January 17, 2017

Who's going to Trump's inauguration? Gov. Scott, for starters



Several leading Florida Republicans are making the trek to Washington, D.C., this week to see Donald Trump take the oath of office and officially become president of the United States.

Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned for Trump and chaired a super PAC that supported his presidential bid, will leave the state Tuesday evening ahead of an inaugural ball sponsored by his Let’s Get to Work political committee the next night. Scott will attend the inauguration and be seated with other Republican governors, according to his office. He returns to Florida Saturday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Trump's closest allies in the state and a likely pick for a top job in his White House will be there and at the Florida Sunshine Ball sponsored by Scott.

The other two cabinet officials, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater are not going.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, will attend the inauguration, his office said. Corcoran -- who initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush, then Sen. Marco Rubio and finally Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination -- was a reluctant supporter of Trump.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will be there. Unlike his counterpart in the House, Negron was quicker to back Trump and served as a member of the electoral college, which gave the president-elect Florida's 29 electoral votes in December.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, also a state representative from Spring Hill, is going. He led the state party through the election and was re-elected to the post Saturday.

Several other state lawmakers are, as well, including Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, who is being considered for an ambassadorship. So are House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz of Miami, Rep. Bill Hager of Delray Beach, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford and Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, the Florida co-chair of the Trump campaign.

Brian Ballard, a top Tallahassee lobbyist and the Trump campaign's chief Florida fundraiser, is going to the inauguration and several related events. He was an elector for Trump, as well. So is Susie Wiles, who also led Trump's Florida operation. She is a Jacksonville-based lobbyist and helped usher Scott into office six years ago.

This list will continue to be updated as we hear from other Florida officials.

Photo: President-elect Donald Trump at an Orlando stop on his victory tour in December. (Andres Leiva, Tampa Bay Times)

January 05, 2017

Is Pam Bondi still under consideration for Trump job?


Immediately after Donald Trump was elected president, one Florida name was floated above the rest for a job in his administration: Attorney General Pam Bondi.

About two weeks out from Trump's inauguration, the Tampa Republican still has not been appointed to any job.

But an announcement could be coming soon, reports Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs

In a tweet, she wrote, "NEW: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will be named to a post in the Trump White House, sources tell me. Trump aides finalizing her role."

Asked Thursday, the Trump transition provided no new information about whether Bondi was even still in consideration for an administration job.

"We have no additional announcements at this time," said Sean Spicer, who will be Trump's White House press secretary, on a conference call with reporters. "I don't want to get ahead of any announcements that may or may not come."

Bondi has been mum, too. Asked Thursday morning, she would not comment on whether she was being considered for a new job in the administration. 

"I'd never discuss anything confidential," she said, echoing previous statements.

Bondi, a career prosecutor, had one publicly announced meeting with Trump in December, but none have been announced since.

A member of the transition team, she likely has had conversations with others high up in the Trump inner circle, and Spicer on Thursday called her a "very trusted confidante."

Times staff writer Paul Guzzo contributed reporting.

December 29, 2016

PolitiFact Florida: Top 10 viewed fact-checks in 2016



Donald Trump’s wealth and Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State were some of the contentious topics in 2016 that fueled our most clicked-on fact-checks at PolitiFact Florida.

Also fueling our Truth-O-Meter were statements by two of Florida’s Republican presidential primary opponents -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio-- as well as former Democratic National Committee chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

But it was a story about race and murder statistics that we wrote in 2015 hat drew the most clicks in 2016. Our story explained that FBI data shows that whites usually kill whites, and blacks usually kill blacks. In recent years, these statistics have repeatedly drawn interest in the aftermath of high-profile shooting deaths in which race was a factor.

Here’s a look at the most-clicked on fact-checks and articles we published in 2016 from PolitiFact Florida.

December 28, 2016

PolitiFact: The Top 10 fact-checks in 2016



President-elect Donald Trump’s business record and Hillary Clinton’s email practices were some of the most contentious issues of the 2016 election — and some of PolitiFact’s most popular reports of the year.

