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May 17, 2016

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for Democrats


President Barack Obama will be in Miami next month to ask wealthy Democratic donors to open their checkbooks to the political party ahead of the November election that will determine Obama's successor.

To lure donors to the June 3 dinner, the Democratic National Committee is billing the event as perhaps Obama's final Miami fundraiser as president.

"This may be the last time President Obama visits Miami as a sitting President, making it a truly special event," reads an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The fundraiser was first reported by Saint PetersBlog.

"This is a great opportunity to support the DNC and ultimately stop Donald Trump from reaching the White House in 2016," the invitation says.

 Though it doesn't say so on the invite, the dinner will take place at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

To attend and get a photo with the president, donors must contribute $10,000 per person. To "co-host" the event -- which usually comes with more access to the president -- they must contribute $33,400 per couple.

Obama headlined a similar fundraiser for the DNC a year ago in Coconut Grove, unofficially kicking off Democrats' presidential fundraising season.

Report: Florida ranks 9th best in debt load as a percent of personal income, so what does that mean?

Florida debtFlorida taxpayers today are on the hook for less unpaid state debt than taxpayers in a majority of other states, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trust.

The report on state debt and unfunded retirement costs, released Tuesday, measures the state’s total outstanding debt between 2003 and 2013, including its health care and pension obligations to retirees. According to data provided the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, Florida ranks ninth best in the nation in total outstanding bills and debt as a share of personal income is 7.2 percent, compared to the national average of 14.8 percent.

But that is only one piece of the equation on Florida’s fiscal health. Data collected by theU.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show that during that same decade, as the state’s total debt as a share of personal income dropped, so did the value of all the goods and services produced in Florida. The state’s gross domestic product per person, the monetary value of its economy, was declining more than $10,000 below the national average. Story here. 

More data here:

Florida Per Capita Gross Domestic Product



























United States


























Source: U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis



Florida's Outstanding Retirement and State Debt as a Percent of Personal income


National Rank*

National Average


Debt % of Personal Income 2013




Unfunded Pension % of Personal Income 2013




Retiree Health Care % of Personal Income 2013




Total Debt % of Personal Income 2013





*lowest to highest


Source: Pew Charitable Trust


Politico: Donald Trump hires Florida pollster Tony Fabrizio

From Politico: 

After calling pollsters a waste of money, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign reversed course and signed up veteran political strategist and pollster Tony Fabrizio, sources tell POLITICO.

Fabrizio has worked on numerous presidential elections. He is also a top strategist for the Florida U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Ron DeSantis, masterminded Gov. Rick Scott’s improbable Florida win in 2010 and was pollster for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in his 2015 win. Scott and Bevin share a common bond with Trump: They were both outsider businessmen who bucked the establishment.

Rumored for more than a month, Fabrizio’s hiring still came as a surprise to those who have listened to Trump boast that he doesn't employ pollsters. Trump has questioned the value of paying for them when so many polls are published each day in the media — and framed that as part of his outsider appeal.

More here.

Teachers say Miami-Dade has stiffed them $30 million in pay

Teacher pay


Sarah Hays is a perfect teacher.

The biology instructor at John A. Ferguson Senior High is up before dawn and works through the evening planning lessons, grading papers and steering her students to top colleges around the country.

For all her hard work, Hays scored 100 percent on her most recent evaluation by Miami-Dade County schools — putting the seven-year veteran in the elite minority of teachers across Florida who earned a “highly effective” rating.

“And you know what it’s worth? Nothing,” she said.

Florida law requires highly effective teachers like Hays to be rewarded with more pay. But two years after the law went into effect, Hays said she’s still waiting for Miami-Dade to award her performance pay.

“I feel taken advantage of,” she said.

A group of Miami-Dade teachers says the state’s largest school district is violating state law when it comes to their pay — stiffing teachers out of $30 million.

Three teachers — Thais Alvarez, Shawn Beightol and Isaac Castineira — recently sent the school district notice that they intend to file a class action suit over the issue. They claim Miami-Dade is not only ignoring performance pay laws, but that district leaders illegally changed the way tenured teachers are paid, too.

“You cannot break the law,” Beightol said.

District officials declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Read the full story here.


One of Florida's most expensive state senate races gets more crowded


What was already one of the most expensive state senate races in Florida is getting more crowded.

New College of Florida professor Frank Alcock, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday that he is joining the race to replace State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, in Senate District 23. There are already five Republicans and now two Democrats who have filed for the seat, which includes all of Sarasota County, plus a portion of Charlotte County.

Alcock said economic insecurity and health care will be big issues in his campaign.

“There are too many families in our state that struggle to make ends meet and too many children who don’t know where their next meal will come from,” Alcock said. “ And far, far too many people that still lack basic health insurance. We can and must do more for our fellow Floridians struggling to meet their basic needs.”

The candidates running in the Republican primary on Aug. 30 have already made that contest the most expensive GOP primary battle in the state. The five candidates have combined to raise $902,304 for the race. Former State Rep. Doug Holder, former Sarasota County commissioner Nora Patterson, businessman Rick Levine and current state reps. Greg Steube and Ray Pilon are all running for the seat.

On the Democratic side, Alcock faces Frank Cirillo in the Aug. 30 primary.

