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70 posts from December 2006

December 14, 2006

Ron Klein's IOU

More than 40 percent of the congressional candidates this year spent more than they raised, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the debtors: newly elected Democrat Ron Klein of Boca Raton, whose race against Republican Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale was one of the most expensive in the country.

Klein's campaign manager, Brian Smoot, said the campaign owes roughly $80,000. One unexpected cost was a last-minute plane ticket for former President Bill Clinton to host a fundraiser.

Smoot said the campaign plans to hit up donors again or hold another fundraiser. "Clinton and his entourage probably won’t be invited this time,'' notes the Center for Responsive Politics.

To read the entire report, click here.

Sink has raised $31k for party

Alex Sink, the incoming chief financial officer, has raised $31,000 for her Jan. 2 inauguration party, according to her new website. The donations include $5,000 from Dixiana Farms in Lexington, Kentucky, $5,000 from Tower Hill Partners, a holding company with links to Tower Hill Insurance, $5,000 from Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, and $2,500 from the Miami law firm of Lydecker, Lee, Behar, Berga & De Zayas and $2,500 from the Tallahassee law firm of Radey, Thomas, Yon, Clark and $2,500 from the Tallahassee accountant firm of Thomas Howell Ferguson.

Sink has also disclosed how much she spent so far: $7,222, which covers $2,500 for the band that will play at the party and nearly $3,000 for legal advice.

Sink will post names of donors

Richard Swann, the Orlando fundraiser heading up efforts to raise $150,000 for Alex Sink's inaugural party on Jan. 2, said Thursday that the chief financial officer-elect has in fact set up a 527 committee, the Alex Sink Inauguration Committee, to accept donations for the event. Because she is setting up a 527 committee, Sink also plans to launch an inauguration website where she will disclose the names of those who are helping out. Sink has capped donations to her inaugural party at $5,000 each.

Sink's party has become the big event on the night of Jan. 2 since Governor-elect Charlie Crist abruptly canceled his inaugural ball that he planned for the same evening. Sink's event will be held at the University Center at Florida State University and will feature a cash bar, coffee, coffee drinks and desserts only since the party does not start until 9 p.m.

McCain scores a Bushite

Kathleen Shanahan, former Gov. Jeb Bush staff chief and current vice chair for Gov.-elect Charlie Crist’s transition team, was just announced as the newest member of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential exploratory team.

Crist burnished his reformist credentials on the campaign trail this year with McCain, but has not endorsed him. He also campaigned with other presidential hopefuls, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Shannahan’s appointment brings into sharper focus the behind-the-scenes GOP presidential fight in Florida between McCain and Romney. With McCain having hired U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez’s former spokeswoman Melissa Shuffield. Miami State Rep. and GOP state committee man David Rivera also talked up McCain.

On Romney’s side: former state GOP chair Al Cardenas, former Bush campaign manager Sally Bradshaw and Bush fundraiser Ann Herberger.

Wasserman Schultz picked for key post

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been tapped for the influential House appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees in Congress, responsible for writing the federal budget.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Weston Democrat has "already proven herself to be a leader in the Democratic caucus, highly-respected by all our colleagues for her keen intellect and political savvy."

The decision by the Democratic steering and policy committee must still be ratified by the full House Democratic caucus, but Wasserman Schultz said she looks forward to working with Pelosi and committee chairman Rep. David Obey "as we pursue earmark reform and bring broader transparency to the appropriations process."

Crist announces Browning and Agwunobi as agency heads

Gov.-elect Charlie Crist announced today that Pasco Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning will be his secretary of state and that Andrew Agwunobi, the brother of Bush appointee John Agwunobi, will head the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Agwunobi, the younger brother of John who looks like a twin, was formerly head of Atlanta's massive public hospital system, Grady Hospital and most recently was chief operating officer of St. Joseph Health system, a 14-hospital Catholic health-care system with hospitals in California, Texas and New Mexico. He is a physician who also holds a Stanford MBA. As a sign this was coming, Agwunobi recently resigned from the board of directors of Tampa-based HMO WellCare Health Plans.

