August 22, 2017

Rubio to make special appearance at Curbelo fundraiser

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@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio will help raise campaign money for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday in Bal Harbour.

The evening reception will be held at the home of the Falic family, which has been politically active for years, particularly on issues related to Israel. In the past, family members have supported conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- as well as Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine , a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

An invitation to the fundraiser obtained by the Miami Herald shows contribution levels ranging from $2,700 to $10,400 a person.

Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser, has been ramping up his money efforts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. He's got a fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday with several well-known local Democrats.

August 19, 2017

What the 2018 congressional campaign looks like in 2017

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@PatriciaMazzei

The exasperated man answered the door of his West Kendall home, annoyed at being interrupted from work and hollering at his furry little dog, Sacha, who had rushed to sniff out the unexpected visitors: a pair of high school volunteers holding clipboards and a stack of political fliers.

The volunteers promised they had only three questions. Had he heard of his congressman, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo? (He had.) Which issue — tax reform, the economy, the environment — mattered most to him? (Lower taxes.) Was he familiar with Curbelo’s efforts to combat climate change?

“I don’t believe in that,” the man said in Spanish. “That’s a lie. That’s just normal, in nature.”

The volunteers said thank you. The man picked up his dog and shut the door.

This is what the 2018 campaign looks like — in 2017.

Fifteen months before next year’s congressional midterm elections, political organizations are already involved in field operations, making calls to voters and knocking on their doors in what has become a never-ending campaign cycle.

And in this case, the volunteers sweltering under the summer sun don’t even work for Curbelo.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

August 18, 2017

Former Wasserman Schultz aide indicted

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@amysherman1

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s former information technology aide and his wife have been indicted on bank fraud charges.

A grand jury late Thursday returned an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Imran Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, of Lorton, Virginia, on four counts: conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on a loan or credit application and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Awan, 37, previously had been charged in a criminal complaint with one count of bank fraud. The indictment expanded on the charges and also added Alvi, 33, as a defendant.

The indictment states that Awan and Alvi conspired to obtain home equity lines of credit for $165,000 and $120,000 from a credit union on two properties. They provided false information that the properties were Alvi’s principal residence and second home when they actually rented out the homes. Then, they transferred the proceeds to Pakistan.

More here.

August 15, 2017

Curbelo heads to Reagan Ranch in California to make tax-reform pitch

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to a storied site for Republicans -- former President Ronald Reagan's California ranch -- to help the House GOP make its tax-reform pitch.

Curbelo will join Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and other lawmakers at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy. Curbelo is the only South Florida legislator on the panel -- which makes him the most prominent local voice on the issue.

It's not the sexiest of political topics, Curbelo readily acknowledges: "It's easy for this issue to become a technical issue."

Republicans intend to return from their August congressional recess and push tax reform, moving on from their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan is already running ads in Curbelo's district urging a tax-code rewrite. His votes will be closely watched by Democrats, who consider Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West 26th district a top 2018 target.

The most contentious tax question for Republicans so far has been whether to support a 20 percent tax on imports into the country -- the so-called Border Adjustment Tax. Ads have asked Curbelo to oppose it.

Curbelo said tax reform already taken up most of his time in Washington this year, in part because he's had to master the complexities of tax policy.

"Most of what I knew about taxes was how to file them," he said.

Since then, he's tried to simplify the issue by filming YouTube videos in English and Spanish outside a Miami coffee window -- a ventanita. His line? "Tax reform is about people."

Wednesday's event is intended to recall tax reform passed under Reagan, the last major overhaul of the code. Curbelo's piece will be proposing more targeted child tax credits and a larger standard deduction, two changes the GOP says will save families money. Curbelo has also filed legislation to permanently extend IRS tax-prep services for low-income filers, and and to allow marijuana businesses to benefit from tax deductions and credits.

Ahead of Wednesday's talk, Curbelo tried to frame the discussion as a big-picture economic question.

"I actually look at a lot of the pessimism and anger and even some of the violence in our country, and I attribute at least part of it to the fact that we've been growing at a very slow rate for the last decade-plus," he said. "People are hopeless. A lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunities, or have a prosperous future in this country, so they are resentful and they look for scapegoats."

"My big goal in tax reform is to make people happy in this country," he said. "I think we achieve that by getting to 3 percent growth through tax reform and tax simplification and tax reduction."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

August 13, 2017

Venezuelan lawmaker may have issued death order against Rubio

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@PatriciaMazzei

One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government, according to intelligence obtained by the U.S. last month.

Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami.

Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio.

At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello — who has long been suspected by U.S. authorities of drug trafficking — is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.”

The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo, designated “law enforcement sensitive” but not classified, was obtained by the Miami Herald.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

August 09, 2017

Democrats on Curbelo: 'His town hall schedule doesn't exist'

@PatriciaMazzei

National Democrats are using the August recess -- Congress' longest break of the year -- to campaign against the lawmakers the part plans to target in 2018, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Democrats' familiar line of attack: that Republicans aren't holding enough town-hall style meetings.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has created websites it plans to promote on Google ads purportedly linking to (in this case) Curbelo's town hall schedule. When users click on curbelotownhallwatch.com, they're taken to a page set to look like a 404 web error.

"Whoops! His town hall schedule doesn't exist!" 

There's then a countdown clock saying Curbelo, a sophomore, hasn't held a town hall in "707 days."

