April 08, 2016

Marco Rubio endorses Obama's $1.9B request to fight Zika

RHJ09 Rubio News rk

via @dchangmiami

Florida health officials confirmed two new Zika virus infections on Friday — raising the statewide total to 84 cases, most in the nation — as former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio said he supports President Obama's request to Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of the infectious disease.

Hosting a press conference with local and state officials at his Doral office, Rubio said ensuring the appropriate use of federal funds to combat Zika was the best way for the Obama administration to win the support of congressional Republicans, who broke for spring recess in March without acting on the president’s February request.

“While I’m supportive of fully funding the president’s initiative on this,” Rubio said, “I want to make sure that the money, when appropriated, will be appropriately spent on what we’re trying to address.”

With Florida leading the nation in Zika cases, including two new infections reported in Broward and Palm Beach counties on Friday, Rubio spent the morning meeting with state and local officials, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and public health experts, to gauge the needs for combating the virus, which is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites.

Rubio stressed calm. “There’s no crisis,” he said. “This is an issue that we're going to confront.”

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

April 06, 2016

Patrick Murphy: Alan Grayson unfit to hold office

via @adamsmithtimes

A day after details became public on an ongoing congressional investigation into U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, his rival for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination called on Grayson to shut down his controversial hedge fund and declared Grayson unfit for public office.

"I believe that, quite frankly, he's disqualified himself from being a public servant. You've got a member of Congress who's more concerned about making money for himself than solving ... very, very real problems in our country," U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said in a telephone press conference. "I believe he needs to disclose what he's invested in, who his investors are, and he needs to close his unethical and illegal hedge fund."

Murphy also denied allegations from Grayson that anyone in Murphy's office had spoken with or colluded with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which recommended the House Ethics Committee continue investigating Grayson for what it said appeared to be multiple violations of federal law and House rules.

"There is no conspiracy here against Alan Grayson," Murphy said. "This is a very clear example of being caught red-handed. And oftentimes the truth hurts."

The independent, bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics found that Grayson appeared to have improperly run a hedge fund while serving in Congress, kept financial ties to a law firm and other businesses either involved in ongoing litigation against the federal government or doing business with the federal government, and that Grayson improperly used his congressional office to do work on his Senate campaign and hedge fund.

Grayson denies any wrongdoing and on Tuesday declared a victory of sorts in the matter, because the House Ethics Committee opted not to start a investigative subcommittee. It would be unprecedented for the committee to punish a House member without starting such a committee, Grayson said.

That's not true, however. In 2011, the Ethics Committee ruled, without an investigative subcommittee, that former Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt improperly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal help and ordered her to repay $500,000. In other cases, the ethics committee has started further investigation the way it has with Grayson and later decided to convene an investigative subcommittee.

April 05, 2016

Investigators find numerous potential ethics violations by Alan Grayson

via @adamsmithtimes

Congressional investigators have found a litany of potential violations in the business and political dealings of U.S. Rep Alan Grayson, a leading Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

The Office of Congressional Ethics recommended the U.S. House Ethics Committee launch a full scale probe into Grayson’s management of a hedge fund and other business interests that may have improperly overlapped with his congressional duties. The Ethics Committee will further pursue the matter, which does not indicate violations necessarily occurred but ensures that a large ethics cloud hangs over Grayson as he campaigns to succeed Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Among the likely or potential violations cited by the Office of Congressional Ethics:

-- Grayson ran a hedge fund that improperly used the congressman’s name, gave him a fidiciary responsibility to undisclosed investors and at least once appears to have been compensated

-- "OCE found evidence that from January to June 2014, Representative Grayson managed a Virginia-based corporation that used the Grayson name and provided legal services involving a fiduciary relationship."

-- "OCE found evidence that Representative Grayson agreed to receive contingent fees in cases in which the federal government had a direct and substantial interest, that were pending during his time in Congress."

-- Investigators found numerous "significant" omissions from Grayson's financial disclosure forms, including many "related to other alleged violations highlighted in this report concerning the Grayson Hedge Fund and Representative Grayson’s interest in law firms and pending litigation."

-- "The OCE found that Representative Grayson was a limited partner in three energy-sector limited partnerships, all of which had agreements with the federal government through their subsidiaries." 

-- A staffer in Grayson's congressional office, who also worked for his hedge fund, used "official time and resources to work for the hedge fund."

-- Grayson "participated in multiple press interviews focused on his campaign for the U.S. Senate from his congressional office, and in some cases used campaign resources, including a campaign computer and campaign staff, to facilitate these interviews."