"He will use his experience as an administrator and compassion as a physician to champion accessiblity of health care for the people of Florida,'' Crist said.

John Agwunobi was secretary of the Department of Health under outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush as the state drew national attention during the anthrax scare of 2001. He is now serving as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Both brothers graduated from the University of Jos in Jos, Nigeria.

Browning, who has been elections supervisor in Pasco County for 25 years and is considered one of the most respected experts in the state, vowed to consider requiring election machines to have a paper trail and make Florida's elections system "the model for the rest of the nation.''

Browning was asked about the disputed District 13 Congressional race in Sarasota County. "Everything was tested out approrpriately,'' he said. "Recounts came out accurately.'' But, he noted, that Sarasota County has voted to require a paper record starting in 2008.

"We need to be open about all technology that's out there,'' he said. "I believe that voters need to have a high level of confidence in their voting systems. If voters don't have confidence in their voting systems, then there's very little to have confidence in. And so if it means whether it's paper trail, whether it's some other method of voter verification, that's something that I will look at as secretary.''

Crist said Browning has "displayed exemplary ethics in his role as supervisor of election in Pasco County'' and "his expertise will be a great advantage for our state and the integrity of our elections, which are very important to us.''

Affirmative action foes expect Crist to keep One Florida intact

Ward Connerly, the anti affirmative action foe who once launched a ballot drive in Florida only to see his efforts struck down by the courts, declared Wednesday that he and his supporters are ready to take their battle to other states during the crucial 2008 presidential election. Connerly announced his group has opened up exploratory committees in nine states and will eventually launch a petition drive in two to five states.

But a spokeswoman for Connerly said Florida is not one of the states under consideration. Diane Schachterle of the American Civil Rights Coalition said the group feels that it does not need to come to the Sunshine State because of Gov. Jeb Bush's One Florida plan, which six years ago ended racial preferences in university admissions and state contracting.

"Florida is not high on our radar right now,'' said Schachterle, who said the decision had nothing to do with the passage of Amendment 3, which requires all future constitutional amendments to pass by 60 percent. She noted an anti-affirmative action amendment in Washington State cleared that higher margin.

But Schachterle added that she hopes that Governor-elect Charlie Crist keeps intact the One Florida plan when he becomes governor. When asked about it on the campaign trail, Crist said he had no plans to alter One Florida _ whose contracting provisions were implemented by executive order.

December 13, 2006

Ex- GOP chief supports earlier Florida primary

Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is weighing in on House Speaker Marco Rubio's proposal to move up Florida's presidential primary in 2008.

In a recent Op-Ed in Diario Las Americas, Cardenas says Florida should have more of a say in picking the nominees, who are typically well established by the time the state's March primary rolls around.

"It makes no sense that we are so important at the time of choosing the president, but we're not taken into account at the moment of choosing the candidates,'' Cardenas wrote in Spanish. "With the end of Jeb Bush's term in Tallahassee, and with President George W. Bush in the final two years of his second term, it is now Florida's turn to compete as an equal with the rest of the states for the attention of the eventual nominees.''

Cardenas, a Miami attorney, says he also supports the state GOP holding a presidential straw poll at its October 2007 convention in Orlando.

Breakfast for the birds, lunch for the govs

After breakfasting at Parrot Jungle during his inaugural celebration, Governor-elect Charlie Crist lunched with former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham in Miami. Crist has said he's actively seeking advice from former governors on everything -- including how to handle appointments made by his predecessor that haven't been confirmed by the Senate.

No word yet on what the two spoke of, nor what or whether Crist (who eats like a bird) actually ate.

Crist asked to let ex-felons vote

During his campaign for governor, Republican Charlie Crist made news when he changed a longheld position and said felons should get their voting rights back after completing their sentences.

Now that Crist is the governor-elect, he's being asked to follow through. The intergovernmental, recreational and cultural affairs committee of the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution today urging the incoming governor to sign an executive order restoring felons' civil rights. The American Civil Liberties Union is also trying to set up a meeting with Crist to discuss the issue.

"We're exploring our options on how to achieve this,'' said Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.