Friday, September 13, 2013

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

Scott scheme to support Crist opponent?

"Little-known and struggling financially, Nan Rich might get some help from the unlikeliest of places during the Democratic primary race for governor: supporters of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Scott's top political adviser and pollster, Tony Fabrizio, hinted at the scheme late in a rare appearance at the Women's Republican Club of Miami." "GOP may back little-known Democrat in effort to defeat Crist". See also "Devious plan or bluff? Rick Scott backers may help Nan Rich vs. Charlie Crist".

"GOP-majority Legislature is loathe to cut into its political advantage"

The Miami Herald editors: " You can’t overstate the value of maintaining the integrity of the election process, but Miami-Dade County sure did balk at the price. Confident that it can catch fraudulent requests for absentee ballots submitted online, the Miami-Dade Elections Department has opted to toughen up its computer software."

"In doing so, Miami-Dade rejected a grand-jury recommendation to make the website secure by requiring users to enter logins and passwords to request absentee ballots."
According to Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley, this method would have required an investment of about $843,000 to set up, followed by a recurring cost of $743,000 during major elections. At a time when Miami-Dade County is facing the ire of public workers seeking more pay, cutting back library hours and fending off animal lovers unhappy with the status of the Pets’ Trust proposal, there was, no doubt, little appetite to pony up major money for the login/password system. Beefing up the back end of the computer software won’t cost the county any money.

But now it’s up to the county to ensure that the real costs aren’t instead a corruptible — or corrupted — election process. There are dishonest dealers looking to beat the system, and the elections department has to stay two steps ahead.

Election 2012 was a scary eye-opener in Miami-Dade. Thousands of fraudulent online requests for absentee ballots were submitted online last year. To the Election Department’s credit, staffers caught them and alerted prosecutors. Most came from foreign IP addresses and could not be traced. However, the Miami Herald sussed out that about 500 requests were submitted from much closer to home — linked to aides to U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

An investigation continues. No one has been charged, but it definitely appears to have crossed the line. Under state law, only voters or their immediate family members can submit ballot requests.

"Ferreting out fraud". See also.

His future's so bright, he's gotta wear shades

"Sen. Marco Rubio has a deal to write a book on the future of the GOP, according to his publisher." "Rubio book deal".

About the "reliability of the state voter database"

"Gov. Rick Scott's administration will soon launch a new statewide hunt for suspected noncitizens on the voter roll,"

a process that last year led to lawsuits and lots of frustration in county elections offices because of a flawed "purge list." But if the state wants a clean roll, it might find out why it takes so long for a voter to be removed after a felony conviction.

Case in point: Jim Greer, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida who pleaded guilty Feb. 11 to five counts of grand theft and money laundering. Greer was still listed as a registered voter until last week, when Buzz started asking questions. Now there was no election for Greer to vote in and no chance of him obtaining a ballot at the Gulf Forestry Camp near Port St. Joe, where he's serving an 18-month sentence. The question is the reliability of the state voter database.

"Greer case spotlights Florida's challenges in voter database 'purge'".


"Jeb Bush tried to seem bemused Tuesday evening as he helped present a public service award to Hillary Rodham Clinton. . . . Even as Bush seemed to brush off criticism, he never got too close to Clinton, denying a photo of them side-by-side that would surely be used against him in a future campaign." "Jeb Bush keeps distance in awarding Hillary Clinton the Liberty Medal".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Hollywood CEO gets 25 years for fleecing millions from Medicare".

"Democratic contenders appear timid or cagey"

"They may hold their noses while doing so, but business leaders are leaning toward backing Florida Gov. Rick Scott in his 2014 re-election bid."

Polls suggest Scott can be beaten on a broad set of issues. Yet on the topic of the Florida economy and jobs, where the business community's heart lies, Scott's message remains hyper-focused. The Sunshine State is a business-friendly, low-tax state. Join us.

That's a grossly superficial sales pitch given the woes of low-wage work and rising costs confronting Floridians. Yet business leaders increasingly say it still helps to have a governor so willing to pick up the phone and personally urge some distant executive to expand in Florida.

Besides, what's the alternative to Scott? More than a year before the election, Democratic contenders appear timid or cagey.

"Florida business community may back Scott in 2014, if only by default".

Rubio thinks he's "exceptional"

"American Exceptionalism: Marco Rubio Objects to Vladimir Putin's Views".

