January 22, 2010

Dockery says Florida gets bullet train; Crist should attend with Obama

Sen. Paula Dockery, the Lakeland Republican, who opposed the state purchase of land for the SunRail commuter line said she expects the president and vice president will arrive in Tampa on Thursday to announce that Florida has won a bid to get federal money to finance it's high speed rail.

And, she added, it will become clear that "the special session last month had nothing to do with it.''

"Florida has had the strongest high speed rail application in the nation and we were going to get it anyway,'' Dockery said, after speaking to the Capital City Tiger Bay Club on Friday. "That's why there was a rush to have the special session -- to say that if we don't do this we aren't going to get it, because if we got it there would be no impetus to have SunRail come up...They're trying to confuse the issue."

She said her conclusion is not based on inside information but was an educated guess. Dockery said that the fact that Amtrak may back out of the state agreement could sink the SunRail deal, thereby proving that the special session "was a very clever forced crisis that didn't exist to justify getting 160 legislators up to Tallahassee to pass something.''

Dockery said she will probably not attend the Obama announcement "because I've got a limited amount of time'' for her to campaign for governor before the legislative session begins. But she urged Gov. Charlie Crist to attend.

"He has very publicly stated his desire for it so I would think, as the governor of this state, if the president is announcing money for the state, he probably has at least a courtesy obligation to be there," she said.

Amtrak is ending agreement with state after CSX deal

UPDATED 3:50 p.m. An Amtrak spokeswoman is providing a clearer picture of what the letter below could mean. If the state doesn't strike a deal with Amtrak, it's possible Amtrak would discontinue service on theDeLand to Poinciana track -- the portion the state intends to purchase from CSX . (No changes in service are expected in the next 30 days, however.) As for federal funds for rail, this deal would not impact how the money is disbursed, despite implications in the Amtrak letter. The bottom line: It's just another glitch in the plagued Sun Rail deal.

UPDATED 12:45 p.m.: A letter sent Thursday to DOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos puts Florida on notice that Amtrak is terminating the 2008 memorandum of understanding with the state. Without the agreement, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman writes that Florida possibly couldn't tap federal commuter rail money.

The problem is the liability clauses in the Sun Rail deal approved by the Legislature in the December special session and later signed by Gov. Charlie Crist. Amtrak raised these issues in a Nov. 30 letter to Kopelousos that went unheeded.

The termination would occur in 30 days if the state can't scurry to cut a deal with Amtrak, which is asking lawmakers to put in legislation an "enforceable, no-fault, indemnity agreement" similar to the one the state made with CSX.

The DOT's agreement with Amtrak on liability issues "preclude FDOT from assuming the indemnity obligations for which CSX is responsible," the letter states.

It's unclear whether this is just a bureaucratic mess or a roadblock that could interrupt commuter traffic in Florida.

Continue reading "Amtrak is ending agreement with state after CSX deal" »

January 20, 2010

Cyber hacker hits Paula Dockery's campaign site

The campaign of Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for government on a clean-up-government platform, was hit with a sophisticated computer hack this week that clogged her website.

Her campaign is fixing the problem. The FBI has been notified of the attack, but it’s unclear what it can do.

Here’s an excerpt of an email from her tech support guru on the attack sent yesterday, Tuesday Jan. 19.

As you all have noticed, the website has been up and down for the past two days. 

This is the result of an attack that first started at 6am yesterday morning.  It continued sporadically at various times yesterday.  Today, starting at 6am, the attack resumed at a much larger level (approximately 2.5 times).  To give you an idea of the magnitude, a graph showing this is attached.  We are not 100% certain that it was directed at the campaign yet, but it is very likely that is the case.

In essence, what is happening is someone is sending approximately 40,000 requests per second to the website/server, then immediately closing them… It is the equivalent of 2.4 million people a minute browsing to the site and closing it immediately.  In essence this saturates the number of connections available to legitimate people trying to get to the server, causing them to time-out when they visit the site.  In security terms it is called a Denial of Service Attack (DoS). 

To make matters worse, the attacker is sophisticated enough to spoof (in other words, forge) the source of the traffic…. It also means that the attack appears like legitimate traffic….

To give you an idea as to the relative size of this attack, the average attack of this type is around 500 requests per second. In other words, this one is very, very large (which also suggests a more sophisticated attacker). ….

Dockery defines her financial commitment

After unveiling her ethics legislation today, Sen. Paula Dockery said she expects her campaign for governor will not be getting the large checks from special interests because of her anti-establishment, independent message.

She was asked whether she had decided how much of her own financial wealth she would contribute to her push to become the Republican nominee. "I'm confident that it may not add up to big dollars but enough people are going to put in enough small contributions and we're going to run a truly grassroots campaign. If I determine we're going to need dollars to get my message out, I'll assess that at the time -- but it's not my intention.

