Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with MiamiHerald.com.

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

June 27, 2017

Beware healthcare 'spin,' Kellyanne Conway says in Miami, doing her own spinning

CONWAY0628 STAGE2 CTJ
@PatriciaMazzei

On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

“I know that people like to spin tales,” she said at the Miami-Dade County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner. “Do the homework. Read all of the information.”

She, however, was not always providing it.

Conway said the Senate bill, called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” would offer “an increase in Medicaid spending every year, with a slowing of the growth of the expansion” promoted by former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

In its report released Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the lower rate of spending on Medicaid would result in a $772-billion reduction by 2026, about a 26 percent cut over a decade that would leave thousands of people without health insurance. Medicaid, which is run by states but funded by states and the federal government, provides care to the disabled and the needy. 

In all, the CBO projected some 22 million people with individual, employer or government insurance would lose coverage by 2026.

More than tout the Senate bill, Conway criticized the existing ACA, saying the “19th and 20th Obamacare exchanges failed — there’s only four left.” That appeared to be a reference to the 19th healthcare cooperative in the country folding, leaving four nationwide. But co-ops are not exchanges; exchanges are the ACA-created insurance marketplaces.

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr., Miami Herald staff

All stories lead to Florida: A fake Trump Time magazine cover hangs in Doral resort

From the Washington Post:

The framed copy of Time Magazine was hung up in at least five of President Trump’s clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

This cover — dated March 1, 2009 — looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality-TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

But that wasn’t true.

The Time cover is a fake.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time Magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

In fact,the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.

More here.

Rubio and Scott crisscross the Capitol as Obamacare repeal bill stalls in Senate

Marco Rubio 2

@alextdaugherty

Minutes after he delayed a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare when a number of Republican senators said they could not support it as written, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retreated to his office.

Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were waiting for him.

The pair met with McConnell for half an hour, and after the meeting Rubio said the vote delay was “helpful to us.” 

“I’m going to view this entirely through the lens of what this means for Florida,” Rubio said. “The one unique advantage that we have being from Florida is that we have done what this law is going to... encourage other states to do.”

Rubio and Scott never publicly opposed the bill, which stalled after a number of senators told McConnell said they could not vote for the legislation in its current shape. But their tepid response, with Rubio summoning health care staffers from Tallahassee to review the bill and Scott declining to say he would vote for it if he could, is evidence of the work Senate leaders need to do to get a bill passed.

“Look, legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope,” McConnell said. “But we are going to press on. We think the status quo is unsustainable for all the obvious reasons we have discussed over and over and over again. And we are optimistic we are going to get to a result that’s better than the status quo.”

Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump and former health care executive, packed his day in the capital with meetings and television appearances, with the goal of stressing to Republican senators that the bill to repeal Obamacare must not penalize states like Florida that chose not to expand Medicaid.

“We're not treated the same way as a state like New York,” Scott said, arguing that New York gets $23 billion in federal dollars for health insurance while Florida gets $14 billion, despite Florida having more people to cover than New York.

“Our federal tax rates aren’t lower, so why should we get paid less?”

But Florida gets paid less because it declined to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The state left as much as $66 billion in federal dollars on the table over 10 years after it decided not to expand Medicaid. Scott countered that expanding Medicaid would cost Florida $1.9 billion a year, but the actual cost to the state would have been closer to $500 million and wouldn’t kick in for a few years.


Read more here.

Fact-checking a falsehood about noncitizens voting

CoralGablesMarch2016MHvoting

@amysherman1

President Donald Trump’s unfounded allegations that millions voted illegally in 2016 is back in the news, with his supporters pointing to a new analysis that claims millions of undocumented immigrants voted in 2008.

Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt talked about it on the morning show recently.

“5.7 million — that’s how many illegal immigrants might have voted” in 2008, she said. Her comments referenced an article in the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper.

Trump has made repeated claims about massive voter fraud and election rigging, which we’ve debunked again and again and again and again and again and again and again (and we’ve debunked a claim by his spokesman Sean Spicer).

The claim made on “Fox and Friends” is based on an extrapolation of a controversial study that relied on a very small number of responses. Researchers involved in the underlying survey of voters have cautioned against using their data to reach conclusions about noncitizen voters.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Miami Herald photo of voters at the Coral Gables library in March 2016.

Democratic congressional candidate bashes Pelosi

Kristenrosengonzalez

@martindvassolo

During a constituent breakfast Tuesday, Democratic congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez criticized the leadership of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party’s “political industrial complex.”

Rosen Gonzalez, a Miami Beach commissioner running to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in District 27, addressed her qualms inside the Puerto Sagua Restaurant in Miami Beach.

