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256 posts from August 2009

August 28, 2009

Crist's trail of broken-hearted almost-senators

"It's not me,'' said former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale, one of the leading contenders on Gov. Charlie Crist's shortlist for a U.S. Senate appointment. "I just got a voice mail from the governor saying he was going in a different direction...Well it was interesting to think about."

For Shaw -- who was next in line to serve as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee when he lost his seat in 2006 -- the chance to return to Capitol Hill with a promotion would have allowed him to cap off  his political career with a flourish.

State Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville, the first black Republican elected to the Florida Legislation, would have made history if she had been picked to replace retiring Sen Mel Martinez. She was also passed over by Crist in 2006 for lieutenant governor.

"Life goes on,'' she said. "It's been unnerving because I've been getting so many calls and e-mails...but meanwhile you're just sitting there. It was an honor to be considered and what was humbling was the outpouring of support from around the state."

Crist to announce U.S. Senate pick at 11:15 am

Crist will announce at 11:15 am in the Florida Capitol Senate chambers his pick for US Senate to serve out the rest of Mel Martinez's term. Whispers are it's Lemieux. But whispers have proven wrong before. We'll find out soon enough.

It's looking like Sen. George LeMieux

An announcement is expected today -- Gov. Charlie Crist's schedule is wide open this morning. Odds are that Crist's former chief of staff, George LeMieux, has cleared his calendar as well.

'Illegal aliens' now part of tough Senate race

Louis Farrakhan and Black Panthers, step aside. A new type of boogeyman -litigious 'illegal aliens'- is taking the campaign stage in Florida's toughest state Senate race in Jacksonville.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce's Partnership for Florida's Future elections group has begun running this ad warning about "the greedy personal injury trial lawyers and illegal aliens (who) sue our hospitals... schools and law-enforcement officers." Add to that a fourth victim, the ad says: candidate John Thrasher, "the conservative champion."

Over the top? Nah, says Mark Wilson, the chamber's president. "You haven't seen over the top yet," Wilson said. "We have a couple of weeks left (in this campaign)." Website is here ad is below:

August 27, 2009

Herald/Times Video: Bill McCollum pans Seminole gaming deal

The curse of the red dragon threatens democracy in Florida

Image001 Check out this eye-catching fundraising invitation for the group seeking to overhaul the way legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years. Note that it calls the effort "non-partisan" even though Democrats -- who would take a back seat  in redistricting because of their minority status in Tallahassee -- are heavily bankrolling the statewide campaign.

If the law firm of Boies Schiller sounds vaguely familiar, it's because co-founder David Boies represented former Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in the legal battle over the 2000 election.

His partner, Stephen Zack, is the president-elect of the American Bar Association and will be the first Hispanic to serve in that post. Roland Sanchez-Medina is president of the Cuban American Bar Association.

IRS was looking at ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom even before AmEx charges surfaced

Irs The IRS was asking questions about Rep. Ray Sansom even before details emerged about his use of a Republican Party-issued American Express card, joining the FBI in some level of investigation into the Destin Republican and his associates, the Times/Herald has learned.

The credit card charges, including plane tickets for his family to Europe and copious cups of Starbucks, were revealed last week as part of the criminal case against Sansom.

That led to an anonymous IRS complaint alleging Sansom violated law by not declaring the income. But the agency was already looking at Sansom, according to a person close to the inquiry. An IRS spokesman would neither confirm nor deny an investigation, as is customary.

Continue reading "IRS was looking at ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom even before AmEx charges surfaced" »

Bill Helmich: The man behind the Farrakhan flier?

A new shadowy campaign figure has emerged in the bareknuckle brawl that is Jacksonville's Republican senate race: Bill Helmich.

Two trusted sources say the lobbyist/consultant/direct-mail guru was the one responsible for establishing a 527 called the "Conservative Voters Coalition," which produced a flier warning Republican voters about the threat of Democrats intimidating them at the polls. The flier depicts President Obama, Louis Farrakhan (mistaken by some as Jeremiah Wright), Black Panthers and ACORN protesters. It warns Republicans to request absentee ballots to avoid problems on Election Day, Sept. 15, when absolutely no protesters are anticipated to be anywhere near the polls.

Helmich didn't want to comment, but acknowledged (after we ambushed him) that he knew the woman who's the front for the group, Erin Di Cesare, a former FSU student who has no other known political background. She didn't return a Herald/Times call to her personal cell phone.

"Yeah, I know her," Helmich said. "But I'm not commenting on whether she's a client. I don't comment about clients. I don't comment on who's not a client."

Helmich knew of her through a mutual acquaintance, according to sources. Though Di Cesare's a registered Democrat, it appears she's a mole of sorts. "She's a Republican," the acquaintance said. The lawyer who set up the Coalition, David Ramba, said he couldn't comment on who was really behind Di Cesare.

At first blush, the flier would seem to attack Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham, the only black man in the four-way Republican race. But that doesn't make sense. Polls show he's running fourth and he's therefore no threat worth spending money on. (Another oddity: the flier pulls a punch by blocking out the words "Allah" on the podium where Farrakahn stands).

LouisAnyway, businessman Dan Quiggle's likely in the lead in the polls, former House Speaker and (now former) lobbyist John Thrasher is second and former Rep. Stan Jordan is third.

Continue reading "Bill Helmich: The man behind the Farrakhan flier?" »

With deal imminent, here are the gambling compact details

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is scheduled to present a proposed compact to its tribal council Friday and, if all goes as expected, it will be signed by the tribe and the governor in Tallahassee on Monday.

Here's a summary of what the Herald/Times has learned is in the plan as negotiated by the governor and the tribe. We've followed it with the response by legislative negotiators Rep. Bill Galvano and Senate chief of staff Bud Kneip.

"It's up to them now to decide what path they want to choose,'' Galvano explained. He noted that legislators wanted to make sure that any gambling compact doesn't inhibit the state's parimutuel industry at the same time it rewards the tribe with the exclusive operation of some games. "We want to maintain the integrity of the parimutuel benefit, to keep that balance, and we don't want to go backwards,'' he said.

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A "deeply disappointed" Hastings says he wants a reponse from President Obama on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A "deeply disappointed" Alcee Hastings is asking President Obama for a response to a June 22 letter he sent urging the president to suspend what he calls "a ridiculous, bigoted law" that allows for the investigation and discharge of service members in the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation.

 Here's the letter:

Continue reading "A "deeply disappointed" Hastings says he wants a reponse from President Obama on Don't Ask, Don't Tell " »