October 03, 2017

Miami politicians received donations from the National Rifle Association in 2016

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty 

Three of the four Republicans who represent Miami-Dade County in Washington received at least $2,000 from the National Rifle Association during the 2016 campaign, according to campaign finance records from the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Sen. Marco Rubio, who was in the midst of a reelection campaign against former Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, received $9,900 during the 2016 campaign. That total was the largest amount the NRA gave to any Florida lawmaker in Congress. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who won an expensive reelection bid against former Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, received $2,500 while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart received $2,000.

Diaz-Balart is also the single largest recipient of NRA cash among Floridians in Congress since 1998, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Diaz-Balart has received $26,450, according to the Post. 

The National Rifle Association is facing pressure from Democrats and anti-gun activists in the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and over 500 people injured after a lone gunman fired on an outdoor concert from a high-rise hotel.

An NRA-backed bill that would make it easier to obtain gun silencers is facing fresh opposition after law enforcement officers in Las Vegas said that tracking the sounds of the shooting allowed them to find the gunman faster. None of the Miami lawmakers are cosponsors on that bill. 

Critics of the nation's largest gun lobby argue that the NRA blocks sensible measures in Congress that would reduce the chances of a mass shooting. In the 2016 cycle, the NRA contributed $839,215 to federal candidates nationwide and the Post reports that the NRA gave over $3.5 million to members of Congress since 1998. 

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Representatives for Rubio, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's campaigns did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

August 29, 2017

Fact-checking Marco Rubio's heckler about oil and gas campaign donations

RubioAP

@amysherman1

A college student and climate activist interrupted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio during a recent speech to question Rubio's ties to the energy industry.

September Porras, a Swarthmore college student who is a member of the Sunrise Movement, a national group of climate change activists, challenged Rubio's links to fossil fuels at the Seminole County GOP fundraiser held at a hotel in Altamonte Springs on Aug. 22.

Here is a partial transcript of the exchange:

Porras: "Senator, if you really care about young Americans, why did you take three-quarters of a million dollars from fossil fuel executives in your last Senate election?"

Rubio: "I’m so glad I live in America where she can say that, in a lot of countries you go to jail, I am grateful that I live in America where ... (applause drowns out a few words) ... I don’t have a problem with protesters..."

Porras: "I’m not a protester, I just want to know why you aren’t answering our questions."

Rubio: "I don’t have a problem with hecklers. I don’t have a problem with any of that. You know why? Because one of the issues I am working on now involves nations where that’s not possible," a reference to his work related to U.S. policy on Cuba and Venezuela. "I am grateful that I live in a nation where people can disagree, I am grateful that I live in a nation where people get to vote every two to four years. I am grateful that I live in a place where people can speak their minds and they can settle their differences at a ballot box."

Rubio then made a call for the United States to achieve energy independence:

"I believe as a cornerstone of allowing us to succeed economically we need to be able to power a 21st century economy, and I believe technological advances are making that energy more efficient and cleaner than ever before. I absolutely believe that America needs to be energy independent. We are crazy as a nation if we don’t utilize all of the resources that God’s blessed this great land with and I will continue to be a strong supporter of that."

The part of the exchange we will fact-check is whether Rubio took three-quarters of a million dollars from fossil fuel executives during his 2016 Senate bid. 

More here from PolitiFact Florida.

August 25, 2017

Federal judge dismisses DNC fraud lawsuit against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Wasserman_Schultz_Staffer_Arrest_40608

@alextdaugherty 

A South Florida federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Friday that alleged Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee committed fraud after leaked emails showed former DNC staffers discussing ways to hurt Bernie Sanders' campaign for president.

Federal judge William Bloch stated in an order that even if the allegations are true, the court cannot find an injury to supporters of Sanders from the DNC or Wasserman Schultz "that is traceable to the DNC and its former chair’s conduct" so the lawsuit cannot be tested in court. 

"Plaintiffs have not presented a live case or controversy and the Court must dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction," the order said. 

Wasserman Schultz left her post as DNC chair in August 2016 after leaked emails from Wikileaks riled supporters of Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. She then defeated law professor Tim Canova, who argued the DNC had rigged the primary in favor of Clinton. Canova is challenging Wasserman Schultz again in 2018 after losing by 13 percentage points in the 2016 Democratic primary.  

August 24, 2017

Could Daisy Baez lose her House seat because of where her house is?

Daisy Baez@MaryEllenKlas

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has created a special committee to determine whether freshman Miami state Rep. Daisy Baez should be sanctioned for potentially violating a state law that requires her to reside in her district.

The Miami Herald reported in May that it appeared that Baez, a Democrat, does not reside in House District 114 that she represents but instead lives in a Coral Gables house about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day.

