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165 posts from July 2007

July 26, 2007

Villalobos helped group that targeted Rubio aide

Remember those mailers that attacked Richard Corcoran, the one-time chief of staff for House Speaker Marco Rubio who left his job to run for the state Senate seat vacated by Nancy Argenziano?

It turns out that Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican, was helping raise money for the group that put out the mailers: The Committee to Protect Florida, a electioneering communications organization or ECO run by veteran campaign consultant Rocky Pennington. Pennington also did extensive campaign work for Charlie Dean, who squeezed by Dennis Baxley in a tight GOP primary before winning the Senate seat.

On May 29th, Senate records show that Villalobos registered that he was soliciting money for the organization. The hard-hitting mailers put out by the group contended that Corcoran lied when he ran previously against Argenziano in a 1998 House race. Despite being endorsed by Senate leaders such as Senate President Ken Pruitt and Sen. Dan Webster, Corcoran dropped out of the race right before qualifying.

The Committee to Protect Florida wound up raising $130,000, including receiving a $50,000 donation from the Florida Education Association, $5,000 from lobbyist Ron Book and $2,000 from lobbyist David Custin.

Villalobos said he helped the organization for one reason: To help Charlie Dean. He said he didn't keep track of who all gave the group money or what it was spent on, although he said he approached the FEA.

"I helped raise Charlie Dean the money,'' said Villalobos. "I don't know what they did and where it went."

Lawyers to Sink: Pay paralyzed teen now

Bruce Rogow, the Fort Lauderdale attorney hired to represent the Schlesinger law firm, has sent a letter to lawyers representing Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and demanded that Sink release $6 million of the $8.5 million awarded by the Legislature to Minouche Noel and her family. Minouche Noel is the former Fort Lauderdale teenager who has been paralyzed ever since a botched operation performed on her by state-paid doctors.

In a Broward County court filing, Rogow has also asked a judge to order the state to release the $6 million, saying there is no dispute in that portion of the claims bill over how much everyone is supposed to receive. Included in the $6 million is $1.1 million for the lawyers and lobbyist who represented the Noel family.

In the filing Rogow repeats the position of the Schlesinger law firm that nothing prevents the firm from asking Jean and Flora Noel from paying the lawyers additional compensation out of the $2 million the couple are slated to receive.

Tara Klimek, a spokeswoman for Sink, said attorneys for the CFO are reviewing the documents and will address these matters in court next week.

Read Rogow's letter to Sink lawyers here: Download letter_to_sink_lawyer.pdf

Read the court filing: Download memo_in_support_of_lien.pdf

Romney coming to town

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will hold a "meet-and-greet'' 11 a.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel. That evening he will address the Seminole County Republican Party in Maitland.

Florida bundlers in the presidential race

A Washington watchdog group has identified 110 Florida "bundlers'' for presidential candidates -- donors who bundle together checks from their friends, family members and employees to get around campaign finance limits.

Public Citizen has launched an updated web site, www.whitehouseforsale.org, that allows users to search for 2008 bundlers by state and by candidate.

It wasn't easy.

Unlike George W. Bush, who disclosed the names of supporters who raised more than $100,000 for him in 2000 and 2004, and Democratic nominee John Kerry, who identified $50,000-and-up givers, only one 2008 candidate -  Barack Obama -- publishes an easily accessible bundlers list on his web site.

So Public Citizen did it the hard way, cobbling together a list based on media reports and campaign press releases. Since each campaign can define its top supporters however it likes, the value of the bundlers may vary widely. The list may also be incomplete.

Having said all that, Republican Mitt Romney appears to have the most Florida bundlers -- 61. Democrat John Edwards is next with 18. Since neither of those candidates are the fundraising leaders, that tells you that not all bundlers are created equal.

McCain loses Crist's ad men

The media team that brought you the signature image of the 2006 governor's race in Florida -- an empty chair -- has resigned from John McCain's presidential campaign.

Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens were the brains behind Republican Charlie Crist's television ad that spoofed Democrat Jim Davis' attendance record in Congress.  The ad showed an empty desk chair whizzing through Washington.

The Wall Street Journal story about the McCain campaign's latest defection is here.

Obama winnig hip-hop war

The rapper Common gives a shout out to Dem. prez hopeful Barack Obama in his new video for the song "The People." As Obama's name flashes on the screen, the Chicago-based Common says "my rap ignites the people like Obama."

The video is no guarantee it'll ignite votes for Obama, who nevertheless seems to be winning the hip-hop war judging by this slick-hooked reggaeton piece. More here on popwatchblog.

Obama expands on Latin American policy

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama talked to Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer about his views on Hugo Chavez and other anti-American leaders. Read it here.

July 25, 2007

Dems to push GOP in budget corner, and vice versa

From a Senate Democratic press release urging Republican lawmakers to keep open "all options" during the September special session to trim the budget: "This could include tapping some of the $2 billion in the state’s reserves, including the record $459 million in member projects recently vetoed, boosting the tax on alcohol or cigarettes, eliminating accelerated depreciation for certain corporations, reinstating the intangibles tax or other ways of generating increased revenue."

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist already declared a bigger cig tax dead. So get ready for the whole tax-and-spend charge to come back at the Dems.

Meek staffer makes the Hill's beauty cut

Miami native Todd Valentine, a special assistant to Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, is among The Hill newspaper's list of the 50 "most beautiful people on Capitol Hill."

The newspaper notes that before moving to the nation's capital 8 months ago, Valentine worked on the Senate campaign of then-Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., who lost to Bob Corker. He then got a job with Meek as an unpaid intern "and has risen quickly through the ranks" to his current job.

Also hailing from Florida is No. 4 on the Hill's list: Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, admiringly dubbed "The shy and quiet fisherman." Dating status notes that he's "in a relationship" with Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif.

More proof of Rubio distancing himself from Crist

In an op-ed published in today's edition of the Florida Baptist Witness, House Speaker Marco Rubio blames Gov. Charlie Crist and the legislature for "convincing Floridians to accept expanded gambling."

Rubio was responding to an editorial by executive editor James A. Smith, in which Smith blamed Rubio for allowing the expansion of gambling as well casting blame on the governor. Smith says Rubio contacted Smith to respond and, rather than write a letter to the editor, he offered to write this op-ed.

That makes Rubio's record today two-for-two. He also had an op-ed critical of the governor's approach to climate change in today's Miami Herald.