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June 24, 2016

David Rivera, millionaire? So says his latest financial disclosure


In the three years since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera left Congress -- unceremoniously, after a single term and under the cloud of a federal criminal investigation -- he’s managed to significantly grow his personal wealth, even as what he does for a living has remained a mystery.

He’s worth more than $1.5 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed this week to qualify as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The last time he publicly declared his finances, in a 2012 congressional form that didn’t require a net-worth estimate, he listed just two assets -- neither of which suggested he had the makings of a millionaire.

Most of Rivera’s newfound wealth lies outside the U.S., in a pair of overseas bank accounts in Mexico and Taiwan each worth more than $300,000, his disclosure shows. He also owns three properties in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula worth $250,000, $100,000 and $50,000, respectively.

How Rivera acquired the money and the properties is unknown. He did not respond to questions a Miami Herald reporter emailed him Thursday afternoon.

For years, Rivera has claimed to be a business development consultant, an amorphous profession with unidentified clients. The only income source listed in his latest disclosure, for calendar year 2015, is $104,000. The money came from Xemma Holdings S.A. de C.V., a company in Merida, Mexico, “in partnership” with Interamerican Consulting, Rivera’s corporate entity registered at his Doral home.

More here.

Read Rivera's latest disclosure.

June 23, 2016

CBS Miami, part 2: More questions raised about Patrick Murphy's environmental company


After sending shockwaves through Florida and national political circles with its first report on Wednesday, Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami aired Thursday evening the second installment in its two-part investigation probing deeper into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's résumé inflation.

The 4-minute report on Thursday focused on the oil-skimming boats that Coastal Environmental Services -- under Murphy's direction -- owned, developed and operated, which the company promised would "leave conventional skimming vehicles in its wake."

Murphy was vice president of the company for no more than six months after the BP oil spill in 2010 and touts the experience repeatedly on the campaign trail as part of what makes him a "small business owner." (Whether Murphy actually owned the company -- a subsidiary of his dad's construction company -- is unproven, despite his campaign's assertions to the contrary.)

CBS Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede found that the skimmers Coastal owned weren't actually "tested and proven" the way the company claimed and that other marketing materials it distributed in 2010 inflated the company's experience.

Here is the second part of the investigative report:

The first installment, which aired Wednesday evening, sent the Jupiter congressman's campaign into damage-control and spin mode well into the night and much of Thursday. The Murphy campaign released Thursday morning a detailed point-by-point rebuttal, alleging the CBS Miami report was "deeply false" and "misleading."

While CBS Miami did clarify small aspects of its initial report, the key conclusions of the story are true -- that Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner."

The CBS Miami investigation built off and echoed previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida, which in recent weeks exposed embellishments and contradictions in Murphy's academic and professional credentials -- including his time at Coastal Environmental and as a CPA.

Republicans quickly capitalized on Wednesday's TV story to slam Murphy, including a new pro-Marco Rubio super PAC -- which released an attack ad Thursday afternoon using footage from the first report.

Read and watch Part 1 of the CBS Miami report here and Part 2 of the investigation here.

Marco Rubio's got help from a new super PAC, which is already hitting Patrick Murphy


Friends of Marco Rubio got to work quickly creating a new super PAC to back the Florida Republican's Senate re-election campaign. The first order of business: slamming Democrat Patrick Murphy's résumé inflation.

Florida First Project was born Wednesday, the same day Rubio announced his decision to seek another six-year term. It's run by many of the same people who managed Conservative Solutions, the super PAC that assisted Rubio's presidential campaign. Others involved in the committee worked for the campaign itself.

By Thursday, Florida First had released its first web ad, a forceful hit against Murphy, the likely Democratic nominee who had the bad luck of learning of Rubio's re-election bid on the same day that Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 published a scathing investigation into Murphy's professional background. Murphy's campaign has disputed some of the report's findings.

"Patrick Murphy lied," the 30-second spot says. "He isn't who he says he is."

Heading Florida First Project will be Warren Tompkins, also directed Conservative Solutions. Two other Conservative Solutions veterans, strategist Mark Harris and spokesman Jeff Sadosky, will serve the same roles as well. The PAC will also be advised by longtime Rubio strategist Heath Thompson and pollster Whit Ayres. Dorinda Moss, the finance chief of Rubio's presidential campaign, will be the PAC's finance director.



Jeb endorses Marco, and Marco says thanks


It's all a Twitter-official love-fest now:

22 news organizations sue Orlando for Pulse 911 calls

via @ElizaDewey

Eleven days after the Orlando massacre, the public still does not have full access to transcripts of the 911 calls made by the shooter and his victims. Thursday, a coalition of 22 media companies, including the parent company of the Miami Herald, filed suit against the city of Orlando for its refusal to release the calls from that night.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Orange County, challenges the city’s contention that those calls are exempt from public records laws because they record the killing of a person. The media consortium argues that the Orlando shooting is similar to the infamous Sandy Hook school shooting, in which a Connecticut court ruled that related 911 calls were not confidential despite state laws that restricted the release of child abuse records.

The lawsuit also asserts a key discrepancy in the city’s argument: “The federal government has stated that there were no reports of gunfire during the three-hour standoff. Thus no recordings created during that time could have captured any killings.”

“One important step in truly understanding what happened that night is contained in these and other records that haven’t been released,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, executive editor of the Miami Herald, whose parent McClatchy joined the suit. “Under Florida law, the public has a right to know. That’s what we are asking for — compliance with state law.”

More here.

Rick Scott gives state power to spend $26.2 million on Zika


Gov. Rick Scott declared Thursday he would use his executive powers under a public health emergency to spend up to $26.2 million in state money to fight Zika virus.

