November 24, 2015

Miami for-profit college owner goes to prison, had ties to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings


Miami for-profit college operator Alejandro Amor had a 54-foot yacht, a $2 million waterfront home, and his own private plane.

Now he’s headed to prison.

On Tuesday, a Miami federal jury convicted Amor of 12 counts of theft of government money, and one count of conspiracy. He will be sentenced on Feb. 3.

Before being raided by the FBI in 2012, prosecutors say FastTrain admitted roughly 1,300 students who didn’t have high school diplomas — using fraud to make the government think the students were eligible for financial aid.

In return, FastTrain received $6,560,000 in Pell grants and student loans for those students. For-profit colleges are known for aggressive recruiting, but FastTrain turned it up a notch. Ex-employees told investigators that Amor boosted enrollments by hiring former strippers as recruiters, some of whom wore “short skirts and stiletto heels” to work.

Amor allegedly told one employee to “hire some hot mommas” and “hire the sluttiest girls he could find.”

When it came to high school diplomas, FastTrain took advantage of lax federal rules that are vulnerable to abuse. A college that wants to enroll non-eligible students can accept diplomas from a “diploma mill” school — and there is no federal or state of Florida list that identifies known diploma mills.

Some accreditors allow their colleges to simply take a student’s word that they finished high school. The student signs an “attestation” that they have a diploma, and no further verification is done.

More here.

August 13, 2015

Alcee Hastings on Iran: 'I cannot support this deal'

via @learyreports

Another Florida Democrat, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, has come out against the Iran nuclear deal.

“After careful review, I have decided that I cannot support this deal," Hastings said in an op/ed in the Palm Beach Post.

“The goal of the recently concluded negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The negotiators worked diligently, but in the end, the JCPOA allows Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state while simultaneously reaping the benefits of relief from international sanctions.

“Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to approximately 6,100 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges for a period of 10-15 years. However, after this time passes, Iran will again have the ability to pursue its nuclear program with more advanced centrifuges. Iran simply needs to be patient and it will once again have the ability to enrich uranium."

Last week, Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said he opposed the deal as well.

One to watch: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. The DNC chairwoman is undecided and facing enormous pressure on both sides.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

May 20, 2015

Roll Call: Broward Democrat wants raise for members of Congress

From Roll Call (published Monday):

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings made the politically tone-deaf case for raising salaries for members of Congress Monday, pointing to the high cost of living in the District of Columbia.

“Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” the Florida Democrat said at a Rules Committee meeting, referring to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary. “We aren’t being paid properly,” he later added.

The committee was considering the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which sets the spending levels for Congress and legislative branch agencies. The bill includes a freeze on member pay, continuing one that has been in place since 2010 — and last year drew the ire of then-Rep. James P. Moran.

More here.

March 09, 2015

Alcee Hastings claim about dildos and Marco Rubio claim about ISIS were among PolitiFact Florida's top 5 in February

In February, the long list of GOP presidential contenders -- including Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush -- dominated the political scene in Florida. We also saw state legislators hold hearings in advance of the March session where they are wrestling with controversial topics, including school tests and whether to allow firearms on college campuses.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read about our most popular fact-checks in February including a claim by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings about a dildo law in Texas and a claim by Rubio about ISIS.

March 06, 2015

As Obama and nation mark 50th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday, a look back at voting rights fact-checks

This week marks the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" -- the day police beat voting-rights activists as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and nearly one-fifth of Congress will be in Selma this weekend to mark the anniversary.

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of peaceful protesters set out to march for voting rights. But as depicted in the movie Selma released earlier this year, police met them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and attacked them with clubs, whips and tear gas. Selma became a turning point in the civil rights movement, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act just five months later under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The law was designed to prevent the denial of voting rights based on race.

In recent years, PolitiFact has fact-checked a wide variety of claims on voting rights, including statements made by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as by politicians including Gov. Rick Scott. Here’s a look at some of our fact-checks from PolitiFact Florida.

February 13, 2015

The Alcee Hastings' Truth-O-Meter file: claims about dildos, guns and voting rights

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., recently upped his profile as an outspoken and provocative liberal when he bashed Texas as a "crazy" state.

At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it."

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said Hastings’ comment was "defamatory," setting off a battle later parodied on The Daily Show.

Then, on Feb. 5, Hastings gave an interview to CNN in which he cited Texas law to bolster his case that the state is "crazy."

Hastings is a former federal judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of bribery charges in 1983, later impeached by the House of Representatives, and removed from the federal bench in 1989 by the Senate.

