January 18, 2015

Rick Scott loses allies, credibility amid FDLE scandal and RPOF chair vote

Gov. Rick Scott has started losing allies and credibility midway through the first month of his second term.

It all erupted in one politically disastrous week in which Scott:

1. Was publicly accused of being a liar by the former chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He says the governor’s campaign last year inappropriately tried to meddle in department business and investigations for political reasons.

2. Estranged fellow statewide elected Republicans in the Florida Cabinet, who began to distance themselves from Scott amid the controversy.

3. Was embarrassed by rank-and-file Republican Party of Florida members who bucked him by refusing to vote in his handpicked party chair. By weighing in on the race — and using arm-twisting tactics — Scott broke his pledge to remain neutral. After RPOF members defied Scott and chose a different party chair, a bizarre scene unfolded at the GOP’s Tallahassee headquarters, where Senate Republican staffers moved out and took $800,000 with them.

If no amends are made, the party chaos and Scott’s isolation portends a rough legislative session and an intra-party knife fight ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

Some Republicans grumble that Scott is trying to use party fundraising to make himself a power player who could blunt the advantages that former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio enjoy in Florida as part of their potential bids for the White House. Scott allies deny it.

Scott’s troubles started Tuesday when the governor and Cabinet were set to choose a new FDLE commissioner because the previous chief, Gerald Bailey, unexpectedly quit of his own accord. At least, that’s what Scott’s team was saying and what Scott was suggesting publicly.

“He resigned,” Scott said Tuesday.

But that wasn’t true, Bailey and others say.

“If he said I resigned voluntarily, that is a lie,” Bailey told the Herald/Times capital bureau, which broke the story. “If he said that, he’s being totally untruthful.”

Column here

Hard feelings? ¡Dale! Rick Scott would rather praise rapper Pitbull than new GOP chair on Twitter

@MarcACaputo

While apologists are trying to spin yesterday's shocking defeat of Gov. Rick Scott's handpicked GOP chair, his Twitter account indicates otherwise. Scott's Twitter handle, @FLGovScott has been completely silent on yesterday's state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia's victory in the Republican Party of Florida chair race against incumbent Leslie Dougher.

Contrast Scott's silence with the reactions on Twitter of his fellow Republicans elected to statewide posts on the Florida Cabinet.

Attorney General Pam Bondi went first:

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam soon followed: 

Then state CFO Jeff Atwater weighed in:

Sure, talk is cheap. But manners are free. And the absence of friendliness and credibility can be politically costly.

Now if only Ingoglia was a Miami rapper with a birthday. That's worth a Tweet from the top elected Republican in the third most-populous state. Or, as Pitbull is fond of saying: "¡Dale!"

Blaise Ingoglia lays down the law at RPOF

@MarcACaputo

After yesterday's unexpected vote installing Rep. Blaise Ingoglia as Republican Party of Florida chairman, the Florida Senate's election staff moved money and equipment out of RPOF, leading to this edict from Ingoglia: 

Republican Party of Florida Officers, Staff, and Consultants,

To help ensure a smooth and orderly transition of power between the administrations of outgoing Chairman Leslie Dougher and myself, and pursuant with Republican Party of Florida Rules and Florida Statutes, I’m instituting the following guidelines as we work through this process.

From this moment forward the Republican Party Of Florida shall not process payment, incur costs, issue checks, transfer money or make any financial commitments without strict written approval of myself or a designated member of my transition staff.

Continue reading "Blaise Ingoglia lays down the law at RPOF" »

January 13, 2015

Dougher collects endorsements but GOP chairman race remains uncertain

By Adam Smith

The race for Florida GOP Chairman is looking more and more unpredictable. The latest sign of trouble for Leslie Dougher, the governor's candidare and ostensible frontrunner? Republican National Committeeman Peter Feaman is endorsing former state Rep. Kurt Kelly for chairman. Check out his video here

This is a pretty pretty big deal in terms of making more voting members comfortable going to Feaman, considering Feaman would presumably think twice before ticking off the governor and backing someone likely to lose.

We noted the other day that grass roots activists often talk about voting against the establishment choice for Florida GOP chairman, but that choice always wins. We're not predicting anything, but Saturday's vote looks tough to predict.

"It will be unique for people to see it happen, but this is a unique time," Kelly said about the likelihood of an upset. "If everybody's being candid with me and being honest with me, we're going to get there."

That's always the BIG IF in these elections, of course. Dougher's allies think she has has the votes to win. But in a sign of there anxiety, we've heard some Republicans involved in the campaign suggest/warn/hint that if Sougher doesn't win, then Gov. Rick Scott would cease raising money for the party and the Republican National Committeee could find another vehicle to funnel money to for the 2016 presidential race.

Continue reading "Dougher collects endorsements but GOP chairman race remains uncertain " »

November 17, 2014

Friends gather to remember former GOP chairman Tom Slade

Tom SladeFormer chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Tom Slade, 78, was remembered Monday at a ceremony in Tallahassee as a skilled strategist who was responsible for bringing the party to its current dominance in Florida politics today. 