Grayson's denies any wrongdoing, and his lawyer released a blistering response to the OCE report that accused investigators of leaking information to Grayson's Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

"The referral itself verges on the demented, in all of its Captain Ahab attempts to spear the white whale by coming up with something - anything - with which to try to argue that some unethical conduct has occurred. Acting upon detailed legal advice at every tum, Rep. Grayson has gone all out, at great expense, to adhere to all of the rules. Not only were the rules never broken; they were never even bent. And this is precisely the kind of witch-hunt that the aCE should not be engaged in," wrote Brett G. Kappel, Grayson's attorney.

Grayson's senate campaign noted that the Ethics Committee did not refer the matter to an investigative subcommittee and suggested that makes it less likely the committee will recommend expulsion, censure, or reprimand. 

"The larger picture here is that the Washington political establishment has decided who their favored candidate is, and it’s not Rep. Grayson," his campaign said in a statement. "This Murphy-instigated fishing expedition is just like the Benghazi Committee witch hunt, another taxpayer-funded political inquisition which Patrick Murphy voted with Republicans to set loose. Patrick Murphy and his DC Establishment allies are using this new political witch hunt to try to distract Florida voters."

Alan Grayson braces for Ethics Committee report on his Caymans hedge funds

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Alan Grayson is bracing for the release Tuesday of a House Ethics Committee report into a Cayman Islands-based hedge funds he started, a development that could shape an already heated Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

The committee in February moved to extend the probe and said it would announce a course of action by today.

The Tampa Bay Times first reported last year that Grayson ran a hedge fund based in the offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands. Grayson said all his investors were "friends and family,” later describing it as only family.

But conflict of interest questions remain given Grayson’s position as a lawmaker. Background on the case here.

Grayson, a hard-charging liberal from Orlando, is running in the Democratic primary against fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who has drawn the support of the party establishment.

Murphy’s campaign did not wait for the ethics announcement, issuing a news release with “five questions for unethical hedge fund manager Grayson.”

April 04, 2016

GOP attorney announces bid for Debbie Wasserman Schultz seat

A Republican attorney who lost a state House race in 2014 announced that he will run for the Congressional seat held by Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston.

Marty Feigenbaum, a longtime criminal defense attorney in Surfside, is running in the Broward/Miami-Dade Congressional District 23. Feigenbaum lost a state house race to Democrat Joe Geller in 2014 in a Democratic district 38-59 percent.

"I do not accept contributions from special interest or any other groups or even individuals," Feigenbaum wrote on his campaign website. "I am totally self-funded."

GOP activist Joe Kaufman, who is most famous for being lampooned on The Daily Show, is also running in Congressional District 23 where he lost in 2014.

Wasserman Schultz is the Democratic National Committee chair and represents a district that has repeatedly voted for Democrats. That means the main contest in the race is the primary where she will face Nova Southeastern University law professor Tim Canova of Hollywood. 

Earlier today, Canova announced that in his first quarter he raised $557,000. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.1 million through 2015 but her campaign hasn't said how much she raised so far this year -- the reports are due April 15.

Wasserman Schultz was first elected to Congress in 2004 and has never faced a primary challenger in her re-elections. President Barack Obama named her as his DNC chair in 2011 and he endorsed her last month.

The primary is Aug. 30.




U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz bashed on billboards over payday loans


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's position on payday loans is the subject of an attack on billboards in her Broward/Miami Dade congressional district.

The liberal group Allied Progress posted two billboards in the district today -- on the turnpike and Interstate 75 -- and they will remain up May 1.

President Barack Obama took a step toward regulating the industry when he signed a bill in 2010 that included the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bureau released a draft outline of payday rules last year and is expected to release a more complete proposal over the next several months. 

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, is the co-sponsor of a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican, that would give preference to Florida's payday law rather than giving the power to the federal government. Half of the 24 cosponsors are from Florida and nine are Democrats. A spokesman for the group says it will launch similar attacks against others who have supported the bill which hasn't had a hearing yet.

Many consumer advocates have urged Congress to defeat the law and argue that Florida's law has failed to protect the poor who remain on a debt cycle when they take out payday loans.

Allied Progress launched a TV attack against Wasserman Schultz -- who is also the Democratic National Committee chair -- for her position on payday loans during the Florida presidential primary. Her Democratic opponent Tim Canova has echoed the attacks.

Wasserman Schultz has taken $68,000 from payday lenders, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her spokesman Sean Bartlett has defended her record on payday loans and says she wants Florida's law to take precedence. 

