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

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.

December 18, 2017

Gilberto Oliva, patriarch of OIiva Cigar Co. and Jose's dad, dies at age 86

Oliva FamilyGilberto Oliva Sr., the founder of the Oliva Cigar Co. and father of Rep. Jose Oliva, died this weekend. He was 86.

Gilberto Oliva grew up in a tobacco growing family in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, where the family began growing tobacco in 1886. In the throes of the Cuban Revolution, he fled Cuba in 1964 with his wife and young family.

They moved to Spain and then Nicaragua, where Gilberto continued as a tobacco broker. By 1969, he began growing tobacco on his own. In 1975, as Sandinista rebels were dividing Nicaragua, Gilberto and his wife -- now pregnant with their fifth child - moved the family moved to New Jersey where Jose was born. Months later they moved to Hialeah.

Gilberto Sr. returned to Nicaragua in 1995, where he started his own brand of cigars, Gilberto Oliva. The name would be shortened to Oliva over time. 

It was a scrappy working class life for Jose and his siblings as his father worked on two continents to make ends meet. But together they grew the company to one of the largest in the world of cigars, according to, an online website that focuses on the cigar industry.

In 2016, the Oliva family sold the cigar operation to J. Cortès, although the family retained its tobacco growing operations. Recently, in honor of the patriarch of the family, Oliva Cigars launched two cigar lines named after Gilberto Sr.

In October, Jose Oliva, was chosen by House Republicans to be the next House speaker after the 2018 elections. He has credited his father with instilling in him discipline, hard work and a conservative ethic.

"We’ve been able to see up close and personal the effects of government and what it can do,'' Oliva told the Herald/Times in a 2015 interview.  "My father was born into a free Cuba and saw that taken. He went to Nicaragua and saw a dictator take control."

His business philosophy is a simple one Gilberto Sr. instilled in his children. 

"My dad always said to me do not spend more than you take in and do not buy something that you cannot afford to pay for,'' Jose said. 

There was also no retiring in retirement age for Gilberto Sr. In 2015, he was still spending 10 weeks in Nicaragua, 10 days in Miami and then would "go back and do it again,'' Jose said.

Gilberto Sr. is survived by his wife, five children and 14 grandchildren. There will be a mass Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Our Lady of the Lakes, 15801 NW 67th Ave., Miami Lakes, 33014. Burial will follow.

“This is a very difficult time for the Oliva family. Gilberto Oliva Sr. is the patriarch of our company and his legacy will never end,” Cory Bappert, vice president of sales for Oliva Cigar Co., wrote in a text message to “Please keep the Oliva family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Photo courtesy of

December 15, 2017

David Rivera wants federal judge who once questioned his manhood removed from FEC lawsuit

David rivera


Former Miami Congressman David Rivera wants a judge who once suggested in court that he act like a man removed from a federal lawsuit alleging that Rivera secretly funded a straw candidate to run against his Democratic nemesis five years ago.

Roy Kahn, an attorney representing Rivera in the case brought this summer by the Federal Election Commission, filed an affidavit Thursday arguing that U.S. District Judge Robert Scola proved himself biased against Rivera when he subtly questioned the ex-congressman's manhood during a 2014 sentencing hearing for Rivera's former girlfriend and alleged accomplice, Ana Sol Alliegro.

According to court and campaign finance documents, Rivera and Alliegro covertly steered at least $69,000 into the campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad, at the time running against Rivera foe Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary for the U.S. District 26 seat. Rivera and Alliegro hoped that bankrolling Sternad's otherwise feckless campaign would hurt Garcia ahead of his eventual general election fight with Rivera, who ultimately lost.

Sternad and Alliegro would go on to plead guilty after the Miami Herald revealed the scheme, which ran afoul of federal campaign laws. Rivera was never charged and has always denied any wrongdoing. Rivera, who is currently a 2018 candidate for Florida House District 105, now faces an FEC lawsuit that seeks to impose nearly a half-million dollars in penalties against him for campaign finance violations.

