April 16, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has $840k cash on hand in her first re-election battle

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who is facing her first re-election primary challenge, had about $840,000 cash on hand at the end of the first quarter.

The Democratic National Committee chair remains ahead of Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor from Hollywood. But Canova had an impressive haul as a first-time candidate during his first quarter and had $461,000 cash on hand.

Wasserman Schultz raised about $1.1 million in 2015 and about $621,000 during the first quarter of 2016, according to the report she filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. The bulk of her expenses were on consulting, fundraising, digital mail and media and travel. She paid her finance chair Courtney Whitney about $22,000, fundraising consultant Jason O'Malley $15,000 and BTS Strategies about $15,000. 

Canova raised about $559,000 during the quarter. Canova's largest expense included about $23,000 paid to Revolution Messaging (same firm being used by Bernie Sanders) for digital media and about $11,000 to Deborah Dion who is his spokeswoman. Many of his other expenses were for staff, credit card processing and office supplies. He appears to be trying to spend carefully: food for volunteers was purchased at Publix, Subway and BJs.

Wasserman Schultz and Canova are competing in Congressional District 23 which runs from western Broward to Miami Beach.


April 15, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenger Tim Canova picks up another union endorsement

Tim Canova has picked up another union endorsement in his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Canova, who lives in Hollywood, is being endorsed by the Transport Workers Union Local 568 today. That's the largest union at the Miami International Airport and represents cargo and fleet workers, according to a press release from Canova.

Union local president Sidney Jimenez said in a press release that Wasserman Schultz had been "virtually 'missing in action' when it comes to supporting our members' issues." 

This is Canova's first race for public office and he faces an uphill battle against the better financed longtime incumbent. Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, says he raised $557,000 during the first quarter of 2016. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.1 million in 2015 and $614,000 this year. (Their reports are officially due to the Federal Election Commission tonight.)

Canova's previous union endorsements include the Communication Workers of America and National Nurses United.

Wasserman Schultz was first elected to the state Legislature in 1992 and Congress in 2004. She has easily won re-election against GOP opponents.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, told the Miami Herald earlier this week that having a primary opponent in her re-election for the first time won't change her election strategy. 

"I’m not remotely paying attention to what my opponent does," she said Tuesday at an Equal Pay Day event in Pembroke Pines.


April 12, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says opponent Tim Canova won't change her campaign strategy

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was making the rounds in her South Florida district today -- including an event for Equal Pay Day -- when we caught up with her about her primary opponent.

For the first time since winning her seat since 2004, Wasserman Schultz faces a primary opponent -- and he has been drawing national attention.

Tim Canova, a Nova Southeastern Law professor from Hollywood, said he raised $557,000 during his first quarter of 2016. Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, raised $1.1 million through 2015 and about $614,000 so far in 2016. Campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission Friday so the totals are based on comments by the campaigns. (Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes, also a Democrat, ended his bid for the Broward/Miami-Dade seat.)

Canova has modeled his campaign themes from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and has focused on issues such as campaign finance reform and income inequality. He has also attacked Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans.

Canova faces an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz who has long roots in the district dating back to the 1990s when she served in the state Legislature. President Barack Obama endorsed her re-election in March.

Here is a partial transcript of our conversation with Wasserman Schultz about her primary race:

Q: How does it feel to have your first primary opponent for re-election?

A: “It’s no different than any other election I have. I have been on the ballot virtually every time. I do the same thing no matter whether I have primary opposition, general election opposition which is all through the year I try to make sure that I am out there in the community talking to my constituents about the job I am doing and answering their questions and trying to be the best representative that I can be. Then hopefully every two years when I ask for their support then I earn it again.”

Q: So you don’t have to do anything different this time because you have a primary opponent?

A: “When you are working hard and you're representing your district and you are out there and talking to people, ideally if you are doing the job that a representative should do you shouldn’t have to change up anything. I work hard all year, I try to make sure that I’m out there in the community. People know what I am doing -- I represented the people for a really long time.”

Q: This time will you have to do TV ads? You didn’t have to do that against Joe Kaufman (her Republican opponent in 2014)

“In different campaigns there’s different approaches. Certainly I won’t be talking about any campaign strategy to a member of the press but we are going to get our message out in a variety of ways as we always do.”

Q: Why do think (Canova) has drawn so much attention?

A:  “I really don’t know. I am focused as I usually do on my own campaign, doing the best job I can to represent my constituents and that’s my first responsibility is to do my job in Congress, to help elect a Democratic president and to make sure that in running for re-election people know the work I have done on their behalf. I’m not remotely paying attention to what my opponent does.”

Q: Is it going to pull you off your duties, reduce your time you can spend DNC and presidential matters?

“I have been DNC chair five years and I’ve had an election every time. I’ve balanced the work between covering my own responsibilities in Congress, and running for re-election and doing my job at the DNC. This will be no different.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz bashes GOP over gender pay gap

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, used a Pembroke Pines beauty academy as a backdrop Tuesday to bash Congressional Republicans for holding up legislation that she says would address the gender pay gap.

The bill, Paycheck Fairness Act, would require employers to prove that any difference in pay is unrelated to gender and prevent employees from being fired for sharing salary information, among other things.

