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June 13, 2017

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday



Tim Canova, who lost a heated Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in August, will announce his political plans for 2018 Thursday.

Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed to the Miami Herald in a text Tuesday that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m Thursday:

Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won't want to miss out!”

In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

While Canova has argued someone on the left should challenge Wasserman Schultz, he hasn’t made clear if that someone will be him or whether he will run for another office. Two possibilities: he could be joining an already crowded Democratic field for governor or running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s only statewide Democratic office holder who is likely to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Earlier this year, Canova delivered petitions to Nelson’s Coral Gables office to demand he take action to halt the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

Despite Canova’s loss to Wasserman Schultz by 14 percentage points in the August primary, his prolific fundraising showed he is a serious candidate. In his first race ever, Canova drew drew support from Bernie Sanders’ fans and raised $3.8 million.

Last year was the first time that Wasserman Schultz faced a challenge from the left in many years. She defended her seat when she was at her most vulnerable -- several weeks after she resigned as chair of the Democratic National Committee amid leaks of emails showing the party favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Canova expressed frustration with the Florida Democratic Party and said that it is allowing Wasserman Schultz to make welcoming remarks at the annual Leadership Blue gala. Canova directed some of his ire at party chairman Stephen Bittel, an ally of Wasserman Schultz.

“Why the party would want to promote the very personification of scandal, disgrace, and failure to open the gala says more about the incompetence and bad faith of Bittel and his leadership team than any lip service they've given in recent months and even recent days about remaining neutral and impartial in contested primaries.”

But Wasserman Schultz's spokesman David Damron said that Wasserman Schultz isn't speaking at the gala.

The Florida Democratic Party has not yet released a list of speakers -- other than headliner former Vice President Joe Biden -- and declined to comment.

Nelson will speak at the event, his spokesman Ryan Brown said.

This post has been updated to include information from spokespersons for Wasserman Schultz and Nelson.

Rex Tillerson doesn't get into Cuba policy review specifics during Senate hearing



Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not get into specifics when asked about President Donald Trump's Cuba announcement set for Friday in Miami as senators from both parties questioned Tillerson during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"Can you give us some of the general contours you see shaping up relative to what that policy is going to be?" asked committee chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and Trump ally. 

"The general to allow as much of this continued commercial and engagement activity go to on as possible," Tillerson said. "We do see the sunny side as I describe it, we do see the benefits of that and to the Cuban people. But on the other hand, we think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and the treatment of its people. Our concern is that they may be the biggest beneficiaries of all of this which promotes the continuance of that regime." 

Tillerson said that pressure on the Cuban government to implement democratic reforms "has been, in our view, largely removed now" after former President Barack Obama strengthened relations between the United States and Cuba in 2016. 

"I was down there not long ago and America has always felt that if it could do more business with folks it would pave the way for democracy," Corker said. "I do hope we end up with a policy that will cause the Cuban people themselves to reach their aspirations." 

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, a supporter of Obama's efforts, rattled off a host of business ventures now possible in Cuba after Obama's changes, including the introduction of Airbnb into the Cuban economy. 

"Do you agree we should continue these efforts or do you believe we should return to the failed policies of the Cold War?" Udall asked. 

"Well, what you have described is the sunny side of the relationship and it's all positive and it's great," Tillerson said. "There is the dark side though and that is Cuba has failed to improve it's own human rights record. What we have to achieve in approaching Cuba is if were going to sustain the sunny side of this relationship Cuba must begin to address the human rights challenges. Within the sunny side of the relationship there are troubling elements to us that bring the relationship into conflict with existing statute obligations. Are we inadvertently or directly providing financial support to the regime? Our view is, we are." 

Tillerson also said he supports efforts to improve internet access in Cuba, but hedged that the focus of the policy review is making sure the Cuban government does not financially benefit from increased U.S. involvement on the island. 

In late May, 55 senators from both parties signed on to a bill that would fully eliminate travel restrictions to the island. 

Cuban-American lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart — who favor the elimination of what they see as concessions to the Cuban government — have been involved in the Cuba review in recent months. 

Friday's announcement will reportedly take place at the Manuel Artime Theater, a former church that is symbolic for Cuban exiles. 

