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18 posts from January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013

GOP donor Jay Odom indicted on federal campaign finance violations

TALLAHASSEE -- Panhandle developer Jay Odom, the man whose desire for a new airplane hangar led to the downfall of  former House Speaker Ray Sansom, has been indicted on federal campaign finance violations.

Odom, 56, of Destin, surrendered to U.S. Marshals in Pensacola Tuesday morning and was released pending a trial scheduled for March 4 before U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier.

The two count indictment accuses him of laundering $10,000 in personal funds in 2007 to reimburse individual contributions to an unnamed presidential candidate. He faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison if convicted of making contributions in the names of others and lying to the Feeral Election Commission.

Odom sand several of his corporations have long been a contributor to legislative campaigns and the Florida Republican Party. He frequently provided his private jet for public officials and candidates to travel as well.

Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent

Insurance reform advocate comes to defense of Citizens' board

The director for the Florida Association of Insurance Reform has come out in defense of the beleagured board at Citizens Property Insurance, after a prominent lawmaker called for mass-resignations last week.

Jay Neal, the FAIR director who has not always agreed with the actions of Citizens, said boardmembers should be allowed to keep their positions, despite a number of controversies around lavish executive spending and corporate integrity.

Neal said the board has its flaws, but mostly has fallen into trouble when it followed the advice of Citizens staff.

In a letter to the editor, Neal pointed out that board members volunteer their time and are not paid.

“Service on the Citizens Board is no cake walk,” he said. “An equivalent position in the private sector would provide a six figure compensation package. The Citizens Board members work for free.”

See Neal’s letter below

Continue reading "Insurance reform advocate comes to defense of Citizens' board" »

Scott and Cabinet to vote on no-bid deal to renew sugar leases

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will be asked on Wednesday to agree to a no-bid contract to allow two major agriculture companies to farm on Everglades land for another 30 years, a deal that would include pouring tons of phosphorous-laden fertilizer onto the site the state is spending billions to clean-up.

The request from Florida Crystals and A. Duda and Sons is supported by the state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard and South Florida Water Management District officials. But environmentalists aren’t happy.  Download 012313_BOT-Attachment-4

“The State of Florida is putting 13,952 acres of state land off the table as a possible solution to future problems,’’ said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida at a meeting of the Cabinet aides last week. “It is passing up an opportunity.”  Download Lee letter on EAA Lease Extensionsf

Environmentalists have agreed to allow Florida Crystals to continue sugar farming 7,862 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area because they believe the company is “holding the state hostage” and won’t allow a crucial next step to go forward in the Everglades clean-up plan if they don’t get the deal. 

But environmentalists strongly oppose the Duda deal, which would allow that company to continue to grow vegetables on 6,089 acres of land and pump 339 tons of fertilizer each year into the Everglades, exacerbating the clean-up problem the state is spending billions to fix. They want the state to require Duda to reduce its phosphorous run-off in exchange for the favorable no-bid contract. Full story here. 

Continue reading "Scott and Cabinet to vote on no-bid deal to renew sugar leases" »

Gov. Scott will seek pay raise for Florida teachers

With Florida anticipating its first budget surplus in five years, Gov. Rick Scott will seek an across-the-board pay raise for public school teachers in the budget he will send to the Legislature next week.

A source close to the governor says Scott will unveil the proposal on Wednesday when he visits a middle school in suburban Orlando -- in the crux of the state's politically vital I-4 corridor. The amount of the pay hike has not been disclosed.

Scott began his term as governor two years ago on the outs with many teachers and their union, the Florida Education Association (FEA), which strongly backed Scott's Democratic opponent, Alex Sink. But Scott -- who's seeking re-election in 2014 -- has held highly-publicized meetings with teachers around the state, invited FEA President Andy Ford to the Governor's Mansion and called for $250 debit cards for all teachers to help cover the costs of out-of-pocket classroom expenses. 

Scott will formally release his 2013-2014 budget recommendations next week in Tallahassee. The teacher pay raise is expected to be in addition to whatever Scott will seek in funding for the state's K-12 public schools.

