September 29, 2014

Medical marijuana ad wars start in FL with release of pro & con commercials


The supporters and opponents of medical marijuana both posted their first TV ads Monday, just in time for Floridians to receive the first wave of absentee ballots in the mail.

The clash is one that has played out in 23 other states plus Washington D.C., with medical-marijuana supporters playing up the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer or MS -- while opponents target older, more conservative voters with a message about crime.

"They don't call it the Drug-Dealer Protection Act. But they should," says the opposition ad from Drug Free Florida Committee, which focuses on a provision in the proposed constitutional amendment that allows caregivers to handle marijuana. 

The supporters, People United for Medical Marijuana, concentrate on the broad outlines and promise of the amendment: Getting people the care they need without the intrusion of government.

"Twenty-three states now keep government and politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship. And it's worked," says the ad. 

Drug Free appears to be spending the most early: $1.6 million, with the likelihood of millions more to come -- especially from Las Vegas gambling magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

People United for Medical Marijuana hasn't disclosed how much it's spending. Its chairman, Democratic donor and Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, have promised to do what it takes to get their message out.

A constitutional amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. The polling average of the last major public surveys pegs Florida voter support at about 64 percent.

Drug Free is concentrating on conservatives because, if Republican support falls to about 40-42 percent, the amendment will likely fail even if independent and Democratic support remains in or around the 70 percent range (more here).

Over the months, Republican support for the amendment appears to be dropping. But Democratic and independent support appears to be increasing. As a result, polls from the conservative-leaning business group, Associated Industries of Florida, show the amendment's support has remained at 64 percent for months. People United's polling showed the amendment's support has remained relatively constant as well, at 69 percent this month and 70 percent in June.

Here are the ads, in-depth fact checks to follow.

Hill + Knowlton Strategies hires Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy

Ryan Duffy, who served as the communications director for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford the last two years, is joining the Tallahassee public relations firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

Known for his calm, self-effacing manner, Duffy, 30, will serve as vice president, the company announced Monday. Duffy has also served a press secretary for the Florida House Leadership Team under then-House Speaker Dean Cannon. He also served as spokesman for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign in 2010. From 2007 to 2010 he served as speechwriter for U.S. Senators Mel Martinez and George LeMieux. He started his career as speechwriter to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

"Ryan has established himself as a battle-tested communicator who knows the ins and outs of the state capital and Florida's public affairs landscape," said Harry Costello, the firm's Florida general manager and executive vice president. "From his strong background in speechwriting for a former governor and two U.S. senators to his role as spokeswman for a house speaker, Ryan has found success in every endeavor. He will offer our clients invaluable insight and expertise."

In a statement, Duffy said he's "thrilled" with his new job.

"I'm looking forward to joining an already stellar team and helping clients to navigate public policy issues and communications challenges statewide," he said.

He holds a mster's degree in political management from George Washington University and a bachelor's in political science from Florida State University. 



Documents: Rick Scott was ready to expand tribal gambling for $2 b over 7 years

From the Associated Press:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's staff nearly reached a multi-billion dollar deal with the Seminole Indian tribe that would have allowed it to add roulette and craps at its South Florida casinos, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The deal, which was scuttled last spring amid resistance from state legislators, also would have opened the door for the Seminoles to build a casino in the Fort Pierce area and would likely have blocked construction of any Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami for the next seven years.

In exchange, the Republican governor would have gotten the headline-grabbing news that it was the largest deal ever reached between a tribe and a state government. The figure was expected to be $2 billion over a seven-year period and the words "largest guarantee ever" were included on several documents instead of an actual amount. Another estimate placed the deal at $15 billion over 30 years.

The documents released by the Scott administration four months after the AP first requested them show that the incumbent governor is open to shifting his stance on gambling. Scott previously has been viewed as quiet supporter of opening major casinos in South Florida and had fostered ties with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Story here. 