“When the newly elected people get to Washington D.C., Nancy Pelosi says to them, ‘So, you think you’re gonna do something in Congress? Well, the first thing you have to worry about is getting reelected. So get over to the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and start calling'” donors, Rosen Gonzalez said sharply.

“Excuse me?” she continued, to some laughter. “That’s all it’s about. All it’s about is money, money, money, money. And if you don’t like that, then...they don’t consider you viable.”

Rosen Gonzalez, a Miami-Dade College instructor, would need to work alongside Pelosi if she wins. But she said she hopes her candidacy inspires others to “elect candidates who are not going to be beholden to one person.”

Pelosi has faced recent criticism and even calls to resign from her post following the loss of Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special election. Conservative ads painted Ossoff as Pelosi’s puppet.

Rosen Gonzalez’s appearance was organized as part of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club and moderated by former Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

During the hourlong talk, Rosen Gonzalez also criticized Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, arguing “everyone deserves access to healthcare,” and proposed reforms to the pharmaceutical and health-insurance industries.

During a question-and-answer segment, she was asked about her thoughts on police reform.

Last month, the Miami Herald published an email Rosen Gonzalez sent to the city manager, in which she wrote, “We need to give the cops back their bullets, remove their body cams, give them their dignity and let them work all the off hours stuff they want.”

She later apologized for the email, writing in a letter to the editor that the words she chose “do not reflect how I truly feel” and that she voted in favor of equipping Beach officers with body cameras.

“I knew I was gonna get this question. I think I’m gonna get it the rest of my political career, so I’m just gonna have to figure out the best way to answer it,” she said Tuesday. “Body cameras are new, so we have to figure out what the policies are and maybe they’re gonna have to be lenient. And if a police officer says a four-letter word, they don’t get punished or get marks on their record. What I was trying to do was just ask some questions, so that i could figure out how to improve the policies surrounding that.”

Photo: Matias J. Ocner, The Miami Herald

Rick Scott declines to say if he thinks Marco Rubio should vote for the health care bill as written

Rick

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is crisscrossing Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the Senate wrestles with a bill that would repeal parts of Obamacare. He's meeting with top Republicans Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and senior Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch.

But Scott, a Republican and ally of Donald Trump, demurred when asked if Sen. Marco Rubio should vote for the bill as written. Scott will meet with Rubio later on Tuesday afternoon. 

"There's constant conversations and it's changing, so you can't say where it is right now," Scott said. "Let's all focus on the biggest here, and the biggest issue here is cost reduction. What I'm talking about to him right now are the things that are important to our families and our taxpayers." 

Rubio hasn't given any indication that he plans to block the bill's path to the Senate floor, although he's brought three staffers from Tallahassee to Washington to review the bill. 

The staffers are Allen Brown, health care adviser to Senate President Joe Negron; Carol Gormley, health care adviser to House Speaker Richard Corcoran; and Justin Senior, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Scott said a big priority for him is to make sure that states who didn't expand Medicaid, like Florida, receive the same per capita funding for Medicaid as a state that chose to expand the program under Obamacare. 

"We're not treated the same way as a state like New York," Scott said, arguing that New York gets $23 billion in federal dollars for health insurance while Florida gets $14 billion, despite Florida having more people to cover than New York. 

"Our federal tax rates aren't lower so why should we get paid less?"

Senate leadership is urging a vote on the health care bill this week, saying that a further delay will make it harder for a majority to support the bill. But a  

"Whoever is paying for it, the Obamacare costs have skyrocketed, people can't afford their health care, employers can't afford their health care and the government can't afford their health care.  

Four Republican senators, including moderates Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada along with conservatives Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said they will not allow the legislation to proceed in its current form. The GOP enjoys a four seat majority in the Senate, meaning three Republican dissenters can kill the bill. 

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it could be a tough road to make it through the House. A group of conservative lawmakers dubbed the Freedom Caucus are expected to oppose the Senate bill in its current form. 

"I don't have a vote," Scott said. "But it's very important to repeal and replace Obamacare." 

 

Graham, Gillum and King push for rejection and alternatives to Senate health care bill

Graham petitionsAs Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans scramble in D.C. today to try to understand the impact of the proposed Senate healthcare bill on the state, three Democratic candidates for governor offered their own feedback Tuesday. 

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham delivered a three-foot stack of petitions to the Tallahassee office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, signed by 4,000 people, urging him to reject the proposal because it will hurt more Floridians than it will help.

"This bill is heartless,'' Graham said, urging Rubio to transcend the partisanship surrounding the issue and reject it for Florida. "He doesn't represent the Republican Party. he doesn't represent Donald J. Trump. He represents the people of Florida and that's why he should vote against this bill."

