September 22, 2014

Scott signs death warrant for double murderer Banks

Gov. Rick Scott signed the death warrant Monday for Chadwick Banks, who fatally shot his wife Cassandra and then raped and shot to death his 10-year-old stepdaughter in Gadsden County near Tallahassee in 1992. Banks pleaded no contest to both killings and a jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 9 to 3.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld Banks' death sentence in 2003, and rejected defense claims of ineffective legal counsel and that he should have been allowed to present evidence relating to his mental health.

Banks' execution is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 13, at the death chamber at Florida State Prison in Starke. He would be the 18th Florida death row inmate to be executed since Scott became governor in January 2011.

The Money Race: Ad wars leave Scott and Crist nearly tied for cash on hand

Cash APFlorida’s governor’s candidates spent more money than they collected in the last round of political reports as Republican Gov. Rick Scott continued to unleash his negative ad war and Democrat Charlie Crist responded, leaving them nearly even with cash on hand.

Scott’s Lets Get to Work Committee raised $107,350 for the week ending Sept. 12 and spent $6.3 million and his campaign raised $250,352. Most of the money spent by the governor’s political committee, $5.8 million, was sent to the Republican Party of Florida which likely spent it on buying television ads, because it can purchase them at a lower rate than the committee.

Crist’s committee raised $861,470 for the period ending Sept. 12 and spent $2.8 million and his campaign raised $299,201.

Like Scott, the Crist for Florida committee sent nearly all of its cash, $2.5 million, to the Florida Democratic Party which likely used it to buy television ads at a lower rate.

Reports show that Florida voters are being treated to $50 million in television ads this cycle, 71 percent of which has been bought by Scott.

Continue reading "The Money Race: Ad wars leave Scott and Crist nearly tied for cash on hand" »

Charlie Crist's claim about teacher layoffs, class sizes under Scott

Charlie Crist has upped the ante on one of his favorite talking points: attacking Gov. Rick Scott for K-12 education cuts.

In a Crist TV ad praising public school teachers, the narrator says:

"They don’t fly in private jets or float on fancy yachts, but the job Florida teachers do couldn’t be more valuable. And when Rick Scott cut education by over a billion dollars, thousands of them lost their jobs, class sizes went up, our kids paid the price." A visual shows a 2014 Miami Herald article that cited a $1.3 billion cut to public schools. "Why did he do it?" the ad continues. "To pay for millions in handouts to big corporations. Tax cuts here, budget cuts there. Thousands of teaching jobs gone."

The ad gives no indication of when those education cuts took place, but the answer is that the $1.3 billion K-12 cut came in 2011.

We have already fact-checked whether Scott cut education to pay for tax breaks; we rated it Half True. Here, we will fact-check the allegation about the consequences of the budget cut. Did thousands of teachers lose their jobs? Did class sizes go up? Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer.

Miami-Dade police explain catch-and-release of Miami commissioner's cousin


This summer, Miami-Dade’s public corruption unit conducted a covert surveillance operation at Matheson Hammock Park. The mission: to catch a cashier suspected of skimming entry fees.

Over two days, six detectives watched for more than 11 hours as Danette Hardemon took cash from drivers entering the park and marina, according to police. At noon on July 10, after interviewing dozens of drivers, investigators detained and questioned the 26-year-old part-time employee -- who also happened to be the cousin of a Miami commissioner.

Police let Hardemon go after consulting with their deputy director and the state attorney's office, and after learning she would be fired. Two months later, members of the public corruption unit signed a belated synopsis of the case explaining they found Hardemon with a cash register that was actually $12 over.

Police say now that Hardemon’s familial ties to Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon were irrelevant to her release, even as that detail draws attention to the catch-and-release months after it took place. Perhaps harder to explain, though, is why a half dozen corruption investigators would spend two mornings chasing suspicions of petty theft at a park.

“Sometimes it can lead to bigger cases,” said Deputy Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Pérez, who questioned at the time whether police had enough evidence for an arrest, considering Hardemon had no cash on her person.

