August 21, 2018

FBI, Homeland Security say Russians aren’t inside Florida election systems

Scott and nelson


The two federal agencies tasked with informing state and local officials about ongoing interference in Florida’s election systems say they have not seen any new or ongoing Russian attempts to compromise local election infrastructure.

“Although we have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida, Russian government actors have previously demonstrated both the intent and capability to conduct malicious cyber operations,” said a letter from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “DHS and the FBI will continue to notify any victim of a successful cyber intrusion into their election network in any jurisdiction nationwide.”

The letter comes two weeks after Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson first mentioned that Russians “penetrated” Florida’s election systems ahead of the 2018 election. He declined to go into further detail, arguing that the basis of his assertion was classified.

Since then, the Miami Herald and NBC News reported that government officials say there is information that shows Nelson is right, though the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information is classified.

Nelson is in the midst of a contentious and expensive reelection bid against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who oversees the Florida secretary of state’s office.

“Secretary Detzner sent a letter to DHS and the FBI and we have now received their response which continues to offer no evidence or information to corroborate Senator Nelson’s claims,” a statement from the secretary of state’s office said.

Nelson’s spokesperson said there’s nothing in the letter that proves Nelson wrong.

“In my opinion, there’s nothing in this letter that contradicts what Sen. Nelson said he was told a few months ago, and what he and Sen. Rubio have tried to warn about in order to guard against Russian meddling in our elections,” Nelson spokesperson Ryan Brown said in a statement. “The governor of Florida has a security clearance and could have quickly and directly received information, answers and posed any questions instead of engaging in these confusing and partisan histrionics of the past week.”

Read more here.

August 18, 2018

Florida election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty @greggordon2

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections.

A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said.

And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.

“I did exactly what the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee — both the Republican chairman and the vice-Chairman — asked Marco Rubio and I to give that warning. And to give it to the supervisors, which we did,” Nelson said at a campaign stop in Tampa. “I think now that Marco Rubio and I have brought it to everybody’s attention, despite the attempts at politicization of it by Gov. Scott, I think now that it’s out there on the open on what is the potential threat, I think the supervisors will make sure that their systems are secure.”

However, the U.S. government official who spoke to McClatchy said Nelson overstated the threat in saying on Aug. 7 that, after penetrating county voter registration databases, Russian cyber operatives “now have free rein to move about.” Nelson since has voiced concerns that the Russians could tamper with voter registration databases, suppress votes and create chaos at the polls on Election Day.

Details of the extent of any election security threat from the Russians’ penetration of Florida counties are classified, and the limited information that has leaked presents a confusing picture.

Florida officials faced with the prospect of ongoing hacking attempts say they’ve seen no evidence of voter information being altered as early primary voting continues in counties around the state.

Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County and the president of the state Association of Supervisors of Elections, said county-level election officials have not been informed of concrete steps they should take to inoculate themselves from the specific threat of ongoing Russian hacking attempts that Nelson has alluded to. Florida officials who do have access to classified information regarding the state’s voting systems typically receive briefings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Read more here.

August 17, 2018

Nelson declares vindication on Russia hacking claim

Scott and nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson declared vindication Friday over his still unsubstantiated claim that Russians hacked into some county election systems in Florida, pointing to a news report that stated there is a "classified basis for Nelson's assertion."

The Florida Democrat tweeted a breaking news alert from NBC News. "Bill Nelson wasn't making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems," it read.

The report was based on "three people familiar with the intelligence."

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson for re-election, has accused Nelson of leaking classified information or simply fabricating the story, first disclosed to the Tampa Bay Times more than a week ago.

The Times has reported how top Republicans in Washington, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Sen. Marco Rubio, have issued statements that neither confirm or contradict what Nelson said.

[Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems]

The Florida Department of State did not respond to the NBC News report.

Instead, a spokeswoman pointed to a Thursday letter sent to Nelson from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Paul Lux, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, asking for evidence to support his claims.

"The Department of State has no evidence to support his claims at this time. We look forward to his response," the spokeswoman said Friday, responding for the governor as well.

As governor, Scott has a security clearance and could have requested a briefing from Washington officials but did not. A spokesman said that Detzner's office was handling communication with federal authorities.

Republican groups hammering away at Nelson reacted to the report by questioning if the Democrat "broke the law" by revealing classified information.

Rules for the Senate Intelligence Committee do say senators are not to disclose material and can be referred to the ethics committee if they do.

August 01, 2018

Curbelo, Diaz-Balart campaigns to receive campaign contributions from Trump

Curbelo (1)

via @anitakumar

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but his campaign is about to get a cash infusion from the president as he fights for reelection. Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who did vote for Trump and is facing a competitive reelection himself, is also set to receive money along with Trump supporter and U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Scott. The Florida Republicans are part of a group of 100 Republicans nationwide that are receiving direct financial support from the president as the GOP seeks to maintain control of Congress. 

Read more below: 

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is giving money to a surprising group of Republican candidates this fall — those who are not only more moderate than he is, but also those have openly defied him on key issues of immigration and trade.

Some didn’t even vote for him.

Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who led a failed effort opposed by the White House to circumvent House leaders and force a vote on granting citizenship to so-called Dreamers, are getting Trump’s money, according to a list of favored candidates obtained by McClatchy.

Some vulnerable Republicans may not welcome the donations, fearful that Democrats will seize on the money as they look to tie the GOP to a controversial president in districts he lost in 2016 or where he remains unpopular.

“We have neither solicited nor received said contribution,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country held by a Republican seeking re-election.

Curbelo of Miami is a frequent critic of Trump and did not support him in the 2016 race.

The Trump campaign announced last week that it would donate the maximum amount allowed by law — $2,000 per candidate — to 100 Republicans running for Congress in November, perhaps a sign that the GOP is worried it will lose its majorities in Congress. Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

The Trump campaign did not disclose which candidates would receive contributions and did not respond to subsequent questions about how the candidates were selected, but McClatchy obtained a detailed list.

Read more here.

July 28, 2018

In disclosure Q and A, Scott campaign provides its own questions, then avoids some answers

Rick Scott 2015 APHere is the Q and A provided by the Scott campaign as part of the governor's financial disclosure. Note that even some of their own questions didn't get answers.

Our updates and context are in blue italics:

"TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Scott for Florida campaign released Governor Rick Scott’s annual financial disclosure report, as required by federal law for U.S. Senate candidates. Following the Governor signing the federal financial disclosure report, his assets were immediately placed back into a blind trust. The use of a blind trust avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest for an elected official, protects the people of Florida from an elected official making decisions based on personal finances, and is recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics."

Update: Scott's campaign staff clarified that the governor has not decided whether or not to continue the use of a blind trust if he were to be elected to the U.S. Senate. 

"A blind trust has been used by Florida elected officials such as Jeb Bush and Alex Sink, and even now, a majority of the democratic primary candidates for governor have committed to using a blind trust. Blind trusts are also used by governors in other states, both republicans and democrats. The Governor’s blind trust has also been upheld multiple times by the State Commission on Ethics and the court system."

Scott is being sued for violating the blind trust statutes by shifting assets for shifting millions of assets into his wife's name and retaining control as the beneficial owner. A motion to dismiss the case has been rejected by the circuit court and is now on appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeal. 

"Governor Scott has worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott’s Federal Disclosure Report 

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott's Notice to the Florida Commission on Ethics of his Blind Trust 

Please see the below FAQ and timeline for more information:

Q: What is Governor Rick Scott’s net worth?

That information is thoroughly provided in the financial disclosure.

No, it is not thoroughly provided. The governor has provided his liabilities but his assets are not clear because it is unknown how many assets held in the name of his wife, Ann, are also controlled by Scott. SEC documents show Scott has been the beneficial owner of many of the assets held in Ann Scott's name. Scott's worth may include the millions held by his wife, but the value of Ann Scott's assets are listed only as a range, with as many as 150 investments listed as "over $1 million." 

"Governor Scott grew up in a family that struggled financially. After attending high school and community college, Governor Scott enlisted in the United States Navy, then used the GI Bill to continue his education and ultimately open his first small business. He and his wife Ann, his high school sweetheart, have been able to live the American Dream thanks to the opportunities they had in this country, and now, Governor Scott is working to make sure every child in Florida will have these same opportunities. 

"Governor Scott has also worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

Q: Why has Governor Scott’s net worth increased over his years as governor?

Continue reading "In disclosure Q and A, Scott campaign provides its own questions, then avoids some answers" »

July 27, 2018

Is Rick Scott right to think releasing his schedule presents more of security risk than any gov before him? Lawsuit wants to know

Rick Scott and policeA not-for-profit healthcare company that lost a bid to renew its Medicaid contract with the state had a question for Gov. Rick Scott: Where can we find you?

They asked his staff to send them a copy of his schedule — in the office and on the campaign trail — for the next three months so they could talk to him about their concerns.

They argued that documents, compiled and recorded by taxpayer-paid staff and followed by the state’s top executive, his security entourage and other people on the state payroll, are public record and ought to be available for anyone in the state to see.

But the governor’s office wouldn’t turn them over, claiming the details on those calendars are exempt from public disclosure. His communications staff says it's about protecting the governor from a security risk -- even shielding details from calendars from years ago -- a higher standard than any governor before him. Story here. 

July 20, 2018

Republicans peddle false attack against a Miami doctor who doesn't like Rick Scott

Gov Rick Scott


On Wednesday, Rick Scott's Senate campaign and the Republican Party responded to an anti-Scott ad by arguing that a Miami doctor who attacks Scott "refuses to accept Medicaid patients" after railing against Scott's healthcare record in the 30-second TV spot paid for by a Democratic super PAC. 

Turns out, they were wrong. 

On Thursday, The Daily Caller, a conservative outlet, ran an article that parroted the attacks on Dr. David Woosley, a South Florida internist who works at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Miami VA Medical Center. Their initial headline was "The Doctor in a Bill Nelson Medicaid-expansion ad doesn't accept Medicaid." 

But The Daily Caller updated their article on Friday with a new headline and the following editor's note: 

"The original published version of this article said Dr. David Woolsey himself does not accept Medicaid. While the Florida Department of Health states Jackson Memorial Hospital, the hospital where he practices, does not participate in Medicaid, the hospital clarified that it actually does accept patients on this program. Doctors are only permitted to accept insurance companies approved by the hospital or practice for which they work." 

The new headline is completely different: "Doctor in a Bill Nelson ad tries to hammer Rick Scott's health care stance." 

Scott's campaign initially aired the attack on Woosley in a press release on Wednesday, and the RNC followed suit on Thursday. The National Republican Senatorial Committee included the Daily Caller story in its weekly roundup of negative Senate news for Nelson. 

Senate Majority PAC communications director Chris Hayden, whose PAC spent $2.6 million on the advertisement, said the Scott campaign responded to a negative advertisement by lying about a constituent. 

"Dr. Woolsey treats patients with Medicaid at both of the hospitals he works at. He does not have a private practice," Hayden said in an email. "Florida's health care system is in a crisis and Governor Scott's response is to lie about a well-respected doctor. Governor Scott badly mismanaged Florida's health care system, and he should personally apologize for falsely attacking one of his constituents." 

Scott is spending tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Nelson, Florida's only statewide elected Democrat. National groups are also expected to spend millions on a Senate seat that could decide which party controls the upper chamber of Congress.

UPDATE: Scott's campaign says their initial release pointed out that Woosley doesn't accept Medicaid based on the Florida Department of Health's website

"The release did NOT say that Jackson Memorial does not participate in Medicaid; it pointed out that this specific doctor has chosen not to participate," Scott spokesperson Kerri Wyland said in an email. "As a Florida doctor, he chooses whether or not to participate in the Medicaid program – with the knowledge that whatever answer he chooses will be publicly displayed for Floridians looking for healthcare professionals through the FLHealthSource webpage" 



Watch the ad below: 

July 17, 2018

Scott asks court today to end lawsuit demanding that he disclose all his assets

Rick Scott 2015 APTallahassee attorney Don Hinkle's persistent legal battle to force Gov. Rick Scott to disclose everything he has invested in while in office goes before a panel of appellate court judges today.

Hinkle alleges that the governor is violating the state's financial disclosure and blind trust laws by failing to report the assets he controls in partnerships and his wife's revocable trusts. 

A multi-millionaire hospital executive, Scott has shielded his assets from the public and, allegedly himself, by holding them in a blind trust that is managed by a financial advisor who has worked with the governor for decades. 

Scott claims he knows nothing about his investments, including the fact that in 2017 he and his family made as much as $550 million from the sale of a Michigan plastics company that Scott ran for five years before becoming governor. 

Hinkle not only casts doubts on the governor's claim that he knows nothing about his investments, he argues that because the list of of assets provided the governor on his disclosure form is proof he is violating the blind trust law.

The assets "show that Governor Scott has many investments with restrictions on their transfer or sale, or in which transfer of the assets by the trustee would be 'improbable or impractical' without Governor Scott’s knowledge."

Because "such assets are not appropriate for a 'blind' trust,'' Hinkle alleges the governor is violating the law. 

The governor's lawyers argue that the Florida Commission on Ethics is the proper venue to bring a financial disclosure claim and in April asked Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers to dismiss the case.

Gievers refused to dismiss the case and the governor's lawyer's appealed that ruling. The oral arguments before the three-judge panel will be heard today. 

Hinkle had tried and failed three times to get the Florida Commission on Ethics to investigate the governor's financial disclosures. But the commission, whose members the governor appointed, dismissed the complaints without investigating the federal documents. 

Hinkle wanted commissioners to investigate why Scott signed federal securities documents indicating he was the "beneficial owner" of assets in his wife's trust, but he didn't report them as assets on his own financial disclosure form.

"When reporting his financial interests to Floridians on his financial disclosure, Governor Scott does not include or identify each
asset of the F. Annette Scott Revocable Trust,'' Hinkle wrote in the lawsuit filed in November. " would be improbable or impractical for the trustee to sell or transfer assets held in this trust without the Governor’s knowledge or consent."

All of this may be moot for Scott, a candidate for U.S. Senate. In two weeks, Scott's federal financial disclosure report is due and, unlike state law, federal disclosure law requires that Scott disclose all the assets of his wife as well as his own.

But there may be long-term implications of Hinkle's lawsuit. The precedent established by the lawsuit could play out if any of the millionaires running for governor get elected and create a blind trust, as some have said they would. 

Meanwhile, Scott has asked for a 90-day extension to file his disclosure. The clock runs out on July 29. 

Given the governor's recent disclosure that he earned $120 million more in income in 2017 than the year before, and a Herald/Times investigation that found that the governor and his family may have earned as much as $550 million from a single transaction, questions continue to emerge about how blind Scott's blind trust really is.  



July 11, 2018

Would you know if your spouse made a deal for $550 million? Rick Scott's staff says he didn't.

Rick Scott inaugurationThe reason Gov. Rick Scott's net income rose 55 percent in 2017 has to do with electric cars, China partnerships, a company turnaround, and a single transaction that resulted in a revenue boost of as much as $550 million to the governor and his family.

Continental Structural Plastics, a Michigan-based company that supplies lightweight plastic components to the automotive industry, sold for $825 million on Jan. 3, 2017 to a Japanese conglomerate. The company, bought by Scott in 2005 for an undisclosed price, was one of the largest assets in the millionaire governor's portfolio.

Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Japanese Financial Services Agency, and the Florida Commission on Ethics — and reviewed by the Herald/Times — show that Scott and his family controlled 66.7 percent of CSP at the time it was sold, a transaction that Scott did not have to report on his annual financial disclosure form filed June 29. Read more here. 

July 02, 2018

Bill Nelson expects to oppose Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee

Bill Nelson

via @adamsmithtimes

Sen. Bill Nelson shed his hyper-cautious reputation Monday, declaring that he expects to vote against President Donald Trump's nominee to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Obviously I have to wait and see who the nominee is, but if, as President Trump has suggested, he's going to have a litmus test — and he said said this over and over — on Roe V. Wade, then I'm not going to be voting for some justice who's going to overturn Roe v. Wade," Nelson said following a Tampa news conference with local environmental advocates touting his record and criticizing Gov. Rick Scott's.

Nelson is among the most vulnerable Democratic senators running for reelection this year, and he faces intense pressure from both the left and right on what is probably the most consequential decision made so far by the president.

Nelson almost immediately faced pressure from both ends of the political spectrum, with liberals demanding he oppose Trump’s pick — or even allowing a vote — and conservatives seeking to exploit his running for re-election in a state Trump narrowly won.

Last week, am advocacy group called One Nation began running digital ad calling on Nelson to “say no to the left” and support Trump’s pick. The ad runs through Tuesday with a modest $10,000 behind it.

But “this is merely the first step in our full-fledged advocacy campaign for the nomination and confirmation of a constitutional conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said One Nation president Steven Law.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson, released a video ad Monday that deemed the Democrat a “rubber stamp” for President Obama’s judicial nominees and noted that he “voted against Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch.”

Read more here.