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108 posts from February 2007

February 25, 2007

Loopholes remain despite gift ban

More than a year ago, lawmakers had to start living under a tough new gift ban law they enacted in a 2005 special session. But while the law has proved cumbersome to deal with in many ways, there are still plenty of legal ways for lobbyists and their clients to provide freebies to lawmakers. For example, House Republicans who attended an August 2006 fundraiser got free hotel rooms, free food and even free park tickets from Walt Disney World. And there's plenty of other ways as well. For more, go here.

February 24, 2007

Pay to play in presidential race

Democrat Tom Vilsack's departure from the presidential race isn't the first or the last by a candidate who couldn't rake in millions of dollars fast enough. To read Beth Reinhard's column, click here.

February 23, 2007

Following in Mel's footsteps

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who last fall became the second U.S. senator with Cuban ties - after Florida's own Mel Martinez - is once again following Martinez - this time, moving into the Florida Republican's now-vacated suite of offices.

A release from the New Jersey Democrat's office announced the news like this:

"Our office is moving on Monday. We will be relocating to Hart 317 – Senator Martinez’s old office. Please – no jokes."

Not a chance.

Martinez has already set up in shop in the nearby Russell building.

Obama's Florida itinerary

In his first public appearance in Florida as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama will attend a March 25th rally in West Palm Beach sandwiched between private fundraisers. Here's the schedule:

11:30 a.m. brunch at the Palm Beach home of Jim Clark, founder of Netscape. $1,000 per guest.

1 p.m. rally at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. $100 per person.

2:30 p.m. fundraiser at the Hallandale Beach home of Jeremy and Rachel Alters. $1,000 per person.

6:45pm fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. $250 per guest.

8:00pm fundraiser at the Coral Gables home of Roy and Lea Black residence. $2,300 per guest.

Obama will have breakfast with Hispanic leaders on Monday, March 26 at the Biltmore before taking off.

Argenziano doesn't even get interview

State Sen. Nancy Argenziano, a Crystal River Republican who has a reputation as a thorn in the side of utility companies, was rejected by the nominating panel assigned to name candidates for two positions to the state's utility board, the Florida Public Service Commission.

The Public Service Nominating Council selected 19 candidates to be interviewed on March 9. Argenziano received only four of the five votes needed to make the cut. AARP chairman Bentley Lipscomb voted for her. Senate colleague and commission chairman, Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton voted for her, and he votes last.

Gov. Charlie Crist created the openings on the panel after rejecting the two nominees former Gov. Jeb Bush made before his left office, Isilio Arriago and Kenneth Littlefield. Crist will choose from the list of nominees the panel selects. He has called the PSC a "lapdog'' and, as attorney general, used his office to challenge telephone rate increases and fought power companies attempts to pass on storm damage costs to consumers. He has said he will select a person who is a strong consumer advocate.

Some of those who made the cut: Philip Nowecki and Jeremy Susac, two candidates whom Crist appointed to the post on a temporary basis after rejecting Bush's nominations; former Sen. Lesley Miller, a Tampa Democrat and former Democratic leader who served with Crist in the state Senate; Stephen Stewart, a former lawyer in the PSC's public counsel office; Joe McGlothin, a lawyer now serving the PSC's public counsel's office; Pat Wiggins, a utility lawyer; Bev DeMello, director of the PSC's consumer affair's office; Michael Palecki, a former PSC commissioner; Kevin Neal, former aide to a PSC commissioner; and Manny Arisso, a lawyer.

The best campaigners of 2006

Depending on your perspective, it was a gathering of champion mudslingers or champions of democracy.

About 400 of the nation's top campaign strategists attended the annual conference of the American Association of Political Consultants in Miami Beach this week.

"National Pollie Awards'' went to George LeMieux, campaign manager for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; Dawn Laguens for commercials that helped elect Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Montana Sen. Jon Tester; and to Peter Brodnitz for his polling in Virginia on behalf of newly elected Gov. Tim Kaine and Sen. James Webb.

LeMieux won "Player of the Year,'' an award previously given to President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove. Irony of ironies: LeMieux made the call to keep Crist away from the unpopular president when he rallied in Pensacola on the eve of the election.