Pérez said the detail was limited in time to avoid overtime expenses, which has been a big issue with the county's public corruption squad.

The squad was downsized from 20 to 10 officers last summer. It was later learned that three months before the cutbacks, public corruption officers had collected more than $58,000 in overtime during an investigation that led to the arrest of four Hialeah employees on charges of stealing $3,000 in entry fees to a public park.

According to the police synopsis, detectives began monitoring Danette Hardemon in July after Matheson Hammocks Marina Manager Mike McCrink said he noticed that when she was working some drivers were paying their $5 entry fee without receiving the ticket to prove they'd paid.

McCrink, who declined to speak with a reporter, suspected Hardemon wasn't giving out tickets because she was stealing the money. So on July 9, detectives began watching her and questioning drivers who’d paid her their entry fee. The next day, after speaking with about 60 motorists, police found six without tickets and believed they had evidence Hardemon may have taken $30. They read Hardemon her Miranda Rights and questioned her.

Detectives said she initially admitted to stealing petty cash, but then recanted. When they learned she was Hardemon’s cousin, they contacted Pérez, who said that's standard procedure when an arrest is a special interest case or likely to make news. A detective also called prosecutor James Chimera, who wrote in an email that he did not give advice on whether an arrest should be made.

“He asked me if it would make a difference if the subject was related to a commissioner. I explained it would make no difference to the State,” Chimera wrote in an email provided by a state attorney’s office spokesman.

Attempts to reach Danette Hardemon were unsuccessful. Commissioner Keon Hardemon said he hadn't heard of his cousin being detained by detectives until a reporter called him for comment.

"No one called me at all about this," he said. "This is the first time I'm hearing about it."

He dismissed rumors that his cousin was released due to political motivations as dirty politics.

"It's disheartening," he said of the rumors. "But it's expected."

Anzalone/United For Care poll: 69% of FL voters back medical marijuana


From a press release:

A recently commissioned poll by United for Care shows strong and stable support for Florida Amendment 2, a measure that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in the state. According to the survey conducted on behalf of United for Care, the main organization advocating for passage of the amendment, 69% of likely voters in Florida support this measure with only 28% opposed. 60% voter approval is needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment in the State of Florida. The findings are significant because they show voter backing of the amendment has remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of 2013.

United for Care has conducted four internal polls since January 2013, employing 3 different pollsters. The first survey by Hamilton Campaigns showed 70% support in January 2013. The second, carried out in March of 2013 by the Kitchens Group, revealed 71% intended to vote “Yes.” A June 2014 poll by Anzalone Liszt Research and Public Opinion Strategies reported 70% voter support for the amendment.

“If you look at the poll numbers since the beginning of last year they are virtually unchanged, and they reassert what we’ve consistently said: Floridians overwhelmingly support medical marijuana,” said Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager at United for Care. “Keeping medical decisions in the hands of doctors - not politicians - is simply not a controversial position for the vast majority of Floridians, and that has not changed over the last twenty-one months.”

“The latest poll speaks very highly of the basic compassion of Florida voters,” said Pollara. “Opponents of Amendment 2 have been relentlessly pushing disingenuous talking points, and insulting the intelligence of the voters - but Floridians have seen through their deception and they are ready to vote for this amendment because it is the right thing to do for the ill and the suffering.”

The Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll of 1,004 likely Florida voters was conducted from September 12-18, 2014 and has a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

RPOF insists Crist "swindled" Florida

Republicans are insisting Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist "swindled" Florida.

In a new digital ad, the Republican Party of Florida says Crist "swindled his own supporters [and] swindled voters" by changing his position abortion, gay marriage and taxes.

"We won't let Charlie Crist swindle us again," a female voice says.

"Swindle" has been a hot-button word since Fort Lauderdale investor Dean Kretschmar, in an ad promoting Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign, said he was swindled by both Crist and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Democrats called the ad misleading, and have asked Scott to take it down. (PolitiFact Florida rated the claim Pants on Fire.)

Republicans, however, are doubling down. See video below.


