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May 22, 2015

‘Active America:’ Marco Rubio pushes for intervention despite a wary public


If Marco Rubio ends up as president, he’ll have lots of time to convince the American public that his way is the right way on foreign policy – because right now, they often don’t agree with him.

On some of the key hot-button foreign policy issues of the day – the Iraq war, the Iran negotiations, Cuba – Americans as measured in pollsreflect different views than Rubio.

Whether that ultimately matters for the Florida Republican’s campaign is unclear. Experts say that Americans’ views on foreign policy are often soft and easily changeable. And in the context of a campaign that starts in the Republican Party primaries, it might make perfect sense.

“If you poll Americans about the questions you are asking, they are likely to be less hawkish than Rubio,” said Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University. “But he’s got to win the primary first, and his views are far more mainstream on the Republican side.”

Full story here.

In Oklahoma, Jeb Bush urges Republicans to 'get outside our comfort zone'

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush played up his reputation as “Veto Corleone” in a speech today and said Republicans need to “get outside of our comfort zone” and reach Hispanics, African-Americans and college students.

“I think we need to get beyond preaching to the choir,” the former Florida governor said at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma. “Get outside of our comfort zone,” and into the Latino barrios, black churches and college campuses.

Bush also said he supports reauthorization of the Patriot Act, now before the U.S. Senate, saying there is “ample evidence” it has protected Americans.

In touting his record as governor, Bush is attempting to show Republican voters that he has accomplished things and draw a contrast with elected officials in Washington. He mentioned how he vetoed projects sought by Democrats and Republicans.

One of those projects explains why billionaire Norman Braman of Miami loathes Bush, and loves Marco Rubio.

In 2004, Bush vetoed $2 million for the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami. “I wasn’t too happy with that veto,” Braman recently told our colleague Patricia Mazzei.

Rubio pushed for the money and secured funding the following year. “Marco,” Bush wrote in an email to a lobbyist, “strongly wanted the Braman Cancer money.”

So began the relationship between Rubio and Braman, who has employed Rubio and his wife and now plans to pour millions into a Super PAC supporting Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Rubio is to address the SRLC later today. He'll do it by video as votes on the trade deal are pending in Washington.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

The time Jeb Bush's house appeared in a Toyota commercial


The scouts looking for filming locations in 2013 came back with the perfect place to shoot part of a Toyota television commercial: a row of stately townhouses in Coral Gables.

Little did they know one of the residences was home to Jeb Bush.

The production company pulled a permit from the city and filmed the bilingual commercial, which shows a young woman admiring — and taking a selfie with — her new love: a beaming red Toyota Corolla parallel-parked in front of the houses. (Talking to her on the phone, her Hispanic parents think she’s referring to a boyfriend, before they realize the love in question is a car.)

More here.

Was only one person fired at VA for withholding services as Jeb Bush says?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says that the Obama White House has seen "scandals of epic proportions" at the Veterans Administration under its watch.

"It is scandalous that we treat our military coming home from service in the veterans’ department and veterans’ administration in a way where people should be fired," Bush said at a GOP Lincoln Day dinner in Iowa May 16. "One person has been fired. There should be scores of people fired for withholding services for people who truly need it."

Has only one person been fired related to the VA scandal? PolitiFact Florida decided to check.

May 21, 2015

Miami Mayor helping District 2 candidate fundraise

via @NewsbySmiley

Things might be getting a little awkward at Miami City Hall from here on out.

Mayor Tomas Regalado is helping District 2 candidate Grace Solares raise funds for her bid to claim the seat of term-limited Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, according to Solares' campaign. Her most notable opponent: Sarnoff's wife, Teresa Sarnoff.

On Thursday, Solares' camp sent out an email inviting supporters to join the mayor and other supporters in raising money for the candidate and long-time neighborhood activist. And while it's been known that Regalado was supportive of Solares -- he gave $100 to her campaign in November and reportedly appeared at a past fundraiser -- he has not publicly endorsed her so far nor actively campaigned for her in the past.

Regalado did not return multiple requests for comment Thursday. The press release from Solares' campaign is below:

Continue reading "Miami Mayor helping District 2 candidate fundraise" »

Hillary Clinton's campaign woos first Haitian-American Miami-Dade commission chair


Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign is putting the moves on a man who could prove to be a useful messenger to South Florida’s Haitian-American community.

Jean Monestime, the chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, is being wooed by Clinton supporters to fund-raise for the former secretary of state — and, perhaps more importantly, to be a face and voice for her on influential Creole-language television and radio.

