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223 posts from December 2011

December 29, 2011

GOP primary is helping.... Barack Obama.

Iowa Republicans are just days away from kicking off the presidential nominating contest, and Republicans ought to hope the primary ends sooner rather than later.

The GOP’s ultimate goal, of course, is to make Barack Obama a one-term president, but as 2011 draws to a close there are signs the volatile primary has done more to damage the party for the general election than help it.

The year has been defined largely by the lack of enthusiasm most Republicans have for frontrunner Mitt Romney and serious shortcomings in other leading candidates to replace the president. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have all surged to the top only to be dragged down by doubts about their fitness for the nomination.

“At least we’ll know who we’re electing. It’s good to get everything on the table. I truly believe the man that will be left standing at the end will be the best,’’ said Rose Rauschkolb, a Republican activist and retired real estate broker in Miramar.

Rauschkolb supported Cain in Florida’s Presidency 5 mock election in September, but remains undecided at this point: “There’s something about every one of these candidates I don’t like, but we’ve got to get rid of what’s in there now. I don’t care if Mickey Mouse runs, he would be better.”

No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with the unemployment rate close to as high as it is now (8.6 percent), so Obama’s vulnerability is not in question.

But the perception of Obama’s alternative (only 20 percent of Americans approve of the performance of congressional Republicans) is strengthening Obama’s position. His approval rating has ticked up from an average of 43 percent at the start of December to 47 percent today, according to RealClearPolitics. He now leads Romney by about 3 percentage points, after trailing him in October.

More here

December 28, 2011

Next up for sale in Florida: the naming rights to public school cafeterias?

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, the same lawmaker who proposed naming rights for state trails and advertising on the sides of school buses, has another money-making idea up his sleeve.

Naming rights for public school cafeterias.

Times staff writer Ron Matus has more on HB 1137, the "Student Nutrition Enhancement Act":

It would allow school boards to decide the details on naming rights, including where the name is displayed. It says revenue generated shall be used "to enhance the school district's school food service budget and to meet the nutritional needs of students."

In the midst of historically deep budget cuts for Florida schools, "this is a way to get private businesses to partner up with governments," Slosberg said Wednesday.

He threw out the possibility of cafeterias named after Publix or Whole Foods Market. "In that situation, we'd have to be selective," he said.

Keep reading.

Is the Florida GOP hiding info in Jim Greer case?

Lawyers for the Republican Party of Florida are trying to limit testimony from a party accountant in a Seminole County lawsuit filed by former Chairman Jim Greer. The GOP wants to restrict questions that can be asked of Richard Swarttz, the accountant who signed checks for Victory Strategies, a company Greer formed when he took over party fundraising.

The company is at the heart of criminal charges brought against Greer in Orange County. Statewide prosecutors contend that Greer used the company to bilk the party out of more than $125,000. Greer faces trial July 30 on the criminal charges but has filed a civil suit against the party alleging that party leaders welched on a severance agreement that would have paid him more than $123,000 to resign in 2010. Swarttz has been subpoenaed to testify on January 13.

"Not only are they seeking a protective order for Swarttz, who is the one who wrote all the checks to (former executive director Delmar Johnson), without ever seeking my approval and also paid for his house and many other expenses without even inquiring from me if I even knew about it, which I didn't," Greer said. "They also say they are now going to seek a protective order for Jason Gonzalez, which is unbelievable as he is one of the Parties that was aware of Victory Strategies and signed the severance agreement.  Lastly, they also filed a motion objecting to all of our discovery requests, including other fundraising agreements that were similar to Victory Strategies, emails in which I questioned the House and Senate spending practices, along with reprimanding Delmar and Swarttz for not providing me accurate financial information regarding the financial condition of the Party."

Party lawyers Steven Andrews and Stephen Dobson say the party has not waived its right to keep accounting matters confidential and are asking the court to block most questions relating to Greer and the party. Swarttz should only be allowed to respond to questions about the checks he wrote to Victory Strategies.

"This becomes more bizarre every day as persons who can substantiate the Party's knowledge of Victory Strategies, drew up and signed the agreement, the Party now wants to protect from giving depositions.," Greer said in an email. "You see it is no longer about the $124K that keeps being mentioned, it's about the other provisions of the severance agreement which they violated and for which we are seeking punitive damages, i.e., acknowledging that all expenditures were appropriate and then ordering an audit that questions and criticizes both Gov. Crist and I without looking at anyone else, along with other requirements they were bound to that they flagrantly violated."

Lucy Morgan

Rep. Frederica Wilson's hazing bill may include penalties for bystanders of rituals

Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to introduce a federal hazing ban when she returns to Congress in mid-January. Details of the bill aren't yet ironed out,  though she is consulting officials from the Justice Department and universities to figure out how far she can go, she said.

"I've been toying with different scenarios," she told Times/Herald. "I want it to be broad enough to affect a lot of people so they will stop."

She wants her bill to target the people who haze, the person being hazed and those who are present for the ritual and "don't report it or intervene."

"You're just as guilty as the people that are actually striking or participating in the hazing," she said.

Continue reading "Rep. Frederica Wilson's hazing bill may include penalties for bystanders of rituals" »

December 27, 2011

DJJ targets six employees for dismissal over teen’s death in lockup

Florida juvenile justice administrators have fired two detention center employees from West Palm Beach — and initiated actions to fire four others — five months after they were linked to the death of an 18-year-old youth at the lockup.

The lockup’s top administrators, Superintendent Anthony Flowers and Assistant Superintendent Patricia Hammond, both were fired Tuesday.

The agency also began the process of firing four guards, the department announced in a news release Tuesday.