Pants on Fire claim for ad claiming Crist "swindled" by Rothstein investor

TV ad released by the Republican Party of Florida has created major buzz in Florida’s political world.

The ad featured an unidentified man who said he was swindled by Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein -- and, by extension, by former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now a Democrat and seeking to unseat Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

"Scott Rothstein swindled a lot of people, me included," the unidentified narrator said. "He bankrupted many families. Nobody was closer to Rothstein than Charlie Crist. Rothstein was always around Charlie, throwing parties and giving Charlie money. Rothstein bragged that he gave Charlie Crist money so he could pick judges. Of course Charlie took the money. I got swindled by both Rothstein and Charlie. If Charlie Crist will sell judgeships, everything is for sale."

The ad -- which has run at least 4,000 times at a cost of about $2 million -- includes photos of Rothstein and Crist embracing each other and blowing out the candles on Crist’s 52nd birthday cake. (Technical note: The ad was released by the state Republican Party, but it is on Scott’s behalf. Scott’s campaign has been defending it and he initially referred questions about the ad to his campaign. So that's why we're putting Scott on the Truth-O-Meter.)

PolitiFact Florida has previously fact-checked two claims related to Rothstein, who began a 50-year prison sentence in 2010 for convictions related to a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme that involved the sale of fabricated legal settlements.

But Scott’s charge that Crist "swindled" an investor is new -- and represents a serious charge. Crist unveiled his own counter-attack that calls the ad a lie and recounts Scott’s $1.7 billion Medicare fraud related to his days as CEO of a health care company.

We decided to put it to the Truth-O-Meter. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for our findings.

SurveyUSA/WFLA: Scott 44%, Crist 39%, Wyllie %7 percent


From SurveyUSA's Sept. 16* poll for WFLA TV:

In an election for Governor of Florida today, 09/16/14, a month until ballots are mailed to voters, incumbent Republican Rick Scott is now 5 points atop Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, according to the latest WFLA-TV tracking poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Today's results --- Scott 44%, Crist 39% --- are the first time that Crist has polled below 40% in the 6 months since WFLA-TV began tracking the contest...

Compared to a WFLA-TV tracking poll one week ago, Crist is down 5 points, Scott is down 1 point. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie --- today at 7% -- is up 4 percentage points. Crist has lost ground among men, where he is today polling at 35%, 12 points behind Scott. Immediately before the 08/26/14 Democratic primary, Crist led among Independent voters, but today Crist is down among this critically important constituency by 13 points. In Southeast Florida, a Democratic stronghold which includes Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Crist is down 9 points week-on-week, and today leads in that part of the state by just 3. Without Southeast Florida solidly in one's back pocket, no Democrat can carry the state....

State constitutional Amendment 2, which would give Floridians the right to use medicinal marijuana if prescribed by a physician, is backed by 25 points today, 56% voting Yes, 31% voting No. The measure is supported by 40 points among the youngest voters, and by 3 points among the oldest voters. Republicans and conservatives oppose. Moderates, liberals, Democrats and Independents support. The measure passes in every region of the state.

A few thoughts: The medical-marijuana polling number is low compared to other major surveys (such as the AIF poll referenced in last week's column). Also, while it's not out of the realm of possibility, the sudden 6-point overall shift in Scott's favor is notable, though SurveyUSA has had some strange fluctuations at times (more here). Driving that is independents, who shifted a net 13 in Scott's favor (3 toward Scott and 10 from Crist) in two weeks. There's a likely tendence for robo-polls to lean a little conservative because they rely on landlines (more likely to be owned by voters who fit a more-conservative profile). Poll averages indicate it's a 2-point race (inside-the-MOE) in Scott's favor. 


*pardon the late posting

September 21, 2014

Hitting $50m mark, Rick Scott-Charlie Crist ad war is a major marketing campaign


Another week. Another $10.4 million thrown in the fire we call television advertising.

Florida’s governor’s race is now a $50 million-plus commercial spectacle, with more than 71 percent of that spending from Gov. Rick Scott.

