April 16, 2013

Will do-nothing Congress kill lawmakers call to fight $5b tax-ID fraud industry?

@MarcACaputo

Tax Day is no longer just a deadline for citizens to rush and file their returns.

It’s now a day for members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike —to file legislation or announce ways to prevent an estimated $5 billion in tax-identification fraud, which is particularly virulent in Florida and especially South Florida.

The effort by local lawmakers is nothing new, nor is the fact that the measures have died year-after-year in a do-nothing Congress.

On Monday, Miami-area Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Garcia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all promoted legislation to put an end to the practice. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced a bill last week.

“Something needs to be done,” said Jon Simpkins, a Miami-Dade businessman who appeared with his wife, a tax-ID fraud victim, at Garcia’s press conference.

It took the Internal Revenue Service until April 8 to supply the family their tax-refund money from last year — a week before this year’s tax-filing deadline.

“I’m surprised they haven’t fixed this yet,” Simpkins said, detailing the delays and difficulties of just getting the IRS to do its job.

Continue reading "Will do-nothing Congress kill lawmakers call to fight $5b tax-ID fraud industry?" »

March 22, 2013

DWS: Obama’s Israel trip puts lie to “utter fabrication of Republican Jews”

@MarcACaputo

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward congresswoman, was at President Obama’s side during his trip to Israel and sounded ready to do a victory lap.

The president’s Israel trip brought enthusiastic crowds and positive coverage. And he’s the first sitting president to be awarded the nation’s top civilian honor, the Medal of Distinction.

So what happened to all the talk about tensions between Israel and Obama?

Wasserman Schultz: "Those criticisms were always nothing more than utter fabrications by Republican Jews in America who never supported Barack Obama and did everything they could to defeat him. And they were unsuccessful because the Jewish community in America overwhelmingly supports the ideals and values of the Democratic Party and strongly supports Barack Obama….”

“It would be hard for me to overemphasize the enthusiasm and warmth in which President Obama was received here – and also just in observing the interaction between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu, their back and forth, their interactions. Last night at the state dinner I sat two feet from them. They were engaged the whole evening speaking to each other – it was such a shot in the arm for our relationship and the friendship between our two countries.”

Continue reading "DWS: Obama’s Israel trip puts lie to “utter fabrication of Republican Jews”" »

Jeb returns $270k to fraudster; DNC gives back $51k, DCCC: c.$68k, DWS: c.$5k

South Florida Business Journal:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has agreed to return $270,000 that he was paid as a consultant to convicted fraudster Claudio Osorio and Osorio’s companies...

According to the agreement, Bush was paid $468,901 between December 2007 and September 2010 for consulting “plus reasonable expenses.”

Bush and his company, Jeb Bush & Associates, are repaying the money to Soneet Kapila, a court-appointed fiduciary who is collecting funds Osorio stole from other people and used to fund business operations at InnoVida Holdings, his housing panel manufacturing business.

The Democratic National Committee also agreed to repay $51,525 that Osorio donated, according to another agreement filed Thursday.

Folks in the GOP blogo-Twittersphere were quick to point out that the story didn't list two other high-profile givebacks.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair and Broward congresswoman, returned $4,800 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee returned $67,575.

February 21, 2013

Broken borders? Forget Mexico. Check out lines, CPB staff at Miami International Airport

@MarcACAputo

For a picture of the nation’s border struggles, look at the long lines and understaffed international-passenger checkpoints at Miami International Airport.

Up to 1,000 passengers in a single day have missed connecting flights at the airport — the busiest in the nation for international flights — because they’re held up at the Customs and Border Protection facility.

And the problem could get even worse next month because of looming federal budget cuts, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday after visiting the airport.

“Everything we are trying to do here — the additional staffing, overtime, technology…. will come to a screeching halt,” Napolitano said.

Continue reading "Broken borders? Forget Mexico. Check out lines, CPB staff at Miami International Airport" »

January 26, 2013

It's Tant. Allison Tant wins FL Dem Chair race, beats Clendenin 587-507

Allison Tant beat Alan Clendin in a hard-fought race for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Tant won 587 votes to Clendenin's 448 507. UPDATE NOTE: the original count didn't include at least one ballot that wasn't initially counted.

