May 12, 2010

Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races

A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll shows wide open races for statewide offices with few voters confident about which candidate to elect. (Here are the findings.)

Take the race for Attorney General: voters are 73 percent undecided in the Democratic primary (feature Sen. Dan Gelber verse Sen. Dave Aronberg) and 72 percent undecided in the three-way Republican primary (which pits Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp against prosecutor Pam Bondi and former agency head Holly Benson).

The most intriguing figures come in the Agriculture Commissioner election where the poll tested a the match-up between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. It's a deadlock with Maddox at 31 percent, Putnam at 30 percent and undecideds at 39 percent. (The margin of error is 4 percent for this question.)

"The huge number of undecided voters is really where this election rests," said PR guru Ron Sachs, whose firm isn't representing any candidates.

Continue reading "Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races" »

May 08, 2010

Who spent the most on GOP plastic? Here's the list.

The Republican Party of Florida released 2,452 double-sided pages of credit card statements Friday revealing 31 card holders spent about $7.3 million from January 2007 through March 2010. Below is the list of every card holder and how much they spent. (Do note that the totals only reflect charges starting in 2007, even though many of these officials held American Express cards prior to that date.)

Jim Rimes, former executive director: $2.2 million

Delmar Johnson, former executive director: $1.4 million

Melanie Phister, aide to former Speaker Ray Sansom: $1.2 million

Debbie Bishop, deputy finance director: $694,000

Jim Greer, former chairman: $478,000

Cameron Ulrich, Senate campaigns finance director: $208,000

Carrie Madden, Senate campaigns staffer: $175,000

Ray Sansom, former House speaker: $167,000

Dean Cannon, incoming House speaker: $124,000

Jeremy Collins, special assistant to Greer: $118,000

Continue reading "Who spent the most on GOP plastic? Here's the list." »

April 28, 2010

Greer received $125,000 through secret party contract

Florida GOP officials said Tuesday that former party Chairman Jim Greer received $125,000 through Victory Strategies, the shell company he owned that siphoned party donations through a secret contract with then-executive director Delmar Johnson.

Jason Gonzalez, the party's general counsel, said officials discovered the information recently amid the ongoing internal audit into Greer's management of the party, which ended with his ouster in January. Victory Strategies received a total of $200,000 from the party and the clandestine contract spurred a criminal investigation. Greer countered with a civil suit, alleging the party failed to honor a severance agreement.

Greer contends the party knew about the Victory Strategies arrangement and the party initially deemed the contract invalid because Greer never signed it. But party officials said the legal strategy is shifting to suggest the severance is void because Greer defrauded the party.

The battle between Greer and the Republican Party of Florida now involves three former U.S. attorneys. The party hired Ken Sukhia, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, to defend the civil lawsuit Greer filed against the party.

Continue reading "Greer received $125,000 through secret party contract" »

April 15, 2010

Reaction to Crist veto quick, harsh; lawmaker pulls endorsement

UPDATED: It didn't take long to gauge reaction to Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of Senate Bill 6. House Speaker Larry Cretul told Buzz that portions of Crist's remarks were "rather harsh."

And at least one lawmaker -- maybe in what is a sign of more to come -- pulled his support of Crist in the U.S. Senate race. "Governor Crist is playing political games with our children's education," said Rep. John Tobia, a freshman Republican from Satellite Beach.

The bulk of GOP lawmakers who pushed the merit pay for teachers legislation dodged comment or gave mild retorts, preferring to issue prepared statements. The reaction came quickly with the Florida Education Association issued one of the quickest releases (at 12:11 p.m.) mere moments after Crist opened his remarks.

The press conference attracted broad attention, including a number of lobbyists and lawmakers opposed to the legislation who stood in the back. One of the few supporters of the bill who attended was Rep. Tom Grady, a Naples Republican. Asked why he attended, "I wanted to look my governor in the eye," he said.

Continue reading "Reaction to Crist veto quick, harsh; lawmaker pulls endorsement" »

April 07, 2010

Greer puts McCollum in center of severance talks

In all this mess about the Republican Party offering former Chairman Jim Greer a now-disputed severance package, there is little talk about Attorney General Bill McCollum's involvement. 

But a new document obtained by the Herald/Times describing Greer's negotiations with the Republican Party concerning his severance package illustrates his close connection to McCollum.

Greer writes to GOP general counsel Jason Gonzalez that he will honor the "commitments that I have made to the House, Senate and McCollum's campaign" upon his departure. It's unclear what commitments Greer is referring to.

