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241 posts from September 2012

September 27, 2012

Committee will lead campaign for Sony tennis tournament ballot question to upgrade Crandon Park

Sony Open tennis tournament organizers have created a steering committee to lead the campaign for a Nov. 6 Miami-Dade ballot measure that would extend the tournament's lease and approve nearly $50 million in upgrades to Key Biscayne's Crandon Park Tennis Center.

The upgrades could only be paid for with tennis center and tournament revenues and private funds. But the organizers' plan could only move forward if a two-thirds majority of voters sign off on the measure -- a tall order for any ballot question. (Read more about the organizers' plans here.)

The steering committee will "educate the public on the measure and galvanize support," according to a press release. The group will be chaired by Adam Barrett, senior vice president of IMG, which runs the tournament.

Other members include retired tennis player (and honorary committee chairwoman) Mary Joe Fernandez; Stephanie Sayfie Aagaard, who has written columns for The Miami Herald; Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Caplan; Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Phillis Oeters, and William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

The group has set up a website, www.parkpartnership.com, to solicit campaign contributions, recruit volunteers and push for the amendment. It's paid for by a new political action committee, Committee to Preserve an Ideal Partnership, which has raised $50,000 from IMG.

Read the press release after the jump.

Continue reading "Committee will lead campaign for Sony tennis tournament ballot question to upgrade Crandon Park" »

Connie asks, where's Bill? Bill, sort of, answers

069On the last of a six-day bus tour through north and central Florida, Republican Connie Mack's refrain has been: "Where's Bill?"

"I'm not sure he's campaigning -- other than running negative ads trying to smear my character,'' Mack told about 20 supporters at the Donut Hole cafe in Destin on Thursday. "He doesn't have anything to offer the people of Florida." 

For an incumbent U.S. senator seeking re-election for the third time in a crucial swing state, the Democrat has kept a pretty low profile. His poll numbers are up. His campaign had eight times as much money in the bank as his competitor after the last reporting period. It's a strategy that's working.

Nelson's campaign has primarily featured television ads attacking Mack for his personal financial woes, his divorce, his hard-partying youth and attendance record in Congress. After the last reporting period on July 25, he had $8.8 million left in the bank compared to Mack's $1.3 million.

Mack, by contrast, has had to rely on third party organizations to pay for his ads and he has spent the last week in 17 cities talking to modest-sized crowds.

Continue reading "Connie asks, where's Bill? Bill, sort of, answers" »

Parental advisory: Samuel Jackson's WTFU video bashes Mitt Romney, Dem apathy

Will this video go viral or is this just more liberal same-old from actor Samuel L. Jackson? The WTFU2012 is, interestingly enough, from a group called Jewish Council for Education and Research.

RNC boasts of FL ground game, 7m voter contacts

While Democrats have out-registered Republicans 200k-44k in Florida (and lead by 5% points on the voter rolls), the Republican National Committee says it's not resting lightly. From a press release:

Tampa – Today the Republican National Committee announced that volunteers and staff across Florida have made 7 million voter contacts to date during the presidential election cycle.  At a phone bank event in Ft. Myers, volunteer James Stewart made the call to mark the 7 millionth contact.  Mr. Stewart is a dedicated volunteer in the Ft. Myers area who frequently makes phone calls and knocks on doors on behalf of America’s Comeback Team – Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  Mr. Stewart was a Major in the Army in the Pacific Theater of WWII and is 95 years old.  After making the call, supporters and volunteers congratulated Mr. Stewart, as did RNC Chairman Reince Priebus who called Mr. Stewart and volunteers to thank them from Washington.


“I spend my time helping out at the Victory Office because I know we can’t afford 4 more years like the last 4 years,” said James Stewart, who made the 7 millionth voter contact.  “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to get our economy back on track by creating 12 million jobs, protecting and strengthening Medicare for myself and future generations, and standing strong for our fighting men and women overseas.  I’m proud to have made the 7 millionth voter contact, and will continue to spend my time making phone calls and knocking on doors to help put Mitt Romney in the White House.”

The Republican National Committee has made 10 times more phone calls in Florida in 2012 than at this time in 2008 and has knocked on 67 times more doors than at this point four years ago.

VISIT Florida president leaves to head up fed's new tourism org

Chris Thompson, the president and CEO of VISIT Florida, was on Thursday named president and CEO of Brand USA, a public-private partnership recently created to support the nation’s travel industry.

Thompson, who oversaw the expansion of VISIT Florida during the last three years, will join the federal government’s version of Florida’s public-private tourism promotion arm.

