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July 05, 2015

Jeb Bush condemns Donald Trump's comments as 'extraordinarily ugly'

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush, who had already criticized Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans, took the harshest line yet of any 2016 Republican presidential contender Saturday when he called Trump's remarks "way out of the mainstream."

"To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. Trump is wrong on this," Bush said in New Hampshire. (On Friday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement denouncing Trump's comments as "offensive and inaccurate.")

Trump then issued a statement bashing Bush as "out of touch":

I am very proud to be fighting for a strong and secure border. This is a very important issue, which all the other candidates would have ignored had I not started this important discussion. I will fix the border — no one else knows where to begin.

Today, Jeb Bush once again proves that he is out of touch with the American people. Just like the simple question asked of Jeb on Iraq, where it took him five days and multiple answers to get it right, he doesn’t understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come “out of love.”

As everybody knows, I never said that all Mexicans crossing the border are rapists. Jeb is mischaracterizing my statements only to inflame. As seen with the tragic and unnecessary death of Kathryn Steinle this past week in San Francisco at the hands of an illegal immigrant who was previously deported five times, our unsecured border is a national security threat.

Jeb will never be able to secure our border, negotiate good trade deals, strengthen our military or care for our veterans. The biggest difference between Jeb and me on the border is that I believe in securing our border by building a wall, which will protect our safety, economy and national security. This is a vital step in Making America Great Again!

Eyeing Senate bid, Carlos Lopez-Cantera must decide to stay or go as lieutenant governor

via @stevebousquet

After 18 months in Gov. Rick Scott’s shadow, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has to make his first big decision.

Before he enters Florida’s wide-open race for the U.S. Senate, he’ll reach a political crossroads as the state’s No. 2 executive: Should he stay or go?

Lopez-Cantera won’t say, and the public probably would not notice the difference.

He’s not required to immediately resign his $125,000-a-year state job to run for another office, but observers say he faces a number of potential problems if he doesn’t cut ties with Scott.

Lopez-Cantera’s opponents already are accusing him of campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime, a charge he denied when he met recently with a Broward County commissioner and insisted they didn’t talk about the Senate race.

He could take a stand as a Republican that conflicts with Scott’s scripted message, putting him in hot water with his boss. Scott has told friends he’s eyeing Florida’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Lopez-Cantera also would be forced to defend Scott’s decisions whether he agreed with them or not, including a recent rash of budget vetoes that disproportionately hit his home county of Miami-Dade.

More here.

Donald Trump on the Truth-O-Meter

PolitiFact has been fact-checking Donald Trump since 2011, when he debuted on our Truth-O-Meter with this statement about President Barack Obama: "The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don't know who he is."

That statement earned a Pants on Fire rating. Media accounts and biographies are filled with on-the-record, named classmates who remember Obama. We even tracked down one of his classmates and talked to her ourselves.

Since that first fact-check, Trump has made several more provocative statementsthat have caught our attention, including a slew from his speech in June announcing that he was running for the Republican nomination for president.

Turn to PolitiFact to learn more about our Trump fact-checks.

July 04, 2015

In honor of the Fourth of July, PolitiFact takes a look at a claim by Scott Walker about the Founding Fathers

As he moves closer to declaring a presidential bid, Gov. Scott Walker often tells audiences a story about his first visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and his reverence for the founding fathers.

In closing a June 20, 2015 speech to the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C, Walker repeated the story, describing how, as a boy, he viewed the founding fathers "like superheroes."

He was awed when, in 2011, he stepped into the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

"And I looked at the chairs and I looked at the desks and it dawned on me," Walker told the audience with a dramatic pause. "These were ordinary people. These were ordinary people who did something extraordinary. You see, they didn’t just risk their political careers. They didn’t just risk their business ventures. These were patriots who risked their lives -- their lives -- for the freedoms we hold dear today."

Walker has many times called the founding fathers ordinary people. And while campaigning, he has emphasized that he himself doesn’t come from wealth or prominence, even bragging that he bought a sweater for a dollar.

Turn to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the rest of the story.

