July 29, 2014

Plaintiffs want expert to redraw congressional map before November election

Responding to a Tallahassee court judge's skepticism that he could craft a new congressional map in time for the November elections, the voters group is now asking the court to appoint a redistricting expert to do it.

The plaintiffs, a group of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters, successfully sued the state to throw out the congressional map. But Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said at a hearing last week that he was unsure he could order a special election or revise the map.

In an amended response brief filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs now ask Lewis to appoint a special master and have both sides submit proposals so that the state does not conduct an election using an unconstitutional map. They have not indicated if they intend to appeal Lewis' ruling if he does not agree.

Click here to download the plaintiffs' latest brief.

Marco Rubio's Half True claim about dads from his values speech at Catholic University

In defending traditional marriage, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a speech about values at Catholic University that fathers play a vital role in their children’s success.

Rubio cited statistics about the number of children born to unwed mothers and what that means for their chances to climb out of poverty and go to college.

After getting an education, finding a good job and getting married, "The final element of the success sequence is raising children in a married, two-parent home," Rubio said July 23, 2014. "Even in my own family, of course, I have examples of children raised by one parent who have gone on to successful lives. But we also know that having an active father makes children 98 percent more likely to graduate from college and complete the first step of the success sequence."

We decided to fact-check the 98 percent statistic.

Jeb Bush's Mostly True claim about border kids

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of the Republican Party’s most vocal advocates of federal action on immigration policy, recently re-entered the immigration debate with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal regarding the thousands of undocumented Central American minors flocking to the United States border.

Bush, a potential 2016 candidate, co-authored the op-ed with Clint Bolick, the vice president for litigation at the libertarian Goldwater Institute (the two also teamed up for a book on immigration in 2013). Before laying out their suggested course of action, Bush and Bolick explain the problem.

"Currently the vast number of children is overwhelming the process," they wrote. "Roughly half do not show up for their hearings. As a result, judging by Homeland Security figures, only a fraction of the approximately 20,000 Central American children who entered the country illegally in 2013 were repatriated. By some estimates, as few as 2 percent of the 50,000 children who have crossed the border illegally this year have been sent home."

We’ve already looked at the number of minors who report for their hearings. (Bush's description of it as "roughly half" is not far off from what we found.) But what about the number of children that the government has returned this year? We decided to look into the stat.

The fact-check was written by Steve Contorno of PolitiFact.

Gov. Rick Scott agrees to 3 debates

@tbtia

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign announced today that he agreed to appear in three debates against the Democratic nominee, either former Gov. Charlie Crist or Nan Rich. The debates are all within four weeks of the Nov. 4 general election:

The governor declined to participate in a planned Oct. 7 debate sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, WTSP-10 News and the University of South Florida, which would have been the first of the season. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said three is enough.

"Three statewide debates will give voters ample opportunity to hear from Gov. Scott and his challenger,' she wrote in an email. "He will be spending the rest of his time traveling the state and meeting with voters."

By signing on to dates later in the election season, many voters many have already made up their minds by the time the two gubernatorial nominees square off.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott agrees to 3 debates" »

Crist and Scott least popular gov candidates in decade

@AdamSmithTimes

From our friends at 538.com:

....Iin Florida, home to one of the nation’s marquee gubernatorial races, Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott are teetering on becoming the least-liked pair of candidates for any governor’s race in the past 10 years....

...Both Crist and Scott hold negative net favorable ratings (the percentage of people with a favorable view minus the percentage with a negative view). No other gubernatorial campaign in the country currently features such bipartisan disdain. Thirteen races for governor have had at least one live interview poll that asked about candidate images since the beginning of May. Among the candidates in those races, the average net favorable rating is just over +10 percentage points, compared to the -4 points in Florida. (I limited my search to live interview polling because it is thought that favorable ratings are systematically lower across alternative polling technologies.)

More here

July 28, 2014

Pro-Hamas demonstrator at Miami's 'Friendship' torch: 'I'm gonna kill you...and all the Israelis!'

@MarcACaputo

Is there a better Miami spot for pro-Hamas demonstrators to threaten and push a provocative cameraman than the "Torch of Friendship?”

You read that right: The Torch of Friendship at Bayfront Park.