"If he had not been there, I'm convinced we would not have the party we have today,'' said John Thrasher, former House speaker, Republican Party chairman who is now newly-elected president of FSU. "Tom practiced tough love. I'm not sure he was always right but he never thought he was wrong."

Slade, a former state legislator, was chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1993 to 1999. He died of heart failure on Oct. 20 at Orange Park Medical Center.

Friends recalled his prowess as an intuitive strategist, a disciplined organizer, and a good quote who "really loved the press." They spoke of how he could cajole donors for funds, persuade reluctant candidates -- like Bob Milligan and Frank Brogan -- to consider running for statewide office and how he used Patton-like precision to get candidates to agree to avoid bloody primary battles.

 "Tom Slade had an imposing personality" who "owned the room," said former GOP chairman Carole Jean Jordan. 

She recalled how he tried unsuccessfully to run for national Republican Party chairman, a defeat that she believes had lasting consequences for the party. 

"We lost the U.S. Senate the next term'' because of it, Jordan said. 

David Johnson, who served as party executive director under Slade, organized the memorial service.

Johnson said when he came to Tallahassee there were few Republican jobs in town but working for Slade "was like playing for the Yankees."

Slade's former staffers and veterans of the media spoke about his willingness to speak openly to the press without talking points or spin. He never needed to go off the record, and he could employ his considerable verbal dexterity to advance the GOP position in any debate.

"He never met a reporter he didn't want to talk to,'' Jordan said. "And that was somewhat unfortunate."

In 1996, when Pat Buchanan was trying to control the platform debate over abortion, Slade told the Miami Herald’s Tom Fiedler: "The truth is, he has lost. The game's over. There's a Southern saying that 'There ain't no education in the second kick of the mule.' "

Jordon recalled how remarks like that once prompted a call from the George W. Bush White House.

"It wasn't the president but it was close,'' she said. "They said, 'Can you please stop Tom Slade's non-positive comments?' "

Al Cardenas, a Miami Cuban who succeeded Slade as party chairman, said that after he met Slade he thought, "I never met a guy more different than me" but realized they both had one thing in common: "We both hate to lose."

The era in which Slade ran the party was a "glorious decade" Cardenas said, but it was also "our most challenging." 

He recalled Slade's fierce determination to raise money -- at one point charging each Republican candidate for president $50,000 to speak to GOP audiences in Florida. "Sure enough, they came and they paid,'' Cardenas said. Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, however, arrived in Florida with laryngitis and had his wife fill in for him as a speaker. 

When Wilson's aides asked for a discount on the fee, Slade's responded firmly: "hell no," Cardenas said.

Randy Enwright, another former political director under Slade, recalled how he was barely making $1,000 a month when he started working for the party but, under Slade, the landscape shifted to yachting trips and donor parties that helped enrich the party coffers.

"It's a little different ball game because of Tom Slade,'' he concluded.

Johnson joked that while Republicans came to the memorial to pay their respects, there were some Democrats in the audience who probably came "to make sure he was gone."

In honor of Slade, a hard-drinking veteran of Tallahassee watering holes, the group adjourned to Clyde's and Costellos. 

 

 

September 29, 2014

RPOF ad citing anonymous Floridians bashing Obamacare faces PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter

Got a beef with Obamacare? The Republicans want to remind voters that Democrat Charlie Crist thinks the president’s health care law is "great."

A TV ad by the Republican Party of Florida features anecdotes from people making claims about how the health care law has hurt them in the pocketbook or made it harder to find doctors:

"I think Obamacare harms doctors and patients."

"It increased my health policy, personal health policy, 30 percent."

"I’m disabled and I can’t find doctors that will help me."

"My family’s medical costs have doubled."

"Many doctors are losing their patients, and patients are losing their doctors. I was one of them."

"Obamacare hurts my ability to create jobs."

The ad soon pivots to Crist saying of Obamacare "I think it’s been great," comments he made in a TV interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley in March 2014. Crist has campaigned in favor of the federal health care law while his opponent Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been a major critic.

The ad doesn’t identify the various men and women complaining about Obamacare making it impossible to verify each individual’s experiences. State GOP spokesperson Susan Hepworth’s only reply to our questions about the people and their insurance woes: "They are not actors."

But we can research the ad’s overall message that the Affordable Care Act has inflated Floridians’ health care costs anywhere from 30 percent to twice as expensive. Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see how we rated this claim. 

September 22, 2014

Pants on Fire claim for ad claiming Crist "swindled" by Rothstein investor

TV ad released by the Republican Party of Florida has created major buzz in Florida’s political world.

