Saturday, June 21, 2014

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

Florida's unemployment rises, Scott AWOL

"Florida unemployment rises slightly to 6.3 percent." See also "Unemployment Rate Creeps to 6.3 Percent."

Why did GOP consultants smuggle redistricting maps into the public process?

"As Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis begins his final deliberations on congressional districts drawn by lawmakers in 2012, the gaps in conversations among lawmakers and political consultants might be as important as what's in the record."

Groups challenging the map have painted the words not committed to paper, and documents destroyed by the Legislature, as evidence of improper activity. The state has countered that there's no proof that those gaps contain any damning information.
"One of the key disputes in the challenge hinges on a series of maps drawn by Republican political operatives, and the fact that some of those maps were submitted under someone else's name to a legislative website meant to gather public input."
"For nearly two weeks, plaintiffs presented evidence that various Republican consultants discussed the redistricting process, drew draft maps, and apparently worked to submit maps through the public process," attorneys for the Legislature wrote in a filing last week. "But plaintiffs offered no evidence that those consultants influenced the congressional map."

In a final brief filed Tuesday, though, lawyers for the voting-rights groups essentially asked: Why else would the political consultants spend time drawing those maps?

"Surely they would not have wasted their time on a complicated scheme of obtaining dozens of the Legislature’s confidential draft maps, drawing and revising countless maps of their own, and smuggling their maps into the public process unless they were confident their input would receive special attention from the Legislature," the brief said.

The two sides have also clashed over how Lewis should interpret the destruction of redistricting-related documents by lawmakers after the process was over. Legislators have said they were simply following the rules for retaining those documents -- and getting rid of them when the rules allowed.

"What's Missing Matters in Redistricting Trial."

Rubio's geopolitical stunner

In case you've been living in a cave, you should know that "'this ISIL group is an extremely dangerous group,' Rubio added." "Florida Delegation Weighs in on Military Options in Iraq." I believe that is called: stating the obvious.

One hopes Marco's insights into diplomatic strategy are a bit more sophisticated than his personal finances. Remember this gem:

Rubio owes far more on his $384,000 Miami home than it is worth. He bought the home in 2005 for $550,000 with a $495,000 mortgage. He soon had it appraised for $735,000 and took out a home equity line of credit for $135,000.

In 2008, despite earning a declared $400,000 - including his $300,000 salary from the Miami law firm Broad and Cassel - Rubio failed to pay down the principal on his home for several months, according to Florida campaign finance disclosures.

During the same period he did not pay down the balance of a $100,000-plus student loan from his days at the University of Miami, the disclosures said.

Rubio's spending habits also have gotten attention in Florida.

Before joining the Senate last year, his name surfaced in an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the Florida Republican Party's use of party-issued credit cards. He frequently had used his party credit card for personal use, and later reimbursed the card company for about $16,000.

Rubio's handling of his personal finances contrasts sharply with the image of him on his Senate website, which highlights Rubio's efforts to prevent Washington from "piling up debt."

"We need a government that stops spending more money than it takes in," the website says.

Rubio's financial issues have led Florida Democrats to cast him as a hypocrite.

"Marco Rubio . . . Financial Problems."

The mudfight begins

"Let’s Get to Work, a group tied to Gov. Rick Scott, unveiled a new television ad on Wednesday which will soon be run across the Sunshine State. The new ad focuses on former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, accusing him of raising tuition during his time as governor." "Even in Qualifying Week, Attacks Fly in Governor's Race."

Crist claims he's just a regular guy

"Charlie Crist is a millionaire, who made more than $700,000 last year, far more than he did in all four years he was Florida governor." "Charlie Crist insists his newfound wealth hasn’t changed him."

Meanwhile, "Florida Democrats Putting All Their Chips on Charlie Crist."

All this and no surprises

"Slate for statewide candidates finalized." See also "No Surprises in Gubernatorial and Cabinet Qualifying."

Weekly Roundup

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Arrivals and Departures, June 20, 2014" and "Weekly Roundup: All Signed Up and Nowhere To Go."

Dead people

"Florida man becomes 3rd executed in US in 24 hours."

Miami-Dade Republicans rally around Ted Cruz

"Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drew much applause during his speech at the Miami-Dade Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner." "Sen. Ted Cruz visits Miami as long-lost son."

Florida Supreme Court to decide on access to secret GOPer e-mails, maps and planning documents

"The trial challenging Florida’s newly drawn congressional map ended two weeks ago, and the judge could rule at any time on whether the revised district boundaries violate the law."

