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August 21, 2016

Patrick Murphy's dad dumps $1M into Senate Democrats' super PAC



Patrick Murphy's father continues to pour large sums of money into the 2016 election in the hopes of getting his son elected to the U.S. Senate.

A new FEC filing shows Thomas Murphy Jr. gave $1 million last month to a Democratic super PAC that has ties to outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

The Senate Majority PAC is one of several independent Democratic groups aiding Patrick Murphy's campaign in the hopes a victory in Florida will help the party win back control of the chamber.

The Hill in Washington D.C. was the first to report on the contribution. Thomas Murphy's donation to the Senate Majority PAC came July 13, just two days before the super PAC announced a $1 million ad buy in Florida to help Patrick Murphy's race.

On the campaign trail, Patrick Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, has openly chastised the influence of money in politics and said he supports campaign finance reform. However, he hasn't rebuked his father's hefty political donations that have contributed to Murphy's own political rise -- in this election and previous ones.

MORE: "The financial muscle behind Patrick Murphy’s Senate bid: Dad"

In May, Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times: "My dad is my best friend and mentor. I talk to him at least once a day, maybe twice a day. I think a lot of people in public service and a lot of people in business are grateful for their parents’ help. I’m no different from them."

Republicans coined the nickname "Privileged Patrick" this year in an attempt to highlight Murphy's family wealth and his affluent South Florida upbringing. His Democratic primary opponents, Pam Keith and fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, have also characterized Murphy in ways that emphasize his father's ongoing effort to boost his son's political career.

Thomas Murphy Jr. is founder, chairman and CEO of Coastal Construction Group, one of South Florida's largest construction firms.

Aside from last month's $1 million contribution, the elder Murphy also gave $500,000 this year -- through himself and Coastal -- to a pro-Murphy super PAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class. In the 2012 election, Patrick Murphy's first when he narrowly defeated tea-party incumbent Rep. Allen West, Thomas Murphy gave $550,000 into two super PACs supporting his son.

Super PACs aren't subject to campaign contribution limits and can't coordinate with candidates' campaigns.

Photo credit: Walt Michot / Miami Herald

FPL rate case: Should customers be treated liked shareholders and get refunds? Or charged $1.3 billion

IMG_IMG_FPL.jpg_2_1_T73I_6_1_R95NM0B9_L153998187Florida Power & Light’s proposal to increase customer rates $1.3 billion over three years will be on trial starting Monday as the state’s largest electric company asks permission to raise customer bills and be rewarded for “superior service” with the ability to earn higher profits.

But more than rates will be challenged as a long list of opponents ask state regulators to reject the rate increase and order FPL to refund at least $800 million a year, arguing that the company has earned excessive profits and should be returning cash to customers.

The opponents — from the AARP and the Sierra Club to the military, industry groups and the office that represents the public in rate cases — also want the Public Service Commission to stop allowing FPL to have customers pay for pipeline purchases, natural gas deals and other business decisions that they say investors should finance. And they want regulators to order the company to diversify its fuel mix to be more climate-friendly and less dependent on natural gas.

FPL is “asking for too much money,” said J.R. Kelly, head of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in rate cases. “The bottom line is, they are asking to increase their profits at the expense of ratepayers.” More here.

August 20, 2016

Pro-Marco Rubio super PAC raises $1.7M - almost half gifted from presidential super PAC


via @learyreports

Marco Rubio’s super PAC, Florida First Project, raised $1.7 million in just over a month -- including $800,000 from the super PAC that supported Rubio’s presidential run, according to a new FEC filing.

Conservative Solutions PAC transferred $800,000 on July 13, adding to $100,000 it previously gave the new Rubio group, run by many of the same people.

The super PAC that supported Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who exited the race in deference to Rubio, kicked in $100,000.

Other big donors:

Larry Ellison of Oracle gave $100,000; John Rangos Sr., chairman of Chambers Development Co., gave $25,000; Richard Uihlein, CEO of Uline, gave $75,000; Frank VanderSloot gave $250,000, while VanderSloot's business, Melaleuca, gave $250,000.

Geo Group, the private prison operator that suffered a big blow this week, gave $50,000.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

Miami Beach mayor accuses Rick Scott of "playing politics" with Zika information



Amid the public health concerns and worries about impacts on tourism, the news of Zika spreading to Miami Beach has set off a political quarrel between Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — rumored to be eying a gubernatorial run in 2018 — and Gov. Rick Scott.

He's taken to cable news channels to accuse Scott of withholding information from him about the presence of Zika in the popular resort city, which is a crucial economic engine for the region's tourism industry.

Fourteen hours after Levine told reporters late Thursday that there was "no outbreak, no epidemic of Zika on Miami Beach," Scott held his own press conference in Miami to announce that five cases were confirmed and Zika was being transmitted locally in South Beach. 

On Friday, Levine blamed Scott for a lack of communication that left the mayor unaware of what was going on in his own city. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the mayor took to cable news networks to blast the governor. 

"On Friday, the governor played politics with this horrible issue," Levine told CNN's Martin Savidge on a live segment aired just after 1 p.m. Saturday.

