December 01, 2014

AG revolving door: Bill McCollum lobbies, Pam Bondi's office helps his client


When the cruise line Royal Caribbean sought to amend a 1997 consumer protection agreement with the Florida Attorney General’s office, it hired a lawyer familiar with the agency’s inner workings.

Former Attorney General Bill McCollum called on the staff of his successor, Pam Bondi. Six months after the June 2013 meeting, Bondi’s office granted McCollum’s request.

Royal Caribbean’s advertised rates would no longer have to include fees for services, like baggage handling and loading cargo. The fees, which can inflate a trip’s cost by more than $100, could be listed separately from the company’s advertised rates.

On at least two other occasions, McCollum met with Bondi’s staff to discuss two more clients — NJOY, an e-cigarette company, and HealthFair, which sells health screenings from mobile clinics.

McCollum isn’t just Bondi’s predecessor; he also leads the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has championed Bondi’s advancement.

McCollum served as vice or acting chairman of the Washington-based group from June 2012 to January 2014, records show. During that period, it contributed $650,000 to Bondi’s re-election campaign, more than 10 percent of what she raised, and chipped in another $16,000 in gifts so she could attend conferences with other Republican attorneys general.

When asked what role he had in those expenditures, McCollum said the staff, not the board, decides how campaign contributions are made. He didn’t address the gifts. Story by Michael Van Sickler here. 


July 19, 2012

Gator's the state reptile; Bill Nelson's the "state liberal," pro-Connie Mack PAC says in ad welcoming Obama to FL

Freedom PAC welcomes President Obama to Florida today with a light-hearted ad that calls Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson the "state liberal." The PAC, which supports Republican challenger Connie Mack, says the ad is running in select markets, which will could include Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Orlando (where Obama is visiting).

The script: "President Obama is taking a break from his liberal agenda to visit Florida... Here's a few things you should know - The state flower is the Orange Blossom. The state reptile is the Alligator. The state tree is the Palm. And the state liberal... is Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson voted for ObamaCare and chose to side with President Obama 98% of the time. Now, you have a choice - support Connie Mack for US Senate."

One little visual error: The ad shows a coconut palm when talking about the state tree. The actual symbol is a the less-iconic-looking sabal palm.

Here's a pic of the sabal palm for all y'all in the upper 48: Picture 7

May 07, 2012

LeMieux's Mack-mocking ad campaign continues, wants congressman to release travel records

George LeMieux's Senate campaign is going after Connie "Half Mack" Mack again, this time over how the congressman bides his time. LeMieux wants his fellow Republican to release his travel records to show whether he spends more time in Florida or in California with his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

The web ad, the second of its kind, tries to make the former senator's son into a cartoon-like lightweight. Whether it works or not will be seen. Mack has the edge in fundraising and name recognition. But he has some baggage as well.

The Mack campaign called the latest ad a "desperate move from the Democrat, trial attorney playbook of attacking someone's marriage and again proves that George can't ever talk about the issues or how to defeat Bill Nelson." The last web ad from LeMieux didn't exactly go viral, racking up just under 7,200 YouTube views since the end of February.

Mack's campaign is boasting about the endorsement of former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and the hiring of Republican adviser Brett Doster, who works for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as well. Between the two, Doster is more important news.


April 18, 2012

Game changer alert: Connie Mack's gotta Super Pac.

Freedom PAC, a new shadow political committee has announced it will be the second of its to play in Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race by supporting Congressman Connie Mack.

Mack, a target of the Super Pac called Saving Florida's Future in February, could use the help. He's losing straw polls these days and his performance has underwhelmed enough fellow Republicans that Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is considering hoping in the race to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson.

While a recent endorsement by the American Conservative Union is some help to Mack, the Super Pac is worth so much more. If anything will keep Atwater from entering the race, it's the prospect of facing a political committee that can raise and spend unlimited sums from corporations to help an opponent.

The SuperPac is also a perfect antidote to the cash-gap between Nelson and Mack, who has $1.3 million in the bank. Nelson's campaign has $9.5 million. Nelson will also be a likely recipient of Saving Florida's Future help.

Continue reading "Game changer alert: Connie Mack's gotta Super Pac. " »

April 13, 2012

Connie Mack's gas prices-are-too-damn-high letter to President Obama


MIAMI - With gas prices soaring to over $4 a gallon in Florida this week, Congressman Connie Mack sent an open letter to President Obama upon his latest visit to Tampa today:
Dear Mr. President:
In the Tampa area today, regular gas is priced at the Sunoco on North 22nd is $4.09 and $4.19 at Bollinger on Tyrone in St. Petersburg. The price of gas has now soared to well over $4 a gallon in Florida, and is poised to climb even higher because your energy policy has failed the American public.

Continue reading "Connie Mack's gas prices-are-too-damn-high letter to President Obama" »

April 05, 2012

Hidden video: Connie Mack criticizes Ryan Plan while pitching Penny Plan

When Congressman Connie said Paul Ryan's budget was a "joke" last week, it was his strongest criticism yet of his fellow Republican's proposal. But it wasn't the only criticism. The liberal group American Bridge obtained/shot hidden video of Mack last week at a tea party meeting where he pitched his penny plan and hip-checked the Ryan plan.