During the week that ended Friday, Scott dropped an additional $8 million for current and future ads. That’s about a 23 percent increase for the Republican, dwarfing Democrat Charlie Crist’s ad-buy increase of 17 percent, or almost $2.5 million.

If TV ads decided the governor’s race, Scott would win in a landslide.

There’s more to an election than running commercials, however, just as there’s more to winning a war than just using air power. Like a military campaign, a political campaign needs infantry — the “ground game” or “field operations” of paid staff and volunteers who phone voters and reach out them face to face.:

But the latter depends on the former. And so, therefore, does the election.

Think of the old military adage: Fire without maneuver is inconclusive, maneuver without fire is suicide. A Florida campaign that exists only on air isn’t enough; an off-air campaign goes nowhere.

Column is here.

Last week's post on the ad buys is here with a prior graphic; this graphic charts the increases in ad-buy orders for the week ending Friday.

FL Gov Race major market buys

Below, the trend tells the tale: Scott has spent early and often, especially on TV ad buys, and now his campaign and political committees' once-sizable cash-on-hand advantage is down to less than $1 million against Crist's. Of course, Scott has the GOP and his own millions to rely on.

  Scott's COH vs. Crist


September 20, 2014

State fires prison guard with history of unchecked abuse complaints on eve of Herald report


Rollin Suttle Austin was arrested for theft, convicted of drunk driving and accused of dozens of brutal, unprovoked beatings. 

Victims have alleged that the beefy, bald, 43-year-old amused himself by slamming heads into concrete and grabbing people by their throats and often bragged about getting away with killing a man. 

Austin has a mug shot on file, a criminal history with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and was in the Florida prison system for 23 years. 

But Austin wasn’t behind bars and his prison uniform wasn’t inmate blue, it was brown. That’s because, until Friday, Austin was a state corrections officer who carried a badge and a gun.

On Friday, Austin and 31 other corrections officers were abruptly fired by Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews in connection with the deaths of inmates in prisons across the state.

The move, as well as other firings announced a week earlier, came as the department knew that the Miami Herald was about to publish a story about Austin’s long, unchecked history of abuse complaints, and how he and other corrections officers have been able for years to take part in allegedly unprovoked attacks and gassings of inmates.

The firings are part of a crackdown by Crews in the wake of a series of Herald stories about corruption in the Florida prison system. More here. 


NYT exposes the source in the Gary Hart affair

In a bit of trivia that will fascinate historians of presidential politics, journalism and tawdry sex scandals, the New York Times has named a South Florida woman it says was the source of a Miami Herald story 27 years ago that wrecked the candidacy of Democrat Gary Hart.

Hart, a U.S. senator from Colorado, was the frontrunner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when the Herald published a story detailing his dalliance with a sleek Miami model and bit actress named Donna Rice.

The story sent Hart’s campaign into a tailspin that ended with his withdrawal a week later. It also began a new era of political journalism in which politicians’ private lives, which had been mostly exempt from media scrutiny, were now considered measurements of “character” and thus fair game for reporters.

The Herald’s report was triggered by an anonymous source who had seen the married Hart partying with Rice aboard a yacht (named, with unspeakable irony, the Monkey Business) anchored at Turnberry Isle. The Herald has never identified her. More from Glenn Garvin here. 



As inmate death count mounts, Florida prison boss fires 32 guards on Friday

255 Michael Crews071114 Department of CorrectionsThirty-two guards with the Florida Department of Corrections were fired Friday afternoon in what union officials were calling a “Friday night massacre.” All were accused of criminal wrongdoing or misconduct in connection with the deaths of inmates at four state prisons.

One of them is Rollin Suttle Austin, the subject of a Miami Herald investigative report coming Sunday. The Herald has published a string of articles alleging brutality and corruption in the prison system.

Eighteen of those fired by Secretary Michael Crews were involved in the death of Matthew Walker at Charlotte Correctional Institution on April 11. Walker, 55, was killed in what the DOC is calling an “inappropriate use of force.”

