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12 posts from December 10, 2013

December 10, 2013

Bondi widens gap in fundraising as Thurston and Sheldon duke it out

Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed his first campaign finance report Tuesday for Attorney General and the message is clear.

He's not dropping out any time soon.

Thurston raised $21,500 in November, even though he didn't hold a fundraiser. His first one is Friday in Tamarac. He still trails George Sheldon, the former secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, who raised $46,379 in November to raise his total to $52,310. Sheldon got into the race Oct. 21, five days before Thurston. 

"He got in the race before me," Thurston said, explaining Sheldon's fundraising edge. "But that's ok. It is for real. We assume there will be a primary and it's going to be a pretty good primary."

Awaiting the Democratic victor will be current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who raised a total of $316,823 in November from two committees and her own campaign, including paid expenses for consulting, sponsorships and media play. Since announcing her reelection bid this summer, Bondi has raised a total of $1.9 million.

Thurston's debut finance report shows he received $6,000 from omnipresent Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book. During the last session, Book pushed lawmakers to approve state financing for a $350 million rehab of Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. Thurston supported that measure, which died in the House.

"Over the course of the last five years, you'll see I've been helpful in a number of (Book's) ventures, but there are some other ventures of his that I didn't support," Thurston said. 

Sheldon raised much of his money from a batch of contacts he's collected since coming to Tallahassee in 1969 as a legislative aide. He calls the money he's raised so far "seed money" that will provide his campaign with the necessary infrastructure to raise the serious money he says he needs to compete against Bondi.

"I'm not an expert at raising money," Sheldon said. "You start with your contacts and who've you known over the years and move on from there. It's going to be January before we really get going."

He said Thurston's initial filing shows that he plans to hang in the race and force a primary. He said he hasn't been following Bondi's financing efforts of late.

"I'm starting with the premise that she'll have sufficient dollars," Sheldon said. 

Indeed, Bondi's campaign opened a second fundraising committee in November. Called "Justice for All", it's a political committee that resembles "And Justice for All" which was created for Bondi in September.

The older committee, which is an electioneering communications organization, raised $47,500, capping a three month total at $941,582. November's haul included $25,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Also dubbed a 527 committee for the section of federal code it's named after, ECOs can coordinate with candidates and advocate for them and smear opponents as long as they stay away from certain words in campaign material, like "vote for" or "vote against." 

The newer committee, "Justice for All" raised $102,250 in November, including $25,000 from wine and beer distributors. It's a political committee that has similar powers to an ECO. One major difference, however, is this type of political committee can transfer its money to another candidate if need be.

The money these two committees raised is in addition to the $167,000 her own campaign raised last month. But much of those contibutions -- more than $70,000 -- are from the Republican Party of Florida.

The party wants to make sure Bondi doesn't become the first AG since James Kynes in 1964 to lose.






FL Appeals Court rules public colleges, universities can't regulate guns on campus


A Florida appeals court on Tuesday handed down a potentially far-reaching ruling that would block state universities from regulating guns on campus.

The 1st District Court of Appeal _ in a rare opinion decided by the entire appeals court _ sided with a University of North Florida student and a gun rights group that challenged a university rule that bans students on campus from storing guns in their cars.

In a lengthy decision that prompted a strong dissent as well as multiple concurring opinions the appeals court ruled that the Florida Legislature has pre-empted the regulation of guns by local governments and state agencies.

Continue reading "FL Appeals Court rules public colleges, universities can't regulate guns on campus" »

Oops. New documents show another degree controversy dogs Scott's COS, Adam Hollingsworth

Oops. Adam Hollingsworth did it again.

After twice lying years ago about getting a 1990 college degree, Gov. Rick Scott's current chief of staff didn't fully disclose the date he received his bachelor's when he filled out a 2011 application for a high-level state post.

Hollingsworth received his University of Alabama communications degree in 2009 -- not 1990 as he suggested on his May 27, 2011 application for an appointment to the board of Enterprise Florida Inc., the state's public-private economic development agency.

Hollingsworth wouldn't comment, but a spokeswoman for the governor's office said he wasn't misleading.

"The EFI application, which Adam completed after 2009 when he had his degree, did not request a graduation date so one was not provided," Melissa Sellers wrote in an email.

Continue reading "Oops. New documents show another degree controversy dogs Scott's COS, Adam Hollingsworth" »

DCF official explains agency's efforts to prevent child abuse deaths at Senate hearing

A top official for the Florida Department of Children & Families told senators at a hearing Tuesday that the state was no longer relying on a “promise” from parents that they would do right by their children, a practice that left some members of the Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee shaking their heads.

In a domestic violence case, for instance, “we would get the mom to promise that if she and her boyfriend, whoever, engaged in domestic violence that she would leave,” said Stephen Pennypacker, DCF’s new assistant secretary for programs. “That’s not a safety plan. That’s a prescription for disaster … So we don’t do that anymore.”

