Sunday, October 05, 2014

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

Scott’s extraordinary "Batmasian bungle"

Carl Hiaasen points out that "at the time of Crist’s Rothstein infatuation, Rothstein’s reputation was intact and he hadn’t yet been implicated in any crimes." After all, as Hiaasen points out,

A politician would have to be nuts to take a campaign check from somebody after that person had been charged, convicted and sent away, right?

Yep — but it almost happened.

So, Hiaasen shifts his gaze to our current Governor:
Back in 2008, a big South Florida real-estate developer named James Batmasian went to federal prison for cheating the government out of $253,000 in unpaid taxes for his employees. . . .

Yet earlier this year, astoundingly, the bright bulbs who are running Scott’s re-election campaign decided it would be a swell idea for Batmasian to host a $10,000-per-ticket fundraiser for the governor.

The shindig was all set for June 6 at Batmasian’s very nice, very large house in Boca Raton.

Then [and only after] the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones published an online article about it, which tickled Democrats and elicited the following grim response from Scott’s office: “This event has been canceled.” . . .

Even in Florida, where crooks permeate politics, Scott’s Batmasian bungle is extraordinary. Either he didn’t know who the guy was, or he did know and just figured nobody would find out about their get-together.

Charlie Crist might be a little goofy and naïve, but during his four years as governor he never once planned a fundraising event at the home of a convicted felon.

"'Tis the season for sleazy ads."

Here's another one, but at least this guy was arrested after he held his Scott fundraiser: "Orlando hotelier Nik Patel, who was arrested Tuesday on fraud allegations, held a fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott at his home in Windermere in April."

Patel is accused by the FBI of lying about guarantees on $150 million in loans he sold. Patel’s attorney has denied the allegations.

State records show Patel also donated $100,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in April.

"Businessman Nik Patel held Rick Scott fundraiser at home." Background: "Legal trouble grows for hotelier Nik Patel."

Update: "Rick Scott and Republicans will donate Nik Patel contributions."

Myths die hard

Matt Dixon: "With up to 13 percent of Florida’s electorate made up of Hispanic voters, most of whom lean Democratic, ovations from candidates on immigration and other issues are inevitable. And because the largest portion of Florida’s Hispanic population — roughly 30 percent — is Republican-leaning Cubans, it also presents a sometimes complex set of political land mines unseen in other states." "Hispanic voters a key to election."

The Cubans=GOP meme is more of a myth than Dixon acknowledges: "The Republican party is losing support among U.S. Cubans as a growing number are shifting their support toward Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released [in June of 2014]. Less than half (47 percent) of Cuban registered voters nationwide identified or were leaning toward the Republican Party, compared to 64 percent ten years ago. Meanwhile, the share of U.S. Cubans leaning or identifying with Democrats climbed doubled from 22 percent to 44 percent." "More U.S. Cubans Are Shifting To Democratic Party."

If anything, then, this strong Democratic trend among Florida Cubans (which mirrors what happened in Tampa a generation earlier), together with their high turnout rate, is slowly becoming a strength for FlaDem candidates.

Weekly Roundup

"With Gov. Rick Scott, the entire Cabinet and many of the state’s 160 lawmakers out on the stump campaigning for re-election, the news about government in Florida has largely moved elsewhere. There’s some work being done by the courts, which, at least in theory, comprise the least political branch. And the Public Service Commission, with members whose jobs are only indirectly on the line this fall, is still keeping an eye on utilities."

"But even those tasks seem to be infused with campaign implications in an overly political season. A lawsuit against the state’s voucher system could cause some headaches for former Gov. Charlie Crist, whose base is divided over the issue. And politicians are sensitive to any PSC decision that could hit consumers — also known as voters — in the wallet." "Weekly Roundup: Redistricting Fight Continues, Utility Customers Bilked Again, DCF’s Woes."

"Another twist to Florida's often bizarre politics"

"Crist's Democratic campaign for governor after a lifetime spent building up the state GOP establishment adds another twist to Florida's often bizarre politics, but the candidate insists there is really nothing that strange about his evolution." "Crist insists his message is ‘genuine’."

Scott does not report all his assets in his state disclosure forms

The Miami Herald: "Documents show that Gov. Rick Scott divides his assets into multiple accounts, but does not report it all in his state disclosure forms."

Mary Ellen Klas and Marc Caputo report in a lengthy article today that "Scott’s decisions raise questions about the accuracy and completeness of his financial disclosures as well as the governor’s role in managing his vast personal fortune."