She was joined by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician, who feared that the Medicaid cuts and restructuring in the Senate bill will leave thousands of children in the state without care.

"Don't forget, 52 percent of live births in Florida are paid for by Medicaid,'' he said. "We are not talking about an insignificant number of kids. Over one-third of Florida's children are on Medicaid and pulling the rug out from under that many kids and that many families will be devastating to not only the child but the rest of us in society who have to pay for their health care costs."

Graham said she was "very concerned" about the block grants proposed in the Senate health care bill because they are "not good for Florida" because she has no confidence that Republicans in Washington or Tallahassee will "be used in the best interests of the people of Florida." 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum suggested the answer is a statewide constitutional amendment declaring healthcare a right. 

"It's time for Florida to finally enshrine healthcare as a right for all,'' he said a statement. "There is a public trust for the government to care for its citizens, and our state can no longer be ambiguous about that moral obligation. When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we're going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values."

Gillum's communications director Geoff Burgan said that if elected, Gillum will "push the Legislature to put this on the ballot in 2019, and if they fail to do so he'll campaign for it as well."

"There's an added onus on the Legislature to make sure that health care is actually affordable and accessible,'' he said. "This is a long conversation about health care and it's being brought to the forefront."

He said that Gillum supports the idea because "Floridians have a right to make their voices heard, and he's committed to raising the funds necessary to do that,'' Burgan said. "We'll also be submitting it to the CRC."

Graham dismissed the constitutional amendment as a practical way to effect change. "I think healthcare is a right but I want to make sure the way we go about it as doable." 

Democrat candidate Chris King called the Senate unacceptable   and Tuesday condemned the Medicaid cuts and the treatment of older Floridians. If the Senate plan becomes law, he has pledged not to seek waivers allow health insurers to discriminate against people with existing conditions or to exclude coverage of contraceptive care, said King spokesman Hari Sevugan.     

Graham blasted Gov. Rick Scott for failing to take Medicaid expansion while he is now complaining that the state is not getting enough Medicaid money. She said that has resulted in the Affordable Care Act not working as well as it was intended. Graham supported changes to the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress and said Congress should continue to pursue fixes, not repeal.

"Congress has not done its job,'' she said. "Why? It's the politics. I will never let politics get in the way of doing what's right for the people of Florida." 

NOTE: This post has been updated. 

Man 'fed up' with Republicans threatens Miami lawmaker on Facebook, gets arrested

Steve Stfelizvia @ChuckRabin

Two weeks after a U.S. congressman and four others were shot during a baseball practice in a Washington suburb by a man with a history of lashing out at Republicans, a Florida lawmaker decided he wasn’t taking any chances.

So Sunday, after someone threatened his life on his Facebook page, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, informed police.

And on Monday, Northwest Miami-Dade resident Steve St. Felix, 34, was arrested and charged with written threats with intent to do bodily injury. Police said St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party — and that he hadn’t taken his meds when he posted the threat.It’s unclear what condition the medications were treating.

The threat — “I’ll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting” — was quickly removed from Diaz’s Facebook page, police said. It appeared to refer to the Republican Executive Committee, the name of the local Miami-Dade County GOP.

St. Felix’s listed address is clear across the county from where Diaz lives.

Diaz, 37, is running for a contested state Senate seat. The primary is July 25.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami-Dade Corrections Department

House GOP-backed PAC pledges anti-Pelosi campaign in Curbelo's Miami district

Congress Democrats
@PatriciaMazzei

Get ready, voters in Florida's 26th congressional district: A rash of anti-Nancy Pelosi advertising is coming in the 2018 election.

Congressional Leadership Fund, a political committee backed by the House Republican caucus, pledged Tuesday to devote serious cash next year to running against Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

The group says it's polled 11 competitive congressional districts -- including FL-26 -- over the past 60 days and found Pelosi is disliked. Her leadership came under political fire last week after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia. A defiant Pelosi, a Democratic fundraising machine, made clear she's sticking around.

According to Congressional Leadership Fund, 45 percent of poll respondents in FL-26, which is represented by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, view her unfavorably, compared to 37 percent who view her favorably.

"During the 2018 cycle, CLF will spend millions of dollars highlighting Nancy Pelosi's toxic agenda and reminding voters across the country that Democratic candidates are nothing more than rubber stamps for her out-of-touch, liberal policies," Congressional Leadership Fund Executive Director Corry Bliss wrote.

Curbelo, who has yet to draw a Democratic challenger, has been repeatedly jabbed recently by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for his support for the House healthcare bill. Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also backed it.

"Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart already made their bed and now they have to lie in it," DCCC Spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement Monday.