September 28, 2014

Rick Scott's current running mate once "strongly" urged Reps to back stimulus, tax-hike budget they attack Crist for

Interesting look-back by the Naples Daily News about the Obama-buck-fed-tax-hiking budget, supported in 2009 by the new running mate of Gov. Rick Scott, who uses the spending plan to criticize Charlie Crist:

“This is a tough year, I strongly urge you to support this budget,” said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who at the time was House majority leader, one of that chamber’s top positions, according to video from the final day of the 2009 legislative session.

The Miami Republican, who is now Scott’s running-mate, spoke minutes before the House passed the budget on the final day of the 2009 session. In his comments, he pushed back against Democratic opponents claims that the budget relied on increased property taxes.

“That is just not true,” he said.

 More here


Charlie Crist no longer looks, sounds like governor sunshine.


Governor sunshine is losing his shine.

Once known for his likability, Charlie Crist is now viewed less favorably than favorably in Quinnipiac University’s poll of the Florida governor’s race released last week. Crist now trails Gov. Rick Scott 44-46 percent, virtually a tie.

Scott’s heavily negative ad campaign deserves a goodly amount of credit or blame for that.

Since Crist entered the race in November, Scott’s campaign and allies have placed more than $41 million in TV commercials that have or will run. Crist is at $16.7 million. The vast majority of the $57 million ad campaign has and will be negative.

Crist, just now ramping up his spending, is targeting the fraud at Scott’s former hospital company.

“Taxpayers got cheated. But Rick Scott bought a beachfront mansion, a private jet and a Montana ranch," Crist’s latest spot says. "He's just too shady for the Sunshine State."

But sun isn’t shining out of Crist’s mouth, either.

Crist was always a tough campaigner. But, in his various runs for office, there was a velvet lining to his steel glove. Against Scott right now, there’s little velvet to be seen. For a candidate who made himself the cheery “optimist,” Crist’s ads are undermining his brand.

More here

NextGen Climate to continue organizing in Fla after Nov

Charlie Crist is receiving generous support from trial lawyers and teachers in his campaign to unseat the lavishly funded Rick Scott, but his single-most important ally may prove to be California billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer, a hedge-fund manager and environmental activist, is spending tens of millions of dollars in Florida and six other states to ensure climate change becomes the kind of wedge issue that tips elections. His political committee, NextGen Climate Action Committee, has already spent more than $6 million in Florida, considerably more than any of the other high-profile midterm races he is targeting in Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine and Michigan. More than $2 million has funded TV ads — including spots in Tampa Bay accusing Gov. Scott of helping Duke Energy gouge consumers — but the bulk of it is for turning out voters. NextGen Climate has more than 300 volunteers and 47 paid staffers working out of 21 offices. It's targeting Florida voters up to 34 years old (80 percent of whom consider climate change a very serious issue, according to NextGen's polls), and Hispanic voters in South Florida. "Across the country, including in Florida, Hispanics care about this issue more than the general population by a very wide margin," said Steyer, who chatted with The Buzz over Kahwa coffee while he was in Tampa Bay last week to meet with campaign workers and with Crist. Florida is a natural priority for Steyer, in part because of its outsized influence in national politics and also because it's believed to be more vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels than any state in the nation. Scott has tried to steer clear of climate change, repeatedly refusing to say whether he even considers it a significant issue. "I'm not a scientist," he says often. "When you run for office you're not expected to be a scientist, but you are expected to be able to converse with experts in a field and figure out what's best for the people you represent," Steyer, an amiable 57-year-old sporting a wool tartan tie, said of Scott's sound bite. "I find that a purely political, transparently political, ploy to shift responsibility away from dealing with scientific analysis and facts." Whatever happens in November, Steyer said NextGen will continue organizing in Florida to make climate change a wedge issue that political leaders no longer can avoid. "Unless people, voters, understand how this issue impacts them, their families, and the people they care about, it is always going to be a second-tier issue. So I think it's really important to put this in human terms and explain how good it can be for them on an economic basis, how many jobs this is going to create, how good it is going to be on a health basis," Steyer said. "And lastly, I think people do respond to the kind of obfuscatory and dishonest practices that some people engage in to try and prevent average citizens from learning the truth.

September 27, 2014

Proposed Florida amendment would set aside taxes to conserve land


More than two decades after Florida identified the need to save disappearing forests south of Miami, shrinking hammocks in the Keys and other sensitive land around the state, environmentalists fed up with politics getting in the way of conservation are taking their fight to the people.

In November, they will ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment — Amendment 1 on the ballot — that sets aside a third of taxes collected on real estate transactions over the next 20 years to conserve land and protect water.

The effort could potentially raise $10 billion and has already won support from a cross section of Florida interests: animals rights groups, local garden clubs, kayakers, bikers and even surfers. More than 700,000 signatures were collected to place the amendment on the ballot. To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment.

Backers — citing drastic cuts to state spending on environmental land, as much as 95 percent by their estimate since 2009 — say the amendment simply restores money already promised by state lawmakers.

More here.

September 26, 2014

Gov's staff offers up incomplete timeline of prison cover-up; governor can't find words to explain it

Gov. Rick Scott's office came to the defense of his chief inspector general Friday saying that the reason she couldn't investigate claims of a suspicious inmate death brought to her by an anonymous letter nearly two years ago was because the case was under an open investigation.

But, according to a detailed timeline released by the media office in response to a Miami Herald report, there was no investigation pending in the gassing death of Randall Jordan-Aparo when Melinda Miguel received the letter.

The 27-year-old inmate died in September 2010 after being doused with chemical agents three times in 13 minutes while in a confinement cell. Florida prison officials and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had closed the case in July 2012, concluding there was no relationship between the gassing and the inmate’s death.

Three months later, the governor received a letter from someone who identified himself as a "high ranking official" at the Department of Corrections, alleging a cover-up had taken place over the deaths of Jordan-Aparo and Miami inmate Darren Rainey, and complaining of "cronyism and corruption" within the agency.

Rather than open an investigation into the letter-writer’s claims, the governor’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel turned the letter over to the Department of Corrections, the very agency accused of hiding the deaths.

Scott refused to tell reporters Friday when he was first informed of the incidents, and he would not say if he supported the decision of his inspector general. 

"The inspector general doesn’t have the subpoena power and things like that when there’s an investigation,'' he told reporters in Miami. "So the right thing’s happening. There’s an investigation going on."

More than an hour after fielding questions about the matter, Scott’s media office issued a detailed -- but misleading -- "setting the record straight" about the Miami Herald's report.

The press release relied on inaccurate dates concerning the timing of the investigation. The statement claimed that, because FDLE did not conclude its investigation Jordan-Aparo’s death at Franklin County Correctional Institution until July 2012, an open investigation was underway for more than a year after the incident that killed the ill inmate.

"The anonymous letter was received AFTER criminal investigations had already commenced,'' the statement read.

But documents obtained by the Miami Herald show that FDLE completed its report on Jordan-Aparo and submitted it to the state attorney May 3, 2011. The report concluded that the gassing was unrelated to his death. FDLE then forwarded its report to the state attorney who spent a year before deciding not to prosecute. The case was then closed officially in July 2012.

Only after the FBI began investigating in September 2013 did FDLE re-open its investigation into Jordan-Aparo’s death, thereby precluding Miguel or DOC from further investigation. And only after the Miami Herald began questioning inmates about the suspicious death of Darren Rainey at Dade Correctional Institution this spring did state officials revive their probe into that death.

In March 2014, Miguel was approached by four DOC inspectors seeking whistleblower protection for their claims that information of a cover-up in the death of Jordan-Aparo. They alleged that information had been withheld from FDLE and their jobs were being threatened by DOC Inspector General Jeffrey Beasley. Miguel refused to give them protection. They have since filed a lawsuit against her and DOC.

Below in regular font is the timeline exactly as it was provided by the governor's office to reporters Friday. In red italics are the facts that were left out, based on documents and records gathered by the Miami Herald. 

Staff writers Julie Brown and Marc Caputo contributed to this report. 

Continue reading "Gov's staff offers up incomplete timeline of prison cover-up; governor can't find words to explain it " »

The Money Race: Crist ramps up contributions


Heading into the final month of Florida’s gubernatorial race, Charlie Crist gained a wee bit of ground in campaign contributions on Gov. Rick Scott with the help of his political action committee.

During the latest round of campaign finance reporting, which covers Sept. 13 to Sept. 19, “Charlie Crist for Governor”, raised $2.3 million. That's more than the $84,461 that Scott’s committee, “Let’s Get to Work”, managed to raise during the same period.

Crist can thank a $1.5 million infusion from the Democratic Governor’s Association and $250,000 from the American Federation of Teachers. Also pitching in was the Orlando personal injury law firm of Diez-Arguelles & Tejedor, $37,000, and a health care political action committee, Floridians for Fairness, which gave $31,500.

Scott still has an edge. Overall, Scott has raised a total of $50.2 million, with $46.2 million of that in cash. Having spent $36.1 million so far, as of Sept. 19, Scott had $10.2 million left to spend. As of 5 p.m. Friday, Crist’s individual campaign had yet to file its latest report, so it’s unclear how much he has left to spend. It has until midnight. Crist has spent at least $18.4 million, including $2 million his committee paid the Florida Democratic Party on Sept. 15. His committee had raised $20.6 million through Sept. 19.

Florida voters should brace for an onslaught of direct mail from Scott, as his campaign continued to spend money at a faster clip than it was collecting.

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 19, Scott’s campaign spent a total of $688,497 from his “Let’s Get to Work” political action committee and his individual campaign account. About two-thirds of that, $442,754, was paid to Ponte Vedra Beach’s Majority Strategies, Inc. for direct mail and postage. Another $32,544 was paid to Election Connections, Inc. in Tallahassee for telephone calls.

His campaign raised a combined $444,114 from his committee and individual campaign account during the same period.

Of those contributions, $359,652 was collected via his individual campaign account, including $18,000 from Charles and David Koch, the conservative billionaire industrialists; $27,000 from various Rick Case auto dealerships throughout the state; $6,000 from St. Petersburg’s Mel and Betty Sembler; $9,000 from Security First Insurance Company; $12,000 from Walt Disney World’s various corporate entities; $18,000 from Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co.; $10,000 from Beall’s, and $7,000 from Tijuana Hot Foods Co.

His committee raised $84,461 (about $14,461 in an online database from the Republican Party of Florida.) Of the $70,000 raised in cash, $50,000 came from Tenet Healthcare, the second biggest health care chain in the U.S. that in 2012 agreed to pay $42.8 million to settle allegations that it overcharged Medicare. The health care industry gave the most, $58,550, with insurance kicking in $56,850, hotels and restaurants giving $30,250 and finance $29,600.

Once nicknamed 'Mr. Armani,' Miami-Dade schools superintendent says he's not into fashion

@cveiga  IMG_3331

Miami-Dade County schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho can add “America’s best dressed” principal to his résumé — at least, according to Indulge magazine, a Miami Herald sister publication.

The October issue features a Q-and-A with the head of the nation’s fourth-largest school district (and principal of two schools) on “the art and importance of blending substance with style.”

Though his students used to call him “Mr. Armani,” Carvalho told the magazine he doesn’t give much consideration to fashion — the 2014 Superintendent of the Year points out he only wears white shirts.

Carvalho, 49, said he started to wear a suit and tie to work because his first principal wondered how he’d be able to tell a young Carvalho apart from the students.

“No Italian fitting suit or shoe will ever change your heart or your soul,” Carvalho told the magazine.