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May 18, 2016

Did 100,000 Puerto Ricans leave home last year?

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is urging Congress to pass legislation to deal with Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, saying that without action the economy and welfare of the U.S. territory will continue to deteriorate.

During an interview on the Bloomberg network, Lew said that Puerto Rican hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with the spread of the Zika virus, that schools are closing and that the failing economy is driving people out.

"You have broad economic stress causing people to leave the island," Lew said May 3, 2016. "Almost 100,000 people left Puerto Rico last year."

For an island with a total population around 3.5 million, that’s a serious exodus. We decided to see if Lew was right.

Keep reading the fact-check by Marta Cerava from PolitiFact.

May 17, 2016

Carlos Beruff casts himself as Senate outsider but record shows prolific campaign donations

Carlos Beruff bluntly declares politicians "worthless" in television commercials and proclaims himself an outsider ready to change Washington as Florida's next senator.

But a Times/Herald analysis of campaign donations shows the Manatee County land developer has been a major fundraiser for local, state and federal politicians. Since 2002, Beruff and his business holdings have made more than 730 campaign donations to support 103 political candidates — including a few Democrats — totaling just over $1 million. Congressional candidates, governors, county commissioners and presidential contenders have all benefitted.

While Senate rivals say the donations prove Beruff, 58, is the ultimate insider wielding a checkbook to gain influence, Beruff says he is the hunt for good governance.

"Giving money doesn't make you an insider," Beruff said. "If that's considered being an insider, I guess Donald Trump is an insider. That doesn't make sense."

Among the beneficiaries: Gov. Rick Scott, a super PAC that supported Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential bid, then-Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist, a political committee run by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former President George W. Bush and two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Full Story Here

 

Super PAC forms to help Todd Wilcox in Florida's U.S. Senate race

@JeremySWallace

All five Republicans running for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat now have a super PAC ready to help them. On Tuesday, a committee created earlier this year called Restore American Leadership stated on its website that it is supporting former CIA officer and Army veteran Todd Wilcox.

The PAC, first reported by The National Journal, had not raised or spent any money as of March 31, according to the last Federal Election Commission filings.

Wilcox sees no issue with a super PAC forming to help him even though he's tried to position himself as an outsider running against the political establishment. His campaign made clear they did not form the super PAC. His campaign spokeswoman Eric Isaac said the support shows Wilcox's growing momentum in the race.

Now all five Republican candidates have super PACs ready to help.

A committee called Fighting for Florida Fund is aiding U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach. FloridAmerican Conservatives is backing U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores. Reform Washington is supporting Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. And Lets Clean Up Washington formed in March to support Manatee County land developer Carlos Beruff.

Fact-checking the pro-Clinton super PAC attack on Donald Trump

A political action committee supporting Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton plans to launch general election-style ads attacking Donald Trump Wednesday, seizing on the presumptive Republican nominee’s controversial comments about women.

Priorities USA first published the ads, dubbed "Respect" and "Speak," online May 16. They’re part of a $6 million ad buy that will target battleground in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada between May 18 and June 8.

The ads highlight Trump’s own comments about women, including when he said Fox’s Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever," and his statement that women should be punished if they have an abortion.

Trump responded to the ads on Twitter, saying Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, "was the WORST abuser of woman in U.S. political history," and that his statements were "misquoted."

Keep reading from Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact.

FPL submits plan for clean-up of leaky cooling canals

via @JenStaletovich

Miami-Dade County will spend the next month combing through a massive trove of data submitted by Florida Power & Light this week to justify its plan for cleaning up leaky cooling canals at the utility’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant.

The county has also hired a University of Florida hydrologist to ensure the plan stops an underground plume of saltwater threatening drinking water supplies and leaking into Biscayne Bay.

“We’re not looking to just stop the hypersaline plume, we’re looking to draw it back,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners during an update at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, a day after FPL turned over its plan to county environmental regulators. “We’re actually looking to make it much better and getting back to original conditions.”

FPL has been grappling with problems at the plant, the sixth largest in the nation, since 2014 when temperatures in the canals spiked during a regional drought. The crisis, which twice caused the plant’s two nuclear reactors to power down, shed light on a thornier problem — for decades, salinity in canals used to cool the plant has been creeping up and causing an underground plume of saltwater to spread. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, canal water has now migrated more than five miles west of the canals, closing in a wellfield that supplies drinking water to the Florida Keys.

But fixing the problem has been a complex process, complicated by science and politics.

In a report requested by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and finalized last week, University of Miami hydrologist David Chin faulted the utility for doing too little to ensure the canals would work properly before it uprated the plant’s two reactors to produce more energy. Story here. 

Marco Rubio helps raise campaign cash for Carlos Lopez-Cantera

FullSizeRender (1)@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera spent Tuesday in Washington, relying on a little help from his friends to raise money for his U.S. Senate campaign.

The man Lopez-Cantera is hoping to succeed, Sen. Marco Rubio, was the "special guest" at the lunchtime fundraiser, held at the headquarters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Also co-hosting: Miami's three Republicans in Congress, Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

About 60 people showed up, the Miami Herald has learned. Lopez-Cantera trails most of his rivals in fundraising and the amount of cash on hand in his campaign account.

