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240 posts from February 2010

February 27, 2010

Crist's new line of attack against Rubio: 'trust'

Gov. Charlie Crist latched onto a new campaign slogan Saturday, one day after U.S. Senate rival Marco Rubio confessed he double-billed taxpayers and the Republican party for eight plane tickets when he was a state legislator: "Trust.''

Crist used the loaded word at least a dozen times in a 10-minute speech at a breakfast in Miami hosted by the Christian Family Coalition, an offshoot of the well-known Christian Coalition.

"This is about trust,'' Crist repeated to reporters. "We're asking people for their vote and by doing that we're asking them to trust us.''

The harsh attacks traded by Crist and Rubio dominated the event, which marked the second time all of the major candidates for Florida's U.S. Senate seat appeared together. Rubio, who said Friday he would repay the party $3,000 for the billing "mistake,'' tore into Crist's anti-abortion credentials in his speech to about 400 religious conservatives.

"If you do not believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, you are not pro-life,'' Rubio said. He added, referring to Crist's statement in 2006 that he would rather change hearts than law: "Senators can't change hearts. Only God can change hearts.''

Despite double-billing, Rubio fans still believe

Reaction from some vocal Marco Rubio fans to revelations that Marco Rubio double-billed Florida taxpayers and the Florida GOP for eight different flights from Miami to Tallahassee:

Club for Growth spokesman Michael Connolly: "Sounds like Marco is doing the right thing reimbursing taxpayers for the $3,000. Hopefully Gov. Crist can do the same thing about that $787 billion he owes us.”

RedState's Erick Erickson: "It doesn't give me any pause in supporting him.  Life happens and with it mistakes.  Considering the Executive Director of the Party spent as much in a month as Rubio did in multiple years, I don't think it is a big issue.  I can't wait for the open records acts on Charlie Crist's international travel and minibar raids.  Rubio's expenditures are peanuts in comparison."

February 26, 2010

Atwater says RPOF credit card was for 'the work of the party'

Senate President Jeff Atwater said today that the parameters of his use of the Republican Party of Florida credit card were "whether or not I was advancing the work of the party.''

At an event in Miami hosted by the Latin Builders Association, Atwater said: "I can speak for myself. I would think that the card was provided for the puposes of being sure we were advancing the party, identifying a candidate, supporting a candidate, helping raise resources or getting to know people who could help us in grassroots, and if somebody used it other than that, and they made arrangements to take care of that, that's up to them and the party."

Atwater reiterated that he doesn't mind if the party releases his statements and said he doesn't have them himself. "I've said to them, 'Guys, there's nothing on that card that I'm the least bit concerned about, feel free to release our cards.' "  

Crist tells Rubio to man up

Gov. Charlie Crist said his rival for the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, has no one to blame but himself for double-billing the state and Republican Party of Florida for eight plane tickets when he was House Speaker. Rubio has accused Crist of leaking his party credit card records to The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times.

"If he wants to find out who to blame for this, he should look in the mirror. He is the one who made these charges, not me, not any of my friends,'' Crist said at a road construction event in Broward County. "I mean, you know, when you do something like that you ought to just take personal responsibility."

Rubio did just that today, saying it was a "mistake'' to bill the party for the trips and that he would personally repay the GOP about $3,000.

"The people will decide this issue,'' Crist said. "I think it’s pretty clear that they don’t like that kind of double dipping. It’s just like taxpayers money. You ought to treat those funds in a vey sacred way...Like I said yesterday, welcome to the NFL. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen."

Asked about the blogosphere chatter that he is considering leaving the Republican party and running as an independent, Crist said, "It’s not going to happen.''

CFO candidate launches campaign

Democrat Loranne Ausley is launching her campaign for Chief Financial Officer at a March 9 fundraiser in Tallahassee. The host committee is an impressive list of nearly 200 names including a number of well-known Democrats who worked for former Govs. Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles, among other prominent lawyers and local officials. Among the bold faced names: Ron Sachs, Ron Meyer, Sandy D'Alemberte, Linda Shelley, April Salter and Kitty Chiles.

Proposal would allow gov't spending on parochial schools

A proposed amendment to Florida's constitution unveiled today would allow the state to spend public funds on churches and other sectarian institutions. The proposal would open the door for the state to issue vouchers for students to attend parochial schools.

The measure -- which if approved by the Legislature would go before voters -- is sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, and Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando.

The proposed amendment would read: "Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide that an individual or entity may not be barred from participating in any public program because of religion and to delete the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."

Read the press release from the lawmakers below:

Continue reading "Proposal would allow gov't spending on parochial schools" »

Rubio double-billed airplane flights by 'mistake'

One day after the Herald/Times received travel records from the state, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio's campaign is admitting that he double-billed the Republican Party of Florida and state taxpayers for eight flights while he was House Speaker.

Earlier this week in response to a question from the media I stated that all my legislative travel during my tenure as Speaker was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida. However after reviewing hundreds of flights we identified 8 official state business flights which the state properly paid for. These flights total approximately $3,000.  Further, it appears several of these flights were also billed to the RPOF.

Billing the Party was a mistake which needs to be fixed. So, out of an abundance of caution I am personally reimbursing the Party for the cost of all 8 flights. Background information: All 8 trips were within Florida.  Seven were between Tallahassee and Miami, and one was from Ft. Lauderdale to Tallahassee then to Miami. The Speaker of the House, like the Governor, is eligible for complete reimbursement for all travel related to his official state duties. Of the hundreds of flights taken by Marco, we could find only eight flights between 2006  2008 which were paid for the state.  Therefore Marco's policy of having the Party pay for his travel may have saved taxpayers as much as $32,000 in travel costs. 

The Herald/Times requested the travel records from the state last week.

SP Times: Rubio's credit card use suggests 'entitlement'

 The St. Petersburg Times editorial board weighs in on former House Speaker Marco Rubio's use of the state party's credit card:

Why should a powerful state legislator use political contributions to shop at the neighborhood wine shop, visit a tony Miami barbershop and repair the family minivan? That is the question former House Speaker Marco Rubio should be answering rather than whining about how his profligate spending became public. The Republican U.S. Senate candidate's defense of his use of a political party credit card for private expenses reflects a sense of entitlement that is all too pervasive among elected officials in Tallahassee. It is becoming increasingly clear why the Republican Party of Florida is still resisting calls even from within its own ranks to release statements for the American Express credit cards it distributed to its top leaders until last year.

While state law requires the statements to be part of a political party's quarterly finance reports, an indefensible 2005 ruling by state elections officials enables the parties to shield them.Rubio's statements between 2005 and 2008, first reported by the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald, are the latest documents to reflect a culture in which top Republicans mixed personal and political spending with little regard for whether the expense was truly election related, as required by tax law. Records show Rubio directly paid American Express about $13,900 over the 25 months he held a card  out of more than $100,000 in expenses. Rubio said he made sure he paid for any personal expenses. But the balance that was covered by the party includes $2,976 to rent a car in Miami for five weeks and $3,000 to a Tallahassee property management group.Other dubious expenses paid by the party: $765 to Apple's online store for "computer supplies," $68.33 to a wine store just a mile from Rubio's home, and $412 to a Miami music equipment store. The party also paid $1,000 to a Miami garage, which Rubio said was to cover half his car insurance deductible after his minivan was damaged at a political event.

Rubio did not explain why he used a party credit card for personal expenses when his 2008 financial disclosure shows he earned $414,000. He instead complained that the credit card statements became public. But how they became public is not the issue. The real issue is that all statements for credit cards handed out by the state Republican Party should have been public all along. Perhaps then Rubio would have acted more responsibly. Money contributed to the state Republican Party for the purpose of influencing elections bolstered the personal lifestyle of an elected official holding one of Florida's most powerful offices. That is not the purpose of political contributions. New Republican Party chairman John Thrasher, a state senator from St. Augustine, needs to release all of the credit card statements if the party is to move forward. The Internal Revenue Service also should be knocking on the party's door to see the books.

Wasserman-Schultz, Klein make endorsements in AG race

UPDATED 11:15 a.m.: Not to be outdone by Dan Gelber's endorsement announcement below, his rival Dave Aronberg added Congressman Ron Klein to his camp. "His legislative record embodies the commitment to public safety and consumer advocacy that we must demand of Florida’s next attorney general," Klein said.

Miami State Sen. Dan Gelber hauled in the biggest endorsement so far in the competitive Democratic primary for Attorney General as Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Friday her support for his campaign.

In a letter to Gelber's supporters, the Weston Democrat and DNC vice-chairwoman said he "has the experience the job demands."

"I know you want Florida to finally obtain the change that has eluded it," Wasserman Schultz's fundraising letter states. "Dan's experience, passion and integrity is precisely what we need."

Gelber and his primary opponent, state Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres, have touted the endorsements of various county sheriff's in recent weeks, but few high-ranking Democrats are taking sides in the race.Gelber and Wasserman Schultz, however, go back to their days in the Florida House together.

To read the full memo, check below.

Continue reading "Wasserman-Schultz, Klein make endorsements in AG race" »

Outcry over Rubio's AmEx card use prompt more calls for disclosure

Marco Rubio's routine use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card for personal expenses, while speaker of the Florida House, is bringing renewed calls for the party to disclose charges racked up by former and current elected officials.

Asked whether the party should release credit-card records to clear the air before the 2010 election, former state party chairman Tom Slade on Thursday said, ```Hell, yes.''

```We should not under any circumstances attempt to make this not totally transparent,'' Slade said. ``We've got to take a hit for it because we have mismanaged money that people gave us and used it for purposes they did not intend it to be used.''

Miami lobbyist and Rubio donor Ana Navarro said he should have released the card statements himself.

``Marco's chicken sandwich cost a lot less than Jim Greer's lobster dinners, but that does not mean the culture at the Republican Party does not need to change,'' said Navarro, referring to a $7.09 charge at a Chick-fil-A in Tallahassee. ``From top to bottom, people need to understand that one has to be extra conscientious in spending other people's money.'' Full story here.

But Rubio's campaign and other Republican Party leaders said Thursday the story should be about the leaked documents, not about whether they want the public to see how they manage donor money despite their promises of transparency.

Remember John Thrasher's attempt to blame "the liberal media" for the story when he was elected RPOF chair on Sunday? The attack the messenger approach is getting traction at least at the Associated Press -- maybe because it's easier than answering uncomfortable questions? Still unanswered is this:

If you can defend the use of your credit card for appropriate party-building activity during the time when the party was flush with cash, why not release the credit card statements and end the speculation that you have something to hide? Senate President Jeff Atwater agreed with that premise, then a Thrasher spokeswoman said they wouldn't be released.

Rubio, a U.S. Senate candidate, says he repaid all personal expenses to American Express in 2007 and 2008, amounting to $16,052. Records obtained by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times show the personal expenses included a $134 trip to an upscale Miami barber that his GOP campaign rival, Gov. Charlie Crist, called ``pretty disturbing.''

The party picked up the rest of the $93,566 charges on Rubio's card, including nearly $4,000 in costs to repair his family minivan and rent a car for five weeks. Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political event and on Thursday accused Crist of ``desperate smears.''