After what was an otherwise-peaceful protest against “the massacre in Gaza,” a cameraman affiliated with the pro-Israel/anti-Islamic group The United West hit the video jackpot: a group of men who couldn't control their tempers and a few dozen demonstrators chanting in favor of holy war and Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

"I’m gonna kill you motherfucker, you and all the Israelis!” one man says, after flipping two middle fingers.

And…. Cut! That's a wrap, folks.

"Miami HAMAS ATTACKS Jewish Reporter!" the YouTube headline from The United West blares. It was uploaded six days after the July 20 rally and quickly blazed across conservative websites. 

Continue reading "Pro-Hamas demonstrator at Miami's 'Friendship' torch: 'I'm gonna kill you...and all the Israelis!'" »

Miami-Dade mayor calls demolition of soldier's home 'unfortunate'

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County declined interview requests last week in the case of the local soldier whose home was demolished while he was on active duty, in violation of U.S. law, according to a federal judge.

Late Monday, a day after the soldier's story ran in the Miami Herald, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement on the situation, sounding disappointed at Miami-Dade's actions.

"This unfortunate situation began prior to my time as mayor," Gimenez said. "It is still in the hands of the County Attorney's Office. I look forward to a swift and fair resolution.

"My administration will continue to comply with all federal laws that safeguard our veterans, especially when they are on active duty."

Judge throws out challenge to blind trust law used by Gov. Scott

From the Associated Press:

 A Florida judge is upholding a law that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper on Monday ruled that politicians can use a blind trust and still comply with a 1976 constitutional amendment that requires officials to disclose their finances. The Florida Legislature passed a law last year authorizing the use of a blind trust.

Gov. Rick Scott is the only public official who has been using a blind trust, although this year he disclosed details about his finances when he qualified for re-election.

Jim Apthorp, a former top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, said in a statement he would consult with his attorneys after whether to appeal Cooper's ruling.

Slain FSU law professor was found bleeding in his car, report says

Florida State University law professor Dan Markel was shot in his car, police said Monday, after releasing notes from the Tallahassee Fire Department dispatch log.

According to the notes, a caller said he heard a "loud bang" inside Markel's home on July 18, and ran over to see what had happened. The caller found Markel in his car in the garage, bleeding. The driver's side window was "bashed open," according to the report.

Markel was moving, but not speaking, the caller said. 

The police have already said Markel, 41, was shot in the head. He died in the hospital the following day.

Investigators believe Markel was targeted by his shooter. They have not named a suspect in the case, but are searching for gray or silver Toyota Prius that was spotted leaving the neighborhood.

Earlier Monday, police asked to speak with anyone who had seen Markel on July 17 or 18. Detectives were particularly interested anyone who had seen Markel or his black Honda Accord at the FSU Law School, the Congregation Shomrei Torah Home, the shops on Thomasville Road near I-10, or in the area of Tharpe Street and Mission Road in Tallahassee.

Markel was a well-known legal scholar and father of two young children. His death has made national headlines.

Read the notes from the dispatch log below.

Download Tpd-trescottreport (1)

Sheldon unveils new radio spot that takes the quiet approach with Bondi

George Sheldon's new radio campaign for Florida Attorney General was unveiled Monday to the sound of crickets.

That's not how the ad, attacking current Attorney General Pam Bondi, was received. That's actually the sound that begins the 60-second spot: crickets.

"This is what we hear when utility companies try to cut successful conservation programs and raise our rates.  Crickets from Pam Bondi's office. Pam Bondi repeatedly looks the other way when corporations and her big contributors try to rip off Floridians. If big companies want a favor from Bondi, she takes their money then cues the crickets."

It goes on to imply that Sheldon, when he was deputy Florida attorney general under Bob Butterworth from 1999 to 2002, power companies were held accountable. How does it imply this? Sirens blare in the ad as the announcer intones: "This is the sound you heard when George Sheldon was deputy attorney general, and power companies tried to cut service and raise rates."

Public utilities are something Sheldon's campaign has been targeting of late. Last week, the 67-year-old held a news conference to urge state regulators to prevent utilities from cutting conservation programs. The ad is meant to spotlight Bondi's silence on the consumer issue.

Whether the response will be crickets or much more depends on how often it's played and in what markets. 

While the ad targets Bondi, Sheldon must still beat his Democratic rival, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, in the Aug. 26 primary. 

Listen here for radio ad.

 

Florida Medical Association members vote to support Medicaid expansion

For the first time, members of the Florida Medical Association have approved a resolution endorsing Medicaid expansion, a politically contentious issue that the group's leaders have generally avoided over the last two legislative sessions.

