June 10, 2016

Scratch one Bondi complaint, as Florida Bar has no jurisdiction

via @stevebousquet

The Massachusetts lawyer who wants an investigation of Attorney General Pam Bondi won't be getting much of a response from the Florida Bar.

Bondi is a member of the Florida Cabinet, a lawyer and member of the Bar, but as long as she holds public office, she's beyond the Bar's jurisdiction. Citing a writ of prohibition issued by the Supreme Court in 1982 that dealt with separation of powers issues, the Bar says anyone who files a complaint against a lawyer who at the time holds a constitutional office receives this response:

"The Florida Supreme Court has held that a person elected to a constitutionally created office who must be a lawyer to hold that office is not answerable to the Florida Bar while that person holds that office. Therefore, the Bar does not have jurisdiction over the elected state attorney or elected public defender in any of our judicial circuits, nor do we have jurisdiction over the attorney general of our state."

The Bar also notes that under the Florida Constitution, a Cabinet member is exclusively subject to impeachment proceedings by the state House of Representatives "for misdemeanor in office."

Attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee III of Brookline, Mass. filed a complaint with the Bar Wednesday based on news accounts that she solicited a $25,000 campaign contribution from Donald Trump in 2013 at a time when her office had on file at least one complaint from a disgruntled customer of Trump University, the GOP presidential candidate's now-defunct real estate academy.

Trump U is a defendant in class-action civil suits involving customers living in California, Florida and New York who accuse the program of fraud and deceptive trade practices.

Larrabee accused Bondi of a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety. He also filed complaints against with Bondi with the Florida Elections Commission and Commission on Ethics. Bondi has called all three complaints "attacks without merit and I am confident it will be shown they have no basis in fact."

Ex-CIA officer Todd Wilcox portrays himself as 'warrior' running for U.S. Senate


via @michaelauslen

Before the United States invaded Iraq, Todd Wilcox led some of the first Americans on the ground as a CIA officer.

In Operation Desert Storm, he earned a Bronze Star after his Army platoon captured more than 250 Iraqi soldiers. From a Japanese base, he led a team of snipers in hostage situations throughout East Asia.

Florida Senate candidate Todd Wilcox speaks to members and guests of the Plant City Republican Women Federated Women’s Club meeting in Plant City, April 21, 2016.David W. Doonan Tampa Bay Times

More than a decade later, though, he’s struggling to command attention on a new, political battlefield at the Florida Gun Show.

It’s a friendly crowd for a guy like Wilcox, a life member of the NRA who’s shopping for a new scope for his gun, as well as for voters. But few passersby stop under the “Restoring America’s Prominence” banner he set up that May morning to hear his earnest pitch to replace Marco Rubio as the next U.S. senator from Florida.

“That apathy’s going to kill us,” says Wilcox, 49, one of five Republicans angling for attention in a race full of unknowns and little-knowns. By “us” he doesn’t just mean his own campaign; he means the United States.

Apathy is the first step toward the failure of America’s 240-year experiment with democracy, he says. Career politicians have turned voters off government, making them complacent and the nation vulnerable.

Wilcox insists he isn’t like those politicians.

He says it’s time for a change. More specifically: “It’s time to elect a warrior.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: David W. Doonan / Tampa Bay Times


June 09, 2016

Helen Aguirre Ferré: 'I will not cow to political pressure'

via @alextdaugherty

Helen Aguirre Ferré will not step down as head of the board of trustees at Miami Dade College after taking a new job as the Hispanic communications chief for the Republican Party, she said Thursday.

Democrats and activist groups have been calling on Aguirre Ferré to leave her post at the college because her new job will require her to support Donald Trump and other Republicans that want to deport undocumented immigrants.

“I will not cow to political pressure,” Aguirre Ferré said after days of silence on the issue. “It’s never been a secret that I am a Republican. I’ve been a member of the board of trustees for many years now and I do so as a volunteer. I believe in the mission of community college and what it offers to students.”

On Monday, the Miami Dade College DREAMers started a petition demanding that Aguirre Ferré step down. Miami-Dade GOP chairman Nelson Diaz said on Tuesday that if he were in Ferre’s position, he would step down because of pressure from Democrats and activists.

“It’s sad because she is putting Miami Dade College in a very bad position,” Maria Bilbao of the Miami Dade College DREAMers said. “She has to promote Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a racist. He wants to deport me, my son, 11 million immigrants and Muslim people.”

Read more here.

Alan Grayson should donate 'African slave labor profits,' opponent says


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's campaign says his primary opponent Alan Grayson should donate to charity any profits Grayson or his children made from previous investments in a company that operated in Eritrea -- an east African country whose government leaders, a United Nations commission now says, have committed "crimes against humanity."

Bloomberg Politics reported back in February that Grayson's children invested in -- and profited from -- a Canadian company called Nevsun that operates a gold and copper mine in Eritrea. The country is accused of using "forced labor via the national service program to help build the mine," Bloomberg reported.