Before Baez was elected on Nov. 8 of last year she changed her voter-registration address to a Coral Gables apartment within the District 114 boundaries, election records show.

Reached at the property in May, which is located in House District 112, Baez told the Herald: “I have kept this home, and I have a rental. I am renovating this house to put it on the market.”

House Chairman of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, wrote in a letter to Corcoran Tuesday that a complaint was received by the Florida Commission on Ethics and referred to the House. He said the evidence appears to “support a finding of probable cause” and urged him to create the subcommittee. Story here. 

August 09, 2017

Seth Rich murder: Separating fact from speculation

Seth_rich

via @jonzgreenberg

People who work in politics and suffer violent death are not often left in peace by conspiracy theorists. These aides and staffers don’t simply die, the theories go -- they die for a reason.

The story of the 2016 shooting death of Democratic party worker Seth Rich has followed that pattern, with one important difference. A recent lawsuit alleges that Fox News and the Trump administration fueled an unsubstantiated narrative that Rich was the source of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that showed up on WikiLeaks.

The suit’s message is that both Fox News and the White House used the Rich story in an effort to neutralize the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the stolen emails.

If true, this would raise serious questions about the role of the media and the government in spreading fake news.

But what do we really know at this point, and how much insight does the lawsuit really offer?  We set out to separate the facts from the speculation.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's report from PolitiFact.

July 28, 2017

Florida fulfills request for voter data by Trump election commission

Trump Cuba 061617 al diaz (2)

@amysherman1

Florida provided voter-roll data to President Donald Trump’s election-fraud commission Friday despite a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida attempting to prevent the state from providing the information.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner complied with the request by the commission after a federal judge in Washington D.C. cleared the way Monday for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to resume its effort to collect voter data from all states. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to block the data collection.

“Today the Department of State pursuant to Florida law fulfilled the public records request that we received from the Presidential Advisory Commission,” said Sarah Revell, Detzner’s spokeswoman. “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”

Keep reading here.

Broward elections supervisor to testify in federal voter roll lawsuit filed by conservative group in Miami

Snipescourt

@amysherman1

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is expected to testify Monday in a lawsuit that alleges she has failed to adequately purge voter rolls of ineligible voters including those who have died.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the conservative American Civil Rights Union in federal court in 2016. (Hat tip to the Sun Sentinel about Snipes' upcoming testimony.)

The ACRU is being represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation which has filed similar lawsuits in other states including North Carolina, Virginia and Texas. The president and general counsel of the foundation, J. Christian Adams, is a member of President Donald Trump's commission on voter integrity which has sought to collect voter roll data from all of the states. Trump's allegations about widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election have repeatedly been debunked by PolitiFact, a Miami Herald news partner.

The complaint filed against Snipes alleges that she has violated federal law by failing to conduct reasonable voter list maintenance for federal elections. It does not allege that ineligible voters cast ballots. The lawsuit seeks that a judge order her to make improvements in handling list maintenance.

The complaint states that Broward's voter rolls have "either more total registrants than eligible voting-age citizens or, at best, an implausibly high number of registrants," according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Election Assistance Commission.

At the time of the 2014 general election, approximately 103 percent of the citizens of voting age were registered to vote, the complaint states.

Among actions the plaintiffs seek is for Snipes to request jury recusal forms from the clerk of courts to determine if anyone who has declared themselves a non-citizen has registered to vote. (Florida's controversial attempt to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls before the 2012 election led to about 85 being removed statewide.)

Snipes disputed the allegations in a letter she wrote to ACRU in February 2016. Snipes wrote that Broward "adheres strictly" to the state's guidelines about voter list maintenance. Court records show Broward removed about 240,000 voters between 2014 and 2016.

"At no time in my tenure, which began in November 2003, has the number of registered voters outnumbered the live persons living in Broward County," she wrote.

Before filing the suit, in January 2016 the plaintiffs sent letters raising concerns about voter roll maintenance to multiple Florida counties in addition to Broward including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Clay, Flagler and Santa Rosa. However, a lawsuit was only filed against Broward County. 

When asked why the plaintiffs ultimately only sued Broward, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation pointed to Adams's opening statement in which he said that Snipes was unwilling to "engage in substantive discussions -- essentially saying all counties in Florida who received a letter from the ACRU must be involved in those discussions."

Broward has about 1.2 million voters and has the highest number of registered Democrats -- about 600,000 -- in the state. Snipes, a Democrat, was first appointed to fill a vacancy in 2003 by then Gov. Jeb Bush and has subsequently won elections.

The trial began July 25th and is being presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom. Burnadette Norris-Weeks is representing Snipes.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs said that Snipes is expected to begin testifying at 9 a.m. Monday.

