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."

September 02, 2010

GOP unlikely to remove Tea Party candidate from legislative race

UPDATED: In a Leon County courtroom, the Republican Party of Florida made a last minute attempt to remove a tea Party candidate from the ballot in a Central Florida state legislative race. But time was an issue because the ballot gets certified at 5 p.m. Thursday and the circuit judge appeared skeptical about granting an injunction.

Rep. J.C. Planas, a termed-out Miami lawmaker, was hired by the party to argue the case on behalf of a voter in House District 34, Christopher Denion. (Rep. Chris Dorworth, a future House speaker, currently holds the seat.) Planas argued that John DeVries is a bogus tea party candidate and asked Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford to disqualify him for technical issues surrounding his paperwork and a loan from Florida Tea Party leader Fred O'Neal.

"What we have here is the RPOF verses the Tea Party of Florida," O'Neal said in his opening statement. "They are trying to take us off the ballot."

At the end of the day, the judge rejected the RPOF's efforts to get an injunction but Planas said he will push it to trial. He also said he will ask prosecutor Willie Meggs to file a criminal case against DeVries.

Continue reading "GOP unlikely to remove Tea Party candidate from legislative race" »

August 24, 2010

A insider's guide to the primary election

Will Rick's voters show up?: Turnout could be a major factor in the GOP primary for governor. Rick Scott is hoping thousands of casual voters flock to the polls to oust career politicians. A lower turnout could benefit Bill McCollum, who has the party infrastructure and a stronger base of supporters. A win by Scott tomorrow would set the GOP establishment on fire -- it would likely end McCollum’s political career and put his supporters on the spot over who they will back in November. Or how many people sick with the fight will pick third-wheel Mike McCalister?

Will Haridopolos get his candidates? A handful of key state Senate primaries could test the power of incoming President Mike Haridopolos. The Merritt Island Republican has weighed in on several races: Jim Norman over Kevin Ambler in Hillsborough’s District 12; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla over Julio Robaina in Miami’s District 36; Ellyn Bogdanoff over Carl Domino in District 25 in Palm Beach; and Lizbeth Benacquisto over Sharon Merchant in the sprawling Fort Myers-to-Palm Beach District 27. The winners in the two Palm Beach seats face tougher races in November, while the other two primary winners will likely capture a Senate seat tomorrow evening.

Will the Greer/GOP-spending scandal hurt candidates? Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer is gone but his connections to candidates and the party’s legacy of spending on credit cards remains. In Pasco County, former Marco Rubio aide Richard Corcoran is getting reminded of his party credit card spending in his state House race (HD45). And in Seminole County, House candidate Jason Brodeur still thinks Jim Greer is the “bees knees.” Will it hurt him?

Continue reading "A insider's guide to the primary election" »

August 23, 2010

The race according to Crist: Me v. political parties

In an anti-incumbent election year, who better to run against than the political party system itself?

That's the Senate race as Gov. Charlie Crist hopes to frame it, obviously overlooking his status as the ultimate political insider who left the Republican party to, ahem, salvage his own career.

"The Democratic and Republican parties will soon throw everything they have at us,'' says an e-mail from the campaign with more money than anybody else. "In more than one way, they see us as a major threat.  We need the resources to fight back. We need to air TV ads, open up campaign offices, and print fliers. We need to respond on the fly, and we need to prove that our independent campaign has what it takes to beat both national parties...With YOUR help and YOUR contributions, we will show Washington that here in Florida, the two-party system is not the law of the land. That here in Florida, people can make up their own minds, and can elect a senator who speaks for THEM."

By the way, Crist still has his sister, Margaret Wood, working as campaign manager. She stepped in when most of Crist's Republican staff fled. Her presence gives the campaign a brushing of maverick-ness while Crist a coterie of professional consultants with ties to the Democratic party: pollster Keith Frederick, media advisor Josh Isay, political strategist Eric Johnson, and communications director Danny Kanner.

May 27, 2010

In poll, Libertarian candidate a non-factor; Crist takes solid lead

Alexander Snitker, the unknown Libertarian candidate in the crowded Florida U.S. Senate race, breathlessly released an internal poll Thursday showing him at 2.5 percent. His numbers are hardly worth noting -- he's likely in the margin of error. (Not to mention, the polling company, Telsel in St. Augustine, run by Ira Bellas, is an unknown quantity and didn't release the margin of error, as is typical practice.)

But the more interesting figures: Gov. Charlie Crist boasts solid lead -- 40 percent to 32 percent -- over GOP rival Marco Rubio. (Crist's lead is slightly less among likely voters, 40 percent to 33.5 percent.) Democrat Kendrick Meek can't break 10 percent. (See the full release below.)

Another curious note, when voters know Snitker, he appears to take the largest chunk from Meek, though the margin of error in this question is likely too high to draw conclusions.

Continue reading "In poll, Libertarian candidate a non-factor; Crist takes solid lead" »

May 18, 2010

Rentboy scandal: Florida Democrats demand McCollum return $120,000 paid to George Rekers

Just received from the Florida Democratic Party:

In light of Attorney General Bill McCollum's role in spending over $120,000 in taxpayer money on hiring discredited witness George Rekers, today Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman demanded McCollum pay back the State of Florida for the full cost of the funds he steered towards the so-called 'expert' embroiled in the "Rentboy scandal."

Click here to read Thurman's letter to McCollum