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202 posts from July 2012

July 30, 2012

Pam Bondi splitting time between Tallahassee and Tampa

Attorney General Pam Bondi seems to be everywhere these days — stumping for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, schmoozing with Rudy Giuliani in Tampa or talking about health care on Fox News.

Everywhere, except Tallahassee.

A rising star in the national Republican Party, Bondi appears to be often working from a Tampa agency field office near her home, according to her official schedule, which was obtained by the Times/Herald via a public record request. When she travels to Tallahassee, it is often for required meetings of the Cabinet and state Clemency Board.

There are no rules precluding the arrangement, and statewide office holders past and present have similarly worked from offices near their primary residence.

Still, Bondi's office would not say which days she is working in Tampa versus in Tallahassee or provide an estimate of the percentage of time she spends in each office. Her official schedule is often vague about her whereabouts.

Read more here.

Embarrassing statements abound -- for witnesses too -- in Greer case

There is a bit of bad news for some of the witnesses slated to testify at the trial of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.

A four-page report that apparently includes some embarrassing accusations against witnesses is a public record, says Orlando Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet in an order released Monday.

The judge also refused to limit the records that Greer can subpoena from the state party saying the records are likely to be relevant and favorable to his defense. Greer will have to pay reasonable costs for the documents.

Greer faces trial in November on federal charges of money laundering and grand theft in connection with money he obtained from his secret involvement in a company that handled fundraising for the party in 2009.

Orlando attorney Richard E. Hornsby asked the court to seal the record to avoid violating the privacy of "interested persons'' who were not charged. He would not identify the client who hired him.

During a hearing earlier this month the judge read a list of potential witnesses who might be harmed by the report, including Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and GOP fundraiser; former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson; former finance chairman Harry Sargeant; and Dane Eagle, a House candidate and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams said he expects to call all but possibly Eagle.

Lucy Morgan's story is here.

Republican Jewish Coalition's "Buyer's Remorse" ads to run in FL in September

In keeping with today's all-things-Jewish political coverage comes this: The Republican Jewish Coalition announced a $6.5 million ad campaign featuring voters who have "buyers remorse" over voting for Obama. The RJC says it has reserved $1.6 million in time in September in Florida.

Obama supporters countered today by pointing to this Ehud Barak interview on CNN:

"I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, um, administrations of both sides of political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israeli and I believe that reflects a profound feeling among the American people," said Barak. "But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past."

Here are the RJC ads:

Connie Mack hosts Palmetto Bay meet & greet at Republican Victory Center

Rep. Connie Mack's hosting a meet & greet Tuesdayon behalf of his campaign and the campaign of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom Mack stumped in the January Florida primary.

Doors Open at 1:30PM

Location: Victory Center, 8590 SW 152nd St

 

Why Mitt Romney's FL Jewish outreach won't be easy

Mitt Romney’s high-profile trip to Israel has renewed political speculation about the inroads Republicans could make with Jewish voters this presidential election year.

But the Republican outreach probably won’t yield significantly more Jewish votes, according to interviews with Jewish voters, voting studies and experts.

That doesn’t mean, however, that President Obama is guaranteed the same overwhelming Jewish support he enjoyed in 2008, when Republicans made a big effort to cut into this reliably Democratic block of voters.

“A lot of people are upset with the president, but I’ll still vote for him,” said Bernard Witkin, 63-year-old Jewish voter with no party affiliation who lives in the Century Village in Pembroke Pines.

“I just don’t trust the right-wing agenda,” Witkin said. “And we definitely don’t agree with the Republicans on social issues.”

Still, the economy has weighed on Obama, whose poll numbers have slipped among Jews along with the rest of the electorate since 2009. He still beats Romney by a healthy margin, according to the latest Gallup poll, but it’s not clear if the margin is solid enough for Obama.

Jewish voters account for as little as 4 percent and as much as 8 percent of the electorate in Florida, the only battleground state where the Jewish vote is significant enough to make a difference and help decide control of the White House race or the U.S. Senate.

Continue reading "Why Mitt Romney's FL Jewish outreach won't be easy" »

Integrity Florida unveils possible lawmaker conflicts

Legislators and top state officials accepted at least $101,449 in gifts from non-lobbyists so far in 2012, according to a report released Monday by Tallahassee-based Integrity Florida.

Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development organization, for example, paid $12,724 for Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carrolls' trade mission to South Africa while The Aspen Institute, the Republican Attorney General Association and other groups have financed $8,860 in travel for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The gifts do not violate the state's controversial 2005 gift ban because they came from people or organizations that are not registered lobbyists.

"It's okay for people to give gifts to each other...but we'd all like to have a gift to Taiwan," said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida. "Would they get these gifts if they weren't lawmakers?"

The report also named at least 10 lawmakers who worked for law firms that lobbied during the 2012 legislative session.

They are: Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Parrish.

