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276 posts from May 2016

May 31, 2016

Prison investigators, now demoted, raise heat on agency with lawsuit and allegations of interference

Miguel note re AntonacciCharges of corruption against the Florida Department of Corrections escalated Tuesday as two demoted senior investigators filed a new lawsuit, accusing the agency of retaliating against them for alleging cover-ups, inmate abuse and political interference on behalf of a company whose lead lobbyist became the governor’s general counsel.

In the 544-page compliant filed Tuesday in circuit court in Leon County, Doug Glisson and John Ulm allege that their bosses systematically tried to discredit them and set them up for demotions by concocting charges, violating agency procedures and even forging signatures. 

They claim that the governor’s office has wielded influence over agency investigations and point to both the governor’s former top lawyer, Pete Antonacci, and his chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, as being involved.

Glisson and Ulm, both senior investigators in the Office of Inspector General, were demoted in May after spending the past two years speaking out. In testimony before a state Senate committee last year, they alleged that their boss, then-Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, covered up evidence of inmate abuse, dismissed allegations of impropriety by those close to him and failed to properly police violent corrections officers. They are asking the court to order their reinstatement and for the state to pay all attorney fees and lost wages.

FDC spokesman Alberto Moscoso said the agency would not comment “on active or pending litigation [that] involves the agency or any of our current or former members.”

The dozens of supporting documents filed with the court include copies of agency reports, emails and investigations that show the agency conducted a series of internal investigations into Glisson and Ulm. The inspectors allege the investigations were assigned to officers who took directions from Beasley or had conflicts of interest.

Glisson and Ulm also allege that Beasley ordered Ulm to close an investigation into the department’s former food vendor, U.S. Foods, after the company was accused of serving inmates tainted meat and engaging in deceitful billing.

In a July 2015 letter to Beasley, Ulm suggested that U.S. Foods’ former lobbyist — Pete Antonacci, the governor’s general counsel, who now serves as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District — should be questioned as should “conspirators and persons of interest” in the case. Ulm believed that the case should be referred to the federal government “because of the vast amounts of federal money involved” and because, he said, lobbyists were being paid to try to keep the U.S. Foods contracts in effect in Florida despite the allegations.

His email noted that after Antonacci went to work for the governor, U.S. Foods did not hire another lobbyist to be the liaison with the department, suggesting it didn’t need to because of Antonacci’s position of influence.

“This capital connection could come back to cause an embarrassment to [FDC] Secretary [Julie] Jones, as well as the entire Department,’’ Ulm wrote. “I would like you to reconsider your position and directive not to investigate or seek a referral to another agency concerning the various corporations who I now believe fronted for U.S. Foods.” He also indicated he was seeking whistleblower protection. Story here. 

Download Glisson Ulm v DOC complaint

Download Ulm letter re US Foods

Download Miguel notes

Download Ulm letter to Beasley

Photo: Note to the file from the governor’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, indicates she wanted to issue her report but was being told by the governor’s office to wait until after the 2014 election.

Battle of the bagel between Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Under attack by her Democratic opponent and facing criticism for her national role as Democratic National Committee chair, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired back Tuesday at Tim Canova and portrayed him as an outsider.

“I have consistently, actively, vocally supported and advanced the causes that help make people's lives better and my opponent has done absolutely nothing,” she said. “He has never been involved in this community and so it’s very nice to say you share the same opinions on an issue. There is a difference between putting your body in front of an oncoming train and making sure that you are standing up actively engaged on these issues and saying, yeah, I’m going to hold up my hand and say yeah, me too.”

Her comments at a press conference followed her bagel fundraiser hosted by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank at a real estate investment office on Las Olas Boulevard, where donors were asked to donate up to $5,400.

That prompted Canova to ask in a fundraising email “$5,400 for a bagel?” At the same time as her fundraiser, he offered up free bagels at a deli in Cooper City.

“Access to the ears of our representatives shouldn’t be so costly,” Canova said, after introducing himself to voters.

It was just another morning in the increasingly fierce battle between the Democrats running in Congressional District 23, which spans Weston to northern Miami-Dade County. This is the first time that Wasserman Schultz has faced a primary challenger since her first bid for office in 1992 for the state Legislature. She won the left-leaning congressional seat in 2004 and has easily fended off longshot Republican challengers since that time. Canova, a first-time candidate and Hollywood resident, is a Nova Southeastern University law professor.

Keep reading here.

Alan Koslow co-defendant released on $50,000 bond

Susan Mohr, the co-defendant in the money laundering case with lobbyist Alan Koslow, surrended in federal court today in Fort Lauderdale.

