July 06, 2015

Former Dolphins player and federal agent Randal Hill to run against U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson

Former Dolphins wide receiver and federal Homeland Security agent Randal Hill will take on U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, in a Democratic primary.

Wilson has represented Congressional District 24 which spans Miami-Dade and Broward counties since 2010.

Hill played professional football between 1991 and 1997 for the Miami Dolphins, the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints. Before playing professionally, Hill played for the University of Miami including their championship team in 1989.

Hill told the Miami Herald in an interview today that he quit his job as an agent with Homeland Security on Friday to run for Congress. He filed his paperwork to run with the Federal Election Commission last week. (Here is his website but it doesn't have anything on it yet.)

Hill said he didn’t have any immediate criticism of Wilson's stances on issues but questioned what she had accomplished for the district.

“If you can tell me what she has done as a Congresswoman than I won’t run,” he said. “One of the first things she did do was she tried to pass a bill for Congressmen or women to wear hats in the House of Representatives. I don’t know how that is helping the community as a sitting politician.”

Wilson is famous for her massive collection of flamboyant hats. After she was first elected to Congress, she said: “The U.S. House rule barring members from wearing hats while in session dates back to the 1800s and can be waived by the speaker.”

PolitiFact Florida rated her claim Half True: the ban did start Sept. 14, 1837 to be precise but Wilson presented no proof that the House Speaker could simply waive the rule -- the House would have had to vote on it.

After retiring from football, Hill worked for the Sunrise Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office before he became an agent for U.S. Customs in 2003. The name was later changed to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).

Hill said he didn’t work on immigration cases.

“I did several disciplines: violent gangs, national security work and protected the homeland, I’ve gone into other countries covertly. I have done intellectual property rights, narcotics, and specialized for the past 7-8 years in financial crimes.”

In 2010, Hill was part of an ICE team that arrested people who peddled counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise as part of  "Operation Faux Bowl" in South Florida, according to an AP article.

Hill has been a registered voter in Broward since 2003. Hill, 45, lives in Davie with his wife Michelle Hill who is an internal medicine doctor including for the Seminole tribe. Although Hill can tap into former football players for donations, Wilson will be a tough incumbent to challenge. He has hired Mainstreet Communications and doesn’t have a campaign manager yet.

Wilson, a former school principal, has long roots in Miami-Dade County. In 1992, she became a school board member and the next year founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a program aimed at dropout prevention. She later became a state representative and was elected to Congress in 2010. Wilson has easily won re-election -- in November she won with 86 percent of the vote.

Wilson’s majority-minority district is home to a large number of Haitians and she has traveled to the country frequently. Wilson is known for her outspoken advocacy for the poor, Haitian-Americans and has spoken out against Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria. In May she sponsored a bill to require vaccinations for all school children unless they have a medical exemption.

Her voting record has been in line with President Barack Obama’s positions -- in 2014 she voted 92 percent of the time in support of his position.

See Wilson’s Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact Florida.

This blog will be updated when we hear back from Wilson’s campaign.


June 29, 2015

Annette Taddeo cites bogeyman Allen West in fundraising email

Former Congressman Allen West is long gone from Florida, but hey when it’s fundraising time is there any better bogeyman for a Democratic candidate?

From a fundraising plea today by Annette Taddeo who is running for Congress in a Miami-Dade/Monroe County swing district against first-term U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

“Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Luján wouldn’t be emailing you if it weren’t important. And believe us: tomorrow’sdeadline is critical. Here’s why:

FIRST: We told you how Congressman Carlos Curbelo has the backing of the Koch brothers and right wing special interests groups.

NOW: We just learned former Congressman Allen West has pledged to support Rep. Curbelo and his reelection campaign.

This is the very same Allen West who said Obama supporters were “a threat to the gene pool” and made numerous inflammatory comments about women.”

West was elected in a Broward/Palm Beach district as part of a tea party wave in 2010 but after redistricting lost his seat in a newly drawn district to Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2012. After losing the election, West became a Fox news contributor and then in November 2014 took a job in Texas as CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

June 25, 2015

Florida politicians react to SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare


The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, allowing Obamacare to continue as it exists today. Here's the reaction from Florida politicians, updated as they come in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida (also 2016 presidential candidate)

I disagree with the Court’s ruling and believe they have once again erred in trying to correct the mistakes made by President Obama and Congress in forcing Obamacare on the American people.

