Wednesday, June 25, 2014

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

Republicans demand TV refuse to run ad focusing on Scott pleading the 5th Amendment 75 times

"Florida Republicans are demanding that television stations refuse to run an ad by the Democratic Party that focuses on Gov. Rick Scott pleading the 5th Amendment in a 2000 deposition to avoid incriminating himself in a massive Medicare fraud investigation."

The ad says “when Scott was deposed in lawsuits about his company, he took the 5th 75 times ... refused to answer questions because if he had, he might admit to committing a crime.”

In a letter to television stations, the state GOP asks that they refuse to run the ad. The party calls the claim false because Scott’s deposition wasn’t about the Medicare fraud investigation but part of a civil lawsuit in which a health care billing company accused Columbia/HCA of breach of contract. Scott took the 5th Amendment in response to every question in the deposition except when he was asked his name, refusing even to say whether he ever worked for Columbia/HCA.

"Indeed, the civil case was not part of the Medicare fraud investigation. But Scott’s lawyer acknowledged in the deposition that his client was pleading the 5th because of the fraud investigation."
At the beginning of the deposition, Scott lawyer Steven Steinbach says, “because of the pendency of a number of criminal investigations relating to Columbia around the country, he’s going to follow my advice, out of prudence, (and) assert his constitutional privilege against giving testimony about himself.”

At one point during the deposition, the opposing lawyer asks Scott whether Columbia/HCA breached its contract with Nevada Communications Corp. “to cover up or obfuscate Columbia’s improper billing practices.”

Improper billing practices were the subject of the fraud investigation.

As with all the other questions, Scott cited the 5th Amendment and refused to answer.

"Ad Watch: GOP cries foul, but anti-Scott ad based in fact."

Bondi defending gay marriage ban

"Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will defend the state’s gay marriage ban in separate Miami-Dade County and Monroe County cases. Read more here:" "Attorney General Pam Bondi to defend Florida’s gay marriage ban in Miami-Dade, the Keys".

Crist's "Cuba fumble"

"Charlie Crist has scrapped plans to go to Cuba this summer, citing time demands in his campaign for governor and delays in getting federal permission to visit the island nation."

Crist’s about-face was immediately called a “flip-flop” by Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, and it follows a recent poll that showed his July plans were not popular with Cuban-American voters in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county. Crist said his decision not to visit Cuba had nothing to do with public opinion in Miami-Dade, where sentiment about Cuba is more intense than anywhere else in America.

Crist caused a major stir last month when he called for lifting the 1962 U.S. embargo against Cuba, a stance that is gaining popularity with Florida voters. But he went a bold step further and said he wanted to see conditions there first-hand.

Crist said he still supports an end to the embargo and said he’ll plan a visit to Cuba next spring if he wins the election. . . .

The poll of 305 Miami-Dade Cuban-American voters by Bendixen & Amandi International, taken June 3-5, showed that nearly one in four, or 24 percent, would be less likely to vote for Crist if he visited Cuba and 5 percent would be more likely to vote for him. For 67 percent of voters, it made no difference.

However, among Cubans, 42 percent said they would be less likely to vote for Crist if he visited Cuba. The sample’s margin of error was 4.6 percentage points.

“In my opinion, there was virtually no political upside for him to travel to Cuba,” said Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi, which has been polling Cuban-American voters for more than 35 years. “Charlie Crist could very well have been alienating Cuban voters who were otherwise predisposed to vote for him.”

The Bendixen & Amandi poll showed Crist is favored by 47 percent of county voters and Scott by 35 percent, with 18 percent undecided.

"Crist criticized for “flip-flop” after scrapping visit to Cuba." See also "Crist's Cuba fumble is latest change of direction."

Will Rubio run?

"A look at preparations by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for a potential 2016 presidential campaign:" "Marco Rubio: Checklist for potential 2016 presidential campaign."

GOPers run gubmint like a bidness

"A state employee said Monday she settled for nearly $250,000 in a whistleblower lawsuit after she was fired for reporting that her department improperly refers unemployment recipients — some of whom are dead or bankrupt — to debt collectors." "Whistleblower: Jobs agency went after money from dead, bankrupt." See also "Whistleblower: State steered jobless to debt collectors" and "State whistle-blower says Scott’s office didn’t help."

More of those best practices from the private sector: "Grand jury rips DCF for undercounting child deaths." But the Trib editors thinks Scott (who knows a thing ot two about fraud) is up to the task: "Help for an agency with an impossible job."

Rich runs determined grassroots campaign

"Underdog Nan Rich runs determined grassroots gubernatorial campaign".

New Friends

"Allison Tant Needs New Friends -- and New Candidates."

Primary games

Kevin Derby: "Steve Crisafulli Starts Shaping GOP Primaries as he Builds His Florida House."

"Historical revisionism by omission"

Marc Caputo writes that, it is "Too bad Florida International University’s latest poll, which showed Miami-Dade Cubans increasingly oppose the embargo of the island nation, didn’t ask respondents just two more questions:"

1. Do you favor lifting the embargo only if Cuba holds open and fair elections, releases political prisoners and allows for a free press and labor unions? . . .

Now that the erstwhile secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady is plugging her new book and publicly reversing her long-held positions on Cuba, her memory about the embargo, its effect and its history seem a little foggy.

“I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo,” Clinton writes in her book, Hard Choices. “It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.”

Putting aside the debate about the embargo’s effectiveness or fecklessness, just what did Clinton want Obama to “look at” and how? If she advocated that Obama try to lift the entire embargo, as reported elsewhere, it doesn’t make much sense.

Obama, or any president, can’t do it alone.

And Clinton can greatly credit one person for that: Bill Clinton, her husband.

As president, Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act in 1996 just after the Castro regime shot down the spotter planes of Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban-rafter aid group. Helms-Burton essentially “codified” the longstanding embargo by taking a series of executive orders, dating back to 1960, and making it federal law. . . .

Under Helms-Burton, the embargo would be lifted if Cuba held free and fair elections, frees political prisoners and allows for a free press and labor unions.

That’s why FIU, in its poll released last week, probably should have asked about this as well. Such a question would gauge the depth of support or opposition to the embargo once people were informed or reminded about its intent.

"Revising history, Hillary Clinton’s Cuba flip-flop not really a ‘Hard Choice’".

Good work if you can get it

"Broward’s Value Adjustment Board will consider a resolution Monday to give a lucrative no-bid contract to the father of County Commissioner Martin David Kiar."

Incumbent VAB legal counsel Monroe Kiar, who makes $225,000 a year, has asked the board to extend his contract for as long as five more years without having to endure any competition for the job.
"Broward tax-appeal board to vote on job for politically connected lawyer".

He won't get it in a brown paper bag

"The search for Florida State University's next president won't be sidetracked again for a powerful state politician -- or any other individual -- who wants the job, the new consultant said Tuesday." "John Thrasher, Others Won't Get 'Special Process' Under New FSU Consultant."