June 10, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Former Romney spokesman new press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida

 Susan Hepworth, who served as director of the national traveling press for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, is the new press secretary and deputy communications director for the Republican Party of Florida.

The Kansas City native traveled full time with former Gov. Romney and the press corp during his race for president.

During the 2010 election cycle, she directed the day-to-day political operations at the RNC. Prior to that she was at Majority Strategies, a mail firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Hepworth began her political career in 2007 in Iowa on Romney’s first presidential bid right after graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.

“I graduated on a Sunday, drove to Des Moines on Monday and I started working on the campaign on Tuesday,” said Hepworth, who started her new job June 7. “And that’s been my life.”

Winsor new state solicitor general

Allen Winsor succeeds Timothy Osterhaus as Florida’s solicitor general,  the state government’s top appellate lawyer. Osterhaus was appointed to the 1st District Court of Appeal May 20th.

Winsor, 36,  has been the principal deputy solicitor general since January. Prior to that, he was a member of the Tallahassee office of GrayRobinson, most recently as a shareholder. He’s a 2002 graduate of the University Of Florida College Of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.

The Florida solicitor general represents the state throughout Florida's appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. The solicitor general also serves as the Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair and a visiting professor of law at Florida State University College of Law.

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November 03, 2012

'Soft-money,' big checks fuel lawmakers' personal committees

Florida legislators have padded their personal political committees with more than $20 million in special interest donations this election cycle, using the funds to buy attack ads, help colleagues win races and, occasionally, pay for travel, meals and perks.

More and more, special interest groups are sending five- and six-figure campaign checks to lawmakers through committees as a way to avoid the usual $500 cap on individual donations, a Times/Herald analysis shows.

The Florida Medical Association, for example, contributed $100,000 this cycle to a political committee controlled by incoming Senate President Don Gaetz and others. Disney donated $190,000 to another GOP-controlled group, Protect our Liberty.

And then there's GOP super-donor and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who pumped $250,000 into House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford's Committee for a Conservative House.

Decried by critics as slush funds, these "committees of continuous existence," or CCEs, allow powerful lawmakers to amass huge campaign treasure chests and spend the money with broad latitude. Each day, thousands of dollars course through the political system, flowing between CCEs, interest groups, consultants and lawmakers. By the time the money reaches voters in the form of a campaign ad, it can be difficult to know the true source of the funding.

More here

October 25, 2012

Another presidential race, another Palm Beach County recount

It's a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000.

About 27,000 absentee ballots can't be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results.

And it's all happening in Palm Beach County.

"By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county," said Ed Foley, an Ohio Sate University law professor and expert on election law.

But Foley and other elections experts say that unlike the butterfly ballot and hanging chads of the infamous Bush-Gore voting 12 years ago, this year's mishap with Palm Beach absentee ballots probably won't sway an entire national election.

"There are no perfect elections and glitches happen," Foley said. "In this case, they caught it in time and set up a pretty good review process that's transparent and is probably the best one possible."

Continue reading "Another presidential race, another Palm Beach County recount" »

October 24, 2012

NEWS ALERT: GOP and Dems agree -- Fraudulent letters bad

This just in.

Democrats agree with Republicans that the letters sent primarily -- but not entirely -- to Republican voters in at least 28 Florida counties is a bad thing.

Republicans can relax. Earlier today, they put out a release condeming the letters, which started arriving Friday in envelopes with Seattle, Wash. postmarks.

"This type of activity is not only disgusting, it is criminal, and must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida in the release. "I call on Florida Democrats to join me in condemning this false letter writing campaign that appears to target likely voters in Florida, and help RPOF get the word out about this false campaign."

Sure enough, the Democrats agreed.

"We join with the RPOF in condemning this voter suppression activity from an unknown source out of state," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "Furthermore, we hope the involvement of the FBI and state law enforcement officials will put a stop to this activity so it comes to an immediate conclusion."
Although some Democrats and voters with no party affiliation have received the letters (in Pinellas, of the eight who received the letters, only four were Republican) state elections officials say that the vast majority of the recipients so far have been Republican, frequent voters, and in some cases, prominent.

Continue reading "NEWS ALERT: GOP and Dems agree -- Fraudulent letters bad" »

August 12, 2012

Scott, Romney offering conflicting messages about Florida economy

Numbers may not lie, but Republicans Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott are using them to portray two very conflicting points of view about Florida’s economic picture.In a new television ad, the Romney campaign plays melancholy music as it describes “Obama’s Florida” as a state with “8.6 percent unemployment, record foreclosures, 600,000 more Floridians in poverty.”

Scott greets the same 8.6 percent unemployment number as a sign of rapid improvement, proclaiming on his website that it is “the lowest it’s been since December 2008!”

Unlike Romney, Scott has carefully avoided criticizing the president and instead turned the data into promoting his record of creating jobs.

The governor also tells audiences “the number of unemployed has gone from 568,000 to 320,000,” “median home prices are up,” and Florida’s job growth rate “has been positive for 23 consecutive months.” It’s a dissonance that may become more distinct as Romney and Scott take the stage during the Republican National Convention this month and Romney tours Florida Monday, with a late-day stop in Miami.“What I’m going to talk about is pretty much what I do every day, what I ran on,” Scott said last week when asked what he’ll say during his convention speech. “It’s how do we get our state back to work.”But the numbers he cites don’t jibe with the narrative Romney’s campaign wants Floridians to hear. As the expected Republican nominee for the presidency, Romney’s team is carefully scripting a convention playbook that would persuade voters that the economy is still in the tank after 3 1/2 years under President Obama.

