September 18, 2014

UPDATED Miami Rep. Joe Garcia attacks challenger Carlos Curbelo in new TV ad


Rep. Joe Garcia has gone negative.

The Miami Democrat's reelection campaign released its second round of television ads Thursday with a new, 30-second spot that attacks Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo. The ad comes on the heels of the release of a poll commissioned by Curbelo that shows him leading the incumbent Garcia in a tight race for Florida's 26th congressional district.

Titled "Shutting Out," the ad accuses Curbelo "and Tea Party Republicans" of "closing the door on the middle class."

"They'd go back to the days when health insurance companies could charge women more than men for the same coverage," the ad claims.

As evidence, the campaign points to past Curbelo comments in which he has said he would support repealing and replacing the federal healthcare law. Curbelo has not commented specifically on "gender rating" -- the pre-Obamacare practice of insurers using gender as a factor to determine rates. But he has said he would keep some of the Affordable Care Act's policies, including extending coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The ad also continues to claim that Curbelo "would end the Medicare guarantee" -- a statement PolitiFact Florida has rated False. Garcia's campaign cites an April AARP press release that criticizes a budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican House budget chairman, over its Medicare reforms. Curbelo has said he would support Ryan's budget.

It's no surprise that Garcia has gone on the offensive in only his second round of TV ads, aimed for broadcast networks. Garcia is hitting key issues for Democratic voters -- healthcare, Medicare -- who usually need some coaxing to go to the polls in midterm elections. The ads are also a chance for Garcia to try to counter of news coverage of federal law enforcement intensifying its investigation into his former chief of staff over a suspected 2010 ringer candidate.

The first batch of Garcia ads, released on cable stations last week, didn't deliver an entirely positive message, either. In the two ads -- one for Miami-Dade County voters, the other for voters in the Florida Keys -- Garcia pivoted from a positive message to one going after Curbelo, a Miami-Dade school board member. The district stretches from Westchester to Key West.

UPDATE: Curbelo's camp has weighed in on the ad, calling it an "attempt to deflect attention from the chronic corruption that his campaign has perpetrated on our community."

"Once again Joe Garcia is resorting to lying in fictional attack ads that have been fact checked by the press and declared false," Curbelo communications director Wadi Gaitan said in a statement.


September 17, 2014

How South Florida lawmakers voted: Syrian rebel amendment

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted 273-156 to adopt the Syrian rebel amendment.

The breakdown: 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted for the proposal, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats voted against it.

The Senate is set to vote on Thursday.

The legislation grants President Barack Obama the authority for the U.S. military to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels. Obama said in a statement that the House vote shows there’s bipartisan support for a critical component of his strategy to confront Islamic State extremists, who have seized territory in Iraq and Syria.

Below, how South Florida lawmakers voted on the bill:


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami

U.S. Rep. IleanaRos-Lehtinen, R-Miami

Said Ros_Lehtinen in a statement: “We cannot have a plan that does not address the removal of Assad simultaneously alongside the destruction of ISIL and the other terrorist threats. Even though I will vote for the McKeon amendment, we still won’t be approaching this situation in a comprehensive manner that is required”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami (district includes MonroeCounty)


U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Miramar

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-BocaRaton (district includes Broward County)

Said Frankel in a statement: “While I support this plan in concept, today’s vote on training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition has been rushed by Congress and requires further deliberation and debate as to the long term consequences and full scope of U.S. involvement. For this reason I voted no.”


For third year in a row, DC Democrats' wage war on one woman: DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz


If three is a trend, then DC has a rite of late summer: Anonymous Democrats attacking DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Democratic insiders, Politico reports today, have "lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most." 

But let's face it. Some of these folks never had much faith in the Broward congresswoman.

Politico's e-book, released in August 2012, recounted how people in Obama World couldn't stand her. One year later, Politico and BuzzFeed followed up with more hate from her party. This year, August came and went with Wasserman Schultz putting some daylight between her and the White House over immigration.

It's clear Wasserman Schultz has made enemies. She certainly did when she undercut Democratic donor and Florida trial lawyer John Morgan over his medical marijuana ballot initiative. Morgan cut her to bits. And he was happy to reprise his role today in Politico (which for some reason didn't mention the prescription cannabis blow-up).

But it's the anonymous Democrats who really throw the incendiaries. They're trying to make her like Sara Palin over a clothing controversy. Note: There is a big difference between Palin's sartorial struggles and Wasserman Schultz's: There was documentation to prove that Palin had donors pick up her clothing tab; no such evidence exists (yet?) over the allegations concerning Wasserman Schultz, who says it's not true. 

Anyway, here's Politico:

In 2012, Wasserman Schultz attempted to get the DNC to pay for her clothing at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, multiple sources say, but was blocked by staff in the committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters and at President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago.

(Also on POLITICO: DNC chief walks back Walker 'words')
She asked again around Obama’s inauguration in 2013, pushing so hard that Obama senior adviser — and one-time Wasserman Schultz booster — Valerie Jarrett had to call her directly to get her to stop. (Jarrett said she does not recall that conversation.) One more time, according to independent sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, she tried again, asking for the DNC to buy clothing for the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.?

Wasserman Schultz denies that she ever tried to getthe DNC to pick up her clothing tab. “I think that would be a totally inappropriate use of DNC funds,” she said in a statement. “I never asked someone to do that for me, I would hope that no one would seek that on my behalf, and I’m not aware that anyone did.”

Putting aside the veracity of the allegations, the fact that they're coming up year after year, the fact that Democrats are on defense and the fact that Obama is a lame duck means it's probably time for Wasserman Schultz to save face and leave her party post.

More here

Scientists respond to Gov. Rick Scott, call for 'Science & Solutions Summit'

Scott and climate changeIf Florida’s climate scientists have proven anything this summer, it is that they are careful listeners.

After Gov. Rick Scott told them last month that he is “focused on solutions,” 42 scientists from Florida colleges and universities crafted a letter asking the governor and state policy leaders to convene a “Climate Science & Solutions Summit” to be held this fall to come up with an action plan for Florida.

“As scientists, we would like the opportunity to contribute scientific information to a plan which would address what is at stake for our state,’’ the scientists wrote.

The letter, to be released on Thursday and obtained by the Herald/Times, comes a month after five of the state’s top climate scientists met with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss climate change.

The scientists asked for the meeting after Scott said that he did not have an opinion on the issue because he was “not a scientist.”

The scientists first wrote to Scott saying they “were scientists” and would welcome the opportunity to explain to him why Florida is especially vulnerable as rising sea levels are flooding streets in Miami Beach, salt water is encroaching on drinking water supplies, and warming water is damaging the coral reefs.

But just hours before the Aug. 19 meeting in his office, the governor told reporters that instead of talking about the causes of climate change, he wanted to talk about solutions. Story here. Here's the letter: Download SCIENTISTS ON CLIMATE SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS

Top Photo: Eckerd College Marine Science Professor David Hastings speaks to Gov. Rick Scott and his aide, Noah Valenstein, about why Florida should take action now to offset the impact of climate change in August.

Below: Climate scientists outside Florida's old Capitol and on the 22nd floor of the new Capitol, surveying the topography and the state's former ocean ridge.

IMG_2972 IMG_2989


Former Gov. Bob Martinez leads initiative to improve voter turnout; TaxWatch releases election guide

Bob Martinez, who was a civics teacher long before he became the state's 40th governor, wants to get at the heart of voter apathy in Florida.

Florida's recent primary turnout of 17.5 percent, the lowest in the past 16 years, dramatizes the need for a new initiative, said Martinez, who is heading the new TaxWatch Center for Florida Citizenship. 

"There is a lot of work to be done," said Martinez, who spoke at the press conference Wednesday sponsored by TaxWatch, which also announced the release of its 2014 election guide.

 "I don't know that we'll come up with a silver bullet but that's not the point," Martinez said. "The point is identifying why voter participation has declined."

Martinez acknowledged that negativity in campaigns is one deterrent, especially for the casual voter, but there are plenty of others, including a need for more engagement and the expectation that regular Joes can have an influence on government.

Continue reading "Former Gov. Bob Martinez leads initiative to improve voter turnout; TaxWatch releases election guide" »

Miami-Dade wants more scrutiny of FPL cooling canals, fearing bigger problems


Worried that rising temperatures and a festering algae bloom in Turkey Point’s cooling canals may hint at bigger problems for Florida Power & Light, Miami-Dade County officials said Tuesday they plan to assert the county's regulatory power to find out what’s ailing the aging canals.

“Clearly the cooling canal water is migrating outside the boundaries of their system,” Lee Hefty, director of the Division of Environmental Resources Management, told county commissioners before suggesting the county take action.

Since June, FPL has been struggling to control the hot canals and an algae bloom that has spread throughout the 168-mile loop. The canals were dug in the 1970s and act like a radiator to help keep the nuclear power plant from overheating.

The utility has twice asked the South Florida Water Management District for more water to freshen the canals. Earlier this summer, the agency signed off on up to 14 million gallons a day from the Floridan aquifer and last week agreed to a temporary permit for up to 100 million gallons of freshwater a day from a nearby canal.

The utility needed the county’s permission to lay pipes across endangered wetlands, a request that could have been granted by staff. But environmental groups asked for a public hearing, warning that a spreading underground saltwater plume potentially worsened by the hot canals posed a bigger risk to Biscayne National Park and area water quality.

“We have the distinction of being the only national park adjacent to a nuclear power plant,” park superintendent Brian Carlstrom told county commissioners. “We really need to understand why this unprecedented event is happening.”

The utility has blamed below-normal rainfall on the rising temperatures and increased salinity. In July and August, temperatures exceeded 102 degrees and twice threatened to shut down the plant. Because of the spike, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised temperature limits to 104 degrees to keep the plant operating. More here. 



Miami-Dade mayor testifies in Homestead corruption case


Gimenez photoWhen Steven Bateman paid a visit to County Hall last year, he pressed officials on speeding up permits for a crucial South Miami-Dade sewage pump station.

But Bateman never disclosed that he was on the payroll of a health-care company standing to benefit from the pump station, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told jurors Wednesday.

“I assumed he was there as the mayor of Homestead,” Gimenez testified.

The county mayor’s testimony highlighted the third day of the corruption trial for Bateman, who is accused of landing an illegal gig as a consultant for Community Health of South Florida.

Gimenez’s testimony is key for prosecutors looking to prove that Bateman wielded his position as mayor to go to bat for a secret employer paying him a $125-an-hour.

Bateman, 59, is charged with two felony counts of illegal compensation, plus three misdemeanor counts.

Miami-Dade prosecutors say Bateman billed for 29 hours of consulting work on the pump station issue in February 2013, including his interactions with Gimenez as well as the city’s engineer — all done, at least outwardly, in his capacity as mayor.

More here.

Photo credit: David Ovalle, Miami Herald staff

Rick Scott’s “swindle” ad is a “swindle” by Rick Scott’s definition


In one of Gov. Rick Scott’s most widely run attack ads, a victim of Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein links Charlie Crist to the “swindle.”

Now Scott is backing away from the allegation of criminal mischief by suggesting that Crist’s “swindle” was due to his political flip-floppery – not the Ponzi scheme.

“This individual was a victim of both Scott Rothstein and Charlie Crist. Both of them promised things, and they didn’t come through,” Scott said of the ad on Wednesday during a Miami campaign stop.

“Charlie said he was a Ronald Reagan Republican. He was against tax increases. He was against raising your tuition. And he did both,” Scott said, repeating variations of the line when reporters sought clarification. “Charlie was a Republican and then an independent then a Democrat.”

Here’s what the ad is missing: Everything Scott specifically said about Crist.

The ad never says anything about Ronald Reagan.

It never says anything about college tuition.

It never mentions taxes.

It never mentions that Crist was a Republican.

It never mentions that Crist was an independent.

It never mentions that Crist is now a Democrat.

Continue reading "Rick Scott’s “swindle” ad is a “swindle” by Rick Scott’s definition" »

After flirting with FAU, Jeff Atwater says he is loyal to CFO job


Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater met with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board today, where he talked about achievement during his first term office as he runs for re-election. Atwater touched on effects of no-fault auto insurance reform, new policies that allow his office to monitor state contracts and even the environment.

But he also explained the story behind his decision to apply for the presidency at Florida Atlantic University and why he believes voters should elect him to a second term without wondering if he is still looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

The search firm FAU hired to help them find a new president, William Funk & Associates, first contacted Atwater in September and suggested he would be a good fit for the job because of his decades working in the region, political experience and ties to the school as father of three FAU graduates.

(We'll note here that Bill Funk was the same consultant initially hired for Florida State University's presidential search. He stepped down abruptly when the school decided against taking up his recommendation to make state Sen. John Thrasher the sole candidate. CORRECTION: FAU used Funk's firm in 2009 when they were looking for a replacement for Frank Brogan, who Funk's firm had also helped recruit to the state university system chancellor post. FAU used Parker Executive Search Firm in its 2014 presidential search, although Funk was among the companies interested in the contract.)

"The recruiter kept coming to me and visiting with me," Atwater said. He and his wife didn't decide until December to seriously consider the opportunity after hearing many times from Funk and others.

Continue reading "After flirting with FAU, Jeff Atwater says he is loyal to CFO job" »

Rubio: Obama foreign policy 'simply non-existent,' America needs to beef up its forces


In a wide-ranging speech that alternately took shots at the foreign policy – or lack thereof – of President Barack Obama and highlighted his own ideas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio laid out a case for a strong foreign policy and said “our nation is never isolated from the world.”

“There have always been those who argue that America shouldn’t concern herself with the affairs of the world – that what happens an ocean away bears little relevance to our people,” Rubio said in his prepared remarks for the Wednesday afternoon address. “Thankfully, there have also always been those who disagree – who argue that foreign policy is domestic policy, that our people’s interests and safety require defense capabilities so robust that they deter aggression and violence before they take hold around the world.”

The event was seen as a significant address by the Florida Republican, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. It set him apart from some of his potential Republican rivals who have indicated less willingness to use U.S. power in conflicts not directly involving the United States.

He spoke at an event hosted by the John Hay Initiative, in association with Concerned Veterans for America and The Project for the Common Defense.

Like his previous speeches on reinventing the American Dream and domestic policy, Rubio embedded a history lesson into his address, talking about threats the U.S. faced from the times of George Washington to the Cold War and beyond.

He said Obama had failed in his leadership, saying that a “striking shift has occurred at the hands of our current president.”

“The president’s foreign policy was once a failure – now it is simply non-existent,” Rubio said. “From Libya to Syria to Egypt to Ukraine, this administration simply shrugs as threats fester. When the administration does act, it fails to communicate any consistent rationale for military use."

He criticized the proposed reductions in the nation’s military strength, including in the numbers of ground troops, ships and planes; he said they are set to be reduced to pre-World War II or earlier levels.

To combat this decline in the nation’s combat strength, Rubio said that Obama should request additional funds for the military above what he requested earlier this year. He said the Navy needs to boost its number of ships, the Air Force needs to beef up its capabilities, and the Marine Corps and Army should reverse plans to reduce their sizes.

The full text of the speech is here.