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11 posts from January 29, 2013

January 29, 2013

FBI agents raid South Florida office of eye doc tied to gift, prostitution controversy with Sen. Bob Menendez


FBI agents raided the West Palm Beach business of an eye doctor suspected of providing free trips and even underage Dominican Republic prostitutes to New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez — who has denied what he calls the “fallacious allegations.”

Agents gathered at the medical-office complex of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a contributor to Menendez and other prominent politicians, late Tuesday night to start hauling away potential evidence in about a dozen white vans.

The investigation is believed to be focusing on Melgen’s finances and the allegations about Menendez’s trips and contact with prostitutes. A spokesman for Menendez could not be reached for comment, nor could Melgen.

Melgen has an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million, for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009, according to records filed with the Palm Beach County recorder’s office. A previous IRS lien for $6.2 million was released in 2011.
More here

Weatherford says he won't push for new online-only university

From the News Service of Florida:

House Speaker Will Weatherford clarified his stance on overhauling the state's approach to online higher education Tuesday, emphasizing that he would not push for an actual, 13th university focused on web-based education.

But in remarks at a panel discussion held by the Orlando Sentinel and the University of Central Florida Metro Center, Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, made it clear that he still sees the Internet as a critical part of higher education's future.

"I don't know what the end game is going to be, but it's not going to be creating some unbranded university or unaccredited university, because I think that would be a waste of everybody's time and money," Weatherford said. "But it will be pushing the envelope a little bit to get more people exposed to online learning."

Instead, Weatherford suggested that the state create some entity "that is solely focused on creating the best platform, the best content at the most affordable price" -- but not another university.

Tico Perez, a fellow member of Tuesday's panel whose term on the Board of Governors recently expired, backed that approach.

Continue reading "Weatherford says he won't push for new online-only university" »

Miami lawmaker wants more scrutiny for economic incentives

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, is pushing for more accountability from the state's tax incentive program, which provides tax breaks for companies who agree to create jobs in Florida.

Under a bill field by Rodríguez, the state would have to provide detailed information about the type of jobs created by companies receiving taxpayer incentives. Florida would also have to launch an online database to allow taxpayers to track the progress of the companies receiving incentives. An online database was launched last year, but it has only limited information.

The tax credit program is facing renewed scrutiny this year, as lawmakers look more closely at the pros and cons of giving companies tax deals to lure them to Florida. Last year, one of the companies went bust after receiving $20 million in taxpayer funds from the state.

While Gov. Rick Scott and his top officials in charge of the incentives program say the tax incentives are helping to create thousands of jobs, several bills filed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seek additional transparency. Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is pushing a bill that would require an independent review of all incentives, providing information about the return on the state's investment.

“Our state’s economic development programs are a major strategy for diversifying our economy and making it more competitive for the future” said Rodríguez, in a statement. “Evaluating taxpayer-funded incentives with maximum transparency is important for all Floridians but particularly for those Florida businesses whose competitors are receiving tax dollars to deliver on jobs or investment promises.  This bill seeks to restore credibility to economic development programs which have recently come under fire for failing to fulfill their missions.”



RPOF spox Brian Burgess back in private sector after dodging questions about Rick Scott's dog

Brian Burgess, the combative communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, is returning to the private sector less than five months after taking over as the party's top communicator.

Burgess would not return emails or telephone calls, but was shown the door at the party after he did not answer questions from the Tampa Bay Timesabout a rescued Labrador retriever adopted by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott publicly adopted the dog during the 2010 campaign and held a contest to name it — people chose Reagan — but Scott returned the dog shortly after taking office in 2011.

The resulting publicity outraged animal lovers across the state who accused Scott of adopting the dog as a campaign gimmick.

Burgess, 42, will be joining Brian Hughes, former spokesman for the party, at Meteoric Media Strategies, a private public relations business. Hughes and Burgess worked together in Scott's office shortly after Scott was elected governor and during the 2010 campaign. Hughes announced the new partnership in a statement to the Florida Times-Union Tuesday shortly after the Times asked Burgess for comment on his dismissal from the party.

Hughes' firm has consulting contracts with the Republican Party of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other conservative groups. He has been paid more than $195,000 for campaign work since 2010, including $92,000 from the state party.

Burgess began working for the state party in September after 18 months working in the governor's office. Burgess previously worked for a Washington public relations firm that handled communications for Scott's gubernatorial campaign.

He has a history of clashing with reporters — in public and in private — and was once called "an aggressive knife-fighter" by a prominent Florida communications consultant.

"I really don't miss some of you dips---s at all," Burgess emailed a Kansas reporter in 2008, after he left to work with a conservative public relations firm in Virginia. "Have fun in your world of make-believe."

Keep reading the story from Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan.

Marco Rubio conquers Mt. Rushbo

Yesterday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was in a typical lather about the Gang of Eight's new immigration pla, saying repeatedly that it amounts to failed policy.

And he used that most-hated of words to many conservatives: "Amnesty." Limbaugh said it over and over again.

"We've done this before. We've done amnesty before," he said. "This immigration bill that everybody's touting on TV today is essentially the Bush immigration bill that was beat back in 2007."

Limbaugh continued to bash the plan today before Republican Sen. Marco Rubio came on the show.

Conservatives, liberals and reporters were atwitter with what would happen when the Florida senator came on. Turns out, not much. No sparks. No tough question. No mention of the A word.

By the end of the interview, Rubio had Limbaugh eating out of his hand. Just as Rubio did with Mark Levin, Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and others. All have bashed "amnesty" and President Obama's plans for it. But all of them loved Rubio's plan -- even though it mirrors what Obama called for last year, right down to the rhetoric.

