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103 posts from September 2006

September 29, 2006

Interim vacant office status

That's the word for web visitors looking to reach Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned immediately Friday afternoon following word that he had engaged in inappropriate Internet contact with minor boys.

Foley's congressional website notes the office of the 16th Congressional district, "formerly the office of Representative Mark Foley,'' will continue to serve constituents "under the supervision of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.'

"Representative Foley,' it notes, "resigned effective close of business September 29."

The page that once touted the 12-year incumbent's accomplishments was replaced with the notice within hours of Foley's departure.

See the site here: http://clerk.house.gov/members/electionInfo/Florida_16th/index.html

ABC News transcript of Foley report

Here is what Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz & Maddy Sauer Reported Friday on ABC News:

Florida Rep. Mark Foley's resignation came just hours after ABC News questioned the congressman about a series of sexually explicit instant messages involving congressional pages, high school students who are under 18 years of age.

In Congress, Rep. Foley (R-FL) was part of the Republican leadership and the chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children.

He crusaded for tough laws against those who used the Internet for sexual exploitation of children.

"They're sick people; they need mental health counseling," Foley said.

But, according to several former congressional pages, the congressman used the Internet to engage in sexually explicit exchanges. 

They say he used the screen name Maf54 on these messages provided to ABC News.

Maf54: You in your boxers, too?

Teen:  Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.

Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed.

Another message:

Maf54: What ya wearing?

Teen: tshirt and shorts

Maf54: Love to slip them off of you.

And this one:

Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?

Teen:  A little.

Maf54: Cool.

The language gets much more graphic, too graphic to be broadcast, and at one point the congressman appears to be describing Internet sex.

Federal authorities say such messages could result in Foley's prosecution, under some of the same laws he helped to enact.

"Adds up to soliciting underage children for sex," said Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and now an ABC News consultant.  "And what it amounts to is serious both state and federal violations that could potentially get you a number of years."

Foley's resignation letter was submitted late this afternoon, and he left Capitol Hill without speaking to reporters.

In a statement, he said he was "deeply sorry'' and apologized for letting down his family and the people of Florida.

But he made no mention of the Internet messages or the pages. 

One former page tells ABC News that his class was warned about Foley by people involved in the program.

Other pages told ABC News they were hesitant to report Foley because of his power in Congress.

This all came to a head in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, we asked the congressman about some much tamer e-mails from one page, and he said he was just being overly friendly. After we posted that story online, we began to hear from a number of other pages who sent these much more explicit, instant messages. When the congressman realized we had them, he resigned.

Foley revelations provoke reaction

U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's abrupt resignation prompted widespread reaction from all sectors Friday. Here is a sampling:

* Statement from Democratic challenger Tim Mahoney:

   "The challenges facing Congressman Foley make this is a difficult time for the people of the 16th district. The families of all of those involved are in our thoughts and prayers.

   "When Terry and I decided to run for Congress one year ago, we did so because we believe every child deserves to live their American dream and every generation has the responsibility to give their children a world that is safer, more moral, and offers them the opportunity to live that dream.

   "We have been running a spirited campaign on the issues important to the people of the 16th Congressional District: issues like homeowners' insurance, healthcare, education, dignity for our seniors, winning the War on Terror and we will continue to do so.''

* Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman: "Today's news is disturbing. As a public servant, there are two things Congressman Mark Foley needs to do now, out of respect for all Floridians: Come clean and get help. Congressman Foley needs to seek counseling in addition to accepting any consequences related to the law. Our elected representatives should always put their constituents first and be honest with the people they serve."

* Incoming Senate President Ken Pruitt:  “My thoughts are with Congressman Foley and his family during this difficult time – this is a tragic and sad situation on many levels.  I join our community in thanking him for his years of dedicated public service. While it is an honor to be rumored as a potential candidate for the Congressional seat, I remain completey commited to serving my constituents in the Florida Senate."

