July 28, 2014

Convicted lobbyist becomes star witness in Miami Lakes mayor's bribery trial

@jayhweaver

Many months would pass after Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi wigged out when a couple of sketchy Chicago businessmen bluntly pitched him on a “money grab” for some “bogus” federal grants.

After initially backing away, however, prosecutors say Pizzi agreed to rejoin their supposed scam after he was elected to a second term in November 2012.

The man who pulled the politician back in was Richard Candia, a likable lobbyist who had raised thousands of dollars for Pizzi’s re-election campaign.

Candia was an unwitting target of an FBI sting operation aimed at the Miami Lakes mayor. After he was confronted by agents last summer, the lobbyist assisted in the undercover probe of Pizzi, who was arrested in August. Candia — convicted himself after confessing to taking bribes — will be in the hot seat this week as the prosecution’s star witness in the suspended mayor’s corruption trial in Miami federal court.

Pizzi, 51, is charged with accepting $6,750 in illegal checks and cash from two undercover FBI agents posing as the sleazy Chicago men in a grant-writing business. Prosecutors say the agents lured him into officially supporting sham federal grant applications in Miami Lakes and Medley, where Pizzi worked as the town attorney, in exchange for the bribes.

More here.

Critic of gift ban, Putnam coy on King Ranch trips

PutnamphotoAgriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam minces no words when talking about the 2006 gift ban.

In a 2010 interview, Putnam called it "dumb."

He said the ban was a "disincentive for fellowship" and said: "You're forbidden from hanging out unless somebody is giving you a check." 

Yet when asked about trips he has taken to King Ranch that appear to give him plenty of opportunity to hang with big sugar lobbyists, Putnam clammed up. Here's a transcript from the June 17 interview conducted after a Cabinet meeting as Putnam walked back to his office.
 
Can you explain when you've gone to King Ranch and for what purposes?

I have been there for campaign purposes as well as to see more of their ag operations.

Which ag operations?

You know, they are significant agricultural players in the state of Florida.

How so?

They are one of the largest citrus growers in the state, as well as, they continue to be active in cattle, sod and sugar.

Did you hunt during these trips?

The campaign event was a hunting trip, yes.

How many times have you been?

I'll have to check.

Continue reading "Critic of gift ban, Putnam coy on King Ranch trips" »

Will Joe 6-pack become Joe Dime Bag? Q-Poll finds pot legalization backed 55-41 in FL

@MarcACaputo

A clear majority of Floridians, 55 percent, favor outright legalization of marijuana for personal recreational use, according to a new poll that indicates a medical cannabis initiative headed for the November ballot still looks as if it will easily pass.

Support for medical-marijuana use among adults is even more outsized: 88-10 percent, Quinnipiac University’s survey of 1,251 voters shows.

But that poll question, about marijuana use among adults, doesn’t directly relate to the proposed constitutional amendment voters will decide because that initiative allows prescription cannabis use by any qualifying patient, including children.

More here

July 27, 2014

To woo Florida Keys voters, Carlos Curbelo brings out big gun: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo is getting a little help from a friend to campaign to Florida Keys voters.

A new television ad to begin airing this week features Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- the popular Miami Republican who represented the Keys for a decade before her seat was redrawn two years ago -- introducing her former constituents to Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member whom she has endorsed. Curbelo is running to challenge Democrat Joe Garcia for the 26th congressional district, which extends from Kendall to Key West.

"He's an education innovator and a small businessman," Ros-Lehtinen says in the ad. "Carlos is part of the next generation who will work to protect our natural wonders, our fishermen and our economy."

It's Curbelo's third TV spot, timed to start the same week as absentee ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters for the Aug. 26 primary. Rival Ed MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor, has also been airing ads. The other GOP hopefuls are former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck.

 

That IRS "investigation" tied to Annette Taddeo? Well, there really isn't one.

A governor’s race doesn’t seem to go by in Florida without Democrats ending up in a circular firing squad.

A disgruntled Nan Rich supporter was the unwitting bullet this time.

Angered with the way the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee treated her, party member Barbara Walters secretly filed an obscure tax complaint with the IRS last October — and then she leaked the information recently to a conservative-website columnist dedicated to tearing down Crist.

The story targeted the county party’s leader, Annette Taddeo, just after Crist coincidentally chose her to be his running mate.

IRS Investigating a 537 Consulting-Related, Tax-Violations Complaint Against Annette Taddeo, read the Sunshine State News headline, which wondered why the mainstream news media wasn’t looking into the case.

For starters, the complaint about employee classification for tax purposes is without merit, experts say.

And the story’s headline is false.

There is no IRS “investigation,” federal law-enforcement sources confirmed to the Miami Herald. Also, the story drips with hyperbole, misleading innuendo and, in one case, a statement that Walters said is “totally inaccurate.”

Column here

YouGov FL poll (internet): Rick Scott leads Charie Crist 48%-43%

@MarcACaputo

A new New York Times/CBS YouGov poll of Florida voters shows Gov. Rick Scott edges Democrat Charlie Crist by about 5 percentage points -- a spread that mirrors the Republican's internal polling but conflicts with two recent public polls showing the challenger leading or tied.

