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May 12, 2015

RPOF announces 2016 finance operation

The Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday announced its fundraising team for the 2016 election in the latest part of a shakeup since Chairman Blaise Ingoglia took over the party earlier this year.

Heather Manso will be finance director. She has fundraised for individual legislative candidates in Florida and was on staff for Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, when she was majority leader.

* Political Capital, a firm founded by Gretchen Picotte, will take the lead on fundraising for RPOF. She was the finance director for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign in Florida. The firm has run finance operations for federal and state races.

Rick Porter worked on Mel Martinez’s 2004 U.S. Senate election team as a field director and has worked on statewide and federal campaigns. 

Fundraising for Miami Commission races tops $1 million

via @NewsbySmiley

Candidates running to win election in November to the Miami City Commission have spent months -- in one case years -- raising money to fund their campaigns. Last month, they collectively passed the $1 million mark, according to campaign treasurer's reports due Tuesday.

The reports, filed by 15 candidates running for three seats, show incumbent Commission Chairman Wifredo "Willy" Gort topped $100,000 last month. District 4 Commissioner Francis Suarez, who only recently filed to run for reelection, has $80,000 in his official campaign fund.

But most the money is coming into the city's District 2 commission field, which has raised more than a half-million dollars. Teresa Sarnoff, wife of District 2 incumbent Marc Sarnoff, raised $56,000 in April, bringing her war chest to $390,000. Her best-funded rival, Grace Solares, brought in $17,000, bringing her total to $118,000.

None of the other seven candidates running for Commissioner Sarnoff's seat has more than $40,000 in their campaign funds. And in soft money, Sarnoff is sitting on a quarter million dollars in his electioneering committee, Truth is the Daughter of Time. Suarez also has more than $300,000 saved up from his aborted run for mayor in 2013.

We're rifling through the reports to see who gave to candidates last month and will update this post if there's any interesting developments.

Jeb Bush leases Miami office for likely presidential campaign

@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas


There’s no “Jeb Bush for President” sign — at least, not yet — outside the sturdy, six-story office building on West Flagler Street. But inside, the former Florida governor’s political team has begun to organize his likely 2016 Republican presidential bid.

Bush’s political action committee, Right to Rise, recently leased space on two floors of the Flagler Corporate Center at 9250 W. Flagler St. in West Miami-Dade County. For now, they remain a campaign headquarters in need of a campaign, since Bush has yet to formalize his candidacy.

“Welcome,” reads a placard with Right to Rise’s logo on it inside the building’s lobby, past a security desk that asks visitors to sign in and provide identification before they walk in. Two more Right to Rise signs point to the PAC’s offices on the fifth and sixth floors.

As an unofficial candidate, Bush has been raising big money at events hosted by his PAC and super PAC, both named Right to Rise. Once he launches his campaign, Bush will be limited in his ability to coordinate with the deep-pocketed super PAC, which is nevertheless expected to take an unprecedented role in the race, though it won’t be physically housed with Bush’s operation.

Bush’s communications staff and some of his finance team have already moved into the newly leased Miami headquarters. Team Jeb has only leased a small portion of the building. But it seems ready to house a large operation: It has ample parking and an atrium cafeteria. A large American flag hangs over the fifth-floor balcony.

More here.

This post has been updated.


Joan Geller, mom of Steve and Joe Geller, dies

Joan Geller, the mother of former state Sen. Steve Geller and state Rep. Joe Geller, died this morning in hospice in Sunrise.

“She was never involved in politics herself but she was certainly around it a lot,” Steve Geller said. “She campaigned for me, she campaigned for my brother.”

Geller, 84, was born in New York City and moved to Florida in 1965. She first lived in Miami and then moved to Hollywood and later Sunrise. After her husband Marvin died, she later was the longtime girlfriend of Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella, a well-known Deerfield Beach City Commissioner and condo leader who was courted by presidential contenders visiting South Florida.

The funeral for Geller will be held at noon Thursday at Beth David Memorial Gardens, 3201 NW 72 Ave in Hollywood.

Geller had four children: in addition to Steve and Joe she had a son Bill and daughter Hillary Geller Garbarino.

Study: Most states spent $250,000 for online voter registration

A nationwide study released to the Herald/Times Tuesday shows that most states that have implemented online voter registration did so at a cost of $300,000 or less. The report by Pew Charitable Trusts -- which will be released to the public Wednesday -- said the average statewide cost was $249,000.

California, which has a population nearly twice the size of Florida's, spent the most: $1.8 million. That's how much money the Florida Legislature set aside, not for full implementation, but for Gov. Rick Scott's administration to begin implementation over a two-and-a-half year period. Six states in the Pew study implemented online registration for less than $100,000 each.

The Florida legislation (SB 228, by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth) is on Scott's desk. He has not expressed a position on it and he has until May 22 to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. All 67 Florida county election supervisors support online registration, but they say they have had no response to three requests to meet with the governor. The idea won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature this spring.

The Pew study found that online voter registration is cheaper and more efficient than paper and that it results in more accurate voter files. The study noted that 20 states have implemented online voter registration since Arizona became the pacesetter in 2002. The latest state to begin online registration was New Mexico last month.

Several states now allow people to register or update their registrations using a mobile device. California offers online registration services in 10 languages, including Hindi, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.

The study makes this conclusion: "Online voter registration is becoming an ever more efficient, convenient, and popular tool for voters and election officials as states develop increasingly effective and inclusive processes. But states are still confronting some shortcomings and challenges as they upgrade and expand their systems."

Pew said a high level of "data integration" is needed between agencies managing voter data (the agencies in Florida are highway safety and the Department of State) and that bureaucratic hurdles can exist in states where local election officials have greater autonomy (which describes the system in Florida).

Who Rick Scott is talking to in Washington, D.C.

As part of a Washington, D.C., whirlwind tour — his second in as many weeks — Gov. Rick Scott is making stops with more than a dozen members of Congress.

Last time he visited the nation's capitol, Scott was there to negotiate with federal regulators on the health care funding stalemate in Florida. So far, no similar meetings have been announced for this trip. Yesterday, he had interviews with Fox News and Politico and met with Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

On the agenda for today are 14 additional Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation:
* Rep. Jeff Miller
* Rep. Tom Rooney
* Rep. Ron DeSantis
* Rep. Ted Yoho
* Rep. Curt Clawson
* Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
* Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
* Rep. Carlos Curbelo
* Rep. David Jolly
* Rep. Dennis Ross
* Rep. Rich Nugent
* Rep. Bill Posey
* Rep. Vern Buchanan
* Rep. John Mica

Plus other House and Senate leaders:
* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
* Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Carlos Gimenez crosses $1 million mark in Miami-Dade mayoral race


After four months,  Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has raised more than $1 million for his reelection fight against announced challenger Raquel Regalado and whoever else may be eyeing his County Hall seat.

The incumbent, in office since 2011, raised $124,600 in April for the political committee supporting his reelection, Miami-Dade Residents First, according to a report filed this week. That brings the committee's tally to $1,004,552 since it launched mid-January.

The total gives him a significant advantage over Regalado, a two-term school board member daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. She has raised $175,000 this year.

But their April hauls aren't too far off. Regalado, who announced her mayoral run in March after strong hints throughout 2015, took in $110,000 in April, according to the latest reports.  

Regalado is using a state committee, Serving Miamians, that has funded past campaigns for her and her father. We're only using donations received in 2015 for the Serving Miamians tally. She also has an official campaign committee, but Gimenez does not.

The campaign committee gives Regalado the flexibility to raise money directly from voters, while political committees target more deep-pocketed donors. Committees cannot directly advocate for the election of a candidate. 

Xavier Suarez, the county commissioner who is publicly flirting with a mayoral run, has raised $276,700 for his political committee, Imagine Miami, since he last stood for reelection in 2012. That includes about $156,000 from last month. 

We'll update this post later as we crunch more numbers. 

On Fox News, Scott gives up: We won't do what 'I wanted to do'

Gov. Rick Scott appeared on Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox News Monday night and sounded resigned to the fact that the Legislature won't give him the tax cuts and school spending surge that he promised Florida voters when he ran for re-election last year.

"What I believe is going to happen is this," Scott said. "We'll just have a continuation budget, which will mean we'll have about an $8 billion surplus ... We'll just do what we've done this last year. We won't put more money into schools, which I wanted to do. We won't cut taxes, which I wanted to do. We'll just leave the money there and deal with it in our next session which starts in January."

(Note: Cutting taxes remains a House priority and the state can't possibly have anything close to an $8 billion surplus unless the Legislature decided to put no money into cash reserves, which it likely would never do).

Scott also defended his double flip on Medicaid expansion. He opposed "Obamacare" when he ran Conservatives for Patients Rights, came out in favor of full-blown Medicaid expansion in 2013, and sided with the House this spring in opposing the Senate's modified Medicaid expansion plan that has prompted the current legislative stalemate.

"I said at the time (in 2013), I will not stand in the way of the federal government if they want to take care of the low-income families," Scott told Fox. "I said the same thing about high-speed rail. If the federal government wants to run a program in my state, have at it. But don't expect me to tax my citizens, and I still stand by that."

May 11, 2015

WaPo: Jeb Bush leans on nonprofit group as he preps for likely presidential run

From the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- A nonprofit group allied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is playing a more expansive role in his current political operation than previously known, housing several top policy advisers expected to join his eventual campaign, according to people familiar with the structure.

At least four people with expertise on energy issues, foreign affairs and communications are working with Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit advocacy group that can accept secret, unlimited donations from individuals and corporations.

More here.

Rep. Daphne Campbell hits fundraising snag

"By the book" is one way no one has ever described Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami.

In prior years, her record keeping has drawn the attention of the IRS and the Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

So perhaps it was only a matter of time before Campbell's campaign finance reports started waving some hard-to-miss red flags.

Sure enough, the April 2015 campaign finance report she filed late Friday was rife with problems -- 2,500 of them to be precise.

That's how much money Florida's Division of Election website on Monday showed she had raised last month. That's $500 from Florida Justice PAC on April 2; $500 from Florida's Right to Know committee on April 4; $1,000 from subsidiaries of U.S. Sugar on April 16; and $500 from the law firm Becker & Poliakoff on April 25.

As of Monday afternoon, campaign finance records filed with the Division of Elections showed that Campbell was the only incumbent lawmaker to have raised money during this time period -- which just happened to be the same time as the 2015 legislative session.

This is bad. Raising money during session is a violation of the House's adopted rules for 2014-2016

Rule 15.3 states that a member "may neither solicit nor accept anything that reasonably may be construed to improperly influence the member's official act, decision, or vote...a member may neither solicit nor accept any campaign contribution during the 60-day regular legislative session or any extended or special session on the member's own behalf."

So what happened?

On Monday afternoon, the Times/Herald called Campbell for an explanation of what appeared to be a violation of House rules.

Campbell said there was a mistake. The checks were written before session started.

"They are lying," Campbell said.

Continue reading "Rep. Daphne Campbell hits fundraising snag" »