"I don’t want to be governor badly enough that I’m going to have to throw a lot of money in to get there,’’ she said. "I want to run for governor to give people the opportunity to have a fighter and a reformer and an independent-minded person as a choice."

Dockery, Fetterman seek tougher ethics law

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, said Wednesday that state legislators need to be held to higher ethical standards. The two lawmakers called attention to their bills that would prohibit legislators from voting on or taking part in any legislation that would result in any special private gain for themselves or their relatives.

"This should be a no-brainer," said Dockery, a candidate for governor, noting that she has filed similar legislation the past two years but that it didn't get a single public hearing. She noted that her proposal is already on the books in 22 states, including two not known for the cleanliness of their politics, Louisiana and Rhode Island. Asked by a reporter what the penalty would be for violating her bill, Dockery said "That's a good question." (Her bill as filed, Senate Bill 438, contains no penalty provision). 

Florida legislators can vote on such matters now as long as they disclose such interest within 15 days of casting a vote. Fetterman called that standard "repugnant," and said in a news release: "It is no wonder that many Floridians have lost faith in their elected officials." 

-- Steve Bousquet

Alas, catfish football is no more

The once-powerful springs are slackening. Marble-white marl river beds are growing a sickly greener by the day. And, alas, "catfish football" is no longer part of the tour at Silver Springs.

Sen. Lee Constantine recalled the bygone era of a more pristine Florida at the Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Inland Waterways this morning, remembering the days when tour guides at the springs would toss balls of dough into the water for the brim and catfish to battle over.

“They don’t play catfish football anymore. They don’t do it anymore because there aren’t enough fish,” Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, said. “It’s a sad commentary.”

Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, noted that the Legislature cut money for cleaning up waterways. For every $1 from the state, the program received $4 from water management districts and local governments. In FY 2006, the state budgeted $200 million. This year: 0.

“When we cut funding from Senate Bill 444, it was the worst budget decision in my 13 years in the Legislature... a decision we should all feel responsible and sadly about,” she said.

Other committee members said they, too, were concerned about the amount and quality of water in Florida’s springs. But whether all the lamentations will turn into action to clean up Florida’s springs is tough to say. The feds are trying to mandate stricter nutrient-loading requirements for Florida’s waterways, and business groups are screaming that it’s a useless job killer.

"This terrible regulation is not needed because Florida nutrient standards are perfectly adequate," said Jim Alves, a lobbyist who represents power companies and wastewater utilities. "The science isn't there to do this regulation."

More here on that.

January 11, 2010

Dockery's 4Q number: $192k and $100k loan

Sen. Paula Dockery's insurgent campaign for the Republican nomination for governor shows $192,000 in contributions in the seven weeks since she announced her candidacy. She also loaned her campaign an additional $100,000, and reports about $34,000 in in-kind donations. She noted that she has received money from 1,078 contributors and that 90 percent of the money came in during December.

The Lakeland lawmaker still significantly trails her GOP rival, Attorney General Bill McCollum, but she issued this admonition to her opponents: "Objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear."

Her biggest expenditure was nearly $66,000 to the Dallas-based direct-mail house, James Foster and Associates.

January 08, 2010

Care for a campign rumor in your Morning Joe?

On his "Morning Joe" show this morning, former Congressman Joe Scarborough floated the idea that Gov. Charlie Crist might abandon his run for the Senate and switch to a re-election bid.

Said who Scarborough, who grew up in Pensacola:"I think we may have like a Jay Leno issue here, where Charlie Crist may quit his new gig -- running for Senate -- and may actually go back and run for governor again."

It's not a perfect analogy, of course. Leno actually has a new gig and Crist still has his old one. And a Crist/McCollum/Dockery race for governor, while highly interesting, could be a harder slog for Crist.

Mark Liebovich, who just wrote a good article on the Crist/Marco Rubio matchup in the New York Times magazine, said he hasn't heard anything "tangible" about the rumor: "That's something people are talking about, and I wonder if it's something Charlie Crist himself is not having some regret about."

January 05, 2010

December 28, 2009

Senior adviser gone from Paula Dockery campaign

Senior adviser/pollster David Hill confirms he's no longer working with the Paula Dockery campaign for governor.

"The campaign is up and running smoothly and has a very strong leadership team and candidate, so there is no need for my counsel and assistance," Hill wrote today in an e-mail to the Times. "I am focused on other 2010 commitments, particularly the Meg Whitman (gubernatorial) campaign in California and Terry Branstad's campaign for governor of Iowa."

Dockery responded to the announcement with a statement: "David Hill is a long-time family friend who provided wise counsel during last summer’s four-month Draft Dockery effort. Doc and I are eternally grateful for his help in building a strong and dynamic campaign team. A formal announcement of the team’s leaders and their roles will be made after the first of the year."