Five other fired corrections officers from Union Correctional had been accused of using excessive force in the death of inmate Rudolf Rowe on Aug. 16, 2012. Story here. 

Photo: Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews, shown in this July 10, 2014, file photo, fired more than 30 guards Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in connection with inmate deaths.AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

With black voters crucial to Charlie Crist, will they turn out?

Crist black vote

Mary Wilkerson is aware there's a governor's race on the November ballot, but "it's not on my radar,'' says the 60-year-old from Jacksonville.

Wilkerson, a black Democrat and reliable supporter of Barack Obama, is the kind of voter who is pivotal to the candidacy of Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat.

His campaign has put a premium on building a field operation aimed at turning out the vote in key communities and has crafted a careful message of inclusion that aims to avoid the mistakes that imperiled Alex Sink, the Democrat who lost to Gov. Rick Scott four years ago by less than 2 percent of the vote.

Blacks made up 11 percent of the vote in 2010, "but if that vote share had been over 12 percent, Rick Scott would not be governor,'' said Omar Khan, Crist's campaign manager.

While the two remain virtually tied in recent polls, black voters overwhelmingly support Crist over Scott this election cycle. Black voters showed up in larger numbers in 2008 and 2012 than white voters, but will they bring record numbers to the polls if Obama is not at the top of the ticket?

That's a question black leaders across the state have been asking since the August primary, when less than 5 percent of the 1.6 million black voters in Florida cast ballots, and it has influenced their answer.

"We're not doing it for Charlie, we're doing it for us,'' said former North Miami City Councilman Jacques Despinosse. He is using his show on Haitian radio to promote Crist and running mate Annette Taddeo because, he said, he "doesn't trust Scott." READ STORY HERE.

Photo: Charlie Crist speaks with parishioners at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday in St. Petersburg. Photo by Brian Blanco

Six weeks until Election Day, but first wave of Florida ballots already in the mail


 TALLAHASSEE — More than six weeks before Election Day, some voters are already casting ballots and helping elect Florida’s next governor.

County elections supervisors have until Saturday to mail hundreds of thousands of ballots to Floridians living overseas, many of whom are active-duty military personnel.

Those far-flung voters in Europe, Asia and elsewhere can’t see the constant barrage of TV ads in the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist. But they represent the first wave of voters in a general election in which more than half of all participating voters likely will have voted by the time polls open Nov. 4.

Absentee or mail ballots can start going out Sept. 30, a full 10 days before the first of three live TV debates between Scott and Crist.

More here

September 19, 2014

Court hears Bainter's challenge to releasing his emails, he warns of repercussions

BainterOne of Florida's top Republican political consultants stopped short of accusing the state Supreme Court of lacking "integrity" Friday if it rules that he must disclose emails in a case brought under the state’s new anti-gerrymanding laws.

Pat Bainter, whose firm Data Targeting Inc. has battled for two years to keep the documents private in a lengthy legal battle over the state’s redistricting maps, argued that the release of his emails violates his First Amendment right to anonymous political speech.

But after the justices – who have had access to the documents -- raised doubts about Bainter’s argument that they were trade secrets, he issued a blistering statement.

"Today’s Supreme Court hearing is the culmination of a legal assault and press sensationalism as to whether or not I, a private citizen, have the right to petition my government without fear of a political inquisition into my private matters," he wrote after the oral arguments. "After today's hearing, it is clear to me that, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, Amendments 5 & 6 are unconstitutional because they criminalize political speech based upon its content."

Photo: Pat Bainter, left, consults with his attorneys before the courtroom was closed for his testimony about his undisclosed emails.

Continue reading "Court hears Bainter's challenge to releasing his emails, he warns of repercussions" »

GOP's Bainter says the Supreme Court's 'integrity' is at stake in his case before them

With his First Amendment challenge pending before the Florida Supreme Court, GOP political consultant Pat Bainter issued a rare statement calling out the court after oral arguments today in which he urged the court to keep secret his emails related to redistricting.