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for more details about the payday loan bill.



Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenger Tim Canova says he raised a half-million

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Democratic challenger says he raised more than a half-million during his first fundraising quarter in a South Florida district.

The fundraising report for the quarter is due April 15th but Tim Canova said in an email to supporters today that he raised $557,000 from more than 15,000 donors.

"Not only are we the fastest growing grassroots campaign for Congress in the country, but we also raised more than any first quarter for any first-time candidate in the history of South Florida," he wrote in an email. "And unlike my opponent, we did not take a penny from any corporate political action committee (PAC) or Super PAC. Rather, with an average contribution of only $20, our campaign is powered by working families — teachers, nurses, small business owners, union members, students, and seniors."

Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, is running for elected office for the first time in a Broward/Miami-Dade congressional district. 

Wasserman Schultz raised about $1.1 million for her campaign committee through the end of 2015 -- and she has raised about $763,000 for her leadership PAC. Her campaign has not yet announced how much she raised the first quarter of 2016. As the Democratic National Committee chair and a longtime incumbent, she has the ability to out-fundraise a newcomer by large amounts.

In March, President Barack Obama endorsed Wasserman Schultz -- a sign that she is taking her primary opponent seriously. Wasserman Schultz, who was first elected in 2004, has never faced a primary challenger and has easily beaten GOP opponents in the left-leaning district.

Canova has modeled his campaign somewhat after Bernie Sanders by emphasizing issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality. But he will have to draw support from more than Sanders' supporters because Clinton won the congressional district by more than two-to-one. 

Canova has attacked Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans. She co-sponsored a bill that would give preference to Florida's payday law -- a law that some consumer activists have said has continued the cycle of debt for the poor.

March 31, 2016

Patrick Murphy hates super PACs, but gives them video footage


via @learyreports

There’s Patrick Murphy strolling on a beach with a young man. They appear to be engaged in serious talk, and Murphy points to the horizon, but the video is silent.

There he is on the same beach holding a child’s hand. And another beach shot, this time with an older man and a woman, her arm locked in Murphy’s.

Now Murphy's in an orange grove with an old guy in a hat. But again, viewers have no idea what he and the man are talking about.

Murphy visits a diner. Traverses hallways. Works the phones in a darkened office. Tours a mapping business. Pops into a welding garage.

The 5 minute 42 second video posted on the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate’s campaign website isn’t for the public. It’s “b-roll” to be used by super PACs or another outside group that wants to make a positive ad on Murphy’s behalf.

This is how candidates in both parties get around the law barring direct coordination with super PACs. Murphy's tactic is notable given his public opposition to the super PAC era. He calls it “gross.”

As we reported last year:

Murphy has been endorsed by End Citizens United and has sent out fundraising emails slamming the Supreme Court decision. Yet Murphy’s wealthy father has pumped money into a Super PAC supporting his House campaigns and Murphy was propped up by the House Majority PAC.

Murphy, of course, has a super PAC on his side in the Senate race.

UPDATE: A campaign spokesman, Joshua Karp, did not answer a question about the video and how it squared with Murphy's position. In a statement, he said: "Patrick believes that we need to end the influence of big money in politics, and in the U.S. Senate that will be one of his top priorities."

The Senate Leadership Fund and America Rising, two GOP groups, cast Murphy as a hypocrite and used his b-roll to create its own ads.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 30, 2016

Fact-checking an attack on Debbie Wasserman Schultz about payday loans


A law professor running against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida says she is in the pocket of big banks and isn’t looking out for consumers who get crushed by debt from payday loans.

"My opponent, after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, has voted to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFTP) from regulating payday loans and addressing racial discrimination in car loans," said Tim Canova on his website.

Canova, a first-time candidate and professor at Nova Southeastern University, is challenging Wasserman Schultz in the August Democratic primary in a Broward/Miami-Dade district. The race has drawn national attention because Wasserman Schultz is the Democratic National Committee chair.

Did Canova accurately describe her donations from banks and her votes related to payday loans and car loans?

There is some truth to his attack, but each one requires explanation. Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

March 29, 2016

Miami Beach state rep hosts fundraiser for congressional candidate


A gaggle of Miami Beach Democrats plan a fundraiser for Annette Taddeo, who is running to try to challenge Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo. The "special guest" at the event is state Rep. David Richardson.

Here's the invitation:

Continue reading "Miami Beach state rep hosts fundraiser for congressional candidate" »