April 03, 2018

Blue Dog Democrats group accepted NRA money. Now they’re giving it back.

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@alextdaugherty

A political fundraising group that seeks to elect moderate Democrats to the House of Representatives is giving back a donation from the National Rifle Association after the Miami Herald questioned the transaction.

The Blue Dog PAC, which has doled out campaign cash to Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist during the 2018 election cycle, said Tuesday it would return a $4,950 contribution from the National Rifle Association’s political arm in July 2017. The PAC will also not cash a $5,000 check from the National Rifle Association given to the Blue Dogs in January 2018, about two weeks before the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Murphy and Crist, who were both in favor of gun-control measures like a ban on assault-style weapons before the Parkland shooting, said they were not aware that the Blue Dogs’ PAC received NRA money during the 2018 election cycle. Murphy and Crist have both received $7,000 in direct campaign contributions from the Blue Dog PAC this election cycle, making it possible that their campaigns received NRA money.

“I am disappointed to learn that the Blue Dogs’ political arm accepted a contribution from the NRA, and I strongly urge them to return the contribution,” Murphy said in an email. “I am proud of the ‘F’ rating I've earned from the NRA. In recent weeks, we have seen historic progress and a major shift in the national conversation about how to prevent senseless gun violence, yet the NRA has continued to put the interests of corporate gun manufacturers above keeping our schools and communities safe.”

Crist echoed Murphy’s call for the PAC to return the NRA money.

“In keeping with the Blue Dog PAC's decision not to accept NRA money, it would be prudent and correct that they return any contributions received this cycle,” Crist said in an email.

Two hours after the Miami Herald asked the Blue Dog PAC to explain why they accepted political contributions from the NRA, an organization that some of its members have publicly denounced, the Blue Dog PAC said it would return the money.

The NRA’s political activity has come under increased scrutiny after the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day. Pro-gun control student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have hammered Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for accepting contributions from the NRA, and organized marches around the world with the intent of changing the nation’s gun laws to include policies like universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Read more here.

January 12, 2018

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to vote against a spending bill (again) unless there's a DACA fix

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@alextdaugherty

The federal government will shut down on January 19 if Congress can't pass a temporary spending bill, and Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen both said they will vote against the legislation, like they did in December, if an immigration deal is not imminent. 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen are frustrated with the pace of negotiations on a solution for 800,000 immigrants, known as Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as young children. Congress must find a legislative solution for Dreamers by March after President Donald Trump announced he will rescind an Obama-era executive order that protected them from deportation. 

"The way things stand today, I plan to keep my commitment to Dreamers and if there’s some breakthrough next week I will consider (voting yes)," Curbelo said on Friday. "If the status quo persists I am going to continue pressuring the leadership in both parties to forge a compromise because 800,000 lives are at risk." 

The two Miami Republicans were the only House Republicans who voted against the bill that keeps the government running due to immigration concerns. If enough Republicans join them, they could gain leverage to forge an immigration deal.

The vast majority of House Democrats voted with Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen against the plan in December, though moderate Florida Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Charlie Crist voted in favor of the spending bill, even though Democratic-leaning immigrant advocacy groups urged Democrats to vote against it. 

October 18, 2017

Crist's visit to a Florida eye doctor comes up in Menendez's corruption trial

Crist

@alextdaugherty

The federal corruption trial into New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen added a new character on Tuesday: current Florida congressman and former Gov. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.

Crist's unannounced 2010 visit to Melgen's home is being used by Menendez's defense team to show that the New Jersey senator was engaged in a political, not personal, relationship when the eye doctor paid for Menendez's flight from New Jersey to Florida. 

Crist, a former Republican who was running as an independent for U.S. Senate in 2010, visited Melgen's home in Palm Beach County on the weekend of Oct. 9, 2010, the same weekend that federal prosecutors allege that Melgen bribed Menendez by paying for his flight on a private jet. 

Melgen's wife, Flor Melgen, testified in federal court on Tuesday that Crist showed up to their home, but Salomon wasn't there. 

“He was looking for my husband. He knew that my husband was Bob’s friend, and he was wondering if he might be with him,” Flor Melgen testified. “I didn’t know he was going to spend the night at my home and I wasn’t prepared.”

Crist dined with Flor and her family before meeting Salomon later in the evening. 

“I had to order food because there was no food prepared at my house,” Flor Melgen said.

Crist was in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek at the time, a race eventually won by Rubio. Crist's spokesperson said in an email to the Miami Herald that his visit to Melgen's house was political in nature. 

"The Congressman was a candidate for the U.S. Senate at the time, meeting with a potential donor," said Crist spokesperson Erin Moffet

Federal prosecutors allege that Salomon Melgen supplied Menendez with private flights, hotel stays, vacations and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official favors. Menendez is a Cuban-American New Jersey Democrat who frequently sides with Miami Republicans that favor a hard line against Cuba. 