In addition to our fact-checks, readers clicked on special reports and roundups. The perennial reader-favorite examining whether Ted Cruz being born in Canada had any bearing on his presidential eligibility fetched nearly a million views. Our guide to viral graphics contrasting Clinton and Bernie Sanders was a hit during the Democratic primary. And we drew tons of eyeballs for our live fact-checking and round-ups of the presidential debates.

Out of over 1,100 fact-checks related to this presidential cycle, here are the most clicked-on fact-checks of the past 12 months.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.


December 27, 2016

Super PAC backing former Marco Rubio rival donates to him



Carlos Beruff ended his futile campaign for the U.S. Senate by jabbing at former GOP primary rival Marco Rubio and warning that he made a “life mistake” by returning to Washington.

But a Super PAC set up to support Beruff clearly has a different opinion. Newly released Federal Election Commission records show the last act of Lets Clean Up Washington was to donate $5,000 to a PAC supporting Rubio at the end of October. Lets Clean Up Washington is a PAC created to help Beruff’s campaign and was heavily funded by Beruff’s Bradenton-area political allies like developers Pat Neal and the Benderson Development Corporation.

Beruff spent $8.3 million of his own money in a bid to win the GOP nomination. When Beruff first got into the race, it was a field of mostly low profile Republicans like U.S. Reps David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and businessman Todd Wilcox. But then national Republicans, concerned none could win the seat, pushed Rubio - who had just finished losing his presidential bid - to get back into the race. Rubio did, forcing the other candidates out of the race. But Beruff refused retreat, promising to spend more than $15 million to win the seat if he had to.

FEC records show he never topped $8.3 million.

After Beruff lost the primary, he posted a letter on his website explaining why he ran and ripped Rubio and most of the other candidates who once had been in the race. He described Jolly and DeSantis as “scurrying for the exits” when Rubio got back into the race. He slammed Lopez-Cantera too, saying the Lt. Governor “went back to doing whatever it is that he does, which is basically nothing except collect a check from the Florida taxpayers.”

But he saved his toughest words for Rubio for re-entering the race after saying he wouldn’t.

“With regard to young Mr. Rubio, in my judgement he made a life mistake.  A man’s word is the most important thing he has.  Mr. Rubio must live with that decision,” Beruff wrote on his website.

Here’s Beruff’s full farewell letter:

Continue reading "Super PAC backing former Marco Rubio rival donates to him" »

December 22, 2016

Trump is in Florida, but it's not clear if he's meeting with state officials


President-elect Donald Trump is spending Christmas in the Sunshine State, but it's not clear if he and his team will meet with any Florida officials while he's here.

Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters that he was "not aware of any specific meetings that are happening."

"Obviously, Florida is a very important state to the president-elect, a place where he spends a lot of time," Miller said. "But as far as if there's anything more specific that's happening on this particular trip, I don't have anything to share at the moment."

Trump is spending Christmas at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago.

The trip comes as several Florida politicians are reportedly being considered for administration jobs, including Attorney General Pam Bondi and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller. As well, there are any number of policy reasons Trump or his advisers would want to meet with elected and appointed officials from the nation's third-largest state.

Trump is friends with Gov. Rick Scott, and two state representatives played key roles in his election: Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, was co-chairman of the Florida campaign, and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, chairs the Republican Party of Florida.

December 21, 2016

Clinton's team feared Rubio more than Trump - until it was too late

via @learyreports

It’s not news that Hillary Clinton’s campaign viewed Marco Rubio with some fear. Democratic emails apparently stolen by the Russians showed Clinton’s team was impressed with the Floridian. “He gives a good speech, and sounded more reasonable, populist than a GOP candidate …” read one email.

Now comes evidence that Clinton considered him more of a threat than Donald Trump — if the size of opposition research books mean anything.

The Trump oppo book was a mere 157 pages, while one for Ted Cruz was 201 pages. Rubio’s was 431 pages.

The details were contained in a Vanity Fair story about the “desperate, year-long hunt to find Donald Trump’s rumored Apprentice outtakes.”