Rubio has made clear Lopez-Cantera is his candidate in the crowded GOP primary to replace him. But he's yet to hold a public event or given a formal endorsement to his old friend from the Florida Legislature.

Rubio recently told the Herald he'll have more to say "at some point in the near future" about campaigning for Lopez-Cantera.

FPL delays nuclear expansion as it deals with canal clean-up, but wants to charge customers for expansion anyway

FPL salt at turkey point

Florida Power & Light has told state officials that it will put a four-year pause on its construction plans for two proposed nuclear power plants at its troubled Turkey Point site but it wants the state to waive the requirement that it show the project is still "feasible" in order to charge customers in advance for it. 

"The analysis would impose a substantial hardship upon FPL and violate principles of fairness," FPL wrote in an motion filed April 27 with the Florida Public Service Commission.

This week, the City of Miami, consumer groups, environmental advocates and some of the state's largest electric power users, urged utility regulators to reject that request, saying FPL should be required to justify whether it is allowed to continue charging customers for a project that may be on the skids.

"If a project is no longer feasible or practical, then the costs incurred are not prudent,'' wrote City of Miami attorney Victoria Mendez in a motion filed with the PSC on Tuesday. "...Since FPL plans to continue recovering costs pursuant to section 366.93 while doing no additional work towards the completion of the project, it is imperative that FPL demonstrate the project is still economically feasible and practical.'' 

Since 2008, FPL has charged customers $281 million for the planning and licensing costs of two new nuclear power units -- Units 6 and 7 -- at its Turkey Point site on Biscayne Bay. It now wants to be able to charge customers another $22 million in the coming year.

The co-called "nuclear cost recovery" fee has been controversial since lawmakers created it in 2006. In 2013, after Duke Energy customers spent more than $1.5 billion financing a failed nuclear project, the Florida Legislature revised the law to require utility companies to prove that a nuclear project is feasible before the Public Service Commission gives the company permission to move into the "preconstruction" phase of the project.

"This annual feasibility analysis serves to safeguard customers from potentially paying millions of dollars over numerous years on a project when the long-term feasibility analysis may show that it is no longer viable going forward, and, accordingly, may be abandoned,'' wrote the Florida Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in rate cases in its motion filed Monday.

The future of FPL's planned nuclear expansion project has become inevitably tied to the clean-up of a massive underground salt water plume that is migrating towards South Florida's water supply. The plume is expected to have been caused by the utility company's 2013 nuclear plant expansion, intended to increase power output by 15 percent, which forced the canals to become dangerously warm. Story here. 

Continue reading "FPL delays nuclear expansion as it deals with canal clean-up, but wants to charge customers for expansion anyway" »

Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist

via @adamsmithtimes

So Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff called called President Barack Obama an animal the other day. As in: “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

The Ocala Star-Banner reports that Beruff said his comments were taken out of context:  "...I use strong language and it was meant in the context of the (current) dismantling of the military. I could have called him a bird, plane, anything,” Beruff said.

This, of course, makes complete sense:  “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this PLANE we call president, because he’s aPLANE, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

Anyhoo, his critics continue to seize on it.

Continue reading "Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist" »

White House calls out Florida Republicans in Congress over Zika funding

@PatriciaMazzei

The White House on Tuesday pressured Florida's 17 Republicans in Congress to say publicly whether they support $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would veto a House of Representatives bill that would provide far less money -- $622 million -- and referred again to support for the full $1.9 billion from Florida's Republican senator, Marco Rubio. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state in the country.

"The Republican senator from the state of Florida has indicated that the Congress should act expeditiously to pass the $1.9 billion funding proposal that our public-health experts say is needed," Earnest told reporters. "I think it'd be interesting to understand exactly what position the 17 other Republicans from Florida who represent the state in the Congress think of this."

Some of them have already come out in favor of Obama's request, including Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota and Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami (Curbelo drew some Democratic criticism for not being very vocal about his position).

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee sent Republican Speaker Paul Ryan a letter -- signed by more than 120 House Democrats -- urging the GOP to accept Obama's request.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Tuesday he's "concerned" about the House's reluctance to approve the full $1.9 billion. The Senate later signed off on a bill to fund $1.2 billion toward fighting the mosquito-borne virus.

"I'm glad that there has finally [been] some movement and that something's happening, but I'm really concerned about the direction their own funding measure is going," he said. "Their funding measure isn't even $1.1 billion, it's $622 million and, quite frankly, that's just not going to cut it."

 

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for Democrats

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama will be in Miami next month to ask wealthy Democratic donors to open their checkbooks to the political party ahead of the November election that will determine Obama's successor.

To lure donors to the June 3 dinner, the Democratic National Committee is billing the event as perhaps Obama's final Miami fundraiser as president.

"This may be the last time President Obama visits Miami as a sitting President, making it a truly special event," reads an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The fundraiser was first reported by Saint PetersBlog.

"This is a great opportunity to support the DNC and ultimately stop Donald Trump from reaching the White House in 2016," the invitation says.

 Though it doesn't say so on the invite, the dinner will take place at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

To attend and get a photo with the president, donors must contribute $10,000 per person. To "co-host" the event -- which usually comes with more access to the president -- they must contribute $33,400 per couple.

Obama headlined a similar fundraiser for the DNC a year ago in Coconut Grove, unofficially kicking off Democrats' presidential fundraising season.