Defense attorneys argued that Menendez's Oct. 2010 trip to Florida was political in nature and used Crist's visit to back up their theory. If the trip was political, defense attorneys argue that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee should have reimbursed Melgen instead of Menendez paying for the trip himself.

After Crist spent the night at Melgen's house, he wrote a $100 check to cover his visit, according to Flor Melgen. 

"I was very surprised when he gave me the check," Melgen said. "I asked him why, and he told me it was because of the dinner and because he spent the night at my house."

Prosecutor Monique Abrishami used Crist's check as a way to further bash Menendez during cross-examination. 

“This is a check from Charlie Crist to your husband?” Abrishami said.

“Yes,” Flor Melgen said.

“So at least this politician knows how to pay you back for things?” Abrishami said.

Federal judge William Walls then instructed the jury to ignore Abrishami's remark. 

"What lawyers [do] from time to time...is engage in the practice of a ‘throwaway question," Walls said. "A throwaway question is one that the questioner knows obviously is objectionable and he or she wants to make a point." 

Earlier this week, Walls allowed the trial to proceed on all charges after Menendez's defense team attempted to have the most serious charges thrown out. 

May 12, 2017

When political nemeses Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio teamed up

Crist1_8colvia @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Shortly after the 115th Congress convened, Sen. Marco Rubio invited the Florida House delegation to his office. “Of course I went,” said Rep. Charlie Crist. “I thought it was gracious.”

“I just listened and at the end, I thanked him. He appeared sort of stunned,” Crist recalled. “I said, ‘You may not know this, but your office in Orlando and I are working on getting a Vietnamese husband to America to be with his wife.”

I ran into Crist on the day the House was voting on the Obamacare repeal. He wandered into the lobby, where reporters hang out, looking a little lonely. “I’m just a freshman,” he said, in classic Crist way, when asked how he was adjusting.

“It’s different. Being governor was amazing. But to be in Washington and to have the honor of representing my home, what’s better than that? Any service is an honor.”

Crist, 60, once had White House dreams and was poised to breeze into the U.S. Senate in 2010 until the charismatic young Rubio, 45, upended his world.

But years later, here was Congressman Crist telling an uplifting story of collaborating, in a way, with his nemesis.

Continue reading "When political nemeses Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio teamed up" »

April 23, 2017

Charlie Crist to John Morgan: Run for Florida governor

@PatriciaMazzei

Former Florida governor-turned-congressman Charlie Crist wants John Morgan to run for his old job next year.

Crist told MIami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 that he thinks Morgan -- his old boss -- would win if he seeks the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

"Run. I told him, I said if you run I think you’ll win," Crist said of a conversation last week with Morgan.

Here's a transcript of Crist's interview with "Facing South Florida" with Jim DeFede:

DEFEDE: Your friend John Morgan has talked about possibly running. Do you think he would make a good governor? 

CRIST: I do. I do. I love John Morgan. Not only is he my friend, my lifelong friend now, but he is my former law partner. And I have gotten to know him so much better over the last five years than I did before. He has a great sense of humor. He’s no holds barred. He has a self-assuredness about him that few people do have. And he has a heart of gold. And that’s the most important thing about a good leader. That they lead with heart. It’s good to be smart. It’s good to listen. But if you don’t have the good heart to start with you can’t be a great leader. He has a great heart. He could be a great governor. 

DEFEDE: Are you encouraging him to run? 

CRIST: I just did yesterday [April 16]. 

DEFEDE: Did you really? 

CRIST: Yeah, why not? 

DEFEDE: What did you tell him? 

CRIST: Run. I told him, I said if you run I think you’ll win. And I believe that. And if he doesn’t run, that’s his decision. You know, only each of us can make that kind of a decision. That’s a big deal decision. So if he decides not to I’ll understand that too and wish him the best. I love him.

February 24, 2017

Charlie Crist files for divorce

Charlie and carole crist 2
via @adamsmithtimes

After nine years of marriage, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has filed for divorce.

“I think the world of Carole. She’s an amazing person. It just didn’t work out for us,” the former governor told the Tampa Bay Times. “I wish all the the best for her.”

Crist, 60, said the divorce should have no impact on his service. He and Carole, 47, own a Parkshore condo in downtown St. Petersburg, and details about whether he will continue to live there have yet to be worked out.

Crist met Carole, a glamorous fixture on the New York and Hamptons social circuit, in the fall of 2007 and became engaged in July 2008 when he was a Republican governor widely seen as a top contender to be John McCain’s running mate.

The Crists married in December 2008, and together they worked through a tumultuous period in Crist’s political career: An unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate as both a Republican and then independent in 2010 and then unsuccessful campaign for governor as a Democrat in 2014. In November, he was elected to the U.S. House, representing much of Pinellas County.

Mrs. Crist a top adviser to her husband throughout, and late last year went onto his campaign payroll as his political director.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Joe Burbank, MCT

December 30, 2016

Justice Perry on lingering racism in Florida and the justice system: lynching and the death penalty

James-E-C-Perry-APJustice James E.C. Perry nestled a box of mementos under his arm, pulled his black robe off the hook in his Tallahassee office overlooking a grove of live oak trees, and left his corner office in Florida’s Supreme Court for the last time two weeks ago.

