February 26, 2015

Fact-checking attack on Debbie Wasserman Schultz about her pot votes

As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighs a potential presidential bid in 2016, a long list of politicians are considering whether to run for his Senate seat.

That includes U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, according to a Politico report on Feb. 17. (She’s not a lock on the Democratic side. A Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll suggests U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Palm Beach County and newly elected U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Leon County could also be strong contenders.)

One group was quick to attack Wasserman Schultz’s potential candidacy: The pro-pot lobby. Last year, she opposed Florida’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, which received almost 58 percent support, two points shy of passage. She also voted against a congressional amendment supported by advocates for medical marijuana.

"She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words," Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Drug Policy Alliance, told Politico.

Did Wasserman Schultz repeatedly take votes to send dying patients to prison? Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see what we found and here is our complete file on Wasserman Schultz.

February 20, 2015

John Morgan calls Debbie Wasserman Schultz medical pot 'prohibitionist' in fundraising email

@PatriciaMazzei

John Morgan, the major Florida political donor engaged in a public spat with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is using the incident to raise dollars and get signatures for a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. And he's not holding back.

"We don't negotiate with prohibitionists. Or bullies," reads the fundraising email Morgan sent supporters Friday afternoon, in the wake of a tussle -- through intermediaries -- with Wasserman Schultz.

Politico has reported that the Weston Democrat's office indicated Wasserman Schultz might reverse her opposition to legal medical pot if Morgan stopped publicly blasting her over it. The congresswoman, who is also chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has denied her office a potential deal, though text messages and emails obtained by Politico suggest otherwise.

The back-and-forth began when Wasserman Schultz started flirting with running for U.S. Senate, if Republican Marco Rubio doesn't seek reelection. Morgan and his allies warned they would oppose Wasserman Schultz, who last year likened a medical-marijuana dispensaries to prescription-drug "pill mills."

"When Debbie Wasserman Schultz came out last year against Amendment 2, she didn't just simply empower our opposition -- she obstructed thousands of patients who desperately need access to this medicine," Morgan's fundraising email says. "Her poor timing and very public stand against medical marijuana helped squander the efforts of thousands and volunteers and donors.

"Now she wants to have a conversation in exchange for me toning down my criticism of her position last year (and the damage she caused)? Not a chance."

Either the congresswoman supports the measure or doesn't, Morgan wrote: "Everything else is B.S. politics in order to rehabilitate the damage she's done to herself by being on the wrong side of the issue.  It's not support - it's a quid pro quo and I won't do it."

Read the full text of the email after the jump.

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February 19, 2015

Politico: Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in 'tizzy' over medical-marijuana donor trouble

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office offered to change the Weston Democrat's position against a legalizing medical marijuana in exchange for support from a deep-pocketed donor, Politico reports.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to change her position on medical marijuana if a major Florida donor recanted his withering criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier. Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”

“No,” Morgan responded. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”

Earlier, Politico had reported that Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was considering running for Senate if Marco Rubio mounts a presidential bid and doesn't seek reelection. That chatter prompted backers of a medical-marijuana initiative that received majority support at the polls last year but failed to meet the 60-percent threshold required in Florida to say they would make sure to remind voters about Wasserman Schultz's opposition.

Now Wasserman Schultz's office has been exposed -- in writing, and by a major Democratic donor, no less. She did not comment to Politico, perhaps hoping the issue would go away. But it got louder instead.

UPDATE: Wasserman Schultz told the Sun-Sentinel on Friday that the allegation is "outrageous."

""I wouldn't change my position in exchange for support under any circumstances -- ever. I stand on principle. I'm always very proud to stand in front of my constituents and explain when I have a difference of opinion with them," she said.

January 30, 2015

The Hill: Debbie Wasserman Schultz cast House vote on Mario Diaz-Balart's behalf

@PatriciaMazzei

Voting for another member of Congress is technically a no-no.

But that's what Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat and the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, did this week for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, according to The Hill.

Diaz-Balart was wrapping up an interview with a reporter when Wasserman Schultz walked by.

“Deb, are you going in?” he asked before handing her his voting card. “Can you…” he said, trailing off as he handed her the card.

Wasserman Schultz, whose day job at the DNC means she's usually acting as the party's attack dog against Republicans, tilted her head quizzically and half-shrugged.

"Yeah, the opposite, the opposite," Diaz-Balart said with a laugh, asking her to vote as him in the opposite way as she was voting during a roll-call vote. 

Wasserman Schultz headed onto the House floor.

“He handed off his voting card to me, yes,” she told The Hill upon her return a minute later.

Members of Congress are collegial -- even across party lines -- and that's been especially true among Wasserman Schultz (in spite of her partisan role) and Cuban-American Republicans. When Democrats lined up to challenge Diaz-Balart, his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008, Wasserman Schultz took heat for sitting the races out, in deference to her colleagues.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, told The Hill he would "take care of that matter."

