June 16, 2013

Amid governor's-race controversy, FL Dems boast they'll still whip Rick Scott

@MarcACaputo

              Florida Democrats’ best candidate for governor right now isn’t a candidate and wasn’t always one of them.

And party leaders caused a stir by snubbing a longtime candidate and party stalwart.

But when the elites of the Florida Democratic Party met Saturday for their annual fund-raising gala, they suggested none of that was really a big problem for one big reason: Rick Scott.

The unpopular Republican governor looks like an easy target for an incumbent.

“Whoever the Democratic nominee is will beat Rick Scott,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “We will win the governor’s mansion next November. There’s not any question.”

Even before the Jefferson-Jackson dinner began, Florida Democratic Party leaders said it was a success, bringing in a record $850,000.

More here

May 01, 2013

Fair Districts plotted to "scoop as many Jews" for Wasserman-Schultz, draw partisan districts

@MarcACaputo

A liberal group involved in a lawsuit to make Florida’s congressional districts less partisan engaged in its own partisan efforts by drawing Democratic-heavy Hispanic seats or trying to "scoop" Jewish voters into a district for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, emails show.

The emails between the leaders and consultants of what’s known as the Fair Districts Coalition became a central piece of evidence Wednesday in the Republican-led Legislature’s legal defense of the congressional districts it drew in 2012.

Some coalition members sued the Legislature to have the congressional maps cancelled, saying they violate a new state constitutional amendment forbidding lawmakers from drawing districts that favor or disfavor political parties or incumbents.

To show how unfair the Legislature’s maps were, the plaintiffs submitted their own plan as an alternative.

But Republicans note that the emails involving Fair Districts leader Ellen Freidin and the consultants show that the plaintiffs’ proposals were drawn to strengthen Democrats, in general, and Wasserman Schultz in particular.

“I just got off the phone with Ellen,” consultant Brad Wieneke wrote in a Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, email to members of the team in discussing Wasserman Schultz’s district.

“They want to scoop as many Jews out of Tamarac and Sunrise as they can,” Wienke said.

Continue reading "Fair Districts plotted to "scoop as many Jews" for Wasserman-Schultz, draw partisan districts" »

After bashing "spoiled" House Speaker Weatherford, Wasserman Schultz blocked from saying hi in person

@MarcACaputo

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz sharply criticized Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford on Wednesday in Tallahassee only to get blocked from saying hi to the Republican when he was presiding over his chamber a half hour later.

“That’s OK. I’m a big girl. I was pretty pointed in my remarks about him directly,” Wasserman Schultz said when asked about the snub.

“Spoiled little children,” she said, repeating a line from her press conference when she bashed Republicans for not expanding Medicaid.

Weatherford suggested that an aide’s blocking of Wasserman Schultz’ from ascending the speaker’s rostrum wasn’t personal.

“I was tied up at the time ;),” he wrote in a Twitter reply to the Tampa Bay Times’ Katie Sanders, when she noted that “Jeff Atwater gets to approach @willweatherford on the rostrum. @DWStweets, not so much.”

“Thanks for coming by to see us @DWStweets Always a pleasure to see you. Hope you didn't get bored by the reading of the bills,” Weatherford wrote later.

Wasserman Schultz stops by Tallahassee about once a year and was in town to raise money for her campaign and raise awareness about Weatherford's role in stopping the state from expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

“In my experience, when we duke it out in the arena -- the arena of ideas when I was here– people were able to separate these things. Unfortunately, because we have extremists who have a stranglehold on the Republican Party, apparently that has changed quite a bit since I was last here,” she said.

“Will Weatherford should be ashamed of himself," she said. "This is a guy who, in his own family, needed the benefit of Medicaid when his brother was ill and now is denying a million Floridians the same opportunity.”

The back-and-forth between the two is probably political gold for Weatherford. He gets to tussle with Wasserman Schultz, one of the nation's most-recognizable Democrats, and that can only raise his profile.

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" »