That's after a Friday night appearance on MSNBC.


"It is so sad that this governor is withholding life-saving information and playing politics with it," he said.

When the Herald asked Scott's office for a comment Friday, a spokesperson seemed to say, in the same breath, that Scott has been in contact with local officials, but he didn't tell them about the new local cases until after his press conference.

"Governor Scott has been in contact with mayors, local officials and community leaders for weeks and will continue to keep them informed," a spokesperson wrote. "Friday afternoon, the Governor hosted a call with all of the local officials in Miami-Dade to give them updates on what is going on."

Meanwhile, Levine himself could benefit politically by throwing darts at Scott.

This isn't the first time the millionaire mayor has taken on Scott. Earlier this year, Levine bought a radio ad in California touting his proposal to create a citywide minimum wage, and the ad ran while Scott was in California. During that trip, Scott criticized the state's high taxes and labor costs.

He's also promoted Beach issues on a national level, putting the oceanside city in the spotlight when it comes to sea-level rise and U.S.-Cuba relations. And he is now a regular contributor on cable news shows talking about the presidential election (he's a Hillary Clinton surrogate and personal friend of the candidate).

Levine has said he wants to run for a third term as mayor, but he has not ruled out a run for the top spot in Tallahassee. 

Doral may try to get Trump golf resort to pay more in taxes

via @MoniqueOMadan

Doral wants Donald Trump to pay up.

Doral City Council members will discuss a proposed resolution Tuesday urging county appraisers to reassess Trump’s lavish golf resort — the Trump National Doral, located off Northwest 87th Avenue and 41st Street — after a council member complained that the property has been undervalued for years.

“In the past year, Mr. Trump has cost the people of Doral millions in unfair tax breaks, and I am introducing legislation to ensure Mr. Trump pays his fair share,” Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz, who is running for Doral mayor, said in a statement.

A majority of council members told the Miami Herald they are inclined to vote for the resolution, although other than Ruiz, they asked that their names not be used. One council member didn’t return a phone call.

One council member, however, said he would vote against the resolution. “I don’t really see what the purpose of it is. It’s the property appraiser’s job, not ours, to assess properties,” Councilman Pete Cabrera said. “I don’t believe in creating a resolution for one specific property.”

More here.

Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

GOP helps assemble national Hispanic council for Trump


Looking to improve his poor standing with Hispanics, Donald Trump invited a group of politicians, pastors and business people from across the country to New York on Saturday to advise him on issues that matter to the nation's Latino community.

The group, assembled by the campaign and the Republican National Committee, will form Trump's new National Hispanic Advisory Council, the party announced early Saturday.

"This is a significant step Mr. Trump is taking to engage with the Hispanic community," RNC deputy political director Jennifer Korn Sevilla said in a statement. "By inviting this diverse group of Hispanic leaders to his personal office, Mr. Trump is opening the door to meaningful dialogue and shows he is determined to fight for every vote."

The council includes people from 12 states, including four from Florida. Two of them are state lawmakers from Miami: Reps. Carlos Trujillo and Jose Felix Diaz. Trujillo is one of Trump's Florida finance chairmen. Diaz was one of the RNC's Hispanic surrogates in last month's presidential convention.

The other two Florida members are Mario Bramnick, senior pastor of the New Wine Ministries Church in Cooper City, and Alberto Delgado, pastor of the Alpha & Omega Church near South Miami.

Also on the list are Jovita Carranza, a former deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President George W. Bush who flew to Miami from Illinois last month to hear from the Trump campaign, and Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who spoke a few sentences in Spanish from the convention stage in Cleveland. 

"The RNC joins the Trump campaign in recognizing the diverse group of Hispanic leaders who are generously giving of their time and talent to be part of the National Hispanic Advisory Council for Trump," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "Their participation is just one component of our expansive effort to engage the Hispanic community, and their contributions will help us compete for every vote in every community all the way through Election Day."

A pair of Telemundo and Univision polls last month showed record-low Hispanic support for Trump. A weekly Florida International University-Adsmovil tracking poll showed Friday that Trump's support is below 13 percent nationally.

"He is unlikely to have any impact on our Latino numbers in the near future and if you examine the past 18 weeks, it is unlikely that he will manage to recover even his highest score of 17.3%," Professor Eduardo Gamarra wrote.

In contrast, Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has maintained "an iron clad grip" among Latinos of more than 70 percent support since May.

This week, the RNC launched a series of web videos -- narrated by Hispanic Communications Director Helen Aguirre Ferré, who is from Miami -- explaining GOP positions to Latinos.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Two days, two Zika stories from Miami Beach mayor

 via @joeflech @alextdaugherty

On Thursday, hours after the Miami Herald reported that Zika was being transmitted in Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine looked at the TV cameras and made a blunt statement.

“There is no epidemic, no outbreak of Zika on Miami Beach,” he told reporters at a press conference. He added there were two cases that had “not been confirmed for Miami Beach.”

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott made a stop in Miami to make an announcement: There were five confirmed cases of Zika on the Beach and a new area of local transmission that covers the majority of the county’s tourism central — South Beach.

Was Levine spinning, or was he just ignorant of a burgeoning public health crisis in his own city?

