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July 07, 2015

WaPo: Immigrant workers at Donald Trump hotel site say most of them are Hispanic - and many arrived illegally

From the Washington Post:

For weeks, dozens of construction workers from Latin America have streamed onto the site of the Old Post Office Pavilion in downtown Washington and taken pride in their work building one of the city’s newest luxury hotels.

But that job site is now laden with tension after the man behind the project — billionaire developer Donald Trump — put himself at the center of the nation’s debate over illegal immigration.

Trump garnered headlines — and prompted several business associates to sever relations with him — when he launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination last month with a controversial description of drug dealers and “rapists” crossing the border each day into the United States from Mexico.

But a Trump company may be relying on some undocumented workers to finish the $200 million hotel, which will sit five blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to several who work there. A Trump spokeswoman said the company and its contractors follow all applicable laws. But in light of Trump’s comments, some of the workers at the site said they are now worried about their jobs — while others simply expressed disgust over the opinions of the man ultimately responsible for the creation of those jobs.

More here.

Alan Grayson on TPP, All Aboard Florida and Rand Paul

As he appears he is getting ready to announce a bid for Senate, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, gave an interview over the weekend in which he talked up his own legislative record, bashed his opponent about a controversial train project and offered a hint of praise for Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

The interview with News 13 in Orlando offers a preview as to the types of issues Grayson will focus on in a likely campaign. Grayson is expected to announce his bid for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat this month. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, announced his campaign in March.

Grayson talked about his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and said that his video about it drew one million hits on Facebook and tradeteachery.com. And he also boasted about his own legislative record:

“I passed more amendments since I returned to Congress than any member of Congress. I passed more bills than any member of Congress." Later in interview, Grayson said he had 19 of his bills and 15 amendments pass.

Grayson criticized Murphy for his votes related to All Aboard Florida -- the Miami to Orlando train. Grayson is in favor of the train while Murphy is against it. The Palm Beach Post wrote that there has been bipartisan concern about noise and road closings within Murphy’s Treasure Coast district.

Continue reading "Alan Grayson on TPP, All Aboard Florida and Rand Paul" »

Group calls for Congressional investigation into Rep. Alan Grayson's hedge funds

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a request with the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s hedge funds.

The question raised in the request is whether Grayson, an Orlando Democrat, is violating a House rule by using his name on the hedge funds.

“Not only does the rule explicitly ban members from receiving “compensation for affiliating with or being employed by such an entity in any capacity,” but it also prohibits a Member’s name to be used by such an entity “regardless of whether the organization compensates the Member,” states the July 6 request for an investigation.

The request for an investigation into Grayson has occurred as he appears poised to announce his campaign for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, announced in March and has the backing of the party establishment.

Celeste Bush, chair of the Democratic Party of St. Lucie County who supports Murphy, filed a similar request for a Congressional investigation Tuesday.

The requests for an investigation follow a story in Politico that suggested Grayson was violating House rules. Grayson says he has complied with House rules although financial experts questioned his explanation.

“Alan broke no laws, violated no ethics rules and fully disclosed everything,” Grayson spokesman Kevin Franck told the Miami Herald. “Supporters of former Republican ​Patrick Murphy​ are on the attack because  they can't defend Murphy's conservative record of siding with Wall Street and they know that Alan Grayson can't be bought or bossed around.”

Jeb Bush will join Hillary Clinton at Fort Lauderdale conference

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton won't be the only 2016 presidential hopeful addressing attendees of the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale on July 31.

Jeb Bush will also be speaking, as will fellow contenders Ben Carson and Martin O'Malley.

The Urban League is a civil-rights advocacy group and its conference is expected to draw a mostly African-American crowd -- which might explain why the two Republican candidates on the program are Carson (who is black) and Bush (who says the GOP should expand its outreach).

"As we convene in Florida to deliberate solutions to the economic and social challenges our cities are facing, it's vital that those contending for the highest office in the land be part of that conversation," National Urban League President Marc H. Morial said in a statement.

The theme of the two-day gathering is "Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice.

Miami Republicans cite attack of dissident as sign Obama Cuba policy isn't working

Rodiles

@PatriciaMazzei

Two of Miami's Cuban-American Republican members of Congress condemned an attack on a Cuban dissident as a sign that President Obama is foolish to pursue closer relations with the regime on the island.