Read more here

It's Scott vs. Romney on the economy. See how the two interpret Florida's economic picture with this chart:

Scott vs. Romney chart

--Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa

 

 

July 30, 2012

Embarrassing statements abound -- for witnesses too -- in Greer case

There is a bit of bad news for some of the witnesses slated to testify at the trial of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.

A four-page report that apparently includes some embarrassing accusations against witnesses is a public record, says Orlando Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet in an order released Monday.

The judge also refused to limit the records that Greer can subpoena from the state party saying the records are likely to be relevant and favorable to his defense. Greer will have to pay reasonable costs for the documents.

Greer faces trial in November on federal charges of money laundering and grand theft in connection with money he obtained from his secret involvement in a company that handled fundraising for the party in 2009.

Orlando attorney Richard E. Hornsby asked the court to seal the record to avoid violating the privacy of "interested persons'' who were not charged. He would not identify the client who hired him.

During a hearing earlier this month the judge read a list of potential witnesses who might be harmed by the report, including Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and GOP fundraiser; former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson; former finance chairman Harry Sargeant; and Dane Eagle, a House candidate and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams said he expects to call all but possibly Eagle.

Lucy Morgan's story is here.

September 12, 2011

At pre-debate panel, a celebration of conservatism

In advance of Monday night's CNN/Tea Party Express presidential debate in Tampa, the Heritage Foundation sponsored a lunchtime panel discussion on issues that matter to conservatives. About 200 people, many of them energetic Tea Party activists, attended at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

CNN political correspondent John King moderated a discussion that included Al Cardenas, a leading Florida Republican who is chairman of the American Conservative Union; Mike Franc of the Heritage Foundation; Bob McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute and Billie Tucker, leader of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville.

In remarks, Cardenas and Franc focused on their views of the state of the country: high taxes, high debt, high foreclosures and high unemployment and declining home ownership. "There's a growing sense that the American dream is slowly slipping away," Franc said.

"And don't tell me I have to buy health insurance!" Cardenas said to loud cheers.

McClure welcomed out-of-state visitors to Florida, "the most important bellwether state in the union, the land of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Allen West and the land of Gov. Rick Scott." Big applause followed. The only Democrat who got even passing praise at the luncheon was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, praised by McClure for cutting the state budget and taxes in the Empire State.  

Tucker got the most resounding applause for her speech describing the American way as "personal liberty, individual responsibility, and less government," and she said the debate itself is proof of the Tea Party movement's strength. "Here we are in Tampa, having our own debate on CNN," Tucker said, as many in the audience stood and cheered.

-- Steve Bousquet

August 02, 2011

Al Cardenas' wife, Diana: Gays 'are in our faces with public display of affection, gay parades, gay rallies, non-stop bombardment!!!'

The American Conservative Union -- now led by Miami attorney Al Cardenas -- has barred the conservative gay Republican group, GOProud, from sponsoring and fully participating at its next national convention.

Cardenas This week, Cardenas' wife Diana (Chief Operating Officer (COO) at The Cardenas Household," according to her Facebook profile) engaged in an interesting public exchange on the social network about gays and lesbians after GOP activist Ana Navarro posted comments concerning Texas Gov. Rick Perry's flip-flop last week on gay marriage:

 "I want a candidate w/strong informed opinions & beliefs & courage to stick by them even when not politically convenient. Is that too much to ask these days?" Navarro posted.

Here's Diana Cardenas' initial response to Navarro:

I would be very disappointed if Perry did not favor amending the Const to ban gay marriage. These gay marriage laws are destructive .... Marriage is a vital social institution between two members of the OPPOSITE sex. It goes way beyond just an emotional relationship---it serves a vital role in the stability and continuity of our society, something which homosexual marriages cannot provide. Unfortunately, the biggest victory of the gay movement has been to shift the debate from a 'behavior' to identity, whereby those that oppose homosexuality are considered bigoted or hateful. They have equated it to the Civil Rights Movement, seeking to obtain the rights granted under the constitution to all races or religions. Sexual behavior does not fall into either category!!!!It is not about homosexuals wanting to enter into a 'marriage' so much as it is about them wanting to gain acceptance into mainstream society by redefining the traditional definition of the institution. Because a few liberal judges decide to sign it into law, does not mean the public is in favor of it. Whenever it has been put on the ballot (as in California), it has failed.

Read and download the complete exchange at Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida blog.

July 22, 2011

Rev. Jackson blasts Florida voting-law changes

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday called for the U.S. Justice Department to block implementation of changes to Florida election laws that he says will suppress turnout in 2012. The long-time civil rights leader and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition took part in a conference call Friday with representatives of civil rights and civil liberties groups.

"By restricting voting, they (Republicans) are able to determine the outcome," Jackson said. He described Florida as "ground zero for the voter suppression movement" in the United States.

Jackson plans to attend rallies in Florida next week to mobilize opposition to the new law. After a rally Monday night in Orlando, Jackson vill take part in a rally at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the 34th Street Church of God. The ACLU of Florida is circulating a flier instructing how people can send emails and letters or make phone calls to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Obama administration to "stop voter suppression" in Florida.

The law (HB 1355), passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, reduces early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters to cast provisional ballots if their previous voting address was in another county. Supporters say the changes will reduce voter fraud at the polls. The law is already the focus of a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

-- Steve Bousquet

 

 

February 02, 2011

Bitner answers Priebus on primary warning: We're working on it

Florida Republican Party new Chairman Dave Bitner heeded the words of the RNC's new chief Reince Priebus today, who urged Florida to push back its controversial early primary date, but issued this statement:

"We have been working for quite some time with the Legislature and doing everything in our power to comply with the RNC's rules,'' Bitner said in a statement. "We must also protect the state's ability to play an active role in selecting the Republican nominee."