“I congratulate Chris on this exciting opportunity to replicate at the national level the successes he has achieved at VISIT FLORIDA,” VISIT Florida board chairman Glenn Hastings wrote on the organization’s blog. “In the past three years, Chris has proven he has the vision, passion and commitment to build and lead a world-class organization that will increase the economic impact of international visitors to the United States.”

President Obama signed the bipartisan-supported Travel Promotion Act in 2010, creating the Brand USA program. The program will spend $200 million annually to promote the US to potential travelers overseas. It is funded by fees charged to international travelers to the US, and private sector contributions.

Florida, which has seen tourism levels reach new highs in recent years tied to increasing international interest, could benefit from having Thompson at the helm of the national tourism group.

Continue reading "VISIT Florida president leaves to head up fed's new tourism org " »

Gov. Scott working with Board of Ed on commissioner search

Although the Florida Board of Education is ultimately tasked with finding the state’s new education commissioner, Gov. Rick Scott said he expects the person who gets the job to meet his approval as well.

“To have a successful relationship between the Board of Education and the governor means that they both have to be involved in picking a new commissioner,” Scott said. “And it’s got to be an individual that has the same beliefs that the Board of Education has and the governor has or otherwise it won’t work.”

Scott invited Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand to dinner at the governor’s mansion Wednesday night to talk about the search and other education issues. After dinner, Scott and Chartrand said they had common goals when it comes to selecting the next commissioner.

The Board of Education voted this week to extend the application deadline to Nov. 30 to widen the selection pool. The initial list of 16 candidates was considered lackluster by many observers.

Continue reading "Gov. Scott working with Board of Ed on commissioner search" »

Libertarian Gary Johnson expected to endorse FL medical marijuana effort

JohnsonaLibertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican New Mexico governor, plans to advocate for a Florida medical-marijuana initiative.

"Johnson is expected to the endorse the current effort to put a Constitutional Amendment to legalize Medicinal Marijuana on the Florida ballot in 2014" said Johnson's Florida political advisor, Roger Stone, a one-time GOP operative who lives in Miami Beach.

It's a tough haul just getting an issue on the Florida ballot. And getting it passed is even harder -- it takes 60% to get a state constitutional amendment approved. The People United for Medical Marijuana group (PUFMM) has raised $40,628 and spent $33,470 since 2009 for the issue.

Johnson's pro-pot stance could pay dividends for his current presidential campaign. He's pulling just 1 percent in The Miami Herald's latest poll. But, as Ralph Nader proved in 2000, a percent means a lot in a tight Florida election.

As a former Republican who was locked out of all but two GOP presidential debates, Johnson will likely pull some conservative voters his way for his stance on taxes and regulation. Republicans are so scared of Johnson that they're trying to keep him off the ballot in some states. Both parties are trying to block him from the debates.

But Johnson will probably pull some liberals to --for his stance on taxes and regulation because Johnson would like a repeal of the spirit of the 1934 Marihuana Tax Act, which started to make pot illegal.

Stone points out that Johnson -- a former Republican New Mexico governor -- has cred in the pot movement, with the Marijuana Policy project ranking him as the 11th most-influential toker, noting this quote of his: “In that state somebody came by and said, 'Gary? Would marijuana help do you think?' And my response was immediately, 'Yes, I don't know why I didn't think of it, but I think that would help immensely.' And it did."

To get the message out, allies have passed out packs of Johnson-emblazoned "Live Free" rolling papers that are printed by a group calling itself the Thomas Jefferson Coalition, which features an apparently apocryphal quote from the founding father. Folks pass them out at Johnson rallies like a gay-rights discussion in Orlando.

"Pardons to all first time non-violent drug offenders," the packs say on one side. "Haven't American families suffered enough?"


September 26, 2012

Cannon lashes out at GOP critics and Florida Bar in merit retention fight

Outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon, a vigorous critic of the Florida Supreme Court , chastised critics of the Republican Party of Florida, which has come out in opposition to the three justices up for merit retention.  

“It is political speech,’’ Cannon said Wednesday. “The very people who are opposing the merit retention process now, asked for this system back in the 70s and 80s and they who consider themselves the defenders of free speech and political participation should be ashamed of themselves for criticizing people for or against justices,’’ he said.  

Last week, the Republican Party of Florida took the unprecedented step of entering into the debate on a merit retention vote for Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barabara Pariente and Peggy Quince, who are each on the November ballot. State law requires that the justices come before voters every six years to determine whether they continue to demonstrate the qualities needed to render fair and impartial rulings. 

The decision of the party to get involved has come under fire from critics on both sides of the aisle, as well as Justice Lewis who warned that the judiciary is under assault because of partisan politics.   

Cannon, a lawyer who is in the process of moving his law firm from Winter Park to Tallahassee, has been a critic of the high court since the court struck down three constitutional amendments written by the Legislature in 2010. He said it is “ludicrous” for people to argue that it is inappropriate for a political party to enter into this debate.

He said that “merit retention is one of the only accountability checks on the judicial branch left. I think it was wise that we stopped having elected justices back in the 70s or 80s, or whenever it was, but frankly merit retention is intended to be an accountability check on justices. As such, the very reformers that are criticizing the participation in the process -- they created it.” 

Continue reading "Cannon lashes out at GOP critics and Florida Bar in merit retention fight" »

Gov. Rick Scott's non-citizen voter purge roars back to life with list of 198

Florida’s noncitizen voter-purge program roared back to life Wednesday, when Gov. Rick Scott’s elections department produced a new list of 198 potentially ineligible voters — including some who might have cast ballots illegally.

The list, along with a stack of documentation, was sent to the independent county elections supervisors who are ultimately in charge of maintaining and purging voter rolls.

At the same time, state attorneys for each of the concerned counties could begin examining whether to bring criminal charges against any noncitizen who has voted.

The decision to push ahead with the controversial program just 41 days before Election Day in the nation’s biggest battleground state is already the subject of three separate federal lawsuits from a coalition of liberal-leaning groups as well as President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.

Republicans are the least likely to be identified as potential noncitizens on the list when compared to independents and Democrats. Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites or African Americans to be flagged, a Miami Herald analysis determined.

Some of the people on the new list — based on new state access to a federal citizenship database — told the Herald that they are citizens. Others said they aren’t. Some who appeared to have voted, according to records, denied they did.

But Anita Caragan of Panama City Beach, a U.S. resident who is not a citizen, told a Herald reporter she has been voting “for a long, long time.” Records show the no-party-affiliation noncitizen has cast ballots in 10 Florida elections since 2000.

The 73-year-old Caragan, who moved to the United States in 1970 from the Philippines, said when she was living in Norfolk, Va. more than 35 years ago, she renewed her driver’s license and registered to vote at the same time, without realizing it was illegal.

Her husband — 82-year-old Emiliano, who also immigrated from the Philippines and served 21 years in the U.S. Navy — is a citizen but said he wasn’t aware his wife isn’t supposed to vote with just a green card. Both are planning to vote in November.

“Of course we’re going to vote,” he said. “We both have voter registration cards.” More here.

Gov. Rick Scott gets strong pitch for tougher ethics laws

Gov. Rick Scott is being urged to support tougher ethics laws in Florida, including strengthening the voting conflict law so that certain public officials would have to abstain from voting in cases in which they declare a conflict of interest.

Scott and two top aides, general counsel Jesse Panuccio and policy chief Chris Finkbeiner, met Wednesday with Virlindia Doss, executive director of the Commission on Ethics, and Matt Carlucci, a Jacksonville businessman and Scott's latest appointee to the bi-partisan, nine-member ethics panel. Kerrie Stillman, the ethics commission's spokeswoman, said Scott asked for the meeting.

"He was very interested in what we had to say," said Stillman, who also attended.

"The commission has some good ideas, which we're reviewing," said Scott's chief spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers. "We look forward to working with the legislative leadership."

The ethics agency is asking for four specific changes to state law:

* Hold state-level appointed officials to the same standard as local appointed officials, who must abstain from voting in cases in which they have declared a conflict of interest.   

* Allow the commission to record automatic fines as a lien on real and personal property, giving the agency more leverage to collect unpaid fines, which have mushroomed in recent years.

* Allow state attorneys, FDLE, the governor's office and Department of Financial Services to refer ethics complaints to the commission, subject to a super-majority vote (at least six members) to trigger an ethics investigation. The commission is not asking for the power to initiate its own investigations, something it has requested repeatedly in the past without success.

* Revise the legal definition of what constitutes a reckless complaint to make it more difficult for people to recover legal fees from a person who makes a frivolous complaint. "This has had a chilling effect on complaints," the commission said in a summary of the proposal.

Any changes to Florida ethics laws must be approved by the state Legislature, whose members are subject to the ethics laws.

Steve Bousquet