“On average women make 79 cents per every dollar that men make doing the same job,” said Wasserman Schultz, who is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. That adds up to about $430,000 over their career, she said.

The disparity is especially bad in Wasserman Schultz’s Broward/Miami Dade district. It has the largest pay gap in the state: 75 cents, according to the American Association of University Women. Statewide it is 85 cents.

Wasserman Schultz’s comments came on “Equal Pay Day” -- a nationwide event to publicize the gender pay gap.

But just how much of what is said about the gender pay gap is accurate?

The gender pay gap is real, but Democrats sometimes flub the wording in their statements about the 79-cent gap or a similar figure, as PolitiFact has explained. We will use President Barack Obama as an example of how the pay gap can be explained wrongly or accurately.

President Barack Obama said in 2012, “Women (are) paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” That rated Mostly False.

But in his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama said women “still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” That rated Mostly True.

The key difference is the notion that men and women are doing the same work.

The 77-cent figure, which is now around 79 cents, does not apply to men and women who hold the same job. Instead it refers to all women’s earnings compared to all men’s earnings, regardless of their occupations. And the 77-cent figure doesn’t take into account other factors such as the fact that men have typically held their jobs longer than women in the same position.

If you look at men and women working in the same professions, the pay gap is much smaller -- though it doesn’t disappear entirely. For computer programmers, for instance, women earn 95 cents for every dollar a man earns, PolitiFact wrote in 2012.

The Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale released a statement about Equal Pay Day:

“Women are an integral part of our economy and deserve equal pay for equal work. Republicans believe we must focus on real solutions geared toward job creation and opportunity for women.”

Day also noted that women in Hillary Clinton’s Senate office and women in Obama’s White House were paid less than men.

That can be misleading, too.

Salary data for White House employees show a gap in average pay for men and women, but when job titles are similar, the pay tends to be the same.

In 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, published its analysis of salaries among Clinton’s Senate staffers from 2002-08. The website said it showed female staffers were paid 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

But that excluded certain information including employees who didn’t work a full year or Senate staffers who took leaves to work on the political side.

Clinton’s campaign provided data for all staffers whether they worked a full year or not and it showed an equal media salary of $40,000 when excluding Clinton’s pay.

April 08, 2016

DNC chief Wasserman Schultz to Bernie and Hillary: Chill


With most political enthusiasts' attention riveted on the divisive GOP presidential race, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is urging the Democratic White House hopefuls to tone down their rhetoric.

Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston when she isn't in Washington or traveling the country as head of the Democratic National Committee, was asked about the increasingly sharp attacks against each other in recent days by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"I think both campaigns really need to be careful about making sure that we don't do lasting damage," Wasserman Schultz told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program Friday morning. "I don't think we're at that point, but I think it is important to be careful that at the end of the primary process, when we have a presumptive nominee, that we're able to easily reunify."

In advance of the April 19 primary in New York, which Clinton represented for six years as a U.S. senator before heading the State Department, Clinton has challenged Sanders' allegiance to the Democratic Party and questioned his preparedness to be president.

On Wednesday, Clinton told MSNBC that Sanders "himself doesn't consider himself to be a Democrat." Sanders, who lists his party for Senate votes as Independent but caucuses with Democrats, has at various times in his career described himself as a Socialist or a Democratic Socialist.

Clinton also criticized Sanders' repeated presidential campaign calls to break up big banks, again comparing her record as a pragmatist who gets things done.

"You can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do," Clinton said.

Sanders responded that night at a rally in Philadelphia.

"She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote-unquote 'not qualified to be president,'" Sanders declared. "Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, though her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds. I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you support the Panama free trade agreement."

Clinton didn't actually say the phrase Sanders attributed to her about his lack of qualifications, but that phrase or similar ones ran in headlines in some news accounts of her comments.

Despite the sharp exchanges, Wasserman Schultz said it doesn't compare to "the food fight and the civil war that continues to rage on the Republican side."

Wasserman Schultz, who some Sanders supporters have accused of favoring Clinton in the Democratic race, also said that Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama had a more hard-hitting contest in their presidential primary campaign in 2008.

"Right now I would characterize the tenor and tone of this party to be nothing like the intensity of where we (Democrats) were eight years ago in 2008 between then-Sens. Clinton and Obama," she said.

After Obama gained the Democratic nomination in that primary race and then defeated Sen. John McCain to gain the White House, he chose Clinton as secretary of state. The two established a close relationship, and she has been trumpeting his achievements during her current run.

On the Republican side, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have been engaged in a nasty war of words for weeks, with the fight intensifying two weeks ago when the Republican front-runner tweeted an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz.





April 04, 2016

Claims by Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Debbie Wasserman Schultz top Truth-O-Meter in March


In March, the GOP and Democratic presidential candidates faced off at separate debates in Miami before Florida’s March 15 primary.

Donald Trump won the GOP primary -- prompting Marco Rubio to suspend his campaign -- while on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida also drew attention for her role as Democratic National Committee chair and because she is facing a primary opponent for the first time in a decade.

Here’s a look at the most clicked on new fact-checks in March counting down to the most popular from PolitiFact Florida.

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 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.