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240 posts from February 2010

February 25, 2010

Ex-Hollywood official: Jail inmates are nice

Ex-Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom was released from jail Wednesday after a 6-week stay after he was convicted of not fully disclosing conflicts related to a city contract.

The suspended lawyer who has sworn off political involvement says jail was not as bad as he expected. Wasserstrom had his own cell but spent time with about seven other inmates during meals and recreation. Everyone knew that he was a former politician upon his arrival, he said.

"You are obviously at someone else's beck and call. You eat, wake up, go to sleep at their demand. You have no control over those kinds of things,'' he said. However, "it wasn't the scary environment I was anticipating. I wasn't afraid for my life. Because they were able to accommodate my religious needs -- eating kosher food and praying every morning -- in that way it was a good experience. ... The truth of the matter was everyone was very nice, very helpful to the new guy. They told you want to expect and do and things to watch out for. Everyone was very nice. It was funny -- in the elevator a huge big scary guy stepped on my toe and he was immediately 'sorry, sorry." 

Wasserstrom, an orthodox Jew, said he spent much of his time in jail reading the bible and other religious texts. Upon his release, he said he met with Broward's day reporting staff who he will report to for the next six months before he starts about three and a half years on state probation. For dinner, he ate a skirt steak at home.

In 2007, jurors convicted Wasserstrom of two felonies. Prosecutors argued that although he filled out conflict of interest forms related to a sludge processing contract and didn't vote on it he failed to disclose that his firm would earn money if other cities piggybacked on the contract.

Wasserstrom, who lost his appeal, maintains his innocence.

"I have a conflict of interest, I disclosed it at a public meeting, I filled out the forms, I will tell you today the forms are true,'' he said. "The prosecutors said I didn't disclose enough which is ridiculous."

Charlie Crist bashes Marco Rubio's credit spending

Amid news that self-styled fiscal conservative Marco Rubio had a predilection for pricey hair cuts and the like courtesy of all those Republican Party of Florida special interests and contributors, Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign gleefully sent out this press statement about the man who has surged ahead of him in polls of the U.S. Senate primary:

“It seems that when you’re a member of the Florida House and still working as a lobbyist for special interests, every expense is political, even the trip to the local liquor store paid for by Republican donors,” said Andrea Saul, communications director.

“A clear pattern is emerging in Speaker Rubio’s unfortunate behavior. The lobbyist-politician whines and plays the victim while continuing to make every effort to hide the facts surrounding his personal financial gain while in office.

“Fact: In four years, Speaker Rubio made $1.2 million dollars from his law/lobbying firm.  When will he come clean about how he profited from his clients’ business before state government?

“Fact: It has been 3 days and counting since Speaker Rubio refused to release records that would help explain his relationship with his handpicked budget chief, Ray Sansom.

“Our next Senator must serve Florida as a strong and effective voice for six long years,” Saul concluded.  “It would be devastating for Florida’s next Senator to be facing unanswered questions as to his financial dealings while a lobbyist and lawmaker. Speaker Rubio must stop stonewalling and come clean with the specific details of his various financial arrangements that resulted in over a million dollars of personal income while in office.”

February 24, 2010

Rubio's expensive trip to the barber

Images Among the charges former House Speaker Marco Rubio put on his Republican Party of Florida credit card: a $133.75 trip to an upscale barber shop in downtown Miami, Churchills, on Nov. 18, 2006.

Churchill's Deluxe Shave  $25- Just Relax and Enjoy! Applying Pre-Shave Oil and Steaming Hot Towels will soften any tough beard.  Hot Shaving Lather follows from our classic Campbells Lather King. Our Master Barbers' talented hands will "carefully" guide a Straight Razor Blade across your whiskers. Ahhh! To keep your skin nice and soft, moisturizers and Cold Towels will be applied. Just like the good 'ol days...

It's unclear what services Rubio received.

Rubio says he sent money to American Express for all personal charges, and the trip to the barber was not reported by the Republican Party of Florida as an expense. But the question remains, why did Rubio put it on the card in the first place?

Other charges on the card during Rubio's tenure as House Speaker in 2007 and 2008:

$761.54 at a Costco in Miami  on Dec. 31, 2006

$24.61 and $36.75 for meals at an IHOP in Miami

$128 and $53.66 at the Museum of Natural History in New York on Dec. 10, 2006.

$116.78 at  Ellen's Stardust Diner in New York on the same day

$10.50 at the AMC Sunset Place movie theater in Miami

Herald/Times details Rubio's AmEx charges

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times.

Rubio said Wednesday that he paid for all personal expenses billed to an American Express card given to him by the party to use from 2005 to 2008, when he left public office. The rest of the charges, he said, were legitimate party expenses.

Those expenses include a $1,000 charge at Braman Honda in Miami for repairs to the family car in January 2008. Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political function and that the party agreed to cover half of his insurance deductible. The party also paid $2,976 for him to rent a car in Miami for five weeks.

Rubio said the party allowed him to put personal expenses on the card and the party reviewed his bill monthly. "I was as diligent as possible to ensure the party did not pay for items that were unrelated to party business,'' Rubio said in a written statement.

Full story here. 

Rubio admits to $110,000 in AmEx expenses, including personal charges

In an attempt to pre-empt a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times story detailing his American Express credit card expenses while speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio sent the following letter to Republican Party of Florida Chairman John Thrasher Wednesday night. Read the Herald/Times story here.

Here's the text of the letter:

Continue reading "Rubio admits to $110,000 in AmEx expenses, including personal charges" »

CD25 poll: DLP best known, liked. Rivera not so much

When Rep. David Rivera announces tomorrow that he's switching races from state Senate to Congress, he'll no longer be able to claim this title: Frontrunner.

That title more likely goes to Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla (assuming he enters the race). He appears to be among the best-known and best-liked of the potential candidates to run for U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's seat, according to a survey of 300 Republican voters conducted by Hill Research Consultants, which conducts polls for retiring U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Hill also polled for Sen. Mel Martinez in his successful 2004 race.

The poll isn't a straight match-up, but instead tests the name ID of the candidates and their favorable/unfavorables. Miami-Dade Commissioner is better known than DLP by a percentage point (well within the poll's error margin), but his negatives are almost twice as high. Rivera comes in third by any measure.

It's little surprise DLP, who could announce as early as next week, does so well. Not only has he been in office for a long time, his brother Miguel Diaz de la Portilla was a county commissioner and ran for county mayor. His other brother, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, is a school board member. So the family name blankets the county. Still, the district does extend to Naples.

The big surprise: Carlos Curbelo. U.S. Sen George LeMiuex's Florida director, Curbelo has strong name ID and likely earned it as a spokesman for both Diaz-Balarts in the 2008 campaign season. He has never been on the ballot, save a Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee Chairman race where he lost by just one vote to Rivera. In a season when political outsiders might have an edge, the numbers are encouraging for Curbelo, who's meeting with the National Republican Congressional Committee tomorrow.

Here's the list:

Name                        Name ID          Fav.      Unfav.     Unsure, but Familiar
Joe Martinez                   68              34         17          17
Alex Diaz de la Portilla     67             39          9           18
David Rivera                    41              24          5           12
Carlos Curbelo                32              11          5           16
Carlos Gimenez              29              11          5           14
Mike Pizzi                      22              10          3            9

Fresen: Change the way House speaker's are picked

State Rep. Erik Fresen said Wednesday that his bid for House speaker was "a mathematical possibility" but decided to quit the race to promote party unity.

The Miami lawmaker broke his silence a day after his fellow House Republicans selected Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary as the likely speaker in 2014. Dorworth's financial troubles spurred heated debate among party insiders after his selection was announced and drew rebuke from the public concerned with "politics as usual." (See comments section.)

Fresen, who conceded the race in a meeting Saturday at the party confab in Orlando, disputed accounts from Dorworth's supporters that he had only a handful of pledge cards. "It was certainly a mathematical possibility but it would have been something more drawn out," he said.

The point of his campaign, Fresen said, was to protest the process that anoints a future caucus leader in a lawmaker's first term in office. He would support a caucus rule that delays the race to let the true leaders emerge in time.

Continue reading "Fresen: Change the way House speaker's are picked" »

Crist shakes up South Florida water board

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed two new members to the South Florida Water Management District and confirmed that he demanded assurances from the newcomers that they would support his plan for a $536-million purchase of U.S. Sugar property for Everglades restoration.

Crist appointed Anne "Sandy" Batchelor-Robjohns, 56, of Miami Beach, co-CEO of The Batchelor Foundation, and environmental and land use lawyer Glenn Waldman, 49, of Weston. Crist also reappointed Shannon Estenoz, 42, a research assistant at FAU, to a new four-year term. Batchelor-Robjohns will replace Gladys Perez on the five-member governing board, and Waldman will replace Michael Collins.

Crist's litmus-test approach to the water-board appointments recalls his insistence that new appointees to the Public Service Commission take a skeptical view of a major rate increase sought by Florida Power & Light.

"I did that personally. Damn right," Crist said. "The litmus test is, you'll protect the Everglades. You'll protect the environment. You'll protect the water down there. It is the Water Management District." 

-- Steve Bousquet

Cannon's transfer from RPOF illegal, complaint alleges

Speaker-designate Dean Cannon's transfer of $655,000 from the Republican Party of Florida to his political committee constitutes the acknowledgment of a "leadership fund," according to an elections complaint filed Wednesday.

His Democratic opponent, Amy Mercado of Orlando, named Cannon, the Republican Party, former Chairman Jim Greer and party Treasurer Joel Pate in the complaint to the Florida Elections Commission. She contends the transfer from the party to Cannon's CCE, the Florida Liberty Fund, was illegal, which was a subject of debate as the details emerged amid Greer's ouster.

Those named violated state law "by maintaining (a) leadership fund comprised of any moneys contributed to the RPOF which are designated to be used at the partial or total discretion of Speaker-designate Cannon," the complaint reads.

Mercado cites statement Cannon spokesman Andy Palmer told the Times/Herald that "moving this money to the CCE was part of his plan for securing success in the 2010 election."

The Declaration of Tea Party Independence

Teapartyindependence1 One of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the founders of the officially registered Tea party in Florida, South Florida Tea Party Patriots Chairman Everett Wilkinson, has rolled out a "Declaration of Tea Party Independence'' inspired by the events of 1776. Wilkinson wants to keep the movement pure and away from the political party system.

As the course of human events winds its way through History, it has found some paths lead to Tyranny and some to Liberty. In seeking a path to Liberty, a great and powerful movement is now rising from every corner of our land. Created by the Will of the American People, it rejects unconstitutional domination by the Government that is supposed to be its servant. This movement has arisen, in large part, because our elected officials have failed us.

For much of its history the United States has been a land of prosperity and liberty, sound policies such as fiscal responsibility,constitutionally limited government and a belief in the free market have safeguarded this condition.In recent years however,Congress, the President, the Federal Reserve Board and the Courts have replaced those practices with profligate government spending and expansion of the government power
beyond what is constitutionally permissible.This course, if not reversed, can only lead to economic collapse and tyranny.Therefore, Individuals acting through the Tea Party Movement, seek to restore the policies, which are proven to safeguard liberty and prosperity for all. We will organize, demonstrate and vote until this restoration has been achieved. We will stay focused on this goal and remain INDEPENDENT from any persons or political parties who seek to distract us from this end.Many seek to define this Movement, to use it, to lead it, to co-opt it, to channel it, to control it, to defeat it. WE WILL NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.

The Tea Party Movement is in agreement with our Founders that the government that governs least governs best. We believe that Capitalism  NOT GOVERNMENT  is essential to the creation of wealth and a vastly reduced government provides the foundation for a thriving Capitalist system.The Tea Party Movement of America embraces and serves people of all races, creeds, religions, and political affiliations, and we declare ourselves to be independent of all those forces that seek to manipulate our actions or
control our destiny.

More here.