Never mind those back taxes

"Even though he has yet to win a seat in the Legislature, Blaise Ingoglia -- despite a glitch on his resume going in -- is poised to be one of the leading Republicans in the Florida House and should be a strong voice for conservatives in Tallahassee. . . . But that doesn’t mean he will automatically be a contender to become speaker after the 2020 elections despite, being uniquely on good terms with both the GOP establishment and the tea party. There have been questions about Ingoglia’s sales tactics and news broke earlier this year that he owed almost $12,000 in back taxes." "Blaise Ingoglia Ready to Rock the House".

"Bondi has taken superficiality to new heights"

The Tampa Bay Times' Sue Carlton writes that fellow local, "Attorney General Pam Bondi is now dealing with the fallout from that very bad decision [to wit: 'Execution rescheduled to accommodate Pam Bondi fundraiser'], one that does not exactly rebut cynical assumptions in some corners that Republicans care about campaign cash above all else. Or that those get-tough laws can be more about posturing than actually fixing where the justice system is broken."

And as has happened often since she was elected back in 2010, I find myself struck by the differences between Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general often in conservative lockstep with our disaster of a governor, and Pam Bondi From Here. . . .

Maybe those tea party politics were always in her heart, but she has become a stranger to some as attorney general, pledging on the campaign trail to oppose gay marriage, supporting an NRA challenge to a federal law restricting 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from buying handguns and, of course, fighting Obamacare.

"The two faces of Pam Bondi".

30 dead enders show up to see Scott

"Gov. Rick Scott continued his five-city "It's Your Money" tax cut tour Thursday at Raymond James Stadium, where he discussed ideas to cut $500 million in taxes and fees from next year's state budget. Scott touted economic progress in Florida and highlighted the Tampa Bay area to a group of about 30 people." "Gov. Rick Scott brings tax cut tour to Tampa".

Scott Maxwell is blunter: "Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has long been accused of being a lightweight — someone more interested in scoring TV time on 'Fox & Friends' than actually dispensing justice back home."

But Bondi has taken superficiality to new heights. Or perhaps depths.

Florida's top cop halted an execution — so that she could host a political fundraiser.

Basically, Bondi told the families of victims who had been grieving for 25 years that they needed to grieve another three weeks so she could break out the champagne flutes and rake in the campaign checks. . . .

You can't make this stuff up. Seriously, it would sound too stupid for fiction.

But not too stupid for Florida. . . .

I've seen way too many wrongful convictions, involving everything from faked evidence to botched prosecutions, to bet anybody's life on the system.

But here's the thing: Pam Bondi doesn't share my distaste for the death penalty. She loves it. She even boasts of sending two people to death row back during her days as a prosecutor.

Bondi not only wants to kill folks, she wants to kill 'em faster! That's why she's a supporter of the "Timely Justice Act" — so that the state can execute people more quickly.

Well … unless she has a party to attend.

Pam Bondi trivialized the most consequential action a government can take — ending someone's life.

Fortunately for Bondi, she's a Republican — and Florida's Democrats are so incompetent that they couldn't find their own rear ends if you spotted 'em both cheeks.

Still, Bondi will probably ultimately face someone — thanks partly to this episode.

The attack ad practically writes itself …

"Pam Bondi delays execution so she can party".

Budget blues

"Budget panel OKs economists' outlook; Negron still eyes license fees and tax breaks". See also "Surplus Projected, but Negron Cautious". Related: "K-12 Education Appropriations" and "State agencies must come up with 5 percent budget reductions this year as part of an exercise in their legislative budget requests, due out Oct. 15." See also "Despite surplus, agencies gear up for budget cutting exercise".

Charter school follies

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Keep the pressure on charter schools".

Another fine fundraiser

"Without explanation, Scott's re-election campaign on Tuesday abruptly called off a planned 'private gator hunt' in New Smyrna Beach on Oct. 18 for donors willing to pay $25,000 a head. The invitations said, 'Space is limited.' Word of the gubernatorial gator gambit quickly went viral on social media and prompted questions about how the state would issue permits for it, not to mention the imagery of Scott campaign donors stalking a reptile that, despite its menacing image, has long been an unofficial symbol of Florida." "After questions, Gov. Scott cancels $25,000 alligator hunt fundraiser".