More here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

August 19, 2016

Zika jump from Wynwood to South Beach scrambles Miami-Dade's tourism message


With the Zika transmission on Miami Beach, national attention shifted from a relatively obscure city destination to a locale that largely defines Miami's tourism brand.

A 2015 survey by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau found 77 percent of the county's tourists visited South Beach, making it Miami-Dade's most popular destination. Wynwood fell near the bottom of the list, with just five percent of tourists naming the emerging gallery and restaurant district. 

The expansion beyond Wynwood also foiled the tax-funded tourism bureau's messaging, which was based on the virus being geographically confined to an area north of downtown Miami. "There's only one square mile," Bill Talbert, president of the bureau, said before a special meeting the Miami-Dade County Commission called Aug. 9 to address the Zika crisis. "That's one square mile in 2,400 square miles. You can go to South Beach, you can go to downtown, you can go to Doral." 

Now Talbert faces the first grave tourism threat since the 2008 global financial crisis plunged travel into a depression. The Zika outbreak falls during a slow stretch of the tourism calendar, and a time when hurricanes used to routinely scramble bookings and cost the $36 billion tourism industry days, if not weeks, of lost sales. But the travel advisory for pregnant women imposed on Miami Beach Friday was the only second time Washington has warned against visiting somewhere in the United States. The first was issued Aug. 1 for Wynwood.

Continue reading "Zika jump from Wynwood to South Beach scrambles Miami-Dade's tourism message " »

Charlie Crist plays the boogeyman in Florida GOP primaries


AP Photo


Charlie Crist famously left the Republican Party six years ago, but the GOP isn't quite ready to let him go.

In Republican primary races statewide, the ex-governor's signature white hair and deep tan are as much a staple of GOP contests as yard signs, Obamacare opposition and National Rifle Association endorsements.

In Panama City, supporters of Republican Congressional candidate Mary Thomas slammed Neal Dunn, her GOP rival for Congress, in a television ad calling him a liberal and declaring that he backed Crist because he donated to him in 2009. Never mind that Crist was still a Republican then. Dunn's supporters returned fire with ads blasting Thomas for working at the Department of Community Affairs when Crist was governor and "collecting her paycheck" after Crist left the Republican Party.

Three hundred miles east near Jacksonville in another Republican congressional primary, John Rutherford and Hans Tanzler have both pointed to donations the other made to Crist more than seven years ago as proof they lack conservative credentials. And while Rutherford's campaign has hit Tanzler for being appointed by Crist in 2008 to the St. Johns River Water Management Board, Tanzler's team points out Rutherford had a longer relationship with Crist that went back to a 2001 campaign donation Rutherford gave Crist during his run for Attorney General.

And in the U.S. Senate race, Republican Carlos Beruff has been running ads aimed at Fox News audiences comparing Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential ambitions to Crist's political aspirations. The charge comes from Beruff who himself has been criticized for attending a Crist fundraiser in Sarasota in 2010 after Crist left the Republican Party.

In short, Crist has become a potent weapon in Republican primary races. More than just being a Democrat, Crist touches a nerve with activist Republicans years later because of his 2010 party exit.

"Obviously he is a pariah to Republicans," said Brett Doster, campaign manager for Tanzler in the 4th Congressional District race near Jacksonville.

Full Story Here

Independent U.S. Senate candidate vows to 'unite people through song and dance'


If there is one state where an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate is going to have disputed ties to Ozzy Osbourne, surely it has to be Florida.

That’s the case this year because of Steve Machat, a former music industry attorney, who is now trying his hand at politics.

“I love politics,” Machat said during a stop in Tallahassee to promote his campaign. “I love people. Music and politics is the same thing. You put together a team you want a dream. You go make it happen. And your message is to unite people through song and dance.”

Machat, who has lived in Miami since 2011, said he’s been a registered Republican and a Democrat before, but decided against aligning with any party for his first ever run for higher office. He said when a group he was speaking to recently asked if he was Republican or Democrat, “I said to them, ‘how about if I’m human,’” Machat said recounting the experience. “And I said ‘we are all human when you get down to it. That is what I’m doing, I’m running a human campaign to unite people.’”

Machat, who features a picture of him and Sen. Marco Rubio on his website, is one of four little known candidates who have qualified to be on the November general election ballot for the U.S. Senate as candidates with no party affiliation, in addition to the eventual nominees that will be decided on Aug. 30 for the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties. To qualify the candidates had to pay nearly $7,000.

Machat, son of longtime music industry attorney Marty Machat who represented the Rolling Stones, says he followed in his father’s footsteps and helped represent dozens of musicians, including Osbourne. After Steven Machat was quoted in Radar Online earlier this summer as a “former manager” for Osbourne in the 1980s, Osbourne’s official Facebook social media page responded with a statement from Osbourne saying Steven Machat “NEVER managed me nor was he employed by me in any capacity at any time in my career.”

Though he is running to beat him, Machat said he has nothing against Rubio personally, but said the nation needs someone who can help heal the partisan divide.

“I can help unite us. I have a 50 year history of uniting people,” Machat said.