The beating of Antonio Rodiles, which Rodiles blamed on Cuban security forces, and mass detention of nearly 100 other dissidents Sunday prompted statements in solidarity from U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"Beating activists committed to the return of democratic rights to the island, such as Rodiles and members of the Ladies in White, show that the Castro regime has no interest in changing," Ros-Lehtinen said Monday. "The opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana demonstrates that the Obama Administration is willing to turn a blind eye  to the sadistic ways of this brutal regime in order to build a presidential legacy."  

"Since President Obama's December 17, 2014 announcement, the Castro regime's brutality against innocent pro-democracy leaders has escalated," Diaz-Balart said. "Predictably, following the President's announcement a few days ago that he will press ahead with opening embassies without any conditions, the human rights abuses in Cuba continue unabated. The Castro regime has been emboldened by President Obama's shameful disinterest in human rights and liberties in Cuba."

Photo courtesy Antonio Rodiles

Study finds state of Florida in good fiscal health

Mercatus

via @adamsmithtimes

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University Tuesday released a study of the fiscal health of America's states, based on their debt and other obligations. Florida comes out looking quite good - ranking fifth, below Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

To our way of thinking that makes Florida's the Number One most financially healthy state among interesting states in the continental U.S.. Here are categories examined:

Cash Solvency: 2 of 50
Does a state have enough cash on hand to cover its short-term bills?

Budget Solvency: 5 of 50
Can a state cover its fiscal year spending with current revenues? Does it have a budget shortfall?

Long-Run Solvency: 31 of 50
Can a state meet its long-term spending commitments? Will there be enough money to cushion it from economic shocks or other long-term fiscal risks?

Service-Level Solvency: 4 of 50
How much fiscal “slack” does a state have to increase spending should citizens demand more services?

Trust Fund Solvency: 11 of 50
How much debt does a state have? How large are its unfunded pension and health care liabilities?

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Photo courtesy Mercatus

Florida government gets credit for being mostly democratic

Capture
How states rank in the Health of State Democracies report. Florida's No. 11. (Source: Center for American Progress Action Fund)


Florida's democracy is pretty, well...democratic. At least compared to other states.

That's according to a new report out this month from the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The study looked at access to voting, representation in state government and the extent to which outside influencers can shape policy. Overall, Florida ranked 11th nationally, the only Southeastern state to crack the top half.

But the center points to failings that it says the Sunshine State ought to improve. Namely, Florida's elected leaders aren't very representative, they say.

Women are underrepresented among elected officials. And while minorities constitute 43 percent of Florida's total population, they make up just 14 percent of the state's elected officials.

Further, the center argues, Florida -- and all states -- should allow felons to vote after they've been released from prison.

"This is not only a civil rights issue, it also is an issue of electoral integrity," the report says. "With fully 1 out of 13 African Americans currently unable to vote, felony disenfranchisement has the potential to affect electoral results as voices from communities of color are disproportionately silenced."

There is one piece of good news, according to the center. Florida, more than any other state but Connecticut, has rooted out the influence of interest groups. That's not to say there's no influence of outside lobbyists, special interest groups and money in Tallahassee (and few in the state Capitol would successfully convince you of that), but it does mean Florida's in a better place than many of its counterparts.

The other bright spot: At least Florida isn't Alabama.

Governor downplays tensions with Florida Legislature over vetoes

@JeremySWallace

The tension between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate in light of $461 million in budget vetoes has been well documented.

State senators have called his actions politically motivated and characterized his veto pen as inconsistent.

But you would not know anything is wrong if you asked Scott. Speaking to reporters late Monday, Scott was asked if he feels tension growing between him and other Republicans in Tallahassee.

“Oh gosh, we’ve had five good sessions,” Scott said of working with state lawmakers. “We’ve done 50 tax cuts. We have record education funding.”

Continue reading "Governor downplays tensions with Florida Legislature over vetoes" »

Marco Rubio calls higher education system a 'cartel'

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio sought to portray himself as the candidate of fresh economic ideas Tuesday by delivering a speech in Chicago focused on overhauling the country's higher-education system.

The Florida Republican derided existing colleges and universities as running a "cartel" more interested in blocking new competitors than embracing low-cost ways to teach students. As president, Rubio said, "within my first 100 days, we will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers."

Rubio has also proposed requiring universities to tell students in advance how much money they can expect to make with a given degree and allowing corporations to essentially pay for a student's tuition in return for a percentage of the student's paycheck after graduation. Elsewhere in his remarks, Rubio called for cutting the corporate-tax rate to 25 percent and rewriting immigration laws to give priority to workers needed in the economy rather than to family reunification.