We talk more about Pelosi in our weekly McClatchy politics podcast, "Beyond the Bubble":

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

The Trump whisperer: Marco Rubio has the president’s ear on Latin America

Trump Cuba (1)

@alextdaugherty 

Donald Trump has a distaste for the State Department and its legions of diplomats tasked with crafting the nation’s foreign policy.

So when it comes to Latin America, the CEO-turned-president is listening to a man he derided on the campaign trail a year ago: Marco Rubio.

It was Rubio who set up a White House meeting with Lilian Tintori, a human-rights activist married to jailed Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo Lopez. After the meeting, Trump tweeted his support for Lopez, a public rebuke of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

It was Rubio who helped draft a changed Cuba policy in recent weeks, culminating in Trump’s first presidential visit to Miami to fulfill a campaign promise to the conservative Cubans who helped him win the White House.

And Rubio is well-positioned to take advantage of a vacuum of leadership in the State Department and communicate directly with a president who dislikes diplomacy-as-usual on Latin American foreign policy, according to interviews with former Rubio foreign policy staffers and State Department officials.

“They’ve asked for my input on basically every issue in Latin America and the Western Hemisphere and … we’ve been engaged with them and they’ve been very open,” Rubio said. “In some ways, the fact that they didn’t come in with preconceived ideas of what to do has created the space for that debate to occur.”

There’s plenty of space.

Six months into his administration, Donald Trump has yet to appoint dozens of high-level State Department employees, including the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the top diplomat in charge of Latin America.

And the president bucked the advice of some of his own senior officials and a slew of congressional Republicans in favor of Rubio to finish the Cuba deal.

Rubio “found a way to say, ‘You don’t want to listen to the experts, listen to me,’ ” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for closer Cuba ties and is opposed to Trump’s policy changes. “He found a really successful way to tell Trump, don’t listen to your own bureaucracy.”

Not that Trump needs an excuse to eschew the federal bureaucracy, which will be massively downsized if the White House gets its way.

Trump wants to cut the State Department’s budget by 30 percent, repeatedly rails against foreign aid and openly disagreed with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, during a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“It is a genuine problem not to have people that are diplomats, trained people that really are very loyal and dedicated American citizens who want to represent their country,” said former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a Democrat who served under Bill Clinton. “I’ve just been traveling abroad, and our embassies don’t have enough people.”

Read more here. 

Gov. Scott signs school funding, economic development bills

State_of_State_Florida(2)

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott signed 29 bills late Monday, including measures boosting spending on education, tourism marketing and economic development.

By signing the bills, and vetoing five more, Scott essentially closed the books on this year’s regular and special legislative sessions.

The bills Scott approved included perhaps one of the hardest-fought wins of his time as governor: a measure (HB 1A) that provided $76 million for the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida; established an $85 million fund to pay for infrastructure improvements and job training to help draw businesses; and set aside $50 million in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee.

That legislation was approved in this month’s special session after the House refused to approve direct business incentives that Scott prefers and gave far less for Visit Florida than he had requested during the regular session, which ended in May.

“With this legislation, we can promote public infrastructure projects and job-training projects to continue to grow jobs for families in every community of our state,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office. “We know that for Florida to be competitive in domestic and international markets, we need as many tools as possible to attract growing businesses to our state.”

Scott also signed another bill from the special session (HB 3A) boosting per-student spending in the state’s main formula for funding public education by $100. The budget for public schools had originally only increased spending by $24 a student, leading to charges from critics that it was too stingy and prompting a rare veto by Scott.

The governor hailed the increase Monday.

“Our students are the future of our state, and I’m incredibly proud to sign legislation today to ensure they have every opportunity for success,” he said.

During the special session, some Democrats had complained that the increase wouldn’t offset what they said would be the negative impact of HB 7069, a controversial and wide-ranging education bill Scott approved shortly after the special session as part of a rumored deal with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.

“It’s an increase — but at what cost?” asked Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat who pointed out that funding for education is still short of pre-recession levels when inflation is factored in. “The state has recovered, but education funding has not.”

Scott also signed several other education bills Monday, including a measure (HB 15) expanding eligibility for a program that helps pay for educational services for students with disabilities and boosting the size of voucher-like tax credit scholarships that help parents pay for private school tuition.

In addition, the governor approved HB 989, which overhauls the state’s policy on instructional materials to allow any county resident — not just parents — to challenge materials used at schools.

In all, Scott signed 230 of the bills that lawmakers approved during this year’s regular legislative session while vetoing 11. He signed all four bills that passed during the special session.

Photo credit: AP

June 26, 2017

Rubio reviews Senate healthcare bill while protesters ask him to oppose it

Healthcare2 protest lnew cm
@PatriciaMazzei

To study the Senate healthcare bill's effects on Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio last week invited the top three Republicans in the state Capitol -- Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron -- to weigh in on the legislation.

By Monday, three staffers sent by the three state GOP leaders were in Washington, going through the bill with Rubio aides. Scott himself will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to offer his thoughts to Rubio directly.

The staffers are Allen Brown, health care adviser to Negron; Carol Gormley, health care adviser to Corcoran; and Justin Senior secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. 

The Republican senator has yet to say how he'll vote. But he's hardly expected to oppose the legislation, given his past support to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And the state staffers, expected to remain "embedded" in Rubio's office all week, probably won't give him a compelling reason to vote no, either: Scott, Corcoran and Negron chose not to expand Medicaid under the ACA and have been critical of the law. That's even though Florida, with its large uninsured population, was one of the states to see the most people covered under Obamacare.

Rubio outlined his criteria for the bill in a Facebook Live appearance last week. For example, he wants people with pre-existing conditions to be protected and Florida to be "treated fairly" on Medicaid (that is, not penalized for not expanding the program).

Pro-Obamacare activists demonstrated outside Rubio's Doral office Monday to urge him to oppose the Senate's "Better Care Reconciliation Act."

"Rubio, do your job!" some of them chanted.

After the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that 22 million Americans would lose health-insurance coverage by 2026 under the Senate plan, two Republican senators said they would vote against the bill as written: Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Three GOP no's would kill the bill.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to oppose the legislation: "This bill is just as bad as the House bill," he said.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

Here is who's behind the mailer in HB 116 race against Jose Mallea

Conservatives for Truth electioneeringFlorida's porous campaign disclosure laws don't make it easy to peg responsibility when someone launches a critical mailer in a hotly contested race, but in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116, the latest missive is the work of some members of the Corcoran leadership circle in the Florida House. 

The mailer by Conservative for Truth PC accuses Republican candidate Jose Miguel Mallea of "raising taxes" because he worked as a staffer for two years with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz

Somebody appears to have messed up because, according to the Division of Elections, Conservatives for Truth PC was disbanded on Oct. 3. The registered agent, Jose Riesco, revived a new committee on June 21 called Conservatives for Truth. But the mailers don't make that distinction.

The Florida Division of Elections received the paperwork for Conservatives for Truth on Friday. DOE posted them to the state web site today, after an inquiry from the Herald/Times. 

Conservatives for Truth PC raised $466,000 last election cycle -- $306,000 came from Citizens Alliance for Florida's economy, the political committee run by Anthony Pedicini, the consultant aligned with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and heavily financed by the state trial lawyers. Conservatives for Truth in 2016 raised another $50,000 came from the trial lawyers' Florida Justice PAC and $100,000 came from Rebuild Florida (Pepi Diaz's political committee.)

Diaz, a Miami Republican, resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for the special election in Senate District 40 to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned amid scandal earlier this year.

Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez, a 29-year-old lawyer, who appears to have the support of the Corcoran/Trujillo contingent in the House.

Rep. Jose Oliva, the Miami Republican and incoming House speaker who is in charge of re-election Republicans in the next election cycle, has not endorsed in the race and told the Herald/Times he will not take sides. "I'm okay with serving with either of these guys,'' he said. "It's not my role to get involved."

Diaz has also not endorsed in the race.

Although Perez does not have a political committee, he does appear to be benefitting from the committees of his allies. Riesco is not only the registered agent for Conservatives for Truth (and Conservatives for Truth PC), which financed the attack mailer, he is also the registered agent for the political committees run on behalf of Diaz, Reps. Jose Oliva, Jeanette Nunez, Bryan Avila, Manny Diaz, Jr., and Rene Garcia.

Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo has endorsed Perez but the extent to which he is steering money through his PC is not yet clear. On May 20, Trujillo's political committee gave $10,000 to Rep. Michael Bileca's political committee, which four days later paid The StoneRidge Group out of Alpharetta, Ga., $16,715 for direct mail.

If Riesco's Conservatives for Truth had any part of this, we won't know until they are required to file their first report on July 10 -- just days before the July 25 primary. He could not be reached for comment.  Conservatives for Truth PC mailer

Perez has drawn criticism from Mallea after the Miami Herald reported that Perez had taken his wedding engagement photos in Havana earlier this year. 

Here's the comment on the attack ad from Mallea campaign spokesman Brett Doster:

"Daniel Perez lied about his tourist trip to Cuba and he lied about Jose's Cuban heritage so it's no surprise that he's lying about Jose's record. This new desperate smear is the definition of fake news. We're confident that the residents of District 116 will dismiss the false claims of a man who spends his free time partying in Havana under the oppressive Castro regime."

