Saturday, March 08, 2014

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

Florida's conservative "bad girl" nabbed in Nicaragua

The self-styled conservative "bad girl," Ana Alliegro, "the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested and informally extradited Friday from Nicaragua to Miami, where a federal grand jury charged her in a four-count indictment for her alleged role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman."

She will be locked up in a federal detention center until her first court appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White.

Alliegro had fled to Nicaragua in 2012 as the FBI began investigating her and Rivera in a scheme to steer and conceal $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a no-name congressional candidate, who appeared to be doing Rivera’s political dirty work. That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign-finance laws and lying about it.

Now, the 44-year-old Alliegro faces charges of helping Sternad make false statements on his campaign reports and of making illegal contributions well in excess of federal campaign limits. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Rivera has not been charged. Neither Alliegro nor Rivera, who have long denied wrongdoing, could be reached for comment.

The indictment against Alliegro lists unnamed co-conspirators.

"Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera's pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme". See also "" and "".

"CD13 campaigns go low profile"

"Anyone hoping David Jolly or Alex Sink would be out shaking hands and kissing babies on the last day of the last full week before election day was probably disappointed Friday. The Republican and the Democrat, respectively, kept noticeably low profiles heading into the final weekend before the as-yet unnervingly close race is decided on Tuesday, though the nasty messages flying to and fro between the camps continue uninterrupted." "District 13 campaigns go low profile".

Meanwhile, "John Boehner and GOP Leadership Try to Counter Bill Clinton in CD 13".

Grayson cleared

"Sheriff will not pursue case against Grayson".

Weekly Roundup

Kevin Derby's "Political Bits and Pieces". See also "Weekly Roundup: Few Surprises in Session's First Week" and "Week in Review for March 7, 2014".

"A prelude to new drilling"

The Miami Herald editors: "The U.S. Interior Department is about to open up a portion of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration after shutting that door in the 1980s."

While there is a ban on actual drilling in the Atlantic until 2017, Interior’s move is clearly a prelude to new drilling, which is troubling in light of the Obama administration’s admirable efforts to reduce fossil-fuel consumption to combat climate change.

Florida fought hard for that drilling moratorium, and it should fight Interior’s new survey plan, too. The Eastern Seaboard area to be opened to seismic surveys for oil and gas ranges from Delaware to Cape Canaveral. Environmental groups are opposed, saying the testing, which involves underwater explosions, will harm sea life, particularly whales and dolphins. The intense noise of the explosions could kill them, the opponents say. Compressed air guns creating repeated bursts of sound as loud as a howitzer are used beneath the sea, often for long periods of time.

But the jury is out on just how injurious the blasting is for dolphins and whales. Scientists disagree on whether the loud, repetitive underwater noises are lethal, but most do agree that the blasts could alter sea mammals’ long-term behavior, affecting their migration patterns, mating habits and even how they communicate with each other. There are 34 species of whales and dolphins, including six whale species that are endangered, in the proposed survey area.

"Don’t drill, baby!".

Remember him?

"Republicans from Florida made the case to delay the individual mandate this week, including [] U.S. Rep. Bill Posey. R-Fla.," ... you remember, the guy whose "grandma, allegedly, [had relations with] an alligator." "Florida Delegation Continues to Disagree on Obamacare". Meanwhile, "Obama Heads to Florida as GOP Pounds him for Sending Medicare Funds to Obamacare".

Tuff talker

"Rubio wants U.S. attention on Venezuela crisis".

AIF flexes

"The bill has support from statewide groups including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Florida Forestry Association. Opponents include Martin, Alachua and Lee counties, the Florida League of Cities, 1000 Friends of Florida and several environmental groups." "Critics: Proposal undermines 2011 law encouraging locals to make growth decisions".

Voucher Madness

"A sweeping overhaul of the state's de facto school-voucher system was approved Thursday by a House subcommittee on a party-line vote, a sign of the friction the proposal could cause as it moves through the Legislature." "Voucher Bill Gets Backing in Party-Line Vote".

"A million miles from Medicaid"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's lawmaking session is early, but the odds are long the state will join half the nation that has embraced President Barack Obama's optional expansion of Medicaid. "

That means debates will live on over how to deal with nearly one-in-five Floridians without health insurance long after the federal Affordable Care Act is implemented, and nearly 1 million people are left living in the "doughnut hole."

In the first week, Florida looked a million miles away.

One day, a cadre of volunteers held signs outside the Florida House chamber reading "Say Yes for Business! Say Yes for $51 billion!"

But on another, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was standing on the Capitol steps rallying a crowd of Americans for Prosperity activists, asking if they were glad the Legislature refused to take the Medicaid deal last year.

"Florida is a million miles from Medicaid expansion".