Donna Shalala losing momentum as primary election approaches

SP_shalala

w/ @AlexTDaugherty

Things seem to be heading the wrong direction for Donna Shalala.

Not only has the frontrunner in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th congressional district watched her lead shrink this summer, but the former Health and Human Services secretary also seen her closest competitor nearly triple her fundraising over the last month.

Newly filed pre-election campaign finance reports show that, during the five weeks between July 1 an Aug. 8, Shalala raised $134,983.53.

Not bad.

But state Rep. David Richardson pulled in $364,712.65 over the same period.

Richardson’s July haul suddenly gives him more money to spend over the final two weeks before election day. Though Shalala reported $723,319.44 in cash-on hand (compared to Richardson’s $566,476.64), more than $300,000 of that amount was earmarked for the general election.

A breakdown of the fundraising totals shows that Shalala, as of Aug. 8, had about $420,000 left to spend on the primary. Richardson had about $500,000. Matt Haggman, who raised $67,806.71 in July, had $280,000 to spend since close to a quarter-million of his money is reserved for the general election.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn lag far behind in the money race.

Dollars aren’t the same as votes. But internal polls released by Richardson and Haggman last month suggest that the two candidates are gaining on the former University of Miami president. And if you compare Shalala’s end-of-primary fundraising totals to the $1.17 million she touted raising during her first three weeks as an official candidate (neglecting in a press release to mention that she loaned herself $500,000), it looks like her campaign is losing momentum.

As Richardson celebrated his fundraising numbers Friday, he was also campaigning in Miami with Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan sees a competitive primary in a seat that favors Democrats as an opportunity to expand the power of liberal Democrats in Congress. 

"This is one of the best chances for a pickup in the country," Pocan said. "You do not take a majority in Congress if you don't pick this seat up. We've got a really, really great candidate in David Richardson, if you look at his background, it's the path he took as a state legislator where I see some of the most successful members of Congress coming from."
 
Pocan noted Richardson's work on prison reform in the Florida legislature as an example of someone who can make an impact even when the public's attention is elsewhere. 
 
"People don't become major advocates of prison reform to get ahead, it's the kind of issues people work on when no one's looking that kind of tells you who is a good candidate. It shows that he’s very woke to what’s going ton and Shalala is trying to wake up to what’s going on."

Richardson says his campaign is intensely focused on the ground game with a week and a half remaining in the primary, now that they've spent money on mailers and television ads to build up his name ID. His campaign estimates that about half of undecided voters are going his way, with the other half split between Shalala and Matt Haggman, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Hepburn

"I don’t believe in going to the doors too early," Richardson said. "I think its much more impactful to be at the door after they’ve seen the mail, TV messaging."

And Richardson said he isn't afraid to bring up Shalala's name and experience when talking with voters, adding that most already know who she is and he can use her well-known career as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services and tenure as the University of Miami president as a jumping off point to discuss their differences.

Pocan said he isn't worried that a Richardson victory in the primary would give Republicans more of a chance to win in November, arguing that the issues Richardson advocates for like Medicare for all are the issues that interest independent voters.

"I'm from Wisconsin. Honestly, if this was the decision to pick the next football coach, (Shalala) would be great, she made a great pick with Barry Alvarez at the University of Wisconsin," Pocan said. "But if it's to be the next member of Congress, it's got to be David."

This article has been updated to correct information regarding the candidates' primary election money. A previous version of this article lumped general election money in with primary election money.

July 17, 2018

Republicans say Rubio’s bill is the way for Congress to deter Russian meddling

Mueller

@alextdaugherty

Conservatives are lining up behind Marco Rubio’s plan to automatically sanction Russia for any future election meddling a day after President Donald Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin drew widespread derision from the entire political spectrum. 

Trump supporters like Fox News host Laura Ingraham, moderates like Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell have all expressed support for Rubio’s bill, signaling that Congress could pass substantive legislation that would swiftly punish Moscow if U.S. intelligence determines that the Kremlin tries to meddle in future U.S. elections. 

“There are some possibilities, Senator Rubio, for example, has got a bill that targets the 2018 election cycle we’re right in now which is, as I understand it, is potential penalties if the Russians do it again,” McConnell, who controls the U.S. Senate, said on Tuesday. “So yeah, there’s a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this.” 