Mohr was released on a $50,000 bond, said her attorney Michael B. Cohen.

Koslow is set to surrender on Thursday. Koslow and Mohr were charged with one count of money laundering last week stemming from an FBI sting that ended in 2013. A key question remains unanswered: why would it take federal prosecutors three years to file the charges in what wasn't a very complicated case? In past corruption cases, those facing charges have helped federal law enforcement nab others. Also unclear is how Koslow and Mohr know each other.

Read here for a refresher about the case.

Carlos Beruff polls says he’s winning U.S. Senate race


Carlos Beruff and David Jolly are leading the pack in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate, according to a new internal poll that Beruff’s campaign is circulating among his supporters.

To be sure, the poll showed 50 percent of the 800 likely Republican primary voters did not make a choice in the poll. But among those who did, Beruff, the Manatee County land developer, was the choice of 17 percent. Jolly, the Pinellas County Congressman, had 16 percent. The margin of error of the poll was 3.46 percent.

None of the other three candidates topped 10 percent in the poll. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, was at 9 percent. Orlando area businessman Todd Wilcox was at 5 percent and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was at 3 percent.

Beruff’s campaign said the poll shows “Beruff is gaining traction.” Beruff, who got in the race late in February, is the only candidate who had been running television ads for the last two months.

Poll Results:
Carlos Beruff - 17 percent
David Jolly - 16 percent
Ron DeSantis - 9 percent
Todd Wilcox - 5 percent
Carlos Lopez-Cantera - 3 percent

Source: Beruff campaign

Miami Congressional candidate Annette Taddeo fires top campaign staff

Annette Taddeo, who is running in a Democratic Congressional primary against former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, has fired three staffers in a campaign shakeup.

Campaign manager Shaun Daniels, finance director Foxhall Parker and communications director Francisco Bravo were fired, said Jermaine House, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman. Bravo's last day is today while Daniels and Parker left within the past couple of weeks. (Politico reported the news earlier today.)

“It was necessary for the Taddeo campaign to change directions and hire new senior campaign staffers," House said in a statement. "Annette has a clear path to victory with the right team on board, and while difficult, we absolutely support her in these decisions. Clearly, Taddeo has the strategic eye to make decisions necessary to win.”

James Stretch is Taddeo's new campaign manager. He was formerly campaign manager for Melissa Gilberts, a Congressional candidate in Michigan. Additional staffers will be announced by the end of the week, House said.

Taddeo did not return a phone message seeking comment. The Democrats are vying to compete for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. 

The DCCC supported the firings following polls that showed Taddeo lagging behind.

A poll released by Garcia's campaign earlier this month showed that he has a 25-point lead over Taddeo. An internal poll by Taddeo's campaign released to the Miami Herald showed Garcia has a 21-point lead but with one-quarter of the voters undecided.

Two Republicans who ran against Curbelo in 2014 -- Ed MacDougall and Lorenzo "Larry" Palomares-Starbuck -- said that a Republican plans to file against Curbelo. The two men wouldn't identify the challenger but Palomares-Starbuck told the Miami Herald that the person is not an elected official. Both MacDougall and Palomares-Starbuck are Trump supporters while Curbelo is not a fan of Trump and suggested he might be a ringer for Hillary Clinton.

Mitch McConnell says he's doing everything he can to get Marco Rubio to run for re-election


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell left no doubt that he is trying to convince Sen. Marco Rubio to run for another term.

During an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told host Joe Scarborough that “we’re trying to draft Marco to run again.”

Scarborough asked if he thinks Rubio will run again.

“I hope so,” McConnell said. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage him to run.”

McConnell’s comments come five days after U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said “strongly encouraged” Rubio to reconsider his decision and seek re-election.

"I understand the argument and the people who are coming forward and asking me to reconsider are people I respect and enjoy serving with," Rubio said last week. "But I have a really good friend running for the Senate who I think is a good candidate, who I think gives us a real good chance to win if he were to be nominated."

Rubio was referring to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican who is one of five Republicans running in the Aug. 30 GOP primary.

For much-traveled Gov. Rick Scott, ceremonial bill signing No. 10

Gov. Rick Scott must be getting to like these ceremonial bill signings, where local leaders are invited to help him celebrate enactment of a bill already signed into law. Tuesday marked a ceremonial two-fer.

Scott planned stops in two TV markets, Naples and West Palm Beach, to twice ceremonially sign a bill that creates a dedicated source of money for restoration of the Everglades, a program the Legislature branded as the Legacy Florida Initiative.