Crist trounces Davis in fundraising

Another week of fundraising, another big gap between Attorney General Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. The latest money numbers in the Florida governor's race show that Crist raised more than $750,000 between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22 _ bringing his overall total to $15.9 million. Davis meanwhile during the same time period raised nearly $183,000, sending his campaign total to $4.86 million. Davis has about $560,000 in the bank, while Crist has $2.54 million unspent. Crist has been helped by the fact that he's not spending any money right now for TV ads, leaving that to the Republican Party of Florida, which thanks to a campaign finance loophole can buy them for Crist.

In the Cabinet races, Democratic Chief Financial Officer candidate Alex Sink raised $117,000 in the last week while her GOP opponent, Senate President Tom Lee raised more than $59,000. Lee has raised a total of $2.6 million and has $181,000 left in the bank, while Sink has raised $2.54 million and has $30,000 in the bank. The big difference, however, is that Sink has already purchased $2.2 million worth of advertising that hasn't started airing yet, while Lee spent most of his money during a competitive Republican primary.

Republican Bill McCollum raised nearly $134,000 in his bid for attorney general, while his rival, State Sen. Skip Campbell, a Tamarac Democrat, reported taking in slightly more than $112,000. McCollum has now raised $2.1 million to Campbell's $1.4 million and both candidates report still having more than $1 million in their accounts to spend on the final month of the campaign.

Negron says "I'm in" for Foley seat

State Rep. Joe Negron, a Stuart attorney, has told the Miami Herald he will seek to become the replacement candidate on the November ballot for U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned Friday amid allegations he made advances to a 16-year-old congressional intern.

"I'm in this race, and I'm going to win," Negron said.

Negron faces an uphill battle to replace Foley, whose name will appear on the ballot in spite of Foley's resignation. Negron first must be appointed by the party's executive committee to be the replacement candidate, then voters would have to choose him over Democratic candidate Tim Mahoney.

"The voters of House District 16 want a congressman who supports their president, and I do," Negron said. "The district is smart enough to figure it out. I'm optimistic."

Negron, the head of the House Fiscal Council, has campaigned once before for Foley's congressional seat -- in 2004 when Foley planned to run for U.S. Senate.

However, Negron withdrew when Foley decided to stay in his district, partly at the urging of national Republicans nervous about Foley's rumored sexual orientation and in order to clear the way for then-Housing secretary Mel Martinez, who was elected.

Negron, who leaves his state legislative seat this year because of term limits, spent part of this year campaigning to be the Republican nominee for attorney general but dropped out when former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum entered the race.

Negron said he has $1 million available in his attorney general campaign account that he could now transfer to the congressional race.

"People have been calling non-stop to pledge their support and write checks to the federal account," Negron said.

He said state Sens. Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach and Lisa Carlton, of Osprey, have backed him, along with a Highlands County Rep. Denise Grimsley.

"I've campaigned in this district already. The people know me and I know the

A taxing morning

Rep. Katherine Harris took her campaign against Sen. Bill Nelson to the sidewalk in front of the IRS in Washington Friday, assailing the Democrat for what she says is an undistinguished career.

"Close your eyes," the Sarasota Republican said, her prepared remarks often difficult to hear over the drone of passing traffic. "What can you envision Bill Nelson has accomplished? Nothing substantial for Floridians.'

Harris said she's launching a "targeted effort" to highlight Nelson's 34 years in public office and what she said was a record of voting for tax increases.

"He's voted repeatedly against reducing taxes on the American middle class,' she said. "Florida needs a gutsy fight, not an empty suit."

Harris, whose campaign has been plagued by staff turnover, her own bewildering misstatements and ties to a now-convicted defense contractor, acknowledged her underdog status.

"I know this is going to be an uphill battle,'' she said. "But I've been here before."

Klein inches up in his own poll

Is the race between Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw and Democratic state Sen. Ron Klein getting tighter?