The push by conservatives for a bill that was introduced in January by Rubio and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland comes a day after Trump and Putin met privately for two hours and the president said he believes Putin instead of U.S. intelligence over the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The joint press conference sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans, though Trump tried to walk back his comments on Tuesday by saying he misspoke. 

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

“Congress has already taken various steps when it comes to Russia and its interference in 2016, this will just be one moving forward that hopefully would deter future attacks, which I believe is the real threat here ultimately,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “It’s not what happened, but what could happen in the future. Hopefully we’ll get to a critical mass and momentum that we can get going on it and get it passed.”

Rubio’s bill, if passed, codifies specific penalties for the Russians that must implemented within 10 days if the Director of National Intelligence determines that interference took place.

The penalties include “sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, defense, and metals and mining” and blacklisting every senior Russian political figure or oligarch identified in the Russian sanctions bill that became law in 2017 over the initial objections of Trump after a supermajority in Congress approved it.

The bill lays out specific acts by foreign governments that constitute election interference. Foreign governments are forbidden from purchasing advertisements to influence elections, using social and traditional media to spread “significant amounts” of false information, hacking election or campaign infrastructure such as voter registration databases and campaign emails, and blocking access to elections infrastructure such as websites that provide information on polling locations.

Read more here

July 13, 2018

12 Russians accused of hacking Democrats in 2016 have plenty of Florida connections

Trump Russia Probe

@alextdaugherty

The Department of Justice’s indictment on Friday that accused 12 Russian military officials of directly meddling in the 2016 election has myriad connections to South Florida, where stolen emails eventually brought down Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stolen internal documents aired unflattering details about a Democratic primary race and a Florida-based provocateur with connections to President Donald Trump was in contact with the hackers.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian military officials with engaging in cyber operations that involved releases of stolen documents from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The indictment, announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, claims the Russian agents were trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and tried to hide their connections to the Russian government by creating false identities and using cryptocurrency to pay for the operation.

Emails stolen by hackers showed that then-DNC chair Wasserman Schultz expressed frustration with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, contradicting claims by Wasserman Schultz that the Democratic Party remained neutral during the presidential primary between Clinton and Sanders. Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chairwoman on the eve of the 2016 Democratic convention.

“The Democratic National Committee was the first major target of the Russian attack on our democracy, and I strongly believe that every individual who helped carry it out — foreign or domestic — should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said in a statement. “I’m pleased that the Justice Department is following the facts wherever they may lead, despite Donald Trump’s dangerous distortions and his refusal to acknowledge the conclusions reached by the American Intelligence Community.”

Russian government officials using the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0 also released hundreds of internal documents from the DCCC, the organization that seeks to elect Democrats to Congress. The documents included information on former Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and current state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who were running in a primary to unseat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

The information in the documents was unflattering for Garcia and Taddeo, as Democrats talked candidly about each candidate’s shortcomings, though the information itself was not new. But the indictment said Guccifer “received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for U.S. Congress” on Aug. 15, 2016, the same day that the stolen DCCC documents related to five Florida congressional campaigns and research files on seven Democratic candidates in Florida were released to the public by the hackers. Guccifer hackers later released more documents on congressional races in other states.

In the indictment, the Justice Department did not name the congressional candidate who sought stolen documents.

“The hacks impacted Democrats’ chances, because the information was solely focused on anti-Democrat messaging and no Republican candidates were touched,” said Juan Penalosa, the executive director for the Florida Democratic Party who helped run Garcia’s campaign in 2016. “Democratic candidates had to spend a month responding to the information included in the documents, even when it wasn’t new — while Republicans were able to focus on issues. And today’s information that candidates, most likely Republicans, reached out to Russians for information that would influence American elections is particularly disturbing.”

Read more here.

January 17, 2018

Rubio’s push for swift Russia sanctions is latest quiet break from Trump

IMG_rubio_trump-620x412_2_1_KE97VT49_L253676291

@alextdaugherty 

Marco Rubio’s new bill that would swiftly punish Russia for any future election meddling is the latest evidence of a subtle split between the Florida Republican and certain elements of his party who parrot President Donald Trump’s argument that the investigations into Russian meddling amount to a partisan witch hunt.

Rubio recently worked with the liberal Washington, D.C., city council to rename the street in front of the Russian embassy after slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He continues to assert confidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as other Republicans question Mueller’s motives. And his election-meddling bill, co-sponsored with Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, would give more power to Congress instead of the president when it comes to sanctioning Russia over election interference.