Despite the Court’s decision, ObamaCare is still a bad law that is having a negative impact on our country and on millions of Americans. I remain committed to repealing this bad law and replacing it with my consumer-centered plan that puts patients and families back in control of their health care decisions. We need Consumer Care, not ObamaCare.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, 2016 Republican presidential candidate (also released a video statement)

I am disappointed by today’s Supreme Court ruling in the King v. Burwell case. But this decision is not the end of the fight against Obamacare.

This fatally-flawed law imposes job-killing mandates, causes spending in Washington to skyrocket by $1.7 trillion, raises taxes by $1 trillion and drives up health care costs.  Instead of fixing our health care system, it made the problems worse.

As President of the United States, I would make fixing our broken health care system one of my top priorities.   I will work with Congress to repeal and replace this flawed law with conservative reforms that empower consumers with more choices and control over their health care decisions.

Here is what I believe:  We need to put patients in charge of their own decisions and health care reform should actually lower costs.  Entrepreneurs should be freed to lower costs and improve access to care – just like American ingenuity does in other sectors of the economy. 

Americans deserve leadership that can actually fix our broken health care system, and they are certainly not getting it now from Washington, DC.  

Continue reading "Florida politicians react to SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare" »

June 23, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back advancing Obama trade bill

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped a key trade bill clear a hurdle today, setting it up for final passage.

Both faced opposition.

Nelson was facing pressure from liberals and employee unions to oppose the deal for fear of hurting jobs and wages in the U.S.

Rubio was urged to oppose the deal from at least one tea party group in Florida. A message from the Martin 9/12 Committee urged members to call Rubio and say:

- You OPPOSE the Trade Promotion Authority, and do not believe President Obama can be trusted to negotiate anything that might affect immigration law.

- President Obama has already unilaterally usurped the power that belongs to Congress to change immigration laws, and Congress has NO business giving up more of its authority to him.

- Trade agreements have been used in the past to increase immigration and President Obama is currently negotiating several trade agreements that will encompass three-fourths of the world's economy!

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 17, 2015

Bill Nelson makes good on Stanley Cup push-up bet

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson, born Sept. 29, 1942, this afternoon dropped and did 46 pushups to make good on a bet over the Stanley Cup with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

He was supposed to do 23, the number of goals scored in the showdown between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. But Nelson, who underwent NASA training many years ago and went into space, bargained with Durbin so that he wouldn't have to make a special trip to Tampa for Cuban sandwiches, which were part of the bet.

"Are you up for it?" Durbin asked.

Removing his jacket, loosening his collar and tucking his gold tie into a blue buttondown, Nelson hit the carpet. Durbin counted them off as an amused -- and surprised -- press corps and gaggle of interns looked on.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46."

"Hey!" Durbin shouted at the end. "Thank God that you lost and I didn't. They'd be taking me out of here on a stretcher."

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018, and if there was any doubt about his energy level, he just put that to rest.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 16, 2015

Jeb Bush supporters in Congress serve as TV surrogates

via @learyreports

As Jeb Bush played up his executive experience as governor on Monday, some of his backers in Congress amplified the argument on TV.

On Fox, U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami talked him up, while Rep. John Mica of Winter Park went on CNN. They were asked about Marco Rubioand all offered polite praise but, again, they said Bush has shown he can get things done.

"I love them both," Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that Rubio understood her decision. "Marco is a wonderful man and he's got a great future."



--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 11, 2015

Ex-Rep. Joe Garcia may have known about 'shadow' candidate, court record shows

via @jayhweaver

For nearly five years, former Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia has denied that he knew his onetime campaign manager recruited a “shadow” tea party candidate to run in the 2010 congressional election against Garcia’s Republican nemesis, David Rivera.

But a federal court document disclosed Thursday suggests that Garcia’s former campaign manager, Jeffrey Garcia, communicated with him by email in February 2010 about his illicit campaign strategy.

“If I got a Tea Party candidate in the race, that will improve your odds,” Jeffrey Garcia emailed Joe Garcia, identified as “Candidate A” in the court record.