Bainter is now suggesting that the "institutional integrity of the court is at stake" in how they rule.

Here's the statement: 

Continue reading "GOP's Bainter says the Supreme Court's 'integrity' is at stake in his case before them" »

Charlie Crist releases "4,000 lies" ad against Rick Scott over Ponzi-scheme spot


In response to Gov. Rick Scott's second ad about Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, Democrat Charlie Crist is releasing his second response commercial, called "4,000 lies" -- a references to the estimated number of times the ad called "swindle" ran.

At the heart of Crist response: the misleading nature of "swindle," which The Miami Herald exposed this week. Scott, too, has walked back part of the ad's core allegation that suggests Crist was complicit in Rothstein's crime.

Crist's ad is an improvement on his prior response spot in which he said Scott has "teamed up" with Rothstein. PolitiFact rated that Crist claim False (and it found that Scott's first ad's claim that Rothstein claimed Crist sold judges was half true). It's likely to rate this Crist commercial either true or mostly true because the ad pivots to video of Scott ducking questions in a civil deposition concerning his former hospital company, Columbia/HCA, which was socked with a record $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine.

While it's true that Scott once invoked his right against self-incrimination 75 times in a deposition, it wasn't in this deposition featured in the spot. 

But like Scott, the Crist campaign has it's script. And it's sticking to it.

"Fraud then. Fraud now," the Crist ad says in closing. "He's just too shady for the Sunshine State." 

In a written statement, the Scott campaign said "Rothstein and Crist both swindled the people of Florida. One has apologized, the other has not." 

Broward PBA's complaint vs. Gov. Scott dismissed

The Florida Elections Commission has thrown out a highly-publicized complaint that was filed against Gov. Rick Scott in July, calling it "hearsay."

The complaint accused Scott of illegally coercing uniformed law enforcement officers from the Hillsborough County sheriff's office and other agencies to attend a campaign event in Tampa. Widely reported by Florida TV stations, the incident was a distraction for Scott's campaign for at least a week and it attracted national news coverage.

A colonel in the Hillsborough sheriff's office, Jim Previtera, said at the time that he and other officers believed they were going to an official state function, not a political event promoting Scott's re-election. The elections panel dismissed the complaint without conducting an investigation.

Amy McKeever Toman, executive director of the elections commission, dismissed the complaint in an Aug. 21 letter to Jeff Marano, president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, who had filed it. The Broward PBA chapter and its statewide association both support Scott's Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist.

"You do not, however, provide any personal information or information other than hearsay to support youre allegation that respondent (Scott) either coerced state employees to participate in political events or used the services of state employees during work hours," Toman told Marano. "As such, I find your complaint to be legally insufficient."

"I'm very disappointed that they're not going to investigate it," Marano said. "They should send investigators down there to determine whether it happened or not. I made the allegation. They need to conduct the investigation."

Marano's complaint is one of more than a dozen election law or ethics complaints filed against the Scott and Crist campaigns by their opponents.

"It was a baseless complaint from a substanceless candidate," said Greg Blair, a spokesman for Scott's campaign.

In 'dirty deal' linked to David Rivera, judge reduces convict's prison sentence


Justin Lamar Sternad wanted to go to Washington.

Instead, the former congressional candidate took the bus to Miami’s downtown federal courthouse on Friday to get his prison sentence reduced in a campaign-finance scheme tied to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Still dressed in his working clothes after pulling an all-nighter graveyard shift at a local hotel, Sternad said he was thankful that a judge cut his prison sentence from seven months to 30 days with three month’s house arrest. He earned the reduction because of his remorse and substantial cooperation that helped prosecutors nab Rivera’s confidante, Ana Alliegro.

Rivera is the feds next target for indictment.

"I hope it's sooner than later," Sternad, a 37-year-old father of five, told a Miami Herald reporter when he was asked if he’d like to see the former congressman charged.

"I'm going to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice," Sternad said. Alliegro is also cooperating.

Rivera has denied wrongdoing ever since The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald began exposing the crime in the 2012 Democratic primary campaign for Congressional District 26.

