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210 posts from June 2009

June 27, 2009

Sink's want ad: Donors without rap sheets

Two donors rejected by Democrat Alex Sink's campaign for governor this week apparently were good enough for other political candidates.

Ex-Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton donated the maximum amount to Democrat Annette Taddeo when she tried to unseat U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008. And George Lindemann of the Bass Museum of Art has given to a slew of politicians, including U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, Sen. Bill Nelson, and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to the Center of Responsive Politics.

Click here to read Beth Reinhard's column on vetting donors.

June 26, 2009

Ros-Lehtinen tweets doubt on climate change bill - - and says she'll vote No

Looks like the ads in the Key West Citizen have failed to convince Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to vote for the giant climate control bill the House is now debating.

From the Miami Republican's Twitter account: "Climate change bill being debated now. I know problem is real and man made but don't see this bill as solution. Costs r high on wrkng famls."

And now this statement:  “I am extremely sensitive to the concerns raised by members of the environmental community regarding the negative consequences of climate change. Unfortunately in the case of today’s energy bill, the end does not justify the means. It places a financial burden to South Florida families and businesses. This bill would raise electricity rates, increase gasoline prices, and tax small businesses. This legislation has real costs for real folks. I intend on voting no.”

House investigator finds probable cause against Sansom

4262 Attorney Steve Kahn has found probable cause that Rep. Ray Sansom's dealings with a Panhandle college,  have damaged the "faith and integrity" of the Florida House. That includes a $6 million airport building that Kahn agrees was designed to benefit Sansom's friend Jay Odom.

The conclusions, technically as a "statement of alleged violation" under House Rule 16.2, set up a formal legislative review of Sansom that could result in sanctions, including dismissal.

House Speaker Larry Cretul announced a panel that will investigate: Reps. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Chair; Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; and Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs.

"This is obviously something that's very painful for the House," said Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami. "Ray Sansom is a friend and a colleague. We have to just look at the facts. It stinks, but we have to look at what was done."

Continue reading "House investigator finds probable cause against Sansom" »

Rubio raising expecations for Crist's fundraising

It's the game candidates love to play when fundraising deadlines approach: the expectations game. That means raising expectation for opponents (so they fall short) and lowering expectations for themselves (so they do better.)

Enter Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who says of rival Gov. Charlie Crist in a fundraising appeal: Thus, it should come as no surprise when the fundraising figures are released and he easily posts a monster number in the range of at least $8-10 million. He is, after all, a record-breaking fundraiser who in the first quarter of his 2006 gubernatorial campaign raised $3.8 million when the cap on individual donations was set at $500. In this campaign, he can now raise five times that amount, has dedicated this past month to a breakneck fundraising schedule featuring literally an event every night and is already hauling in money not only for the primary but also for the general election.

Sink axes fundraiser's co-chair

Democrat Alex Sink is removing another organizer of a reception planned for Monday in Miami Beach. Her gubernatorial campaign said it failed to vet participants and did not know that co-chair George Lindemann, the wealthy chairman of the Bass Art Musem's board of trustees, had served time in the 1990s for insurance fraud related to the killing of his show horse.

On Wedneday, Sink removed as a co-host ex-Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton, who was suspended from office after a drunken fight with police. On Friday, Lindemann was out, too.

"We make decisions on a case by case basis, and Lindemann was convicted of insurance fraud," said Sink spokeswoman Tara Klimek. "This particular circumstance is over the line, making him not an acceptable co-host."

Seeking comment from Lindemann...

Florida GOP'ers urged to back climate bill

Environmentalists are taking out newspaper ads and making phone calls in an effort to convince two Florida Republicans to vote for a sweeping climate change bill that most Republicans are expected to reject.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Florida Wildlife Federation have targeted Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as potential supporters of a bill the groups say is critical to Florida.

''Florida could be one of the most affected states,'' said Jay Liles, policy consultant for the Florida Wildlife Federation, which contends global warming and rising sea levels could swamp Florida's coastline.

Read morehere.

Alex Sink endorsed by Emily's List

It's not a surprising endorsement but it could be a meaningful one - The fundraising powerhouse known as Emily's List is endorsing Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for governor in 2010. "Florida is ready for a fresh start and there is no better candidate for the job than Alex Sink," says Emily's List President Ellen Malcolm. The endorsement could mean millions of dollars for Sink's campaign. But it is also likely to be used as a line of attack by Republican rival Bill McCollum, who may try to paint her as beholden to out-of-state, abortion rights interests. Emily's List only supports female, pro-choice candidates.

June 25, 2009

Dissident disappointment

The woman who accepted a democracy award on behalf of her Cuban dissident brother and four others says she was sorry not to get an audience with President Barack Obama.

"Bertha Antunez...said today she was naturally disappointed at not having the opportunity to tell their stories directly to President Obama of the harsh treatment they have received from the regime for speaking out for basic human rights."

But a statement from the National Endowment for Democracy said Antunez and the dissidents "are encouraged by the President's statement commending the award recipients for 'standing up for the right of the Cuban people to freely determine their country's future and his call for all political prisoners to be unconditionally released and allowed to fully participate in a democratic future in Cuba."

An administration official says Obama had a town hall meeting on health care Wednesday night and nothing should be read into the fact he wasn't able to meet with Antunez.

President Bush had met with the honorees since 2005, which prompted NED to ask Obama for the meeting, a spokeswoman said.

Judge: Prison system 'violated public trust'

An "appalled" state judge said Thursday that Florida’s prison system "blatantly violated the public trust" by secretly negotiating with a new firm to provide for inmates’ mental health. Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield said the actions by the Department of Corrections were "at best, offensive, and at worst, illegal" in its secret dealings with Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis. Sheffield's full seven-page opinion is here.

But the judge denied the request by the current contractor, MHM Correctional Services, for a temporary injunction to block award of a five-year contract to CMS through a 120-day purchase order starting July 1. The judge said MHM still has legal remedies because it has a bid protest pending before a state hearing officer, and that further legal delays "would cause confusion (and) disorder."

Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office defended the prison system's conduct, had no immediate comment. A spokeswoman for Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil said the agency had not yet seen Sheffield’s order.

Sheffield was elected to the circuit bench. Ironically, the candidate he defeated, Lisa Raleigh, was the assistant attorney general representing the prison system in the case. At a hearing last week, Sheffield raised that issue, and Raleigh said she did not think it presented a conflict of interest.

"The people lost today due to the worst abuse of power inaginable," MHM attorney Chris Kise said. "The department engaged in secret negotiations, blatant violations of th epublic trust and unsonscionable practices, then hid behind the very laws designed to protect the people. A truly sad day for justice." Kise served as a top legal advisor to Charlie Crist as governor and attorney general. 

UPDATE: CMS issued a statement that said denial of the injunction "will allow the state and CMS to continue to move forward to deliver quality mental healthcare services for inmate patients." The company added that "the negotiation process the state has used is specifically allowed by Florida law and will save the state $1.7 million in the first year alone compared to what MHM has been charging the state for the same services."

-- Steve Bousquet

Martinez: Ready for another immigration battle

Mel Martinez, who took a few licks in the bruising immigration battle in 2006, says he's ready to push for immigration reform again -- but he says President Obama has got to be engaged.

"This is tough stuff, it's tough politics," said Martinez, who met with Obama and other lawmakers Thursday at the White House.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who attended the meeting and has already filed legislation to let immigrant students stay in the U.S., said the meeting was "better than I thought it would be" and he's optimistic about seeing a bill passed.

"There's a possiblity," Diaz-Balart said. "It became pretty evident there's a lot of good faith." But Martinez said he's skeptical about the bill passing this year. He suggested the votes in the Senate are a "little dicey at the moment.

"I'm too much of a realist," he said. "I got my head banged around a little bit last time and I know this is not an easy issue. People walk away from it because it's tough."