Miami Herald photo of Brenda Snipes testifying in a separate matter pertaining to ballots in 2016. 

 

 

 

 

July 24, 2017

Ex-Miami-Dade elections worker pleads guilty in mayoral voter-fraud case

Gladys3 coego lnew cmgvia @DavidOvalle305

An elderly woman pleaded guilty on Monday to filling out other people’s mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade’s elections department.

Now, a judge must decide whether to give 74-year-old Gladys Coego jail time.

Prosecutors want six months behind bars. Her defense lawyer is arguing for no time in jail.

“This is a very serious case,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milián told Coego. “This is a very serious matter that undermines the basis of our democratic institutions.”

Milián will decide a sentence on Aug. 16. She faces a maximum of up to 10 years in prison but such a harsh sentence is unlikely because she has no previous arrests. 

In a case that got national media attention, Coego was arrested for voter fraud just weeks before the November election. It was a campaign season marked by heightened sensitivity after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made repeated allegations of a rigged election.

Although there’s never been any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, Trump has persisted with his claims, even creating a controversial commission to investigate the issue. Earlier this month, the Presidential Advisory Commission for Voter Integrity raised concerns about privacy by requesting voter information from states across the country, including Florida.

Coego’s case mirrors that of a woman in Oregon who was arrested four years for marking someone else’s ballot while working at an elections department. She accepted a plea deal that include 90 days in jail.

Coego was arrested along with another low-level campaigner, Tamika Curgil, in an unrelated case. Curgil, an out-of-work security guard campaigning for a pro-medical marijuana campaign, was accused of filing out forged voter registration forms. She got probation, with no felony conviction appearing on her record.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

July 11, 2017

Marco Rubio says special counsel will determine if Donald Trump Jr. violated the law

Trump_Russia_Probe_11888

@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller will determine whether Donald Trump Jr. violated the law when he met with a "Russian government attorney" who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. tweeted an email chain from June 2016 on Tuesday morning that showed his meet up with a Russian lawyer organized by music publicist Rob Goldstone. In the email chain Trump eagerly accepted a meeting for information provided by the Russians.  

"The Crown prosecutor of Russia ... offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," said a June 3, 2016, email to Trump Jr. from Goldstone. "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." 

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. said in response, giving no indication that he was disturbed by Russian government's effort to aid his father. 

When asked if Trump Jr.'s cooperation with a foreign official who supposedly had dirt on Clinton amounts to criminal activity or collusion, Rubio deferred to Mueller. 

"That’s something Mr. Mueller will have to determine," Rubio said. "Our job is to issue a report on how the Russians interfered in our elections and the tactics they used." 

Mueller was appointed in May by the Justice Department as a special counsel tasked with overseeing a federal investigation into Russia's influence in the 2016 election. 

Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee tasked with its own Russia investigation, would like Trump Jr. to testify.

"We’d love to talk to him," Rubio said. "His willingness to talk I think is great." 

Rubio declined to elaborate on Trump Jr.'s conduct, saying he needed more time to review the emails. 

"When I learn more about it, absolutely," Rubio said.

June 22, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says former DHS secretary is "utterly misinformed" about contact regarding DNC Russian hacks

ELECTION0831 WASSERMAN CTJ@alextdaugherty

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday that former Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson was "utterly misinformed" after Johnson testified to Congress under oath on Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee refused his organization's help regarding Russian hacking in the 2016 election. 

"The former secretary of homeland security testified yesterday about the Russian hacks during the election and he flat out said that the DNC refused his department's help. You put out a statement afterward basically saying that Jeh Johnson was wrong, where is he wrong?" CNN's Kate Bolduan asked Wasserman Schultz.  

"He's wrong in every respect," Wasserman Schultz said. "Let me just be very clear, at no point during my tenure at the DNC was I contacted by the FBI, DHS or any government agency, or alerted or made aware that they believe the Russians, an enemy state, was intruding on our network." 

Johnson said the opposite during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday. 

"I spelled out in my opening statement -- my prepared statement, the first time I recall hearing about the hack into the DNC," Johnson said. "And I recalled that it had been some months before I was learning of this that the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other about this. And I was not very happy to be learning about it several months later, very clearly." 

Wasserman Schultz stepped down as head of the DNC on July 24, 2016 after leaked emails from WikiLeaks showed that Wasserman Schultz expressed contempt towards Bernie Sanders' campaign manager. She vehemently denied that Johnson or anyone from the Department of Homeland Security directly contacted the DNC about Russian hacking beyond phoning the organization's tech support. 

"The FBI and other federal agencies did virtually nothing to make sure that when they were aware or concerned that there was an intrusion on our network by the Russians that they did virtually nothing to sound the alarm bells to make us aware of that," Wasserman Schultz said. 

Video below: