July 17, 2016

Rick Scott rides Trump's coattails onto GOP convention stage

via @stevebousquet

Gov. Rick Scott was conspicuous by his absence at the last Republican convention in Tampa four years ago, but he had a good excuse: A tropical storm was bearing down on Florida.

Scott will play a prominent role in next week’s convention in Cleveland but finds himself at the center of a political storm that poses risks to his final two years in office and a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

For better or worse, the governor of America’s biggest presidential battleground is also his state’s leading supporter of Donald Trump, the most divisive presidential candidate in decades.

Scott is all-in with the bombastic Trump, even as other leading Republicans boycott the convention or keep a distance from a candidate who has torn his party apart while offending one demographic group after another.

Scott will take the stage Thursday to deliver a prime-time convention speech for Trump, and then goes to work in what polls suggest is an uphill climb to deliver Florida to a candidate reviled by Hispanics in particular, the fastest-growing part of Florida’s electorate.

More here.

July 14, 2016

Pam Bondi gets prime-time speaking slot at GOP convention

via @stevebousquet

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose ties to Donald Trump have been a source of controversy, will have a prime-time speaking appearance at next week’s Republican National Convention.

Bondi is scheduled to give a five-minute address at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the subject of law enforcement.

Gov. Rick Scott is also expected to speak, as well as former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

The exposure on all three major cable networks offers an opening for Bondi’s critics to launch a new wave of attacks over her connections to Trump.

As the state’s chief legal officer, Bondi is the target of ethics complaints over her solicitation of a $25,000 campaign contribution from Trump in 2013. At that time, her office said, two complaints were on file against Trump University, a for-profit real estate school that’s the subject of hundreds of complaints and nationwide class action lawsuits in California and New York.

Bondi decided not to open an investigation of Trump University and urged complaints be filed with New York, which had already launched a probe of the school.

“No one in my office ever opened an investigation on Trump University nor was there a basis for doing so,” Bondi said last month. “I have spent my career prosecuting criminals and protecting Floridians.”

More here.

July 13, 2016

Patrick Murphy wanted to announce algae news at press conference

Murphy1via @learyreports

UPDATE: 9:07 p.m. Murphy's office responds.

"As soon as our office became aware of Martin County's desire to make the announcement on Wednesday, we fully supported them. It is deeply disappointing that Governor Rick Scott's office would take out of context this standard request to coordinate a media strategy with a federal agency."

It was the SBA, however, that raised the question of a delay, attributing it to Murphy. More on that below.

ORIGINAL:

Rep. Patrick Murphy's office sought to delay news about relief for businesses affected by the toxic algae crisis so he could announce it at a news conference Thursday, records show.

"Is it possible for you to hold the announcement until Thursday and allow Congressman Murphy to announce it at a press conference?" Murphy's legislative assistant wrote in an email Monday to an official at the Small Business Administration.

She said that Murphy, a Democratic candidate for Senate, was holding an "algal bloom panel discussion this Thursday along with a press conference."

The SBA said it had "no problem" holding off but asked Gov. Rick Scott's administration, noting a prompt response was desired "as we have personnel and supplies en-route to Florida."

No way, Scott officials replied, noting the governor wanted the relief "made available immediately."

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy wanted to announce algae news at press conference" »

July 11, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirms GOP convention attendance

via @learyreports

Not a huge surprise, given his endorsement, but an aide to Gov. Rick Scott confirms he will attend the GOP convention.

It's not clear if Scott will have a speaking role. Scott endorsed Donald Trump the day after the March 15 presidential primary. "The voters are speaking clearly – they want a businessman outsider who will dramatically shake up the status quo in Washington," he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio is not attending, citing a need to campaign for re-election. Jeb Bush is not going, either, because he does not support Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 08, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott 'heartbroken' over Dallas police shootings

@PatriciaMazzei

In a statement Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott decried the sniper killings of five Dallas police officers Thursday.

This morning, Ann and I are heartbroken to hear of the horrendous tragedy that took place in Texas last night. The violence displayed against Dallas law enforcement was a senseless and cowardly act that has no place in our country. Law enforcement officers across the nation bravely put their lives on the line every day in order to protect our homes, our communities, and our families. We join of all of America in mourning these fallen heroes and praying for the recovery of those injured. Just as Texas stood with Florida following the Orlando terror attack last month, Florida will stand with Texas during this unfathomably difficult time.

July 07, 2016

Guess who's joining Donald Trump in Miami on Friday? Florida Gov. Rick Scott

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to attend both of Donald Trump's events in Miami on Friday, Scott's top political adviser told the Miami Herald.

Melissa Sellers said Scott will have lunch with Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, at Versailles Cuban restaurant and then be in the audience during Trump's speech at the DoubleTree hotel.

Scott endorsed Trump immediately after Trump's sweeping Florida primary win March 15. He has declined, however, to be considered a Trump running mate.

June 30, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott's blind trust drops in value $27 million, as he nearly doubles his income from it

Rick Scott 2015 APFlorida Gov. Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire former businessman, saw his net worth decline $27 million last year as his blind trust dropped in value.

Scott filed his annual financial disclosure form Thursday, showing that his net worth was more than $119 million at the end of 2015, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes a longtime business associate of Scott. By law, the trust is intended to shield his investments from his direct control, but it also shields them from public disclosure.

The governor reported that in 2015 his blind trust dropped in value from $127.8 million to $100 million, but the governor also drew more income from the trust last year than he did in 2014.

Scott reported $16.5 million in income from his trust in 2015 — up from the $9.7 million in income he drew from two trusts in 2014. The law does not require Scott to report how he spent the income from his trust. The governor does not take a salary from the state.

Questions have followed Scott since he first created the blind trust when he was elected in 2010. When Scott ran for re-election in 2014, he briefly dissolved his first trust and released information about the individual holdings in it. He also released his tax returns for 2013.

The tax returns showed that the Scott family earns millions more than the governor reported individually on his financial disclosure form. It also raised questions about whether Scott may have control over assets held by his wife, Ann Scott.

An investigation by the Herald/Times into those investments found that filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated the governor had substantially larger holdings in several companies than what he reported to the state. A lawsuit was filed by George Sheldon, a Democrat candidate for attorney general, but a court ruled that the governor could not be compelled to disclose more information. More of the story here. 

June 28, 2016

White House gives rare shout-out to Rick Scott, on Zika

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made no bones about criticizing the federal government over its plans to prevent the Zika virus.

But he and President Barack Obama have a common foe on the matter: Congress, which on Tuesday morning failed to pass a Zika-funding bill in the Senate.

That prompted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to give Scott a rare shout out in his Tuesday briefing with reporters.

"Gov. Rick Scott from Florida, no friend of the Obama administration but is making the same case that the Obama administration is, that Congress needs to step up to the plate and provide additional resources that can be used to try to fight the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus," Earnest said.

Here's the full question and answer, from a transcript:

Continue reading "White House gives rare shout-out to Rick Scott, on Zika" »

June 27, 2016

PolitiFact: Rick Scott often fails with FEMA requests

Politifact%2Fphotos%2Fscottobama

In what has become a familiar political two-step, Gov. Rick Scott bashed Washington after he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help but didn’t get it.

Scott specifically blamed President Barack Obama following FEMA’s refusal to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Scott had asked for $5 million to deal with emergency response efforts, medical care and counseling.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration," Scott said in a June 20 press release. "Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency."

He included a list of situations that FEMA has declared a state of emergency, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Flint water crisis and a 2009 order for Obama’s inauguration.

In typical rejection verbiage, FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote in a letterthat Scott’s request "did not demonstrate how the emergency response associated with this situation is beyond the capability of the state and affected local government or identify any direct federal assistance needed to save lives or protect property."

Fugate for years was director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush, including during seven hurricanes over 2004-05.

Scott’s office told us Scott plans to appeal the denial.

His disappointment in FEMA’s rejection isn’t really a fact we can check, but it does highlight Scott’s record of not getting what he wants from the agency.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

June 22, 2016

Report: Florida gets an 'F' for failing racial and gender diversity among court judges

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colFlorida is one of 26 states to receive a failing grade for its gender and racial diversity, according to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, progressive legal organization. Florida ranked 29 out of 51 state court jurisdictions in the country because it's judiciaries are 45% less diverse than the state population.

The findings echo some of the research done by the Herald/Times in 2014, which found that Gov. Rick Scott appointed only nine black attorneys to judgeships in his first four years. 

The report, authored by law professors Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon, compiled the race, ethnicity, and gender of 10,000 sitting judges on state courts. It is  titled The Gavel Gap: Who Sits in Judgement at State Courts?

“The vast majority of Americans’ interactions with the judicial system, ranging from traffic violations to criminal proceedings, happen in state courts,” said George of Vanderbilt University. “When people do not see themselves represented in their community leadership, when the vast majority of judges cannot relate to the lived experience of those they serve—this is a problem. It creates a mistrust of judges, and propagates the mystery surrounding the court system. For the first time, we have the data we need to identify and address this serious problem.”

Photo: Tampa Bay Times