Governor candidates Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham lead in May fundraising

Adam PutnamGwen GrahamAndrew Gillum Miami Herald Chris King campaign The financial arms race for governor got off to a quick start in May, as Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam raised $2.2 million in hard dollars and Democrat Gwen Graham reported $1.5 million, according to reports from the campaigns or posted Monday on the state Division of Elections website.

Putnam, the Florida commissioner of agriculture who officially launched his campaign in May after spending the last two years raising funds through his political committee, finished the month with a whopping $9 million in cash on hand. After he formally entered the race in May 1, his campaign raised $1,190,946 and his political committee, “Florida Grown,” collected $1,017,702.

Graham's committee, Our Florida, raised $1.1 million for a total of $1.8 million since her official announcement May 2. The bulk of that, about $950,000, came from her former congressional committee. Her campaign appears to have raised about $430,000 for the month, according to a press release. Details had not been posted late Monday on the state elections website. 

Chris Kingthe Orlando businessman also running in the Democratic primary, announced his campaign has raised $2 million to date. That includes $1.4 million from his campaign, which was boosted by the $1 million contribution he gave himself. King's political committee, Rise and Lead, Florida, has raised $543,750 to date, including $121,256 in May. One of the largest contributors to King's political committee is $166,000 from his father, Orlando lawyer David King, who successfully challenged the Republican Legislature's redistricting maps on behalf of a coalition led by the League of Women Voters.

Democrat Andrew Gillum has raised $1.1 million to date, including $96,760 in May, Division of Elections data shows. His political committee, Florida Forward, did not raise anything in May in part because Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, “took some well-deserved time off the campaign trail" to welcome in third child, said campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan.

Note: all amounts listed are hard dollars, not in-kind contributions. 

Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren agree on one issue—federal flood insurance must change

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Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren rarely see eye-to-eye on major policy issues but both agree the National Flood Insurance Program must be fixed. 

The program, run by FEMA, must be reauthorized by September 30 as part of the 2018 budget. Rubio and Warren, along with Sens. Bob Menendez, John Kennedy, Chris Van Hollen and Thad Cochran penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday outlining their plan to make federal flood insurance fiscally sound. 

"Powerful floods devastate communities across America every year," the op-ed reads. "After these catastrophic natural disasters, too many Americans find themselves facing a man-made calamity: a National Flood Insurance Program that overcharges and underdelivers for policyholders and for taxpayers. As members of the Senate Banking and Appropriations committees, which oversee flood insurance and provide federal disaster response, we plan to offer bipartisan landmark legislation to tackle systemic problems with flood insurance and to reframe our entire disaster paradigm." 

The proposal comes as the federal flood insurance program is billions of dollars in debt and still dealing with the financial impacts of major hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, where homeowners said federal engineers were encouraged to lie about storm damage to limit federal insurance payouts.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo also introduced legislation relating to flood insurance earlier this year. His bill would allow non-primary residences and businesses to be eligible for the same flood insurance rates as primary residences.

“This bill is critical to South Florida, especially for residents of the Florida Keys that are in desperate need of affordable housing options," Curbelo said in a statement. "The Flood Insurance Fairness Act would ensure all Americans have access to affordable flood insurance by guaranteeing that all non-primary residences and business properties receive the same rates provided to primary homes under the National Flood Insurance Program.” 

Read the rest of the op-ed here.


Fox News co-host claim about climate change and temperatures rates Pants on Fire



Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld says people who cite statistics about the hottest year ever or high temperatures are spreading "B.S."

He says people who make such claims are not telling the full story about temperature statistics.

"If you asked them what the increase was, they wouldn't be able to tell you that every single year that there's an increase, it is within the margin of error, meaning it isn’t increasing," Gutfeld said June 2 on the show he co-hosts, The Five.

"So, those are called real truths," he continued. "The poetic truth is the chaos and the hysteria, because that plays to the media. And it makes you feel so important. And you get to punish America for being so successful by doing these stupid deals. But if you read the facts about the high temperatures, about the reality of our past, it is all B.S."