Gov. Rick Scott spends nearly $300K on political consultants in 3 months

via @JeremySWallace

For someone who cannot seek re-election, Gov. Rick Scott is spending a whole lot of money on political consultants, adding fuel to speculation that he is aiming to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

This week, Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political fundraising committee reported paying $26,000 to a pair of political consulting firms, one in Miami that specializes in Hispanic outreach and the other based in Tallahassee. With that, Let’s Get to Work has now spent $292,616 on eight different political consulting firms just since April 1 on a wide range of services, including work on surveys, research, advertising and general consulting.

Scott has told some big political donors that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2018. But publicly, Scott has brushed off the questions by the media about his political future.

Asked in April about running for the Senate, Scott did not directly answer.

“I’m going to keep working on being governor,” he said then. “I just got re-elected. We’re going to have a good four years. It’s exciting.”

More here.

Jeb Bush donor pens Miami Herald op-ed backing thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations

@PatriciaMazzei

Coral Gables health-care executive Mike Fernandez backs renewed U.S.-Cuba relations, he said in an op-ed published in the Miami Herald -- a significant endorsement from a prominent political backer of 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush.

Fernandez wrote:

Cuban Americans everywhere, but especially the diaspora in South Florida, have been awakening to the reality that Cuba's isolation was and is not a sustainable strategy.

The case has been made for decades that Cuba’s failure is a self-inflicted wound by its dictatorial leadership.

Unfortunately, those of us born on the island — and in partnership with U.S. policies — provided the strategic scapegoat that perpetuated the cover that allowed the Cuban government to blame the embargo and Washington for all its failures.

[...]

Let the embassies open. Let Google and Yahoo, the press and Yoani, and the memory of Paya and many others be the order of the day.

Let’s support the Cuban people’s hunger for a future, a future that has been denied to them for decades now. Let's us be a force of change, not a people of unremitting anger.

My friends, my family, my fellow Cuban Americans, let’s set our people free.

Let us free our minds of hate and memories and thoughts or revenge. 

That's very different from what Bush said this week when President Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced the re-opening of embassies in Washington and Havana.

"I oppose the decision to further embrace the Castro regime by opening an embassy in Havana," Bush said in a statement. "The real test of the Obama Administration's rapprochement with the Castro regime in Cuba is not whether President Obama's legacy is burnished with dubious diplomatic achievements and photo-ops, but whether improved relations between Havana and Washington advance the cause of human rights and freedom for the Cuban people.

"The ongoing detention of dissidents and continued human rights abuses suggest the Administration’s policy is failing this test."  

Marco Rubio, Chris Christie hosted in New Hampshire by Mitt Romney

@PatriciaMazzei

Mitt Romney found out Marco Rubio and Chris Christie would be in New Hampshire for July Fourth parades. So he invited them to stay at his vacation home in Wolfeboro, the Associated Press reported.

Rubio aide Jim Merrill tweeted a photo Friday night of Rubio and his wife, Jeanette, with Romney. Rubio, Christie and Romney were also spotted in a local ice-cream shop.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has yet to pick a candidate in the crowded 2016 race. He is scheduled to meet with Jeb Bush next week in Kennebunkport, according to the Washington Post.

Bush is also in New Hampshire for the holiday weekend.

July 03, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott isn't really that rich, is he? (No, he isn't)

The big surge in Gov. Rick Scott's personal wealth in the past year raises a question: Is Florida's governor the richest governor in the country? The short answer is no, not by a longshot, but he's way up there.

Scott's net worth is $147 million. He got rich running the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, left the firm in 1997 with a $10 million severance package and stock worth $300 million, became an investor and has successfully nurtured an extensive portfolio. The financial disclosure statement he filed with the state this week shows his net worth grew by $14 million over the past year but is still well below the $217 million he reported when he filed to run for governor in June 2010.

Scott has not yet made up the $73 million he spent in that campaign.

By comparison, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee reports a net worth of $2 billion. He's the son of the founder of the nationwide chain of truck stops known as Pilot Flying J, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Care to fill 'er up, Mac? Pilot's presence on America's interstates is as ubiquitous as mile markers: There are a dozen Pilot travel centers within a 100-mile radius of Tampa alone, and more are on the way.