But a First District Court of Appeal opinion issued Thursday could jeopardize the use of 538 pages of confidential documents that were introduced as evidence.

The appeals court voted 5-4 that the Florida Supreme Court should decide whether the Leon County Circuit Court judge assigned to the case erred when he gave the plaintiffs in the case — a coalition of citizens’ groups — access to the secret e-mails, maps and planning documents held by political consultants to Republican legislators.

Now, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether it wants to take up the case. If it does, it could uphold or overturn Circuit Judge Terry Lewis’ initial ruling that the secret documents were admissible in court.

It is unclear how much these documents affect the larger case. Mark Herron, a lawyer for the coalition that includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and seven Democratic-leaning individuals, said the dispute about this evidence is just one aspect of the case. The Republican Party of Florida declined to comment.

"Latest dispute in redistricting case tossed to Supreme Court."

Old wine in new bottles

"The latest ad by Democrats is similar to those that ran in 2010 when Gov. Rick Scott first ran for the post." "Democrats’ first ad has old theme: Rick Scott and Medicare fraud."

Raw political courage

"A bill authorizing federal funds to fight algae outbreaks in Florida waters is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk, thanks to two legislators from the Sunshine State." "Bill Nelson and Bill Posey Team Up to Pass Bill Fighting Algae Outbreaks."

Ethics complaint against Scott

"In the complaint filed, a Broward County man alleges that Gov. Rick Scott’s past $135,000 investment in Schlumberger LTD., once held in a blind trust, is grounds for a broader investigation into the governor’s portfolio." "Ethics complaint alleges conflict of interest for Gov. Rick Scott."

"Crist has more than doubled his net worth"

"Since leaving the governor’s mansion in 2010, Democrat Charlie Crist has more than doubled his net worth, with much of the money coming from prestigious positions and consulting contracts he received from large political donors."

In 2010, Crist listed his net worth at $466,063, a number that has jumped to $1.2 million, according to financial disclosure forms he filed Tuesday when submitting his official paperwork to get on the ballot as a candidate for governor.
"In 2013, Crist, 57, made $296,722 from the firm, or roughly 40 percent of the $712,780 in total income he reported. Morgan, also a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama, has held fundraisers for Crist and is using his national network to raise millions of dollars from trial lawyers across the country."
Other sources of Crist’s income were more discreet.
"Top Crist campaign donors are also his employers."

Crenshaw's collateral attack on Affordable Healthcare

Kevin Derby: "From his perch as chairman of the congressional committee that oversees funding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw has become one of the Republicans’ point men in trying to cut the agency's funding, ensure it never targets political groups again and reduce its role in President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law."

Crenshaw also said the IRS should have less of a role in enacting Obama’s health-care law.

“I also continue to be concerned with the IRS's role in implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate in particular,” Crenshaw said. “At a time when the IRS has demonstrated little ability to either self-police or self-correct, the IRS has even more authority over Americans' health coverage. I find this expansion of IRS authority to be unacceptable and, therefore, the bill prohibits funding to implement the individual mandate and prohibits transfers from the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the IRS's implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

There is pushback in the Beltway, including a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which finds that the IRS has been understaffed and behind the times with technology after losing $1 billion in funding since 2010. According to the GAO, there have been consequences for taxpayers.

"Ander Crenshaw Leads the Charge to Gut the IRS."

"Florida defense industry is feeling squeeze"

"With the war in Iraq over, the war in Afghanistan winding down, and downward spending pressures on the Pentagon, the Florida defense industry is feeling the squeeze." "Defense spending in Florida down 20 percent since 2010."

Is Adeshina Legit?

"Tallahassee Republican Yinka Adeshina added her name to the list of competitors in the gubernatorial primary this week, but with her filing came bizarre campaign contribution reports where many donors apparently lived in empty fields, Publix stores, Western Unions and even a Best Buy."

Adeshina’s campaign contribution reports initially showed promise -- she had apparently raised $182,000, despite being virtually unheard of, which is even more money than former state Sen. Nan Rich has on hand. Newly-qualified Republican candidate Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder didn't even post as much in her finance reports -- she only collected $17,000 in contributions, $10,000 of which was in loans from herself.
"Not Much about 'Gubernatorial Hopeful' Yinka Adeshina's Campaign Reports Looks Legit."