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.

March 28, 2016

President Barack Obama endorses Debbie Wasserman Schultz


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



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.