Gutfeld made the statement on The Five as the panel discussed President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

We interviewed several scientists who said Gutfeld’s statement -- that temperature increases are within the margin of error and therefore not increasing -- is wrong. Rather than point to "single year" increases, experts said that long-term trends clearly show the temperature has been rising for decades.
Keep reading from PolitiFact.
Photo: People walk at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on Ipanema beach on June 2, 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. According to the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), Rio's average temperature would rise around one degree Celsius between 2015 and 2020 along with a sea level rise of 14 cm Mario Tama Getty Images

The First Annual Rick Scott-Richard Corcoran Reconciliation Tour

ScottSOS030717Remember when Gov. Rick Scott called House Speaker Richard Corcoran anti-family, a job-killer, and a career politician to boot? Or when Corcoran called Scott "a governor who won't help us" and who only cared about protecting an "absolute cesspool" at Enterprise Florida?

Scott and Corcoran now realize they're both better off congratulating each other than kicking each other. On Tuesday, the two Republicans will hop-skotch around the state on what Scott calls the "Fighting for Florida's Future Victory Tour" to celebrate money for K-12 students, tourism, job creation and the dike at Lake Okeechobee.

Scott has done similar fly-arounds in past years to draw media attention to tax cuts and jobs, but this one looks more like The Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran Reconciliation Tour, and cynics will surely say it's mostly about Scott's political future, and Corcoran's, rather than Florida's.

"The message is that we're on the same page in fighting for jobs and fighting for a world-class education," Corcoran said Monday.

The fly-around begins at Jungle Island in Miami and travels to West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville Beach.

Corcoran chartered his own plane through the Republican Party of Florida (it wouldn't look right for the speaker who banned House members from hitching rides on lobbyists' planes to ride with the governor, who by law is a principal represented by lobbyists, creating a gift ban problem). Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, also was invited to participate, but he had left for a long-planned Senate GOP golf tournament fund-raiser in San Diego before the governor finalized his travel plans.

The fact that Scott wants Corcoran at his side on this tour is the strongest indication yet that the governor will sign HB 7069, the sweeping school choice bill that Corcoran calls "transformational" that has been under attack for weeks by educators across Florida. The word is that Scott will sign the bill Thursday, again with the once-vilified Corcoran at his side, as the two men's schedules converge in Orlando.

As Cabinet races heat up, money flows to ag commissioner candidates

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The end of session last month brought the first chance for some of the highest-power candidates for the Florida Cabinet to raise funds.

With all three Cabinet seats open in the 2018 election, would-be attorneys general, commissioners of agriculture and chief financial officers posted May fundraising numbers meant to intimidate.

Though the full field of candidates are still forming, here’s a rundown of May numbers for those who have declared.

Commissioner of agriculture

Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley raised $71,390 last month to her campaign and her political committee, Saving Florida's Heartland. That brings her total since the November election to $876,795.

That includes a $20,000 transfer from her old campaign account. Grimsley’s top donors are:

* Associated Industries of Florida, through various political committees: $80,000

* Florida Leadership Committee, the political committee run by Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala: $53,000

* Innovate Florida, the political committee run by future Senate President Joe Negron: $50,000

* Florida Chamber of Commerce: $26,000

* U.S. Sugar: $25,000

Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell brought in $111,915 last month between his campaign and a political committee called Friends of Matt Caldwell to bring his total to $822,764 since his reelection to the Florida House last November.

That includes a $170,000 donation from fellow Rep. Jason Brodeur’s political committee in February that looks to have been funded by a separate transfer from an older Caldwell account. Ignoring the Brodeur contribution, Caldwell’s top donors since November are:

* Associated Industries of Florida, through various committees: $101,000

* Florida Jobs PAC, run by the Florida Chamber of Commerce: $40,000

* U.S. Sugar: $25,000

* Six Ls Packing Company: $25,000

* Free Markets for Florida, a political committee run by state Reps. Ray Rodrigues, Travis Cummings and Manny Diaz: $23,000

Former Republican state Rep. Baxter Troutman just filed to run Monday, so he has not reported any donations yet. But he did say he plans to kickstart his campaign with a $2.5 million contribution from his own deep pockets.