Grayson told Bloomberg at the time: "I didn’t know, I couldn’t have known, and I did nothing wrong, nor did my children" and that "if I had known, then I would have divested." (The family ultimately did divest from Nevsun.)

Nonetheless, Murphy's campaign chastised Grayson then for the investment and renewed its call Thursday for Grayson to donate the money his family made.

Why now?

On Wednesday, a United Nations commission of inquiry said it found Eritrea's top political and military leaders "have committed and continue to commit" crimes including enslavement, imprisonment and disappearances, torture, rape and murder," The New York Times reported.

The newspaper wrote: "One of the most egregious offenses, the United Nation commission found, was the forced conscription of young people in a never-ending national service program that has driven thousands of young Eritreans to flee, many to Europe."

The Eritrean government denounced the report, saying it was deeply flawed and unsupported by evidence, the Times reported.

"While it’s barely a surprise to those who know his character, it is truly unconscionable that Alan Grayson refuses to donate this money to charity," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement. "If Congressman Grayson has any sense of decency, he will donate every penny of his profit from the suffering of innocent people."

Bloomberg said it's unclear how much Grayson's family made from its investments. When asked by the Herald/Times for a response to Murphy's appeal, Grayson's campaign didn't specifically address it; his campaign manager, Michael Ceraso, said "once more Patrick Murphy is trying to distract voters."

"Rep. Grayson has a strong record of professional and legislative accomplishments, and nothing to hide," Ceraso said. "Rep. Grayson will fight to expand Social Security, Medicare and the minimum wage. That's what voters really care about."

Grayson and Murphy -- both U.S. congressmen -- and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith are running in the Aug. 30 primary in the race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney: Dems likely win Florida Senate race unless Marco Rubio runs

via @adamsmithtimes

Marco Rubio came pretty close to finally closing the door another run for U.S. Senate by agreeing to host a fundraiser for his friend, Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on June 24, the final day for candidates to qualify for that office. But the pressure on Rubio to step up (and less directly for CLC to step aside) continues.

"Our ability to keep a majority in the Senate hangs in the balance, so we really can't afford to lose any seats. And in a purple state in a presidential year, I think Patrick Murphy wins that seat unless we have an incumbent running. It's politics 101," said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, noting that Democratic candidate Murphy already has President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden campaigning on his behalf in Florida.

Rooney said he doesn't mean to knock the five Republicans already running, but unless one of them starts to show any sign of breaking out, "we would be basically giving up that seat" without Rubio running.

Rooney said he has texted Rubio, urging him to seriously consider another term. No response.


Patrick Murphy traded donations for favors, complaint alleges


A progressive blogger in Los Angeles is ratcheting up criticism against Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over his ties to political donors who benefit from a visa program that Murphy has supported.

Howie Klein, of the partisan "Down With Tyranny" blog, wrote Wednesday that he'd filed identical complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Federal Elections Commission alleging that Murphy "violated federal law and House (ethics) rules by accepting campaign contributions in exchange for co-sponsoring legislation sought by a contributor."

Read a copy of Klein's six-page complaint on his blog.

Klein and contributors to his blog have been routinely critical of Murphy's bid for U.S. Senate and highly supportive of his main primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando -- whose campaign Klein has encouraged his readers to donate to. (Pam Keith is also running in the Aug. 30 primary against Murphy and Grayson.)

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen didn't specifically address Klein's accusations but said the complaints were politically motivated.

"This complaint, written by one of Alan Grayson's most prominent fundraisers and supporters, isn't worth the paper it's written on. Congressman Grayson and his allies are just throwing mud at the wall and hoping it will stick," Slayen said, noting Grayson himself remains the subject of a congressional ethics investigation over hedge funds he managed.

At issue in Klein's complaints against Murphy is Murphy's support for the EB-5 visa program -- which fast-tracks foreign investors and their immediate family for green cards when they fund projects that create jobs for U.S. workers.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy traded donations for favors, complaint alleges" »

Todd Wilcox tells Carlos Beruff: 'Man up'


Todd Wilcox is fuming that Carlos Beruff said Wilcox and the three other Republican U.S. Senate candidates aren't "worth debating."

Wilcox unleashed a torrent of criticism on Beruff Thursday morning, going so far as to question Beruff's manhood in a lengthy open letter to Beruff entitled "Man up."

"I am a decorated combat veteran who has twice led men into battle in defense of your freedom and liberty. You see, where I come from, real men stand up and face their opponents with honor and integrity," Wilcox wrote. "Next time you want to make excuses for hiding from Florida voters, keep your misguided estimation of my 'worth' to yourself."

The letter is in reaction to comments Beruff made on Sarasota TV last week -- when Beruff explained why exactly he skipped what was supposed to be the first political forum featuring all five Republican candidates running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

"I was never gonna go, so I don't understand what happened," the Manatee County developer told ABC 7. "I had a conflict, and I didn't go. That's all there is to it."

Reporter Alan Cohn later asked Beruff if it was important for him to debate his opponents ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, and Beruff responded: "When there's somebody worth debating. At this point, I don't think there is any."

