August 25, 2016

Rubio raps FEMA over algae blooms

Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516


Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for again declining to issue a federal disaster declaration in response to toxic algae in Florida's waterways.

"Even though the end to this disaster is not in sight, the President is telling our state we are on our own," the Miami Republican said Thursday in a statement.

Barack Obama did not appear to be involved in the decision. In a brief letter earlier Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate rejected Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of his agency's earlier denial of extra money to help fight the algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee discharges intended to protect its aging dike.

"After a thorough review of all information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event," Fugate wrote to Scott. "Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for an emergency declaration is denied."

The thick algae blooms look like guacamole and smell bad. The algae has fouled Treasure Coast waterways fed by Lake Okeechobee.

"The Administration has chosen yet again to turn a blind eye to the livelihoods of Floridians who are affected by this toxic algae," Rubio said.

For more on Rubio's response:

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press


Read more here:


August 09, 2016

Barack Obama signs fundraising email for Patrick Murphy

Obama (4)


Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign sent out a fundraising plea to supporters today that was signed by President Barack Obama.

The text of the email -- sent just after 11:30 this morning -- largely mirrors a TV ad Obama did last month for the Democratic congressman from Jupiter.

"With all that's at stake, we need Patrick Murphy in the Senate. But he’ll need your help to get there," Obama's email reads. "Patrick stands up to Republicans on behalf of our shared values. It's why they're attacking him. They know he can win in November and help Democrats retake the Senate, and they’ll spare no expense to defeat him."

Murphy has relied heavily on the White House's support in his campaign for Republican Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

In the upcoming Aug. 30 Democratic primary -- where mail-in voting is underway -- Murphy faces U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith. Former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando are also on the Democratic ballot.

Photo credit: President Barack Obama is greeted by, from left, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez upon arriving at Miami International Airport in early June. Andrew Harnik / AP

August 06, 2016

DNC emails reveal controversial reputation of South Florida billionaire


While prominent Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down regularly mock Donald Trump in public, he's not the only wealthy commercial real estate developer to be ridiculed by party operatives.

Stephen Bittel, a Miami Beach businessman who owns and operates more than $1 billion in real estate in South Florida and beyond, isn't the most popular fellow at the Democratic National Committee despite his large donations to the party.

A few of the DNC emails released last month by Wikileaks, which prompted the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman, contain trash-talking about Bittel among folks at top levels of its massive fundraising operation.

Bittel, who is co-chairman of the party's national finance committee, is cited in several emails looking ahead to a May 18 meeting of President Barack Obama with the Coconut Grove resident and a small group of other big donors at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

Two days before the event, DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan and his Mid-Atlantic deputy Alexandra Shapiro were fretting about where to seat Bittel.

"Bittel said this morning he was coming so just plan on it, but he doesn't sit next to POTUS!" Kaplan told Shapiro.

POTUS is the Secret Service code name for President of the United States.

Shapiro quickly responded: "Yes -- Bittel will be sitting in the s-------t corner I can find."

The next day, in another email about seating for the elite fundraiser, Shapiro provided an update to Zach Allen, another DNC regional finance director.

Shapiro zeroed in on Bittel and Henry R. Munoz, a prominent San Antonio architect who is also co-chairman of the DNC national finance committee.

"So Henry and Bittel are both coming to the roundtable (with Obama) as punishment for something I did in a past life," she emailed Allen.

The two operatives mused about seating Bittel next to DNC finance vice chairman Chris Lowe and his wife, comedy writer Bonnie Datt.

"LOL, Chris and Bonnie think Bittel is a character," Allen told Shapiro. "So if you want to go that route, let me know so I can at least forewarn them but they'll be fine and if it makes your life easier, all the better."

In apparent reference to both Bittel and Munoz, Allen added: "I'm sorry you're having to deal with them."

Bittel, chairman of Terranova Corp., is a friend of Wasserman Schultz. He hosted a dinner for her at a Philadelphia restaurant during the Democratic National Convention shortly after she resigned as DNC head.

The Weston lawmaker quit the top Democratic post after some of the emails revealed disparaging comments by DNC aides about Sen. Bernie Sanders, who former Secretary of State Clinton bested to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a separate email exchange, Chadwick Rivard, a top DNC researcher, warned White House aide Bobby Schmuck about another donor with South Florida ties.

Coping the email to a half dozen other DNC operatives, Rivard sent Schmuck a long background description of Palm Beach billionaire George Lindemann Jr., board president of the Bass Museum in Miami Beach who was once an Olympic equestrian hopeful as a highly skilled horse rider.

The biography, part of which came from the Lexis-Nexis database, included Lindemann's 1995 conviction on three counts of wire fraud. That case resulted from a federal probe that found 50 horses had been killed over two decades in acts of insurance fraud.

Lindemann, who has donated to Republican and Democratic politicians, received a 33-month term in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

DNC compliance director Alan Reed, who'd been copied on Rivard's email, rendered his verdict on Lindemann two hours later.

"I vote fail....again," Reed wrote.

To browse the entire Wikileaks trove of 19,252 DNC emails, click here:


August 04, 2016

Zika funding situation 'getting critical,' Obama says


President Barack Obama told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the federal government needs Congress to set aside more money to fight the Zika virus, fast.

"Not only did the Republican-led Congress not pass our request, they worked to cut it, and then they left for summer recess without passing any new funds for the fight against Zika," Obama said. "Meanwhile, our experts at the CDC, the folks on the front lines have been doing their best in making due by moving funds from other areas, but now the money we need to fight Zika is rapidly running out.

"The situation is getting critical. For instance, without sufficient funding, NIH critical trials -- clinical trials could -- and the possibilities of a vaccine which is well within reach -- could be delayed. So this is not the time for politics."