“Some people would call it chivalry, some people call it sexism — that the man should come forward and not let the woman do time on his behalf,” Scola said in 2014 before sentencing Alliegro to a one-year sentence split between six months she had already spent in jail and six months of house arrest.

Kahn said he doubts Scola, who also famously forced federal prosecutors to out Rivera as a target while overseeing Alliegro's case, will preside over the case "with an objective and open mind."

Rubio a 'yes' on GOP tax bill

Marco Rubio 3

via AP 

The 24-hour saga of Sen. Marco Rubio's tax vote is over.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will vote for his party's $1.5 trillion tax bill. That gives a major boost to the prospects that GOP leaders will be able to push their prized measure through Congress next week.

The Florida lawmaker had said he'd oppose the legislation unless his colleagues made the per child tax credit more generous for low-income families.

On Friday, Republicans said the final legislation would do just that. Lawmakers said the bill would now let low-earners using the credit get up to $1,400 in IRS refunds if they owe little or no taxes. That's up from $1,100 in the earlier version.

Rubio tweeted that the change is "a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker."

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said that meant he'd vote yes.


Rubio gets concessions on child tax credit


via @learyreports

Washington tax writers say they have adjusted the sweeping legislation to improve the child tax credit, a demand of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Details have yet to emerge and Rubio's office says he will review the details.

The tax package would double the per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The bill originally made a portion of the credit — $1,100 — available to families even if they owe no income tax. Noem says that amount has been increased to $1,400. Rubio said he wanted the $1,100 figure increased, but he did not say by how much.

Low-income taxpayers would receive the money in the form of a tax refund, which is why it's called a "refundable" tax credit.

Background here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Miami ends its red light camera program

Miami Safety Camera Locations Map_Main 120717


The days of wincing while driving through a Miami intersection on a yellow light will soon be over after city commissioners agreed Thursday to end their red light camera program early next year.

By a unanimous vote, Miami commissioners chose to cancel their 2010 contract with American Traffic Solutions to maintain and operate dozens of red light cameras around the city. The vote gives the company 60 days to wind down its lucrative operations in the city, and allows Mayor Francis Suarez and City Commissioner Joe Carollo to say they kept a campaign promise.

For drivers in the city, the cancellation of the contract means that their license tags will no longer be photographed and reported by cameras perched above intersections around the city, although cameras will still exist elsewhere in Miami-Dade County. Citations running $158 a pop will vanish along with the cameras, but anyone hit with one before the program ends should still expect to deal with it.

To read the rest, click here.

Democratic Senator calls out Republicans, including Carlos Curbelo, for supporting tax bill with Arctic drilling

Carlos Curbelo 3 (1)


Last week, a group of 12 House Republicans, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, signed a letter encouraging Republican leadership to pass a tax overhaul without a provision that would allow oil drilling in parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

But the provision was included in the Senate's tax bill, and is likely to stay when House and Senate negotiators finalize the bill on Friday. 

On Thursday, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee called out the 12 Republicans for engaging in "pure posturing." 

"It is now clear that the letter from twelve House Republicans opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was pure posturing," Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said. "If these Republicans want to stop their party from turning the refuge into an oilfield, they should vote no. Lip service won't protect the Arctic." 

Six of the 12 Republicans who signed the letter, including Curbelo, voted in favor of the initial tax bill before Thanksgiving.

Curbelo hasn't indicated that he will vote against the tax bill even though he opposes expanding oil drilling in Alaska's North Slope. He is also the co-founder of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are concerned about the impacts of climate change. 

"I don’t think there’s any one provision that would motivate me to deny tax relief for all of my constituents," Curbelo said this week.

Curbelo has been a vocal advocate for the tax overhaul, frequently appearing with Speaker Paul Ryan and touting the bill in Spanish. 