But Rubio’s supporters on Capitol Hill insist that the second-term senator isn’t changing his ideals, and his actions aren’t driven by animus towards the president. Instead, Trump’s attitude towards Russia and the investigations that have already resulted in the indictments of four former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, are making anti-Russia hawks like Rubio more of an outlier within a Trumpian GOP.

“I think he’s true to his values and the values of our Republican Party,” Miami Republican congresswoman and Trump critic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. “It’s just now that instead of the Republican Party, it’s the Trump Party. But Marco is a true-blue Republican in the old-fashioned sense of the phrase. Who would think that being wary, suspicious of anti-Russian strongarm tactics would be deemed as outliers?”

For Rubio, the hard talk on Russian meddling goes back to the 2016 election, when he dropped out of the presidential race after losing to Trump in the Florida Republican primary. Rubio said last year that his former campaign staffers were targeted by unknown Russian IP addresses.

“In July 2016, shortly after I announced I’d seek re-election to the U.S. Senate, former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to the internal information of my presidential campaign were targeted by IP addresses with an unknown location within Russia,” Rubio said at a Senate hearing. “That effort was unsuccessful. I do think it’s appropriate to divulge this to the committee, since a lot of this has taken a partisan tone.”

Read more here.

 

January 16, 2018

New Rubio bill would punish Russian meddling in future U.S. elections

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Chris Van Hollen have a message for Moscow: Any interference in future U.S. elections will be met with swift punishment if Congress acts.

The Florida Republican who ran for president in 2016 and the Maryland Democrat will introduce a bill on Tuesday that sets explicit punishments for the Russian government — and other countries — if they meddle in future federal elections and directs the Director of National Intelligence to issue a report on potential election interference within one month of any federal election.

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill comes as President Donald Trump has characterized two congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election as Democrat-led “witch hunts” and cast doubt on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that has already indicted four former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

“For 11 months, they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government, and it has hurt our government,” Trump said. “It’s a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election.”

But as some Republicans have joined Trump in questioning Mueller’s motives, Rubio has expressed confidence in the special counsel’s investigation and continues to argue that Russian interference is an ongoing threat for future U.S. elections. A 2017 report by the Director of National Intelligence determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary (Hillary) Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

“We cannot be a country where foreign intelligence agencies attempt to influence our political process without consequences,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill will help to ensure the integrity of our electoral process by using key national security tools to dissuade foreign powers from meddling in our elections.”

The bill, if passed, codifies specific penalties for the Russians that must implemented within 10 days if the Director of National Intelligence determines that interference took place.

Read more here.

November 06, 2017

Former DNC chairwoman blasts Wasserman Schultz’s leadership in new book

Debbie Wasserman Schultz 3

 

@alextdaugherty 

Donna Brazile isn’t a fan of tropical pink-painted walls, apparently.

The former Democratic National Committee chairwoman has spent the past five days tearing into Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC leadership and organizational skills ahead of the release of her new book, “Hacks,” on Tuesday, one year after Donald Trump’s victory.

Brazile blasted the Weston Democrat’s choice to paint the walls of her DNC office tropical pink and a host of perks associated with the leadership role, like a Chevrolet Tahoe fully staffed with a personal entourage — including an assistant known as a “body woman” — according to an advance copy of Brazile’s book obtained by the Washington Post.

According to Brazile, the DNC was dependent on Hillary Clinton’s campaign cash for survival and Wasserman Schultz was more than willing to let the Clinton campaign pay most of the DNC’s debt in exchange for a measure of control within the party organization, which is supposed to remain an impartial umbrella organization for all Democratic presidential candidates.

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, repeatedly charged that the DNC under Wasserman Schultz was “rigged” in favor of Clinton.

“Debbie was not a good manager,” Brazile said in a book excerpt published by Politico. “She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party —she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.”

Wasserman Schultz declined to address the specific criticisms levied by Brazile in an emailed statement.

“It was a tremendous honor to be asked by President Obama to serve as chair of the DNC,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I am proud of the work our team did to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2016 election and to re-elect the President in 2012. With Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stay focused on enacting a progressive agenda to protect our citizens, our values and our democracy and remain united towards our goal of electing Democratic congressional majorities in 2018.”

Read more here.

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.