Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with MiamiHerald.com.

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

April 11, 2017

Tepid 2017 fundraising so far for Florida Republican and Democratic parties

via @adamsmithtimes

The latest quarterly campaign finance reports highlight the weakened state of both the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party in the era of super PACs and other political committees.

This is nothing new for the long-struggling Democrats, but the party had hoped newly elected Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel would prove to be a champion fundraiser. No sign of that yet. Even with Bittel personally stroking a $100,000 check to the party at the very end of the fundraising quarter, Democrats raised just $844,000. In the same quarter following the last presidential election cycle, the party raised more than $1.1 million.

The Republican Party of Florida, which Gov. Rick Scott has more or less abandoned to focus on his own "Let's Get to Work" political committee, reported raising $2.46-million in the first three months of the year. In that same quarter four years ago the state GOP raised $5.37 million.

The biggest check-writers to the state Republican Party included the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helps elect conservatives to state offices and donated $125,000 and the "Florida Roundtable" political committee of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is the only top Florida politician helping bankroll the state party.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the all but announced candidate for governor in 2018 -- facing a possible primary challenge from Corcoran -- is focused on his own "Florida Grown" political committee, which has about $7.7 million on hand. Republican state senators also have their own committee separate from the state GOP and raised $1.43 million in the first three months of 2017.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Pro-Obamacare group says it's airing TV ads against Curbelo

@PatriciaMazzei

A political group that wants to keep the Affordable Care Act said it's airing television ads against seven Republican members of Congress -- including Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- while they're in their home districts for the next two weeks. 

Save My Care, a pro-Obamacare organization funded by labor and other liberal groups, said Monday it is spending seven figures on the campaign, which tells viewers to call their lawmakers and urge them to "stop trying to repeal our health care."

Besides Curbelo, the other targets are Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Darrell Issa of California, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, Brian Mast of Florida, Martha McSally of Arizona and David Valadao of California.

 

 

In Trump era, Democrats suddenly have potty mouths

via @Alex_Roarty

An old political maxim holds that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose.

But after voters rewarded Donald Trump despite – or perhaps because of – his plain, often expletive-prone rhetoric, Democrats are suddenly quite eager to adopt the language of America’s president.

From the party’s new chairman to a senator many believe will run for the White House in 2020, Democrats are letting loose four-letter words in public speeches and interviews, causing a small stir, at least in political circles, where swearing in public is usually off limits.

“Republicans don’t give a s--- about people,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said last month, drawing criticism from GOP officials not only for the sentiment but also for the words he employed to convey it.

“If we’re not helping people, we should go the f--- home,” said Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator from New York who more than a few Democrats hope will challenge Trump for the presidency. Her uncensored declaration appeared in New York Magazine, which quoted her twice more using a curse word.

Swear words are hardly the stuff to get worked up about in a country grappling with serious, complicated problems at home and abroad. But behind the rhetoric is a real struggle for a party still trying to find its way in the aftermath of last year’s electoral catastrophe. In the age of Trump, party strategists wonder, do Democrats need to start talking in bolder, blunter terms to connect with voters – even if that means occasionally contributing to the swear jar?

“It’s always been interesting to have a private conversation where a politician cusses like a sailor, and then you get out in the real world and they’re using words like ‘sugar’ and ‘gee golly,’ ” said John Morgan, a longtime Democratic donor from Florida who is considering entering next year’s governor’s race.

More here.

Democrats buy ads against Scott on Obamacare replacement

via @learyreports

A fresh sign of the creeping showdown between Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson: a Democratic group is paying for Google search ads attacking the governor's support for the “toxic GOP health care plan.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the ads will show up when anyone in Florida searches for Scott’s position on the issue. A link directs viewers to a page attacking Scott and the failed Obamacare replacement.

The ad is somewhat misleading, implying it was Scott's plan.

Still, Scott talked up that he was helping craft the proposal, which he then waved on before calling it "way better" than the status quo.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Nelson calls for end on attacks to climate science

North miami sea rise
via @jenstaletovich

Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science.

Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics.

“There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner.

