December 16, 2014

Suspended North Miami mayor found guilty of mortgage fraud

@jayhweaver

Suspended North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau was found guilty by a federal jury Tuesday of using her “celebrity” as a Haitian-American community leader to lure “straw buyers” into an $11 million mortgage fraud scheme during the past real estate boom.

The 12-person jury, which deliberated for only two hours, convicted Tondreau of conspiracy and wire-fraud charges after a two-week trial. Tondreau, who was elected as North Miami’s first Haitian-American female mayor in 2013, now faces up to 30 years in prison at her sentencing March 20.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola refused to grant a request by her defense attorney, Ben Kuehne, to remain free on bond while she awaited sentencing. Scola said she used her “celebrity” and “hoodwinked” buyers into allowing their names to be placed on bogus loan applications in exchange for kickbacks in a “massive” fraud against various banks.

The judge, noting the fraud was committed before Tondreau was elected as mayor, said she was no different than any other convicted defendant and ordered her to surrender to U.S. Marshals in the courtroom while about 50 supporters watched in silence.

“I’m going to treat her like somebody who is what she is — a common criminal,” Scola said.

More here.

Gov. Scott names leaders at DMS and DBPR

Gov. Rick Scott appointed leaders of two more state agencies Tuesday, naming Chad Poppell as the new secretary of the Department of Management Services and reappointing Ken Lawson as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Poppell has been chief of staff to Secretary Jesse Panuccio at the Department of Economic Opportunity for the past two years. Before that, he worked for the city of Jacksonville, first as director of human resources under Mayor John Peyton and later as director of employee services for JEA, the city-owned utility. Poppell replaces Craig Nichols at DMS.

Lawson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, will remain in the post he has held since March 2011.

What Jeb Bush's announcement means for the 2016 White House race

@MarcACaputo

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is basically running for president now, giving him instant frontrunner status and implicitly pressuring other Republicans to decide whether to run for the White House against him in 2016.

“I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States,” the Republican said on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday morning.

“In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation,” Bush wrote. “The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”

Though the political action committee will help support others, its prime beneficiary is Bush and his presidential ambitions.

Bush didn’t explicitly say he’s definitely running, but the PAC is the clearest sign yet that an official announcement is likely a formality. The committee tells donors, activists and the general public that Bush is serious about a 2016 presidential bid.

“The big institutional donors of the Republican Party want to know where to put their money, and Jeb has now shown them where,” said Rick Willson, a Republican consultant from Tallahassee.

For months, as Bush hinted he would run, high-level Republican donors and fundraisers who backed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign started wondering if Bush would run. So they tried to recruit Romney, which helped pressure Bush into this decision, Wilson speculated.

Bush’s announcement, his backers hope, will quiet the talk of a Romney resurrection.

A national McClatchy-Marist poll released Monday showed Romney would likely lead a crowded GOP field with 19 percent of the theoretical Republican vote. Bush received 14 percent support. Without Romney in the race, Bush would be the national frontrunner with 16 percent support –-not a commanding lead.

But regardless of whether the GOP’s nominee was Bush Romney or someone else, the McClatchy Marist poll indicated that the Democrats’ likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, would defeat each by about 12 percentage points.

Aside from Romney, Bush’s decision puts pressure on his protégé, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

More here

Fact-checking Jeb Bush who is 'actively' exploring presidential bid

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced on Facebook Dec. 16 that he "decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States."

His decision means that Florida, already a crucial swing state, will play an even more high-profile role in 2016. 

PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked Jeb Bush 20 times on our Truth-O-Meter. We’ve rated five statements True, seven Mostly True, two Half True, four Mostly False, one False and one Pants on Fire.

Bush left office in 2007, so he hasn’t been in the public eye as much as some of the other 2016 contenders. PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida 77 times and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 97 times, for example. (Mitt Romney, who we have fact-checked 205 times, has said he has no plans to run, though some polls show him topping the GOP field.)

In many ways, Bush, who served 1999-2007, was one of Florida’s most powerful governors. He took office after voters changed the Constitution to give the office more power, served while his brother was president and was the first Republican governor since Reconstruction to work with a GOP-controlled Legislature. He served during Florida’s famous 2000 recount and during the busy 2004-05 hurricane seasons. Bush implemented the state’s A through F school grading system, cut billions in taxes and slashed thousands of state jobs.

Bush had his failures, too -- including his effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive on a feeding tube. In 2005, the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s school voucher program as unconstitutional, and the court tossed out a law designed to speed up executions. Despite some commentators now calling him a "moderate" for his views in favor of Common Core and changing immigration policies, he governed as a conservative in Florida.

In December, Bush announced that he was writing an e-book and will release 250,000 emails from his tenure as governor.

Here’s a look at some of PolitiFact's fact-checks of claims by or about Bush.

Jeb Bush says he's "actively" making plans to run for president

@MarcACaputo

Jeb Bush has said everything except for "I'm definitely running for president." Just now, on his Facebook page he said he's going to open a political action committee to "actively explore" a 2016 bid. Here it is:

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.

We shared good food and watched a whole lotof football.

We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.

Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season. I’ll be in touch soon.

Onward,
Jeb Bush

 

 

Jeb Bush says he'll 'actively explore' presidential run

@PatriciaMazzei

The 2016 presidential campaign may have officially begun Tuesday when Jeb Bush posted on his Facebook page that he plans to "actively explore" running.

Here's what his post, titled "A Note from Jeb Bush," says, in part:

We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States. 

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

Read the full post here.

Legislators vow to get payments to abused Barahona child

Several influential South Florida legislators said Monday they will not let a legal technicality stand in the way of getting payments to the victim of one of the most horrific child abuse cases in state history.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she “won’t rest” until Victor Barahona and his new parents get the $3.75 million they are owed after he was found near death alongside his twin sister’s decomposing body after years of abuse warnings to the state went unheeded.

The payment is part of a $5 million settlement agreed to by the Department of Children and Families in 2013, but Flores, and a bi-partisan group of lawmakers, face an uphill battle getting the money to the family.

Senate President Andy Gardiner told the Herald/Times on Monday that he stands by the recommendation of his general counsel George Levesque who, along with DCF, wants the settlement payments put on indefinite hold. Even though the state agreed to not interfere with the legislation as part of the settlement, the lawyers now argue that passage of legislation could hurt the state’s attempt to fight two other child abuse lawsuits by two other Barahona children. Story (please consider subscribing) here. 



December 15, 2014

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year is exaggerations about ebola

Thomas Eric Duncan left Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 19, for Dallas. Eleven days later, doctors diagnosed Duncan with Ebola.

Eight days after that, he was dead.

Duncan’s case remains one of two Ebola-related fatalities in the United States, and since Duncan traveled to Dallas, more Americans -- at least nine, and likely many more -- have died from the flu.

Yet fear of the disease stretched to every corner of America this fall, stoked by exaggerated claims from politicians and pundits. They said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants may be carrying the virus across the southern border, that it was all part of a government or corporate conspiracy.

The claims -- all wrong -- distorted the debate about a serious public health issue. Together, they earn our Lie of the Year for 2014.

PolitiFact editors choose the Lie of the Year, in part, based on how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking. In 2013, it was the promise made by President Barack Obama and other Democrats that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." While no singular line about Ebola matched last year’s empty rhetoric about health care, the statements together produced a dangerous and incorrect narrative.

PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.

Read the rest here from PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan and PunditFact editor Aaron Sharockman.

Scott picks GrayRobinson lawyer as general counsel

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed as his new general counsel Tim Cerio, a shareholder at the GrayRobinson law firm that was the home of his departing counsel, Pete Antonacci. Cerio takes over for Antonacci on Jan. 5.

Cerio was chief of staff and general counsel at the Department of Health in the final two years of former Gov. Jeb Bush's administration. He's president-elect of the University of Florida Alumni Association and is a Scott appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the First District Court of Appeal.

Scott has appointed at least four GrayRobinson lawyers to JNCs. The law firm contributed $20,000 to the Republican Party of Florida during the latest campaign cycle and gave $2,500 to Scott's re-election campaign committee, Let's Get to Work.

 

PolitiFact to announce Lie of Year today

Today at 4 p.m. ET, we’ll announce PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year for 2014. So it seems like a good time to look back at the past five years of "winners." PolitiFact’s editors and reporters award the Lie of the Year to the most significant falsehood or exaggeration of the past 12 months. (PolitiFact also answers 5 questions about the Lie of the Year including do we actually give out a trophy?)

2013: 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep it'

This statement was said by President Barack Obama and other Democrats when talking about the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. The statement was most often made when the legislation was being drafted in 2009; it was definitively proved wrong in the fall of 2013 when people started getting cancellation notices.

From our story:

Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology. …

Obama’s ideas on health care were first offered as general outlines then grew into specific legislation over the course of his presidency. Yet Obama never adjusted his rhetoric to give people a more accurate sense of the law’s real-world repercussions, even as fact-checkers flagged his statements as exaggerated at best.

Instead, he fought back against inaccurate attacks with his own oversimplifications, which he repeated even as it became clear his promise was too sweeping.

To read the rest of Angie Drobnic Holan's report about the previous winners -- which include a Mitt Romney ad and claims about Medicare, Obamacare and death panels -- turn to PolitiFact.