A number of former governors are a lot wealthier than Scott, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California ($300 million in 2014), Jon Corzine of New Jersey ($300 million in 2013) and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (at least $190 million in 2012). Former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had a net worth of $62 million in 1974, which in present-day dollars would be worth about $303 million. Net worth numbers fluctuate from year to year and states have different reporting requirements.

On the web site cheatsheet.com, based on public records and news reports, Scott is rated as the eighth-richest officeholder in the U.S. Behind Haslam at No. 2 is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, followed by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Secretary of State John Kerry, whose wife Theresa is heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune.

It's all relative. The bottom line is that Scott makes more money in a month that most Floridians will make in a lifetime. Isn't that rich? 

--With reporting by Tampa Bay Times researcher Caryn Baird

July 02, 2015

Hillary Clinton to speak to National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale

@PatriciaMazzei

Hillary Clinton's coming to South Florida this month -- and this time, not just to raise money behind closed doors.

The 2016 Democratic presidential contender is scheduled to address the National Urban League Conference on July 31 in Fort Lauderdale. It would mark Clinton's first public event locally since becoming a candidate; she came to Florida in May for a series of private fund-raisers.

The National Urban League is a civil-rights organization that, among other things, advocates against racial discrimination and for African Americans. Clinton's speech to the group would be geared at black voters, a key Democratic constituency that helped President Obama win the presidency.

She has already used other speeches to address issues of criminal justice, violence and racism.

Judge lifts stay: Abortion waiting period won't be enforced

A law requiring women to see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion is no longer in effect, after a judge's ruling Thursday.

After lots of legal back-and-forth, a ruling by Judge Charles Dodson ensures the law won't go into effect -- at least for now.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, claiming that the waiting period passed by lawmakers this spring is unconstitutional. While the lawsuit moves forward, the ACLU has asked that the law not be enforced.

For now, they seem to have gotten their wish. But keep in mind that the state could continue to appeal the ruling to higher courts.

Read Dodson's ruling here.

Jim Webb becomes fifth Democrat to announce for president

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia announced he will run for president today, becoming the fifth Democrat to announce for president.

Webb served in the Senate from 2007-13. He also served as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and Secretary of the Navy in the Ronald Reagan administration.

“I understand the odds, particularly in today’s political climate where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money,” Webb said in his announcement posted on Facebook. “I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars – some estimates run as high as two billion dollars – in direct and indirect financial support. Highly paid political consultants are working to shape the “messaging” of every major candidate. But our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us.”

The other Democrats running are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

See Webb’s Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Miami-Dade GOP legislators make a push for presidential candidates to campaign in favor of immigration reform

While presidential candidates who oppose immigration reform may gain support from a slice of GOP voters in early voting states, that stance will cost the GOP in battleground states in the general election, according to a new poll.

A group of Miami-Dade Republican officials hosted a teleconference with reporters Thursday to discuss the results of a poll of likely voters about their stances on immigration and make the case that presidential candidates should campaign in favor of immigration reform.

The poll was conducted in the early primary and caucus states with 400 GOP voters a piece in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. A similar poll was conducted of 800 voters in 10 battleground states including Florida which represented 23 percent of the respondents. The polls took place in April and May.

The poll was done by Burning Glass Consulting and The Partnership for a New American Economy, a group that brings together mayors and business leaders to make an economic case for changing immigration laws.

Rudy Fernandez, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush in the White House, speaking on behalf of the Partnership, said that the poll shows while an anti-immigration candidate may “gain a little bit and win favor with extremists” in early states, “you lost a lot in the general election.”

Continue reading "Miami-Dade GOP legislators make a push for presidential candidates to campaign in favor of immigration reform" »

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes faces challenger

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, who has faced heat from some county commissioners about her legal counsel, will face a challenge from Democratic consultant David Brown in 2016.

Brown, who filed his paperwork this week to run against Snipes, ran for the position in 2000 and lost a Democratic runoff to Miriam Oliphant who won the general election. In 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush removed Oliphant from office after she botched the 2002 primary. Bush appointed Snipes who then went on win her next three elections.

Snipes, a 72-year-old Lauderdale Lakes Democrat, told the Miami Herald in April that she decided to seek re-election. Today, she told the Herald that she plans to file her paperwork in the next few weeks.

Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen recently criticized Snipes because her contract attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, donated money to his opponent. (We previously wrote she campaigned for an opponent but she actually gave money to Lisa Aronson.) Snipes said she plans to seek an opinion from the Florida Bar regarding whether Norris-Weeks can campaign.

Brown promised if elected to establish a policy to prevent employees and contract workers from campaigning for candidates who run on the Broward ballot including in local, statewide and national race. He would also ban donations in such races.

Continue reading "Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes faces challenger" »

Putnam's plea for pre-veto face time with Gov. Scott was ignored

Here's yet another backstory on Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes, and this one is likely to give Scott headaches at future Cabinet meetings.

As the budget time clock was ticking, Scott and his staff dissed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

It began to unfold on Friday, June 19. As the Legislature was passing a budget, ending a three-week special session, Putnam immediately sought face time with the governor to argue his case for priority projects."I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience," Putnam wrote.

Putnam's office hand-delivered a highly detailed four-page letter to Scott asking for "careful consideration" of his priorities, including $4.5 million for water-farming projects, $3.7 million to replace a dilapidated petroleum lab at Port Everglades and $2,000 raises for state forestry firefighters.

Not only did Putnam not get the meeting he wanted, but the request was ignored, and four days later Scott vetoed all three requests, among others.

"We never received a response," said Putnam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Meale.

Even though Scott signed the budget four days later, and a week earlier than required by law, his spokeswoman said there wasn't enough time. (The day before Scott signed the budget, Monday, June 22, Scott was on a prearranged seven-city fly-around to promote the $430 million tax cut package).

"The governor reviewed project information submitted to OPB (Office of Planning and Budgeting) staff during the regular session and during the special session up until the budget was finished by the Legislature," spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a written response. "The governor did not take any additional meetings on special projects once the budget was finalized by the Legislature because we were up against a tight time frame to get the budget signed by June 30th.”

County patience wearing thin as Miami Marine Stadium restoration stalls

@NewsbySmiley

Five years after giving the city of Miami a $3 million grant to help restore Miami Marine Stadium, patience is wearing thin over at Miami-Dade County.

Approved in 2010, the grant came with a condition that Miami come up with a plan by by April 2015 to fund the rehabilitation of the historic structure on Virginia Key. But, despite plenty of effort, the city has yet to do that, and the waterfront stadium remains vacant and unused.

In April, Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez helped grant a four-month extension. But, as the new deadline looms, the city is focused on preparing the stadium grounds to host the Miami International Boat Show and is tied up in a legal dispute with the Village of Key Biscayne.

Miami has yet to lay out a formal vision for revitalizing the venue. And a second extension doesn't appear to be a lock.

"Mayor Gimenez is not happy that there has been an apparent lack of progress in the City of Miami," said Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández. "Certain issues were supposed to be addressed in April and to our knowledge, they have not been. The mayor will be preparing a letter to City leaders in the coming days."

Suarez said he's hopeful that the city commission, which is expected to discuss the stadium restoration next week, will work its issues out with Key Biscayne now that the two sides have settled on a mediator. But he said an incident reported last week by The Herald in which city contractors illegally cut down mangroves by the stadium has embarrassed some elected officials.

"There are people around me who would very much want me to recommend we pull back on the $3 million," Suarez said. "I don’t mean my commissioners. I mean like chief executive of the county ... There’s a lot of impatience on this side of the interlocal government deal."

After Donald Trump bashes Mexicans, PunditFact takes a look at a claim by one of Trump's fans about immigrants and crime

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is standing by his sweeping and negative comments about Mexican immigrants. But the billionaire’s remarks at his campaign announcement speech have cost him: His show contract with NBC has been canceled, Mexico has withdrawn from the Miss Universe contest Trump cosponsors, and Macy’s announced it will stop selling Trump-branded menswear.

Trump blamed the media for taking his remarks out of context. His reference to rapists and drug dealers referred to a failed immigration policy, not all Mexicans he said.

But the blowback aside, Trump has his ardent supporters. Count Gavin McInnes among them.

The flamboyant and purposefully politically incorrect talker appeared on Fox News to defend Trump. In a conversation on The Greg Gutfeld Show, McInnes called Trump an "awesome guy" who "ought to be revered." McInnes said the media was wrong to brush off Trump’s assertions.

