Monday, June 02, 2014

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

"Sometimes it takes a redistricting lawsuit"

Marc Caputo writes that: "Sometimes it takes a simple redistricting lawsuit to show us the funny side of the state Capitol."

Redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing congressional and legislative boundaries, isn’t something that’s the stuff of big laughs.

But the lawsuit accusing legislative leaders of improperly drawing some congressional districts — chiefly for Republican gain — has dug up enough evidence to show that politicians’ talk about government in the sunshine is a big joke.

“It was an extremely open and transparent process,” Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, after giving testimony in the redistricting lawsuit, deadpanned to reporters.

Too bad he wasn’t intentionally self-mocking. . . .

The lawsuit shows that Weatherford and his counterpart, current Senate President Don Gaetz, met out of the public eye to work out differences in the redistricting maps. But Gaetz said in court that it wasn’t really a closed meeting.

“The door was open,” said Gaetz.

Oh, yes. So many open doors. Ha. Ha.

"Both men say they resisted the temptation to mix their public and partisan duties."
The lawsuit shows that they, their staffs and their lobbyist-operative friends sure had a lot of contact."

There were numerous private meetings between lawmakers, staffers, state and national GOP consultants and lobbyist go-betweens. House and Senate staffers were assigned to meet privately to work out arrangements.

Emails that could have been used in the case were destroyed.

A top Republican consultant, Pat Bainter, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to shield his emails, saying they’re trade secrets and that the lawsuit infringes his First Amendment rights. Before evidence involving Bainter’s emails is mentioned in court, the press and public are escorted from the room so the hearing can be in . . . secret.

In another instance, a top House staffer gave a Republican consultant and lobbyist a flash drive of maps two weeks before they became public.

A third Republican operative had one of the top minds at the Republican Party of Florida draw up a congressional map. Then identical elements of that map were offered in the name of Alex Posada, an FSU college Republican who also spoke at a 2011 public meeting. . . .

Now out of college, Posada said in a sworn deposition that he doesn’t remember much and that he never submitted any maps. Who did? How did the maps go from a party official to a consultant to someone who falsely used Posada’s identity?

No one knows or is saying. Or maybe they know and they’re just fooling around.

Joke’s on us.

"Now that there’s a redistricting lawsuit, who’s laughing?."

SoFla Bacon

"Miami-Dade County has the most money on the line among Florida's counties as Gov. Rick Scott decides what to veto from a record election-year budget." "Miami-Dade Easily Brings Home Most Money in Budget".

F.S. Koch-U.

"Florida State University is under fire for accepting funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation." "Florida State University Koch Grant Supports Free Enterprise; Critics Cry Foul".

"Funny things happen when politicians switch parties"

"Funny things happen when politicians switch parties – former adversaries become allies and vice versa."

Case in point: Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party in 2012 ahead of his bid to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion this year, and Rick Minor, who joined the Crist campaign late last month as its new policy director.

Minor, former chief of staff to Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, served several years in the mid-2000s as chair of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee. His duties included helping Democrats get elected and, from time to time, making trouble for Republicans.

In 2006, according to media reports, Minor filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission over a $1-million donation from the Republican Governors Association to the Republican Party of Florida. Minor alleged that the money had been earmarked for Crist in violation of state law. Crist was the Republican attorney general at the time and running for governor.

RPOF officials said the money was given to the party, not Crist, and that it would be used for get-out-the-vote efforts.

Nothing came of the complaint – the Elections Commission tossed it out for legal insufficiency. . . .

Susan Hepworth, communications director for the RPOF, said the hiring was part of a “pattern of desperation” from the Crist campaign.

"Old election complaint didn’t stop former Gov. Charlie Crist from hiring Rick Minor".

Few incumbents face tests this year

"Close to half of this year’s state legislative races are no races at all, with incumbent lawmakers in those districts running unopposed for re-election." "Many Florida incumbents safe, but few face tests this year".

Lobbyist Luv

"Nestled away in Tallahassee is Metz, Husband & Daughton. Since 1999, the lobbying group has established a reputation of providing, ranking them No. 10 on Sunshine State News' Top Lobbying Firms in Florida." "Political, Business Connections Fuel Metz, Husband & Daughton's Success".

Are "deals are being prearranged for photo ops"?

"The state’s chief business recruiter peddles the presence of the governor as opening doors for Florida businesses during past international trade missions."

However, as Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election effort moves deeper into campaign mode, the much-traveled governor isn’t penciled in to join any foreign trade missions this year. . . .

Florida Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope, who is also the president and chief executive officer of Enterprise Florida, highlighted the impact of Scott on trade missions during the agency’s board of directors meeting Thursday at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach.

“You’ve seen our boss, the chairman of this board, go in there, open the door from the leadership of the countries that we’re in, to the business leadership, and introduce Florida products to that market, and it’s been successful,” Swoope said. Enterprise Florida claims the Scott led-trips — to Panama, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Chile, France and Japan — have resulted in sales topping $474 million for the companies that have participated in the missions.

Such numbers, however, remain suspect to some.

Dan Krassner, executive director of the nonpartisan group Integrity Florida, continues to push for better public accounting from Enterprise Florida, which has its expenses covered by private and public dollars.

“The public might be suspicious that deals are being prearranged for photo ops rather than put together by state officials,” Krassner said. “If there was more transparency about how the public’s money is being spent to increase trade, then the costs and benefits could be better understood.”

"Foreign trade missions absent from Scott’s 2014…"

Water wars

"A group representing a wide range of interests in the dispute among Florida, Georgia and Alabama over a shared river system said the quest for a solution has been slowed by Florida’s latest lawsuit in the so-called 'water wars.'" "Water Plan Moves Closer Despite Florida Lawsuit."

Sachs, Bogdanoff Rematch?

"Ellyn Bogdanoff is thinking of returning to Tallahassee and, if she runs, her rematch with Maria Sachs becomes one of the most competitive legislative races in Florida. " "Rematch With Maria Sachs for Ellyn Bogdanoff?".

Dems fail to find a candidate two months after nearly winning congressional seat

"Question: What do you call a third-party candidate who suddenly finds himself in a two-man race?"

Answer: Legit.

And for this Lucas Overby should blow kisses to local Democrats. They not only did a spectacular job of bungling the Congressional District 13 race for themselves, but they opened the door for Overby, who hadn't planned on running.

Of course, this doesn't mean the Libertarian candidate will overtake Republican incumbent David Jolly in November. I'm guessing the unofficial odds would fall somewhere between remote and zilch.

But won't it be interesting to watch the mating dance between Overby and Democrats in the coming months?

This, of course, will preclude local liberals from voting for one of their own, but it doesn't mean a lot of them won't still show up just to stick it to the Republicans. . . .

Considering Sink and her supporters couldn't beat Jolly while spending $6 million, it's nutty to think Overby can win on a shoestring budget.

Almost as nutty as Democrats failing to find a candidate two months after nearly winning a congressional seat.

"Democrats' blunders open door to Libertarian facing David Jolly".