The amount raised for the race is third highest amount for any state senate race in Florida. State Senate District 39 in Miami is the most expensive. In that race, Sen. Anitere Flores, a Republican, is battling Democrat Andrew Korge in a race in which $1.2 million has already been raised. In second place is District 34 in Broward County, where Gary Farmer, former Rep. Jim Waldman and current Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, all Democrats, have combined to raise $1.1 million for the seat.

The seat Alcock is seeking appears to favor a Republican candidate. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 53 percent of the vote within the boundaries of what is now District 23.

Eyeing private life, Marco Rubio says he won't be a lobbyist -- or work on Wall Street


The only rumor Marco Rubio wishes were true about his professional life after the U.S. Senate is that he'll go work for his beloved Miami Dolphins.

"No, unfortunately, no," Rubio told a Miami radio station Tuesday morning. "That one, I can confirm it. It was the one time I hoped an unnamed source was right."

The Dolphins "haven't called yet -- at least not for a job, anyway," Rubio said lightheartedly in a conversation with WIOD AM host Jimmy Cefalo, himself a former player. "There's always hope!"

The Florida Republican reiterated he's still weighing his options for work after his term ends in January.

"I can tell you what I'm not going to be: I''m not going to be a lobbyist -- I'm not going to do that, I'm not interested in that," Rubio said. "I'm not moving to New York and working on Wall Street."

But expect to still see him around.

"I think being a private citizen is a good thing," he said, "and the good news about it is, you can stay engaged politically without being in office, as people have proven over the last few years. So I intend to stay involved politically and engaged on issues."

And never say never to another political run.

"If there's a good opportunity, and it makes sense, and I feel the passion to run for that office," Rubio said. "What I don't want to do is just run for something because it's available and I want to get back in. It has to be something I feel passionate about.

"I don't know what the world is going to look like after November."

Joe Garcia to return contributions from donor who pleaded guilty to domestic assault


It started with a Washington report that U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat running for U.S. Senate, had accepted $16,400 in contributions from donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a friend who in 2014 pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge.

The report from The Hill prompted Murphy to return the campaign cash by making equivalent contributions to charity. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also gave back $100,000 Al-Rashid had contributed to the Senate Majority PAC.

Republicans are now highlighting that other Florida Democrats benefited from Al-Rashid's political largesse -- including former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami, who is running for his old seat. Garcia accepted $5,200 from Al-Rashid in 2014, and $5,400 in March.

Garcia's campaign said Tuesday, as first reported by Politico, that it is making an equivalent donation to Planned Parenthood to get rid of the 2016 money.

This post has been updated to correct the fact that it's the campaign will be giving the 2016 money to charity, not the 2014 money.

Florida voters, turn on your TVs. The general election is here.


Hillary Clinton has yet to officially clinch the Democratic presidential nomination over Bernie Sanders. But a super PAC backing Clinton isn't waiting for the primary to be over to launch TV ads geared at the general election against Republican Donald Trump.

Priorities USA on Monday unveiled two ads -- both clearly aimed at women -- to air in Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, all key swing states come November. Both TV spots go directly after Trump over past controversial comments he's made, a sign of more negative campaigning sure to come in a race between two candidates polls show are widely disliked.

"This is only the beginning of an aggressive and sustained advertising campaign against Donald Trump and the more voters learn about him the less likely they're going to be comfortable with the idea that he could be president," Guy Cecil, the super PAC's chief strategist, said in a statement.



Marco Rubio is writing his own tweets again


Marco Rubio embraced Twitter as a social-media platform before he ran for president, obviously writing his own posts about anything that crossed his mind.

That changed when the Republican U.S. senator from Florida jumped in the 2016 race. His account was taken over by aides who crafted careful tweets, aware of the media glare on a presidential candidate.

No more.

Rubio began writing his own tweets again recently, taking the platform by storm Monday. He began the day with a complaint about airlines -- a classic Twitter gripe -- and ended it with a rant about anonymous sources in political reporting. (And yes, a "source" confirmed to the Miami Herald that Rubio is manning his own account.)

The senator told host Jimmy Cefalo on Miami's WIOD AM radio station Tuesday morning his tweets weren't intended as a rant.

"I would have said it all in a tweet, but they only let you put 140 characters," he said. "Then I started having fun with it a little bit."


His tweetstorm:

Miami Beach mayor takes lead in effort to end lobbyist, vendor donations in Miami-Dade County


Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine is helping lead a campaign against vendor donations in Miami-Dade County races, with hopes of putting the proposed changes on the November ballot. 

Levine, who helped solicit big-ticket donations to a city political committee raising money from Miami Beach vendors and developers last year, will head up one of the groups trying to win approval for the new county law, according to a press release issued Monday. The law would impose some of the rules that already govern Miami Beach elections -- specifically, it would ban large county contractors from donating to campaigns in county races.

Campaign cash from Miami-Dade vendors, developers and lobbyists are a staple of county races, and incumbents personally solicit big checks from those seeking their votes. The proposed legislation also would drop the maximum campaign donation from $1,000 to $250 per individual or entity. 

The law would apply to any entity or individual with a Miami-Dade contract worth at least $250,00 a year, as well as lobbyists for the contractors. The county law would have no effect on donations to political action committees or other groups that currently have no limits on the amount of cash they can receive.

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