A poll released Thursday by Klein's campaign suggests he's gaining ground. The poll shows Klein leading Shaw 43 to 42 percent, said Klein's campaign spokesman, Brian Smoot. That's a major uptick from August, when the campaign's polling showed Shaw leading Klein 48 to 41 percent, Smoot said. Shaw's campaign counters that their own polling disputes those numbers, and that a poll released by the candidate himself isn't trustworthy. Read more here.

Meanwhile, Shaw got a boost Wednesday when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stumped on his behalf in Palm Beach Gardens. See the story here.

September 28, 2006

Crist says case solved; panel says it's not

Did Attorney General Charlie Crist solve the 1951 bombing murders of civil rights activist Harry T. Moore, or didn't he?

The 30-member panel for the non-profit group that rewards police tipsters -- Central Florida CrimeLine -- doesn't think so. The conclusion didn't meet the group's criteria, spokesman George McNamara told the Orlando Sentinel. The criteria: successful resolution of the crime.

Crist apparently disagrees. Crist spokesman JoAnn Carrin told the Associated Press Wednesday that CrimeLine's criteria for successful resolution of a case was different than law enforcement's.   

‘‘(Crist) did not say it was closed, he did not say these were the only individuals that could have been involved, but he did say this is what our investigators have found," she said. "I think it's kind of two different things." 

Here's what Crist told the Miami Herald and other reporters during an interview in Orlando last week:

Q: Will the reward money be offered?

Crist: "It's being reviewed and likely that will occur."

Q: Are you confident these four were the only individuals that could have done it?

Crist: "We think that's correct. We believe that to be the case and I'm
satisfied that is probably the case and unless any new information were to come out, I am satisfied."

Q: Could you speak about the timing of this? Why did you announce it when you did, when a Democratic opponent was under fire for his civil rights record?

Crist: "It's when the people in our office felt that it had come to fruition.
They felt they had exhausted every opportunity to continue to look for any additional information."

Q: There was no political motive?

Crist: "None whatsoever."

Gallagher's wife to be spokeswoman for gay marriage ban

Laura Gallagher, the soft-spoken wife of former gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher, has a new cause to campaign for: a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Florida.

Gallagher was named spokeswoman for Florida4Marriage.org, the official sponsoring committee of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. The organization, backed by the Christian Coalition of Florida, the Liberty Counsel, the Florida Family Policy Council and other conservative groups, is financing the petition drive to get the amendment on the November 2008 election ballot.

The organization tried but failed to collect enough validated signatures to place the amendment on the ballot this year, despite efforts by backers to pump $300,000 into the Republican Party of Florida to fuel the effort. The group reports that the Florida Division of Elections has certified 466,700 of the 611,009 petitions required.

Laura Gallagher is a Tallahassee attorney who had a strong influence on moving her husband from the political middle to the political right after their marriage 8 years ago. 

Kottkamp gets new house; home builder gets new House seat

    The expression "mi casa es su casa'' can be taken literally by Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jeff Kottkamp and Gary Aubuchon, the man who is building his new house in Cape Coral.


   Kottkamp resigned the District 74 House seat three weeks ago when he was selected by Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist to be his running mate. Last week, the Republican Party of Florida named his successor: Aubuchon.


   The 44-year-old homebuilder was chosen because a of his "great wealth of knowledge in the southwest Florida district," said Jeff Sadosky, spokesman for the RPOF. "He was appointed because of that and nothing more."


   At least one person is not persuaded. Paul D. Asfour, a Cape Coral attorney and former member of the Cape Coral City Council, was among the 10 other applicants for the job who lost to Aubuchon. In a letter to Crist this week, Asfour said the "Aubuchon/Kottkamp business relationship is not merely an 'appearance of a conflict of interest;' it is an 'actual' conflict of interest."


   Sadosky calls that "a completely fallacious assertion." The appointment was made by the three voting members of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee and three from the Charlotte County REC, he said, because the district overlaps both counties.

   Aubuchon "has built many people's houses," Sadosky said. "That is why he is a business leader and sat on many boards of directors throughout the Cape Coral and Charlotte County area."

    Because Kottkamp had no challenger, Aubuchon strolls into the legislature without an election.