"Thank you, Alan Clendenin, for making me a better candidate," Tant said.

Tant's win spared Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson a measure of embarrassment. Both pushed hard for Tant. They wanted her to lead the party because she knows how to fundraise. And they need money, truckloads of it, to unseat Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

"We are going to have to work to out-raise, out-organize and out-work the GOP," Tant said. "We’ve done it before. We’re going to do it again."

But they haven’t done it during a governor’s race since 1994, when incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles beat challenger Jeb Bush.

Ever since that election, though, Republicans took over the entire Legislature. Bush then won the governor's mansion in 1998 and Republicans now control every statewide elected seat based in Tallahassee. Nelson is the only Democrat elected statewide.

But President Obama's re-election in Florida and nationwide has Democrats feeling stronger than ever in recent years. He's the first Democrat to carry Florida twice since 1936. Also, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has terrible poll numbers.

Democrats know they have a problem: Their voters show up in outsized numbers in presidential election years, but often get out-voted during governors' races.

"Can we get them to show up in off year elections? Can we get that same energy in off year elections?" Rod Smith, presiding over the election in his last act as chair, asked the crowded room of Democrats.

"I don’t know about you all, but I wouldn’t mind attending something I’ve not been to in a long, long time – and that would be the inauguration of a Democratic governor in this state," Smith said. "Rick Scott has done his part for us. His work alone won’t be sufficient to get us elected. But it should give us a running start.”

Annette Taddeo, Miami-Dade County's Democratic chairwoman who nominated Tant pointed out that Scott also has prodigious personal wealth.

"One number should worry you: $70m," she said. "That's how much Rick Scott spent in 2010."

Actually, Scott spent millions more of his own money.

The Democratic chair race was unusually bitter – not between Tant and Clendenin, but between their supporters.


Democrat attacked Democrat behind each other’s back and on blogs. Some tried to block others from voting in the chair race.

Smith refused to block Democrats from voting if they had been certified previously.

“I will not tolerate any effort at voter suppression," he said in a letter.

On the final day, Friday, liberal activist Susannah Randolph rebuked another Democrat by email when he accused another of fraud. Randolph, a backer of Tant along with husband and Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said that tensions were so high that someone taped a sign on her office door that said “Beware of Bitches.”

Clendenin had widespread and early grassroots support. But it wasn't enough to overcome the institutional support of Tant.

Before the vote, Clendenin sought to make the race a contest between the rank-and-file and the elite.

"Does our party belong to a group of Tallahassee insiders, consultants and lobbyists or does it belong to us?" he asked.

After he lost, Clendenin was elected vice chair and took the loss with grace. He hugged Tant and then held her hand high.

"Make no mistake, GOP, this team's coming to get you," Clendenin said.

 

January 10, 2013

Bill Nelson, Wasserman Schultz could get embarrassed in Dem party chair race

Democratic National Committee Chairmwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has the ear and the loyalty of president Barack Obama, and loads of influence among Democrats in Washington and across the country. Democratic activists in her home state of Florida, however, are poised to deliver an embarrassing snub to Wasserman Schultz with the heated race to lead the state Democratic party.

The congresswoman from Weston recruited longtime friend Allison Tant of Tallahassee to run for chairwoman of the Florida Democratic party, and in recent weeks has aggressively lobbied elected officials and party activists to get behind her anointed choice to lead the Democratic party in America’s biggest battleground state.

But it looks increasingly likely that those activists may ignore the entreaties by Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson and instead elect Tampa activist Alan Clendenin to succeed outgoing party chairman Rod Smith.  A tally of announced support compiled Wednesday night by Leon county Democratic activist Jon showed Clendenin with 390 votes, 68.4 percent of what's needed to win, and Tant with 183, or 32 percent of what's needed.