"The Ryan budget, that doesn't balance for 20-24 years. We can't afford to wait that long. We need to get serious about balancing the budget," Mack says in the video (about 4:50 in).

"My plan is the only plan that's in the Congress that would balance the budget within a 10-year window," he said, noting it's supported by senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.


January 28, 2012

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll: Mitt Romney by 11% over Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich swaggered into Florida as a Republican front-runner, but now he’s close to slipping out as an also-ran against a resurgent Mitt Romney.

Gingrich is badly trailing Romney by 11 percentage points, garnering just 31 percent of likely Republican voters heading into Tuesday’s presidential primary, according to a Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll released late Saturday night.

President Barack Obama should be wary as well. Romney beats Obama by a 48-44 percent spread — a lead inside the error-margin, however — in a theoretical general-election matchup, the poll shows.

In the Republican primary, Romney’s lead looks insurmountable. It cuts across geographic, ethnic and gender lines. And the poll indicates Romney’s attack on Gingrich as a Freddie Mac insider is a hit with GOP voters.

“What does Gingrich need to do? I would say Romney would need to implode,” said Brad Coker, pollster with Mason Dixon Research & Associates, which conducted the survey from Tuesday through Thursday.

“If there’s no 11th hour surprise,” Coker said, “this race is looking right now like it’s over.”

Late Saturday, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich, but it's unclear how that could help Gingrich make up such a big deficit.

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — who did not campaign in Florida — are running well behind and have little chance of pulling into serious contention in the nation’s largest swing state, which holds 50 of the 1,144 delegates needed to help secure the GOP’s nomination at this summer’s convention in Tampa.

Late Saturday, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich, but it's unclear how that could help Gingrich make up such a big deficit.

Romney is running strongest in Southeast Florida, from the Keys to the Treasure Coast. About half of all voters favor him here. Gingrich gets about a quarter of the vote. Similarly, 52 percent of Hispanic voters favor Romney, compared to just 28 percent who support Gingrich.

Full story here

Read more here:

January 05, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Florida team

In addition to tapping former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to chair his statewide campaign, Newt Gingrich (or at least, his camp) announced support from other Sunshine State politicians.

Among them: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo (once Suarez's bitter foe) and former Miami state Rep. Luis Rojas.

Read the full press release after the jump.

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June 11, 2011

Kriseman urges Bondi to prosecute travel companies based on new documents

Armed with fresh documents (links below) that show online travel companies may have conspired to avoid paying more than $440 million in taxes in Florida, a state legislator is urging Attorney General Pam Bondi to force the travel giants to pay up.

The issue has been the focus of legal and political fights for years as counties and hotel companies have fought the online companies that sell unused hotel rooms to travelers looking for deals. Counties argue that the companies should pay tourist development taxes on the total cost of the room charged to customers. The online travel companies say they should only pay taxes on the negotiated rate they pay the hotels — not on what they keep in profit.

Former Attorney General Bill McCollum sued Expedia and Orbitz in 2009 for unfair trade practices. But Bondi, who succeeded him in January, put the lawsuit on hold during the legislative session as lawmakers attempted to exempt the travel companies from paying the additional taxes, said Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis.

The bill died, but Bondi has neither revived the stalled lawsuit nor started her own investigation.Download Fla+Atty+General+Bill+McCollum+lawsuit+vs+dot+coms[2]

In a May 17 letter to Bondi, Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, urged her to prosecute the companies based on newly-discovered company documents. The documents show that lawyers for the companies advised their clients since 2003 to “make it as difficult as possible for any state to require us to collect occupancy tax” until they could change the laws to exempt them from paying it. Download Kriseman_letter_to_Atty_Gen_Bondi_-_online_travel_resellers[1] 

Full story here.

Internal company documents and special masters reports here: Download 2003 01 28 Memo to USA Interactive; Download 2003 01 31 Memo to Expedia[1]; Download 2003 07 28 MSB Occupancy Tax Analysis; Download 2006 03 30 Pennsylvania DOR response to John Allan; Download 2008 10 02 Georgia DOR letter; Download 2008 12 03 Columbus GA (Orbitz) Report of Special Master crime fraud order; Download 2009 08 21 EXPEDIA - Report of Special Master.

December 07, 2010

McCollum sues the feds over new water rules

Flanked by the incoming attorney general and incoming agriculture commission, Attorney General Bill McCollum announced Tuesday that the state is suing the federal government for imposing an "unfair" and "capricious" water quality rule.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Pensacola, alleges that the rule by the federal Environmental Protection Agency is "not based on scientifically sound methodology" and were adopted "just to settle a lawsuit" by environmental groups and citizens.

Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and the newly-elected Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said they will continue to lawsuit because they view the newly announced rules a violation of Florida's rights.

The federal government announced in November new water pollution standards that set specific numeric caps on pollutant levels for Florida lakes and rivers. Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who filed the original lawsuit against the federal government for failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, said the challenged by the Republican attorney general on behalf of landowners and agricultural interests was expected.

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