Senate: Special master's report will be out next week, when it's available to public - unknown

Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said Friday that the long-awaited report on the investigation of Sen. Jack Latvala is expected to the Senate president "some time next week." Pending a review by Senate lawyers, namely George Meros of the GrayRobinson law firm retained to advise the Senate, the report will then be made available to the public. 

Betta said she could not give a timeline on when the report will be public. Betta said one issue the attorneys are reviewing is what to redact from the report on the names of people who came forward as witnesses in the investigation. 

Senate legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers filed the formal complaint on Nov. 5 alleging that Latvala groped her, inappropriately touched her in a bar and subjected her to verbal sexual harassment over a period of four years. Her complaint launched the effort by the Senate to hire retired Judge Ronald V. Swanson to serve as the special master, review the allegations, subpoena witnesses to testify under oath and determine if there is probable cause to conclude that the allegations are truthful.

If probable cause is determined, the Senate Rule Committee will then conduct a hearing to determine if they are true. Under Senate rules, Latvala could be subject to an array of punishments from reprimand to removal from office. 

The Senate hired a separate law firm, Jackson Lewis, to conduct a different investigation into allegations from five unnamed individuals who came forward to Politico also alleging sexual harassment by Latvala. That investigation is "still ongoing,'' Betta said. The final report for that probe will go to the Office of Legislative Services, Betta said. 


December 14, 2017

Democratic poll: The GOP tax bill is unpopular among independents in swing Florida districts

Donald4 trump lnew cmg (1)


As Republicans negotiate the final touches on a plan to overhaul the nation's tax system, with a few kinks along the way, Democrats say that the GOP tax plan will hurt the majority party at the ballot box if it passes.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a Washington-based organization tasked with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives, found that Democrats and independents living in competitive House districts do not support the GOP-led tax plan. 

The DCCC commissioned an 800 person poll among registered voters in 51 competitive House districts around the country, including Florida districts represented by Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen along with Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast and Orlando-area Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The 51 districts included 41 Republican-held seats and 10 Democratic-held seats. 

Independents oppose the tax plan 41 percent to 23 percent while Democrats oppose it 71 percent to 6 percent. Republicans favor the plan 53 percent to 12 percent.  

The poll was conducted by GBA Strategies, a Democratic polling operation based in Washington. The poll administered approximately 40 percent of its interviews by cell phone and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. 

After being surveyed, the DCCC said the generic congressional ballot shifts from a 4-point Democratic advantage to an 11-point advantage, an indication that voters in competitive districts are leaning towards Democrats. 

Democrats must win about two dozen seats to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2018, though that number may fluctuate due to retirements and resignations. Curbelo's seat is rated as a "toss-up" by multiple national prognosticators, while Ros-Lehtinen's seat is rated as "lean Democratic." 

Rubio to vote against GOP tax bill if child credit isn't expanded for low-income families

Marco Rubio 3



Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Senate Republican Leadership on Thursday that he intends to vote against the massive tax bill barreling through Congress if the child tax credit isn’t expanded, a potential major blow in President Donald Trump’s desire to pass a tax overhaul by Christmas.

If the bill isn’t changed and Rubio votes against the plan, there would be no room for additional Republican dissension as the GOP only holds 52 of 100 Senate seats. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker already announced that he would vote against the plan due to concerns on the federal deficit, leaving Republicans with only 51 votes.

Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie if the GOP has 50 votes.

Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, proposed a change to make the child tax credit fully refundable as a way to help low-income families, but that plan was opposed by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP leadership and the measure failed.

Despite the failure of their proposed changed, Rubio and Lee voted for the initial tax bill that passed the Senate two weeks ago with 51 votes.

Rubio has made it clear he wants an expanded child tax credit for months, and President Donald Trump hinted at an expansion on Wednesday saying, “You'll hear the numbers very soon but they're even larger than anticipated.”

The child tax credit reduces some families' tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17.

Rubio has repeatedly said he would vote against a tax plan that does not sufficiently benefit the middle class, though he has previously stopped short of threatening to vote against the final plan due to the child tax credit until now.

Read more here.

Court tosses lawsuit over whether Scott or his successor appoints new justices

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colThe Florida Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit over whether Gov. Rick Scott or his successor has the power to appoint three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court saying that action is not "ripe" because the appointments have not yet been made.

In a majority opinion, in which Chief Justice Jorge Labarga joined the three conservatives on the court, Justice Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson, the court held that the "writ of quo warranto," the method used by the litigants, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, was inappropriate.

"Until some action is taken by the Governor, the matter the League seeks to have resolved is not ripe, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to determine whether quo warranto relief is warranted,'' the majority ruled.

But the decision was blasted by Justice R. Fred Lewis, who warned that the court may not have invited a "constitutional crisis" and created a dangerous precedent when the majority required "that that illegal and unconstitutional conduct which produces disarray must have already occurred to allow judicial action."

"Under the majority view, elected politicians can announce their intentions and plan to engage in all types of illegal and harmful conduct but no relief is available until the illegal and harmful act has already inflicted its damage,'' he wrote. "Magnificent trees cut, pristine waters fouled, and unthinkable harm inflicted upon our citizens, which may not be prevented when the actor plans and even announces his intentions. Today, we have a new test. The writ is only available when the illegal act is taken and harm is actually inflicted—at times even irreparable harm."

Lewis was explicit that the court was creating a new precedent that has the potential to harm future generations.

"I fundamentally disagree with depriving the citizens of Florida of their ability to challenge inappropriate action by a state official simply based on this unfounded limitation,'' he said. Today’s decision - 16 - allows state officials, such as Governor Scott, to circumvent this extraordinary writ at the convenience of the office holder based on a ripeness challenge that does not, in my view, have any legal justification."

Agreeing with the result, but not the reasoning, was Justices Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente. Quince wrote the opinion and Pariente concurred, arguing that both the majority opinion and Lewis confuse the issue because they under court precedent in a previous case involving a Scott appointment to the court, the court has shown "we have the authority to act prior to the Governor’s making an appointment that is contrary to law."

Quince wrote that "while I agree with the majority that it is not appropriate for us to rule on the petition at this time, I do not agree that it would only become appropriate to do so after Governor Scott has consummated an appointment."

Quince, however, noted that Scott's lawyers conceded in their oral arguments that he may not have the authority to make the appointment.

Dan Nordby told the court that “the Governor’s term concludes at the end of the day on [the first] Monday” in January, “the same day that the Justices’ terms end" and if the justices do not leave before the end of their terms and “if the new governor’s term has begun, then the new governor would have the authority to make the appointment.”

Quince noted that this is what voters concluded when they rejected a 2014 amendment to the state Constitution to clarify the law and give the appointment power to the outgoing governor. Lewis also noted in his dissent that he disagreed with this interpretation as well.

The Florida branch of the League of Women Voters and the government watchdog group Common Cause filed a petition with the Supreme Court in June saying Scott's successor should make the appointments.

Age limits are forcing three justices to retire on the day Scott leaves office in January 2019 because of term limits. Scott has said he plans to name their replacements that same morning.

Reinstate TPS and grant it to Venezuelans, Miami commissioners urge Trump



The federal government should reinstate special deportation protections for more than 300,000 Haitians and Central Americans living in the U.S. and extend those same privileges to Venezuelans, Miami's mayor and city commissioners said Thursday.

By a unanimous vote, city commissioners urged Congress and President Donald Trump to extend Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans living in the country.

The designation allows nationals from countries facing civil strife or major natural disasters who are already in the United States to temporarily remain and work here. But President Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to impose tighter immigration controls, with many of his supporters saying the program has been abused and needs a permanent fix.

Haitians learned last month that they'll lose TPS in July of 2019, at which point they will return to whatever immigration status they previously held, leaving them facing possible detention and deportation if they stay in the country illegally. Nicaraguans will lose TPS in January 2019. Hondurans' status expires in July. Salvadorans have until March.

