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May 12, 2015

Jeb Bush tries to clarify position on Iraq war


Jeb Bush said Tuesday he misunderstood the question when he told Fox News he would have authorized the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on "faulty" intelligence.

"I interpreted the question wrong, I guess," Bush told conservative talk-radio host Sean Hannity on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the Fox interview aired. "I was talking about, given what people knew then, would you have done it, rather than knowing what we know now."

Bush faced with criticism over his answer to Fox's Megyn Kelly since the network posted a clip online Sunday. Bush allies -- and Kelly herself -- suggested Bush misheard the question, and he used the Hannity appearance to try to clarify his answer.

But when Hannity asked him Kelly's question again -- "So in 20/20 hindsight, you would make a different decision?" -- Bush wouldn't say.

"I don't know what that decision would have been, that's a hypothetical," Bush said. "But the simple fact is mistakes were made, as they always are in life, in life, in foreign policy."

Perhaps Bush, a known policy wonk unafraid to give his opinions on a wide range of issues in frequent interviews, was being candid instead of delivering a prepared talking point. But an "I don't know" response 12 years after the Iraq invasion that so plagued his brother's presidency may do little to quell critics eager to pounce on the Republican presidential field's presumed fund-raising front-runner.

"He's joking, right?" Democratic National Committee Communications Director Mo Elleithee said in a statement. "Yesterday the answer was yes, and now he doesn't know? Leave it to Jeb Bush to make George W. Bush look ready for primetime."

Breaking: Gov. Scott makes case with outdated pop cultural reference

SopranosEvery time Tony Soprano thinks his name won’t be invoked by Gov. Rick Scott as a metaphor for bullying by the federal government on Medicaid expansion, Scott pulls him back in.

On April 17, Scott told reporters in Fort Lauderdale that if the federal government cancelled the Low Income Pool program for hospitals that treat the uninsured to coerce the state to expand Medicaid, it was akin to bullying by the HBO mobster.

On Tuesday, Scott did it again during a visit to Washington D.C.

"This is The Sopranos," Scott said.

The Sopranos? Didn't that show end in 2007? Wouldn’t a Game of Thrones reference be more timely? Or, if the backdrop is Washington, why not something from House of Cards?

With all those DVD boxsets and second runs on AMC, could it be that The Sopranos has had more time to filter into the pop consciousness of the body politic? Perhaps a Sopranos’ reference tests better than a quote from Frank Underwood or an allusion to the cruel fate of Ned Stark?

No doubt Rick Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, has been busy on its messaging. In April, it spent $751,244. Most of that, about $650,000, was with the Annapolis, Md. political consulting firm OnMessage Inc. While the firm does opinion research, the committee's payments to the firm in April was for a massive TV ad buy. Pollster Tony Fabrizio's firm was paid $23,000, but that wasn't for a poll. There was a poll the committee released last month showing Scott's job approval was between 50-45 percent. The same poll showed that the Affordable Care Act was opposed by 55 percent of respondents.

But Brecht Heuchan, a senior adviser with Let's Get to Work, said the Sopranos' reference was not poll tested or focus grouped.

So why exactly is Scott name checking a fictional mobster from a show that last aired eight years ago?

"I don't know if the governor watches TV," Heuchan said. "I'm not familiar with the show myself. But he feels he's getting strong-armed, and I'm sure that's what he's trying to get at."

As of yet, Scott hasn't compared Florida's standoff with the federal government to an episode of Ally McBeal or L.A. Law, but stay tuned.

Jeb Bush to skip Iowa straw poll


Jeb Bush won't take part this summer in the Iowa straw poll, according to The Des Moines Register. He has instead agreed to participate in a competing conservative gathering, RedState, on Aug. 8 in Atlanta.

The Iowa straw poll has been criticized as a pay-to-play event that strains candidates financially and acts as a poor predictor of the winner of the state's caucuses. Mitt Romney won the poll in 2007, only to lose the caucuses to Mike Huckabee. Michele Bachmann won in 2011, to lose to Rick Santorum. Romney skipped it that year.

The Iowa GOP has been trying to attract contenders to the event, and party chairman Jeff Kaufmann did not take Bush's planned absence well.

Early public-opinion polls show Bush trailing in socially conservative Iowa. His camp appears to have recognized that the state has also not been kind to past Republican front-runners: Huckabee won the 2008 caucuses but lost the nomination to John McCain. Santorum won in 2012 and lost to Romney.