Rubio has offered most of his ideas before, and critics were quick to point out Tuesday that he has not been able to pass any of them as law -- and in some cases hasn't even tried -- while he's been in the U.S. Senate. Some conservatives, including the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, have slammed Rubio's tax plan as a bad idea.

Still, Rubio used the speech as an opportunity to again try to cast the 2016 presidential race as one between the past and the future -- a contrast his campaign thinks will benefit the 44-year-old Cuban American.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio calls higher education system a 'cartel'" »

Yep, Greece and Miami metro have about the same GDP

Greek voters stuck a wrench into European finances with their rejection of an austerity-bailout package on July 5, 2015. With the referendum results all in, the possibility that Greece might ditch the Euro, the European Union’s common currency, became more likely than ever.

Before the vote though, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman warned that the greatest worry might have less to do with Greece than with other shaky economies in the Euro zone. On ABC’s This Week, Krugman downplayed the impact of the Greek economy per se.

"Greece is not a big economy," Krugman told host George Stephanopoulos. "It's about the size of metropolitan Miami. So if you asked how much direct spillover there is from whatever happens in Greece, not that much."

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact.

July 06, 2015

Scott sidesteps questions on possible 2018 Senate run

@JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was offering no hints on Monday about whether he is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Asked about that prospect, in light of him spending almost $300,000 on political consultants since April, Scott wouldn’t bite.

"I’m continuing to work at my job as governor," Scott said following a ceremony inducting five new members into Florida’s Veterans Hall of Fame. "I just went through an election last year and I’ve got three and a half more years as governor and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this is a place this a where you want to raise your family."

Besides spending money on consultants, Scott has also been airing television ads statewide through his Let's Get To Work fundraising committee and has tried to elevate his national profile by hosting 7 GOP presidential candidates at an economic summit he hosted in Orlando in June.

Scott's current term as governor runs through 2018, when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, would be finishing his third term in the Senate. Some high dollar donors have said Scott privately has told them he has interest in running for the seat, though he has not said so publicly.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's interns 'Shake It Off'

@PatriciaMazzei

The interns from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's office want you to know: They have fun on the job.

They put together a video -- posted on the Miami Republican congresswoman's YouTube channel -- lip-syncing a well-produced version of Taylor Swift's hit pop song, "Shake It Off."

Yes, the congresswoman dances.

Ros-Lehtinen's most famous former intern may be 2016 GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Alas, he worked in her office in the days before social media.

 

Donald Trump's misleading claim about immigrants in jail or prison

Despite the backlash, Donald Trump has remained steadfast in his position that illegal immigrants from Mexico bring rampant crime to the United States.

"You have illegal immigrants pouring through the country," the ultra-wealthy businessman and Republican presidential candidate said on Fox Business Network July 1. "They're incarcerated. Many of them are in jails. You have hundreds of thousands of people going to state and federal penitentiaries. That just came out in a Homeland Security Report."

We wondered if Trump was right that there are "hundreds of thousands" of illegal immigrants in the nation’s state and federal prisons. We polled experts and asked government agencies and found no data that speaks to this claim conclusively.

Turn to Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PolitiFact

Jeb Bush campaign hires regional finance director in Miami

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush's presidential campaign has tapped a well-liked Miami-Dade County budget staffer -- and one-time Marco Rubio aide -- as a regional campaign finance director for Florida.

Gigi Bolt's first day on the job will be Tuesday. She resigned two weeks ago from her job as assistant business analyst in Miami-Dade government's office of management and budget.

Before that, Bolt worked for County Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo, a Hialeah Republican who backs Rubio, Bush's hometown rival. Bolt herself worked for Rubio's local office in 2006, when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

But even earlier, she worked for the Republican Party of Florida under finance consultant Ann Herberger, a veteran Bush family fund-raiser. Bolt's first political campaign experience, when she was 19 years old, was as a volunteer for Bush in the 1998 Florida governor's race.

"He's actually the first candidate I voted for," Bolt told the Miami Herald. "He has always been committed to helping Floridians, and I have confidence in his leadership should he become president."

Bolt said she will work under the Bush finance team headed by Heather Larrison and Les Williamson.

As Donald Trump defended his 'rapist immigrants' comment, he made a False claim about his business book

Appearing on CNN to defend his controversial comments on "rapist immigrants," Donald Trump said he doesn’t understand why Republican party leaders are so quick to publicly dismiss him.

