April 16, 2015

Judge detains Sen. Menendez ally Salomon Melgen in Medicare fraud case

A wealthy South Florida eye doctor won’t be able to practice medicine for the foreseeable future after a federal magistrate judge Thursday ordered that Salomon Melgen be detained before trial.

Melgen — already charged in a public corruption case with his close friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez — remained behind bars Thursday on a newly filed Medicare fraud indictment after prosecutors argued he was a flight risk to his native Dominican Republic.

“His ties to the Dominican Republic are very strong,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell told Magistrate Judge James Hopkins. She noted that Melgen has a boat at his North Palm Beach waterfront home, lots of cash, citizenship in the Dominican Republic, a resort villa and other assets there and connections to officials in that country.

“He could flee to the Dominican Republic or to another country for that matter,” said Bell, adding that the DR has an extradition agreement with the United States but it doesn’t include a provision for a possible fugitive accused of healthcare fraud.

More here.

April 14, 2015

Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change

@PatriciaMazzei

The trio of Miami Cuban-American Republicans in Congress -- Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- were quick to denounce the White House's decision Tuesday to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has 45 days to block the action, if it can find enough support -- a veto-proof majority -- to do so, which seems unlikely.

Here are statements from the three representatives:

Continue reading "Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change" »

April 11, 2015

Annette Taddeo says she'll establish 'residence' in Florida Keys

@PatriciaMazzei

In addition to moving into the congressional district she wants to represent, Democrat Annette Taddeo said she plans to establish a "residence" of some sort in the Florida Keys.

Taddeo indicated to the Keys' US1 Radio this week that she might move to the Keys or have a second home there, as part of her campaign for the 26th congressional district.

"I do plan on setting up residence in the district, and having a residence in the Keys," she told Morning Magazine host Bill Becker. "Honestly, I don't just want to show up and fly over [the Keys] and spend a day. I want to see people at the grocery story. I want to be a part of the community."

She said she would not let Republican incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo attack her over her current residence, in Pinecrest. "That's silly," she said.

Taddeo went on Becker's show two days after backing out of an interview that had been scheduled for the day after she jumped in the 2016 race. Becker pointedly criticized her for her absence, which her staff had attributed to her being "tired."

He didn't bring up the incident Thursday, but Taddeo did: "I want to say, the only thing I'm tired [of] is just Washington and the dysfunction in Washington."

April 08, 2015

USA Today: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul were careful with Senate office travel

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have apparently concluded that politics and Senate business don't mix.

Senators are allowed to mix political and official travel and bill taxpayers for a portion of the costs, but the two GOP senators have avoided doing so while building national profiles over the past several years.

USA TODAY has reported in recent weeks that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — who has announced that he will run for president — and former senator Hillary Clinton used taxpayer funds from the Senate offices to travel around the country on trips that had a political component. Such expenditures are legal, and The Washington Post opined that the senators' use of mixed-purpose trips was "like everyone else."

But Rubio and Paul have avoided taxpayer-funded mixed-purpose trips in the run-up to the 2016 campaign season. Paul announced his presidential campaign Tuesday, and Rubio is expected to follow suit next week. Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy imminently.

More here.

April 07, 2015

In nasty divorce, Rep. Alan Grayson and wife agree to annulment

From the Associated Press:

ORLANDO, FLA. -- U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and his wife have agreed to annul their 24-year marriage as they continued talks on a settlement, ending an acrimonious divorce process that had included allegations of bigamy, financial abandonment and battery.

The agreement was announced Tuesday by a judge in a Florida courtroom at the start of a hearing that had been scheduled to determine whether their marriage should be voided because Lolita Grayson was married to another man when they wed. That bigamy hearing was put on hold with the annulment announcement.

Lolita Grayson's attorney refused to comment after the hearing. She had claimed in court papers that she was divorced from her first husband when she married the congressman in 1990. They have five children.

Alan Grayson's attorney said they were close to reaching a settlement.

More here.

April 06, 2015

FL-26 fight begins: Republicans call Annette Taddeo 'obsessed' with running for office

@PatriciaMazzei

It took less than 90 minutes after Annette Taddeo announced her candidacy for Congress for national Republicans to step in, marking the unofficial launch of what will be an intense race for one of the country's most competitive districts.

"Annette Taddeo is so desperate to run for office that she's now running in a district where she doesn't even live," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said in a statement emailed to reporters. "This is a new level of desperation for Taddeo, who seemingly can't kick her obsession with running for office regardless of what or where it is."

