October 15, 2016

Curbelo outraises, outspends Garcia


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has continued to outraise Democratic challenger Joe Garcia, the candidates' latest financial reports show. But what the vulnerable incumbent mostly did over seven weeks was spend money -- a lot of it.

Curbelo went through $1.2 million from Aug. 11-Sept. 30, his campaign reported. Most of that went to TV ads, which he started airing the week of the Aug. 30 primary, without any let up.

Unopposed on the GOP side, Curbelo had saved his amassed contributions for 18 months. He raked in nearly $510,000 in the latest period, including nearly $13,000 from his joint fundraising committee.

Curbelo's big-name donors include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts of Colorado and sugar baron Pepe Fanjul of West Palm Beach. Curbelo also got $2,500 from KochPAC, the political committee for the industrialist Koch brothers, and $3,000 from a political committee for Univision Communications, which has also supported fellow Miami Cuban-American Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this cycle.

Curbelo still has more cash in the bank: $1.3 million, compared to Garcia's about $354,000.

Garcia, who won the Democratic primary despite being outraised and outspent by Annette Taddeo, raised nearly $382,000 through Sept. 30 and spent about $334,000. Among Gn-arcia's donors are political committees for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Garcia also got a $1,000 check from author Judy Blume, who lives in Key West.

Florida's 26th congressional district, which runs from Westchester to Key West, leans Democratic and is one of the most competitive races in the country.

Rubio super PAC reports $342K haul

via @learyreports

The super PAC supporting Marco Rubio on Saturday reported raising a modest $342,000 for the third quarter.

Florida First Project has not been that active as outside groups have poured millions into the race to help Rubio, who is also getting help from the state GOP. And Rubio has been raising huge sums himself, including $9.6 million in the third quarter.

Major contributors:

Warren Stephens, $100,000.

John W. Childs, $50,000.

Robert Arnott, $40,000.

Sen. John Cornyn's Alamo PAC, $25,000.

Edward Conard, $25,000.

Dosal Tobacco Corp., $25,000.

Landscapes USA, $10,000.

Tony Pritzker, $10,000.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 13, 2016

A toe-to-toe debate between veteran Miami rivals Curbelo and Garcia

@AndresViglucci @PatriciaMazzei

For a few moments Thursday night, the 2016 presidential race played out — in all of its dubious glory — between two congressional candidates on the stage of an all-boys’ Catholic high school in Miami.

The first question Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo got at the debate at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was about Donald Trump. The first question Democratic challenger and former Rep. Joe Garcia got was about Hillary Clinton.

Curbelo reiterated that no, he’s not voting for Trump or Clinton — and wouldn’t divulge who, if anyone, he will pick for president.

“Join us!” said Garcia, who’s backing Clinton.

Garcia apologized, once again, for making a remark secretly caught on tape about how voters might not find Clinton sexually appealing. That’s why Garcia didn’t denounce Trump’s own, recently leaked lecherous comments, Curbelo said: “Silence.”

Florida’s 26th congressional district is so fiercely competitive that it appeared inevitable for the campaign to reflect the national political dynamic. But the debate — the first of threeahead of the Nov. 8 election — also displayed the uniquely tangled politics of the Westchester-to-Key West district.

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Guess who showed up at Garcia-Curbelo debate?


@PatriciaMazzei @AndresViglucci

A surprise guest showed up Thursday at the first debate between Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democratic former Rep. Joe Garcia: Garcia's former chief of staff, who was fired and went to jail when the ex-congressman was in office.

Jeffrey Garcia sat in the auditorium of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, after having disappeared from local politics following his jail term.

His presence did not go unnoticed.

As soon as Curbelo and Joe Garcia, no relation, sparred over the criminal cases that resulted in two convictions for Jeffrey Garcia, Curbelo pointed to the audience.

"He's actually sitting right there," Curbelo said.

"You never spoke to him again," Curbelo continued, before invoking the school's motto. "Whatever happened to 'men for others'?"

Mentioning Jeffrey Garcia made it seem like he might have been invited by Curbelo, so he could make a point against his opponent. A Curbelo spokeswoman denied having given him a ticket and suggested he'd gotten it from Garcia. But a Garcia spokesman also denied any involvement.

Jeffrey Garcia, as a Belen alumnus like both candidates, said that's how he'd gotten in.

"I don't need an invitation to come to Belen," he told the Miami Herald.

This post has been updated with Jeffrey Garcia's comment.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Liberal super PAC will troll Rubio with digital billboard at Rubio, Trump events


Marco Rubio won't be at Donald Trump's West Palm Beach rally Thursday. But a digital billboard with his name on it will.

"Rubio is scared to be seen with Trump," says one of the messages that will be sent by American Bridge, a liberal super PAC.

The group isn't only targeting Trump's supporters with its anti-Rubio message. It's also sending a digital billboard to a Rubio event in Boca Raton.

"Hey Marco!" reads one of those messages. "Your buddy Donald Trump is half an hour away. Why won't you be on stage with him?"

Rubio said Tuesday he's standing by  his Trump endorsement despite an "Access Hollywood" tape from 2005 showing Trump boasting about forcing himself on women. That was before several women came forward Wednesday to say Trump groped them without their consent.

