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167 posts from December 2012

December 31, 2012

From Commie claim to Hooters: the year in PolitiFact Florida

With 2012 coming to a close, PolitiFact Florida editors decided to look back at your favorite fact-checks of a busy political year. We fact-checked an ad by Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson who said of his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV : "A promoter for Hooters with a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage." And we dove into Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West's claim that "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party"

In no particular order, here are a selection of the most read PolitiFact Florida fact-checks of 2012.

December 28, 2012

Actual Miami press conference title: "ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!"

"It’s sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs," Saturday Night Live's Jack Handy once said in a "Deep Thoughts" sketch.

We don't have many of those in Miami, but we do have guns. Lots of guns. Especially on New Year's Eve. So here's the City of Miami's press conference headline: "ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!" The press release:

(Miami, Fl. December 28, 2012)—City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, City Commissioners, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa will hold a Press Conference on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 10 AM for this year’s “ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!” public awareness campaign at Moore Park, 765 NW 36 St, Miami.

In a united effort, concerned elected officials, law enforcement and community activists are urging residents and visitors never to fire celebratory gunshots in the air. Every year innocent people, including children, are struck by bullets fired into the air by people celebrating various holidays causing serious injury, and oftentimes death.

And last year's press conference:

'Bibi's Brain' and former Miami Beach mayor's brother, Ron Dermer, to be Israel's ambassador to U.S.

Ron Dermer, a conservative Florida-born Republican and brother of Miami Beach's former mayor David Dermer, is slated to be Israel's next ambassador to the United States, according to Israeli news reports.

Dermer was nicknamed "Bibi's Brain" in a 2011 Tablet profile that compared his relationship with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to that of Karl Rove and former President George W. Bush:

Dermer’s title is senior adviser to the prime minister, and he’s a jack-of-all-trades—strategist, pollster, and speechwriter for Netanyahu, as well as his chief proxy in foreign affairs. A constant presence in Netanyahu’s meetings in Washington, he has helped shape Israel’s posture in the American capital most notably through Netanyahu’s spring speech to the U.S. Congress, which foiled President Barack Obama’s effort to pressure the prime minister into meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. “Bibi doesn’t move an inch without talking to him,” said one person who has been in meetings with both men.

At 40, Dermer has a full head of dark hair under his small knit kippah and the hyperkinetic energy of a man who is still young. A Wharton-schooled economist and Oxford-trained political theorist with Machiavellian political instincts, Dermer comes across as equal parts George Stephanopoulos and Karl Rove. He is a ferocious competitor who quarterbacked Israel’s flag-football team in the sport’s World Cup three times. “He cannot abide anybody being better at him than anything, particularly physically,” said his friend Tom Rose, a former publisher of the Jerusalem Post. “He wouldn’t let a 3-year-old beat him at Ping-Pong.”

While Ron Dermer cut his political teeth as a Newt Gingrich-era Republican Revolution conservative, brother David was a bit more liberal. Though a Democrat, however, Mayor David Dermer backed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in his successful 2002 re-election bid.

Miami Herald story here

The rise and fall of Congressman David Rivera

For a decade, David Rivera was a political force to be reckoned with, the consummate operative who had a cat-like ability to survive any scrape — even as investigations swirled around him.

This November, the congressman’s ninth life expired.

Voted out of office as the FBI and IRS pressed on with probes into his personal and campaign finances, Rivera officially becomes a private citizen Thursday. Rivera could be charged soon, sources familiar with the investigation say.

Despite the ongoing investigations, Rivera has steadfastly denied he’s under any scrutiny and is already planning a comeback.

Rivera lived and breathed politics since and before his one term in Congress and four in the state Legislature. He was involved in every type of race: obscure party posts, local commission elections, contests for Florida House speaker, presidential races in the state and the winning campaigns of his close friend, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

But Rivera’s penchant for playing the political game proved to be his downfall as well. Rivera often embroiled himself in needless schemes and some ultimately backfired, say friends, foes and former peers.

“At the end of the day, David’s cleverness was a liability. But until now, it was an asset,” said J.C. Planas, a fellow Miami Republican who served and clashed at times with Rivera from 2002-2010 in the Florida House.

Those who were even closer to Rivera, including Rubio backers, have anonymously described his schemes as bordering on “pathological” and “Nixonian.”

When asked about the comparison to former President Nixon, Rivera said by email “Don’t even know what that means.” He then added a “hee hee” laughter message that went on to reference a famous Nixon 1962 press conference after he lost a California governor’s race.

“But I do know this, you won’t have David Rivera to kick around anymore,” Rivera said.

It’s a vintage Rivera response: funny, edgy and laden with political depth. It also shines a light on Rivera's mercurial nature, which has long concerned some Rubio backers. They’re relieved that Rivera’s political career could be over because it lowers the chances that Rubio — a vice-presidential shortlister in 2012 who won’t rule out a future White House bid — would get caught in the crossfire of a future controversy.

The two still own a Tallahassee home, which a bank started to foreclose in 2010 just as Rubio was running for Senate.

Rivera declined to comment for this article. In the past, he would simply laugh when told he was too crafty for his own good.

While in office, Rivera filed false financial reports by listing a phony company that paid him phantom income, records show. He took a gambling-company payout in secret when he didn’t need to. And former campaign vendors say he was involved in a bizarre election scheme involving stacks of untraceable cash to help attack Democrat Joe Garcia, who ultimately beat him Nov. 6.

The FBI is investigating the latter two cases. The state ethics commission rapped him for 11 instances of non-disclosure in October. And he avoided a 52-count state criminal indictment for his use of campaign and public money when he was a state legislator.

Throughout, Rivera’s explanations often changed when it came to specifics. But his general response was the same: Denial of wrongdoing.

More here

Taxpayers cough up another $190,000 in legal fees for Scott’s drug testing push

Gov. Rick Scott’s drug-testing push has racked up even more legal bills, with a federal judge ordering the state to pay $190,000 in attorney’s fees for a case involving state workers.

The ruling, posted Friday, orders Scott—and by extension, taxpayers—to cover the legal fees of the lawyers that took on the governor’s controversial plan to require random drug testing for state workers.

The $190,000 legal tab is in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and costs spent in attempts to defend controversial laws passed by Scott. They include drug testing for welfare recipients, a 3-percent employee contributions for state workers’ pensions, voting law changes and a 2011 law banning doctors from asking patients about guns. In most cases, judges have ruled the laws to be unconstitutional, sparking appeals from Scott and higher legal fees.

Scott ordered the state-worker drug testing plan shortly after taking office in 2011, potentially subjecting the state’s 85,000 employees to random drug tests. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued and U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled in April that the testing plan constituted an unconstitutional search and seizure. Scott immediately vowed to appeal.

"I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and will pursue the case on appeal,” Scott said in a statement that mirrors several others he has made this year.

But while the appeal plays out, taxpayers remain liable for paying the attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs. Those fees ran as high as $312,000—with lawyers billing up to $600 per hours—before a judge ruled that $190,000 was more appropriate.

If those fees are added to the $888,000 legal bills cited in this July article in the Orlando Sentinel, then controversial laws passed by the Legislature and Scott have easily cost taxpayers more than $1 million in the last two years.

Several cases are currently being litigated or appealed, so the legal meter continues to run each day.


PolitiFact reflects on the Obameter and Obama's promises

As PolitiFact finishes our Obameter updates on President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promises, we wanted to highlight our observations and reflections on Obama's vision of government, the individual promises and the journalistic challenge of diving into the bureaucracy to determine whether the pledge has been fulfilled.

Here are the reflections of the PolitiFact staff.

December 27, 2012

Scott warns of devastating ports shutdown; Dems pivot to Obamacare, education

Gov. Rick Scott called for Pres. Obama to take emergency measures to halt an impending shut down of the nation’s ports stemming from a labor dispute.

Joined by the state’s ports directors on a conference call on Thursday, Scott said the shut down of ports throughout the state of Florida would lead to unacceptable job losses and economic turmoil.

“We are together on this call today for one reason – we must help the Florida families whose jobs and livelihoods depend on our Florida ports,” Scott said. “A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families.”

Scott wrote a letter to Obama last week asking for the president to invoke presidential powers to halt a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association. He said he “hoped” the president had read the letter, indicating that Obama had not yet responded.

The national strike is scheduled to go forward on Saturday if there is no agreement for a new contract. It could have a multimillion-dollar impact in Florida, where the massive port of Miami is located.

A top Democrat in the Florida Legislature was quick to react to Scott’s mention of “families,” pivoting to other state issues that affect families—namely, healthcare and education.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, blasted the governor’s move to intervene in the labor dispute while other state issues linger.

“President Obama will determine what is best regarding the looming strike at the nation’s East Coast ports,” said Thurston, in a statement that asked Scott to focus on implementing healthcare reform and addressing education issues. “Governor Scott can turn his attention to Florida and begin correcting all that he has managed to dismantle.” 

Scott’s press release and the response release from Thurston are below:

Continue reading "Scott warns of devastating ports shutdown; Dems pivot to Obamacare, education" »

December 26, 2012

PolitiFact's oddest fact-checks of 2012: From shark attacks to Glee

If you want fact-checks on the weighty, wonky issues of the day, you turn to PolitiFact.

But the Truth-O-Meter also has a sense of humor, so we occasionally do light-hearted or downright odd fact-checks.

Here are some of the more unusual fact-checks we did in 2012.

December 24, 2012

Memorial service for Bill McBride is Friday

A memorial service for former gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, 3501 San Jose St. in Tampa.

The service is open to the public. The family will receive friends in the courtyard of the church at the conclusion of the service.

McBride, 67, died of a heart attack Saturday while on a holiday trip in Mount Airy, N.C. 

Stay tuned to this link for more information.

U.S.-Rep.-elect Joe Garcia hires key staffers

Joe Garcia, who will be sworn in to Congress on Jan. 3, has hired some familiar faces to work in his D.C. and district offices.

Jeffrey Garcia (no relation) will make the jump to chief of staff after working as Garcia's campaign manager in 2012 and 2010. Giancarlo Sopo, who handled Garcia's communications in 2010, will be director of communication. And Raul Martinez Jr., the son of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, will be Garcia's district director. (Jeffrey Garcia ran the elder Garcia's unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2008. The younger Martinez worked on President Barack Obama's campaign this year.)

Garcia, who will represent the Kendall-to-Key West 26th District, plans to move into outgoing U.S. Rep. David Rivera's West Miami-Dade district office, and to have satellite offices at City Hall in Florida City and in Key West, Jeffrey Garcia said.

In Washington, Garcia will serve in the House Judiciary Committee.

"As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner towards securing passage of comprehensive immigration reform that will boost our economy and impact thousands of families in South Florida," he said in a statement. "I am eager to work on defending the security and civil liberties of our citizens; protecting American trade from unfair practices and upholding the Constitution of the United States."

Read the full list of Garcia's staff hires after the jump.

Continue reading "U.S.-Rep.-elect Joe Garcia hires key staffers" »