After all, Trump reasoned, he’s surging in the polls and has had a track record of success: He  attended one of the best business schools in America, created a hotel and entertainment empire, and is a bestselling author to boot.

"They like to say, well, we don't consider him a serious candidate. Why wouldn't I be?," Trump said on July 1. "I went to the Wharton School of Finance, I was a great student. ... I go out, I make a tremendous fortune. I write a book called The Art of the Deal, the No. 1 selling business book of all time, at least I think, but I’m pretty sure it is. And certainly a big monster, the No. 1 bestseller. I do The Apprentice, a tremendous success, one of the most successful shows."

We were curious about Trump’s literary credentials. Did he pen the top-selling business book of all time?

See what Linda Qiu of PolitiFact found.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott make PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 in June

In June, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced at Miami-Dade College that he was officially launching his bid for the presidency in 2016.

Bush dominated PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 most clicked-on reports in June. Also on our Top 5 list was an article about one of Bush’s rivals -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- as well as a repeated claim by Gov. Rick Scott about the environment.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to find our most clicked on item in June.

Pro-Marco Rubio political group says it's raised $15.8M

@PatriciaMazzei

Conservative Solutions Project, a political nonprofit formed by backers of 2016 Republican candidate Marco Rubio, said Monday it has collected $15.8 million since it was established last year.

The haul will allow the tax-exempt group to nationally air a television ad criticizing President Obama's nuclear talks with Iran, the nonprofit said in a statement Monday. The spot had so far only been broadcast on more limited cable networks. The group says it has spent more than $3.3 million in ad buys.

"We're also pleased to announce that, with more than $15.8 million raised already, Conservative Solutions Project is nearly two-thirds of the way to our overall fundraising goal," nonprofit President Pat Shortridge said in the statement. "These funds will allow us to continue the fight to restore our military and our nation's role in the world, and given the recent news about the nation's stagnant economy, advocate for conservative solutions to an inefficient tax code and education reform so all Americans have a chance to pursue their dreams."

The nonprofit is separate from but related to Conservative Solutions, a Super PAC also backing Rubio. Both are ostensibly independent from Rubio's campaign -- they're not allowed to "coordinate" -- but run by Rubio supporters. The difference between the nonprofit and the Super PAC is that the Super PAC must periodically disclose its financial donors, while the nonprofit can keep them secret.

Rep. David Richardson officially pulls out of race for Gwen Margolis' Senate seat

Fighting within the Democratic Party over a Miami seat in the state Senate seems to have subsided.

Last week, Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, officially pulled out of the race to replace Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove.

He had entered that election in January but said he would back out if Margolis decided to run again. Now, he says, it’s becoming clear that Margolis wants to stay in her seat.

“I’ve long said that I was not going to run against Sen. Gwen Margolis should she elect to run for reelection,” Richardson told the Times/Herald on Monday. “I believed that she probably would not run for reelection, but it has become clear to me that it’s more likely she will.”

Last week, Richardson filed paperwork with the state indicating that he won’t run for Senate until 2020.

That said, it’s a long time until November 2016. And Richardson said he will run whenever Margolis decides to step down.

If the venerable Senator — the longest-serving member of Florida’s Legislature and a former Senate president — decides to step down, Richardson plans to take the seat.

Richardson was first elected to the House in 2012. He’s the first openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. He has already collected $209,622.38 for his 2016 campaign.

Gov. Rick Scott trumpets MLB spring training complex

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott starts his day with a little baseball celebration.

The Republican Governor will hold a ceremonial bill signing for legislation this morning that allows a land swap between Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach to remove a final hurdle for the construction of a $135 million stadium that will be home to two major league baseball teams’ spring training teams.

The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros would co-operate the stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017.

The deal assures the Astros and Nationals will remain among the 15 spring training teams in Florida for the next 30 years. A year ago, the Astros were considered a potential threat to move to Arizona. They are the only team in either the American League West or National League West that continues spring training in Florida rather than Arizona.

Arizona’s aggressive push to lure MLB teams away from Florida for spring training has been particular tough on Florida’s east coast. Over the last 20 years, Arizona has convinced 7 teams to move to Arizona for spring training, giving it 15 teams total. Only four three teams remain in southeast Florida – the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins. But with the Nationals moving from Brevard County and the Astros from Osceola, there will now be 5 teams clustered around Palm Beach County and Martin County.

Scott signed the legislation on June 10, but often holds ceremonial bill signings around the state to garner extra publicity.

--JEREMY WALLACE, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau