April 04, 2016

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

Paydaybillboard

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 30, 2016

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

Politifact-photos-Wasserman_Schultz_at_2012_DNC_convention

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 28, 2016

President Barack Obama endorses Debbie Wasserman Schultz

DWSObamaAP

President Barack Obama has endorsed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who faces a rare primary challenge for her Broward/Miami-Dade congressional district.

It's no surprise that Obama endorsed his Democratic National Committee chair since 2011 -- but it shows that she is facing a challenge worth paying attention to from Nova Southeastern University professor Tim Canova.

Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston, was first elected to Congress in 2004 and since that time has not faced a primary challenge. She has easily beat GOP challengers by landslides in one of the most left-leaning districts in South Florida. Canova's campaign resembles the presidential candidate he supports: Bernie Sanders. Canova emphasizes issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality and has attacked Wasserman Schultz's positions on issues such as opposing the medical marijuana ballot initiative in Florida in 2014.

Canova faces an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz who has already raised about $1.1 million toward her re-election. Canova recently tweeted that he had received donations from more than 20,000 individuals but we won't know the total dollar amount until his first fundraising report is due April 15.

Canova has support from some progressives in the party, has been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America and National Nurses United and has drawn national media attention. Last week, the Florida Democratic Party agreed to give him access to the voter data file after initially refusing to provide it. The party has not shared that data with primary Congressional challengers in recent years but after Canova waged a campaign for it on social media and in person at a Broward Democratic dinner the party reversed its position -- but only for him.

From Wasserman Schultz's press release here is Obama's statement: 

"Debbie has been a strong, progressive leader in Congress and a hardworking, committed Chair of our national Party since I proudly nominated her to the role in 2011. She always stands up and fights for what is right for her district while passionately supporting middle class families. Throughout my time as President I have seen Debbie bring an unwavering commitment to her family, her constituents, and our shared goals of protecting seniors, supporting working families, and expanding economic opportunity for more people. I strongly endorse her reelection to Congress and look forward to her future service on behalf of the people of South Florida."

Wasserman Schultz has sided with Obama on most issues but she didn't embrace his trip to Cuba.

When asked before the Democratic debate in Miami last month about Obama's trip to Cuba she said she had no interest in visiting the island: "not until they make more human rights progress."

 

March 24, 2016

Progressives blast Florida Democratic Party on behalf of Wasserman Schultz's challenger

Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz

@ByKristenMClark

A dispute over access to voter data in a South Florida congressional race is highlighting a divide between the Florida Democratic Party and its progressive caucus.

For the second time this month, leaders of the progressive caucus are openly criticizing their party leaders, this time on behalf of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's primary opponent.

But the caucus' complaints were immediately rendered moot, though, because -- unbeknownst to them and independent of their grievances -- Florida Democratic Party leaders already agreed to make a special exception that addresses critics' concerns.

The controversy stems from a decision by party leaders earlier this month to deny Wasserman Schultz's challenger, Democrat Tim Canova, access to its voter database.

In an "open letter" sent Wednesday and provided to the Herald/Times, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida asked Wasserman Schultz -- a Weston congresswoman and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee -- to intervene to ensure her challenger has a fair shot in the primary race.

Party voter files are a treasure trove of data and information that campaigns collect, curate and share between their state and national political parties, and they're especially valuable to political newcomers -- if they can get access to them.

It's been the policy of the Florida Democratic Party for the past six years to withhold access to candidates challenging incumbent Democratic members of Congress.

But the party has changed its mind this week -- in this single instance -- and will now give Canova access to the voter file "to avoid any appearance of favoritism," Scott Arceneaux, the state party's executive director, told the Herald/Times on Thursday.

"This is a truly unique set of circumstances where we have an incumbent member of our delegation who's also our DNC chair," Arceneaux said.

Continue reading "Progressives blast Florida Democratic Party on behalf of Wasserman Schultz's challenger" »

March 23, 2016

Payday loan issue divides U.S. Senate candidates Murphy and Grayson

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is facing intense criticism, including TV ads, for supporting a bill consumer advocates say weakens regulations on payday lenders.

But less noticed is support from other Florida Democrats, including U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, who like Wasserman Schultz has received significant contributions from the industry.

Their stance puts them at odds with liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, which seeks to crackdown on payday lenders charging exorbitant interest.

Murphy is an original co-sponsor of the bill along with several other Florida lawmakers, who say it would harm regulations passed years ago by the state Legislature. The bill was introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, and has gained the backing of much of the Florida delegation.

“Florida lawmakers know that before 2001, the payday lending industry was running roughshod over consumers in the Sunshine State. The State House and Senate voted unanimously at the time to make reforms that fifteen years later, better protect consumers while still preserving access to credit for working families who need it. The cosponsors of H.R. 4018 believe Florida's model and experience can be instructive to CFPB as it considers its national rulemaking,” said Sean Bartlett, Wasserman Schutlz’s communications director.

But consumer advocates say the Florida law was heavily influenced by payday lenders.

Continue reading "Payday loan issue divides U.S. Senate candidates Murphy and Grayson" »

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said superdelegates have never determined the Democratic nominee

Bernie Sanders is far behind Hillary Clinton in the delegate count toward the Democratic presidential nomination, but part of his strategy is to hold out hope that superdelegates will back him at the convention.

What are superdelegates? They’re roughly 700 party officials and other high-profile Democrats who get to vote on nominees at the convention. In theory, they could swing a tight race to one candidate or another.

The vast majority of superdelegates have said they will back Clinton, according to news reports. But Sanders has suggested that in states where he won by double-digit margins, superdelegates should vote according to the wishes of people in their states.

That led to Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo asking Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her take on superdelegates.

Wasserman Schultz countered that superdelegates aren’t so powerful, according to history.

"The purpose of superdelegates -- which by the way, have never been a determining factor in who our nominee is since they've been in place since 1984 -- is to make sure that party activists who want to be delegates to the convention don’t have to run against much better-known and well-established people at the district level," said the South Florida congresswoman.

Have superdelegates not mattered since they were introduced in 1984? It’s clear that in elections after 1984 they were never needed to settle a nomination. However, they did play a role in 1984, although experts are conflicted about the extent of their power.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida here.

March 18, 2016

South Florida Republicans break with GOP in deportation vote

@jamesmartinrose

Only five Republican lawmakers stood up to their party leader in voting against allowing House Speaker Paul Ryan to file an amicus brief opposing President Barack Obama's decision to withhold deportation for more than 5 million undocumented immigrants.

All three Cuban-American representatives from South Florida -- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo -- were among the five Republicans who voted against a resolution that the House passed Thursday almost entirely along party lines.

The Supreme Court next month will hear a case brought by Texas, joined by Florida and 24 other states, arguing that Obama's bid to shield about 5.2 million illegal aliens from deportation imposes unaffordable health-care, education, law-enforcement and other costs on them.

Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who replaced Ohioan John Boehner as speaker in October, acknowledged that House intervention in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court was unprecedented, but he insisted it was necessary to prevent executive overreach by Obama.

With no Democrats voting for the bill, Ryan and other Republicans said Obama's executive orders dating to 2012 amount to the president legislating immigration reform without going through Congress.

"I recognize that this is a very extraordinary step," Ryan said on the House floor. "I feel it is very necessary, though. In fact, I believe this is vital."

In a joint statement Friday, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart said that although individual members of Congress have the right to file briefs supporting court cases, the House as a whole should not do so.

"All amicus briefs should carry the same weight, and beginning this pattern may signal to the Supreme Court that Congress is prioritizing certain cases over others," the two Miami Republicans said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a first-term Republican from Kendall, went further. He accused Republicans of playing politics with the important issue of immigration.

"For two long, both parties have preferred to score petty political points using the immigration issue rather than passing meaningful reform to secure the border, reform our visa system and find a fair solution for the undocumented," Curbelo said.

"The surest and most constitutionally solvent way to end the president's executive overreach is to pass meaningful immigration reform, not by employing empty tactics that ignore the root cause of the problem," he said.

The two other Republicans who voted against the House resolution were Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Robert Dold of Illinois. Rep. Alex Mooney, a West Virginia Republican and one of five other Cuban-Americans in Congress, voted for the measure, which passed by a 234-186 margin.

Among Florida's 24 other U.S. House members, 22 voted along party lines, with Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan failing to vote.

Nine other Florida Democrats voted against the measure, among them Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Two lower courts have ruled in favor of the states, most recently the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.

With only eight justices on the Supreme Court since Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month, a 4-4 decision after the scheduled April 18 arguments would uphold the lower courts' rulings and overturn Obama's executive orders protecting millions of undocumented parents and their children from deportation.

Obama on Wednesday chose Merrick Garland, a former federal prosecutor and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace Scalia on the high court, but Senate Republican leaders are refusing to take a vote or even hold hearings on the nomination, saying Obama has only 10 months left in office.

Immigration has become perhaps the most divisive issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump vowing to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, ridiculed Republican lawmakers, many of whom he said have disingenuously tried to distance themselves from Trump's hardline stance on immigration.

"They keep saying, 'Well, Trump doesn't represent us, he doesn't (represent) our views, he doesn't represent our values,' and now they want to know where Trump gets all of his anti-immigrant, xenophobic views from," Gutierrez told reporters. "Try the House of Republicans."

In a speech Friday on the House floor, Gutierrez accused his Republican colleagues of "stoking anti-immigrant fears and mass-deportation fantasies."

"The vote is a political stunt disguised as a legal brief because the Republican majority sees a crass political opportunity to stand with the anti-immigration wing of their party," he said.  

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 60 individual business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, filed an amicus brief supporting Obama last week.

Before the vote Thursday, Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said "the Latino community is being used for political purposes."

Sanchez added: "We are being demonized, we are being marginalized, and we see a frightening level of hateful rhetoric and vile hate speech aimed at our community, and nobody is standing up within the Republican Party to say that this is unacceptable."

America's Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, said the vote Thursday was the eighth "anti-immigration" vote taken by Republicans in the current session of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 223 other Democrats filed an amicus brief backing Obama earlier this month, but there was no vote on the brief and it represents them as individuals.

In still another amicus brief, almost 120 cities and counties across the United States on March 8 expressed support for Obama, among them Pembroke Pines, Tampa and Sunrise.

 

March 16, 2016

Florida politicians comment on Obama's SCOTUS nominee

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans said even before there was a nominee that they wouldn't hold any hearings.

Here's what Florida politicians had to say about Garland's nomination:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat:

The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court and I take that responsibility very seriously. Today, the president nominated Judge Merrick Garland to serve on our nation’s highest court and I hope that the Senate is given a chance to fully consider this nominee.

Continue reading "Florida politicians comment on Obama's SCOTUS nominee" »

February 13, 2016

Florida politicians react to Justice Antonin Scalia's death

@PatriciaMazzei

Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush

Today we lost a great man whose principled service left our nation vastly better off. This afternoon at Mass, Columba and I prayed for Justice Scalia, who was devout in faith and has been brought home to God in heaven. Our prayers are also with his wife, Maureen, his children and his 28 grandchildren.

Justice Scalia was a brilliant defender of the rule of law--his logic and wit were unparalleled, and his decisions were models of clarity and good sense. I often said he was my favorite justice, because he took the Constitution, and the responsibility of judges to interpret it correctly, with the utmost seriousness. Now it is up to all of us to fight for the principles Justice Scalia espoused and carry forth his legacy.

Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Today, our nation has suffered a deep loss. Justice Scalia was one of the most consequential Americans in our history and a brilliant legal mind who served with only one objective: to interpret and defend the Constitution as written. One of the greatest honors in my life was to attend oral arguments during Town of Greece v. Galloway and see Justice Scalia eloquently defend religious freedom. I will hold that memory forever. The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia's unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear. Jeanette and I mourn the loss of Justice Scalia, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Maureen and his family.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

I am stunned since Justice Scalia seemed to be in the prime of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. And I take very seriously our constitutional responsibility to fill this vacancy.

Continue reading "Florida politicians react to Justice Antonin Scalia's death" »