Senate offers to spend $105k in taxpayer funds to defend individual senators in redistricting probe

Faced with subpoenas for information in a second redistricting lawsuit, the Florida Senate is offering to reimburse 21 senators up to $5000 to allow them to hire private lawyers to defend themselves in public records requests.

The $105,000 allocation is on top of the more than $1 million taxpayers are already paying to defend the Senate in redistricting challenges brought by the League of Women Voters, and a group of Democrat-allied citizens, which challenged the congressional plan and are awaiting trial on a lawsuit challenging the Senate map.

There are 8 Democrats and 13 Republicans who have been subpoenaed in the case and 28 districts are under dispute by the plaintiffs.

The trial is set for September in Leon County Circuit Court and and lawyers for the plaintiffs are asking for all documents, including emails and proposed maps, related to the Senate’s maps in the case.  

"It's curious that when we made public records requests for these documents they need to get lawyers,'' said David King, lawyer for the plaintiffs. 

The email correspondence has been pivotal to the plaintiffs in the case, after legislators testified in court last year that they destroyed correspondence relating to redistricting as part of their routine email purges. After the plaintiffs obtained email correspondence from political operatives, the trial court judge in the case concluded that political operatives had “infiltrated” the redistricting process with the intent to influence it to benefit Republicans.

The plaintiffs have requested the same documents from the Senate’s lawyers as they have asked from legislators individually, said Lisa Hall, spokeswoman for the coalition that is challenging the Senate map.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a lawyer, said he has asked his law partner to represent him in the case. "I got nothing to hide about any of this,'' he said. "I had no conversations with any operatives…everything I’ve got on this is my emails that I would have sent to staff and people are welcome to see those."

Here’s the May 1 note from Senate general counsel George Levesque to the 21 senators: Download 2015 05 01_Memo re Legal Representation (2)

Continue reading "Senate offers to spend $105k in taxpayer funds to defend individual senators in redistricting probe" »

Miami International Boat Show to host reassuring webinar for exhibitors

via @NewsbySmiley

With their move to the Miami Marine Stadium grounds and basin sparking lawsuits and political tensions, the Miami International Boat Show's parent company wants to reassure their exhibitors that everything is going smoothly.

According to a Monday report by Trade Only Today, a daily publication for marine industry professionals, the National Marine Manufacturers Association is hosting an invite-only webinar for exhibitors on May 20. The webinar was announced in a letter by NMMA president Thom Dammrich, who wants to update participants on the progress of the move from the Miami Beach Convention Center to Marine Stadium in February, and address allegations raised in a lawsuit by the Village of Key Biscayne against the association.

Trade Only Today reported that it obtained the letter, in which Dammrich wrote that he wants to correct "misinformation and misinterpretations that are being broadcast as a result of the high-profile and political nature of our move to Miami Marine Stadium Park.”

Village officials have accused the Boat Show operators of breaking Florida's government in the sunshine law -- a criminal violation -- and have also sued the city to stop the project. They worry that the event will cause gridlock on the one road in and out of the island.

“You should know that NMMA is responding to the claims in the lawsuit, which we believe are completely unfounded,” Dammrich wrote in the letter obtained by Trade Only Today. "I've made statements in the press recently that we are confident that the show you trust us to produce will move forward as planned and that the Miami International Boat Show remains committed to being a good neighbor to Key Biscayne. I’ve made these statements because they are true.”

Miami administrators say they're moving forward with construction to prepare the stadium grounds for the boat show. Meanwhile, they expect to finally sign a license agreement with the association tomorrow.

Gov. Rick Scott gets promise of a hearing on what he calls 'Sopranos'-like coercion from Obama administration

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott continued his offensive against Medicaid expansion during a visit to Washington D.C. Tuesday, pressing members of the state delegation to make phone calls and write letters, and gaining assurance from a powerful committee chairman to hold a hearing on what Scott said was a "Sopranos"-like coercion from the federal government.

The governor echoed a theme from April, when he first compared the Obama administration's push to the TV show on organized crime.

Scott said Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would hold a hearing his summer "to review this coercion."

Scott met with more than a dozen Florida Republicans and urged them to join the fight.

"They can continue to highlight what the federal government is doing, what the Obama administration is doing by, one, walking away from an existing program for poor families and, two, using coercion tactics -- this is the Sopranos," he said.