"This was the Super Bowl of campaign consultant events,'' said Al Maloof, managing director of GJB Consulting in Miami. "The brightest of political minds were here.''

Click here to see Ritter's ads and here to see Tester's spots.

Giuliani hires former Bush campaign manager

Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani is getting into the game in Florida. Karen Unger, campaign manager for Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002, will be a top advisor.

Giuliani's campaign has been quiet in Florida until his visit to Delray Beach yesterday, while rival  Mitt Romney has been acting like he's running for governor. Yesterday, he released the names of 77 members of his Florida finance team. South Florida supporters include Jorge Arrizurietta, Anthony Burns, Al Cardenas, Sergio Pino, Wayne Rosen, Stanley Tate and Ray Velazquez.

For a guy with single-digit poll numbers, Romney has made strong inroads into Bush's political network. McCain has also tapped in, as Florida lawmakers prepare to move up the presidential primary to late January.

"Florida is on the verge of becoming an even bigger player on the 2008 political landscape,'' said former Bush aide Cory Tilley, who is advising McCain. "You will see Sen. McCain in Florida often over the next year.''

All three Republican candidates have visited Florida in the past week. To read about Giuliani's visit on Thursday, click here.

Review shows that lobbyists earned at least $58 million last year

For the first time ever, there's a known price tag for influencing the Florida Legislature: at least $58 million. And counting.

Lobbyists reaped at least that amount last year -- and might have earned up to $38 million more, depending on how the numbers are figured -- from corporations, special-interest groups and cities and counties that wanted to influence the Legislature, according to an extensive review by The Miami Herald of newly required lobbyist disclosure forms. More here.

February 22, 2007

Rubio tells audience he'd like to stay in public service

House Speaker Marco Rubio made his first foray into the often-raucous Capital Tiger Bay Club Thursday, a Tallahassee forum for political junkies, and unleashed an energetic version of his tried and true political speech. The crowd was rapt, gave him hearty applause, and prompted one commentator to commend him for an "excellent civics lesson."

Rubio came prepared with the expected line-up of self-deprecating jokes. He called the Florida House an economic engine for Tallahassee: "If you read the newspapers, you see we pay well.'' He joked about the gift ban and said, "It's good to have a free lunch. It's been a long time." And he noted that government must change like the times: "If you walked up to someone 10 years ago and said, 'I just Googled you,' they would slap you.''

Rubio was asked what he might be running for next and he said: "I don't really have anything in mind, but I do love public service and I have a lot of fun." He explained that, "like being a college football coach who wants to be in the NFL,'' he can't announce on his first day on the job that he wants to go to the NFL. "The best thing I could do, is to do the best job that I can as speaker and,if I do that, I believe I'll have opportunities."

The speaker also reminded his audience that leadership is not a popularity contest: "Name one leader who was universally popular in their time -- you won't find any,'' he said. He underscored why Florida should have an early primary: "If you're talking about Florida, you're talking about America...The questions we ask, no one else will ask.''

He said Gov. Charlie Crist was more in touch with people than any leader he has ever seen. He called Senate President Ken Pruitt the best policymaker in Tallahassee. And he called Democratic leaders, Dan Gelber in the House and Steve Geller in the Senate "responsible policymakers and not bomb-throwers.''

Lawmakers push Kidcare amendment

A bipartisan group of lawmakers Thursday proposed a constitutional amendment that would require the state to provide access to healthcare for all children by July 2010. Calling it a "moral imperative,'' House members said that Florida should do everything it can to fix Florida's Kidcare programs and make sure that the state is offering services to every child that needs it.

"This initiative has but one simple goal: to guarantee that every child in Florida has access to quality health insurance," said Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat. "This is not just a piece of legislation, it is a moral imperative. There is nothing more important to Florida’s families than the health of their children."

Also backing the effort along with the House Democrats are Reps. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, and Rep. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican.

Lawmakers maintain they can meet the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment if Florida takes steps to streamline eligibility standards, expand the number of those eligible, and open up enrollment to families able to pay their full share.