Continue reading "DJJ targets six employees for dismissal over teen’s death in lockup" »

Is Bogdanoff correct that Florida is No. 4 in gambling?

Supporters of a proposed bill that would allow three massive destination casino resorts in South Florida often argue that gambling is already a big business here -- in fact, one of the largest in the country.

"Florida is considered the fourth-largest gambling state in the nation, but it has let the industry drive policy decisions and that has produced the worst kind of gaming,'' Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said in an October 2011 interview about her casinos bill. "To me, no kind of gaming is good, but we as policymakers have to decide, do we want gaming with five-star hotels or Internet cafes in strip malls?"

That fourth-largest ranking claim has been repeated multiple times by Bogdanoff, including in a joint editorial with state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and by other individuals, including former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart is a lawyer and adviser for the Genting Group, which has purchased the waterfront Miami Herald property with plans to build a mega casino-resort there.

The Truth-O-Meter researched to find out if we are indeed No. 4.

Trigaux column: Florida businesses deserve better representation than Tom Feeney, new chief of AIF

St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux criticizes Associated Industries of Florida for choosing Tom Feeney to replace ousted chief Barney Bishop. Here's an excerpt from his Venture blog:

Feeney was state House speaker from 2000-2002, when he was elected to Congress from Central Florida. Feeney twice won re-election. Then he fell out of  favor after becoming a crony of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who paid for the congressman to play golf  in Scotland. In September 2006, Feeney was named one of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress” in a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). He is mentioned four years in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) in the annual reports of CREW. Earlier, Feeney was Jeb Bush's running mate in his first race for governor in 1994.

Here's Feeney in a 2008 election ad apologizing for his bad judgment.

Since those illustrious days, Feeney has been running an Orlando business consulting and lobbying company called Liberty Team. His own web site says he is a long-time "advocate of the growth and establishment of the I-4 Hi-Tech Corridor, Medical City and Modeling, Simulation and Space related growth in Central Florida."

Florida businesses deserve better representation in Tallahassee. Or is this simply AIF deciding that in Tallahassee these days it is best to fight muck with muck? Even if Feeney proves effective, AIF will never be free of the past taint.

Even Burmese pythons have Washington lobbyists

NelsonWhen Burmese pythons began slithering across Everglades levees in increasingly alarming numbers, state water managers petitioned the federal government to crack down on the pet trade’s sale of the giant snakes.

In the five years since, a string of studies, congressional hearings, articles and nature shows — not to mention bad sci-fi movies — have painted the python as a monstrous ecological menace that threatened to spread to other states.

But the proposal to ban the import and interstate sale of Burmese pythons and eight other large exotic snakes has stalled, swallowed up in White House bureaucracy for nearly a year.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has written letters urging the Obama administration to approve the snake ban — among them, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson last month, Tampa-area Republican Rep. Bill Young this month and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen last week. Despite the pressure, the effort to declare the snakes “injurious species’’ through a cumbersome administrative process called the Lacey Act remains in doubt.

The proposal has been buffeted by surging anti-regulatory fervor in Washington and scientific controversy over whether the snakes really pose much of a risk beyond South Florida.

The fact that the snakes acquired lobbyists may explain a few things as well.

The U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, backed by a small but passionate group of snake breeders and collectors and a New York law firm, has mounting a campaign shrewdly positioning the python restrictions as “job-killing’’ federal red tape based on shaky science.

“This thing has tons of problems and no redeeming qualities,’’ said ARK President Andrew Wyatt. “A Lacey Act listing isn’t going to change one thing on the ground in South Florida now. It is going to put people out of work.’’

More here

December 26, 2011

What Mitt Romney's FL tele-town hall says about his campaign

Mitt Romney hosted a Florida tele-town hall meeting that didn’t yield a whole lot of news but spoke volumes about the state of the Republican presidential race in Florida.

Right now, it seems that only Romney is running here -- a result of his superior organization and money. His supporters are advertising for him. His campaign is pushing early vote-by-mail absentee ballots (at least 370,000 of which have been requested by Republicans). And he’s stopping in the state every month or so to pick up campaign money and some free TV time.

The only serious challenger to Romney right now, Newt Gingrich, only named a Florida manager this month. If Gingrich doesn’t win one of the early states (South Carolina?), chances are high that Romney wins Florida in the Jan. 31 primary.

Romney began and ended the 30 minute call with a pitch for absentee ballots. His campaign said it called "thousands" of supporters and urged them to dial 1 if they supported Romney. Those who couldn't get their questions asked or answered were told to stay on the line and leave a message for Romney's Florida staff, who would help them out or sign them up to help the campaign.

The questions tonight from the Romney supporters also reflected the Republican electorate. They’re concerned about illegal immigration, Israel and the size of government. And though they’re conservative, a few callers sounded a little worried that their government programs – Medicare and Social Security – are on the chopping block. Romney assured them it wouldn’t happen.

In his opening, Romney took aim at President Obama for supporting entitlements

“The president seems to believe in an entitled nation,” he said. He knocked the president for supporting higher taxes and unions. “President Obama seems to want to turn us into Europe,” he said.

Romney said that, unlike the president, “I understand how small business works and how big business works.”

First call: Annette from Naples who wanted to know about illegal immigration.

Continue reading "What Mitt Romney's FL tele-town hall says about his campaign" »

December 23, 2011

Happy holidays from Charlie Crist(mas)

Former Alex Sink staffer and public relations hand Kevin Cate scores a big get for his holiday video --- Charlie Crist(mas) ... played by Bay News 9's Troy Kinsey. Enjoy.



Holiday Message from Charlie Crist(mas) & Kevin Cate from Kevin Cate Communications on Vimeo.