Florida congressmen: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse herself for Trump 'bias'

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Seven Florida Republican House members are calling for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from the upcoming deliberation on the travel ban, asserting she has shown "bias" towards President Donald Trump.

“Your public criticism of Donald Trump during the campaign included statements such as ‘I can’t imagine what this place would be - I can’t imagine what the country would be - with Donald Trump as our president’ You referred to Donald Trump as ‘a faker.’ When asked about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency, you responded, ‘I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.’ ”

Nearly 60 House members signed the letter, including Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Bill Posey and Francis Rooney.

Read it here.

"As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," it reads, "you are required to recuse yourself in cases in which your ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’ and where you have a ‘a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.’ ”

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the travel ban case, while allowing some of the program to go forward, a partial victory for Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

In bitter Miami Senate primary, Republican attacks Republican in first TV ad

Unnamed

@martindvassolo

The bitter state Senate primary between Republicans Jose Felix Diaz and Alex Diaz de la Portilla has spilled onto the television screens of Miami's District 40 voters, with a new Spanish-language ad funded by Rep. Diaz criticizing Diaz de la Portilla’s legislative and personal history.

Diaz de la Portilla, a former lawmaker of more than two decades, is “bad for constituents,” the narrator says to begin the 30-second attack ad, the first in the race.

The ad, which claims Diaz de la Portilla is facing foreclosure and that he supported tax increases and new taxes while in office, is part of a quarter-million-dollar TV campaign paid for by Rebuild Florida, Diaz's political committee, POLITICO Florida first reported. The committee shelled out $260,000 in the past two weeks to a consulting firm run by Diaz's political consultant David Custin, according to the committee's most recent expenditure filings.

“At the expense of middle-class families, he voted to impose more than $2 million in new taxes and rates,” the ad says. “He supported the implementation of higher property taxes and raised taxes on small businesses. We can’t count on [Diaz] de la Portilla.”

According to Diaz's campaign, the ad refers to five Senate and House bills Diaz de la Portilla voted “yes” on, which increased license taxes for saltwater products dealers, fees for some certificates of titles and fees for some resident and non-resident hunting and fishing licenses, among other provisions.

Custin said the tax and fee increases added up to about $2 million. Diaz de la Portilla called the accusations “outright lies" in a text message.

Diaz de la Portilla claimed he cut taxes by $20.3 billion during his time in the legislature, citing data from the Florida Office of Demographic Research, which releases annual revenue reports, and state budgets he said he supported. He did not specify how he came up with that figure, nor did he provide specific tax-cutting legislation he backed, saying he didn’t “have time to respond to dirty campaigns.”

The Miami-Dade elections department will begin sending mail-in ballots Tuesday, which is why candidates are ramping up their media campaigns. Diaz de la Portilla, however, said he would not run any television ads, citing financial restraints. Diaz de la Portilla reported having $72,500 on hand in his most recent campaign-finance report. Diaz reported $279,182. Rebuild Florida also has $825,654 in its coffers.

Attacking Diaz de la Portilla with his first ad suggests Diaz has ground to make up in the race. Previous polls conducted for the well-known Diaz de la Portilla show him in the lead, although Diaz said his poll numbers are "healthier than Alex would ever want to admit." Diaz said he chose to go after his rival because, according to Diaz, Diaz de la Portilla is less conservative than he claims.

The third Republican candidate is attorney Lorenzo Palomares.

A special election was called to fill the vacant District 40 seat following the resignation of former Sen. Frank Artiles. The primary will take place July 25, followed by a general election on Sept. 26.

Jimmy Patronis says Rick Scott called him Sunday with CFO offer

IMG_8132PANAMA CITY -- Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed a long-time friend and political supporter, Jimmy Patronis, to replace Jeff Atwater as Florida's next chief financial officer, making him one of three members of the Cabinet that sets state policy on a wide range of issues.

Scott made the announcement before a crowd of about 100 family friends and local business and political leaders at Captain Anderson's, a prominent local seafood restaurant run by the Patronis family that's marking its 50th anniversary this year. 

"He's somebody I've known for a long time," said Scott, who recalled that Patronis was an early supporter in the spring of 2010 when most people gave Scott had "no shot" of getting elected governor. "One thing about Jimmy, whatever he tells you he's going to do, he's going to do. There's no question. He's not going to waver. He's not going to play games. He's a direct, honest person."

With his wife Katie and their two young sons alongside, Patronis choked up several times as he faced TV cameras. He called Scott "my friend and my mentor" and said the governor's record of improving Florida's economy has been "revolutionary."   

