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240 posts from February 2010

February 25, 2010

Jim Greer: I'm not the AmEx leaker

Jim Greer, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, had this to say in an e-mail about today's  Herald/Times story on U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio's party credit card use:

While some continue to disrupt and try to destroy the Republican Party, I wish to be clear, I did not release or leak Marco Rubio's Amex statements to the media . It is my hope that those individuals who seem committed to attacking fellow Republicans and our Party will stop before we lose it all. As for me I stepped down as Chairman in an effort to unite the Party, but saddened to see the internal fighting has continued. I am now spending time with my family who supported me over the last 3 years. My best to the RPOF.

Rivera makes it official and jumps from Senate race to Congress

State Rep. David Rivera on Thursday  became the first candidate to jump into the District 25 congressional race in Miami to replace U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who plans to switch to the district being vacated by his brother, Lincoln.

Rivera's entry into the District 25 is expected to be followed by Sen. Alex de la Portilla, a fellow Miami Republican, and the race could become one of the more crowded contests in the state if four others who are considering it get into the match.

Rivera announced his candidacy at press conferencese in Miami and Naples Thursday, the two largest cities in the sprawling congressional district originally created for Mario Diaz-Balart.

But in a sign of what is likely to be a hotly-contested rmatch-up, both candidates touted dueling polls. A poll released Wednesday by the Texas polling firm Hill Research Consulting matched up the names of the likely contenders in the Senate and showed that 67 percent of the 300 people surveyed recognized Diaz de la Portilla, while only 41 percent recognized Rivera.

In a poll released Thursday by Dario Moreno Inc. and conducted of 600 likely Republican voters Feb. 15-16, Rivera had a slightly higher name identification, especially among older Cubans. According to the poll, 44 percent recognized Rivera and 41 percent recognized Diaz de la Portilla.

Rivera said he was focused on his campaign and welcomed all opponents. "You're never going to hear me talking about other candidates," he said. "I'm going to run on the issue of concern, especially job creation and the economy, education and national security."

But, according to the Hill poll, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez was known by 68 percent of those surveyed, one point higher than Diaz de la Portilla. The poll also tested the name ID of other candidates, who have also expressed interest in running for the seat: Carlos Curbelo, U.S. Sen. George LeMieux's state director, who was known by 32 percent, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, known by 29 percent, and Miami Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi, identified by 22 percent respectively.

 The Moreno poll also asked about state Sen. Alex Villalobos, who was recognized by 31 percent of those surveyed, and Curbello, recognized by 11 percent.

Diaz de la Portilla said that he will likely make his decision by the end of March and chided Rivera for switching to the federal election "on the eve of the legislative session."

"It would be unfair to Floridians for me to take my focus off finding real solutions to the problems we are facing and instead turn my attention to my next campaign or career opportunity," he said in a statement.


Sansom used Rubio to justify money grab

Why did Ray Sansom go after a $6 million airport building that would ruin his political career?

Marco Rubio. Or so Sansom says.

The detail is one of many that could have come out had Sansom not resigned from the House on Sunday, hours before the House was to put him on trial for allegedly violating House ethics rules.

As his legal problems mounted last year, Sansom told House communications director Jill Chamberlin that while he served as the House budget writer, then-House Speaker Rubio called him and said the Senate had more school construction money in its budget.

Rubio, Sansom said, told him to "even it out." (full story here)

Donor asked Charlie Crist for his money back

Developer Al Hoffman, a major GOP donor who recently moved from Fort Myers to North Palm Beach, asked Gov. Charlie Crist to return the $9,600 he and his wife gave to Crist's U.S. Senate campaign.

Why? Two words: Jim Greer. Hoffman was among the donors who pressured Crist to dump his handpicked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

"I lost my confidence in Charlie's leadership ability simply because he looked the other way when so many people were warning him about Jim Greer,'' he said. "As much as it pains me, I felt this was a significant oversight on Charlie's part.''

1st Lady of the FL House? Nat'l media reacts to Herald/Times story

From MSBC's First Read: Incoming! This battle over Rubio's credit card expenses, as well as the news that he plans to travel to South Carolina next month, mark the first time that the conservative rock star has taken direct hits since becoming the front-runner in his race against Crist. And don't miss this statement from Rubio defending purchasing airplane tickets for his wife on the state party's credit card. "My wife was the first lady of the Florida House of Representatives, and it is absolutely appropriate for her to accompany me to official events and party functions," Rubio said. First lady of the Florida House of Representatives? Have you heard Harry Reid, Denny Hastert, etc. refer to their wives that way?

From The Hotline: Crist's campaign sees an opening to tear down Rubio's image as a hero of fiscal conservatives. Rubio, who finds himself on the defensive for the first time during the campaign, will paint the flap as an overblown product of Greer's mismanagement. Which line of argument carries the day in the FL press could drive the race over the next several weeks.

Talking Points Memo asks: Game Changer? Rubio Charged Grocery Bills And Car Repairs To GOP-Issued Credit Card

From Politico: Florida politics is abuzz today with the leak of the statements for a Republican Party American Express card held by Marco Rubio, which shows some charges for things that look like personal expenses. Rubio quickly denounced the story as a low blow from the Crist-controlled party, and he has the advantage that the sums he's accused of spending are far lower than those Crist's allies at the parties spent. But the way this kind of story can become truly damaging -- for him and for other Florida Republicans -- is if it emerges that they spent party money on their own and didn't pay taxes on the imputed income. It's often the taxing, not the spending, that brings pols down in situations like this. NOTE: Rubio says he paid back all the personal expenses which, if true would eliminate any problem. [Though it's unclear that he paid them back regularly, or with interest.]



Sink loses key campaign advisor

Not a great sign for a campaign already facing widespread doubts about its strength and stability: Marc Alex-sink Farinella, general consultant to the Alex Sink gubernatorial campaign, has jumped ship. Campaign spokeswoman Kyra Jennings dismissed the significance of losing one the top strategists and advisers.

"Alex Sink for Governor has a very strong and growing team that is working to make sure Floridians know the kind of leadership Alex will bring as Governor to help create jobs and grow our economy, " she said.

UPDATE: Sink's new general consultant is Ken Morley, a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, who managed the 2008 campaign of Gov. Jay Nixon in Missouri and Sen. Ben Cardin in Maryland in 2006.


Jeff Atwater's 'transparent' credit-card statements

Senate President Jeff Atwater, whose statements about “transparency” have become a hallmark, will only go so far when it comes to publicizing his Republican Party of Florida credit-card expenses.

Atwater said last week he “wouldn't care" who saw his American Express billing statements. But Atwater now says he doesn’t have them. RPOF has them. But it's refusing to release them.

Atwater recently reviewed his records at RPOF's George Bush building headquarters, just a few blocks down the hill from the state Capitol. But Atwater's not leaving with any copies of his records, either. After Atwater's statements last week about disclosing his records, his office said that it'll be up to RPOF to decide whether to release the president's records.

On Saturday, the RPOF chose a new chairman: Sen. John Thrasher. A Thrasher spokeswoman then said that the individual statements will remain confidential.

Going forward, the individual credit-card statements will likely remain shielded from public scrutiny. Thank a Thrasher-chaired Ethics and Election Committee vote for that. It passed legislation last week that, among other things, ensures party credit-card statements remain shielded from public view.  Thrasher said the legislation “doesn’t prevent anyone who had a credit card from giving that stuff up.”

It’s not as if billing records aren’t leaking out. Just ask a defensive Marco Rubio today about his AmEx charges. Then there's The Hard Rock London and Rubio's indicted successor as House Speaker, Ray Sansom. And don't forget Delmar Johnson's golfing in Cali.

Republicans say the individual statements shouldn't be disclosed because RPOF, like the Florida Democrat Party, is private. Also, credit-card charges are somewhat disclosed in campaign finance reports.

But it's not clear who spent what money, where and when -- especially in the past few years when guys like convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein or accused scammer Dr. Alan Mendelsohn were raising money for the party to maintain political control in Florida. 

RPOF trusted members to use credit cards appropriately

The Republican Party of Florida trusted high-ranking lawmakers to repay any personal expenses on their party credit cards, says spokeswoman Katie Gordon.

"I don't think it's appropriate for the party to question the former Speaker of the House's judgment as to when it was appropriate to use the card,'' Gordon said. "The cardholders are members of the Legislature. Why would we not trust them to use their due diligence to repay personal expenses?...Why would we not take their word for it?''

Gordon said there was no formal party rules on credit card use but "it is a corporate card and the nature of that is that it be used for business expenses." She emphasized that her comment in the Herald/Times story today was not specifically aimed at Rubio; she was speaking in general about the party's policy.

Currently, the party has only one credit card in the name of CFO Richard Swarttz. Staff members who want to use the card to book travel or hotels need to get permission from the executive director and fill out an authorization form. Lawmakers can also get authorization ahead of time, or they can use their own credit cards and get reimbursed.

Gordon said the party will not release statements of the other credit cardholders.

"We have an auditor in the building right now,'' Gordon said. "It's not in the best interest of the party to have internal financial information trickle out.''

Tom Lee: Dorworth should not be anointed so soon

In an address Wednesday to the League of Women Voters, former Senate President Tom Lee criticized the quick anointment of Chris Dorworth as House speaker in 2014.

"These folks need to get to know each other, they need to get a grasp of the issues," Lee said in an address run by WUSF in Tampa. "They need to start making these decisions on their own, rather than having the lobbyists decide based upon who they're going to finance and support with leadership money. And I just think that we'd be a lot better off if there could be some restraint in the rules of both chambers to preclude this kind of thing from happening four or five years out."

The Republican from Brandon was president of the Senate in 2005 and 2006. He lamented an increase in partisanship in the Legislature. He also said he hopes Sen. John Thrasher can clean things up as the new chairman at the Florida GOP.

"The party is really at an all-time low," he said. "It's damaged our governor, it's hurt the confidence that a lot of Republicans have in that apparatus. He's got his work cut out for him trying to restore the confidence of Republicans in the state."

(Listed to the full 30-minute address here)

Crist: Rubio's AmEx bills 'pretty disturbing'

Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that news reports detailing U.S. Senate rival Marco Rubio's use of a party-issued credit card for personal expenses was "pretty disturbing."

"An expensive haircut, it looks like. That's pretty disturbing," Crist said as he talked briefly to reporters before the start of a Board of Executive Clemency meeting. "I think these kinds of things are things that people will decide what they feel about it. It's up to them to reach their own conclusions about how important they believe it to be."

Asked to respond to an assertion by Rubio's campaign that Crist was behind leaking Rubio's American Express card bills to the media, Crist said: "I don't know where it came from." Then he paused and added: "Actually, I do know where it came from. It came from Speaker Rubio." 

Crist has said several times that he never had a party-issued credit card. 

-- Steve Bousquet