The governor, for instance, does not disclose the entire value of assets that reside in different trust and partnership accounts and for which he’s listed in federal records as the “beneficial owner,” according to an extensive Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review of hundreds of federal and state documents filed in Florida, Washington, Connecticut, Texas, Nevada and Illinois.
"The documents also show:"
-Information about Scott’s income and investments provided on state disclosure forms differ from financial information he furnished to the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

- The various Scott family investment trusts and partnerships often act in tandem with his blind trust and involve Scott’s long-time financial advisors — raising questions about how independent the trust is from the governor.

- Between 2009 and 2013, the income reported on the governor’s state financial disclosure and the income reported to the IRS differed each year, fluctuating as much as $41 million in a single year.

- Scott’s call for more transparency from his campaign opponent has not extended to all of the trusts and family partnerships from which he and his household have profited.

- Though he says he’s “blind” to his trust, he has signed off on transactions involving some of its assets in recent SEC reports.

- Taken together, the trail of documents and financial instruments indicate Scott’s net worth for 2013 could be far higher than the $132.7 million he reported.

- The Herald/Times asked to be briefed by the governor’s tax and investment advisers but were denied an interview. Earlier this week, the newspapers then supplied detailed written questions, as well as copies of related documents, to the governor’s lawyers. General Counsel Pete Antonacci said they distributed the questions to the financial experts but were unable to provide a response by the end of the day on Friday.

- For nearly 40 years, the Florida Constitution has required state elected officials to annually make a “full and public disclosure of financial interests [via] a sworn statement showing net worth and identifying each asset and liability in excess of $1,000.”

- But Scott has disclosed only a portion of his assets, in part because of the new state blind trust law that he signed, which is now being challenged in court.

Much more here: "Gov. Rick Scott’s complex finances raise new questions about his state disclosure."

Amendment 1

"This year, the state has raised $44 million for conservation purchases through the sale of non-conservation surplus lands. Still, that's not close to approaching previous levels. In November's election, a statewide coalition of environmentalists seeks to change that with Florida's Water and Land Legacy, a constitutional amendment mandating that the state put 33 percent of the revenues raised from its document stamp tax into its land acquisition trust fund each year for 20 years." "Amendment 1 could have major impact on local conservation efforts."

Trib feigns balance in advance of their Scott endorsement

The Tampa Tribune's Tom Jackson: "Scott has track record of reliable performance." Joe Henderson: "Crist’s record shows willingness to make tough choices."

"Rambling and incoherent"

Political consultant, and campaign manager for United for Care, Ben Pollara skewers Barney Bishop’s column in opposition to Amendment 2 "as rambling and incoherent as it was wrong." He writes that

One might suspect he’s gotten his hands on some of this “high THC” weed he’s so terrified about. I generally do the sensible thing and ignore Bishop’s paranoid screeds, but his latest missive not only contains the usual false arguments but also states that I (and this campaign) have not addressed those false arguments. I have. We have. Again and again and again. But here’s to you, Barney! One more time.
See what Pollara has to say here: "One More Time: What Opponents of Amendment 2 on Medical Pot Get Wrong."

Lindsey Graham disses Rubio

"Marco Rubio’s presidential ambitions could run into a big obstacle offered by a close ally of the senator from Florida. Lindsey Graham told the Weekly Standard this week that he will seriously look at running for the Republican presidential nomination if, as expected, he keeps his Senate seat in November. Graham also dismissed Rubio as a presidential possibility, saying he was too inexperienced and too afraid of conservatives to sit in the White House." "Lindsey Graham Could Ruin Marco Rubio's Plans for 2016."

"NRA never lets facts get in the way"

Scott Maxwell writes that the NRA claims that "electing Charlie Crist will lead to dead women and babies everywhere, according to the NRA."

The notion of Crist as anti-gun is pretty laughable. Don't take it from me. Take it from the NRA — the group that gave him A and even A-plus ratings back when he was in office.

But the NRA has never let facts get in the way of a good narrative. And now that Crist is going up against new NRA darling Rick Scott, its firing fiction with both barrels.

There are actually a couple of policy differences between Crist and the NRA. For instance, Crist has expressed concerns about high-capacity magazines and the importance of background checks.

But he has never supported taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns — or voted for anything that would harm this woman and her child. And the NRA knows it.

The NRA also knows most Americans agree with Crist on things such as background checks. So instead of sticking with the facts, the NRA relied on fiction and fear-mongering.

And just to show that he is balanced and all that, Maxwell also chastises Dems for "stretching the facts — and flat-out fictionalizing quotes" in a local race. "Bogus claims from NRA, Democrats set off Malarkey Meter."