Patronis sidestepped questions about whether he plans to seek a full four-year term in 2018, when Scott is widely expected to challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

"There will be plenty of time to talk about it. I've got a lot to get up to speed on with the CFO's office," he said. "We'll talk about it with my family ... This is a family decision."

Patronis told reporters he did not actively seek the appointment and that the first time Scott contacted him about it was in a Sunday afternoon phone call.

Patronis, 45, a Panama City native, has a political science degree from Florida State and served as a Republican state House member from 2006 to 2014.

Scott appointed him last year to the Public Service Commission, the state board that regulates utilities, and to the Constitution Revision Commission in March. Patronis resigned both of those prestigious positions, giving Scott the luxury of making two new appointments.

Patronis will be the first Cabinet member from Northwest Florida since Bob Milligan, also from Panama City, was elected in 1994 to the then-Cabinet post of comptroller. Florida voters in 1998 shrank the Cabinet from six to three members, and the offices of comptroller and treasurer were merged into the position of chief financial officer beginning in 2002.

The CFO's salary, effective July 1, is $128,972 a year.

Javier Manjarres, Shark Tank blogger, considers bid against Ted Deutch

Javier-full-2-1200x630

@amysherman1

Javier Manjarres, who publishes the conservative Shark Tank politics website, is considering a bid against U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

Manjarres would face an uphill battle running as a Republican in the left-leaning Congressional District 22 which includes parts of Fort Lauderdale and other areas of northern and western Broward and Boca Raton.

In 2016, Deutch easily beat his Republican opponent, Andrea Leigh McGee, who worked in real estate and was unknown in South Florida politics. Deutch beat McGee 59 to 41 percent. Deutch spent about $1.6 million while McGee spent $21,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Manjarres, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is far better known in Republican circles because he has had contacts for years with politicians, candidates and their consultants through his  Shark Tank website which covers state and national races. Manjarres said he can tap that network to raise far more money that Deutch's previous opponent. 

"What if I am able to raise $1 million and spend $1 million in the district?" Manjarres said. ""If I can get Republicans out in droves and independents, it's going to be very competitive."

But Deutch is well-known and popular among Democrats in the liberal district. A former state senator, he was first elected to Congress in 2010. He has been known as a consistent voice in favor of gay rights and abortion rights and a leader on Jewish issues, a key constituency in District 22. Deutch opposed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

In 2016, Manjarres was arrested after he was accused of threatening his sister's boyfriend, Jason Holowinski, in Boca Raton. Holowinski told police that he and his girlfriend were arguing and that Manjarres ambushed him and fired a bullet into his vehicle. But Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, announced that no charges would be filed included attempted murder after Holowinski refused to cooperate.

Here is Manjarres' statement about his political plans on his blog:  

“After speaking with my trusted colleagues, friends and family about future career opportunities, I have decided to explore the possibility of running for the U.S. Congress in Florida’s 22nd congressional district.

It was clear that after the historic 2016 elections, Americans rejected the agenda and policies of the outgoing Obama Administration that they believe were threatening the American way of life.

Even with Republicans in control of congress, it is of the utmost importance that Republicans continue to win the public’s trust and reform all aspects of the federal government.

It is time for all  pouting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who have been comporting themselves like petulant obstructionist children, put the American people first before political ideology or party, and remember that they are 1 of 435 individuals tasked to serve all Americans, regardless of the race, color, sexual persuasions, or political party affiliation.

I look forward to having a substantive and productive dialogue with not just the residents of south Florida, but with the American people at large.”

Deutch said in a written statement:

"I take every race seriously and I always welcome a spirited debate over the direction of our country. This week I am going to Washington to fight the disastrous Trumpcare bill. At home I am fighting for our veterans, working constantly with local officials to help our businesses create more jobs, and combating the effects of climate change that are already impacting our community. And every day, I am working to keep our country safe." 

 

Don Gaetz likes Jimmy Patronis as CFO -- but really likes Tom Lee

Don GaetzFormer Senate President Don Gaetz joined the growing list of Republicans commending Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, whom the governor appointed today as the state's next Chief Financial Officer, replacing Jeff Atwater who is resigning to work in academia.

"He would be eminently qualified,'' Gaetz said Friday, reached after a fishing trip in Canada. He noted that he has known Patronis 10 years, that his son, Matt, was positioned to run against him in the state Senate seat Gaetz was vacating and that he sees Patronis' skills as a restaurant owner and manager helpful to being the man in charge of overseeing one of the state's most important agencies.

"He spent his entire life working and expanding and managing one of Florida's most successful small businesses,'' Gaetz said. "It's a very complex and very successful business. Jimmy has been pivotal in the expansion and success of the business."

