May 21, 2010

Aronberg's campaign faces election law questions

A Democratic candidate for attorney general is facing questions about whether his campaign skirted election laws to pay staffers. A former fundraiser for Dave Aronberg received payments from the campaign and a little-known federal political committee called Citizens for Effective Government, according to campaign finance records.

Ryan Hampton, a South Florida-based money man, made more than $10,000 from Aronberg's campaign and $1,000 from the federal committee. The committee — dubbed a 527 under IRS code — was closely tied to Aronberg, a state senator from Greenacres, before it closed shop in April amid questions.

Aronberg's chief consultant, Screven Watson, is listed as the founder, according to federal IRS documents. And Aronberg helped raise money for the committee, which paid three of his campaign staffers. Florida law puts a bright line between federal 527 groups and a candidate's campaign."Can (federal 527) money flow over to the campaigns? No," said Mark Herron, an election law expert.

(Read more here.)

May 12, 2010

Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races

A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll shows wide open races for statewide offices with few voters confident about which candidate to elect. (Here are the findings.)

Take the race for Attorney General: voters are 73 percent undecided in the Democratic primary (feature Sen. Dan Gelber verse Sen. Dave Aronberg) and 72 percent undecided in the three-way Republican primary (which pits Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp against prosecutor Pam Bondi and former agency head Holly Benson).

The most intriguing figures come in the Agriculture Commissioner election where the poll tested a the match-up between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. It's a deadlock with Maddox at 31 percent, Putnam at 30 percent and undecideds at 39 percent. (The margin of error is 4 percent for this question.)

"The huge number of undecided voters is really where this election rests," said PR guru Ron Sachs, whose firm isn't representing any candidates.

Continue reading "Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races" »

May 06, 2010

Update: Crist open to Sink and Dem's plan to give voters a voice on oil drilling

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink joined with three Democratic legislators Thursday and called on Gov. Charlie Crist to bring lawmakers back in special session to pass a constitutional amendment that asks voters if they want to ban oil drilling off Florida's coasts.

The timing of this couldn't be more geared toward an election year audience. Republican legislative leaders have not backed off of plans to introduce a proposal next session that would allow the Cabinet to offer oil and gas leases between three and 10 miles off Florida's coast. They have said the oil spill is a game changer bu, short of saying they still need more answers as to the cause of the spill, they haven't explained what that means.

In that context, Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, and state Reps. Keith Fitzgerald D-Sarasota and Rick Kriseman D-St. Petersburg joined with Sink in asking Crist to tell the legislature to use the ballot as its own plebescite on oil drilling -- just as it is for Republican-led priorities with amendments telling Congress to balance the budget or attempting to block the implementation of the federal health care reform act. 

UPDATE: Gov. Charlie Crist told the Palm Beach Post today that he was open to the idea. “Obviously, in light of what’s happened recently in the Gulf of Mexico, those kinds of ideas we’re going to have to field,” Crist told reporters while he was visiting a Palm Beach elementary school.

“This much is clear. Let me be very clear about this, as far as oil drilling is concerned: Not now, no way,” Crist said. “Whether it’s in the form of a constitutional amendment or a special session remains to be seen.”

Pre-spill polls in Florida showed that most of the public supported oil drilling off Florida's coast. A new Mason Dixon poll is expected out on Friday which will be the first insight into where the public is now after the growing oil slick threatens Florida coasts.

 As the mass of oil meandered uncertainly in the Gulf of Mexico, Gelber stood before the pristine backdrop of Miami Beach and said Floridians are left to pray that weather keeps the slick from the state's eco-system.

"We need to give the voters of Florida a chance to put in the constitution a ban on drilling," he said. "We shouldn't have to resort to prayers." Unless voters speak out, he said, oil drilling will come to Florida's coast. 

Asked the likelihood there was the three-fifths vote needed to get such an amendment on the ballot -- if Crist agreed to call a special session -- Gelber said all legislators should support the measure, despite their personal feelings on drilling off Florida's coast. "I think a lot of my colleagues would be very hard pressed not to put this on the ballot," he said. 
Gelber was flanked by State Reps. Luis R. Garcia, Jr. and Richard L. Steinberg.

May 04, 2010

Gelber asks Crist to call a special session on corruption and oil liability

Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and attorney general candidate, Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, asking him to follow up on his suggestion that a special session be held to take up the unfinished public corruption proposals as well as find a way to give the state's attorney general the tools needed recover the state's costs from the oil spill.

At a oil spill breifing between legislators and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole today, Gelber noted that BP has said it will pay for legitimately filed and objectively verified claims of injury and losses "and my assumption is they are going to still reimburse the state for things that might not be a property damage or personal injury or commercial loss...that may be truly necessary.

"Is that true or are we going to be finding out we may be doing a lot to find out that BP is only going to pony up what is its damage injury and actual commercial loss?" Gelber asked.

Sole responded that BP to date ''does anticipate and plan and are prepared to reimburse the state for its costs for the emergency. I will also say that with Exxon Valdez it took 19 years for the state of Alaska to recover their claims."

Here's the letter: 

Continue reading "Gelber asks Crist to call a special session on corruption and oil liability" »

April 30, 2010

April 13, 2010

Gelber's leads AG pack in mi$leading first quarter numbers

What's one way to make it look like you're beating the pants off your opponent in fundraising? If you're Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami-Beach, you send out an email from your attorney general campaign HQ boasting that "we received over $325,000 in contributions... I have received more contributions than any other candidate in the race – Republican or Democrat."

$325k sure is a lot of money. Too much in fact.

Turns out, he raised $218,911 in cash. So how can he say he "received" $102k more than that? Gelber counted in-kind donations -- that is, stuff that isn't cash. And even if the in-kinds are added to the cash, Gelber's haul is technically $321k, due to common campaign accounting adjustments. Still, by rolling the inkinds into his fundraising total, it's a 32 percent inflation. Oh well. Technically, in-kind contributions are still contributions.

And Gelber's not alone when it comes to rolling inkind donations into an initial, misleading announcements about their contributions. Republican Holly Benson's contributions were inflated by 21 percent. Republican Jeff Kottkamp inflated his numbers by 17 percent and Republican Pam Bondi boosted hers by just 6 percent.

Only Gelber's Democratic rival, Dave Aronberg, looks like he was straight up when he said he raised $260k. Techincally, it was $259k.

Boy is this getting lawyerly. Maybe we shouldn't be shocked. This is a race to be the state's top lawyer.

First quarter fundraising roundup

Here are the highlights of the official first quarter fundraising numbers that came out last night. (With a helpful assist from Christina Johnson over at On3PR)

Toplines in the governor's race: Republican Bill McCollum raised just less than 1.4 million in the first three months of 2010, compared with Democrat Alex Sink's 1.1 million. Sink still holds the overall edge in campaign cash, though, with $5 million on hand compared to $3.8 million for McCollum. GOP challenger Paula Dockery has $410,000 on hand. That figure includes $280,000 in personal cash she has put into her campaign.

An interesting note in the AG race. Days before the official numbers came out, Democratic Sen. Dan Gelber announced an impressive haul of $330,000. Turns out that number was pumped up with about $100,000 worth of in-kind contributions. His actual cash haul was $218,000.

Other AG candidates: Sen. Dave Aronberg took in $259,000 to use in the primary against Gelber. On the Republican side: Lt. Gov Jeff Kottkamp raised $232k, Pam Bondi raised $222k and Holly Benson raised $198k.

Senate President Jeff Atwater and Congressman Adam Putnam both opened up wider leads in their races for CFO and Agriculture Commissioner. Atwater took in $446,000 and has almost $2 million on hand. His Democratic challenger, Loranne Ausley has $346,000 on hand. Putnam had about $1.2 million on hand, while Democrat Scott Maddox has $314,000.

April 09, 2010

Benson, Bondi post eerily similar 1Q numbers

Two rivals for the GOP nomination for attorney general -- Pam Bondi and Holly Benson -- posted nearly the same fundraising totals for the first three months of 2010. Bondi, a former Hillsborough County prosecutor, says she raised almost $240,000 this quarter. Benson, who ran the state's Medicaid agency under Gov. Charlie Crist, says she pulled in $241,000.

The totals come about a week after their third rival, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, announced he raised $270,000 during the same time period.

Democratic candidates Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg raised $325,000 and $260,000, respectively. Both of those totals do not include March, when the two state senators were banned from fundraising.

April 05, 2010

Dan Gelber'$ in the AG race lead

Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Dem running for attorney general, last week had good reason to boast of his $260k fundraising numbers. Until now. Dem Sen. Dan Gelber reported a $325k haul. As we said before, this race comes down to money. Advantage: Gelber. For now.

On the R side: Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is doing ok with $270k. Haven't seen much from Holly Benson, former AHCA chief. No surprise. The it girl/person/woman in this race is Pam Bondi, Hillsborough prosecutor who has a good base to work from and some TV name ID as a cable news talking head. She and Gelber (former prosecutor) are the only ones in the major race to actually put a number of bad guys behind bars.

March 30, 2010

Get ready for state buget fun this week

The state budget takes center stage in the House and Senate on Wednesday. And based on the amendments already filed, it could be a lively debate.

In the House, Democratic Leader Franklin Sands gets the partisanship started with an amendment to allow state universities to conduct embryonic stem cell research, which is currently prohibited. Another from top Democrat Ron Saunders of Key West would rename the state budget the "Job Killer Act of 2010." Saunders is upset the budget cuts $466 million for road-building fund, which Florida Transportation Commission is also fighting. And Rep. Marcelo Llorente wants to cut the language proposed by House Budget Chairman David Rivera that would require most state agency chiefs to live within 50 miles of Leon County.

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