Fact-checking Debbie Wasserman Schultz's claim about Marco Rubio's position on immigration reform and pathway to citizenship

As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., considers a bid for president, Democrats are attacking him on his signature issue: immigration.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida had this to say about her fellow Floridian:

"Marco Rubio needs to first figure out which way the wind is blowing when it comes to committing on his position on any given issue," said the Democratic National Committee chair. "He was for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship before he was against it. It is really unfortunate that he has chosen the most politically expedient path on issues that matter the most to people here in Florida."

Has Rubio back-tracked? While Rubio has changed his opinion on how the legislation should be passed, we also found that he hasn’t changed his views on the underlying policy issues. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated her claim

January 25, 2015

Priebus and Wasserman Schultz mislead on immigration, but Dems have political edge

One of the most bipartisan aspects of immigration reform is the inability of the Republican and Democratic leaders to talk honestly about it.

Simply look at how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and his Democratic counterpart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, handled the issue last week.

Rather than provide hard facts, they reverted to the political parties’ default position: Recrimination for political point-scoring. The problem for Republicans, though, is the issue benefits Democrats more in presidential election years.

More here

December 29, 2014

Fact-checking Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other South Florida politicians in 2014

The torrent of many of the distortions and half-truths in the state’s top election battles this year had roots in South Florida.

In 2014, Miami-Dade was home to both of Gov. Rick Scott’s and Democrat Charlie Crist’s running mates, the scene of a closely-watched Congressional battle and ground zero for national conversations about climate change and Cuba.

Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential contest, two potential GOP contenders call Miami-Dade home: former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

And that left-leaning county to the north, Broward County, is home to one of the top critics of the GOP: DNC chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Here’s a look back at some of PolitiFact Florida's South Florida fact-checks in 2014.

November 20, 2014

Fact-checking immigration, including claims by Marco Rubio and Debbie Wasserman Schultz

President Barack Obama will speak to the nation about immigration on Thursday night, unveiling a plan to prevent deportations for broad swathes of people living in the United States illegally.

We don’t yet know the exact details of Obama’s plan, but preliminary news reports indicated the White House could shield roughly 4 million to 5 million people from the threat of deportation. If 11 million illegal immigrants are in the United States, as several estimates suggest, that would mean temporary legal status for roughly 35 to 45 percent.

While we’re waiting to hear concrete details of the actual plan, we thought it would be a good time to review some key fact-checks on immigration. We’ve selected 12 reports that shed light on Obama’s speech and the topic of immigration. (Browse all of our fact-checks on immigration including claims by Jeb Bush.)

Turn to Angie Drobnic Holan's report from PolitiFact.

November 19, 2014

South Florida Dems to Obama: Venezuelans should be part of executive action on immigration

@PatriciaMazzei

Two South Florida Democratic members of Congress have penned a letter to President Obama asking him to specifically include Venezuelans in his planned executive action on immigration.

U.S. Reps. Joe Garcia of Miami and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, wrote in the letter Tuesday that Obama should provide "administrative relief protections for thousands of Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela and are fearful of returning."

"Political and economic conditions in Venezuela have been declining for years, but now the Venezuelan people are facing a government that would rather repress and demonize its own citizens than engage in dialogue to address the serious problems facing the country," they said.

Any action could apply to Venezuelans who arrived in the U.S. before December 2011, the cutoff date for the Senate immigration-reform bill yet to be taken up by the House of Representatives, the letter says. Or Obama could authorize "delayed enforced departure," a protection similar to the one granted to people with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.

"Their inclusion in administrative relief falls in line with the purpose of such action which should be to provide relief from deportation to those who have established lives and families in the U.S. and whose deportations would rip apart communities."

South Florida is home to the largest number of Venezuelans outside of the South American country -- including a large contingent in Wasserman Schultz's hometown, which is known as Westonzuela. Garcia, who lost reelection earlier this month to Republican Carlos Curbelo, has filed legislation to give Venezuelans special immigration status, but it has gone nowhere.

November 04, 2014

Ken Detzner: So far, no hitches at the polls on Election Day

Detzner

Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls.

"Voters are very pleased to get out early and vote absentee," he said. "I think we might actually see some records in regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we're seeing returned.

"By the time the polls close this evening, we should have a sizeable number of votes already counted because of legislative changes made in 2013," Detzner said, referring to fixes restoring more early voting after Florida's flawed 2012 election process.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is monitoring polling locations in four Florida counties -- Duval, Hillsborough, Lee and Orange -- to ensure federal voting laws are followed. Detzner said these "observers" are present in 17 states, but stressed his confidence that the voting process has improved.

Given a governor's race too tight to predict, the state is ready for a recount, Detzner said. But the contest between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Cristisn't the only challenge supervisors face this evening.

Several other tight races could require a recount, including the 2nd Congressional District race between Republican Steve Southerland and Democrat Gwen Grahamand the District 26 race where Miami Democrat Joe Garcia is battling Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.

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