In each of the past two years, Scott has signed the state budget -- the most important bill of any session -- in private, with no lights, cameras or questions. But Tuesday's dual ceremonies bring to 10 the number of victory lap events this year compared to two in 2015 for a governor widely seen as laying the groundwork for a U.S. Senate candidacy two years from now.

That's a lot of blue Sharpie pens, which Scott hands out as souvenirs after a signing ceremony.

The subjects, dates and places of Scott's previous 2016 bill signing ceremonies were for Israel (April 6 in Boca Raton); veterans (April 7, Palm Beach); tax cuts (April 13, Jacksonville); Holocaust memorial (April 18, Davie); rape kits (April 21, Tampa); benefits for fallen officers (April 25, Orlando); college affordability (May 23, Boca Raton again) and mental health and substance abuse funding (May 25, Miami).

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the target of another payday loan ad

via @learyreports

The hits keep coming for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will now face another TV ad campaign over her support for payday lenders.

Allied Progress said today it was putting $100,000 behind this ad that will run in Wasserman Schultz's district as she faces Democratic primary opponent Tim Canova.

This is the second time the liberal group has run ads against Wasserman Schultz and is part of a broader campaign against payday leders. Allied Progress is planning to run ads against either Rep. Alcee Hastings or Patrick Murphy over the political contributions they have gotten from the industry.

More from Politifact: "Debbie Wasserman Schultz attacked for bank donations and position on payday loan bill"

"Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz trusts that the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), regardless of whether this bill becomes law, will ultimately do what's right," spokesman Ryan Banfill said. "The ad, like all the others, intentionally takes her out of context. Here's what Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz actually said: Payday lending is unfortunately a necessary component of how people get access to capital that are working poor. She also said that what we really need to do is increase the minimum wage to $15/hour so payday loans aren't necessary.

"This is a PAC masquerading as a consumer group. The group apparently has decided they can't win a debate without resorting to distortions and bullying. That's unfortunate for the people who just want to responsibly pay their bills but are short on cash. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will continue to fight hard to protect consumers as her constituents know she always has."

Below is the interview used in the ad:

Alan Grayson weds Dena Minning, who's seeking to replace him in Congress



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got married over the Memorial Day weekend to his fiancee Dena Minning, the candidate who's seeking to replace him in the race for Florida's 9th Congressional District.

Grayson's campaign confirmed the wedding, held in Melbourne Beach, in a statement this morning.

“Rep. Alan Grayson and his wife Dr. Dena Grayson had a small, private wedding ceremony Sunday evening, with friends and family in attendance to celebrate their union, in the Florida beach town where Dena grew up," spokeswoman Brook Hines said.

Minning, also a Democrat, revealed the marriage on social media late Monday by updating her Twitter and Facebook accounts to reflect her married name.

She also updated her Facebook profile photo to one of her and Grayson, with the caption: "My handsome, brilliant, and amazing husband, Alan Grayson!!"

The Orlando Political Observer first reported on the nuptials Monday night.

It's the third marriage for Grayson, who finalized a messy and highly publicized divorce last year from his second wife, Lolita Grayson. That marriage was annulled last summer.

May 30, 2016

Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz hold dueling bagel events in Broward

Get ready for Democrats Tim Canova and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to schmear each other Tuesday morning at dueling bagel events.

It started when Wasserman Schultz announced she would hold a bagel fundraiser hosted by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank -- co-chair of the Democratic rules committee for the convention -- at Oceanfront Investments on Las Olas Boulevard at 8 a.m. The maximum donation is $5,400. 

That prompted Canova to fire back a campaign email with the header "$5,400 for a bagel?"

"There’s a pretty good breakfast place near our headquarters where you can purchase a bagel for $1.35. Including schmear," Canova's fundraising email stated.

At the same time as Wasserman Schultz's fundraiser, Canova will host a free bagel event at Family Bagels of Long Island in Cooper City.

Canova, of Hollywood, and Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, are battling in Congressional District 23 which spans from Weston to northern Miami-Dade. The race somewhat mirrors the Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Canova has the backing of Sanders and argues for campaign finance reform, has focused on small dollar online donations and has the backing of Democracy for America, Howard Dean's group. Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, has the backing of the establishment including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Canova has drawn considerable national media attention since Sanders recently endorsed him and his campaign has raised more than $1.5 million -- a hefty sum for a first-time candidate. And Wasserman Schultz has drawn criticism in her role as DNC chair particularly by the Sanders campaign which has accused her of favoring Clinton -- a charge she denies. But working in her favor: Clinton won District 23 -- and the state of Florida -- in a landslide.

There have been no publicly released polls in the district so it is difficult to assess his chances. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March and has not released an updated total.