Michael Christine, a University of Miami law student and newcomer to Democratic Party politics, raised $3,183 last month, bringing his total since declaring in April to $3,559. His top donors are all individuals and all donated to his campaign, capping them at $3,000. 

Onetime Orlando mayoral candidate and businessman Paul Paulson, a Republican, raised $273,023 last month. But nearly all of that — $250,080 was a loan from the candidate himself. He also lent $120,000 to his campaign in April.

Attorney general

Republican state Rep. Jay Fant raised $88,575 last month between his campaign and a political committee, Pledge This Day. Since essentially being reelected to the House last June, he has raised 173,475. Fant’s top donors — excluding $5,000 from himself:

* JB Coxwell Contracting: $9,000

* Petropac, an oilfield services company: $6,000

* U.S. Sugar: $5,000

* Quintin Kendall, an executive at CSX Transportation: $5,000

* Committee of Florida Agents, a real estate group: $5,000

Fellow Republican Ashley Moody, a former judge in Hillsborough County, announced in June and has not had to publish campaign finance.

Ryan Torrens, a Democrat and Tampa foreclosure lawyer, raised $3,618 in May, all from individuals.

Chief financial officer

The lone declared candidate, former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring declared at the very end of May but raised $18,500 last month in a political committee, Florida Action Fund PC. Since 2015, that committee has raised $289,871. His top donors:

* Law firm Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart and Shipley: $25,000

* Private equity investor Jeff Roschman: $25,000

* Tech executive Alvaro Monserrat: $25,000

* Florida Chamber of Commerce: $25,000

* Florida Fire PAC, an arm of the Florida Professional Firefighters: $15,000

Note: This post has been updated to correct numbers reported for Sen. Denise Grimsley.

Digital ad campaign from Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity targets Bill Nelson



Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group financed by the industrialist Koch brothers, is launching a new, six-figure digital ad campaign targeting Florida Sen. Bill Nelson on tax reform.

AFP wants Nelson, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, to follow its principles for comprehensive tax reform. It's an unlikely request, given that Nelson is a Democrat.

Nelson is also running for reelection next year, and is expected to face a serious challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

AFP has been pushing Republican lawmakers to oppose a border-adjustment tax, which the group says would act as a tax on consumers.

June 12, 2017

Trump has not yet read final Cuba policy proposal

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via @ngameztorres

President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce a revised policy on relations with Cuba on Friday in Miami, but a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald that Trump had not yet seen the final recommendations following a lengthy review and has not made a decision.

“The president has not seen the final proposal and has not approved it. He is a very independent president in his way of thinking and it would not be the first time he throws something back to be reviewed,” White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré said.

She did say that the Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana is one of the places the White House has been looking at for events to be held in the city.

The Miami Herald reported Monday that the theater canceled an event on Friday from the Miami Royal Ballet apparently to make way for a White House event.

Among the changes that would be considered by the Trump administration are measures to limit business ventures between U.S. companies and Cuban entities controlled by the military, in particular, those belonging to the conglomerate known as GAESA, the economic arm of the Revolutionary Armed Forces that controls nearly 60 percent of the Cuban economy. 

“The United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is expected to publish a list of Cuban entities controlled by the” Cuban military, said John Kavulich, president of U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council. Companies could be added to an OFAC blacklist to ban financial transactions involving these companies, he added.

Aguirre Ferré said a proposal to prohibit business with GAESA, “is one of the many possibilities discussed. It is being considered as one of the many options.

“But almost everything is being looked at.”


Photo credit: Getty Images

Putnam touts Florida's increased access to concealed weapons on anniversary of Pulse massacre

via @adamsmithtimes

Republican gubernatoirial candidate Adam Putnam has long touted Florida's status as the number one state for concealed weapons permits and his efforts to make that system more efficient for consumers. But doing so the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the worst mass shooting in America's history, may raise some eyebrows.

"You can run government like a business and save money and deliver value to the people who make government possible through your hard-earned tax dollars," Putnam said in Bradenton today, as seen on this video the Democratic group American Bridge found on Putnam's Facebook page. "And we've proven that. And Florida is number one in concealed weapons license holders - people lawfully exercising their Second Amendment rights."


--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times