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224 posts from June 2012

June 22, 2012

Soros-funded MoveOn targets Florida's noncitizen voter purge with TV ad

The liberal group MoveOn, funded by liberal sugar daddy George Soros (the conservative version of the Koch Brothers) says it's going to air an ad condemning Gov. Rick Scott's noncitizen voter purge, which it's trying to link to Mitt Romney.

The ad continues what appears to be the over-the-top claim that the purge is "racist" -- which suggests the decision to clean the rolls is motivated by bigotry. There's really not much evidence for that. Noncitizens are not supposed to be registered to vote, and some are. But 87 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are minorities. However, when you hunt for noncitizen voters, you will target immigrants. And immigrants in Florida are overwhelmingly Hispanic and, to a lesser degree, Haitian (and therefore black). Is that racist?

While the spot might be a good way to fire up some minority voters, there's a chance it could backfire as well. Floridians overwhelmingly back the effort to remove noncitizens from the voter rolls, according to a Quinnipiac University poll this week that showed 60% favored it and 35% opposed it.

There are flaws with the program, though. And it has largely been halted thanks to three federal lawsuits.

The ad buy appears relatively small (2,000 points) and targeted to the Tallahassee media market.

Barack Obama calls, congratulates Miami Heat

From the White House:

Aboard Air Force One en route to Tampa, President Obama telephoned Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to congratulate him on his team's victory in the NBA Finals.  He complimented the performance of the players and coaches noting that the team seemed to get stronger as the playoffs wore on.  He asked Coach Spoelstra to tell the team that he looks forward to celebrating their NBA championship with them at the White House.

Obama speaks to Latino group, stays vague on immigration

ORLANDO — A couple of hours before he speaks in Tampa, President Barack Obama acknowledged to a group of Hispanic leaders on Friday the struggling economy but said he was best equipped to carry the country forward and touted his action blocking deportations of young illegal immigrants.

"I refused to keep looking young people in the eye, deserving young people, and telling them 'Good luck, the politics is too hard,' " Obama said.

He said his new policy is not "amnesty" but a short-term measure that lifts "the shadow of deportation," and he called on lawmakers to pass the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship: "To those in Congress saying Congress should be the ones to fix this, absolutely."

Story here.

Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

White House spox thanks Republican Party of Florida for touting good economic news

In a press gaggle with the White House's principal deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest (who had the misfortune of repping 2006 Florida gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis) thanks the Republican Party of Florida for talking about good economic numbers, which have put President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Scott on the same page for a few months now:

MR. EARNEST:  Good morning, everybody.  Welcome aboard Air Force One as we wing our way to the Sunshine State.  I have some brief opening remarks, and then we'll open it up to questions.

In Orlando this afternoon, the President will speak to NALEO about his efforts to help America's middle-class families and America's economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  He'll note that we've made progress but we have a long way to go, and he's continuing to push Congress to act on legislation that will support our economy, support responsible homeowners, and put construction workers, first responders and teachers back to work.

I'll note some statistics recently cited by the Republican Party of Florida that bear out the progress that we've made and the work that remains to be done.  Specifically, the Florida Republicans note that the unemployment rate in Florida has declined for 11 consecutive months and that more than 99,000 private sector jobs have been created in Florida alone over the last year and a half.

Yet the President is not satisfied.  And unfortunately for our economy, Republicans in Congress won't act on legislation submitted by the President that would put by our estimates -- or by some estimates, I should say -- these are actually outside estimates -- 1 million people back to work.  This stalemate isn't good for our economy, but it reflects the choice in this election....

RPOF is shocked --shocked!-- that Earnest would do this. It's statement:

Today, White House deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, cited information from the Republican Party of Florida regarding the continued drop in unemployment in our state, claiming that President Obama was responsible. However, the facts seem to tell a different story.


When President Obama took office in January 2009, unemployment in Florida was 8.7% and was up to 10.9% in January 2011, when Governor Rick Scott took office. Since Scott has been Governor, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.6%-the lowest we've seen since December 2008. Governor Scott has put in place policies that have cut taxes for small businesses, streamlined government and reduced unnecessary regulation. It is these changes that have been critical to Florida's ongoing recovery.


"Florida has seen increases in job creation and economic growth in spite of what the Obama Administration and Democrats in Washington have done to hinder it, and that is thanks to the common-sense policies put in place by Governor Scott," said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. "However, Florida now needs a national partner in the White House who will help amplify the growth we have seen in our state, and that is exactly what Governor Mitt Romney will do."

Marco Rubio faults Obama, Democrats for immigration hypocrisy

ORLANDO -- Sen. Marco Rubio gave a forceful speech on immigration here Friday, criticizing people on the left and right for simplifying the issue as political weapon. He lumped President Obama into the mix, referring to his announcement last Friday he was blocking deportations of young illegal immigrants.