"What you are doing is admirable and noteworthy," Limbaugh said.

Flip meet flop.

This says something about the intellectual honesty (or studiousness) of talk radio/TV. But it also speaks to Rubio's communication skills.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio conquers Mt. Rushbo" »

Gang of 4? Rubio, Coons Klobuchar, Hatch file high-skill immigration bill

Best theatrics part of this bill? Marco Rubio's Senate speech today when he wondered why PHds, etc. don't get a green card.

"That's crazy," Rubio said, starting to stammer at what he thinks is a no-brainer issue. "Not only..that...that's just..that's just.. That's cray-zee."

The proposal for this legislation will also appear in the more-celebrated Gang of Eight immigration plan proposed yesterday by Rubio et al. So let's call this the Gang of 4. Note: this posted was updated to reflect the fact that I can't add, having missed Coons.

Ok, here's the press release:

Continue reading "Gang of 4? Rubio, Coons Klobuchar, Hatch file high-skill immigration bill" »

Study: Obamacare's Medicaid expansion would save, not cost, FL money

Florida would save money over the next decade — not lose billions as Gov. Rick Scott has argued — by accepting Medicaid expansion under federal healthcare reforms, according to a detailed economic study.

Miami-Dade legislators and healthcare industry leaders, getting together on Monday, heard about the report by Georgetown University — the most positive yet on a highly debated provision of what is often called Obamacare.

Jack Hoadley, a senior researcher with the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, said the study was the first to calculate spin-off savings in other state programs if Florida accepted the expansion, which over the next 10 years could bring $26 billion in federal funds to provide insurance to an estimated 815,000 to 1.3 million Florida residents who are now uninsured.

In Miami-Dade, expansion would cover an additional 150,000 to 225,000, according to the Georgetown projections. That reduction in the uninsured would bring huge relief to the county’s hospitals, which by federal law must treat anyone who comes to the emergency room, regardless of ability to pay.

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/29/3206264_study-medicaid-expansion-may-save.html#storylink=addthis#storylink=cpy

Rick Scott/Mitt Romney campaign alum Ward Baker now NRSC political director

Ward Baker, the nuts-and-bolts data meister who furnished outsized help in Rick Scott's gubernatorial campaign, has been named the political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Baker most recently worked on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Another FL tie: Baker is married to Citrus County native Jennifer Coxe Baker, who repped Sen. Mel Martinez in 2004 and Scott in 2010. 

Writes The Hill:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced its senior staff Tuesday, rounding out an overhaul of leadership for the new cycle as the party aims to win the majority in 2014.

Serving under NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas and NRSC Executive Director Rob Collins, who was hired in December, are an array of operatives with both campaign and Capitol Hill experience....

Ward Baker, political director: Baker is a veteran campaign operative with stints at Majority Strategies, the Republican State Leadership Committee and in 2012 as a liaison between the Mitt Romney presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee. He also has experience running state Victory programs and independent expenditure operations.

Nursing home managers accused of $2.75M in Medicaid fraud

UPDATE: Attorneys representing the two nursing home business managers sent over a statement saying that Maxcine Darville and Joanne Carter have been released on bond and are cooperating with law enforcement.

"During the period of the investigation, both Ms. Darville and Ms. Carter voluntarily cooperated with state authorities and will continue to do so," the emailed statement said. "However, they both strongly deny any wrongdoing and intend to fight the case until they are exonerated and their good names are cleared."

ORIGINAL POST: The CEO and second-in-command at a Florida nursing home management company were arrested and charged with misusing Medicaid funds. The arrest of CEO Maxcine Darville and Assistant CEO and Assistant CEO Joanne Carter of the Council on Aging of Florida was announced today, the product of an investigation by the Attorney General Office's Medicaid Fraud Unit and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

Darville and Carter are accused of using $2.75 million in Medicaid allocations to give themselves excessive salaries and pay for personal expenses like mortgage payments, cell phone service and household bills. The questionable spending occurred by January 2006 and March 2012, the Attorney General's Office said. Each woman is charged with one first-degree felony count  of organized scheme to defraud.

The Council on Aging of Florida, a for-profit company that operates four facilities, is not affiliated with the Florida Council on Aging, a statewide advocacy group for the elderly.

Here is the full press release:

Continue reading "Nursing home managers accused of $2.75M in Medicaid fraud" »

Anti-Castro bill would ban medical licenses for American doctors trained in Cuba

Two South Florida lawmakers are pushing for a law that would stop American doctors who studied in Cuba from receiving medical licenses in Florida.

Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., and Sen. Rene Garcia, both Hialeah Republicans, filed bills last week, seeking to clamp down on U.S. medical students who go to Cuba for training.

“U.S students who turn a blind eye to basic human and civil rights abuses in Cuba do not possess the moral clarity to serve patients in Florida” said Diaz in a statement. “The Fidel Castro medical scholarship program is purely a propaganda tool. Hopefully this legislation will stop American citizens from participating in Cuba’s medical apartheid system.”

The Cuban government offers a free medical training program that has drawn in thousands of students from around the world, including many from the United States.

If the bill pushed by Diaz and Garcia passes, any American student who goes to Cuba for training will not be able to get a medical license to practice in Florida.

The ban would not apply to those who trained in Cuba prior to coming to the U.S. According to Diaz’s press release it would only apply to “those who willingly go to Cuba to be used as propaganda tools by the Cuban government.”

Last year, Garcia pushed a bill that would prevent local governments from contracting with firms that had Cuban branches. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, but also said it could not be enforced, sparking backlash in the Cuban exile community in Miami. The measure led to a federal lawsuit and is tied up in court.