Neverthless, he was elected to Congress in 1992 and represents District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings, a resident of Miramar, is one of Broward County’s longest serving politicians and plans to seekre-election in 2016.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story about our fact-checks of Hastings' recent claims and one he made during the 2012 noncitizen voter purge.

February 12, 2015

Alcee Hastings' Pants on Fire claim about shooting bears

Crazy ol’ Texas, a Democratic congressman from Florida said and reaffirmed last week, initially noting the Republican-led Lone Star state left it to the federal government to set up its online marketplace for residents to shop for health insurance in keeping with the Obamacare law.

How crazy? There’s a Texas law, said Rep. Alcee Hastings, who represents a South Florida district, restricting the number of dildos a person may buy; Mostly False, PolitiFact Florida found.

In an interview with CNN, Hastings also let loose that there's a Texas law "that you can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window." We spotted  the bear comment in CNN’s Feb. 5, 2015, news story; it came from the network’s telephone interview of Hastings.

Whoa (or whatever it is Floridians holler when they’re riding their gators). Turn to PolitiFact Texas for the rest of this fact-check.

February 06, 2015

Texas and dildos and bears, oh my! Alcee Hastings insists Texas is 'crazy,' also bashes Florida


U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, enjoying more national press coverage than he has in years, has doubled down on his comment from earlier this week calling Texas "crazy."

In a CNN interview, Hastings elaborated on his remark.

"One of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things, and if that ain't crazy, I don't know what is," the Miramar Democrat said. It's unclear what "things" Hastings was referring to.

He also cited a supposed Texas law that says people "can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window," according to CNN's post.

"I love Texans, but I do not like their policy makers who are in the majority," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is, evidently, I touched a nerve deep in the heart of Texas. And I would ask them to tie a yellow rose around it and do like Frozen and 'Let it go.'"

Hastings has ignored the Texas congressional delegation's request for an apology. He seems to be cherishing the spotlight -- even if it meant CNN noted the former federal judge was impeached and removed from office.

The congressman also revealed that, as it turns out, he doesn't really like his home state of Florida, either. Hastings has represented Florida's 20th District since 1992.

"Consider the fact that I'm a native Floridian, and that I dislike it," he told CNN. "Listen, I wouldn't live in a lot of places. Texas happens to be one of them. I have cautioned about living in Florida, and I'm not so they're I'm going to stay there."

February 05, 2015

Alcee Hastings calls Texas 'crazy.' Jon Stewart weighs in.


"We're run by children," comedian Jon Stewart concluded Wednesday night when he gave The Daily Show treatment to a now-infamous exchange starring U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Democrat.

In case you weren't glued to C-SPAN's Monday night coverage of the House Rules Committee, the fireworks started when Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess said President Obama's administration "hid the ball" on the Affordable Care Act. The debate was over states like Texas and Florida choosing not to create their own insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

"Had the administration worked with the governors! Had the governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position," Hastings responded. "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with -– and I mean that just as I said it."

("You're from Florida and you're calling Texas crazy?" Stewart said.)

Hastings was interrupted by the committee chairwoman's gavel. Burgess was insulted.

"The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state, and I will not stand here and listen to it," he said.

"Well, fine. Then you don't have to listen," Hastings fired back. "You can leave if you choose. I told you what I think about Texas. I wouldn't live there for all the tea in China. And that's how I feel."

He continued. But then Burgess got the floor back.

Burgess: "I'm used to attacks, invective being tossed my way. That's part and parcel of the territory. But there is no reason at all to impugn the people, the governor, of a state of this country, and I will await the gentleman's apology."

Hastings: "You will wait until hell freezes over for me to say anything in an apology. I would apologize to you if I was directing my comments to you..."

By Tuesday, all 25 members of Texas' congressional delegation had demanded an apology, and issued this statement, according to the Houston Chronicle: "Don't mess with Texas."

The relevant portion in the video below starts at about 4:35.

January 24, 2013

Will botched transparency contract spawn reforms of how legislators govern themselves?

A botched $5.5 million state contract for a transparency web site, signed in secret by the chief of staff of a former Senate president, may have an unintended consequence: forcing legislators to follow the rules they require of everyone else.

Members of the Senate Government Operations and Accountability Committee declared the Transparency 2.0 web site an unlikely survivor as the committee moves to merge nine transparency web sites. The Senate let the contract lapse Dec. 31 and the committee is working to find a replacement. But the committee said the secretly-signed contract could force the Legislature to change its ways.

“We need to go a step further and make sure this doesn’t happen again,’’ said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, referring to the no-bid contract signed in 2011 between Spider Data Systems and Steve MacNamara, the former general counsel and chief of staff for former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Continue reading "Will botched transparency contract spawn reforms of how legislators govern themselves?" »