By early May, Monestime had collected $27,000 for Clinton’s nascent organization, a milestone rewarded with an invitation to her “Finance Leadership Summit” for hundreds of early donors. The meeting, held May 14 at her Brooklyn headquarters, featured panel discussions with Clinton’s campaign brass — and a question-and-answer session with Clinton herself.

“She has a lot of experience, and I think she’s learned a lot over the years,” Monestime told the Miami Herald. “She has good potential. If she’s able to put a good team together — which I know she can — and learn from everyone... we may have the first woman president.”

The courtship of Monestime signals Clinton knows she needs to build support in communities President Barack Obama relied on heavily to win. Haitian Americans vote heavily Democratic, but may not be as excited to cast ballots for Clinton as they were for Obama, the first black president. Clinton also has ground to make up with some Haitian Americans upset that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation hasn’t got more to show for its charitable efforts in Haiti.

More here.

President Obama to stop by National Hurricane Center during upcoming Miami visit


President Obama will visit the National Hurricane Center in Miami next Thursday for a preparedness briefing in advance of the June 1 start of the annual hurricane season, according to a White House official.

The Hurricane Center is scheduled to announce its 2016 season forecast Wednesday to reporters. The Atlantic has already seen one named storm, Ana.

Also on Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to attend two Coconut Grove fund-raisers for the Democratic Party.

Scott signs 44 bills into law, including concealed carry, body camera legislation

Gov. Rick Scott signed 44 bills into law Thursday afternoon, including one allowing concealed weapons to be carried without a permit during emergency evacuations and another that will shield police body camera videos from public record laws.

The concealed carry bill is a favorite project of Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who says the change in law will allow lawful gun owners to avoid criminal citations for simply carrying their belongings with them while evacuating from a hurricane or other disaster.

Opponents have said there should be fewer guns on the streets during emergencies, not more.

The body camera legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith, R-Ft. Lauderdale, is intended to protect people’s privacy when police officers enter homes, hospitals, mental health institutions and anywhere else where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Open-government advocates say that law enforcement agencies can use the language to shield video that is in the public interest, particularly now that video is being used more frequently in broader debates over the role of police in society.

But supporters argue that privacy protections will encourage more agencies to use body cameras.

Here's the full list, courtesy of Scott's office:

Continue reading "Scott signs 44 bills into law, including concealed carry, body camera legislation" »

Teresa Sarnoff opens up on friendly AM radio show

via @NewsbySmiley

Having mostly avoided media interviews so far, Miami District 2 Commission candidate Teresa Sarnoff opened up a little Thursday morning on the cozy confines of Bloomberg Radio.

Appearing on The Gray Zone, a one-hour political show, she spoke about her family, traffic, Miami's economy and policing. She is running against eight other candidates for the downtown-area seat of her term-limited husband, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, a relationship that has given her substantial name-recognition and fundraising advantages over the field but also raised criticisms about her independence.

"Contrary to some of my opponents, I think Miami is headed in a great direction," said Sarnoff. "The foundation of our economy is broadening and becoming more stable. We aren't just dependent on tourism."

Sarnoff, who grew up in a small town outside Buffalo, N.Y., said she is the fourth of 10 girls, and came to Miami because she was often introduced as "number four, so I always wanted to go someplace they didn't know my number." She said the rest of the Forrestel family followed her to Miami after her father died of a heart attack on a family boating trip.

She touted her fundraising for Camillus House homeless shelter and work with the Fashion Tails animal adoption program. She said Miami needs more police officers, synchronized streetlights to avoid bottlenecks, and workforce housing -- all positions previously espoused by her husband.

But critical questions were absent from Thursday's radio appearance. She was lobbed softballs for 20 minutes by the show's co-hosts Henry Crespo and Marcos Lapciuc, who later told The Herald that he invited her on the show after meeting her at her husband's law office and cutting her a "small" campaign check.

Lapciuc says Sarnoff's opponents are welcome on the show as well. The election is scheduled for November.

Updated: Executive producer Fred Menachem says the show has booked Sarnoff opponent Grace Solares for an upcoming show.

Scott's draft of session agenda banned talk of Medicaid expansion

While the Senate and House scrambled last week to agree on terms of a proclamation for a special session, Gov. Rick Scott had followed through on a threat to draft his own proclamation -- and on his terms.

Those terms specifically excluded any discussion of Medicaid expansion that the Senate wants. Scott's document said "specifically excluding legislation expanding Medicaid eligibility."

The Senate would never agree to such a blanket restriction, and lawmakers didn't want Scott setting the agenda for a session that will be dominated by the development of a budget that is a legislative duty. Scott's special session draft proclamation is here.

An updated look at statistics on black-on-black murders

How police interact with black men is in the news again following the April 19 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

One of the more popular fact-checks we did followed the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager. Since this fact-check is a perennial reader favorite, we wanted to update it with more recent numbers.

Here is the statistic we fact-checked from a tweet:

"In the 513 days between Trayvon dying, and today’s verdict, 11,106 African-Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans." We rated the statement Mostly False because the number was a rough guess. That tweet related to data about race and murder in 2005.

Also, experts told us that most people -- whether black or white -- are murdered by people in their own racial group, and that has held true for decades.

From 1980 through 2008, 84 percent of white victims were killed by whites and 93 percent of black victims were killed by blacks.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story.

Feds: Florida needs $1 billion for hospital funding

via @stevebousquet

TALLAHASSEE — The federal government told Florida on Thursday that the state will need $1 billion next year to maintain a hospital payment program that's at the center of a political stalemate preventing passage of a new state budget.

In a letter to state health officials, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said the $1 billion would "maintain stability while the system transitions" to new ways of compensating hospitals for the high cost of treating poor patients, a program known as LIP or low income pool.

Tampa General Hospital, All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Miami's Jackson Health System and Broward Health are among Florida's largest recipients of LIP money. In the current year, those hospitals were promised a total of $731 million in supplemental payments, provided through a blend of federal and local tax money that totals nearly $2.2 billion.

In their letter, the feds did not promise any LIP money. But a House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told lawmakers that the news is a "clear indication (that) Florida will receive a significant level of LIP funds, which will help us in our efforts to finish the budget by the July 1 deadline."

The $1 billion would revert to the level of LIP funding before 2014.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, told senators that the news is further proof that a form of Medicaid expansion is the right solution.

"It remains clear that a sustainable long-term solution is needed," Gardiner told senators. "As you are aware, the Senate has proposed a Florida solution."

Continue reading "Feds: Florida needs $1 billion for hospital funding " »

WaPo: Jeb Bush calls human role in climate change 'convoluted'

From the Washington Post:

BEDFORD, N.H. -- Jeb Bush believes that the Earth's climate is changing -- but don't just blame humans.

The former Florida governor, whose state bears the brunt of rising seas and a changing climate more than most, conceded Wednesday evening that humans are partly -- but not entirely -- responsible for the changes.

"The climate is changing. I don't think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted," he told roughly 150 people at a house party here Wednesday night. "And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it even."

The issue of climate change came up as the host of the house party asked Bush to comment on a speech given Wednesday by President Obama, who said that climate change is a "serious threat" to national security.

More here.

In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush says mother-in-law has dementia


Jeb Bush told voters at a house party in Bedford, New Hampshire, on Wednesday that his mother-in-law suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

"She's a gift from God, she's the most beautiful woman I've ever met," Bush said of 94-year-old Josefina Gallo Esquivel, according to the Washington Post. "Just totally faith-oriented, just the sweetest, nicest person. And she suffers from dementia. It's not uncommon, this is a huge problem."

Gallo Esquivel lives in Miami and relies on care from Bush's wife, Columba, and Bush's sister-in-law, Lucila, both Coral Gables residents.

Bush raised his hand when he asked people in the room to show which ones had relatives with Alzheimer's, according to the New York Times. Then he urged attendees to email him at "if you have any ideas" about how to better tackle Alzheimer's research and entitlement reform.

Marco Rubio to host South Florida fundraisers for Iowa senator


To court Iowa, Marco Rubio plans to host three events next week for Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley -- in South Florida.

Grassley will hit three counties on Tuesday: Miami-Dade for breakfast, Broward for lunch and Palm Beach for dinner, according to an invitation emailed Thursday to some of Rubio's local political donors.

Breakfast will take place at the Coral Gables office of Jorge Luis Lopez, an attorney and lobbyist; lunch at the Pompano Beach headquarters of Allegiance Crane & Equipment, an equipment-rental company whose chief executive is Jim Robertson; and dinner at the Palm Beach home of Amanda and Chuck Schumacher, an auto dealer. 

Donors will have to fork over $1,000 each -- or $2,700 to get more access -- for the breakfast and lunch. Dinner with Grassley requires a $10,400 contribution, though $2,700 will get donors into a larger reception. The money will go to Grassley Hawkeye Fund, the senator's political committee.