Venezuelans, whose country is mired in turmoil and economic collapse, aren't afforded TPS protections.

"This is a city of immigrants. We are immigrants, or the product of immigrants," said Mayor Francis Suarez, who was born in the U.S. but born to parents who fled Cuba. "I've always felt a sense of injustice of the unequal treatment of immigrants in this country and certainly in this city."

December 13, 2017

Trump hints at an expanded child tax credit, an idea championed by Marco Rubio



President Donald Trump may have just handed Sen. Marco Rubio a long-awaited gift: an expanded child tax credit. 

During a White House speech on Wednesday, Trump referenced the child tax credit and said, "You'll hear the numbers very soon but they're even larger than anticipated." 

Trump's remarks came a day after GOP leaders proposed a higher corporate tax rate to pay for lower taxes on couples that make $1 million or more less than two weeks after they rebuffed Rubio's idea to raise corporate taxes to pay for an expanded child tax credit.

Rubio wasn't happy.

Rubio has been pushing for an expanded child tax credit for months, and the Florida Republican wanted to pay for it by imposing a small increase in corporate taxes. He said in in October that expanding the child tax credit to $2,000 from the current cap of $1,000 was a major priority and that he would vote against a tax bill that didn't help middle class families. 

“I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class,” Rubio said. “But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here.”

But Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee haven't publicly threatened to vote against the tax overhaul bill to create leverage for their demands. The Senate voted down their expanded child tax credit proposal two weeks ago, but Rubio and Lee voted for the bill.

The child tax credit reduces some families' tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. 


Republicans are barreling towards a final vote on a tax overhaul that slashes personal and corporate taxes. They aim to vote on the final package before Christmas and they have added urgency to act fast after Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in an Alabama special election on Tuesday. Once Jones is seated, Republicans will only control 51 of 100 seats in the upper chamber. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said he won't vote for the plan, leaving Senate Republicans with almost no room for dissent within the ranks. 

"We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas," Trump said on Tuesday.  

Congressional candidate proposes panic buttons for Miami Beach hotel workers



The wave of opposition to sexual harassment — at least in the workplace — is crashing over Miami Beach.

The tourism town, where the majority of Miami-Dade’s estimated 11,500 housekeepers and other hotel workers are employed, may soon be the nation’s next city to enact laws aimed at protecting hotel workers from assault or improper advances by hotel guests. The move follows a national reckoning against sexual harassment that has exposed alleged offenders including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and morning talk show host Matt Lauer.

The Miami Beach proposal is modeled after mandatory practices in other cities, including Chicago and Seattle, that arm staff with panic buttons in case there is an incident. The portable panic buttons would be connected to hotel security or management, allowing them to act quickly if a worker is harassed or assaulted.

The laws also create a framework for reporting incidents, including allowing workers to contact police, prohibiting hotels from firing workers who speak out and monitoring guests who act improperly toward staff.

Miami Beach Commissioner and Democratic congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez wants to see similar rules in Miami Beach. Click here to read about her proposal.

Levine releases two more TV ads, one in Spanish and one in English



Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is keeping a bilingual advertising push going over the holidays as he runs for the 2018 Democratic nomination to become Florida's next governor.

His political committee, All About Florida, announced Wednesday that it is releasing two more commercials, each featuring his family. One, in English, features his mother, Diane. The second features his fiancé, Carolina, and two step-kids, Mica and Beno, and the couple's son, Henry.

Both ads tout the independently wealthy Levine's business history, and introduce voters to a candidate who announced his campaign in November and still remains relatively unknown to voters outside of South Florida. The commercials, which the committee said "will air for several weeks beginning today, in a vast majority of the state's media markets," come on the heels of a November  that saw Levine raise more than $1 million. 