October 12, 2016

Foreign-visa program provided Garcia a cause in Congress — and a job out of it

002 Joe Garcia DS

As a member of Congress, Joe Garcia championed immigration visas that allow wealthy foreigners to obtain U.S. residency if they pledge at least $500,000 to job-creating projects within the nation’s borders.

According to one analysis, Garcia became the biggest beneficiary in Congress of donations from bankers and developers eager to expand the visa program, known as EB-5.

When the Miami Democrat was ousted from Congress after a single term, Garcia took a job as senior vice president for a private Miami Beach bank named QueensFort Capital that specializes in matching foreign investors to EB-5 visa projects.

Though not illegal or improper, the relationship illustrates the revolving door that often exists in Congress: As a lawmaker, Garcia worked on EB-5 legislation. He then worked for an EB-5 bank. Now he’s again running for Congress, where he might write EB-5 rules that would affect his former employer.

Garcia told the Miami Herald he got the bank job because he could leverage his local connections and not because he filed legislation in March 2014 to expand the EB-5 program.

“This was a job because I knew a lot of people in South Florida,” said Garcia, whose legislation didn’t pass. “The whole point was because of my relations. It was not because of my EB-5 expertise.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, el Nuevo Herald

Bashing 'extreme liberals,' clean energy super PAC starts ad campaign for Curbelo


A clean energy super PAC backing U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is launching a new cable-and-digital ad campaign for the endangered Miami Republican.

ClearPath Action Fund, which threw its support behind Curbelo over the summer, says it will spend more than $500,000 through Election Day promoting the freshman congressman. Curbelo was the first lawmaker ClearPath endorsed.

Beginning this week, ClearPath's digital ads will begin online. They're intended to counter an ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slamming Curbelo on the environment that PolitiFact found misleading. Curbelo has asked TV stations to take the ad down.

"Extreme liberals are making false claims about Carlos Curbelo's environmental record, but you deserve to know the truth," the spot says. "Carlos Curbelo puts South Florida and the environment first -- and he has the record to prove it."

Next week, ClearPath's ads on cable will stress to Florida Keys voters that Curbelo supports renewable energy. The 26th district extends from Westchester to Key West. A push-poll conducted for a pro-Curbelo group by a Republican pollster in Miami suggested independent voters in the district might care enough about environmental issues like the Everglades that campaigning on those policies could win them over.

Curbelo is opposed by Democrat Joe Garcia.

Democratic super PAC debuts anti-Curbelo ad


Joe Garcia got a little help on TV this week from a Democratic super PAC that started airing its first ad against Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"Carlos Curbelo shares Donald Trump's dangerous views," the ad from House Majority PAC says. "They both want to defund Planned Parenthood. They both called Social Security a 'Ponzi' scheme."

The ad also claims a super PAC funded by Trump has spent "over $1 million" trying to reelect Curbelo, but it doesn't name the PAC. Asked to identify it, House Majority PAC spokesman Jeb Fain said it was the Congressional Leadership Fund, which accepted a Trump donation in 2012, long before his candidacy.

"The contortions Democrats are making in this ad only showcase how desperate they are to talk about anything but Joe Garcia'a scandal-plagued record," Emily Davis, Congressional Leadership Fund'/ communications director, said in a statement.

National Democrats have made it their chief campaign argument to tie congressional Republicans to Trump. Curbelo has escaped some of that criticism by saying he won't back the presidential nominee. But Democrats are nevertheless finding issues on which they can link the two Republicans.


Republicans bring back Garcia's 'Communism works' snippet


Two years ago, then-U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia tried to make a point about Republican spending on border security resulting in scores of government jobs. "Communism works," he quipped.

A political tracker was taping him. And the out-of-context words have been used in attack ads against him ever since -- even though Garcia is the son of exiles who fled Cuba.

So it goes with the latest ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which continues to jab Garcia as "embarrassing." Most of the ad is an attack on Garcia's support for the Iran nuclear deal. But the first quote that appears on the screen is "Communism works."

The NRCC is backing incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Garcia's first TV ad knocks Curbelo -- and Trump -- on Obamacare


Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is using his first TV ad of the year to accuse Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- and Donald Trump -- of trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

"Carlos Curbelo and Donald Trump want to go backwards," Garcia says in the 30-second spot, titled "Leadership." "They're working to repeal Obamacare, stripping healthcare from thousands of Florida families. That's wrong."

No sources are cited in the ad. Trump said as recently as Sunday, in his second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, that he'd get rid of Obamacare. Curbelo said when he was running in the Republican primary in 2014 that he'd "replace" Obamacare, "because to just say 'repeal' implies that there is no need for health care reform." Republicans, including Curbelo, haven't voted on any "replacement" legislation.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already running a commercial noting Curbelo's Obamacare opposition, among other things. Then-Rep. Garcia hit Curbelo over the same issue two years ago. Curbelo has refused to endorse Trump.

A recent poll commissioned by Garcia shows the candidates tied in the swing 26th district, which spans Westchester to Key West. Their first debate is scheduled to take place Thursday evening. Curbelo, who didn't have a primary challenger and has far outraised Garcia, has been on the airwaves for more than a month.

Garcia's new ad, coming as Miami-Dade County sends its first batch of mail-in ballots to voters, invokes President Barack Obama, whose national popularity has soared as of late. Garcia says he'll "improve" the healthcare legislation if he's returned to Congress.