There's one big difference between YouGov's and the other surveys -- it's an internet poll, a method of gauging public opinion that's relatively new. 

The other polls from Quinnipiac University (Crist up by 5; but 2 when Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is in the race), SurveyUSA (Crist by 6) and Fabrizio, Lee (Scott up by 5, or 4 with Wyllie in) were all conducted by telephone. Of them, SurveyUSA was the only pollster to use so-called 'robo-polling' (also known as IVR) instead of live callers. To supplement the loss of cellphone voters (essentially un-pollable by IVR), SurveyUSA uses a smart-phone-based internet questionairre.

The crosstabs of the YouGov survey are below

Yougov

GOP mum on all those trips to King Ranch

@craigtimes

@mikevansickler

On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.

As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses.

Scott won't answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch "in support of his political fundraising efforts."

Also keeping mum: state House leaders who have accepted similar trips in the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.

Read story here.

100 days out, Rick Scott's campaign says data already show a win

@MarcACaputo

Another gauntlet thrown --- the Rick Scott 100 Days Out campaign memo:

DATE: July 27, 2014
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Melissa Sellers, Campaign Manager and Tim Saler, Deputy Campaign Manager
SUBJECT: 100 Days Out, Gov. Scott Campaign is Poised to Win

Today marks 100 days until Election Day on November 4. Though we have worked hard from the beginning, today kicks off the final stretch of our campaign to re-elect Governor Scott. As we enter the sprint to the finish line, the Scott campaign has outpaced, outworked, and outmatched Charlie Crist in every measurable way. Make no mistake – no one works harder than Rick Scott, and that is exactly why he is poised to win a second term in office and keep Florida growing.

Fundraising: Since January 1, 2013, the combined efforts of our campaign, Let’s Get to Work, and the Republican Party of Florida have raised an astonishing $84 million. In the 2nd quarter of 2014 alone, our joint efforts raised $14.7 million. The outpouring of support for the Governor’s re-election is encouraging, but we will continue to arm ourselves with the funding necessary to fight against the continued smear campaign of personal attacks from Charlie Crist. After all, the Governor is not just running against Charlie Crist – he is running against the Obama machine, the trial lawyers, and every other liberal special interest that wants to take control of our state.

Field Program: Our commitment to a robust field program is unmatched. We have opened 49 offices and have thousands of volunteers working across Florida every day – talking to their neighbors, organizing their communities, and getting Governor Rick Scott re-elected this November. In fact, our volunteers have already knocked on over 350,000 targeted doors, an accomplishment that was not reached until after Labor Day in the 2012 presidential campaign. With our early focus on face-to-face, door-to-door, targeted voter contact, we believe we are on the path to execute the most sophisticated and successful direct voter engagement campaign in Florida history. With new technology in place, we collect data from each voter interaction in real time and adjust our voter contact programs based on constant feedback. The Crist field program thus far is amusingly small.

Advertising: Let’s Get to Work and the Republican Party of Florida have joined together to invest more than $18 million in early advertising – including $1.4 million on Spanish-language ads. This early advertising has been well received by the public – as voters remember how badly Charlie Crist mismanaged Florida’s economy and budget. Crist’s strategy of attempting to coast into office based only on his charm is being dismantled as Floridians realize that he is devoid of any plan or vision for Florida’s future. Crist’s attempts to have no discussion of his record as governor have been thwarted.
Florida voters now have a net unfavorable opinion of Crist, something not seen in polling even when Crist was soundly defeated and received only 30% of the vote in his race for the U.S. Senate in 2010. In contrast, voters are well aware of Governor Scott’s record and accomplishments, and they like what they see. They know that the choice is clear: Rick Scott is the better Governor.

Download 100 days memo

July 26, 2014

You can trust Gil Fulbright for Senate

@MarcACaputo

Endorse:

Federal judge: Miami-Dade should have delayed proceedings that led to demolition of soldier's home

@PatriciaMazzei

Fighting for his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jesus Jimenez helped fellow soldiers disarm enemy bombs. He made it back safely.

Fighting for his family in Miami, Jimenez was less fortunate. While he trained to ship overseas one more time, Miami-Dade County demolished his home.

His five-month-pregnant wife, Laura, was kicked out, along with his diabetic daughter, hearing-impaired brother and mother-in-law. Most of their possessions, including a beloved upright piano, were still inside.

Four year earlier, Jimenez had asked the county to delay the building-code violation proceedings against him because he was a soldier on active duty.

A Miami federal judge ruled last week that Miami-Dade violated U.S. law by failing to grant Jimenez’s request. Jimenez, now a U.S. Army staff sergeant in Fort Bliss, Texas, will pursue damages against the county and two building officials to compensate for the loss of his family’s home and the hardship they suffered.

“I feel relieved,” said Jimenez, a 49-year-old father of four. “But whatever I recover won’t be enough to do much.”

More here.