What Florida is saying about Doug Jones’ defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama


via @learyreports 

Florida is reacting to Doug Jones’ victory over Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Here is what leaders are saying on Twitter:

December 12, 2017

Puerto Rican officials lobby Congress against ‘devastating’ GOP tax measure

005 Maria Unemployment DS


Puerto Rico is still drowning from Hurricane Maria but it’s already facing its next crisis — a U.S. tax reform bill that island officials fear will devastate the economy.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín will make a final plea on Wednesday to Republican officials, asking them to exempt the U.S. territory from a 20 percent excise tax on goods that American companies import from their overseas subsidiaries.

The measure in the GOP tax bill is designed to stop American companies from avoiding taxes by shifting profits overseas. But it would also apply to Puerto Rico because the island is treated as both a foreign and domestic entity under the U.S. tax code.

It’s a hit that Puerto Rico’s elected officials say the island’s economy cannot take.

“If the U.S. Congress ignores our situation and gives us this mortal blow to our economy, the immediate and direct effect will be Puerto Ricans boarding airplanes,” Rivera Marín told the Miami Herald.

Puerto Rico already was struggling through a deep recession before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September. The island’s unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent and the country was $72 billion in debt. Since the storms, thousands of Puerto Ricans have lost their jobs as businesses remain without power and unable to reopen.

Rivera Marín warned that the tax could wipe out the island’s manufacturing sector and a third of the government’s tax revenue, sending thousands more families fleeing to Florida and New York.

Read more here. Photo by @dsantiagophoto

Curbelo calls on Congress to find a Dreamer solution this week

Curbelo (1)


Congress has less than three days to find a solution for Dreamers in order for it to become law by the end of the year, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said on Tuesday. 

But Curbelo is hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can find a compromise for the 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who face uncertainly after President Donald Trump said he will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.

"We had very good meetings last night, three meetings," Curbelo said. "For the first time a lot of the like-minded Republicans and Democrats who want to get to yes got together. We're getting closer to filing a compromise, which has been my frustration. There's an obvious compromise out there, DACA fix and border security, but no one has proffered that compromise." 

If both parties can find a compromise, then a spending bill that funds the government known as a continuing resolution is the likely legislative vehicle that can include a solution for Dreamers. It is expected that a continuing resolution will get a vote sometime next week before a December 22nd deadline. 

"If they (leadership) want to give us a standalone vote, that's fine, it'll pass. I know it will," Curbelo said. "The most obvious vehicle is whatever continuing resolution is with a budget cap with new bipartisan numbers. We're getting closer and a lot of people have put aside partisan differences we've had in recent weeks to focus on trying to have something next week to take a run at this before the end of the year."

If congressional leaders fail to find a compromise in an end of the year spending bill, Curbelo said he will vote against the legislation that keeps the government running. Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she will do the same. 

"I'm not going to back down from that commitment," Curbelo said. "If I get maybe a time-certain commitment from leadership that there will be a vote, maybe I would think about saying 'Okay, that's good enough.' But I doubt I would get that clarity." 

Curbelo said that if the year-end spending bill doesn't include a Dreamer solution, the next opportunity will likely be in January when Congress takes up another spending bill. 

Congress has just under three months to find a solution for Dreamers before the DACA order officially ends on March 5. 

This Democrat for Congress attended a Ted Cruz fundraiser. But ‘didn’t give a dime.’


Russell (1)@NewsbySmiley

Last year, long before he became a congressional candidate running in a Democratic primary, Ken Russell attended a Miami fundraiser for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

But he says he didn’t give the conservative Republican a dime.

At the time a newly elected city commissioner, Russell was among a small crowd that gathered at a South Miami Avenue home for a luncheon held to support Cruz, whose wife, Heidi Cruz, was the featured guest at the March 10 event. Attendees, who were asked to give a suggested $1,000-a-plate donation, grazed on a buffet outside on Lourdes and Leoncio de la Peña’s backyard terrace and listened to Heidi Cruz speak.