"Maverick" laff riot

"On Thursday, Jeb Bush Jr., the namesake of the former governor and one of the heirs of one of the leading political dynasties in American history, was named to help lead the Florida effort of Maverick PAC (MavPAC), a Republican-aligned group looking to reach out to young voters." "Jeb Bush Jr., Slayter Bayliss Take Over MavPAC in Florida".

Big of him

"House Speaker Will Weatherford offered sympathetic points about people facing generational poverty Wednesday, saying it's harder than ever for Americans to lift themselves off society's bottom rung. But Weatherford remains as unconvinced as ever that accepting federal money to provide the state's poorest residents with Medicaid coverage is a way to help them live a better life." "Plight of the poor".

"Escalation of the state’s efforts to cripple healthcare reform act"

The Miami Herald editors: "Not content to turn away federal funds to expand Medicaid in Florida, state officials stepped up their fight against the Affordable Care Act this week by literally shutting the door on federally paid workers who can help the public figure out how to take advantage of the reform act’s benefits."

Deputy Health Secretary C. Meade Grigg on Monday ordered the 60 healthcare department directors across the state not to allow the outreach assistants known as “navigators” to assist the public at health department sites. The order amounts to an escalation of the state’s efforts to cripple implementation of the healthcare reform act. The latest action seems to say that not only will the state not cooperate, it will actively seek ways to undermine effective assistance to its own residents.

This outrageous and spiteful action will not prevent those who need help with healthcare insurance from getting it, but it will make it harder for them to do so. It represents a unilateral and shameful denial of service by the state to its own citizens.

The order was issued just days after a national study found that nearly 1 million Floridians — 995,000 — will fall into the Medicaid coverage gap because the state declined to accept federal funds totaling $51 billion over the next decade. Instead of provoking a compassionate reaction from state leaders, as it should, the disclosure only led to Mr. Grigg’s throw-’em-out order. How’s that for rubbing salt into the wound?

"Rubbing salt into the wound".

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Scott's campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act".

Teabagger games

" Roly Arrojo, a phony former Tea Party congressional candidate now under federal investigation, barely received any votes in 2010, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by Democrats quietly propping him up. A top former advisor of current U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, secretly orchestrated an Arrojo mailer during the campaign, a consultant recently told the FBI and Miami Herald. Garcia said he had no knowledge of the potentially unlawful activity to fraudulently disguise campaign spending." "DCCC mailers boosted faux Miami Tea Party candidate now under FBI investigation".

Lake O

"LBC OKs spending to divert Okeechobee discharges".

To replace Fasano

"If Bill Gunter is elected to the Florida House in a special election next month, he will bring a very different background to the Legislature. In the Republican primary on Tuesday, Gunter is a heavy favorite to defeat Republican leader Jim Mathieu and Jeromy Harding in the primary." "Bill Gunter in Good Shape for Primary, But Hard Work Starts in General Election".

Buying another Congressman

Nancy Smith wonders if "Miami-Dade and Broward counties buying themselves another congressman?" "Congressman Patrick Murphy's Out-of-District Largesse".

Waldman could seek state office

"Jim Waldman faces term limits in the House next year. But things are about to get interesting for this Coconut Creek Democrat, who could wind up running for state office or taking on Skip Campbell for a Florida Senate seat in 2016." "Jim Waldman Could Run for State Office or Face Skip Campbell in 2016".

West, Rubio: two Benghazi's in a pod

Wanna bet Rubio did not know where Benghazi was on a map a year ago: "Florida Republicans Hammer Obama on Benghazi".

Scott's tax cut has everything to do with his re-election campaign

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $500 million tax cut has everything to do with his re-election campaign and nothing to do with what's best for Floridians."

After years of deep cuts in spending and services, the key to Florida's future is reinvesting in its people instead of pursuing undefined tax cuts that do little to create jobs or improve the quality of life. • After a difficult period, most families reassess their needs when financial conditions improve. They finally fix the leaky roof, replace the old car or buy a new refrigerator. But Scott sees no value in making improvements when times are better. He wants to reject most of the $845 million extra the state is projecting to have in 2014-15 after paying for program growth and placing $1 billion in reserves. On Tuesday, he embarked on a statewide tour to scout for ideas on which state taxes and fees should be cut to return $500 million of the surplus. What he should be doing is reassessing where that money might be better spent:
"Scott needs to invest, not cut taxes".