Perry’s nearly eight-year career on the state’s highest court ends Friday. He is forced to retire because, at 72, he has reached Florida’s mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices.

The trail-blazing child of Jim Crow segregation, describes his time on the bench simply: “I kept it real,” he says with a characteristic belly laugh.

He leaves with no regrets and plenty to say. One of his last acts on the court was to author a blistering dissent in a seminal death penalty ruling last week in the case of Mark James Asay. As the court majority upheld the death penalty in dozens of cases prior to 2002, Perry declared that it was an uneven and “discriminatory” application of capital punishment and left the state’s constitutional protections to “little more than a roll of the dice.”

I no longer believe that there is a method of which the State can avail itself to impose the death penalty in a constitutional manner,” Perry wrote in a 10-page dissent.

In many ways, the proclamation was not only a parting shot at one of the most vexing issues before the court, but the culmination of a career by someone shaped in an era he calls “apartheid America” who continues to be pelted by the arrows of racism today.

“There’s a reason the people who led the nation in lynching of black people also lead in electrocutions,” Perry said in an interview with the Herald/Times. “There’s a nexus there.” Story here. 

Top photo: Associated Press; bottom: Perry on his last day in his office in the Florida Supreme Court building. He retires today. By Mary Ellen Klas

August 11, 2016

PolitiFact: Did Carlos Beruff support Charlie Crist after party switch?

 

Florida’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate has turned into mutual finger-pointing over which candidate is possibly more like former Republican Charlie Crist.

A super PAC called the Florida First Project released an ad July 14 calling Sen. Marco Rubio’s primary opponent Carlos Beruff a "Charlie Crist Republican," a major insult among the Florida GOP faithful. The PAC supports Rubio’s re-election bid and is managed by several staffers from Conservative Solutions PAC, which backed Rubio’s presidential run.

"Beruff supported Crist even after he switched parties, and stabbed Republicans in the back," the ad says.

The line refers specifically to the Bradenton developer’s support for Crist’s 2010 Senate campaign against Rubio. Former Gov. Crist switched from Republican to having no party affiliation as Rubio’s campaign gained steam. After losing that race, Crist lost a 2014 re-election bid for governor as a Democrat, and currently is running as a Democrat for a U.S. House seat held by Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores.

Beruff has released his own ad counterattacking Rubio, accusing him of being a "political opportunist" like Crist.

We wondered whether Rubio’s challenge of Beruff’s Republican bona fides was correct. Did Beruff still support Crist after Crist became an independent candidate?

His actions at the time don't indicate Beruff shunned Crist entirely, despite what he says now.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.

August 08, 2016

Rudy Giuliani is still mad at Charlie Crist

APTOPIX GOP 2016 Convention
via @adamsmithtimes

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani phoned The Buzz this morning to welcome Hillary Clinton to Tampa Bay and talk up Donald Trump's vision for the economy, and ripped Clinton, Charlie Crist and President Barack Obama.

"Hillary's going to give us more of the same. She's given Obama and A-plus on the economy. She must be an easy grader," Giuliani said, noting that percentage of Americans participating in the jobs market, 62.8 percent, is the lowest since the 1970s.

Trump is scheduled to flesh out his vision for economic growth at a noon speech in Detroit, including cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent to spur investment, temporarily halting new regulations, and eliminating the estate tax.

"Hillary is the bought and paid for candidate of the Washington special interests," said Giuliani, 72, noting that she is widely seen as having reversed herself on supporting the TPP trade deal and Keystone XL pipeline. "The out of control environmentalists have complete control of her. ... Donald will put coal miners back to work, he will support all forms of energy, which includes natural gas, fracking, nuclear power."

Asked about Trump's plan to build a massive wall across the southern border and have Mexico pay for it, the part-time Palm Beach resident said "a wall could be helpful" as part of a program to stop illegal immigration, but he's not up to speed on Mexico paying its part.

"I don't understand the program by which they would pay for it," he said.

Continue reading "Rudy Giuliani is still mad at Charlie Crist" »

July 20, 2016

Crist disavows rumors that he's on VP short list: 'that's news to me'

Charlie_crist-729215via @mikevansickler

Like most political observers, former Florida governor Charlie Crist thought he had a good handle on who Hillary Clinton was considering for her VP, which she's expected to announce this week, likely during her visit to Florida this weekend. 

But then his phone started ringing from reporters about a tweet from CBC News Alerts claiming that he, Charlie Crist, candidate for U.S. Congress, was in fact on Clinton's short list.

And then, helpfully:

Could it be true?

"That's news to me," Crist told the Herald Times. "I will be at the rally with her in Tampa." 

Continue reading "Crist disavows rumors that he's on VP short list: 'that's news to me'" »