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August 23, 2016

Pro-Clinton super PAC unveils another anti-Trump TV ad in Florida

via @learyreports

A new Florida ad from Priorities USA Action juxtaposes children giving the Pledge of Allegiance with Donald Trump's greatest hits.

The ad will also run in North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada and Iowa, the Hillary Clinton super PAC said. By the end of August, Priorities will have spent $12 million in Florida.


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Private prison operator Geo Group boosts Rubio campaign coffers

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via @learyreports

The federal government’s decision to stop using private prisons puts a spotlight on one of Geo Group’s favorite politicians: Marco Rubio.

Few candidates in the country have gotten more help from the Boca Raton based company, including $80,400 in the last month alone.

Geo Group employees and political action committee contributed $30,400 to Rubio’s Senate campaign while the PAC gave $50,000 to the super PAC supporting Rubio, records show.

That’s on top of nearly $190,000 in support Rubio has received dating to his time as speaker of the Florda House, when Geo Group landed a major contract with the state, to his presidential run.

Rubio said Monday that he hadn’t read the Justice Department report citing cost and safety concerns at private prisons. Geo Group stock plunged but was on the rise Monday as company officials downplayed any significant harm to their bottom line.

“I’ll look at the report and what they found and if the findings are such that justify their decision, then it will be justified,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday while campaigning in Tallahassee. “At the end of the day, contractors are supposed to save us money, not cost us money.”

The campaign declined to answer a follow-up question about why Rubio has gotten so much attention from the country’s second-largest private prison operator.

Continue reading "Private prison operator Geo Group boosts Rubio campaign coffers" »

Gov. Rick Scott confirms non-travel Zika virus case in Pinellas County


CLEARWATER — Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that a locally-transmitted case of Zika virus has been confirmed in Pinellas County.

However, the state does not believe mosquitoes are actively spreading Zika in the county.

“While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” he said in a statement. Both of those locations are in Miami-Dade County.

The state is offering free Zika tests to pregnant women and is advising Pinellas residents who want mosquito control services to contact the county’s mosquito control.

Zika has been linked to birth defects, including babies being born with small heads.
Previously, cases in Tampa Bay have all been related to travel to places where Zika is spreading more rapidly, such as Brazil and Puerto Rico.

Carlos Beruff puts more than $8M into primary campaign against Marco Rubio



In his longshot bid for the U.S. Senate, Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff has loaned his campaign more than $8 million and donated another $151,000, new campaign finance reports released by the Federal Election Commission show.

From July 1 to Aug 10, Beruff loaned his campaign 3.9 million. That is in addition to $4.1 million he loaned his campaign from the time it started in February through June 30.

Beruff has raised just $30,000 from other donors.

The  $8.2 million so far from Beruff is short of his earlier projections to spend between $10 million to $15 million to win the seat. Beruff, however, is still not the nation’s top self-funded candidate of Congress this year. That title remains with David Trone, a Democrat who lost his primary race earlier this year for a U.S. House seat in Maryland, despite spending $10 million of his own money on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Beruff is the top U.S. Senate self-funder in the 2016 cycle.

For the total campaign Beruff has raised and loaned his campaign a total of $8.2 million and spent about $8.2 million - primarily on television ads. He had $300,000 left in his campaign account as of Aug. 10.

Beruff is trying to beat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the Aug. 30 primary. Rubio has reported raising $5.4 million since he jumped back into the U.S. Senate race in June. He spent just $760,000 as of Aug. 10, the newly released FEC reports show. That leaves him with $4.7 million cash on hand.

Beruff campaigns in Clearwater, Rubio back in Miami


With Election Day just a week away now, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff turns his attention to Clearwater. The Manatee County homebuilder is schedule to speak at a townhall-style meeting at a Springhill Suites in Clearwater at 11:30 a.m. 

Beruff is back on the trial after taking Monday off to focus on his role as chairman of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is back in Miami after spending most of Monday campaigning in North Florida. Rubio is primarily fundraising today, with no other public events scheduled.


Marco Rubio takes aim at Chuck Schumer in U.S. Senate race


More than 200 people turned out in Marianna to see U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio speak to the Jackson County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner. Photo:  Jeremy Wallace/Tampa Bay Times


Forget either of the Democrats challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio or even his Republican primary opponent on the ballot next week. During a pair of campaign stops in North Florida, Rubio made clear who he is really trying to stop: Chuck Schumer.

At a pair of speeches spread over 70 miles and six hours on Monday, Rubio told audiences that a big reason he finally decided to run for re-election was because of Schumer, the New York Democrat who would become the new Senate Majority Leader if Democrats win back the majority in November.