Curbelo, however, would likely point this periodic "tele-town halls," which allow constituents from his Westchester-to-Key West district to call in at a set time and take turns asking the congressman questions. Those conference calls, of course, aren't open to the broader public -- and so can't draw protests or other potentially negative attention.

"Congressman Curbelo's vote to rip away healthcare from Miami families shows he's heartless, his refusal to hold a town hall and answer for the Washington-Republican agenda he's supporting shows he's a coward," DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement.

UPDATE: Curbelo campaign spokesman Chris Miles countered that the congressman often holds private meetings in person with people who want to ask him questions:

"Carlos is one of the hardest working representatives and regularly meets with his constituents," Miles said in a statement. "Just last week he hosted many residents at our district offices in Key West and Miami. All this in addition to his tele town halls which have reached tens of thousands of constituents."

August 08, 2017

Potential gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis to talk taxes in Miami

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@alextdaugherty 

 

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Verda Beach, a potential candidate for governor in 2018, is swinging into South Florida to talk about the next big item facing Congress: a comprehensive tax overhaul.

DeSantis will speak at an "Un-Rig the Economy" town hall event at the Miami Airport Sheraton on August 24th in conjunction with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.

Conservatives like DeSantis and Americans for Prosperity are aiming to drastically reduce the country's corporate tax rate, change personal tax rates and revamp tax deductions for the first time since Ronald Reagan's administration. 

"We hope the rest of the Florida delegation will join Congressman DeSantis in fighting back against the current rigged tax system by joining our effort to pass pro-growth tax reform," said AFP Florida director Chris Hudson in a statement. "Americans want a system that’s based on simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and creates no new burden on taxpayers. We want to speak directly to Floridians who want to help fix our broken tax code."  

Americans for Prosperity and Republicans in Congress are pushing for a tax plan by the end of the year, but it will be harder to pass a tax overhaul that doesn't require 60 Senate votes after the effort to repeal Obamacare stalled two weeks ago. A tax plan can only pass with a simple majority if the legislation doesn't increase the federal deficit after 10 years, and repealing Obamacare would have shaved billions off the deficit. Republicans only have 52 seats in the Senate, so a bill that requires 60 votes will need Democratic support.  

DeSantis, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 before ending his bid after Marco Rubio ultimately sought reelection. Last week, DeSantis asked the Department of Justice to investigate a former information technology worker fired by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. 

DeSantis also has tax speeches with AFP set for September 19th in Fort Lauderdale at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale North and September 28th in Orlando. All three events run from 6:30 to 8pm. AFP plans to hold 50 tax overhaul events around the country in August and September.

August 03, 2017

Another Democrat files against Curbelo, citing health care

PaperShot@PatriciaMazzei

A young Democrat filed to run against Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo this week, saying he was persuaded to go "from canvasser to candidate" after the Republican incumbent voted to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Ricky Junquera, 31, worked as a field organizer in past campaigns for former Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo's 2016 opponent. He planned to help Garcia again if he ran. But Garcia appears uninterested -- so Junquera himself jumped in.

"I know the district just as good, if not better, than most people," he said. "I've knocked on those doors."

Junquera, the deputy press secretary for the Sierra Club in the Upper Midwest, recently moved back to Miami to help care for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.

"When Carlos voted to repeal the ACA, the ramifications don't affect him and his family, but they affect mine, and they affect mine pretty harshly," he said.

Junquera becomes the third Democrat to declare a candidacy against Curbelo. The only one with serious experience as a candidate is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran for state Senate last year and has also attacked Curbelo on health care. Steven Machat is also running.

Curbelo's district, which leans Democratic though he won it by 12 percentage points last year, has one of the highest rates of Obamacare enrollment in the country.

Junquera, who like Curbelo is Cuban-American, accused the congressman of being a lackey of House Speaker Paul Ryan and said if he were elected, he'd better represent working people. For now, he plans to campaign after work and on weekends to see if his candidacy takes off.

"We need leaders who know what it's like to face a mountain of student debt, who have seen firsthand the toll a devastating illness can have on a proud family, and who value programs like the ACA because they provide a helping hand up and hope for a better tomorrow," he said.

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care

@PatriciaMazzei

National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida's 27th congressional district.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users' attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer healthcare system. 

One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen's Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy Tuesday, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

"Now that Obamacare is in a death spiral, their latest and greatest idea is to impose a European style single-payer system on Americans," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. "This could mean trillions in higher taxes and full government control over all of our medical decisions. We’d like to hear from Florida Democrats themselves -- do David Richardson, José Javier Rodríguez, and Matt Haggman support single-payer for all?"

PolitiFact has ruled that a past "death spiral" claim about the Affordable Care Act was false. Ros-Lehtinen voted against the House GOP's Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act, which later failed in the Senate.

In addition to Haggman, Richardson and Rodríguez, four other Democrats are also running so far. Naming them in a statement suggests the NRCC considers them to be potential front-runners.

August 02, 2017

Democrat bashes Carlos Curbelo over Obamacare in campaign kickoff

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@amysherman1

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wants to make her congressional campaign against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo about health care.

In formally launching her candidacy Wednesday, Mucarsel-Powell slammed Curbelo’s vote to replace the Affordable Care Act — a message national Democrats plan to repeat across the country to try to unseat Republicans in 2018.

“It is inconceivable to me that politicians in D.C. are committed to stripping away health care access to millions of Americans,” Mucarsel-Powell said in her speech outside of West Perrine health center where the poor can see doctors and get medicine.

Keep reading here.