Saturday, July 26, 2014

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Also, you should consider giving newspaper subscriptions as gifts and/or buying one or more subscriptions for your workplace. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Free hunting trips? Scott's not talking

Short version: "Lawmakers can't accept free meals, drinks and trips from donors, but a loophole allows parties and political committees to do so. They can then pass on these gifts without detailing who gives or receives them — as long as the donation can be considered for a 'campaign purpose.'" "Fla GOP officials enjoy sugar industry ranch trips."

More detail: "On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida’s power elite."

As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America’s premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida’s sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses.

Scott won’t answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch “in support of his political fundraising efforts.”

Also keeping mum: state House leaders who have accepted similar trips in the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.

Much, much more here: "Why won't Florida GOP leaders talk about trips to King Ranch in Texas?."

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

"HUD says Hillsborough gave housing money to rich."

Chamber hacks in a dither: Floridians favor limits on carbon pollution

"A majority of Florida voters polled say the favor limits on carbon pollution from power plants." "Florida poll: More than 7 in 10 voters concerned about climate change, back EPA action plan."

Posey can't shake alligator rumors

"Bill Posey Shows No Signs of Slowing Down," even in the face of those "alligator rumors."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Different Speeds for Justice, Politics." See also "Arrivals and Departures, July 25, 2014."

Nancy speaks

Nancy Smith wants you to know that the "IRS is investigating a real complaint from a real person close to Charlie Crist's real Democratic lieutenant governor select. Just because I kept the complainant's name out of the story doesn't mean the complaint was anonymous. I have a copy of it, I talked with the individual who filed it."

"Since You Brought It Up, St. Peter ...."

Background: "IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related, Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo."

"Backroom Briefing"

"Backroom Briefing: David Jolly Under Fire; Jeff Atwater Defends State's Honor."

"Politics dominate Florida Supreme Court"

Martin Dyckman: "Scott letting politics dominate Florida Supreme Court" (subscription required).

"The public is still being kept in the dark"

The Gainesville Sun editors: "A Leon County judge found that Republican lawmakers and consultants 'made a mockery' out of a redistricting process that was supposed to be open and transparent."

Yet even though Judge Terry Lewis struck down two congressional districts with his decision this month, the public is still being kept in the dark about the process in which those districts were drawn.

The public and media were barred from the courtroom during the presentation of a key piece of evidence, which remains under seal: hundreds of pages of documents from GOP consultant Pat Bainter of the Gainesville firm Data Targeting.

Now the First Amendment Foundation and a coalition of news organizations including the Halifax Media Group, owner of The [Gainesville] Sun, are pressing for the records to be released. The Florida Supreme Court should do so to allow the public to better understand Lewis’ ruling.

"Release the records."

Just what we need . . . more "Businessmen"

"Businessmen face off in GOP House primary."

"A 36-page ruling filled with soaring language"

"A Miami-Dade judge on Friday overturned Florida's gay marriage ban, the second judge in as many weeks to make that historic ruling. In a 36-page ruling filled with soaring language, Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel concluded that the ban, added to Florida's constitution by voters in 2008, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution." "Miami-Dade judge finds gay marriage ban in Florida unconstitutional."

Rubio laff riot

Jeff Henderson: "Marco Rubio Goes Right on Social Issues." See also "Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton Exchange Shots as Both Look Ahead to 2016."

So much for that

"A Leon County judge said he was unsure he could redraw the state’s congressional map before the election." "Judge skeptical about changes to Florida congressional districts before election." See also "Judge 'skeptical' he can delay election with unconstitutional map."

"Greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience"

Aaron Deslatte: "A page-turning chapter in Florida's gubernatorial campaign reads like an entertaining bit of beach-time crime fiction. But its implications are stark for taxpayers who assume that state stewards of their dollars take the job seriously."

Gov. Rick Scott's office is suing over a failed jobs project from former Gov. Charlie Crist's past, which "had the makings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster: greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience willing to suspend belief."

The lawsuit's author is William Scherer, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who was lead counsel for the victims of Scott Rothstein's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Scherer's vivid lawsuit has sections titled "The Color of Money" and "Death of a Salesman."

The suit seeking to get the state's money back argues that the now-famous Digital Domain deal was an $82 million scam that duped Crist and lawmakers into overlooking red flags and giving Digital's architects "free money" to pay off their personal liabilities in California.

Crist's campaign has called the lawsuit against the defunct company and a litany of investors "a stunt" launched by a Scott supporter. Scherer admits he's a political ally of the governor's — just as he was once a Crist ally when Crist was a Republican.

"Crist's Digital Domain deal becomes lawsuit by Scott."

HD 49

"House 49 race pits 'Robocop' versus 'Coach P'."

"Bareknuckle governor’s race"

"In Florida’s bareknuckle governor’s race, it’s as if the 2010 campaign season never ended."

The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday announced a digital media effort to highlight a sealed deposition that damaged Rick Scott on the campaign trail four years ago.

At the same time, the Republican Party of Florida took to Twitter and mockingly marked Charlie Crist’s birthday by featuring a photo of the Democrat blowing out birthday candles with convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein — a relationship that haunted the then-governor in his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

The state GOP also filed elections complaints Thursday that accused Crist of using the recent tour promoting his book — which revolves around his 2010 race — to help circumvent campaign-finance laws. Earlier this week, a batch of election-year complaints against Crist and Scott were rejected as baseless. The back-and-forth slugfest, which has led to $22 million in TV ads so far and a neck-and-neck race, promises only to intensify as each side tries to make the other guy look like a secretive crook.

Democrats said they’ll reinforce the narrative with the launch of a new anti-Scott website, A video, featured on the website, would play as commercials on YouTube.

"From secret Rick Scott deposition to Charlie Crist’s tie to Ponzi schemer, Florida governor’s race has more ‘mudslinging’."

More: "Florida Democrats launch release the deposition website."