November 13, 2013

Koch brothers group targets GOP state senators with attack ads


Three Republican state senators are the target of a well-financed campaign this month that portrays them as giving subsidies to billionaires, being unresponsive to parents of children in struggling schools, and being reckless with pensions.

But it’s not Democrats taking aim at Sen. Charlie Dean of Inverness, Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice and Sen. Greg Evers of Baker. Rather, it’s Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire libertarian brothers David and Charles Koch.

“I don’t pretend to understand these people,” Detert said. “They are supposed to be Republicans. They are attacking Republicans. If they’re not happy with Republicans, they should go out and start their own party.”

Slade O’Brien, the Florida Director of Americans for Prosperity, insists his group isn’t partisan. It is, however, conservative, he says. The group’s scorecard rated Dean, Detert and Evers with the lowest grades of any Republicans in the Legislature.

“They all voted against pension reform, parent trigger and for tax credits for billionaires,” O’Brien said. “They are just terrible on all of our issues.”

Starting this month, O’Brien said Americans for Prosperity is spending a “substantial amount” against the three senators on several direct mail pieces, social media, and ads to be aired on cable TV.

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August 02, 2013

Americans for Prosperity protest outside Blue Cross and Blue Shield

The Florida director of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the conservative Koch brothers, protested today in front of the state headquarters of Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Jacksonville to rebuke the company for having a "key role" in the nonprofit Enroll America.

AFP State Director Slade O'Brien said about 15 others joined him for the hour protest outside the headquarters because the company is "using a nonprofit 501C3 to market their product.

"You're not allowed to contribute or work with a nonprofit where you're going to receive financial benefits for doing so ... that's a big no-no," O'Brien said.

The AFP has been a vehement opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

In a prepared statement, Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman Paul C. Kluding said "Florida Blue has long supported health care reform that increases access to care, improves overall quality, and reduces the cost burden for all people in Florida, consistent with our mission. The Affordable Care Act is complex and Florida Blue supports efforts to inform the people in Florida about it so they can make good health care choices for themselves and their families."

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June 14, 2013

Is Amazon deal a flip-flop for Scott?

For Gov. Rick Scott, Thursday’s announcement boosts his claim that he’s a “jobs governor.”

Upon getting elected in 2010, Scott promised to create 700,000 new jobs on top of the average growth of 1 million jobs by 2017. About 302,500 jobs have been created since he took office. Thursday's Amazon announcement represents what would be one of the largest coups he’s had since taking office. The 3,000 jobs trails only 135,000 anticipated jobs from the opening of the Port Everglades Intermodal Terminal, 8,500 from a Winter Haven rail terminal, and 3,500 from a Wawa opening in Orlando. It would be the largest one-time job announcement for Tampa Bay since Scott became governor.

Yet for all the excitement, isn't it a tax increase? 

It had been reported that was why he walked away from a deal last month, because he didn’t want to tax online sales in Florida. But Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said the deal was not a reversal of his earlier stance but a “culmination of ongoing discussions.” 

Amazon will begin collecting the 6 percent state sales tax as required under Florida law. A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that an Internet company only collects sales taxes in states where they are physically located, which would now include Florida. 

What do Scott's Tea Party supporters think of it? 

Henry Kelley, chairman of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, whcih has about 1,500 members, says he doesn't quite know what to think of the deal right now.

"I'm kind of torn on this one," Kelley said. "Obviously, when you aren't paying taxes you haven't paid before, it's a tax increase. Then again, this makes the state tax system more fair, because brick-and-mortar establishments already pay this. If it makes it more fair, I'm for it, I guess."

Kelley said he wants to see Scott make the deal "revenue neutral" by cutting taxes, fees or programs to make up for the estimated $45 million to $90 million that state coffers could gain from the deal.

"We need to diversify the economy," Kelley said. "I applaud him in trying to diversify. Where I live, the economy is just tourism and military. We need more industry than that, and the governor understands that. If this is kept revenue neutral in some capacity, I support it."

But Scott has bigger problem with his tea party base than convincing them that the Amazon deal is a winner, Kelley said. He said they still resent him for favoring Medicaid expansion and not vetoing $4 billion in this year's budget. To tea partiers like Kelley, that $4 billion represents unnecessary growth in the state's budget.

"Scott's done damage to his base," Kelley said, who said he's gone from a vociferous supporter of Scott to a tepid one. "His advisers stiff-armed the tea party when we became unpopular. With the IRS issues, we’ve become more popular. We'll see what happens next."

November 16, 2012

Dems to Scott: Stop meddling

Democrats charged Friday that Gov. Rick Scott is meddling in the U.S. Congressional race between Patrick Murphy and Republican Allen West.

 A judge denied a demand by West, the tea party-based incumbent, for a recount of early voting ballots in St. Lucie County, which makes up the 19th Congressional District along with parts of Palm Beach and Martin counties. Murphy led West by 1,907 votes. Earlier in the week, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a three-member team to audit the results, according to news reports.

That prompted Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to issue a statement.

“In a clear effort to overturn an election result after having lost at the ballot box, Allen West has now run to Governor Rick Scott to needlessly interfere with and politicize a non-partisan election process.

"All votes in this election were counted fairly and accurately, and Allen West has lost beyond the mandatory recount range. Having Governor Scott intervene is outrageous and inappropriate. After disenfranchising Florida voters by cutting down early voting days and creating extraordinarily long lines at the polls, Governor Scott is now trying to blatantly overturn an election result he disagreed with and undermine Gertrude Walker, a three-decade veteran of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office. Governor Scott needs to remove himself from this process immediately."

That led Chris Cate, the spokesman for Detzner, to issue a response.

Claims that there is any interference by the state in this election are wholly inaccurate and unhelpful to the voters who need to know their votes have been counted accurately. We have a responsibility to ensure Florida’s election laws are interpreted and enforced properly, and our involvement in St. Lucie County has only been observational with the purpose of protecting the voice of the voters and ensuring fair elections were conducted in all of the St. Lucie County races, not just the highest profile contests.