He said the agency is addressing several other measures to improve its efforts, many of them recommendations from a recent report by the nonprofit, Seattle-based Casey Family Programs.

Committee chairman Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said “lots needs to be done” in the aftermath of at least 40 children dying while under state care between January and July.

“We’re looking for solutions,” she said, noting that legislators also need to determine “what can be done administratively and what do we need to pass by law.

"I think we're digging deep to find out why so many kid died and making improvements," she said, noting that more of a team approach, staffing and re-evaluating assessment tools would "make the system work better."

Sobel said she agreed with the findings of the Casey Family report, which pointed out many issues in Florida’s child welfare system, and said those suggestions should be implemented.

Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo requested Casey Families conduct a comprehensive review in order to identify potential improvements and shortcomings in the agency's protective investigative process after the Herald catalogued the stories of children from families with DCF histories who had died over the spring and summer.

The Casey Family report provided "tangible recommendations regarding policies and practices that can potentially reduce future child maltreatment deaths," Pennypacker said.

Continue reading "DCF official explains agency's efforts to prevent child abuse deaths at Senate hearing" »

Andy Gardiner becomes FL Senate’s president-designate


He survived a coup attempt and is now officially in line to take over the Senate presidency in fall 2014.

Andy Gardiner, the 44-year-old Orlando Republican, was the focus of a personal, yet pomp-and-circumstance filled ceremony this afternoon where the Senate GOP unanimously approved him as its next leader.

Gov. Rick Scott, Cabinet members, former senators and current House leaders all were in attendance. The invitations to the ceremony were addressed by hand by Gardiner’s mother, a calligrapher. And his three children -- Andy Jr., Joanna and Kathryn -- lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

But Gardiner also got down to business in his acceptance speech, outlining three points of focus for his two-year term: the economy and jobs; the environment and ecotourism; and expanding education and employment opportunities.

“It should be a goal of our caucus to continue to look for areas where we can improve the business climate for businesses here in the state of Florida, what opportunities there are for targeted tax cuts that we can bring more businesses to the state of Florida,” Gardiner said.

Continue reading "Andy Gardiner becomes FL Senate’s president-designate" »

Charlie Crist: I raised c. $3m in 3+ weeks


Sure, his campaign manager mysteriously quit before he started.

But the money sure has flowed to Charlie Crist. His campaign and political committee are reporting raising $2.96 million in less than a month. The bulk of the money is by way of unlimited sums contributed to his committee. Yet there's likely fair chunk of harder-to-raise $3,000-per-giver capped donations given to his campaign committee as well.

When's the last time a non-incumbent Democrat raised this much in so short a time?

A few are still talking the Crist's-in-trouble-had-a-bad-rollout story. Huh. Money talks. So that talk should walk (unless more trouble surfaces).

Money is shouting at Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile. Scott raised about $5.8 million in about a month for his political committee. The governor has the bullypulpit and veto pen. That counts for a lot, which Crist understood as governor when he milked all the special interests in Tallahassee.

From a press release:

Rick Scott says he will have more money than any politician in the history of Florida politics. But he doesn’t have the people.

Every public and private poll says that the people of Florida want to be back in charge.

And today, I’m humbled to announce that between Charlie Crist for Florida and our campaign, we raised about 3 million dollars in just over three weeks.  More than 3,500 of you contributed directly to our campaign. You are incredible. Thank you.

While Rick Scott shakes down a few gigantic special interests, I will continue to be inspired by you, the people.

I work for you. Always have, Always will.

God bless you,


Gov. Scott, Cabinet wrap up year in a flurry

State pension fund chief Ash Williams got a big raise. Citizens Property Insurance got its first in-house watchdog. And Florida drivers will soon be able to show proof of car insurance by flashing their cell phones. All of that and more took place Tuesday during the final meeting of 2013 of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet.

As we've noted previously, Cabinet meetings have devolved of late into marathon photo-ops with more fluff than substance. And on Tuesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi presented an adorable dog in need of a loving home, and state officials played a two-minute video of news clips,  featuring cameos by Tampa TV news anchors Keith Cate and Denise White, touting new jobs. Then the gang of four (Scott, Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) got down to business:

* Citizens' first inspector general will be Bruce Meeks, a former deputy attorney general and former I.G. for the State Board of Administration (SBA). The veteran lawyer was chosen over 87 other applicants for the job as chief in-house troubleshooter at the state-backed insurer of last resort. Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said the company continues to shift hundreds of thousands of policies to the private insurance market.

* Jerry McDaniel was honored on his retirement as Scott's budget director. The unflappable McDaniel spent 37 years in state government as a budget expert and is one of the very few high-level appointees to have worked for Scott and his predecessor and likely 2014 rival, Charlie Crist. After Scott summarized McDaniel's long career in government, he said: "When you talk, it sounds like I'm from the dinosaur age."

* FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey made a pitch for a bigger budget, including the need for new workers to do background checks for the continuing surge in applications for concealed weapons permits. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Bailey said, extra workers were brought in to process 13,500 checks.

* Highway safety chief Julie Jones got the go-ahead to implement a new law that will make Florida only the second state in the U.S. to allow motorists to electronically show proof of car insurance. She credited Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, with the idea, and said that the new law should be in effect by mid-January. "We're not concerned with a fraud issue here," Jones said. "Anything to help the motoring public."

* Williams, the executive director of the SBA, was hired more than five years ago at a salary of $325,000 a year. He got his first raise, and it was worth waiting for: It was for $42,500 to bring his paycheck to $367,500. Williams presented a detailed report showing that the fund has grown by 15 percent this year. "You're doing a great job, Ash," Scott told Williams.

-- Steve Bousquet 

Scott: Hollingsworth will 'continue to do a great job'

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday stood by his chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, who has acknowledged that for years he claimed a college degree before he obtained it.

In his first impromptu remarks on the matter since the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau broke the Hollingsworth story last Friday, Scott spoke positively about his senior advisor.

"I'm just glad that Adam has a college degree. I'm proud of him for doing that," Scott told reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting. "He's admitted he made a mistake. He's doing a great job. He's a good friend."

In response to a follow-up question by a Capitol reporter who suggested that there's a "lot of talk" that Hollingsworth will have to go, Scott said: "Again, I'm glad he has a college degree. He's doing a great job, he's a good friend and he's going to continue to do a great job."

Hollingsworth has acknowledged that in the mid-1990s, he told a former employer, CSX Corp., that he had a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama when he did not. He earned his degree at Tuscaloosa in 2009. On Friday, in a statement to the Times/Herald, he apologized for what he called a "misrepresentation" and a "failure in judgment."

After serving as chief of staff to Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Hollingsworth became a paid advisor on Scott's 2010 campaign and played a key role in his transition. He replaced Steve MacNamara as chief of staff in July 2012 and earns $151,000 a year.

In an editorial on Tuesday, the Pensacola News Journal called on Scott to fire Hollingsworth if he does not resign. In unusually strong language, the newspaper compared Hollingsworth to "fraudulent, bureaucratic hacks" and said: "It’s a betrayal of Scott’s confidence to have hidden facts that now call into question Hollingsworth’s character, competence and his potentially damaging influence upon this administration."

The day Scott took office, on Jan. 4, 2011, he signed an executive order in which he said his duties included "setting the highest ethical standards for state government." The policy requires senior staff members to abide by a strict code of ethics that includes avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

-- Steve Bousquet

Marco Rubio, Miami-Dade Republicans raise $ for Tom Cotton at Versailles


131216_CottonRubio_2_Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn't just advertising for the Republican Party's newest rising star, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, he's raising money for him as well at a Versailles Restaurant fundraiser Monday. Suggested contributions range from $500-$5,200.

Rubio is hosting the fundraiser for the Arkansas Senate candidate along with Republican lawyer John Couriel. The Miami-Dade Republican Party is on board and sent out the invite with this email:

Please join U.S. Senator MARCO RUBIO and Congressman TOM COTTON...

The United States Senate hangs in the balance as Democrats cling to power with a narrow majority. That majority has allowed them to ram through some terrible policies and, most recently, they invoked a nuclear option, removing the ability of the minority to filibuster ultra left-wing nominees; a right that they once fought hard to maintain!

There is hope…FIRE HARRY REID! If Republicans can take back the Senate, we can take back America and begin to fix the disaster that Pelosi, Reid, Obama and people like Joe Garcia have created.

Friends, please see the below invitation to a fundraiser for CONGRESSMAN TOM COTTON, a true American hero and veteran who is running against a very vulnerable democrat in Arkansas. Tom's military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal.

Please join me at this event for this American hero and future U.S. Senator along with our own U.S. Senator, MARCO RUBIO.

7 steps, 7 years, still a lot more jobs to go: PolitiFact Florida on Rick Scott's jobs record

Here's an excerpt from the final installment of a three-part series by the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald investigating Gov. Rick Scott's job creation record. This one is from PolitiFact Florida. Read the first and second parts of the series here, with links to all of the stories, a database and interactive, shareable graphics.

Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 with a simple plan he promised would invigorate the state's economy.

Over seven years, through seven steps, Florida would add 700,000 jobs. Shorter: 7-7-7.

Three years into Scott's tenure, Florida is recovering in ways that surprise economists. The unemployment rate is down dramatically, below the national average, and the state has churned out hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

But are Florida's gains enough for Scott to keep his biggest campaign promise?

Continue reading "7 steps, 7 years, still a lot more jobs to go: PolitiFact Florida on Rick Scott's jobs record" »