-- Steve Bousquet

'Presidente' Obama shows more love for Latinos

Word out of Washington is that President Obama is doing another first for Latinos. This time, reports Politico's Mike Allen, he is going to name Henry R. Muñoz III of San Antonio as the finance chairman of the all-powerful Democratic National Comittee.

With new group against Hagel, will his Cuba policies draw more fire?

A new conservative group, Americans for Strong Defense, has been formed to take on Chuck Hagel's defense secretary nomination by President Obama.

While most of the attention against the former Republican Nebraska senator has centered on his positions regarding Israel and (to a lesser degree) gays in the military, Hagel's stances on Cuba could get more attention. A prominent anti-Castro activist, Maurico Claver-Carone, sits on Americans for Strong Defense's board and recently his Capitol Hill Cubans blog  featured an editorial bashing Hagel. Rep. Ileans Ros-Lehtinen has expressed concern with Hagel. Sen. Marco Rubio has as well.

Americans for a Strong Defense is running ads targeting senators in five states (Florida isn't one of them). The ads, however, don't mention Cuba and instead focus on the threats of Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Here's the press release:

Americans for a Strong Defense will make the case to voters and elected officials that Senator Hagel holds out-of-the-mainstream views that send a dangerous message to our adversaries and weaken our ability to defend ourselves.  While ASD lauds Hagel’s service to our nation both in uniform and public office, his record on a range of foreign policy and defense issues is deeply troubling.

The former Nebraska Senator supports massive defense cuts and the elimination of our nation’s nuclear weapons, which would result in huge job losses, invite challenges from our rivals and weaken America.  Furthermore, Hagel’s stances – his opposition to sanctions, his belief that America is too powerful and plays too prominent a role in the world, his view that America can convince rogue states to disarm only if we disarm first – send a dangerous signal to nations such as Iran and North Korea.

“Senator Hagel isn’t the right choice for the Pentagon.  We can do better.  His views on our national defense and key foreign policy issues are deeply troubling, and they send the wrong signal to America’s allies and adversaries,” said Brian Hook, board member for Americans for a Strong Defense (ASD).

Mauricio Claver-Carone, a board member for Americans for a Strong Defense (ASD) stated, “Senator Hagel’s views are clearly outside the mainstream and will only serve to embolden America’s foes throughout the world.  Americans for a Strong Defense will work to ensure that Senators understand a vote for Hagel will weaken America’s strong stance against terrorists and tyrants.”

The ad (Louisiana version):

Gov. Scott trails Crist, Bush in appointing black judges

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is on pace to appoint fewer African-American lawyers to judgeships than either of his two most recent predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush. Midway through his four-year term, Scott has appointed 91 judges, according to records provided by his office. Six of those judges are black, and they include three obscure judges of compensation claims. Scott has appointed two black lawyers to circuit judgeships and both are in Miami-Dade. The full story is here. 

-- Steve Bousquet

Pining for David Rivera

From Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm:

I miss David. He was always there for me.

Before the voters in Miami’s 26th Congressional District dumped David Rivera, he was Mr. Dependable for a columnist, an unending source of material with his financial chicanery and phantom companies and his convoluted explanations. His life was like performance theater, living satire of a political contribution system gone amok.

Rivera, starting back when he was a state legislator, had styled himself as the perpetual candidate. “Essentially, the subject’s position is that he was for a period of almost a decade, continuously and simultaneously engaging in official business, campaigning for public office, as well as campaigning for committeeman; moving from one task to another seamlessly on a daily basis,” the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office reported.

A perpetual candidate, of course, needs perpetual access to his campaign accounts. Rivera’s ethos assumed, the report said, that “virtually every travel-related expenditure: airfare, automobile costs, lodging, meals and related miscellaneous expenses for personal items and entertainment were indeed permissible campaign-related expenditures.”

Rivera even rationalized his girlfriend’s travel costs as a legitimate campaign expense, because, well, a bachelor politician in South Florida must be mindful of appearances. He had other problems, of course. A shell company set up to disguise his work for a racino. And his bizarre meddling in the Democratic primary. An FBI investigation. All of it, great stuff for me.

Unhappily, Rivera’s entertainment value failed to translate into votes. He lost by 11 percentage points in November. He’s out of a job. Worse, I’m out of David.

More here