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213 posts from July 2008

July 28, 2008

Ink-stained wretches

Whoever said you shouldn't pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel apparently didn't tell Lt. Gov. Jeffrey Kottkamp.

Speaking to a group of Miami business leaders on Friday, Kottkamp said the press exaggerates the state's economic problems because its own business is in trouble.

"Print media is really archaic," Kottkamp told the board of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's nonprofit business recruitment agency. "They're laying off people. Their view of the world is pretty skewed."

His remarks didn't sit well with Beacon Council board member Alexandra Villoch, who also is the vice president for advertising at The Miami Herald.

Villoch replied that an estimated 1.1 million people read the Herald's English and Spanish print editions on any given Sunday -- not counting those who read it online. And she defended the paper's reporting on the economy, noting that it was based largely on statistics provided by the government.

"We don't make those statistics up," she said.

Kottkamp quickly backtracked, saying he was just advising the print media to look to the future online.

"My message is not that I don't like you," he said. "I love you."

Then he was ready to move on to other questions. "Who else did I insult?" he asked.

- SCOTT ANDRON

Surprise: Atwater and Cannon lead House and Senate campaign collections

Perceived power pays. (And we know that's hardly a surprise.) Republican Senate president designee Jeff Atwater has raised $1.9 million and 2010 incoming House speaker Dean Cannon has raised $509,040, according to a compilation of the House and Senate campaign finance data through July 18 by Christina Johnson of On 3 Public Relations in Tallahassee.

Next in line in the Senate's cash countdown is Democrat Dave Aronberg, who has drawn $415,000 in the Senate race. He and Atwater both have districts where the demographics have changed since they were first elected to office and both are being targeted by the opposing party, despite strong odds in their favor. Next in the Senate's top five are Mike Fasano with $396,340, Michael Grant with $335,107, Evelyn Lynn with $312,969 and Andy Gardiner with $246,120.

As the Aug. 26 primary arrives, there are several competitive House races but only a handful where the challengers are neck in neck in campaign contributions. Incoming House Speaker Ray Sansom was elected without opposition and Cannon has only nominal opposition.

The competitive House races where money is talking: Andy Gardiner's old Orlando-based seat where Eric Eisnaugle is battling it out with Joe Mantilla; Marco Rubio's Miami district where Rafael Perez and Erik Fresen are raising big bucks and Democrat Luis Garcia's Miami Beach district, where he faces a stiff challenge from Jorge Luis Lopez on the strength of a $100,000 personal loan from Lopez to his campaign.

Party vote: Bar scene used to get younger voters involved

The Hollywood nightclub is dark and the music so loud that conversation means leaning into an ear and shouting. But the drinks are free until midnight, and anyway most in the upstairs room of Passion nightclub are dancing, not talking.

Still, Chris Chiari, a Democratic candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, mingles in the crowd, drink in hand, campaigning. He shouts, by way of conversation: "This is real political action.''

This, to be exact, is Party Politics Inc. -- the latest, but not the first or only effort to engage 20-somethings in politics by appealing to their inner party animal. The idea is simple: host parties with a two-hour open bar about once a month at South Florida nightclubs. Post fliers at local colleges and send messages to friends on Facebook and MySpace.

The target audience: Generation Y, or Echo Boomers, or Millenials. Really, anyone born between 1980 and 1994.

Read more here.

July 27, 2008

Wash Post: Money from oil industry gushed after McCain backed offshore drilling

"Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling," the Washington Post reports.

"Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month -- three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban -- compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May."

McCain in June kicked up a controversy by saying he now favors allowing states -- like Florida -- to decide whether to lift the ban on offshore drilling. Enviros and Democrats say the solution to high gas prices can't be found through drilling.

When Fidel walked the streets of Miami

It happened -- a long time ago. The man who would become the ire of Cuban exiles and 10 U.S. presidents visited three different times -- holding court at a well known coral house in Little Havana, a Miami Beach hotel and a defunct Flagler Street theater.

His first visit was in 1948, when he came for his honeymoon. The next year, he came to hide. And in 1955, he stumped through the area as a revolutionary and found support among Miami exiles waiting out the ouster of Fulgencio Batista.

In retracing Castro's footsteps in 1940s and 1950s Miami, a portrait emerges of a southern tourist town with a relatively small number of Cubans who welcomed a man who would forever change the political landscape of their island nation and much of South Florida.

Read more here.

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Tomato/jalapeno scare raises congressional hackles

''We need to move forward with much-needed modernization of our national food safety laws,'' Rep. Adam Putnam, says in the wake of this summer's salmonella outbreak which could go down as the national food supply's biggest unsolved mystery. "These laws haven't really changed since the Eisenhower administration.''

Tomatoes, the original suspect, have been released from questioning but not exonerated. Now federal inspectors have fingered jalapeño peppers from Mexico as a potential source of contamination.

Rep. Tim Mahoney has filed a bill seeking compensation for tomato growers and packers in Florida and across the country. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and North Florida Democratic Rep. Allen Boyd, who are on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, support the effort.

The whole outbreak comes under scrutiny in the House next week. Read more here.

July 26, 2008

Blame Obama for gas prices and bad weather

Some women fantasize about serving strawberries and champagne to powerful, intelligent men. I dream of force-feeding them truth serum.

Open wide, John McCain and Barack Obama.

Both candidates have been rapped in the past week -- Obama only mildly -- for running ads that could cause fire-retardant trousers to erupt in flames.

The Republican presumptive nominee's new cable ad blames Obama for the high cost of gas, a crisis the Democrat bears as much responsibility for as the hurricane that forced McCain to cancel a campaign stunt on an oil rig.

"Gas prices -- $4, $5, no end in sight,'' says the ad's narrator. "Because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America, no to independence from foreign oil. Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?''

Cue the crowd, which chants: Obama! Obama!''

More here.

July 25, 2008

Atwater raises $313,000 while Dems look for Campbell replacement

While state Democrats scrambled to find a replacement for Walter "Skip" Campbell, who dropped out of the race earlier this month for health-related reasons, incumbent state Sen. Jeff Atwater raised about $313,800, according to campaign finance reporters released Friday.

While Atwater's fundraising total pales in comparison to last quarter when he brought in more than $500,000, it still leaves the North Palm Beach Republican and incoming Senate president with more than $1.9 million in monetary donations.

Add that to $725,900 raised by Preserve the American Dream, a committee of continuous existence controlled by Atwater, ($72,500 of which was raised since the beginning of April) and he has a campaign war chest of more than $2.7 million.

Meanwhile, Democrats have officially placed Linda Bird on the ballot as the party's replacement candidate. Bird, a Democratic activist and Broward realtor, will face her real fundraising test in August.

House to court: deny rehearing for Seminoles

House Speaker Marco Rubio sent his response to the Florida Supreme Court today urging the court to deny a request for a rehearing from the Seminole Tribe and Gov. Charlie Crist, arguing that the court has already heard and rejected the same arguments they're making again.

The House also asked the court to "deny the motions as soon as possible so that the responsible authorities can begin the difficult talks fo giving effect to the Court's decision.'' In other words, since the Seminoles continue to operate the blackjack and other banked card games in apparent violation of the court's ruling, no one is telling them to stop and no one can do that until the court order is final.

Read the House motion here: Download house_response_to_rehearing_motion.pdf

Money starts to roll in Garcia V. Lopez race

GarciaJorgeluislopez_3Recently released figures may show District 107 State House candidate Jorge Luis Lopez rolling in the dough, but Democrat Rep. Luis Garcia's camp is questioning whether their challenger is really leading the fundraising pack if half of Lopez's contributions are self-written loans.

Lopez's campaign e-mailed a release boasting the candidate as having raised $215,000 since kicking off his campaign ten weeks ago --$100,000 of that money Lopez loaned to himself. Another $12,500 came from the state Republican Party and $7,500 in-kind contributions.

Lopez, an attorney and lobbyist who reported an annual gross income of more than $926,000 on his state financial disclosure forms, has pledged "to match dollar-for-dollar" all the funds raised by his campaign committee.

"He is overwhelmed at the response and support from the community," said Jose Mallea, Lopez's campaign chairman. "When he realized he had to write that check, he almost did a double take. But he was glad to follow through on his promise."

Garcia, a former Miami Beach city commissioner, has raised $93,185 since March 2007; $31,500 of that money coming in the last filing quarter.

"It is misleading to have claimed raising over $200,000 when over half of that amount comes from Jorge Luis and the Republican Party,'' said Christian Ulvert, Garcia's campaign manager. "During these tough times most Floridians only dream of having thousands of dollars in disposable income. However, this election will not be won by who can raise the most money. It will be decided by the voters."

Republicans have been gunning hard for the seat that Garcia, a former Miami Beach Commissioner took from the R column in 2006. The seat was previously held by Gus Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican.

For more on the numbers of the race read here.