“He asked to come to my house. He wanted to meet Heidi,” said Lourdes Castillo de la Peña. “He told me how impressed he was with her when she spoke.”

Though Russell was a registered Democrat, no one thought twice about at a non-partisan city commissioner attending a Cruz fundraiser held in his district. But now that Russell is in the thick of a packed Democratic primary to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s left-leaning 27th Congressional District, his low-key presence at a fundraiser for a far-right conservative Senator from Texas could be something of a liability.

In an interview, Russell — who later that summer participated in the Democratic National Convention as a delegate —confirmed his attendance at the Cruz fundraiser. But he said he was merely interested in listening to the opinions of someone with whom he “vehemently disagrees.”

Click here to read more.

Scott, Rubio, Bush, Corcoran … What top Florida Republicans say about Roy Moore


via @learyreports

It's all about Alabama today as the U.S. Senate race comes to a dramatic conclusion.

Here's what some prominent Florida Republicans had to say about Roy Moore, who would have easily won the race against Democrat Doug Jones had sexual misconduct allegations not surfaced.

Sen. Marco Rubio:

"I think these accusers are very credible. … I think we're going to learn even more as this goes on, and even if he's elected to the Senate, I think there's going to be a process … that could reveal more and be very potentially problematic for him. In fact, I guarantee it would be."

Gov. Rick Scott:

"Whether it's Roy Moore or what you read about the media reports from California or D.C. or Tallahassee, it's disgusting. So, if any of those allegations are true, he ought to resign."

The governor was then asked if a different threshold exists regarding predatory behavior with minors.

"I think whether it's minors, whether it's women, anybody. I mean, let's think about it. We all have children. We have nieces and nephews. I have daughters. Now I have grandsons. I expect people to be treated with respect. That's what you always expect. So, if the allegations are true, he has to get out," Scott said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

"As the father of two teenage girls, there can't seriously be a question of my position. Roy Moore should step aside."

Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam:

"I find the accusations repulsive. I believe that for the good of the people of Alabama, Roy Moore should drop out of the race."

Jeb Bush:

"This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding, this is a question of what's right and what's wrong. And acknowledging that you're dating teenagers when you're 32 year old as assistant state attorney is wrong. It's just plain wrong."

Florida Dem accused of sexual harassment gets support from Congress

Alcee2 (1)


The phrase “I believe the women” has become a motto for lawmakers in the wake of career-ending sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken. But when sexual harassment allegations against South Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings from 2011 resurfaced last week, the reaction was different.

“I believe him,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat.

Capitol Hill news outlet Roll Call reported on Friday that a woman who accused Hastings of unwanted touching and lewd remarks in 2011 received a $220,000 taxpayer-funded settlement, the largest amount reported since a wave of sexual harassment allegations began sweeping through Congress.

The 81-year-old Hastings denies the allegations and said he had no previous knowledge that taxpayer funds were paid out to Winsome Packer, a congressional staffer who worked for a commission that studies security and cooperation in Europe. Court documents show that he was removed from the sexual harassment lawsuit in 2012. Packer continued the lawsuit against the commission after Hastings was removed, and the payment was made in 2014, according to Roll Call.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” Hastings said in a statement. “At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings, who lives in Miramar and represents majority African-American neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, has been a magnet for controversy throughout his four decades in public office, and he has survived every time.

Hastings was stripped of his federal judgeship in 1989 after he was impeached and convicted of bribery and perjury, but successfully ran for Congress in 1992. His longtime girlfriend who works at his district office in Florida received the $168,411 maximum congressional salary for years. And the 2011 sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Packer and funded by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch was rife with tabloid fodder and embarrassing anecdotes.

But Hastings has been reelected with ease every two years.

“If there is someone in the United States House of Representatives who can survive this, it’s Alcee Hastings,” said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “My goodness, he’s been impeached by this body. Alcee Hastings, God bless him, he doesn’t care cycles.”

Read more here.