Republicans such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have argued the Obama administration could choose to use funds designated to combat Ebola to combat Zika instead.

Here's a transcript of Obama's remarks:

Continue reading "Zika funding situation 'getting critical,' Obama says" »

July 28, 2016

Obama casts Clinton as rightful heir


PHILADELPHIA -- Twelve years to the day that as a young Illinois state senator he captivated Democrats by embracing the “politics of hope,” President Barack Obama on Wednesday enraptured another political convention — this time reasserting his vision after eight years in the White House.

“I was filled with faith — faith in America,” Obama said, recalling his breakout speech at the 2004 convention. Now, he insisted, “I am more optimistic about the future of American than ever before.”

He wasn’t a future candidate, a presidential nominee or a president seeking re-election. He was a man looking to protect his legacy by entrusting it to his one-time rival, former secretary of state and chosen successor: Hillary Clinton.

“Nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war,” Obama said. “But Hillary’s been in the room. She’s been part of those decisions.”

“Even in the middle of crisis,” he added, “she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”

Once Obama finished, Clinton appeared at the convention in person for the first time. She gave Obama a bear hug, held his hand and waved. The nominee wisely chose to schedule the charismatic president’s speech on a different night from her own.

More here.

July 20, 2016

President Obama speaks to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Zika


The White House said Wednesday President Barack Obama had spoken by phone to Florida Gov. Rick Scott about a suspected case of locally transmitted Zika virus in Miami-Dade County.

Scott has criticized the Obama administration over its Zika response.

Here's what the White House said about the call:

The President spoke by phone today with Governor Rick Scott of Florida regarding the suspected case of mosquito transmission of Zika announced by the Florida Department of Health. This case would be the first documented Zika infection caused by a mosquito in the Continental United States.  The President recognized Florida's strong record of responding aggressively to local outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, and offered Federal support and technical assistance for Florida's ongoing case investigation and mosquito control efforts. He acknowledged Florida's close coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC for Zika preparedness. The President also noted during the call that in addition to the $2 million that CDC has provided to Florida for Zika preparedness, CDC is anticipating it will award Florida $5.6 million in Zika funding through a CDC grant to be awarded this week.

July 19, 2016

Fact-checking the first night of the Republican convention

The Republican National Convention kicked off Monday in Cleveland with a theme of "Make America Safe Again," with a litany of speakers criticizing Hillary Clinton as a dishonest politician who, along with President Barack Obama, endangered Americans.

Exhibit A was the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

In an emotional speech, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four victims, blamed Clinton for her son’s death and praised Donald Trump for being "everything Hillary Clinton is not."

"For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton," Smith said. "I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son."

Beyond Benghazi, speakers from Congress, reality television and law enforcement stressed the need for better border security and supporting the police amid national protests.

Let’s dive into the fact-checks from PolitiFact.

June 27, 2016

PolitiFact: Rick Scott often fails with FEMA requests


In what has become a familiar political two-step, Gov. Rick Scott bashed Washington after he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help but didn’t get it.

Scott specifically blamed President Barack Obama following FEMA’s refusal to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Scott had asked for $5 million to deal with emergency response efforts, medical care and counseling.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration," Scott said in a June 20 press release. "Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency."

He included a list of situations that FEMA has declared a state of emergency, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Flint water crisis and a 2009 order for Obama’s inauguration.

In typical rejection verbiage, FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote in a letterthat Scott’s request "did not demonstrate how the emergency response associated with this situation is beyond the capability of the state and affected local government or identify any direct federal assistance needed to save lives or protect property."

Fugate for years was director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush, including during seven hurricanes over 2004-05.

Scott’s office told us Scott plans to appeal the denial.

His disappointment in FEMA’s rejection isn’t really a fact we can check, but it does highlight Scott’s record of not getting what he wants from the agency.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

June 23, 2016

PolitiFact Florida: Obama's Half True claim about Charlie Crist


Former Gov. Charlie Crist once faced withering criticism for hugging President Barack Obama, but now Obama is returning the favor by embracing Crist’s congressional campaign.

Obama endorsed Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, for a U.S. House seat in a June 20, 2016, statement. He said Crist "has always put people above politics," and proved it during his single gubernatorial term between January 2007 and January 2011 — right as the Great Recession gripped the state following the housing market’s crash.

"As governor, in the face of partisan attacks, he (Charlie Crist) had the courage to save jobs and lead his state into economic recovery," Obama said.

By "courage," Obama means Crist, as a GOP governor, had the chutzpah to accept federal stimulus money from a Democratic president against the wishes of many Florida Republicans.

Is it fair to credit Crist with saving jobs and helping Florida recover? The data during Crist’s term is mixed, experts say, but the state did recover and accepting the stimulus certainly helped.

More here from Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

June 20, 2016

President Obama helps Patrick Murphy in new radio ad


Signaling a new stage in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy unveiled a new radio ad on Monday that features a heavyweight narrator: President Barack Obama.

"In Congress, I could always count on Patrick to have my back. He’s been there for me when I needed him," Obama says, asking listeners to support Murphy in the Aug. 30 primary.

In the ad -- titled "For What's Right -- Obama also hails Murphy as a "strong progressive," while praising several of his policy positions, such as on Social Security and Medicare, health care and criminal justice reform.

The 60-second spot is paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which endorsed Murphy more than a year ago and is prepared to spend millions on his behalf in the campaign ahead. Florida's seat, currently held by Republican Marco Rubio, could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March. They've also already joined the Jupiter congressman on the campaign trail three times this spring -- Obama and Biden with separate trips to Miami and Biden once by himself in Orlando.

Murphy is competing against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith in the U.S. Senate primary.

Listen to the radio ad here:

Continue reading "President Obama helps Patrick Murphy in new radio ad" »