"As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping pong that each side uses to win electrons and influence votes, I'm telling you, it won't get solved."

Obama's plan is similar to what Rubio had been working on. The White House denies any connection or election-year calculation. "I don't care who gets the credit. I don't," Rubio said. "But it exposes the fact that this issue is all about politics for some people. Not just Democrats, Republicans, too."

Continue reading "Marco Rubio faults Obama, Democrats for immigration hypocrisy" »

The Truth-O-Meter checks claim about Sunday 'Souls to the Polls'

Sunday before Election Day in November, they might hear sermons about voting. But unlike 2008, they won’t be able to head straight to the polls afterward.

In 2011, the state Legislature passed an election bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott that, among other changes, eliminated early voting on the last Sunday before Election Day.

Critics argued that the moves were partisan and that the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican governor wanted to block Democrats and churches from geting out the vote. Dubbed "Souls to the Polls," Democratic-friendly groups sometimes bussed voters to election sites on that final Sunday.

And getting rid of that final Sunday affects minorities, said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville.

"Statistics show that in the 2008 general election in Florida, 33.2 percent of those who voted early on the last Sunday before Election Day were African-American, while 23.6 percent were Hispanic," Brown wrote in a June 15 press release.

Brown’s precise percentages caught our attention, so PolitiFact decided to check out her numbers.

Battleground Latino poll: Obama over Romney 53-37 in Florida.

Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 53-37 percent in Florida among Hispanic votes, according to a new poll from Latino Decisions (which produces great polls) and the liberal group America’s Voice. Error margin: 4.9%. Fifty percent said they were more enthusiastic about Obama since he announced he would ease deportations of young undocumented residents.

The 16-percentage point lead is where Obama needs to be, at least as measured by his win in Florida over John McCain in 2008, when Obama's Hispanic margin was 15 points.

The big question: Will Hispanic voters turn out in the same proportions as they did in 2008? If not, edge Romney. If so, edge Obama.

More here

Candidate challenging black legislator takes this strategy with voters: I'm a Jew, you're a Jew so vote for me. Oy vey!

With an update from Lisbon below:

A Jewish candidate trying to oust State Rep. Joe Gibbons, a black Democrat from Hallandale Beach plays up the Jewish card heavily in a recent email about his campaign in the Broward/Miami-Dade district.

Here's the June 21 email from Democrat and Surfside City Commissioner Sheldon Lisbon:

"I am writing to formally notify my friends and co-congregants that I am running for Florida State House Representative, District 100. The election is August 14th and any registered voter in the district may vote.    

This district is primarily a Jewish district composed of residents like us.

Although you will be hearing more about my campaign and what I stand for, I wanted to explain to my close friends and shul members why I choose to do this. Our community has special and unique needs that have not been never even been addressed by previous State Representatives. These include substantial issues regarding health care, elder care, hurricane insurance, condo issues, Jewish communal needs and educational programs.    

My opponent, Joe Gibbons, has never shown sensitivity to this set of needs and is supported by gambling interests and professional lobbyists.    

I believe that my work on both the Surfside Zoning and Planning Board and the Surfside Commission has been very beneficial to our community. As a State Representative I can do even more.    

Shelly Lisbon."

Gibbons, the first black house member to represent his current district, was ticked off about the email.

"The last six years in the Florida House I have represented a predominantly Jewish District," Gibbons said. Gibbons said he helped secure about $600,000 for the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Hollywood.

"The fact that somebody would drag race into a house race doesn't make sense," Gibbons said. "Just because you think the majority of the population is like you that's the reason people should vote for you? How about qualifications? How about experience? How about proven track record?"

It looked like Broward voters did play the Jewish card in 2008 when they tossed three judges with Hispanic-sounding names and replaced them with two with Jewish sounding last names (one winner was black and one of those Jewish winners was also Cuban.) But Broward pollster Jim Kane says judicial contests can't be compared to a state house race: judicial races are low-profile and voters learn little about the candidates so in the absence of other information, some voters will vote based on ethnic background.  

"I'm Jewish and he's not' or 'I'm Jewish and he is black' isn't going to sell in 2012," Kane said.

Based on experience, Gibbons should have the edge: he is a former Hallandale Beach city commissioner first elected to the House in 2006 and has raised $24,800. Lisbon entered the race late and has scant political experience: he won his Surfside seat with no opposition in March with 325 votes.

But here's why Gibbons' supporters have reason for concern: due to redistricting he landed in a district that is 57-43 Dade-Broward. That raises this question: can a Jewish candidate from Dade beat a black candidate in Broward in a white district with some heavily Jewish areas?

Expect Jewish politicos to jump to Gibbons' defense. "It's vile and reprehensible and betrays an unworthiness for public office," said Dan Gelber, a Jew and former state legislator who represented part of the district where Gibbons is running. "It's ethnic divisiveness at its basest level. ... Somebody who is Jewish should know better. We've been on the wrong end of that before."

