Sunday, August 17, 2014

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

About those "secret hunting trips"

"To say that Steve Crisafulli is comfortable working with the sugar industry is an understatement."

Crisafulli, who becomes the most powerful man in the Florida House of Representatives this fall, has been a major beneficiary of the state's sugar industry. During the last two election cycles, agricultural interests have contributed at least $200,000 to Rep. Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and his political action committees. U.S. Sugar contributed nearly half of that total, $94,500.

And now, through a spokesman, the House speaker-designate has confirmed that he took at least one secret hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas.

"The Times/Herald revealed last month that Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other Florida politicos took secret hunting trips to King Ranch that were orchestrated by and at least partially paid for by U.S. Sugar. The cost of lodging, travel and other items was funneled through the Republican Party of Florida, which said it was for fundraising."
Current law lets donors give unlimited contributions to parties and political committees, as long as the gift serves a vaguely defined "campaign purpose." Parties can then turn around and bestow the gifts on politicians who need not tell taxpayers what they received or who paid for it.

Last month, Crisafulli and current House Speaker Will Weatherford would not respond to questions about whether they went on the trips, too, although both received Texas hunting licenses. After the Times/Herald stories published, Weatherford acknowledged going.

"I went to King Ranch once in 2011, once in 2012 and once in 2013," Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a statement. "All three trips were Republican Party of Florida fundraisers. In those three years, I shot one deer. I personally paid for all costs associated with the mounting of the deer which my wife would not allow me to hang in our home."

Now Crisafulli, 43, has acknowledged going, too — although, as with Weatherford, Scott and Putnam, he would not say who accompanied him on the trip or what was discussed.

"With close ties to sugar, Florida's next House speaker admits taking King Ranch trip."

Jebbie critical to Scott’s chances

"Jeb Bush is lending his political star power to embattled Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is locked in a tight race for re-election in the nation’s largest swing-voting state."

Speaking at B&K Installations, a metals factory in this southern Miami-Dade County farming community, the former Florida governor and potential White House hopeful on Friday credited Scott with the state’s economic recovery, saying the incumbent Republican had created a “field of dreams” for Floridians looking to prosper after the recession. He also criticized Scott’s likely Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, as a craven opportunist. . . .

Seven years after leaving office, Bush remains one of the most popular politicians in Florida and a revered figure among many Republican voters, who will be critical to Scott’s chances in November.

"Jeb Bush stumps for Scott in Miami-Dade as Crist campaigns nearby."

FlaBagger follies

Matt Reed: "Port deal meets dumb U.S. politics."

"How to make a difference"

Joe Hendersonthinks you should "Give tea party credit for learning how to make a difference." I look forward to his column crediting those few in Hillsborough who have trod in the footsteps of Joseph Shoemaker, who, sadly, have yet to make much of a difference in Hillsborough County.

Crist's school bus tour

"Charlie Crist launched a statewide bus tour last week, aiming to turn heads in the state’s top media markets and convince voters of his commitment to public schools." "Charlie Crist boards school bus to tout his education record, bash Fla. Gov. Rick Scott’s."

You might call it "mediocre"

Bill Cotterell: "A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts and MacArthur Foundation says Florida state workers pay premiums that are not too high, not too low, but just about right. Similarly, what they get for their $50 or $180 a month is neither the best nor worst deal among state employees in all states (Pennsylvania for some reason didn’t respond to the survey)." "State-worker health care in the middle…."

Nelson next in line to chair Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

"Democrat Bill Nelson’s name won’t appear on the ballot, but he’s got a lot riding on this fall’s election. Florida’s senior senator is next in line to chair the influential Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. But he only gets the gavel if his party retains control of the Senate, an increasingly iffy scenario, according to several political handicappers who study congressional campaigns." "Senator Bill Nelson in line to lead critical panel."

Money rolls in

"With industries ranging from casinos to taxicabs looking to influence the Legislature, new reports offer a glimpse of the millions of dollars in fees that lobbying firms collected during the second quarter of the year. The reports, due before a Thursday night deadline, show that at least four lobbying firms collected $1 million or more in fees from April 1 to June 30 — a period that included the second half of the 60-day legislative session." "Lobbying firms collect millions during second quarter."

In case you wanted to know

The Rick Scott front group running robocalls attacking Crist has received "sizable contributions from Disney Worldwide Services, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Medical Association and Anheuser Busch Companies, according to Florida Division of Elections records." "Robocalls using Crist’s words from 2006 defended, assailed."

The best Yoho can do?

"The gloves have come off in the 3rd Congressional District primary race as the early voting period begins Saturday, with incumbent Rep. Ted Yoho and challenger Jake Rush continuing to attack each other’s conservative credentials."

Yoho’s camp recently sent out a mailer claiming that Rush comes from a family of longtime Democrats who have supported Democratic candidates, including Betty Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bill Nelson, and raised money for the Democratic National Committee.
"Early voting begins as Yoho-Rush attacks escalate." See also "Conservative Party of Florida does about-face, endorses Yoho."

Miami Herald endorses Crist

"The Herald recommends, for Governor, Democratic primary." This from the Sun Sentinel editors: "Charlie Crist flawed, but best choice for Democrats."

"Florida's fading River of Grass"

"An Everglades restoration progress report released Tuesday identifies signs of success as well as a long, expensive to-do list to save Florida's fading River of Grass. Florida and the federal government are in the midst of a decades-long, multibillion-dollar effort to protect what's left of the Everglades — unique wetlands that provide important animal habitat and also boost South Florida's water supply." "Everglades report shows restoration progress, needs"

"Scott-Crist confrontation one of most extraordinary in Florida history"

David R. Colburn, historian at the University of Florida, writes in the Tampa Bay Times that it is "apparent that Florida's gubernatorial contest will pit Republican Gov. Rick Scott against former Republican governor, now Democrat, Charlie Crist."

The Scott-Crist confrontation stands as one of most extraordinary in Florida political history. There has never been a gubernatorial contest in which two candidates had previously held the state's chief executive office, let alone one in which both had served as governor from the same party.
"So what do the candidacies of these two men tell us about our state and its politics today?"
The most obvious observation is that Florida voters do not really care if a candidate has lived in the state his or her entire life, because so many voters are relatively new to Florida themselves. Approximately one-fourth of the population (five million people) have relocated to Florida from another state or another country since 2000. Many of these voters believe that someone who has resided in the state for a short period is better positioned to understand their needs.

A second observation is that many Floridians do not appear terribly concerned about whether a candidate has remained true to one party or not. A significant number of Floridians, for example, are Blue Dog Democrats — they are registered Democrat but consistently vote Republican. Additionally, the largest group of newly registered voters during the past 20 years has been independents, in part because these residents do not value party labels.

A third observation is that today's voters do not seem to care whether a candidate's political values are deeply rooted or not. Crist's history certainly seems to underscore that point. On the one occasion that he ran an issue-oriented campaign against Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate seat in 1998, he was soundly defeated. While Scott has not shifted parties, he has changed his tune on funding for public schools, mass transit and Medicaid.

"Much more here: The looming electoral confrontation between Charlie Crist, left, and Rick Scott stands as one of most extraordinary in Florida political history. There has never been a gubernatorial contest like it. Colburn: What Scott vs. Crist tells us about Florida politics".