Continue reading "Bill Nelson, Wasserman Schultz could get embarrassed in Dem party chair race" »

January 09, 2013

Alex Sink backs Alan Clendenin in FL Dem Party chair race

Interesting high-profile endorsement for Alan Clendenin in his bid to lead the Florida Democratic Party: Alex Sink, the 2010 and possibly 2014 candidate for governor. To date, Clendenin opponent Allison Tant has soaked up all the establishment help, namely Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The press release:

Continue reading "Alex Sink backs Alan Clendenin in FL Dem Party chair race" »

December 19, 2012

Bill Nelson, DWS pick to lead FL Dems lobbied for firm tied to notorious 2000 voter purge

This could be a bombshell from The Political Hurricane blog:

Allison Tant, the insider's pick to be Democratic Party chair, was a lobbyist in 2000 for ChoicePoint, the parent company of a database firm hired by the state of Florida to purge its voter rolls of felons, many of whom happened to be Democrats and minorities.

Reached by phone, Tant tells us she didn't actually lobby for the subsidiary involved in the felon-purge work, called DBT. Instead, she said, she lobbied for ChoicePoint, a data-mining company. The company sought to ensure that the financial-services industry had adequate identity-theft protections in place so that the personal data was misused, she said.

Even though she didn't work for DBT (another lobbyist handled that line of work, she said) the mere association with the company can be politically toxic in some liberal circles.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lawful voters might have been unfairly removed and blocked from voting in an election that George W. Bush won by just 537 votes. The voter purge has been part of Democratic lore ever since.

"Allison Tant was lobbyist for firm that purged African-Americans from voter rolls before, during and after 2000 recount," says The Political Hurricane blog headline.

Ouch.

The felon purge is still fresh in the mind of Florida Sen. Bill Nelson as well. He mentioned it during testimony at the Senate's Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as an example of how Republicans allegedly game the election system. Turns out, Nelson also is the driving force behind Tant, who's also backed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair.

ChoicePoint was recently hired by the Obama administration to conduct criminal background checks on possible hires. So it might not be that anathema any longer.

Tant withdrew from representing ChoicePoint in late January of 2001 -- about two months after the famed recount was halted by the Supreme Court in the Bush v. Gore decision.

One of Bush's lawyers: Barry Richard, a Democrat and longtime Obama supporter, who's married to Tant.

Tant's opponent, Alan Clendenin, and his backers have long noted the Richard tie. And they've resented the way party leaders have thrown their weight behind one candidate -- especially after Clendenin spent the last eight months collecting votes for the job. His supporters say he still has enough grassroots votes to pull it off.

The story by the Political Hurricane, which backs Clendenin, probably doesn't hurt his chances.

December 14, 2012

FL Dems shredding each other over party chair race. Will Taddeo-Goldstein drop out?

Fresh off the president’s big win, Florida Democrats are starting to tear each other up over who will lead the state party.

In one camp: Allison Tant, a Tallahassee fundraiser for President Obama who was urged to run by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Broward Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman.

On the other side: Alan Clendenin, a Hillsborough County retiree, and Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, a Miami-Dade business woman recently elected to chair the county party.

Some insiders expect Taddeo-Goldstein to drop out of the state chair race soon, but she couldn’t be reached for comment on the speculation. The backers of Taddeo-Goldstein and Clendenin deeply resent the involvement of party leaders in the race.

“This is a slap in the face,” said Victor DiMaio, a Tampa Bay consultant and backer of Clendenin. “He has run for this office for months and now higher-ups in the hierarchy are trying to shove him aside."

Continue reading "FL Dems shredding each other over party chair race. Will Taddeo-Goldstein drop out?" »

November 26, 2012

Broward Sheriff Elect Israel will announce new hires within two weeks

Broward Sheriff Elect Scott Israel said today that he expects to announce new hires within a couple of weeks after he returns from sheriffs' school in Tallahassee where he is headed on Sunday. Israel, a Democrat, beat Republican Al Lamberti in November.

We also asked Israel about a report on the Republican blog The Shark Tank that suggested when Israel takes over BSO won't provide the same security to DNC chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston.) Lamberti and Wasserman Schultz have had a friendly working relationship and have both appeared at Relay for Life events (both are cancer survivors).

We're not going to delve into the details about when Wasserman Schultz does or doesn't get security while in Florida. But Israel said that it is "ludicrous" to suggest that BSO won't provide security to Wasserman Schultz.

"She is a Congresswoman in the United States of America," Israel said.  "Of course we will be protecting her."

Israel said that he asked Wasserman Schultz to endorse him and she didn't respond. But he said that isn't a factor in any security decisions.