“If we lose the Senate in Florida, that means we probably lose the Senate,” Rubio told 60 supporters at meeting in Tallahassee. “That means Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader. That means all of the of these public policies that Barack Obama has put into place remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

Hours later in Jackson County, Rubio similarly told more than 200 people at a local Republican Party fundraising dinner that if he had not run, he feared it would make it easier for Schumer to become the leader of the Senate. That in turn he said would give the New York Senator too much say in picking the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died earlier this year.

“And I promise you that if Chuck Schumer is in charge of the U.S. Senate, the person they will confirm in that Senate will be nothing like the kind of justice we want and nothing like the kind of justice Scalia was,” Rubio said.

Rubio said after his speech in Tallahassee that he just wants people to understand that if Schumer is the majority leader he will become a rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton agenda if she wins the White House.

“That’s not the direction America wants to go in. I believe that,” Rubio said. “That’s the practical implication of losing the majority in the Senate. Chuck would be the majority leader. And I think Chuck stands for issues - stands for public policies ideas - that the majority of Floridians don’t support.”

PolitiFact: Donald Trump's Half True claim about Clinton's immigration plan


Donald Trump’s first TV ad of the general election depicts Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan as dangerous for America.

"In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay," states the ad. "Collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open. It’s more of the same, but worse. Donald Trump’s America is secure. Terrorists and dangerous criminals: kept out. The border: secured. Our families: safe. Change that makes America safe again."

The narration is accompanied by sinister music and footage of men being apprehended by border agents while other shadowy men walk freely on public streets.

We have previously fact-checked Trump’s claim that Clinton wants "totally open borders" and ruled that False. He is correct that she wants to allow more Syrian refugees in the United States.

This fact-check will focus on whether Clinton supports allowing illegal immigrants convicted of crimes to stay in the country.

There is some truth to his claim, but Trump’s scary ad omits an important part of the story.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks

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Democrat Patrick Murphy is fast racking up legal expenses for his U.S. Senate campaign -- averaging $1,288 a day over less than six weeks this summer.

Murphy's campaign describes it as run-of-the-mill campaign costs, but the Jupiter congressman's pre-primary disclosure to the Federal Election Commission this month shows his political legal expenses mounting at an atypical pace.

Murphy reported spending $52,800 on legal services between July 1 and Aug. 10 -- almost double the $27,200 he spent on legal fees for the entire second quarter (the three months between April and June) and roughly half of what he's spent on legal fees in the past 13 months altogether.

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp declined to say what exactly Murphy's legal fees were going toward.

"It's normal for campaigns to pay lawyers to make sure we're always following the law, and the larger the campaign, the more moving pieces there are," Karp said in a statement to the Herald/Times.

But by comparison, a handful of other top Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in similarly competitive races this year haven't spent nearly as much as Murphy on legal fees as their campaigns also ramped up and as they employed the same law firm. In fact, Murphy spent more in less than six weeks than four such candidates did in the preceding three months combined.

Between April and June, Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Ted Strickland of Ohio together spent just $35,400 on legal costs. Each used Seattle-based Perkins Coie for their legal work, an elite firm often used by Democratic candidates, including Murphy.

Not all had such low expenses; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois came close to matching Murphy's legal spending in the second quarter with $24,600 in fees to Perkins Coie. (None of these five have pre-primary reports due this month, because their state primaries are held at a different time than Florida's.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a major conservative super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, highlighted Murphy's pre-primary legal costs on Monday, implying the irregularly high legal fees during that six-week period are related to FEC complaints filed against Murphy this summer.

In June, the Senate Leadership Fund alleged Murphy was involved with a "straw donor scheme" because of similar donations that went to both him and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, himself a U.S. Senate candidate six years ago.

When asked if Murphy's legal expenses were related to defending against such FEC complaints, Karp deflected by attacking the Senate Leadership Fund and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks" »

August 22, 2016

State Senate candidate says his rival threatened to ‘kick his ass’

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The Coral Reef Library polling station in South Dade is a house divided.

They’re not divided about Cuba. Or the Middle East. Or even Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.

They’re split over whether Ana Rivas Logan, candidate for the state Senate, yelled at primary opponent Andrew Korge: “I’m going to kick your ass.”

About 20 campaign workers present on Sunday morning, with no apparent ax to grind for either candidate — they work for other people on the ballot — were about evenly divided Monday about what they saw and heard.

Not even the police — yeah, they were called — know for sure. The cops filed a vaguely written report and left.

The dispute actually began on Saturday, when Korge showed up at the library to woo voters. Korge was surprised to see Norma Estela, a campaign worker handing out literature for Rivas Logan. About six weeks ago, Rivas Logan said she was suspending her campaign. Korge and Rivas Logan are running in a compact, Kendall-based district.

Estela told the Miami Herald that Korge got in her face, snapped pictures from inches away, demanded to know why she was at the polls and knocked Rivas Logan literature out of her hand.