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21 posts from October 9, 2012

October 09, 2012

Voter fraud? Amendments? Supreme Court? Scott opts not to weigh in on thorny issues

From voter fraud to the Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Scott opted not to weigh in on some of the thorniest political issues of the day during a media briefing Tuesday, regularly deferring to the Republican Party of Florida, attorney general Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the board of Citizens Property Insurance and others.

Scott, who has made fighting voter fraud one of his main priorities as governor, has been mum about the registration fraud case that state Republicans find themselves involved in. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was conducting a criminal investigation of registration forms filed by Strategic Allied Consulting, a private firm hired by the Republican Party of Florida. About a dozen counties have reported questionable ballots, including one that registered a dead woman to vote and others with addresses to a Land Rover dealership and a gas station.

Scott has uttered no public statements on the topic. On Tuesday, when asked by reporters about the case, he mostly demurred.

Has he had discussions with the RPOF, which has since fired the firm, about the case?

"The (Republican National Committee) and the RPOF, they’ve done the right thing," said Scott, not answering the question. "As soon as they had an inkling, they fired the group that was doing that. Again, it’s the right thing to do. If somebody is doing the wrong thing, they shouldn’t be registering voters in our state. So they’re doing the right thing."

Asked if the case hurt the credibility of Republicans to be associated with a firm that now under investigation for fraud, Scott again dodged the question, this time by answering with a long discourse about the importance of getting involved. 

"My focus is on making sure that I tell people all the time, that in our state, I want people to go register to vote," Scott said. "They need to go talk to the candidates. When you’re running for office, when you’re in your community or in your state, vet the candidates, get involved, pick your candidates, support them, and then go out the vote. That’s where my focus is." 

That response is seemingly at odds with Scott's get-tough, hands-on-approach with other efforts to fight fraud, such as purging non-citizens from voting rolls. Before Tuesday's news conference, Democrats had blasted Scott for his relative silence on the issue. They criticized a fundraising letter he signed last week for the RPOF that sought donations from contributors who supported Scott's voter purge.

"It's shocking and appalling that the governor and the RPOF would solicit money while they remain embroiled in an election frauds scandal," said Democratic Party Spokeswoman Brannon Jordan in a statement. 

Asked why he signed the letter, Scott referred all questions to the RPOF.

"You have to talk to the Republican Party of Florida about fundraising," Scott said.

So far, Scott's responses haven't satisfied Democrats. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said Scott should appoint a bipartisan task force to investigate Strategic Allied Consulting.

"Given the explicitly partisan nature of this scandal, assurances must be provided to all Floridians that the investigation into these allegations is thorough and fair," Deutch said in a statement to Scott. "So far, your inaction in the face of this scandal suggests that you are putting partisanship ahead of the integrity of Florida's elections."

Scott said Tuesday he has no plans to assuage those concerns. Asked if the issue was too partisan to leave to one party to investigate, Scott replied: "It’s not a party. It’s the Department of Law Enforcement. They’re the ones who are doing the investigation."


Less than a week after Citizens Property Insurance Corp. raised rates by 10.8 percent and auto insurers failed to achieve the 10 percent premium reductions required by the PIP reform law Scott championed, the governor cut the “cost-of-living” component from his “three things” talking point.

Scott, who regularly mentions “three things people care about,” today pared the talking point down to “two things”: Education and jobs. Cost-of-living, a regular point of mention for Scott this year, was not mentioned.

On Citizens, Scott took a different position from the incoming Speaker of the Florida House, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Weatherford wrote a letter to Citizens’ board last week, telling the state-run insurer to halt its new $350 million loan program, and submit it to the Legislature for review.

Asked if he agreed with Weatherford’s statement that Citizens ought to come before the board before enacting the program, Scott said the board had the authority to decide on its own.

“I think the structure is is that there is a board, and this is the purview of the board,” said Scott, who championed the increased independence of Citizens’ board from the Legislature. “The board has the right to make the decision.”

Members of Citizens’ board, meeting Tuesday, appeared to be moving ahead with the plan to enact the program prior to next year’s legislative session, despite Weatherford’s warning. They did agree to delay the process and hire an outside consultant to conduct a thorough review of the $350 million loan before moving forward.

On a number of other issues, Scott opted against taking a position.

On amendment 5, which would require Senate approval of a governor’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Scott said “I’ll leave it to the voters to decide that.”

On the 10 other amendments, Scott said he would not make his position known at this time. He said he might speak out on the amendments at a later date.