In the document, Greer also takes credit for helping McCollum, "who I might add would not be without question the presumptive nominee if not for my efforts. McCollum's campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said no commitments exist and disputed Greer's role as king-maker.

Months ago, McCollum received credit in helping oust Greer, a quiet, decisive presence behind the scenes. And now he initiated a criminal investigation by FDLE after earlier suggesting it wasn't necessary.

Read more here. And continue below for more of Greer's defensive letter to the party on Feb. 11, a month after his departure and a day before the party allegedly revoked the severance agreement.

Continue reading "Greer puts McCollum in center of severance talks" »

Florida senator: Republican Crist, Democrat Sink think alike

Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos linked Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to Democratic CFO Alex Sink in a partisan missive criticizing Crist for vetoing the leadership funds legislation.

"His uninformed veto comments did not reflect the stringent details of the bill, rather, it parroted the talking points of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink," Haridopolos, the bill's Senate sponsor, said in a statement issued by his legislative office.

Haridopolos and Crist -- who spent a good chunk of time campaigning together for GOP presidential nominee John McCain in 2008 -- disagreed about whether the bill would let leading lawmakers raise money during the legislative session, a practice that is currently banned.

Read his full statement below.

Continue reading "Florida senator: Republican Crist, Democrat Sink think alike" »

Kottkamp, lawmakers speak at Capitol tea party rally

Lake ray Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and a number of lawmakers (including Jacksonville Republican Rep. Lake Ray at left) stood behind the tea party's lectern on the Historic Capitol steps and blasted all things federal government.

Kottkamp, a Republican candidate for attorney general, endorsed AG Bill McCollum's lawsuit against the health care legislation supported by President Barack Obama.

Ray, who took a break from the Florida House debate about class size, told the crowd of 50 that "euthanasia is what they have in mind" under the new health care system. "I share your vision for the future," he said.

The rally's speakers called the day the legislation passed "one of the darkest days since 9/11."

The crowd carried signs supporting Sen. Carey Baker and Rep. Scott Plakon's effort to add language to the state's constitution forbidding the implementation of the health care bill.

April 02, 2010

Crist takes responsibility for putting Greer at helm

In an interview, Gov. Charlie Crist said he is growing increasingly disillusioned with how former Chairman Jim Greer and the Republican Party handled secret contracts and spent money on party credit cards.

“It’s a mess,” Crist said in an interview. “This thing stinks.”

“A federal comprehensive investigation is ... fully appropriate,” he added, crediting CFO Alex Sink for suggesting the idea. “Particularly because of the significant IRS implications throughout this thing.”

Asked what took him so long, after months of demands from Democrats and Republicans for a federal investigation, he said: "I think it was being handled appropriately at the outset, based on what we knew at the time, and as I just said, the more facts you become aware of, the more concerned somebody who is fair and honest would become. And its simply a matter of that process."

Crist also acknowledged he put Greer at the helm. "I take responsibility for that but I think that again, once you become aware of what the facts are. I think an appropriate response is absolutely what is required. And I think it's required."

CFO Sink calls for special prosecutor to investigate GOP

Democrat CFO Alex Sink sent a letter to AG Bill McCollum (her gubernatorial rival) asking him to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate criminal activity at the Republican Party of Florida concerning former Chairman Jim Greer. This is the only way to avoid a conflict of interest, her letter states.

"It is only through a completely independent investigation that Floridians can have confidence that any criminal activity that may have occurred in the Republican Party will be properly addressed,” Sink said in a statement. “We need an independent prosecutor leading this investigation, and not a Cabinet agency.”

The request from Sink's office mirrors the one earlier in the week from Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman. McCollum played a key role in helping to oust Greer. When the party presented him with the latest audit showing the party paid a shell company Greer secretly owned, McCollum asked FDLE to investigate.

April 01, 2010

All the people that supported Jim Greer

In the political fallout from the criminal investigation of Jim Greer, one question remaining is who it will hurt. Gov. Charlie Crist was the obvious target when the initial news broke, given that he handpicked Greer for the GOP helm. But this flier for Greer's re-election -- slogan, "The service we trust. The leadership we need -- as chairman includes many more bold-faced names: including Attorney General Bill McCollum, Senate President Jeff Atwater and disgraced Speaker Ray Sansom and former Speaker Marco Rubio.

See the invite here.