December 14, 2014

President Obama's role in the far-left's immigration blowback


If President Obama were Dr. Frankenstein, the far left’s immigration-reform movement is starting to resemble a monster he can't control.

It haunted Obama last week during an interview with Jorge Ramos, the Fusion/Univision pundit who’s an immigration-reform crusader.

Rather than praise Obama for unilaterally sparing as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportations, Ramos’ reaction was more like: Why so little so late? Here’s an edited transcript of the exchange:

Ramos: “You always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport 2 million people? ... For six years you did it.”

Obama: “No. Listen, Jorge…”

Ramos: “You destroyed many families. They called you deporter-in-chief.”

Obama: “You called me deporter-in-chief.”

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With ebook, Jeb Bush plans to define Jeb Bush before opponents, media do


In another sign Jeb Bush is likelier than not to run for president, he's releasing a trove of 250,000 emails from his time as Florida governor and he'll write an ebook with it.

That ensure Jeb gets the first comprehensive say over his legacy and his positions before his opponents do. That is, Jeb wants to define Jeb.

"Part of serving or running, both of them, is transparency. So I'll let people make up their mind," Bush told WPLG Local 10's Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg in a sit-down interview.

"I was digital before digital was cool, now it's commonplace," Bush said.

So let's call this ebook sign number six indicating how Bush is positioning himself to run for president. The previous five signs are in last week's column.

Bush pushed back on the notion, espoused by some interviewed in a Bloomberg piece, that his investment activity indicates he's likely not to run for office. And, as for some comparing his investment activity to that of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Bush gave props to "Mitt" and only seemed to fault Romney for not being more proud of his business record, which was used against Romney on the campaign trail in 2012.

"Practical experience is something that might be useful in Washington, DC," Bush said.

Bush reiterated that he'll decide about 2016 "in short order." Deciding, it should be pointed out, isn't announcing. Here's a small clip form the interview, the full piece should be up later today.

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December 13, 2014

Nicaragua bans Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from travel over Venezuela sanctions


Nicaragua's president says he is banning U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from traveling to the Central American country because, he says, he is protesting the Venezuala sanctions the Republican lawmakers helped pass Wednesday in Congress, according to The Tico Times.

"Just like they [U.S. officials] have their lists, we can make our own lists in Latin America of those who shouldn’t enter our country,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega told The Tico Times during a meeting with Venezuelan officials in his country.

Rubio, via Twitter, mocked Ortega's decision: "Oh no! My summer vacation plans are ruined!"

The sanctions, primarily aimed at Venezuelan officials and proxies involved with violently suppressing pro-democracy activists, would ban them from traveling or staying in the United States and would freeze any U.S. assets. President Obama plans to sign the legislation, S2142.

Story here

December 12, 2014

'Team Marco 2016' to host Rubio pow-wow at the Delano Hotel on South Beach


RubioDelanoRun for president, run for Senate, or neither?

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is trying to figure that out.

The Republican met with top donors last week at the W Hotel to consider his options, POLITICO reported. And now The Rubio Victory Committee is emailing donors and supporters to attend the fourth annual "Team Marco" event Jan. 23 and 24 at the Delano Hotel on South Beach. The joint fundraising committee is divided between Rubio's Senate campaign and his Reclaim America PAC. 

Asked last week about his intentions, Rubio said "I'm trying to figure that out."

Will the potential candidacy of his former mentor, Gov. Jeb Bush, affect his decision to run for president or not? "No," Rubio said, adding that "I consider him a friend." They're nearly neighbors. As the crow flies, Rubio and Bush live about two miles apart, in West Miami and Coral Gables, respectively. 

Were the two men to run at the same time, Bush would likely win a GOP primary in Florida, according to an online poll issued earlier this week from Saint Leo University. Bush also likely has more institutional support. Some top Cuban-American political allies in Miami appear more supportive of Bush.

"We've always been with Jeb," former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said, echoing other exiles, last week at a U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC event where Bush spoke.

Still, chances are good that Rubio will at least try to run for president for a period of time. There's little downside. If Bush doesn't run, Rubio has one less competitor to worry about (one who would suck away a lot of Florida money). If Rubio's presidential candidacy looks bleak, he can use the money to run for reelection. Florida doesn't allow a candidate to run for different offices on the same ballot, but Rubio has time to run for president and then Senate. Also, every recent Republican presidential nominee lost a primary bid for president before getting his party's nomination (except for George W. Bush). 

There's an emerging rumor, which is likely more wish-projection, that Rubio and Bush have worked out a deal in which the two simultaneously run, Rubio drops out and then endorses Bush to give him added support. I'm not buying it. But enough Florida Republicans are buzzing about it to merit a mention. Some say Rubio might ultimately seek no office. That's unlikely. This event is billed as "Team Marco 2016" for a reason. Rubio has already done years of unpleasant fundraising and cross-country travel. Why walk away from it completely? The only reason would be to take a top high-paying job with the NFL or Miami Dolphins, Rubio has said, somewhat jokingly.

But Rubio really doesn't know what he's going to do. Bush doesn't really know what he's going to do. So none of us do, either.

As feds let Indian tribes legalize marijuana, what will it mean for Florida?

MarijuanaWill marijuana be as legal as poker chips on Native American tribal lands in Florida?

That is the question being asked after the U.S. Justice Department published a memo directing federal prosecutors nationwide to allow tribes to cultivate and grow marijuana on their sovereign lands without fear of federal harassment.

The decision will be made a case-by-case basis, according to the memo published Thursday, and there is no indication yet that Florida’s two federally recognized tribes — the Miccosukees and Seminoles — will participate.

But experts say the proposal opens the door for Native Americans across the country to capitalize on the lucrative new industry much like the way the tribes began selling cigarettes and opening casinos. Story here. 


Video: RPOF Chair Leslie Dougher on why she should be re-elected

In our final video installment on the race for chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Leslie Dougher explains why she should be re-elected. She certainly has the bonafides. After getting elected earlier this year (Lenny Curry departed to run for mayor of Jacksonville), the Republicans had a monster year in Florida, securing the governor’s mansion for another four years, sweeping the Cabinet, and picking up a super majority in the Florida House. But while she’s won the endorsements from Gov. Rick Scott, Dougher is getting challenged by the party’s grass roots members, who argue the party needs to move away from its top-down-management style. Rep. Blaise-Ingoglia of Spring Hill, former state Rep. Kurt Kelly of Ocala, and Martin County Republican State Committeeman Eric Miller have already made their case for why they should be elected RPOF chairman. The election is next month. 




Former Miami-Dade corruption prosecutor steps down


Former public corruption prosecutor Richard Scruggs has left the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office after 11 years on the job.

Scruggs will only say it was time to move on. But it’s not a retirement. He plans on splitting time between Miami and somewhere a lot colder.

“I’m exploring whether to get back and do law enforcement here or in Alaska,” said Scruggs, 63, whose last day was Friday.

For years, Scruggs spearheaded high-profile — and often controversial — state corruption investigations. He scored victories against fuel thieves at Miami’s airport, crooked developers and a pastor who stole county funds.

Scruggs led the failed prosecutions of ex-Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who won acquittal in one bribery case in 2011.

She later sued him and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle claiming “malicious prosecution.” A federal judge last year rejected the suit as nothing more than “implausible conclusions.”

After the Spence-Jones case, Scruggs moved to prosecuting gangs, mostly in Miami Gardens. He earned convictions against three men in the shooting of Miami-Dade cop Wislyn Joseph.

“These guys were stone-cold killers,” Scruggs said. “We saved lives because somebody else was going to get killed.”


Scott gives state workers an extra day off during holidays


State workers will have an additional holiday from work on Dec. 26th,  Gov. Rick Scott announced in a letter to the Florida Department of Management Services Secretary on Friday, directing Craig Nichols to close all state buildings on that day, in addition to Dec. 25th.

The extra day off is "in recognition of the hard work of our state employees," Scott wrote in the letter.

"Thanks in part to the hard work of our state employees, Florida has a lot to be proud of this year," the letter states. "Our unemployment rate has dropped to 6.0 percent, Florida businesses have created 679,000 private sector jobs since December 2010, and we are well on the way to becoming the best place in the world to raise a family and build a great career." 

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December 11, 2014

Miami-Dade mayor's deputy takes on additional role as head of public works department


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has filled a vacancy atop the county's public works department -- by tapping one of his deputies to permanently take on the role.

Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak will serve as director of the Public Works and Waste Management Department in addition to her existing work, the mayor told county commissioners in a memo Thursday.

Hudak becomes the third Gimenez deputy to pull double duty. Ed Marquez also serves as finance director, and Jack Osterholt heads the Regulatory & Economic Resources Department.

The practice saves the county money -- Hudak didn't get a raise for taking on the new job, according to Gimenez's office -- but also piles onto each deputy mayor's plate. Each deputy is also charged with overseeing other departments and agencies.

Public works has been under Hudak's portfolio for three years, and she's been the department's interim director since October 2013. The previous director, Kathleen Woods-Richardson, is now the Miramar city manager.

"I have full confidence that Ms. Hudak will continue to lead the department successfully and smoothly," Gimenez wrote.

Feds: Florida scholarship program does not violate anti-discrimination laws

Florida did not violate anti-discrimination laws by using standardized test scores to award Bright Futures scholarships, the U.S. Department of Education has found.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights had been investigating the Bright Futures program, which awards college scholarships based on grade point average and SAT or ACT scores. The probe was based on allegations that the eligibility criteria had the effect of discriminating against Hispanic and African-American students.

But federal authorities found “insufficient evidence of a legal violation” and concluded the investigation Wednesday, according to a memo addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and obtained by the Herald/Times.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who opposed the probe, said he was glad federal authorities had ended the “baseless investigation.”

“The Bright Futures program has helped thousands of Florida’s top students finance their college educations and given them the foundation for successful careers,” Rubio said in a statement.

But Bob Schaeffer, a national testing expert who filed the original complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, was disappointed in the outcome.

“It is not surprising that the U.S. Department of Education — a national leader in promoting misuse and overuse of standardized exam results to assess students, teachers and schools — would decline to take action against Florida’s test-score based scholarships despite its own finding of the program’s ‘statistically significant’ negative impact on African Americans and Hispanics,” he said.

Read more here.