On the Republican Party’s decision to weigh in on the merit retention of Supreme Court judges, Scott said it’s up to the voters to decide and his office did not coordinate with RPOF prior to its decision to get involved.

“Lenny Curry runs the Republican Party of Florida,” he said, deferring questions about the party to the chairman of the RPOF.

Scott did say he would “absolutely” be open to changing the law to provide state funding for a prescription drug monitoring program that could run out of money soon. He also expressed support for a new license plate in Florida, but said he had not yet heard about the $31 million estimated cost.

--Mike Van Sickler and Toluse Olorunnipa

Sesame Street to Obama campaign: Stuff the Big Bird ad.

Sesame Street is asking the Obama campaign to take down an ad tweaking Mitt Romney for saying he'd cut funding for PBS, despite his love for Sesame Street's Big Bird.

"We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down," Sesame Streeet said in a blog posting.

The ad shows pictures of what it calls "gluttons of greed" from Wall Street, but says that Romney has instead targeted Sesame Street. (The Obama campaign touts Obama's support for Wall Street reform, but a McClatchy review found that no major finance honcho has been jailed under his watch.)

The Romney campaign is accusing Obama of trivializing the election -- deploying its own Sesame Street character, The Count, charging that Obama has "now talked about Sesame Street characters at least 13 times since the debate while he has mentioned Libya and a plan to fix the economy ZERO times." 

(Talk about trivilization: Pizza Hut is offering free pizza "for life" to an official debate attendee who asks either participant "Sausage or Pepperoni?" during the live telecast town hall format presidential debate Oct. 16 at Hofstra University.)

-- Lesley Clark via McClatchy's Planet Washington blog

Read more here: http://blogs.mcclatchydc.com/washington/#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://blogs.mcclatchydc.com/washington/#storylink=cpy

Candidates trade jabs in ugly Miami-Dade commission race pitting ex-lawmaker against cop

An already nasty Miami-Dade County Commission campaign appears poised to get worse.

Candidate Juan C. Zapata is bracing for the latest attack, which he predicts will bring up a federal money-laundering conviction against his parents 30 years ago and his own brush with the law as a college student 20 years ago.

Political advertisements bringing up that history have yet to hit mailboxes or the airwaves. But Zapata, a former state representative, told The Miami Herald that he suspects a shadowy third-party group in Tallahassee that has already bankrolled several mailers against him is preparing to send out new ones as absentee ballots begin to arrive in voters’ homes.

“The strategy is to destroy Zapata,” he said. “ ‘Let’s point out the two or three blemishes on his record and go after him.’ ”

His opponent, Manny Machado, a Miami-Dade police detective, said Zapata was “victimizing himself” by mentioning potential attacks.

“I don’t know where they’re from, but obviously he may not have people who want to see him in office,” Machado said. “I have no reason to go negative.”

Machado decried two mailers against him that called him a “bureaucrat” and that suggested county unions are bankrolling his campaign. The fliers were sent by Citizens for Progress & Integrity, a local electioneering communications organization (ECO) that backs Zapata.

The two will face off in a nonpartisan Nov. 6 runoff to replace outgoing Commissioner Joe Martinez in District 11, which stretches across a wide swath of unincorporated West Miami-Dade.

Amid mounting pushback, Scott stands by RPOF decision on merit retention vote

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday stood by the decision of the Republican Party of Florida to oppose the three justices up for merit retention, despite mounting opposition to the issue from several prominent Republican attorneys, including a top advisor to his transition team. 

Scott would not say how he will vote but said it was the party’s right to oppose the justices.

“The Republican Party makes the decision what they want to get involved in,’’ Scott told reporters Tuesday. “But it’s a retention vote, it’s important for all the citizens to decide if they want to keep judges or not. It makes a lot of sense.” 

An advisor to Scott's transition team and former Monroe County Sheriff Allison DeFoor, as well as former U.S. Attorneys Roberto Martinez and Marcos Jimenez, wrote to Republicans Monday urging them to ask the executive committee to rescind its decision.  

Continue reading "Amid mounting pushback, Scott stands by RPOF decision on merit retention vote" »

FMA launches interactive endorsement map

The Florida Medical Association has launched a snazzy new interactive map to let you know which lawmakers the group likes.

Use your mouse to hover over the district, and you'll see which candidate the professional organization endorses, along with links to his or her website, e-mail and social media accounts.

The FMA has endorsed most Republicans who are thought to be in line for leadership, including Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary.

The group also recommended a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove, and Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.


