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.

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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


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​."


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.

August 20, 2014

Yawn. RPOF files another Crist-billboard complaint




The Republican Party of Florida filed a complaint with the the Florida Elections Commission against the Charlie Crist campaign this week for allegedly failing to include the mandatory prominent disclaimers  that tell people who is paying for the ad. Yawn. Seemed like yet another petty complaint that nobody other than a couple campaign workers actually cares about.

This is the second Crist-billboard complaint RPOF has filed. The previous one was thrown out.

To us, the real scandal would be if the Charlie Crist campaign spent money to erect big billboards near his hometown where his name ID already is 99 percent. Turns out, the billboard were in-kind donations from W.S. Media Inc. of Sarasota, an outfit connected with chiropractor and longtime Crist ally Gary Kompothecras and Jay Burmer, another longtime Crist friend and political operative who works with Mr. 800-Ask-Gary.

The Crist campaign of course scoffed at the complaint and sent an image of their billboard clearly showing the disclaimer. That should put the matter to rest, except that the image released by the Crist campaign is nonsense. In reality, the billboard's disclaimer is virtually invisible. 

Does it matter? Not a bit to normal voters. It might to the Florida Elections Commission, however.

August 15, 2014

False ad by RPOF pins blame on Crist for Duke fiasco

Failed nuclear projects by utility provider Duke Energy have suddenly electrified both sides of this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

After environmentalist PAC NextGen Climateran an ad accusing Gov. Rick Scott of not doing anything to stop the North Carolina company from fleecing consumers, the Republican Party of Florida responded withits own commercial pointing fingers at former Gov. Charlie Crist.

"Crist made it easier for Duke to take your money," the narrator of the Aug. 12, 2014, ad says. "Crist signed a law helping Duke get billions, while Rick Scott put a stop to the Crist giveaway."

PolitiFact Florida already reviewed whether Scott allowed Duke to take ratepayers’ money; we found the claim Half True largely because Scott didn’t say much of anything about the issue. But did Crist have anything to do with the company taking money for doomed nuclear power plant plans? We’ll check this bill line by line. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our fact-check.

This fact-check was written by Joshua Gillin.

July 22, 2014

RPOF's new ad trifecta: Spanish-speaking women teachers praise Rick Scott over education


The Republican Party of Florida's newest ad is straight out of public-opinion polling heaven, featuring Spanish-speaking female teachers who laud Gov. Rick Scott's education record and the teacher raises he secured.

“Florida students are better off due to Scott,” says one of the women in the ad, identified only as a teacher named “Betty.”

The GOP announced the $300,000 ad buy, which includes online and TV spots, just days after Crist tapped the Spanish-speaking head of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party, Annette Taddeo. 

Though polls indicate Scott is competitive with Crist in courting the Hispanic vote, the Democrat bests him in support from women, who comprise a bigger segment of the likely-voter electorate.

 Scott's lieutenant governor and running mate, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, is also Hispanic and hails from Miami-Dade. And the governor invested early in Spanish-language ads, running about $1 million worth, mostly in Miami’s media market. RPOF has announced three Spanish-language and two English-language ads and has spent at least $1 million.

Gender and ethnicity aside, both campaigns are focusing heavily on education.

Crist is making much of Scott's mammoth $1.3 billion cuts to the state's education budget his first year in office helped tank his then-weak poll numbers, which have taken years to recover. PolitiFact found that per-pupil spending under Crist has exceeded Scott's figure when adjusted for inflation.

But the teachers identified in Scott’s ads say the governor isn’t getting credit for the $480 million in teacher bonuses he pushed for and the $18.9 billion education budget he signed.

"In the last two years I’ve seen that the resources for the classroom have greatly improved,” another teacher named “Maritza” adds. “There is more technology in the classroom.”

A third woman, identified as “Elisa” then says “they can repeat all the falsehoods they want, the facts don’t lie.”

The supposed “falsehoods” and who “they” are isn’t clear, however the Republican Party press release accompanying the announcement of the $300,000 online and TV ad buy attributes two misleading statements to Leslie Dougher, the state GOP chair.

Dougher’s statement claims that, under Democrat Charlie Crist, “state education funding was slashed by nearly $1.4 billion, funding was cut for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, and 3,000 Florida teachers were laid off.”

In a previous fact check of another Scott ad, PolitiFact Florida rated the 3,000-teacher-layoff claim “mostly false,” partly due to the reliance on unverified and anecdotal data.

As for the $1.4 billion “slashed” under Crist, Dougher fails to point out that Crist pushed a recalcitrant GOP-led Legislation to accept roughly $1.7 billion in federal stimulus money over two years. Factoring in the stimulus money and education spending was reduced overall by $524 million during Crist’s term as governor, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Also unmentioned: the federal stimulus money is credited, in state studies for helping preserve 19,000 jobs of school-board employees throughout the state.

Ironically, Scott bashed the stimulus as wasteful but then blamed the Obama Administration for not sending Florida more money when the federal money ran out, leading to the $1.3 billion in education cuts that Crist now blasts Scott for.

The Ad:

CHYRON: Maritza, Maestra


MARITZA: Me gusta ser maestra de educación especial porque mucha gente no ven el potencial de esos estudiantes.

MARITZA TRANSLATED: I like being a special education teacher because many people don’t see the potential of those students.

CHYRON: Elisa, Maestra


ELISA: Es una profesión bien dedicada.

ELISA TRANSLATED: It’s a profession of great dedication.

CHYRON: Regla, Maestra


REGLA: Muchas personas no sabe que Rick Scott logro el aumento de sueldo de maestras.

REGLA TRANSLATED: Many people don’t know that Rick Scott achieved an increase in pay for teachers.

MARTIZA: En los últimos dos años he visto que los recursos en la clase han mejorado mucho. Hay mas tecnologia para la clase.

MARITZA TRANSLATED: In the last two years I’ve seen that the resources for the classroom have greatly improved. There is more technology in the classroom.

ELISA: Con Rick Scott han aumentado los fondos para la educación pre-escolar y para mí eso es muy importante.

ELISA TRANSLATED: With Rick Scott there are more funds for pre-school education and that’s very important to me.

CHYRON: Betty, Maestra


BETTY: Los estudiantes de la Florida están mejor debido a Scott.

BETTY TRANSLATED: Florida students are better off due to Scott.

ELISA: Pueden repetir todas la falsedades que quieran pero los hechos no mienten.

ELISA TRANSLATED: They can repeat all the falsehoods they want, the facts don’t lie.

CHYRON: Anuncio político pagado por el Partido Republicano de la Florida, 420 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida32301. El Partido Republicano de la Florida apoya y le pide a usted que vote por Rick Scott para Gobernador, Jeanette Nunez para Representante Estatal Distrito 119, y José Félix Díaz para Representante Estatal Distrito 116.

CHYRON TRANSLATED: Paid political advertisement paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, 420 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, FL32301. The Republican Party of Florida endorses and urges you to vote for Rick Scott for Governor, Jeanette Nunez for State Representative District 119, and Jose Felix Diaz for State Representative District 116.