Sunday, January 25, 2015

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

Jeb apparently "presided over bogus accounting statements and fictional business deals"

The Tampa Bay Times reports that "Jeb Bush was out of the Florida governor's mansion for less than a year when he signed a $15,000-a-month consulting deal with InnoVida, a Miami start-up promising to revolutionize affordable housing with remarkably sturdy and lightweight building panels."

But InnoVida never delivered. Instead, the company crashed amid bankruptcy and fraud investigations that ultimately landed its charming CEO, Claudio Osorio, in federal prison for nearly 13 years.

A bankruptcy trustee went after Bush's fees, and in 2013 the former two-term governor agreed to pay back more than half of the $470,000 he collected as a consultant between late 2007 and the fall of 2010.

Bush, who also served on InnoVida's board, was never accused of wrongdoing in Osorio's Ponzi-like swindle that prosecutors said netted him and other co-conspirators about $50 million. But InnoVida occupies noteworthy real estate in the broad landscape of Bush's business dealings, since it's the only one to have ended in the kind of full-blown scandal that occurs when a CEO is led away in handcuffs.

InnoVida's salacious finale is drawing renewed attention as Bush readies for a presidential run. The Republican touting the power of free enterprise in his "Right to Rise" campaign served on a corporate board that presided over a venture fraught with bogus accounting statements and fictional business deals.

"Miami attorney Linda Worton Jackson, who has represented InnoVida creditors in the bankruptcy case, faulted the board of directors for lacking leadership, failing to properly oversee Osorio, and missing warning signs as he dodged questions and provided evasive answers about the company's finances."
"When someone as prominent as Jeb Bush lends his name to a company, it gives the creditors a level of false security," Jackson told the Miami Herald. "Creditors assume that he is scrutinizing the company rather than receiving stock and money for simply ratifying each decision by Osorio. This is precisely the reason con artists encourage prominent people to be a part of the fraudulent company."

A Bush spokeswoman said the former governor had concerns "toward the end of the relationship" about InnoVida's governance and financial disclosures and took action in 2010 once he realized there was a severe problem at the company. She noted his settlement with the bankruptcy trustee includes language praising his assistance.

"Out of public life since January 2007, Bush's private-sector dealings with InnoVida and other companies are now often cited as a potential political vulnerability."
He served five years as a director of Swisher Hygiene, overlapping with a time when the Charlotte-based seller of sanitary supplies issued faulty earnings reports that later had to be restated. Lehman Brothers hired Bush as a consultant in 2007 as the investment bank was heading toward a stunning 2008 bankruptcy that contributed to the global financial crisis.

His former board seat at Tenet Healthcare left Bush with stock holdings valued at $2.4 million last year, equity boosted by the company's profits under the Affordable Care Act — the signature Obama administration program that Bush continues to slam.

The rise and fall of Osorio's InnoVida is a classic Miami tale of a connected con man with famous friends, a ritzy waterfront house and a smooth sales pitch. There was also a complex web of corporations and subsidiaries that spanned the globe. Bush signed a finders-fee deal with an InnoVida entity in the Cayman Islands, and said he flew to Dubai to inspect the company's outpost there.

Much more here: "At InnoVida, the CEO hired Jeb Bush and went to prison." Meanwhile, "Jeb Bush tests a stump speech in San Francisco."

Its an old story, here's a St. Pete Times article from 1998: "Jeb Bush: Make the money and run" - "Bush's hurried quest for financial success also reveals a naive reliance on his benefactors and a lack of scrutiny of those around him. He tapped his father's Washington connections to recruit help for some questionable businessmen, including one felon who remains a fugitive wanted by the FBI. He embraced business deals that have prompted lawsuits alleging mismanagement, stock manipulation and special treatment." To which we say, Run Jeb! Run!

Even (some) wingers get it

"It may surprise you to discover a growing number of social conservatives and libertarians are questioning the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values."

A bit late to the game, wingers are recognizing that the

"DNA era has given us irrefutable proof that our criminal justice system sentences innocent people to die. Evidence we once thought reliable, like eyewitness identification, is not always accurate. DNA evidence has led to hundreds of exonerations, but it isn’t available in most cases.
"Group Claims Capital Punishment Is Anti-Conservative and Bad in Florida."

Cuba negotiations heat up

"Follow [the Herald's] tweets as Roberta S. Jacobson, America's top diplomat for Latin America, offers her assessment of negotiations with Cuban officials." "Exclusive: Senior U.S. diplomat, back from Havana, offers insight on Cuba relations."

Weekly Roundup

Brandon Larrabee News Service of Florida: "Weekly Roundup: Trying to Change the Subject."


"A Land O’Lakes man filed a formal complaint with the FBI asking for an investigation into a series of claims made last week by Gerald Bailey, whom Gov. Rick Scott ousted as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement." "Calls for FDLE investigations grow as Gov. Rick Scott continues to avoid questions."

Big of him

"The head of an important legislative committee and his entourage dropped in on two Florida prisons Thursday. Some of what he saw disturbed him." "Florida lawmaker drops in on prisons, finds problems."

Distrusting Scott

The Sarasota Herald tribune editors: "In Florida's unique government, three officials and the governor -- all elected statewide -- share power on the Cabinet. That power-sharing arrangement is the most compelling reason for Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to grill Gov. Rick Scott over the departure of Gerald Bailey from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement."

Atwater, Putnam and Bondi -- all of whom have further political ambitions -- should ask their staffs to determine whether Scott's office did, in fact, share the governor's intentions.

Also, the Cabinet members ought to explain why they went along with appointing Swearingen without asking many questions.

In any case, Scott owes the Cabinet and the public a thorough explanation of what transpired and why he recommended Swearingen, the insider.

What's more, although Scott's office has denied the allegations, some independent organization should investigate Bailey's assertions that former executive office aides asked him to target -- without evidence -- a local official in order to find scapegoats for the escape of state prisoners. In addition, reports of Republican Party funds being directed to the FDLE, which then sent them to the general fund, should be examined as well.

Florida's Cabinet system has its roots in historic distrust of an all-powerful executive. Scott's handling of Bailey's departure and his office's interactions with the FDLE underscore the reasons for that distrust.

"Trouble in the Cabinet."

"Jeb!" eyes 2016

"In his first public event since taking steps toward a presidential run, Jeb Bush on Friday called on political leaders to overhaul the country's immigration and education systems, increase job training programs and ease energy regulations to spur economic growth." "Eyeing 2016, Jeb Bush signals focus on middle class."

Bits and Pieces

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces."

Condoleezza and Jeb, truly a fine pair

"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday tapped former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to serve as chairman of his education foundation, turning over the organization to the former diplomat and academic who remains popular inside the Republican Party." "Condoleezza Rice taking over Jeb Bush's education foundation."

"3 1/2 Minutes"

"A documentary about the case of a Jacksonville teenager fatally shot by a white man after an argument over loud music is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival."

The film "3 1/2 Minutes" will air Saturday at the well-known festival in Utah.

The documentary comes after the recent first-degree conviction of 48-year-old Michael Dunn for the November 2012 slaying of Jordan Davis.

"Documentary about Florida loud music killing to premiere at Sundance."