Continue reading "Integrity Florida unveils possible lawmaker conflicts" »

Gov. Scott sticks to his guns, fires back appeal to 'Docs-vs.-Glocks' ruling

Gov. Rick Scott is appealing yet another court ruling, and appears convinced that his interpretation of the Constitution is more valid than that of the federal judge who struck down the so-called “Docs-vs.-Glocks” law, which banned doctors from asking patients about gun ownership in most cases.

The 2011 law, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, was pushed by the National Rifle Association and opposed by Florida doctors. The doctors challenged the law in court, and a federal judge in Miami ruled that barring doctors from asking patients about gun ownership violates their First Amendment freedom of speech rights.

Scott is now appealing that ruling, which pits the First Amendment against the Second Amendment.

Here’s the release from Scott’s office.

Tallahassee, Fla. – “The Department of Health today filed an appeal to the federal court decision blocking enforcement of the Firearm Owner’s Privacy Act.  This law was carefully crafted to respect the First Amendment while ensuring a patient’s constitutional right to own or possess a firearm without discrimination.  I signed this legislation into law because I believe it is constitutional and I will continue to defend it.”

It’s the latest in what has become a litigation-swamped administration for Scott. The state is also involved in lawsuits over voting changes, pension reform, drug testing for state workers and welfare recipients, prison privatization, the Affordable Care Act, etc.

Florida has come out on the losing end of many of those challenges, and Scott has been quick to appeal judge’s rulings each time.

A story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Monday showed that Scott’s administration has racked up more than $880,000 in legal bills for the various challenges over the constitutionality of several laws passed in the last two years. 

@ToluseO

Off the Dem reservation: Bill Richardson admits he's 'afraid' of Marco Rubio

Another Democrat's going off script.

This time, it's about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a vice-presidential shortlister who seemed to be fading from Mitt Romney's shorter list a few weeks ago. Since then, though, Romney's repeatedly invoked Rubio's story as the son of immigrants and now former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, has given Rubio what amounts to an endorsement by noting that the Cuban-American Republican would be a threat on a national ticket. That puts Richardson at odds with the liberal talking points, echoed by many in the northeast media, that Rubio isn't ready, etc.

Here's the Univision report:

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says that he is afraid of Marco Rubio’s ability to cut into President Obama’s Latino support. 

Richardson, a Mexican-American who ran against Obama in 2008 for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that the freshman Florida senator is one of the Republican Party’s fastest-rising stars who could make the GOP more appealing to Latino voters both in this election and in future ones.

“I like him. And yes, I’m afraid of him because I think he is an attractive politician, well prepared. And he is Cuban-American and to me that is positive,” Richardson said in an interview on Univision’s Al Punto. “Because I want all Hispanics in the Republican Party, in the Democratic Party, whether Latin Americans, Central Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, I want us to unite.”

Allen West: Read your Sun Tzu, beware of Russia building a Cuba naval base to be Castro's 'sugar daddy.'

BizPAC Review alerted us to this interesting snippet of a speech from U.S. Rep. Allen West, a retired colonel, who was asked about new reports of Russia wanting a new military base in Cuba.

It's unclear right now if Russia really wants a base that could be as close as 90 miles away from U.S. shores. Russia's top naval officer said on state TV Friday that it's in talks to build a base or bases in Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles island nation in the Indian Ocean. But then, on Saturday, Russia's foreign minister dismissed the talk as a media "fantasy."

Indeed, comrade.

Asked about the possibility of a Russian base in Cuba and President Obama's possible response, West said he couldn't speculate about what would happen. But he expressed concerns about multiple threats in our hemisphere:

"Cuba is looking for a new sugar daddy. And when you look at what's happening in our hemisphere, as a I say, you have Iran in our hemisphere. You're looking at Russian naval vessels coming into our hemisphere. Now, if you go down and talk to the United States Southern Command in Miami, Florida, who oversees this hemisphere all the way down to Latin America, the only real military presence we have is the Coast Guard. We don't have anything in this hemisphere. But yet you have Hezbolla training camps, you have Hugo Chavez, you have the Ortega brothers, you have narco traffickers in Mexico that are working with Iran and Hezbollah. How much did you hear about the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador and also the Israeli ambassador?...."

West's comments leave the impression that the United States is militarily naked in South Florida. It's not.

Continue reading "Allen West: Read your Sun Tzu, beware of Russia building a Cuba naval base to be Castro's 'sugar daddy.' " »

In Israel speech, Romney outrages Arabs by crediting Jewish 'culture,' 'Providence' for economy

AP:

Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.

The economic disparity between the Israelis and the Palestinians is actually much greater than Romney stated. Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500, according to the World Bank.

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence.".....

The reaction of Palestinian leaders to Romney's comments was swift and pointed.

"It is a racist statement and this man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The AP notes that Romney didn't mention the Israaeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. It didn't point out that Israel has actually built a wall and that Israel receives more than $3 billion annually from the United States, which has the effect of a roughly $500-per-person subsidy from U.S. taxpayers for each Israeli citizen. The Palestinians receive no direct U.S. aid.

Politically speaking, Romney's comments probably have little downside.

Continue reading "In Israel speech, Romney outrages Arabs by crediting Jewish 'culture,' 'Providence' for economy" »