The ad featured an unidentified man who said he was swindled by Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein -- and, by extension, by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat and seeking to unseat Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

"Scott Rothstein swindled a lot of people, me included," the unidentified narrator said. "He bankrupted many families. Nobody was closer to Rothstein than Charlie Crist. Rothstein was always around Charlie, throwing parties and giving Charlie money. Rothstein bragged that he gave Charlie Crist money so he could pick judges. Of course Charlie took the money. I got swindled by both Rothstein and Charlie. If Charlie Crist will sell judgeships, everything is for sale."

The ad -- which has run at least 4,000 times at a cost of about $2 million -- includes photos of Rothstein and Crist embracing each other and blowing out the candles on Crist’s 52nd birthday cake. (Technical note: The ad was released by the state Republican Party, but it is on Scott’s behalf. Scott’s campaign has been defending it and he initially referred questions about the ad to his campaign. So that's why we're putting Scott on the Truth-O-Meter.)

PolitiFact Florida has previously fact-checked two claims related to Rothstein, who began a 50-year prison sentence in 2010 for convictions related to a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme that involved the sale of fabricated legal settlements.

But Scott’s charge that Crist "swindled" an investor is new -- and represents a serious charge. Crist unveiled his own counter-attack that calls the ad a lie and recounts Scott’s $1.7 billion Medicare fraud related to his days as CEO of a health care company.

We decided to put it to the Truth-O-Meter. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our findings.

September 05, 2014

FL GOP tries linking Charlie Crist to Wasserman Schultz' hair-pulling controversy

@MarcACaputo

Sharp-tongued DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz got too trenchant in Wisconsin this week when she criticized that state's governor, saying he and other conservatives gave "women the back of his hand" and "are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back​."

Oops.

Democrats have distanced themselves from the Broward congresswoman's comments. Local papers condemned them. And Republicans are trying to make sure they're not forgotten.

Cue this Republican Party of Florida email that just dropped:

As President Obama’s top apologist, it’s no surprise that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is all in for Obama’s favorite liberal – Charlie Crist – as one of his top surrogates.

On Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz stepped over the line with comments about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker & fellow Republican governors saying he “…has given women the back of his hand…” & “…they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.” The remarks have been roundly criticized by the media, Republicans and Democrats.

Ask Charlie Crist if he condemns these offensive remarks or if he agrees with using the plight of abuse victims to score cheap political points.

But as the candidate of TALK over ACTION, it’s likely that Charlie will fail to ACT on Debbie’s offensive TALK.

August 25, 2014

Fact-check of RPOF's ad about Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein buying Charlie Crist's judicial picks

Florida’s famous Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein now lives in a federal prison, but Republicans hope that he can help smear the reputation of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Back when Crist was a Republican, Rothstein and his Fort Lauderdale law firm donated generously to Crist and the Republican Party of Florida, as well as several other politicians.

In 2010, Rothstein was convicted in a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Rothstein’s testimony in a related case provided fodder now being used by Republicans to attack Crist in a TV ad.

"Convicted swindler Scott Rothstein bought expensive things with stolen money. He even bought a governor," says the narrator. "Rothstein boasted about contributing huge sums of money to the campaign of then Gov. Charlie Crist and the influence it gave him over judicial appointments. Now cooperating with prosecutors, Scott Rothstein admits he gave hundreds of thousands of campaign cash to control Crist’s appointments of key state judges."

Florida newspapers have extensively covered Rothstein’s case over the years. We wanted to know if the facts matched up with the ad’s brief description. To do that, we reviewed everything we could find on the case and conducted new interviews of people who had dealings with Rothstein on judicial appointments.

What we found doesn’t reflect well on Crist, who took Rothstein’s money and placed him on a key commission that selected judges.

But we also failed to find hard evidence that Rothstein actually controlled Crist’s judicial appointments as the ad claims. Those who served on a judicial nominating commission with him painted a portrait of someone who was all style but not much substance. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our rating and the full fact-check.

August 22, 2014

RPOF's Pants on Fire claim about Obamacare

Health insurers want to raise rates in 2015, Florida’s regulatory agency is largely powerless to stop it, and the Republican Party of Florida wants you to believe it’s all the federal government’s fault.

By extension, the state GOP implies Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is worth some blame, too, since he’s come out in support of the law. During aFacebook Q&A on Aug. 6, someone asked Crist if he planned on reinstating the state insurance commissioner’s power to renegotiate 2015 rates in time to affect how much those rates cost.

"Absolutely," Crist replied. "The fact that we have a law on the books under Rick Scott that says the Office of Insurance Regulation can't regulate insurance is astounding. We deserve better, you deserve better."

But the state Republican Party was quick to contradict Crist, making the first comment on that response.

"Wrong, Charlie," the GOP’s Facebook account wrote. "It's Obamacare that prevents OIR (the Office of Insurance Regulation) from regulating insurance … a law that you think is great even though premiums will go up by double digits for Floridians."

So who’s right? Does Obamacare keep Florida’s insurance regulator from regulating insurance? We’re not going to make you fill out dozens of forms in triplicate to find out, because we’ve got you covered.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check at PolitiFact Florida.