"Chairman Grassley -- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee -- has been very supportive of our friend and Miami's native son, Marco Rubio in Iowa and we proudly want to reciprocate," Lopez wrote in an email to supporters Thursday.

As one of two Republican senators in Iowa, which holds the first presidential caucuses of 2016, Grassley is used to being wined and dined by candidates. Jeb Bush attended a fund-raising lunch for Grassley in Iowa City last week.

May 20, 2015

The Hill: Pitbull, avoiding 2016 endorsement, tells funny Jeb Bush story

From The Hill:

Rapper Pitbull appears to have a keen appreciation for a borderline R-rated joke Jeb Bush once told him.

The “Fun” singer recalled a “funny story” about the likely GOP presidential candidate during a Tuesday interview with Howard Stern on the radio host’s SiriusXM show.

According to Pitbull (whose real name is Armando Perez), the former Florida governor inquired as to how he got his stage moniker.

“I said, ‘Well, I was on the way to a pitbull fight, and a Dominican friend of mine was like, ‘Yo, that should be your name — you're always out here fighting these guys and battling in rap and this,’ ” the Miami-born entertainer says.

Pitbull continued with a laugh, “And Jeb goes, 'Well, good thing you weren't on the way to a cockfight.’ ”

“I was [like,] ‘Jeb, that was pretty slick!’ ” Pitbull exclaimed.

More here.

Roll Call: Broward Democrat wants raise for members of Congress

From Roll Call (published Monday):

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings made the politically tone-deaf case for raising salaries for members of Congress Monday, pointing to the high cost of living in the District of Columbia.

“Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” the Florida Democrat said at a Rules Committee meeting, referring to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary. “We aren’t being paid properly,” he later added.

The committee was considering the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which sets the spending levels for Congress and legislative branch agencies. The bill includes a freeze on member pay, continuing one that has been in place since 2010 — and last year drew the ire of then-Rep. James P. Moran.

More here.

'I'm running for president' flub draws third FEC complaint from liberal group against Jeb Bush

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush’s retracted flub about running for president has earned him another complaint before the Federal Election Commission.

The liberal American Democracy Legal Fund, which has already filed two complaints against Bush for his coordination with a Super PAC, says, “it was clear before, but it is now crystal clear that Mr. Bush and Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc. have violated the Act in the following ways:

“(1) Mr. Bush, now a self-declared candidate for federal office, has been soliciting and raising funds outside of the federal limits for Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc., and (2) Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc., an independent expenditure-only committee that was established and is directed and controlled by Mr. Bush and his agents, has been soliciting, receiving, and spending funds not subject to the limitations and restrictions of the Act.  And even if Mr. Bush stops raising money for Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc. and completely separates himself from the committee now that he has publicly declared his candidacy, Right to Rise Super PAC, Inc. will still be in violation of the law if it raises or spends soft money because it was established by and will be controlled by Mr. Bush and his agents.

“Without action, Mr. Bush's illegal behavior will set harmful precedent that would allow independent expenditure-only committees established and controlled by candidates to wholly finance a candidate's campaign using funds that are not subject to the law’s limitations or requirements, a clear violation of the law’s prohibition on federal candidates establishing, directing, and controlling a soft money entity.”

The FEC, deadlocked with 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, is unlikely to do much.

Here is the Bush camp's standard response: "Governor Bush is not a candidate for office. We are taking a conservative approach and fully complying with the law in all activities Governor Bush is engaging in on the political front and will continue to do so."

Read the complaint here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Florida Republicans to Obama: Keep LIP program for hospital charity care


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and 11 other Republican members of Florida's congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday to President Obama asking him to continue the federal Low Income Pool program in Florida.

The Health and Human Services Department plans to discontinue the current form of the LIP program, which provides hospitals with charity-care funding, by June 30. That has thrown Florida's healthcare budget into disarray, forcing a special legislative session beginning June 1 for lawmakers to craft a budget. The Senate wants to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to make up for some of the lost funding; the House doesn't. The feds say they want to work with the state to reach some sort of solution.

"HHS's refusal to continue LIP funding in Florida because the state has not expanded Medicaid is an inappropriate overreach and in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court decision," the Republicans' letter reads. It notes Jackson Health System in Miami would lose $237.2 million next year, and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach would lose $16.2 million.

"We are requesting your immediate action to reverse HHS's decision to end LIP funding," the members of Congress wrote. "The well-being of Florida's low-income families will remain in jeopardy until your administration approves funding for these vital health services.."

Among the letter's co-signers were Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ponte Vedra Beach Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for Senate in 2016.