putnam on Twitter on Feb. 21.
"We wanted to explore Putnam’s claim that the federally funded Medicaid expansion won’t create jobs in Florida. The evidence we found suggests Putnam is wrong, but it’s far from certain."
“If you look at theoretically what should happen, it would suggest Florida will spend more money on healthcare and the rate of Florida’s economic growth will be marginally higher,” [Chris Lafakis, a senior economist at Moody’s who examines Florida’s economy] said. “Yes, the 10,000 to 30,000 jobs figure is pretty small in the grand scheme of things, since Florida has 7.4 million jobs. But still, a Medicaid opt-in would help hospitals financially, boost state and federal spending and channel those funds to citizens with high spending rates.”
"Will a Medicaid expansion create jobs? Yes and maybe".

"State investments doing well"

The FlaBaggers populating the the Executive and Legislative branches will be chagrined to learn that "Florida state government's mammoth financial investments are doing well, despite some short-term sluggishness in earnings by the Florida Retirement System due to the tech bubble burst of 2000, according to a new report by the Legislature's fiscal watchdogs." "State investments doing well, OPPAGA says".

Another fine Jebacy

The Miami Herald editors think it might surprise you "to learn that the stand-your-ground law didn’t originate in the Florida Legislature."

It came from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, which heavily lobbied for passage and contributed numerous “action alerts” to NRA members in Florida asking them to press state lawmakers for adoption.
"The Center for American Progress Action Fund reports the NRA’s involvement in Florida’s controversial law didn’t end with lobbying:"
“The NRA had already made a financial investment . . . The Florida Legislature passed the bill with the support from 22 of the 23 lawmakers who got NRA funds.”

That was back in 2005 when Jeb Bush was governor. He signed the bill with the NRA’s chief Florida lobbyist standing at his side.

It might also surprise you to learn that Florida is considered a “good” state for introducing laws being pushed by corporate interests and others who operate under the umbrella of the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC.

"NRA’s juice boosts gun law".