The money will be used for mosquito control, lab equipment and to purchase "Zika prevention kits" from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC website, the kits include a bed net, insect repellant, standing water treatment tabs and condoms.

It will be released as needed, the governor's office said. Scott has given state Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip the authority to spend the money.

"We are in the middle of hot, rainy weather which is when mosquitoes are most prevalent," Scott said in a statement. "It is clear that allocating this funding is necessary if we are going to stay ahead of the spread of this virus."

Until Thursday, Scott had resisted expanding an emergency declaration he signed in February to give himself the authority to spend state money. Instead, he has called on the federal government to fund Zika prevention programs.

In a statement Thursday, he again called out "Washington's inaction."

Asked earlier this month about why he hasn't tapped into state reserves, he told Fox News that Florida has been spending money to fight the disease but that it would "rely on our federal partners."

"This is a national issue," he said. "This is not just affecting Florida."

There are 213 documented cases of Zika in Florida, according to the Department of Health, and they are all travel-related. There are no known cases of people being infected with the virus after being bitten by a mosquito in Florida.

Curbelo rivals take aim over Supreme Court immigration ruling


The two Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Carlos Curbelo leaped at the chance Thursday to pound the Miami Republican over the Supreme Court's ruling to block one of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Annette Taddeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia noted Curbelo had characterized the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, overreach by the White House. The court deadlocked 4-4 over the program, allowing a lower appeals court decision against its constitutionality to stand. The late Justice Antonin Scalia has not been replaced.

"It's a sad day for immigrant families and the many activists who have fought for real change," Garcia said in a statement. "When Republicans refused to put my comprehensive immigration reform bill to a vote, I supported President Obama's actions. Now, two years later, Republican still won't take up immigration reform, or even fill the Supreme Court's vacancy, all while they continue to push immigrants into the shadows."

DAPA would have allowed the parents of lawful permanent residents -- in effect, the parents who brought their children into the country illegally -- to apply for a program protecting them from deportation.

"I'm heartbroken by today's Supreme Court decision," Taddeo said in a statement. "It's a big blow to Hispanic families in South Florida. Families continue to be torn apart because of our broken immigration system, and instead of solving the problem, Carlos Curbelo and his Republican buddies in Congress continue to shift the blame elsewhere."

Taddeo also blasted Curbelo on Twitter, saying if he "really cared about South Florida's immigrant families, he wouldn't be applauding" the decision -- even though Curbelo didn't actually praise the court.

He and other Republicans said in a joint statement Thursday that the court ruling did not solve the immigration problem and Congress should "work together" to fix the system. Last week, he and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led the effort to defeat a House amendment against Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Garcia and Taddeo, however, argue Curbelo has moderated his position in office, given that his newly redrawn district is more Democratic, as is the presidential-election year electorate. Garcia noted Curbelo said in 2014 that he did "not support amnesty" for undocumented immigrants and thought the U.S. should return children crossing the border back to their home countries.

This post has been updated.

Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton would create open borders

While Donald Trump vows to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep undocumented immigrants out, he says Hillary Clinton has the opposite approach.

"She’s pledged to grant mass amnesty, and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders for the United States, totally open borders," Trump said in a June 22 speech.

Claiming that Clinton would create "totally open borders" is a serious charge that suggests allowing people to travel freely or with very few restrictions between two countries. 

That’s not what Clinton has proposed. Clinton has supported legislation that includes a path to citizenship (with conditions) and included heightened border security. As a candidate, she says she will focus on deportations of criminals.

However, some experts argue that "open borders" doesn't necessarily mean no enforcement at all but making it far easier for undocumented immigrants to stay here. Clinton does want to make it easier for many undocumented immigrants, but that’s not the same as getting rid of enforcement.

We emailed a Trump spokeswoman twice and did not hear back.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Scott Fuhrman qualifies to challenge Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in U.S. House District 27


Democrat Scott Fuhrman has qualified for the ballot in U.S. House District 27, currently represented by longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Furhman, 34, of South Miami, is the first serious candidate to challenge Ros-Lehtinen in eight years. He kicked off his "unorthodox" campaign by announcing his past brushes with the law, including a 2009 charge of driving under the influence and prohibited use of a weapon in Colorado. Fuhrman was also arrested three times for alcohol-related offenses while a student at Florida State. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has served in Congress since 1989, is considered a heavy favorite. The Cuban-American has stated that she will not vote for Donald Trump.

Fuhrman is a third-generation fruit-juice bottler and new to the political scene.

Here is a statement from Fuhrman's campaign: 

"The challenges currently facing this country require passionate and energetic advocacy of bold solutions to move this nation forward. Advocates who are eager to stand up and fight for our seniors and our children, and especially against the forces that seek to divide us. It's time for new leadership in CD 27 to take action on behalf of the community that my family has called home for five generations. I'm excited to be officially on the ballot, and look forward to a positive, issue-focused campaign."

Trying to scare away Democratic rivals, Anitere Flores reveals more union support


She's already scared away one serious Democratic rival. But just in case any others are thinking of qualifying to run by Friday's noon deadline, Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores released more labor-union endorsements Thursday.

Flores received the backing of the Teamsters Local Union 769, the Dade County Association of Fire Fighters and the Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Construction and Craft Workers Local 1652.

Labor tends to support Democrats; Flores is trying to run as a moderate in a newly redrawn Southwest Miami-Dade County district that leans Democratic.

Democrat Andrew Korge decided earlier this week to switch races and no longer challenge Flores in District 39. An internal Flores poll showed her handily defeating him. Those numbers, like the union endorsements, appeared strategically publicized to pressure Korge -- and any other Democrats -- out of the race.