While Cruz was clearly a possible contender, many in the room agreed that Rubio, with his youth and charisma, posed the most considerable challenge. And then there was Trump, who was characterized in the meeting under “the four B’s”: a bully, a bigot, a bad businessman, and—as some staffers noted—not a billionaire. (There was discussion of a fifth B, which, in typical Democratic jargon, was “blithe.”) Trump’s oppo book was slim not because Clinton staffers had missed details regarding his divorces or corporate bankruptcies. It was short because they didn’t think he had much of a chance of winning the G.O.P. nomination.

December 19, 2016

Protestors to electors: 'Vote for sanity' and 'say no to Trump'

Electors protest 3


Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Plumb doesn’t want to grow up under a Donald Trump presidency.

“He goes back on his word and everything he says is untrustworthy,” Plumb said. “And the way he treats women is terrifying. As a kid, I don’t want to turn 18 and have him rule my teenage years or just be in charge of my life in general, because as a woman I can’t trust him to make decisions for me.”

That’s why Plumb and her mother, Leigh Touchton, traveled from their home in Valdosta, Georgia, to Florida’s Capitol on Monday and joined a couple hundred others in a demonstration to urge the state’s 29 electors to oppose the president-elect.

The formal Electoral College vote is at 2 p.m. but protesters began gathering at the Florida Capitol around 9:15 a.m., aiming to catch electors as they arrived and to make their case.

MORE: “Despite threats and lawsuits, Florida electors ready to vote for Donald Trump

Facing intense pressure from anti-Trump groups, none of Florida’s electors has publicly said they intend to change their vote and oppose Trump, and none is expected to. Many are loyal Trump supporters.

But the protesters in Tallahassee on Monday wanted to let the electors know they have allies if they do.

“We’re here today so we can show solidarity for those electors that want to vote against Trump and flip the vote,” said Maxwell Frost, of Orlando, who helped lead the demonstration as part of the group Democracy Spring, one of several groups organizing coordinated protests at state capitols nationwide on Monday.

“Not everyone is going to change their mind, that’s true — but we’re here for those who do want to change their mind,” Frost said.

More here.

Despite threats and lawsuits, Florida electors ready to vote for Donald Trump

Florida's 29 presidential electors will convene Monday in Tallahassee, where all are expected to cast written ballots for Donald Trump to become the 45th president of the United States.

Under state election law, the Florida electors must vote for the candidate chosen by their party. They were selected by Gov. Rick Scott based on a Republican Party of Florida recommendation and include GOP officeholders, party donors and grass-roots activists. Among them are Attorney General Pam Bondi; Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart; Tallahassee lobbyist and Trump fund-raiser Brian Ballard; Susie Wiles, a public affairs specialist in Ballad's firm and a political consultant who was assigned in September to manage Trump's Florida effort; Robert Watkins, co-owner of a Tampa accounting firm that provides bookkeeping services for many Republican politicians; Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, chairman of the state GOP; and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The 29 Florida members of the Electoral College will meet in the Senate chamber in the state Capitol at 2 p.m. Monday under stepped-up security as their counterparts in the other 49 states gather to confirm Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton.

Nick mailboxFor weeks, electors in Florida and across the country have been bombarded with emails and letters, and some say they have been the targets of threatening messages. Elector Nick DiCeglie, chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party, tweeted a picture of his Indian Rocks Beach mailbox (left), stuffed with letters from people urging him not to vote for Trump.

A state judge in Tallahassee recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Florida voters who sought to delay Monday's event with allegations of widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 8 election, but offered little evidence to support their claims. The lawsuit included a claim by Chelsey Marie Smith, who "observed and reported a ballot stuffing operation being operated at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office. She reports that stacks of ballots were being filled in by multiple individuals in a locked room."

The three voters were represented by the Orlando law firm of Clint Curtis, a former computer programmer who first gained notoriety following the 2000 presidential recount in Florida when he claimed he was ordered to write a computer program to manipulate the outcome of the 2000 election in South Florida.

After Circuit Judge John Cooper dismissed the lawsuit, the three voters appealed to the First District Court of Appeal, which quickly ordered the plaintiffs to refile some of their original motions with Cooper because of procedural oversights.