By unanimous voice vote at the FMA's annual conference in Orlando on Sunday, several hundred members approved a resolution written by South Florida obstetrician/gynecologist Aaron Elkin calling for FMA to publicly support expanding Medicaid eligibility as long as the program "safeguarded patient access to care while increasing Medicaid payment rates to Medicare levels for all physicians."

The resolution, which had the support of several South Florida medical societies, had been recommended by an FMA committee on Saturday.

A statement from FMA's general counsel, Jeff Scott, focused on the part of the resolution calling for higher payment rates. The voting members are known as the House of Delegates and include representatives of county medical societies and specialty societies.

"In passing this resolution, the House of Delegates recognized that increased access to care for an enlarged Medicaid population will only come about if there are adequate numbers of physicians to care for these patients," Scott said. "It is also understood that current payment levels (which in many instances do not cover the cost to provide care) are grossly inadequate and serve as a disincentive to physician participation in the Medicaid program."

The politically influential FMA has in the past reserved its considerably lobbying firepower for other issues, such as malpractice reform. Powerful Republican leaders, including House Speaker Will Weatherford, are adamantly opposed to giving Medicaid coverage to a greater number of low-income adults. Although it is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid eligibility was left up to the states, which administer the program jointly with the federal government.

Florida's refusal to expand the program leaves around 800,000 Floridians without health insurance, as they can't qualify for Medicaid under current qualification rules and are too poor to qualify for federal tax subsidies that help pay for private insurance.

Read more here.

Tonight's Broward GOP speaker famous for mosque fight

Call it the summer of speakers from the fringe for the Broward Republican Executive Committee.

In June, BREC -- the main county GOP group -- invited conspiracy theorist Trevor Loudon of New Zealand to speak while tonight the guest speaker is Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who was parodied on The Daily Show in 2010 for her opposition to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The mosque had been around for decades and wanted to construct a larger building.

After Cardoza-Moore made broad generalizations about Muslims, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi asked her:

“You do know I’m Muslim right?”

“Nobody is perfect,” she replied.

Cardoza-Moore noted that the mosque had already been around for 20-something years, prompting Mandvi to ask “20 years -- it’s been 20 years of nonviolence?”

Cardoza-Moore replied “None yet.”

When a spokeswoman for the mosque said that they had been there for 30 years, Mandvi quipped that it wasn’t a sleeper cell but a “comatose cell.”

Broward GOP chairman Tom Truex said in an interview that Cardoza-Moore was recommended as a speaker by the county’s Jewish Republican Club.

“She has a point of view that some of our membership was interested in,” he said.

Truex argues that it’s just the media griping about the speakers. Truex said the bulk of the meeting is about other business including listening to judicial candidates and a representative from Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign. He also says he has opened the floor to a variety of speakers.

“We’ve had libertarians, speakers from a variety of perspectives.”

We asked for an example of a speaker who had a moderate perspective and Truex said a few months ago he had the president of the Log Cabin group -- a gay Republican group -- do the invocation at the beginning of the meeting though he said he got complaints for that.

BREC has drawn attention for an internal fight about gay marriage with some activists criticizing two elected officials who are Republicans -- County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and school board member Heather Brinkworth -- for participating in the gay pride parade in Wilton Manors. Both LaMarca and Brinkworth defended their decision to reach out to the gay community which is part of their constituency.

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is seen as more friendly to liberals so the fact that a speaker was parodied on the show isn’t an automatic turnoff for Republicans, but it raises questions about the party’s focus in a critical election year. As leader of the Broward GOP, Truex has the difficult task of trying to unite various factions ranging from tea party activists to more moderate business-type Republicans. The question is if such speakers will turn off some Republicans from the group’s main task: helping elect Republicans to local, state and federal office.

With more than 230,000 Republican voters in the county -- one of the largest contingents in the state -- the Broward GOP could play a key role in helping turn out the vote for Gov. Rick Scott or trying to win back a state Senate seat for Ellyn Bogdanoff and hang on to other local seats.

Internal party warfare is common among political clubs -- the Broward Democrats brawl over whether to re-elect chairman Mitch Ceasar every four years while Herald political reporter Marc Caputo details Miami-Dade Democratic dysfunction related to the governor’s race.

 

Convicted lobbyist becomes star witness in Miami Lakes mayor's bribery trial

@jayhweaver

Many months would pass after Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi wigged out when a couple of sketchy Chicago businessmen bluntly pitched him on a “money grab” for some “bogus” federal grants.

After initially backing away, however, prosecutors say Pizzi agreed to rejoin their supposed scam after he was elected to a second term in November 2012.

The man who pulled the politician back in was Richard Candia, a likable lobbyist who had raised thousands of dollars for Pizzi’s re-election campaign.

Candia was an unwitting target of an FBI sting operation aimed at the Miami Lakes mayor. After he was confronted by agents last summer, the lobbyist assisted in the undercover probe of Pizzi, who was arrested in August. Candia — convicted himself after confessing to taking bribes — will be in the hot seat this week as the prosecution’s star witness in the suspended mayor’s corruption trial in Miami federal court.

Pizzi, 51, is charged with accepting $6,750 in illegal checks and cash from two undercover FBI agents posing as the sleazy Chicago men in a grant-writing business. Prosecutors say the agents lured him into officially supporting sham federal grant applications in Miami Lakes and Medley, where Pizzi worked as the town attorney, in exchange for the bribes.

More here.

Critic of gift ban, Putnam coy on King Ranch trips

PutnamphotoAgriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam minces no words when talking about the 2006 gift ban.

In a 2010 interview, Putnam called it "dumb."

He said the ban was a "disincentive for fellowship" and said: "You're forbidden from hanging out unless somebody is giving you a check." 

Yet when asked about trips he has taken to King Ranch that appear to give him plenty of opportunity to hang with big sugar lobbyists, Putnam clammed up. Here's a transcript from the June 17 interview conducted after a Cabinet meeting as Putnam walked back to his office.
 
Can you explain when you've gone to King Ranch and for what purposes?

I have been there for campaign purposes as well as to see more of their ag operations.

Which ag operations?

You know, they are significant agricultural players in the state of Florida.

How so?

They are one of the largest citrus growers in the state, as well as, they continue to be active in cattle, sod and sugar.

Did you hunt during these trips?

The campaign event was a hunting trip, yes.

How many times have you been?

I'll have to check.

Continue reading "Critic of gift ban, Putnam coy on King Ranch trips" »

Will Joe 6-pack become Joe Dime Bag? Q-Poll finds pot legalization backed 55-41 in FL

@MarcACaputo

A clear majority of Floridians, 55 percent, favor outright legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, according to a new poll that indicates a medical cannabis initiative headed for the November ballot still looks as if it will easily pass.

Support for medical-marijuana use among adults is even more outsized: 88-10 percent, Quinnipiac University’s survey of 1,251 voters shows.

But that poll question, about marijuana use among adults, doesn’t directly relate to the proposed constitutional amendment voters will decide because that initiative allows prescription cannabis use by any qualifying patient, including children.

More here

July 27, 2014

To woo Florida Keys voters, Carlos Curbelo brings out big gun: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo is getting a little help from a friend to campaign to Florida Keys voters.

A new television ad to begin airing this week features Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- the popular Miami Republican who represented the Keys for a decade before her seat was redrawn two years ago -- introducing her former constituents to Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member whom she has endorsed. Curbelo is running to challenge Democrat Joe Garcia for the 26th congressional district, which extends from Kendall to Key West.

"He's an education innovator and a small businessman," Ros-Lehtinen says in the ad. "Carlos is part of the next generation who will work to protect our natural wonders, our fishermen and our economy."

It's Curbelo's third TV spot, timed to start the same week as absentee ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters for the Aug. 26 primary. Rival Ed MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor, has also been airing ads. The other GOP hopefuls are former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck.

 

That IRS "investigation" tied to Annette Taddeo? Well, there really isn't one.

A governor’s race doesn’t seem to go by in Florida without Democrats ending up in a circular firing squad.

A disgruntled Nan Rich supporter was the unwitting bullet this time.

Angered with the way the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee treated her, party member Barbara Walters secretly filed an obscure tax complaint with the IRS last October — and then she leaked the information recently to a conservative-website columnist dedicated to tearing down Crist.

The story targeted the county party’s leader, Annette Taddeo, just after Crist coincidentally chose her to be his running mate.

IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related, Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo, read the Sunshine State News headline, which wondered why the mainstream news media wasn’t looking into the case.

For starters, the complaint about employee classification for tax purposes is without merit, experts say.

And the story’s headline is false.

There is no IRS “investigation,” federal law-enforcement sources confirmed to the Miami Herald. Also, the story drips with hyperbole, misleading innuendo and, in one case, a statement that Walters said is “totally inaccurate.”

Column here

YouGov FL poll (internet): Rick Scott leads Charie Crist 48%-43%

@MarcACaputo

A new New York Times/CBS YouGov poll of Florida voters shows Gov. Rick Scott edges Democrat Charlie Crist by about 5 percentage points -- a spread that mirrors the Republican's internal polling but conflicts with two recent public polls showing the challenger leading or tied.

There's one big difference between YouGov's and the other surveys -- it's an internet poll, a method of gauging public opinion that's relatively new. 

The other polls from Quinnipiac University (Crist up by 5; but 2 when Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is in the race), SurveyUSA (Crist by 6) and Fabrizio, Lee (Scott up by 5, or 4 with Wyllie in) were all conducted by telephone. Of them, SurveyUSA was the only pollster to use so-called 'robo-polling' (also known as IVR) instead of live callers. To supplement the loss of cellphone voters (essentially un-pollable by IVR), SurveyUSA uses a smart-phone-based internet questionairre.

The crosstabs of the YouGov survey are below

Yougov

GOP mum on all those trips to King Ranch

@craigtimes

@mikevansickler

On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses.

Scott won't answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch "in support of his political fundraising efforts."

Also keeping mum: state House leaders who have accepted similar trips in the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.

Read story here.

100 days out, Rick Scott's campaign says data already show a win

@MarcACaputo

Another gauntlet thrown --- the Rick Scott 100 Days Out campaign memo:

DATE: July 27, 2014
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Melissa Sellers, Campaign Manager and Tim Saler, Deputy Campaign Manager
SUBJECT: 100 Days Out, Gov. Scott Campaign is Poised to Win

Today marks 100 days until Election Day on November 4. Though we have worked hard from the beginning, today kicks off the final stretch of our campaign to re-elect Governor Scott. As we enter the sprint to the finish line, the Scott campaign has outpaced, outworked, and outmatched Charlie Crist in every measurable way. Make no mistake – no one works harder than Rick Scott, and that is exactly why he is poised to win a second term in office and keep Florida growing.

Fundraising: Since January 1, 2013, the combined efforts of our campaign, Let’s Get to Work, and the Republican Party of Florida have raised an astonishing $84 million. In the 2nd quarter of 2014 alone, our joint efforts raised $14.7 million. The outpouring of support for the Governor’s re-election is encouraging, but we will continue to arm ourselves with the funding necessary to fight against the continued smear campaign of personal attacks from Charlie Crist. After all, the Governor is not just running against Charlie Crist – he is running against the Obama machine, the trial lawyers, and every other liberal special interest that wants to take control of our state.

Field Program: Our commitment to a robust field program is unmatched. We have opened 49 offices and have thousands of volunteers working across Florida every day – talking to their neighbors, organizing their communities, and getting Governor Rick Scott re-elected this November. In fact, our volunteers have already knocked on over 350,000 targeted doors, an accomplishment that was not reached until after Labor Day in the 2012 presidential campaign. With our early focus on face-to-face, door-to-door, targeted voter contact, we believe we are on the path to execute the most sophisticated and successful direct voter engagement campaign in Florida history. With new technology in place, we collect data from each voter interaction in real time and adjust our voter contact programs based on constant feedback. The Crist field program thus far is amusingly small.

Advertising: Let’s Get to Work and the Republican Party of Florida have joined together to invest more than $18 million in early advertising – including $1.4 million on Spanish-language ads. This early advertising has been well received by the public – as voters remember how badly Charlie Crist mismanaged Florida’s economy and budget. Crist’s strategy of attempting to coast into office based only on his charm is being dismantled as Floridians realize that he is devoid of any plan or vision for Florida’s future. Crist’s attempts to have no discussion of his record as governor have been thwarted.
Florida voters now have a net unfavorable opinion of Crist, something not seen in polling even when Crist was soundly defeated and received only 30% of the vote in his race for the U.S. Senate in 2010. In contrast, voters are well aware of Governor Scott’s record and accomplishments, and they like what they see. They know that the choice is clear: Rick Scott is the better Governor.

Download 100 days memo