July 21, 2010

New group attacks Crist as a flip-flopper

A new political group entered the Florida U.S. Senate race Wednesday with an attack on Charlie Crist as a flip-flopper.

The American Action Network -- a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)4 nonprofit group which doesn't disclose donors -- is running the 30-second TV spot in the Tampa market and the Panhandle. (The group also debuted a website changingcharlie.com.) The ad kicker: "You can’t trust Charlie Crist to fight for jobs … unless it’s his own job." Sound familiar Marco Rubio?

July 09, 2010

Allen West's campaign warchest soars

Allen West, the outspoken black Republican trying to oust Democratic Congressman Ron Klein, has beaten his own fundraising record.

West raked in about $1.4 million for the most recent quarter, said his campaign manager Josh Grodin. That's a big leap from his last quarter when he raised almost $840,000. West's new total is just shy of $3.5 million and as of June 30 he had $2,182,000 cash on hand.

"South Floridians and all Americans are fed up with business as usual in Washington," Grodin said. "In particular, our district has a Congressman who has voted with Nancy Pelosi 98% of the time. Citizens are tired of politicians like Ron Klein, and are looking for leaders like Allen West.”

West has been ahead of Klein in fundraising for this cycle -- the most recent reports on the Federal Election Commission website through April showed that West had raised about $2.06 million while Klein had raised $1.86 million. But Klein has been dramatically ahead in cash on hand: $2.6 million for Klein while West had about $1.1 million.

The new reports aren't due to the FEC until July 15. Klein's campaign has not released his figures.

June 25, 2010

McCollum acknowledges raising money for two 527s

Attorney General Bill McCollum filed disclosure forms Friday acknowledging he is raising money for two federal 527 political committees: Florida First Initiative and the newly created Sunshine Freedom Fund.

McCollum campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said he began soliciting contributions only recently and made the filing subject to a state law that requires elected officials and candidates to follow tougher disclosure rules. And Campbell rejected the idea that the filings -- which come after weeks of scrutiny -- reflect an admission that the campaign needed to disclose the information earlier, as rival Rick Scott has argued.

Scott formed his own federal 527 to circumvent the state's spending caps and filed his paperwork Wednesday. McCollum is no where near the $24.9 million ceiling but established the separate political groups in order to raise unlimited contributions to attack Scott.

June 24, 2010

Scott's 527 begins advertising blitz

Beginning Friday, expect to see a television commercial attacking Bill McCollum courtesy of Rick Scott's new federal 527 political committee, Let's Get to Work.

The $1.5 million buy is the largest single TV ad blitz (through July 2) from an independent political group to date and brings the total spent in the GOP primary to $23.3 million. It will saturated most markets except Miami and North Florida.

Unlike the 527s linked to McCollum, Scott filed the necessary paperwork with the Division of Elections to disclose his part as a fundraiser. And the committee established the required website, letsgettowork.net, though it doesn't yet list donors and contributors.

527 cash pours into the GOP governor's race

Expect more negative hits on Rick Scott as groups tied to Bill McCollum, his GOP rival in the governor's race, look to spend more big bucks.

The Florida First Initiative bought nearly another million in TV time for a June 24 to July 2 bombardment -- in the political group's largest salvo to date. The $900,000 buy brings the group's total spent on TV advertising to $1.9 million.

This comes as a new 527 backed by McCollum supporters, Citizens Speaking Out Committee, appears poised to launch its own attacks on Scott. One of the group's top benefactors: incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a key McCollum ally. (He follows his House counterpart, future Speaker Dean Cannon, who put money into Florida First.)

Haridopolos' political committee, Freedom First, sent the Citizens Speaking Out $435,000 in the last month after receiving three $500,000 from three Broward County donors who support McCollum, according to the News Service of Florida.

June 23, 2010

Another Democrat for Crist

A Tampa lawyer and Democratic fundraiser who worked as finance director of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's successful 2006 campaign, Jeff Lieser, is telling donors that he has put his law practice on hold to oversee Gov. Charlie Crist's "Democratic fundraising efforts." 

Crist has been stepping up his Democratic outreach since he left the Republican party two months ago to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.

Lieser is circulating an invitation to a fundraiser Thursday in Parkland at the home of Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, who has been linked to indicted fundraiser Alan Mendelsohn. Download Parkland

June 21, 2010

New memo links McCollum campaign to shadow political group

UPDATED: Attorney General Bill McCollum continues to distance himself from two shadowy political committees running negative advertisements against his opponent, Rick Scott, but more evidence is surfacing about his campaign's close ties to the groups.

The latest is an email obtained by the Times/Herald that asks McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams "for final approval" of the attack ad run by the Alliance For America's Future.

Dated May 25, the memo was sent from a Philadelphia area media producer to Williams, John McLaughlin (McCollum pollster), Arthur Finkelstein (McCollum consultant), two McCollum media producer staffers and Mary Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who runs the Alliance, a 501(c)4. It asks for approval before the ad is sent by Marianne Campbell, McCollum's media buyer.

The memo is not the first link between McCollum and the Alliance. McCollum is also intimately connected to The Florida First Initiative, a 527 group also airing attack ads against Scott.

Continue reading "New memo links McCollum campaign to shadow political group" »

June 14, 2010

Documents show McCollum's ties to shawdowy political group

UPDATED: Attorney General Bill McCollum is using his name to solicit contributions for the Florida First Initiative, which is airing attack ads against rival Rick Scott (see below),despite his campaign's suggestion that they are not affiliated.

New documents obtained by the Times/Herald show that McCollum's name is being used in the political group's fundraising pitch and his campaign finance director, Carrie O'Rourke, is involved in the solicitation. "Bill McCollum asked that I forward this information to you," the email solicitation reads, followed by the group's M&S Bank in Gainesville account number.

McCollum, who prides himself on his public disclosure record, could not be reached for comment because he is fundraising in South Florida. His campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell wouldn't answer questions other than to say Florida First Initiative "is not run by our campaign."

As it appears now, the political group -- called a federal 527 under IRS tax code -- is unregistered in Florida, which flies in the face of the new campaign finance law, but does not violate it.

When a Cabinet official who solicits directly (or indirectly) on behalf of a 527, he or she must file a disclosure with the Department of State. McCollum has filed no such disclosure.

See the attack ad, "Refused," here.

June 03, 2010

Who is Jim Greer's mystery benefactor?

One of the most mysterious elements of the affidavits in the Jim Greer case is the unnamed Republican Party donor who gave the indicted chairman $10,000 for 18 months. Greer apparently "pleaded for financial help" given his debts, which at one point hit $25,000, investigators said.

The Florida political world is abuzz with speculation about the identity with typical guesses fingering convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and major GOP donor Harry Sargeant III, who was named in a federal criminal indictment. (Sources tell us Rothstein is not the donor.)

Gary Lee, a Florida GOP committeeman, told the Times/Herald that this is a key point for federal authorities investigating the finances surrounding Greer and the Republican party. "I know the bureau is keenly interested in that," Lee said Thursday.

He said FBI agents questioned him on the matter recently but he didn't know the identity of the donor. He said authorities are looking at possible charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and possibly campaign finance law violations. "They aren't done yet," Lee said.