Sternad, a no-name with no money, had filed to run for the office but quickly realized he needed cash. That’s when Alliegro, allegedly directed by Rivera, decided to approach him and offer him money – at least $81,000.

Sternad used the money to pay for various expenses, mailers and robo-calls to campaign against Rivera’s rival, Joe Garcia. Garcia went on to beat Sternad and others in the primary and then bested the Republican Rivera in the general election.

Rivera ran for reelection this year, but was soundly defeated in a GOP primary as the investigation grew closer to him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill credited Sternad for his help and moved the court to reduce his sentence. But, Mulvihill said, he still needed some jail time.

“It’s not as if he’s an innocent dupe,” said Mulvihill, who was compelled last week and in August by a judge to name Rivera as the mastermind of the conspiracy. 

Sternad’s lawyer, Enrique “Rick” Yabor, argued that his client should just receive house arrest. But he acknowledged Sternad did wrong, but at a certain point, he was in over his head.

“He admits his reaction was to stick his head in the sand,” Yabor said about Sternad’s mindset when it was clear he was breaking campaign-finance laws.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga was clearly sympathetic to Sternad. But she agreed with the prosecutor – that Sternad needed to do some jail time for the “dirty deal.”

Altonaga said he should receive a lighter sentence than Alliegro, who made the crime possible and had twice fled the United States to Nicaragua rather than cooperate with the feds. Alliegro last week was sentenced to six month's time served in jail and six more months of house arrest.

At Yabor’s request, she decided to delay the imposition of the sentence until Nov. 3.

That’s the day before Election Day, when Sternad had hoped two years ago that he’d be running for reelection and not slouching toward the federal Bureau of Prisons to be incarcerated.

Tracker video shows Carlos Curbelo calling Medicare, Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme'


Taking a page from Rick Perry, Miami congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo called Medicare and Social Security "a Ponzi scheme" that needs extensive reforms in order to remain sustainable.

Curbelo, who was in D.C. fundraising, made the comment in a talk to George Washington University College Republicans on Thursday. A Democratic "tracker" filmed Curbelo's university remarks -- unbeknown to him, Curbelo said Friday.

"I speak about both of these programs as one because they both suffer from the same long-term insolvency, meaning that they won't be around for us, meaning that we're paying into a system that, you know, is a Ponzi scheme," he told the college students. "Rick Perry said that. That's one of the few things I think Rick Perry contributed when he ran for president last time -- and I worked for him, so I can say that."

Perry, the Texas governor, characterized Social Security as a Ponzi scheme in his 2010 book leading up to his 2012 presidential run, and then repeated it in interviews and debates. He wasn't the first one to use the term. Several times, PolitiFact has rated the claim False.

On Friday, Curbelo maintained his point that Medicare and Social Security need changing. His website lists entitlement reform as a priority, though without going into much detail.

"Young people are paying into a system that won't be there for them," Curbelo said. "Any reasonable person understands that people are living longer."

The Miami-Dade school board member is challenging Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in Florida's 26th congressional district.

Curbelo told the GWU College Republicans that he favors indexing Medicare and Social Security to life expectancy, so people receive it later in life; means-testing or a sliding scale so seniors with less wealth would receive more benefits; and linking annual benefit adjustments to "chained CPI," an inflation measure that would trim some entitlement costs. Democratic President Barack Obama supported that idea before backing away from it earlier this year.

Garcia has already attacked Curbelo on Medicare, claiming the Republican favors "ending the Medicare guarantee" -- which PolitiFact has also rated False.

While Democrats will likely make much hay of Curbelo's Medicare and Social Security comments to older voters, they likely won't point to other parts of the tracker video -- such as when the Republican endorses a path the legalization for immigrants who are in the country illegally, much as Garcia does.

Here are the relevant clips -- though not the full video of Curbelo's remarks -- as recorded by the Democratic tracker. The full video is available after the job.



Continue reading "Tracker video shows Carlos Curbelo calling Medicare, Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme'" »