Scott dismissed a question about using Florida's budget surplus to avoid a case-line "continuation" budget. He said, however, that the spending plan would account for money that must be allocated under the voter-approved Amendment 1 for environmental conservation.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

In title for most conservative, Marco Rubio just misses top spot


As they race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the senators in the running are also in a battle for the title of most-conservative.

Ted Cruz of Texas wins. But not by much.

The new legislative ratings by the American Conservative Union, a leading grassroots conservative organization, gave three senators perfect 100 scores: Cruz, Mike Lee of Utah and the just-retired Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Another five senators were bunched together with ratings of 96. Included were Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Cruz, Rubio and Paul are all declared candidates for president and will compete in a Republican primary season where conservative credentials will be a major selling point.

Another Republican senator who has all but declared a run, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, had a far-more moderate score of 74.

Florida’s other senator, Bill Nelson of Orlando, was one of 16 Democrats to score a zero in the conservative group’s rating system.

The group’s ratings were based on an analysis of votes cast or positions taken on 25 key issues. The group’s ratings are designed to test the issues and votes that “serve as a dividing line to help separate those members of the U.S. House and Senate who protect liberty as conservatives and those who are truly liberal.”

Rubio only went afoul of the group’s positions once: his vote against an amendment that would have phased in a reduction in government subsidies for flood insurance.

RPOF announces 2016 finance operation

The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday announced its fundraising team for the 2016 election in the latest part of a shakeup since Chairman Blaise Ingoglia took over the party earlier this year.

Heather Manso will be finance director. She has fundraised for individual legislative candidates in Florida and was on staff for Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, when she was majority leader.

* Political Capital, a firm founded by Gretchen Picotte, will take the lead on fundraising for RPOF. She was the finance director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign in Florida. The firm has run finance operations for federal and state races.

Rick Porter worked on Mel Martinez’s 2004 U.S. Senate election team as a field director and has worked on statewide and federal campaigns. 

Fundraising for Miami Commission races tops $1 million

via @NewsbySmiley

Candidates running to win election in November to the Miami City Commission have spent months -- in one case years -- raising money to fund their campaigns. Last month, they collectively passed the $1 million mark, according to campaign treasurer's reports due Tuesday.

The reports, filed by 15 candidates running for three seats, show incumbent Commission Chairman Wifredo "Willy" Gort topped $100,000 last month. District 4 Commissioner Francis Suarez, who only recently filed to run for reelection, has $80,000 in his official campaign fund.

But most the money is coming into the city's District 2 commission field, which has raised more than a half-million dollars. Teresa Sarnoff, wife of District 2 incumbent Marc Sarnoff, raised $56,000 in April, bringing her war chest to $390,000. Her best-funded rival, Grace Solares, brought in $17,000, bringing her total to $118,000.

None of the other seven candidates running for Commissioner Sarnoff's seat has more than $40,000 in their campaign funds. And in soft money, Sarnoff is sitting on a quarter million dollars in his electioneering committee, Truth is the Daughter of Time. Suarez also has more than $300,000 saved up from his aborted run for mayor in 2013.

We're rifling through the reports to see who gave to candidates last month and will update this post if there's any interesting developments.

Jeb Bush leases Miami office for likely presidential campaign

@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas


There’s no “Jeb Bush for President” sign — at least, not yet — outside the sturdy, six-story office building on West Flagler Street. But inside, the former Florida governor’s political team has begun to organize his likely 2016 Republican presidential bid.

Bush’s political action committee, Right to Rise, recently leased space on two floors of the Flagler Corporate Center at 9250 W. Flagler St. in West Miami-Dade County. For now, they remain a campaign headquarters in need of a campaign, since Bush has yet to formalize his candidacy.

“Welcome,” reads a placard with Right to Rise’s logo on it inside the building’s lobby, past a security desk that asks visitors to sign in and provide identification before they walk in. Two more Right to Rise signs point to the PAC’s offices on the fifth and sixth floors.

As an unofficial candidate, Bush has been raising big money at events hosted by his PAC and super PAC, both named Right to Rise. Once he launches his campaign, Bush will be limited in his ability to coordinate with the deep-pocketed super PAC, which is nevertheless expected to take an unprecedented role in the race, though it won’t be physically housed with Bush’s operation.

Bush’s communications staff and some of his finance team have already moved into the newly leased Miami headquarters. Team Jeb has only leased a small portion of the building. But it seems ready to house a large operation: It has ample parking and an atrium cafeteria. A large American flag hangs over the fifth-floor balcony.

More here.

This post has been updated.