Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s press shop got snagged in an embarrassing retraction Thursday after an errant CNN and Fox News report that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act had been overturned.
As Atwater was meeting with Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi in a quarterly clemency meeting, his communications office pressed the button at 10:10 a.m. on the wrong press release that had been prepared in advance.
“Today’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court upholds two distinctly American principles outlined in our Constitution—individual freedom and limited government,’’ Atwater was quoted as saying.
Four minutes later, they sent out a new one: “Please regard previous healthcare statement.”
Alexis Lambert, spokeswoman for Atwater, said the CFO didn’t know any of it was happening.
“We reacted to the initial report from CNN and Fox News and then recalled it within a minute,’’ Lambert said.
Florida will spend $47 billion this year hiring outsiders to provide goods and services for the state but hundreds of the contractors will not be required to show they provided services they agreed to and their documentation will be rife with errors.
Those are the conclusions of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater after a sample audit of the 24,000 state contracts at 33 different agencies found that 35 percent were flawed.
At stake, he said: "Hundreds of millions of dollars" of the state's $70 billion budget, 67 percent of which is outsourced.
On Wednesday, Atwater unveiled a new web site that details most of the state's contracts so the public can determine if they are being held accountable for the services they are offering. The goal, he said, is to put the heat on the flawed contracting system by turning the public into watchdogs and inviting more competitors to the table.
The state of Florida, along with several other states, has reached a $40 million settlement with a group of MetLife insurance companies over allegations of life insurance improprieties. All of that money is being used to pay for the states' investigation, but consumers may receive more than $500 million in other payments.
Consumers may benefit from new business practices that MetLife has agreed to use moving forward.
MetLife had apparently been using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to check to see if a policyholder has died only in cases where such a death would be beneficial to the insurance company. For example, MetLife allegedly used this Master File to stop annuity payments to deceased clients, but did not use it to issue life insurance payments to beneficiaries of the insured.
Jeff Atwater’s just-ended flirtation with a U.S. Senate bid speaks volumes about the nervousness of Florida Republicans these days.
The GOP’s best hope, Congressman Connie Mack, hasn’t been running the type of campaign many Republicans want to unseat a beatable Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Some wanted Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, to run. Others approached House Speaker Dean Cannon, who declined as did a wealthy no-name.
But the drama is about more than just Mack or the Senate race.
It’s about a Republican Party grappling with ebbing fortunes compared to the red-wave of an election year in 2010. It’s about a movement nagged by a sense of perpetual disappointment that stretches to the top of the ticket.
And it’s about the potentially colliding political agendas of Atwater, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
It costs too much money, too much political capital and too much time for risk-averse FL CFO Jeff Atwater to run for U.S. Senate (told yall this was not likely to happen, remember?). He announced today on Facebook that he wouldn't enter the race. It takes a pickaxe to get to the point in his statement:
"Only slightly a year into this role I continue to feel blessed to be serving as your financial watchdog of government spending and I see so many more ways that I can serve you in this present capacity. As much as Carole and I are humbled by your calls, notes and messages to enter the US Senate race and carry our banner into the fight we believe we have a responsibility to finish the job Floridians elected us to do."
That means the GOP primary is Mack's to lose. George LeMieux is struggling mightily.
Here's the whole thing:
Friends, for asking and encouraging us to run as your candidate for the US Senate, thank you. Together we share an inspired vision for the future of America that is rooted in the founding documents of our country. Conservative principles of limited government that honors the talent, hard work and sacrifice of every American to pursue their dreams and create a purposeful life for themselves and their family. We also share a deep concern over the direction of our country and with those who believe that more taxes, more spending and more debt to fund bigger, intrusive and centralized government to plan and pamper our lives is destroying the American Character. We must fight for the future of our country. The time is now and the battleground is Florida.
Carole and I and our entire family traveled with you across Florida for sixteen months to ask for and receive your confidence and the high honor of serving as your Chief Financial Officer. For just over a year now we have been at the task of reducing your taxes, reducing your debt and creating an environment for Floridians to succeed on the paths they have chosen. Only slightly a year into this role I continue to feel blessed to be serving as your financial watchdog of government spending and I see so many more ways that I can serve you in this present capacity. As much as Carole and I are humbled by your calls, notes and messages to enter the US Senate race and carry our banner into the fight we believe we have a responsibility to finish the job Floridians elected us to do.