Southeast Florida is often considered a model for planning for climate change as it grapples with sea rise that has increased five to eight inches over the last 40 years. Four counties, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach, formed a compact eight years ago, vowing to work together to make the region more resilient for what could be a nearly three-foot rise by 2060.

But progress has been slow, in part because South Florida has often been at odds with a Republican-led state and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who reportedly banned the term climate change.

Now comes the Trump administration. In recent weeks, Nelson said he has met with supervisors in federal agencies who say the administration has issued the same ban. Worse, he said, the administration has proposed scaling back agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, that provide critical research and enforce regulations that deal with climate-related problems.

More here.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Poll: Scott is America's 34th most-popular governor -- but he should still worry Nelson

via @adamsmithtimes

Morning Consult is out today with its latest 50-state survey on the approval ratings of every senator and governor. The January to March survey of 8,793 Florida voters offers good news and bad for Sen. Bill Nelson as Florida's top Democrat heads toward an expected challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson's good news: 53 percent of FL voters approve of Nelson's performance and 26 percent disapprove, giving him a higher net favorability (net +27) than either Scott (+21) or Sen. Marco Rubio (+14).

The bad news: More than one in five voters don't know enough about their three-term senator to have an opinion on Nelson. It's safe to assume that Scott will have considerably more money to spend defining Nelson than the incumbent's last two challengers, Connie Mack IV and Katherine Harris.

"Both Senator Nelson and Governor Scott have relatively strong approval ratings," said Morning Consult’s Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "However, if Scott enters the race he will immediately have a valuable leg-up in terms of name ID. More than a fifth (21%) of Florida voters aren't familiar with Nelson, compared to just 7% for Scott."

More bad news for Nelson: Scott's popularity is growing. Morning Consult's last survey in September found 49 percent approving of Florida's governor and 41 percent disapproving. 

That doesn't exactly make him a national star, however. He had the 34th-best net favorability rating in the country. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, came in on top with +58 net approval and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also Republican, was dead last with a -46 net approval.

Among the U.S. senators, the independent gentleman representing the People's Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, came out on top, with net approvals of +54, while Kentucky's Mitch McConnell was at the bottom with a -3 net approval.

From Morning Consult:

Politician            Approve         Disapprove          DK/NO                Net

Marco Rubio          52                     38                  10              +14

Bill Nelson              53                     26                  21              +27

Rick Scott               57                     36                  7               +21

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

April 10, 2017

Ron Book: Trump's HUD cuts would hurt hundreds of women and children

Book

@NewsbySmiley

The chairman of Miami-Dade's Homeless Trust has warned members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that HUD cuts in President Donald Trump's proposed budget would harm hundreds of women and children who rely on the county's continuum of care for help.

Ron Book, a prominent lobbyist and registered NPA, wrote in an April 6 letter that the proposed elimination of HOME grants would cut funding for a rental assistance program run by Lotus House in Overtown that helps more than 100 women and 170 children pay for housing. Another 50 households, he said, are assisted through the Citrus Health Network.

Proposed cuts to Community Development Block Grants would hurt employment training for homeless women, renovations to the only 24-hour emergency shelter in Miami-Dade County, and affordable housing projects, he wrote.

Book said the Trust supports a request by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Kristen Gillibrand for $2.6 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in fiscal year 2018.

Download Book letter

Miami Herald wins 2 Pulitzer Prizes

PP_Combo3

@PatriciaMazzei

Staff coverage of the Panama Papers, the international investigation that exposed how crooks and millionaires use the secret world of offshore companies, and the mordant political commentary of editorial cartoonist Jim Morin in a year rife with material won the Miami Herald two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday.

The 2017 prize for explanatory reporting was awarded to the Herald, its parent company McClatchy and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for their dive into a massive cache of leaked documents that revealed a financial system of tax havens preferred by tax dodgers, corrupt politicians and drug dealers whose money often wound up in Miami real estate.

The 2017 prize for editorial cartooning went to Morin, whose unmistakable quill-pen drawings and piercing captions have anchored the Herald’s editorial pages since 1978. Morin became a two-time Pulitzer winner, having previously earned the coveted prize in 1996.