We reached Lisbon and told him that Gibbons and some of his supporters found the email offensive. Lisbon says he doesn't know what all the fuss is about.

"I don't understand what he means 'offensive,'" said Lisbon. "Because I'm trying to get the Jewish vote just like he got the African-American vote? I'm trying to get everyone's vote -- the African-American and Jewish vote. .... I'm not thinking about race or whatever he is thinking about. ... I don't understand what he is getting at. He is making an issue. He has nothing to run on. ... I want the African-American vote also. Color doesn't matter to me."

We asked Lisbon if he could elaborate with examples to support his claim that Gibbons hadn't been sensitive to a long list of needs including "Jewish communal needs." Lisbon didn't cite any bills or specific examples.

"I'm just wondering why he is not putting out to the community things he has done," he said. Lisbon mentionned Gibbons' role on a Holocaust committee (probably a reference to the Holocaust Documentation Center in Hollywood) and said: "if that is the most he can boast about for helping people who are of a common culture, history, and Jewish -- being a member of some kind of committee about the Holocaust doesn't really advance the Jewish people."

Lisbon is correct that Gibbons has taken money from lobbyists and those with gambling interests -- as have some other incumbents.


Koch Bros' tea-party group goes after Bill Nelson in new ad

Americans for Prosperity, the tea-party group funded in great part by the Koch Brothers (the conservative version of George Soros), have launched a six-state $3 million ad buy that targets Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, among others.

The ad is a standard conservative assault on a Democrat, who's portrayed as a tax-and-spend-happy liberal.

The ad might be disputable toward the end where it suggested that Nelson voted "against American-made energy and the thousands of jobs it creates." If that's a reference to the Keystone XL Pipeline, Nelson did oppose it. But he also supported it, like any good both-sides-of-the-issue Washington pol by favoring legislation that required any Keystone-related oil stay in the United States. Nelson has long been an opponent of Florida offshore oil drilling and that's a clear case of Nelson voting against "American-made energy" -- albeit, it's a generally safe position, especially along the sugar-sand Gulf Coast. Note: Koch Industries is heavily invested in the energy sector.

It's also debateable how "wasteful" the $800 billion stimulus was (see below)***

From the Washington Post on the stimulus:

(U)nder questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.

In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.

“Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. “That,” he added, “is a distinct minority.”

Elmendorf’s testimony came in response to questions from Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a member of the tea party caucus. Huelskamp asserted that the stimulus was a failure because it did not keep the jobless rate below 8 percent, as the Obama administration predicted.

With long memories, lobbyists fight Lee's comeback bid

a state senator from 1996-2006, Tom Lee often challenged the political establishment, as with his insistence that lobbyists be forced to disclose their fees. Now, as the Brandon Republican seeks to return to the Senate, he's being warmly welcomed back into the fold of the powerful insiders. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the incoming president, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, were with Lee Thursday for a Lee fund-raiser at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee.

As a leadership-backed candidate in a GOP primary facing Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, Lee will reap the benefits in the form of campaign contributions from lobbyists eager to curry favor with Gaetz. But not every lobbyist is lining up behind Lee, who antagonized many lobbyists by railing against their influence even as he sought their support for his 2006 bid for chief financial officer. Three veteran lobbyists with decades of experience and dozens of influential clients are openly shunning Lee in an act of defiance that's rare in Tallahassee.  

Ron Book, Guy Spearman and Jack Cory are all behind Burgin. Book and Spearman sued and lost in an attempt to overturn the lobbyist fee-disclosure law Lee championed. Book said Lee has never asked for his help, and Burgin has. "I've got a long memory," Book said.

Spearman says that when he went to Lee to let him know he was suing, Lee reacted poorly. "Lord have mercy," Spearman recalled. "He acted as if I was a worthless human being." Cory called Burgin a strong candidate and that it's a "mistake" for Senate GOP leaders to take sides in contested primaries.

In an interview, Spearman called it "damn hypocritical" of Lee to insist that lobbyists disclose fees when Lee has never released details of his use of a Republican Party American Express card when he was Senate president. "I don't have those records. Get with the Republican Party of Florida about that," Lee said.

Lee said he didn't take their opposition personally -- and their opposition may even help him burnish his image as someone unafraid to stand up to the powerful. "The people who don't support you tend to be more vocal than the ones who do," Lee said.

Gaetz said lobbyists should not hold "old grudges" against Lee. "They may want to work off an old grudge against Tom Lee because he championed ethics reform that some lobbyists didn't like," Gaetz said, before he was aware of the opposition by Book, Spearman and Cory. "That's short-sighted." 

For Book, Spearman and Cory, the task ahead is daunting, but very simple: To make sure Burgin is the new senator from District 24.   

-- Steve Bousquet