But Gaetz has a unique perspective. Gaetz is business partners with the other likely candidate in the race, Democrat and former state senator and Yahoo executive Jeremy Ring but hints that he'd prefer another person -- who is not an announced candidate -- former Senate President Tom Lee. 

 "If the governor doesn't appoint Jimmy as a caretaker and chooses not to run -- even though Jeremy is a great friend of mine -- I would certainly be supporting Tom Lee,'' Gaetz said. 

He said he hasn't spoken to Lee, now a senator from Thonotosassa, who unsuccessfully ran against Democrat Alex Sink for the CFO job in 2006, about the job but would like him to consider it. 

"I've had the chance to see Tom operate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and also as a highly successful business owner and I think Tom Lee would be an outstanding CFO,'' Gaetz said. "He has the experience, the maturity and understanding of how government should work That would make him a great CFO."

The job requires innovation and an ability to take the bureaucratic and political establishment -- particularly the lobbying interests that have an outsized-influence on the contracting process, Gaetz said.

Atwater tried to increase the financial accountability and oversight role of the department "but he hasn't gone as far as he would like to because he hasn't had enough support from the Legislature and governor to make the innovative changes that would result in more financial accountability and more smart contracting,'' Gaetz said. "And I think Tom Lee would be a perfect fit for that."

Read our stories on this here: Florida CFO: Flaws in contracts could be costing taxpayers millions of dollars

Atwater hopes to reform flawed contracting process by exposing it to sunlight

Cashing in on state contracts is a Florida growth industry

June 25, 2017

As expected, governor to appoint 'loyal soldier' Jimmy Patronis as next state Chief Financial Officer

As we reported, Gov. Rick Scott has announced that tomorrow he will appoint Jimmy Patronis, one of his longest-serving allies, to become the state's next top fiscal officer.

Patronis now gets another title to add to his alphabet soup of governor appointments -- which now includes PSC (Public Service Commissioner) and CRC (Constitution Revision Commission) member. But while the governor's goal here is to give Patronis a springboard to office by allowing him to campaign as an incumbent in 2018, can Patronis hold off an ambitious political field within the GOP?

Then, there's the divided ranks within Patronis' home territory. Many see Patronis as a loyal Republican but, as we wrote about last week, many GOP leaders are angry with Scott for the charter school expansion bill. We also know that other names are circulating as possible primary challengers. Stay tuned. 

Here's the AP story with comments from the governor and Patronis:

Florida governor to name ally as chief financial officer

 

Latvala: Potential GOP rivals for governor are 'government animals'

Florida Legislature (4)
@PatriciaMazzei

Senate Budget Chief Jack Latvala did not hold back when asked in a local Miami TV interview Sunday about his potential Republican rivals in the 2018 governor's race.

Would Latvala, a Clearwater senator who has yet to declare a bid, make a better governor than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has?

"Oh, absolutely," Latvala told WFOR-CBS 4's Jim DeFede on "Facing South Florida." "Because I've actually made a payroll. I've actually paid workers comp claims. I've been in business all these years, while Adam has been in elected office since he was 22 years old."

What about House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, another possible contender?

"Richard is a trial lawyer at heart," Latvala declared. "That's his background: He's a lawyer with a law firm that lobbies now. I don't knonw how much he actually works and practices law. He's basically a government animal as well."

Latvala spent eight years in the Legislature in the 1990s, and is in the seventh year of his second legislative tour.

Latvala, who said he'll make a decision about whether to run in August, pitched himself as a practical alternative.

"The values that I have, the record that I have of accomplishment, is going to be appealing to people who want to see results," he said. I"m not a guy who just goes and talks. I'm a guy that goes and solves problems, and I think that's what people want more than anything else in their political leaders."

Asked if he considers himself a moderate, Latvala said -- not surprisingly -- that he considers himself a conservative.

"But I'm a little more environmentally conscious, perhaps, than other Republicans," he said. "And I'm an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives -- and that includes our personal lives. Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want."

As governor, Latvala said he'd keep incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott's focus on jobs, but also add issues like infrastructure and mental-health spending to his priorities.

Latvala did not directly criticize the governor, even though Scott signed a contentious education law, House Bill 7069, that Latvala voted for but thought Scott would veto.

This session, Latvala said, is "probably my least favorite of the 15 that I've been involved in."

"Tallahassee is becoming too much like Washington," he said. Then, without naming names, he added: "We have a lot of vitriol, a lot of unpleasantness, that we didn't used to have in Tallahassee -- even among the leaders of our own party. Name-calling. A lot of big egos in play."

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press