Rep. McKeel of Lakeland will be House budget chairman

House Speaker-Designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced his first major committee assignment Tuesday, naming Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Here's the text of Weatherford's statement:

"It is hard to believe that it has been more than six months since the gavel fell and we gathered in the rotunda to mark Sine Die. I am grateful to Speaker Cannon for the way he and his staff have allowed my team to conduct the transition process. I understand and support the concept of "one Speaker at a time;" therefore, the ability to prepare and plan during the interim is appreciated.

In order to keep you as informed as possible, I write today to announce my intention to appoint Representative Seth McKeel as the Appropriations Chairman during my term as the Speaker. Seth's expertise and background as a small business owner, a former Lakeland City Commissioner and the previous Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee will prove to be invaluable as we manage our state's future budget priorities. Representative McKeel has demonstrated a commitment to putting the priorities of our state over his own interests and will serve the House well as we develop an appropriations plan in the coming months.

We have a great task before us. The constitutional responsibility to pass a balanced budget and the public duty to fund the basic needs of our state will take every ounce of thoughtful, principled, and serious effort. Seth McKeel will be a great leader by example for the next two years.

I look forward to sharing further insight at the appropriate times in the weeks ahead."

-- Steve Bousquet

RNC invokes The Count: Obama mentions Sesame St. 13 times; economy+Libya=0

The Republican National Committee is pushing back against President Obama's embrace of the Big Bird flap by quoting.... Obama.

"If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things," Obama said in 2008. "And you know what? It's worked before."

It might work again.

The Obama campaign's production of a Big Bird ad, which is supposed to run on cable, is funny. But it's small-bore stuff (although small-bore stuff can be good when it comes to talking about DC's dysfunction).

The RNC has responded with a graphic, featuring County von Count. It notes that in the past few days, Obama has invoked Big Bird 13 times but he has said next to nothing about Libya, where an ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack that his administration at first denied publicly while admitting it privately.


George 'never mind' LeMieux, Huizenga host fundraiser for Mack

10.10.12+Huizenga+Event+InvitationFormer Republican challenger George LeMieux has clearly has had a change of heart about his one-time opponent Connie Mack IV.

When LeMieux was still in the race, he told MSNBC that he considered Mack "the least qualified person to run for major office" and accused him of running a campaign "where people will mistake him for his father."

Now he's hosting a $5,000 per person fundraiser with businessman and GOP donor H. Wayne Huizenga tomorrow at Huizenga Holdings in Fort Lauderdale to benefit Mack.

Also on the host committee: Rick Case, John Ferrando, Steven W. Hudson, Justin Sayfie and Zachariah Zachariah.


Officials worry about switched addresses in voter fraud probe, not dead people or Mickey Mouse

The obviously fraudulent applications filed by a vendor hired by the Republican Party of Florida have gained wide attention in a case that's now being investigated by law enforcement.

The dead woman registered to vote in Santa Rosa County. Phony addresses in Palm Beach County for voters that lead to a gas station, a Land Rover dealership and the Port Everglades administration office.

But it's not blatant fraud like this that has elections experts worried about possible voting mayhem come November. Rather, it's the re-registration of voters, where personal information such as someone's party affiliation, signature or address could have been changed without the person's knowledge.

"If they're submitting the names of dead people or Mickey Mouse, that will be caught," said Daniel A. Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida. "The more pernicious type of fraud is where they change the addresses of people already registered, so that when they go to vote, they'll be at the wrong precinct."

Continue reading "Officials worry about switched addresses in voter fraud probe, not dead people or Mickey Mouse" »

Barack Obama campaign ad attacks Mitt Romney over Big Bird

Forget unemployment or foreign policy, President Obama's campaign is all atwitter about Big Bird in its new ad about Mitt Romney's call at last week's presidential debates to reduce PBS subsidies. We knew the debate about Big Bird is a window into DC dysfunction, but this ad is quite a surprise. It's also kinda funny.

Update: The RNC responded with a graphic, invoking Count von Count, that suggests Obama would rather talk about Sesame Street than the economy or Libya.

The president's lackluster debate performance has emboldened Republicans and helped Romney surge in the latest polls. So this is certainly a good way to change the subject. But will it work?

The script:

Anncr: Bernie Madoff. Ken Lay. Dennis Kozlowski. Criminals. Gluttons of greed. And the evil genius who towered over them? One man has the guts to speak his name. (Visual: Romney at presidential debate) “Big Bird.” “Big Bird.” “Big Bird.” (Visual: Big Bird) “It’s me. Big Bird.” Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street. (Visual:  Romney) “I’m Going To Stop The Subsidy To PBS.” Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest.