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June 23, 2016

New Florida super PAC formed to elect Democrats

via @adamsmithtimes

A new, well-funded voter mobilization group is gearing up across Florida to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot. For Florida's Future, a joint super PAC and 501(c)4 organization, aims to highlight and hold accountable candidates for their words and records on specific issues including climate change, student debt, and retirement security.

The group is affiliated with the national For Our Future PAC led by billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer and several prominent labor unions. It aims to raise and spend $50-million in the top battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin.

“This election season has proven that nothing can be taken for granted, so our work is focused on empowering and expanding the efforts of existing organizations and coalitions to ensure that the Trump/Rubio ticket and their friends are held accountable for what they have said and done," said Ashley Walker, a top Democratic consultant in Florida, leading the Sunshine State effort. "By calling out where Trump, Rubio and their allies stand on the issues, we can build an organization that will not just be united in November, but will continue working in 2017 and beyond.”

The group is targeting races from the president to the state House and possibly local offices and is revving up just as many Republicans are fretting about Donald Trump potentially being vastly outspent by Hillary Clinton. He started the month off with just $1.3-million on hand, compared to $42-million for Clinton.

The effort is being put together by Steyer's NextGen Climate; the American Federation of State; County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers; and the National Education Association. 

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact Florida: Loretta Lynch says gays most targeted for hate crimes

The Orlando shooting massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub that led to the deaths of 49 victims has led to more national attention about hate crimes targeting the gay community.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about the attack hours later on Fox News Sunday.

"I think we have to keep our eye on a larger picture here, which is the victims of this crime were from a community that is often marginalized and that, frankly, the LGBT community is more often the victims of hate crimes than any other recognized group," she said.

Lynch is correct if we examine per capita rates for hate crimes, although there are some caveats about the data -- mainly that there are gaps in how law enforcement reports hate crimes.

The FBI defines hate crimes as "criminal offenses motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against" a particular group such as a religion, race or sexual orientation.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Miami Commissioner argues with senior citizen, walks out of meeting after 'Haitians' comment


Miami Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon blew his lid Thursday during a city commission meeting and walked off the dais after a senior citizen clutching a walker repeatedly tried to talk over Hardemon and then suggested he gave more deference to Haitian Americans than other citizens.

The argument exploded suddenly during a personal appearance by a property owner trying to resolve a series of issues he had with Miami's code compliance office. Following a lengthy debate, city resident Jesus Mario Bello approached one of two city hall microphones and began to chide the property owner, Guillermo de la Paz, for (in Bello's words) buying into a poor neighborhood and then complaining about conditions.

Hardemon allowed Bello to speak even though "personal appearance" items aren't public hearings, and Bello didn't necessarily have the right to inject his opinion. But after several minutes, Hardemon ran out of patience and tried to quiet down Bello.

When Bello ignored him, Hardemon slammed his gavel several times in order to silence him.

"Let me tell you something. Don't do that to me again," Bello told Hardemon.

"Listen to me," Hardemon told him. "Listen to me."

"No you listen to me," Bello said, getting agitated. "You know why? Because when the Haitians came in here...."

Bello appeared to be referring to a recent hearing on official boundaries for Little Haiti, during which a large crowd of Haitian Americans spoke at length about the importance of preserving the character of Little Haiti. But when Bello said "Haitians," Hardemon cut off his microphone, stood up, threw his hands up and scolded Bello.

"The nerve of you to bring up Haitian Americans when you were out of order. I gave you the right to speak when you didn't have a right to speak," Hardemon loudly told Bello."I gave you a right to speak and now I'm wasting my time."

That's when Bello pointed his finger at the commissioner and told him not to raise his voice.

"You have the nerve to point your finger at me and tell me not to raise my voice at you?" Hardemon asked, incredulously. "Who are you sir to tell me?!"

Then he began yelling: "I'm the chairman of this commission! The chairman of this commission!"

"I pay your salary," Bello told him.

"I don't give a f..." Hardemon said, stopping himself.

Hardemon then began to loudly explain that he was tired of people "disrespecting" the city commission, and ignoring the rules of commission hearings. He told Bello he'd insulted commissioners, and Haitian Americans. When Bello tried to apologize, Hardemon walked off the dais, prompting commissioners to call a lunch recess.

Bello declined to speak to reporters afterward. City Hall staffers said he felt ill, and looked pale after they took him to the second floor of city hall, so they called paramedics to check his health.

He was fine, they said.

Miami state rep candidate draws complaint over campaign donation to Clinton


Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Democrat challenging Hialeah state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., gave $100 from her election campaign account to Hillary Clinton for president.

That's a no-no. And in a year of contested political races up and down the ballot, Republicans quickly filed a complaint against Gonzalez Petkovich, who is acting as her own campaign treasurer.

It wasn't just any Republican who wrote her up to the Florida Elections Commission, either: The complaint came from Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party.

Diaz told the Miami Herald that Gonzalez Petkovich "needs to come clean with the voters of District 103. She needs to explain why she wants to be their lawmaker going forward when she can't even follow the laws on the books now."

But Gonzalez Petkovich's camp dismissed the complaint as "frivolous," saying the Clinton campaign refunded the donation. Gonzalez Petkovich then sent Clinton the $100 from her personal bank account, according to Anders Croy, deputy communications director for the Florida Democratic Party's House campaign.

"This frivolous complaint is nothing more than another attempt by the Trump Party of Florida to distract from Manny Diaz's record of delivering for the big special interests instead of the people of District 103," Croy said in a statement. "Ivette is proud to stand with Secretary Clinton's historic campaign because she also believes that our country is stronger together while Manny Diaz continues to support Donald Trump’s campaign of hateful and racist rhetoric that speaks to the worst of humanity."

Read the complaint.

Pro-Clinton super PACs release web ad about Supreme Court immigration decision


Hillary Clinton's allies were ready for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday to block the program known as DAPA, one of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Just a few hours after the court's decision came down, the Latino Victory Fund and Priorities USA, both super PACs, said they kicked off a five-figure online ad campaign reminding voters that DACA, Obama's first-deportation protection program, is still valid -- and that Donald Trump would like to get rid of them both.

The web ads will target Florida, Colorado and Nevada.


PolitiFact Florida: Obama's Half True claim about Charlie Crist


Former Gov. Charlie Crist once faced withering criticism for hugging President Barack Obama, but now Obama is returning the favor by embracing Crist’s congressional campaign.

Obama endorsed Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, for a U.S. House seat in a June 20, 2016, statement. He said Crist "has always put people above politics," and proved it during his single gubernatorial term between January 2007 and January 2011 — right as the Great Recession gripped the state following the housing market’s crash.

"As governor, in the face of partisan attacks, he (Charlie Crist) had the courage to save jobs and lead his state into economic recovery," Obama said.

By "courage," Obama means Crist, as a GOP governor, had the chutzpah to accept federal stimulus money from a Democratic president against the wishes of many Florida Republicans.

Is it fair to credit Crist with saving jobs and helping Florida recover? The data during Crist’s term is mixed, experts say, but the state did recover and accepting the stimulus certainly helped.

More here from Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

2 pro-immigration reform groups praise Curbelo's new DREAM Act


New legislation offering legal status to people brought into the country illegally as children has won the praise of a pair of national groups promoting immigration reform.

The Recognizing American Children Act, filed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, has the support of, a Silicon Valley organization co-founded by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, and of the National Immigration Forum, a conservative immigration advocacy group.

"In a period where the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is calling for the forced mass deportation of every single undocumented immigrant in the United States, we are encouraged that these Congressmen are working in a different and constructive way," said Wednesday in a statement.

The National Immigration Forum also applauded the bill's "tone" -- but also noted "shortcomings," such as a shorter eligibility period than the comprehensive reform bill the Senate passed in 2013.

"It is fantastic to see some leadership on immigration among House Republicans," the group's executive director, Ali Noorani, said in a statement. "Despite some room for improvement, this proposal stands favorably next to the messages about mass deportation and walls that have ruled the Republican presidential campaign."

Curbelo's proposal, co-sponsored with Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, is the latest version of the so-called DREAM Act, a law that failed in the Senate and prompted President Barack Obama to take executive action to protect some young immigrants from deportation. Both Curbelo and Coffman are running for re-election in swing districts this fall.

Rubio, Nelson split on House Zika funding bill


Lost in the shuffle of Wednesday night's dramatic sit-in by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was passage of legislation setting aside $1.1 billion to prevent the Zika virus.

That's less than the $1.9 billion President Barack Obama had requested, an amount that received bipartisan support in Florida, the state with the highest number of confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne illness.

The bill now heads to the Senate, and Florida's two senators had quite different reactions to the legislative package.

"The House Zika bill is a disaster," Democrat Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects. This is not a serious solution."

Republican Marco Rubio said some money was better than nothing.

"At this point, I support getting something on Zika done," he said in a statement. "Congress has shamefully wasted too much time already, and with summer here, the price of inaction will be devastating. Although this does not fully fund the president's request, it is at least a significant improvement from what the House passed earlier this year."

All three Miami Republicans in the House voted for the legislation, which was sponsored by one of the local congressmen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, as part of a broader budget bill.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo said the Zika funding is insufficient but a starting point.

"While this bipartisan compromise fell short, it is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement. "Importantly, it avoids a funding cliff at the end of the summer which was a major flaw in the original House-passed Zika bill I opposed. I will continue to call for as much funding as possible to ensure the residents of South Florida, and the nation, are no longer threatened by the Zika virus."

Jeb Bush backs Marco Rubio for Senate. But Bush's ex-Miami-Dade campaign chief doesn't


Hard feelings toward Marco Rubio remain from one of Jeb Bush's highest profile Miami supporters.

Jorge Arrizurieta, who chaired Bush's presidential campaign in Miami-Dade County, told a local radio station Thursday he won't vote for Rubio's re-election to the Senate -- even though Bush will.

"I don't think I'm the only one," Arrizurieta told hosts Roberto Rodríguez Tejera and Juan Camilo Gómez on the Spanish-language Actualidad Radio. "I feel incredibly disappointed."

Arrizurieta characterized Rubio as disloyal and ungrateful to Bush, his one-time political mentor, and said "no one will be able to convince me" that Bush's odds at winning the White House wouldn't have been greatly improved without Rubio in the presidential race. He said Bush's endorsements speaks to the former Florida governor's integrity.

Nevertheless, Arrizurieta opined Rubio has the best shot as winning the seat, given that he's the incumbent. He also said he doesn't plan on backing anyone else in the Senate contest, though he said Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff has been in touch.

A dejected-sounding Arrizurieta said he was "very saddened" by the Republican Party under presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"The new political order that no one understands," he said.

Rubio and fellow Miami Republicans react to SCOTUS immigration decision


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lauded the Supreme Court on Thursday on its decision to keep blocking a plan by President Barack Obama to let scores of people in the country illegally remain in the U.S.

The court, still missing a ninth member after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, deadlocked 4-4 on the issue. That left standing an earlier appeals court decision prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing its Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.

"This is the right decision," Rubio said in a statement. "No matter what solutions one may prefer to fix our broken immigration system, those policies must be pursued and passed into law by Congress."

But he and the other South Florida politicians -- all of whom have supported immigration reform -- also said Congress must also act.

"While the Supreme Court's decision makes clear that President Obama has acted lawlessly, it does not leave Congress off the hook either," Rubio said.

Miami's three Republican House members -- Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo -- were even more critical of lawmakers (many of them in the GOP) who have failed to address immigration issues.

"The Supreme Court has spoken, but today's decision does not resolve the issue," they said in a joint statement. "The American people expect Congress to work together to secure our borders, adhere to the rule of law, offer a humane solution to those living in the shadows, modernize our visa system, and bolster the economy. We are committed to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all."

Joining the Miamians in their position were Republican Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Dan Newhouse of Washington, David Valadao of California, Jeff Denham of California, and Bob Dold of Illinois.