Beruff and Wilcox, both businessmen, are painting themselves as the "outsiders" in the contest, which also includes U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera.

Lopez Cantera's campaign was also critical of Beruff's absence from last week's forum.

"Beruff is truly mastering the five D's of political dodgeball every time he continues to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and again, dodge the voters," Lopez Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander said in a statement on Wednesday.

Wilcox said in his letter he's "not afraid" to speak to Republican supporters or stand on stages and take questions about issues. Implying Beruff is, Wilcox said: "You claim to be an outsider. You claim to be different than the guys in Washington, yet you're hiding behind your beltway consultants and your DC-produced political ads."

Beruff campaign spokesman Chris Hartline called Wilcox's letter "just another desperate cry for attention from one of our opponents."

"Carlos has travelled to all 67 counties in Florida meeting with voters, activists and local elected officials to talk about his message of bringing real change to Washington and will continue to do so," Hartline said in a statement. 

Here's Wilcox's full "open letter" to Beruff:

Continue reading "Todd Wilcox tells Carlos Beruff: 'Man up'" »

June 08, 2016

Sanders supporter Alan Grayson: Political revolution about more than one person or campaign


As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton locked up the Democratic nomination on Tuesday night -- making history and becoming the first woman nominee for a major political party -- Bernie Sanders supporter Alan Grayson didn't openly indicate whether she had his backing now, although Grayson has said he would back her if she were victorious in the primary race.

Grayson, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, proudly endorsed Sanders in February after an online poll of his supporters. His Senate campaign previously told the Herald/Times that Grayson would vote for Clinton if she were the nominee.

This is what he had to say Tuesday in a late-night Facebook post:

Grayson, like Sanders, is a progressive Democrat. 

Grayson's main Democratic opponent in the U.S. Senate race -- fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy -- has proudly backed Clinton since she first launched her campaign. (Murphy has the backing of the Democratic establishment in the U.S. Senate race.)

Murphy celebrated Clinton's victory on Monday night, when the Associated Press first reported Clinton had secured enough pledged delegates to win even before Tuesday's primaries in several more states.

During an interview with the Herald/Times last month, Pam Keith, the third Democratic contender for Florida's U.S. Senate seat, wouldn't divulge whom she preferred as the party's nominee -- citing positives and negatives about both contenders.

She offered these comments this morning: 

June 07, 2016

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera back in court

1st dca - June 7, 2016


In the latest development in a years-long ethics case against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, an attorney for the Miami Republican argued before an appeals court on Tuesday that the speaker of the Florida House has no legal authority to impose penalties on former state lawmakers who violate ethics rules while in office.

Seeking to overturn ethics violations against Rivera, his attorney Leonard Collins argued that it’s unconstitutional for state law to give authority to the House speaker or Senate president in doling out punishment for former lawmakers.

And even if appeals judges rule that that practice is OK, Collins argued that Rivera’s case should still be reconsidered because, he said, the Florida Commission on Ethics violated Rivera’s due process rights by committing “procedural errors” when it handled Rivera’s case.

An attorney for the commission defended how the case was handled but, in a painfully awkward moment, she offered no response when the three-judge appeals panel questioned why it’s allowable for the House speaker to have sole discretion in executing punishments for former House members — but a decision by the full House is needed to penalize current lawmakers.

“I can’t answer that,” assistant attorney general Elizabeth Miller said during the hearing before the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Read more here.

June 06, 2016

Patrick Murphy downplays documented discrepancies in his accomplishments (video)


Calling them "baseless attacks by Republicans," Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy on Monday dismissed and downplayed recent media reports that have demonstrated ways Murphy has exaggerated his academic and job credentials or contradicted himself on his accomplishments.

Murphy said he's "absolutely not" embellished his resume and he shifted blame to Republican operatives.

"This is just more baseless attacks by the Republicans who are clearly just trying to help my primary opponent, Alan Grayson," Murphy said, speaking with reporters in Tallahassee after he filed paperwork to qualify for the 2016 elections. "They want him to be the nominee. They're not even hiding that; they're saying it straight up right now."

Republicans have mentioned they'd prefer Grayson win the primary, but that's because polls show Grayson is more vulnerable to the Republican slate of candidates, while Murphy maintains a strong lead over each of them.

"They're digging right now, and they're trying to find something that just simply doesn't exist," Murphy said, deflecting with campaign talking points.

It's common for Republican and Democratic operatives -- and especially candidate's campaigns -- to offer story ideas to political journalists. But in this case, the stories didn't arise from such tips. They've come, instead, from reporters at the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida vetting Murphy's background and uncovering discrepancies between what he has said publicly in his Senate campaign and what public records and his own previous accounts have shown.

A pattern has developed -- with questions about his University of Miami education, his time "leading cleanup efforts" after the 2010 BP oil spill and, most recently, how much time he spent working professionally as a certified public accountant.

Murphy, Grayson and political newcomer Pam Keith are competing in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Watch Murphy's full remarks above.