"He just said a bunch of hate facts," McInnes said. "The crime rate with illegals is through the roof."

When Gutfeld pressed McInnes to give some facts of his own, McInnes delivered one.

"50 percent of murders in Texas have been linked to illegal aliens," he said.

"Is that a fact?" Gutfeld asked. "I don’t know."

We can resolve that uncertainty. No, it isn’t a fact.

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact.

July 01, 2015

Jeb Bush below average in giving to charities

Jeb Bush says he’s proud of what he and his wife, Columba, have contributed to charity. But his tax records show they’ve given less than the national average and less than others with similar wealth.

The former Florida governor’s boast that he and his wife had donated $739,000 to charity since he left the governor’s office in 2007 is only one view of his record.

In 2013, the most recent tax year for which his records were available, the Bushes’ charitable contributions of $110,616 amounted to 1.5 percent of an adjusted gross income of $7.3 million. In 2012, their $104,169 in contributions amounted to 1.8 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Bush said he will report contributing $307,944 to charity in his 2014 tax return, but he has filed for a six-month filing extension and his adjusted gross income for that year was not made available.

That’s below the 3 percent national average for charitable giving and the 3.38 percent average in Florida, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

And it’s well below some of Bush’s political peers, who have far outpaced that level of giving, particularly as they made more money or began eyeing an election.

More here.

AP: Jeb Bush's Foundation received donations from businesses, schools

From the Associated Press:

Big-time donors to a nonprofit educational group founded by Jeb Bush, disclosed for the first time Wednesday, highlight the intersection between Bush's roles in the worlds of business, policy and politics years before he began running for president. Bush provided the names to The Associated Press.

After leaving the Florida governor's office in 2007, Bush formed the Foundation for Excellence in Education, with a mission "to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve their God-given potential." With Bush serving as president, the group attracted $46 million from donors through 2014.

That donor list shows the circular connections as Bush moved from governor to education advocate to corporate board member. Supporters in each of those stages of his career contributed to his educational foundation — which, in turn, sometimes supported causes benefiting its donors. They include Rupert Murdoch's media giant News Corp., GOP mega-donor Paul Singer's foundation, energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, even the Florida Lottery.

The voluntary release of the donor names comes less than 24 hours after Bush took the unprecedented step of releasing 33 years of personal tax returns.

More here.

CNN/ORC poll: Jeb Bush rises and Marco Rubio falls but Hillary Clinton ahead of them both

A new CNN/ORC poll shows former Gov. Jeb Bush on the rise and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio down since May while Democrat Hillary Clinton continues to lead all GOP candidates in general election match-ups.

Bush stands at 19 percent, up from 13 percent in May. Trump follows at 12 percent, up from 3 percent before his announcement.

Rounding out the top five were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (8 percent), neurosurgeon Ben Carson (7 percent) and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (7 percent).

Rubio was absent from the top five but just barely: he stood at 6 percent, down from 14 percent in May. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who has not yet announced was also at 6 percent.

Clinton holds wide leads over other Democratic challengers. In a general election match-up, she holds leads over all the GOPers including Bush (54-41), Trump (59-34) and Rubio (56-39).

The poll was conducted by telephone June 26-28, among a random national sample of 1,017 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

New judge to take over abortion restriction lawsuit

@MichaelAuslen

Add this to the twists and turns of the debate over a judge blocking a 24-hour, mandatory waiting period before abortions: The case has been handed over to a new judge.

Starting today, a lawsuit alleging that the waiting period, which went into effect today, is unconstitutional has been reassigned to Judge Charles Dodson. According to the website for the 2nd Circuit, the change was planned. All the civil cases that were on Judge Charles Francis' docket have been given to Dodson.

But this introduces a new wrinkle to the lawsuit.

Specifically, on Tuesday afternoon, Francis issued a temporary injunction, ordering the state not to enforce the requirement that women see a doctor 24 hours before having an abortion. After Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the ruling, it was automatically stayed.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of a Gainesville abortion clinic, quickly asked Francis to lift the stay and prevent the law from going into effect. Now, that decision rests with Dodson.

Dodson is a graduate of Florida State University College of Law and of West Point. He became a judge in Leon County in 2008 and has presided over criminal, family law and juvenile dockets.