Taddeo followed her announcement, delivered via a news release, with a fund-raising appeal to suporters, telling them of her plans to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and asking them for money. She freshened up her Twitter profile and launched a bare-bones website.

"My story is like so many of your stories," her pitch read. "You can bet I'll use that determination to stand up for all of us in Congress."

The pitch, it should be noted, says it was "Paid for and approved by Charlie Crist." Taddeo was Crist's running mate in last year's gubernatorial race, and he is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for her in Miami on Thursday. But it's unclear why her email would be approved by him (perhaps a clerical error?). We've asked for an explanation and will update this post once we receive a response.

UPDATE: Not a clerical error: It appears that Crist gave Taddeo the email list from last year's race for her to use in her new campaign. Taddeo's camp, probably on a lawyer's advice, decided to include a Crist disclaimer on the fund-raising pitch, though other lawyers suggest that approach is unusual. Either way, Taddeo will likely have to disclose the value of the list as an in-kind contribution to her federal campaign -- and it may be difficult to determine its value.

Taddeo pitch

April 02, 2015

Politico: Alicia Menendez silent on father's trial

From Politico:

Alicia Menendez, a host on the Fusion television network, is not commenting on her father's indictment on federal corruption charges.

Reached by email, a spokesperson for Fusion declined to make Menendez available for an interview. "No comment from her on that," the spokesperson said.

More here.

April 01, 2015

Sen. Bob Menendez indicted in federal corruption case along with South Florida campaign donor

via @jayhweaver

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a powerful New Jersey Democrat, has been charged with conspiring with a West Palm Beach eye doctor in a federal public corruption indictment filed Wednesday.

Menendez, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is accused of accepting private plane flights and other gifts from Dr. Salomon Melgen, a major campaign donor, in exchange for trying to resolve the physician's multimillion-dollar billing dispute with the federal Medicare program.

The Department of Justice filed fraud and bribery charges against Menendez and Melgen in Newark, N.J., capping a two-year probe of his relationship with the ophthalmologist.

Melgen also continues to be under a separate investigation by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach on allegations that his practice over-billed Medicare by millions of dollars.

Melgen's defense attorneys, Anne Lyons and Maria Dominguez, declined to comment on Wednesday.

More here.

March 20, 2015

Carlos Curbelo won't return Aaron Schock money, saying he doesn't have it anymore

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the only South Florida member of Congress who accepted money from U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, the disgraced Illinois Republican who resigned this week, says he won't return the campaign contribution -- because he no longer has the cash.

Democrats have been calling on all Republicans supported by Schock to get rid of the money in light of his resignation over misusing taxpayer dollars. U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Tampa donated to charity the $5,000 he got from Schock's GOP Generation Y Fund political committee.

"As Congressman Jolly said himself, he is returning the $5,000 he received from Congressman Schock because it is in 'an abundance of good faith,'" said Matt Thornton, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman. "Will Republicans return the money and step up in the good faith of the American taxpayer?"

Curbelo received $10,000 from Schock's PAC for his election last year. But the Miami Republican's campaign ended in the red, so the money has been spent.

"If the campaign had rolled over any funds from the 2014 cycle, it would have certainly considered donating the contributions to charity as was done in a previous case," said Nicole Rapanos, who managed the 2014 campaign. "However, the campaign has received no support from the political action committee in question during the current election cycle."

The earlier case Rapanos referred to involved former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm of New York, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges. Curbelo gave the $2,600 contribution he received last year from Grimm's PAC to the Jorge Mas Canosa Middle School PTA.

March 19, 2015

Miami Republican members of Congress oppose Cuban embassy in Washington, citing spies

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives say they don't want to see a Cuban embassy opened in Washington D.C. -- or a Cuban consulate anywhere else in the country -- because it would risk allowing Cuba to spy on the U.S.

There is already a Cuban interests section in D.C., and a Cuban mission to the United Nations.

"We are all too familiar with the Castro regime's efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against their host countries," the members of Congress and several colleagues wrote in a letter Thursday to the U.S. State Department. "We believe that allowing Cuba to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. or consulates will further open the door for their espionage activities." 

They also asked to be briefed in detail about the status of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations.

Signing the letter were Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat and fellow Cuban American, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose father was born in Cuba. Cruz is considering a 2016 presidential candidacy.