A week later, Jeffrey Garcia sent Joe Garcia another email entitled: “YOU WILL WIN IF,” followed by a bullet point stating, “Tea Party Candidate (will happen.)”

In April that year, Jeffrey Garcia wrote to the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, stating that “Plan Roli is still moving. I am seeking funding. I have till mid-week next week to execute.”

Joe Garcia, who lost his congressional seat last year, has long denied any involvement in his former campaign manager’s violation of federal election laws. He has not been charged in the FBI-led case brought against Jeffrey Garcia and Arrojo.

“Thank goodness that the emails were finally released,” Joe Garcia's defense attorney, David O. Markus, told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “A review of all of the emails proves that Joe had no knowledge of any illegal activity. As we have said from day 1, Joe has done nothing wrong.” 

More here.

June 05, 2015

Fight over oil drilling off Florida's coast back in Congress

via @CAdamsMcClatchy

WASHINGTON -- Two Florida members of the House of Representatives are joining one of the state’s senators to keep oil drilling far off shore, seeking to stave off efforts to bring the rigs closer to land.

Opposing legislation in the Senate designed to ease drilling restrictions opens the way for a debate over drilling amid worries about the quality of the Gulf of Mexico.

Reps. David Jolly, a Republican from Indian Shores, and Gwen Graham, a Democrat from the Panhandle, introduced legislation late Wednesday that would extend an existing ban on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico through 2027.

The ban, now set to expire in 2022, extends 125 miles off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and as much as 235 miles in some areas.

“It is paramount that we take steps to continue protecting our pristine beaches, our fisheries, our marine sanctuaries and coastal communities from the impact of drilling in the eastern Gulf and devastating events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010,” Jolly said in a statement. “An oil spill off the coast of Pinellas County would be disastrous to our quality of life and our local economy.”

More here.

June 03, 2015

Consumer advocates chide Florida congressional delegation over payday loans


An alliance of consumer advocates has fired back at Florida’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives over its support for the payday lending industry.

“We disagree strongly with any perception on your part . . . that Florida’s regulatory structure provides Florida consumers with a loan that protects them from economic harm,” the advocates wrote in a June 2 letter to Florida’s representatives.

More than twenty groups signed the letter including the United Way of Florida, the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Legal Aid Service of Broward County and Dade Legal Aid.

Payday loans are a form of high-interest credit usually taken out by low-income people who aren’t able to borrow from traditional banks. Many consumers access the loans online. Critics say the loans can be predatory.

In April, all but one member of Florida’s House delegation signed a letter to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau criticizing new, more restrictive rules that the agency had proposed for payday lenders. The legislators urged regulators to instead model their reforms on Florida’s payday lending laws, which they said protect consumers from borrowing too often or paying exorbitant fees.

But the consumer advocates said state laws are not strong enough to protect Floridians from falling into a never-ending “debt-trap,” in which they are compelled to take out a new loan to pay back the old one.

Floridians who use payday loans take out an average of about nine loans a year, according to research conducted by the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit that calls for stronger regulations on the payday industry. The average loan is $250 with an annual interest rate of 312 percent.


Panel of U.S. House Republicans bans funding for U.S. embassy in Havana


WASHINGTON — The White House may be moving quickly to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but House Republicans are trying to put on the brakes as a key panel voted Wednesday to prohibit funding for a U.S. embassy in Havana.

The vote by the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and foreign operations does not prevent the department from designating an embassy in Havana.

But it makes it more difficult.

The U.S. already has a building on Havana’s Malecon waterfront that was the embassy until President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations in 1961.

It is now the home of the U.S. government’s outpost in the communist nation, the Cuban Interests Section. But the building is badly dilapidated, and the State Department told Congress last month that it needs $6.6 million to make improvements for it to function as an embassy.

Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives, among them several Cuban-Americans, fiercely oppose the White House rapprochement with Cuba that began last year and are behind the efforts to block the embassy and appointment of an ambassador.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a member of the funding subcommittee, said that the provision not only prohibits funds for a U.S. embassy but also prohibits support for a Cuban embassy and Cuban consulates in the U.S.

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