I promise you this, I will be with you and I will work at your side between now and November to see that Florida elects a United States Senator committed to our founding principles of freedom and liberty which has produced a prosperity never before achieved on this planet and which has inspired people across the globe. Let us press onward and see that Florida does it's part to preserve and advance this exceptional Constitutional Republic in the spirit of what Abraham Lincoln knew to be, "the last best hope on earth." Jeff
Former Senator and lobbyist Connie Mack III is complaining in a fundraising-pitch letter about the way we cover his son, Connie Mack IV, in the U.S. Senate race. He complains about a recent story about Mack's struggles (no mention of Jeff Atwater) and falsely accuses us of unspecified "unprofessional behavior."
Freedom PAC, a new shadow political committee has announced it will be the second of its to play in Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race by supporting Congressman Connie Mack.
Mack, a target of the Super Pac called Saving Florida's Future in February, could use the help. He's losing straw polls these days and his performance has underwhelmed enough fellow Republicans that Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is considering hoping in the race to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson.
While a recent endorsement by the American Conservative Union is some help to Mack, the Super Pac is worth so much more. If anything will keep Atwater from entering the race, it's the prospect of facing a political committee that can raise and spend unlimited sums from corporations to help an opponent.
The SuperPac is also a perfect antidote to the cash-gap between Nelson and Mack, who has $1.3 million in the bank. Nelson's campaign has $9.5 million. Nelson will also be a likely recipient of Saving Florida's Future help.
An Orlando radio host posed the question Wednesday, but Scott didn't bite.
“He left a message night before last that he was thinking about running for Senate," Scott said. "There’s a lot of people who’ve gotten in and out of that race."
Scott immediately switched to a rant about what's wrong with Washington, i.e. taxes. Maybe he'll have more to say when he returns Atwater's call.
Here's the full interview with Jim Turner on wdbo.com. It was one of seven interviews Scott gave Wednesday, including a meeting with the Orlando Sentinel editorial board, to talk about the $70 billion budget he signed Tuesday. Scott is scheduled to attend two ceremonial budget signings at schools in Tampa and Orlando later Wednesday.
In a series of one-two-three blows, George LeMieux's Senate campaign has been staggered by anemic fundraising, the specter of a big-name Republican jumping into the race and new court documents that make him a witness in the criminal case against the former governor’s hand-picked Republican Party of Florida chairman.
Now some are wondering how long LeMieux’s campaign will last.
LeMieux knows he's struggling against fellow Congressman Connie Mack of Fort Myers.
“Do I have an uphill climb? Sure I do,” LeMieux said. “I’m not the frontrunner in this race. I’m the underdog. Connie Mack the Fourth is the establishment candidate.”
LeMieux’s campaign got even tougher this week when Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he was considering entering the Republican race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
As a statewide office-holder and solid-fundraiser, Atwater would pose an immediate threat to Mack’s top-dog status and would further threaten the viability of LeMieux’s candidacy.
Mack, the namesake of a former Senator and baseball player, raised nearly three-times the money last quarter as LeMieux, who reported Friday taking in just $305,000.
The day he reported his fundraising numbers, LeMieux was dealt another setback when he was mentioned in connection with the fraud case against former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer. Greer is accused of defrauding the party for allegedly setting up a dummy company and funneling some of the party’s fundraising proceeds to himself.
Greer says he’s innocent, and that the fundraising work he did saved the party money and was legitimate.
The Shark Tank reports that Sen. Marco Rubio's former finance chair, Nancy McGowan, and Indian River Tea Party Chairman Toby Hill want Atwater to run for the seat.
"I think I have a responsibility to sit back, to these people that I respect greatly, who are serious-minded conservatives of this great state, to take a hard look at it..I think I have to," Atwater told The Shark Tank.
It's no easy task running for a federal seat if you've been a statewide candidate (it's harder to raise non-corporate dollars). But unlike Mack or Republican George LeMieux, Atwater has actually been on a statewide ballot.
In fact, he received more votes than any Republican in 2010 (more than Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi or Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Atwater, a former Florida Senate President as well, hails from one of the hotbeds for Republican political finance, Palm Beach County. And unlike Mack, the current frontrunner, Atwater has a more experienced Florida team that's better plugged into the state Republican Party.
Still, Atwater has a major weakness: His 2009 vote in the state Legislature to take Obama stimulus money and raise $2.2 billion worth of taxes and fees. Tax-raising is a killer in a GOP primary, let alone a general election. Also, Atwater's a banker. He's cautious by trade, if not by nature. Chances are, and this is a guess on my part, he doesn't do it.
Regardless, it's a warning shot to Mack and LeMieux.
**Update, Mack's campaign comments on Atwater and the "left-wing media:"
"Connie Mack has sent Bill Nelson and his liberal allies, including those in the press, into panic mode and it won't work. Republicans know that conservative Connie Mack will defeat liberal Bill Nelson and Mitt Romney will defeat Nelson's chief ally Barack Obama, regardless of what the left wing media wants."