“In your late career, you don’t expect this kind of thing,” Morin, 64, said. “I just work hard at what I do, and I’m never satisfied with it. I always want to make it better.”

Monday’s prizes, journalism’s most prestigious, were the 21st and 22nd bestowed to the Herald since 1951, when the newspaper won its first Pulitzer medal for public service. The Herald has more Pulitzers to its name than any other newspaper in the Southeast.

The Herald’s last Pulitzer had come in 2009, when Patrick Farrell won for breaking news photography after calamitous flooding caused by Hurricane Ike in Haiti. The newspaper had been a finalist in various categories several times since. The last time the Herald nabbed two Pulitzers was in 1993, for its staff coverage of Hurricane Andrew and for then-columnist Liz Balmaseda.

On Monday, reporters and editors huddled in the newsroom — cell phones and cameras in hand — around Morin and Panama Papers reporter Nicholas Nehamas. Another Panama Papers reporter, South America correspondent Jim Wyss, was patched in on video via Skype from Bogota. Everyone broke into cheers after each announcement, just after 3 p.m.

More here.

Trump will be back in Palm Beach for Easter weekend

Trump (16)
via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Trump is expected to return to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for the Easter weekend, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

It will be Trump's seventh visit since taking office and on the tail of last weekend's momentous trip that saw his host the Chinese president and launch airstrikes against Syria.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

Advocacy groups renews questions about Constitution Revision process and rules

CRC Miami listeningA group of voter advocacy and left-leaning activists groups have renewed calls to the chair of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to conduct a transparent rules process and address concerns about favorable treatment some speakers at public hearings appear to be getting. 

In a letter to CRC Chair Carlos Beruff on Monday, the groups said their top concern is "that the Commission is operating without rules and has not provided the public with any information about how it intends to go about adopting rules." It noted that the commission has failed to post on its website a March 24 letter to commissioner in which Beruff laid out what his spokesperson calls an "informal" process for establishing a rules committee to present proposed rules.

The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, AFSCME Florida, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Education Association, Common Cause Florida, Florida Policy Institute, Florida Strong, For Our Future, League of Women Voters Florida and Progress Florida.

In a separate letter, League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman also wrote to express concerns about a lack of transparency in the process as the CRC has conducted three "listening tours" around the state. The 37-member commission has held public hearings in Orlando, Miami and Boca Raton and it meets again on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

"Our primary concerns relate to a lack of transparency, potential roadblocks to meaningful public engagement, potential for leverage and influence over commission members, and a less than robust respect for the Sunshine Rules,'' Goodman wrote. 

She raised a series of questions the LWV hopes will be addressed by the commission, including an exception to the proposed rules for campaign contributions which she said will allow legislators and other elected officials to "be tempted to vote on issues based on whether their votes will yield campaign contributions."  Download April 10 LWV letter to Beruff

The advocacy group also asked Beruff why some speakers were allowed to leapfrog before others at the hearings, particularly in Boca Raton. 

"Although you have announced that speakers will be called in the order they sign in, it is obvious to those of us who were present and those watching the live stream that sign in time was not always determinative of speaker order,'' they wrote. "The earlier arriving speakers who tried to call this inequity to your attention were rudely rebuffed."  Download Advocates LTR to Beruff 4-10-17

In response to the letters, CRC spokesperson Meredith Beatrice, who previously worked as PIO for Gov. Rick Scott's Department of State, did not address the questions. She said in an email only: "This is an open and transparent process. Over 900 Floridians have attended public hearings and nearly 300 individual Floridians have spoken before the CRC. Speakers have been heard on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we will continue to do so. All Floridians wishing to speak before the CRC have been given an opportunity to be heard."

The CRC met for an organizational session on March 20 and then indefinitely postponed the adoption of draft rules after several member privately complained. 

The advocacy groups also want Beruff to answer the following:

 • Has the Rules Committee been formed?

• Who are the members?

• Have any meetings been held or scheduled?

• Why has this letter and the process it sets out not been announced to the public?

• If meetings have been scheduled, when and where will they be held?

• What is the schedule for adopting the rules? 

Photo: Constitution Revision Commission met in Miami for a public hearing April 6. By PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com