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

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

August 23, 2016

Alan Grayson's personal wealth shrunk last year


U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson saw his personal wealth diminish significantly last year, but he’s still a multimillionaire, according to financial documents released Tuesday.

At the end of 2015, Grayson, an Orlando Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, was worth between $2.6 million and $37.2 million, according to a required financial disclosure.

That’s a decrease from 2014, when Grayson reported a net worth of $13.9 million to $104.8 million.

He has a stake in 56 businesses or other holdings. His only debts are mortgages on two homes worth between $1.5 million and $6 million. In 2015, he earned between $640,000 and $4.5 million in dividends, interest and capital gains from his investments, in addition to his congressional salary of $174,000.

Congressional financial disclosures are notoriously vague, requiring candidates and legislators to report their assets, liabilities and income in broad ranges.

Generally, the disclosures are due in May. However, Grayson requested an extension that pushed his deadline to early last week. It took until Tuesday for the form — 34 pages, filled out by hand — to be available from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Grayson says he took the extension because his finances are “more complicated than other people's. Mine are 40 pages, most people's are five.”

He is running in the Aug. 30 Democratic Senate primary against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and labor attorney Pam Keith.

Grayson’s finances have been the subject of controversy in the past.

He was investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics over allegations that he used his position and once-offshore hedge funds to make money. The ethics office referred the case to the House Ethics Committee, where it remains open.

Grayson contends the office’s findings were false and says the case is essentially over because the ethics committee did not appoint a subcommittee in the case.

After Day 1 of mail ballot reviews, Pinellas tosses 29 votes

As primary mail ballot returns in Pinellas County approach 100,000, a county canvassing board has begun scrutinizing ballots that have been set aside as defective.

Meeting for the first time on Monday, the three-member board reviewed 159 ballots and rejected 29 of them, most of them because the signature on the ballot envelope didn't match the signature of that voter on file. Five other ballots were rejected because the ballot envelope was signed by someone other than the voter. 

Pinellas reported 146 mail ballots arrived with no signature on the ballot envelope as required by law. They have not been rejected because state law allows a voter to "cure" the problem by providing a signature by 5 p.m. next Monday, Aug. 29.

For this primary, the number of rejected mail ballots in Pinellas is likely to be in the hundreds, but it's usually much less than 1 percent of all mail ballots cast.

The Pinellas canvassing board includes County Judge John Carassas, County Commissioner David Eggers and Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark.

Florida state senator says she's lifelong resident of new Miami district. She doesn't live there.

Flores Debating


Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores is already on the airwaves ahead of her November general election race against non-profit fundraiser Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

A recent TV ad in Spanish and English begins with "Anitere Flores, a lifelong resident of District 39."

That's not true. 

Flores, who currently represents District 38, does not live in the newly redrawn district that extends from western Miami-Dade County to Key West.

"Her mother's home where she grew up is in District 39...her kids spend time there and go to school in the district," Flores campaign consultant Steven Ferreiro said.  "She doesn't reside in the district right now, 99.9 percent of it is true, basically."

Ferreiro said that Flores is in the process of putting offers on houses in the district. State Senate candidates are not required to live in their district when they qualify for office but must move into the district to serve in Tallahassee.

Flores has a significant fundraising operation, with over $1 million in contributions and in-kind donations going toward her reelection effort. Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat, has raised just under $120,000 since declaring her candidacy just days before the qualifying deadline on June 23.



Alan Grayson's latest supporter? Actor, activist Danny Glover


Actor and political activist Danny Glover is encouraging Florida voters to support Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's bid for U.S. Senate.

With a week to go before the state's contentious party primary, Glover filmed a video endorsement and penned a fundraising email to Grayson supporters today.

He praises Grayson as "someone who I believe is a brilliant, extraordinary Congressman, and will be a brilliant, extraordinary Senator, when elected to the Senate from Florida."

"He is a man who is about the truth -- who is talking about the issues, the issues that affect your life, the issues that affect your communities," Glover said. "Democracy is in desperate need for clear voices, voices that are not afraid to tell it like it is. Voices that will bring people out, and make them accountable as well. Voices that are responsible to those communities – [responsible to] everyone, not just the special interests, not even the special interests, but voices that are accountable to everyone. Alan Grayson is that kind of voice."

Grayson, of Orlando, posted Glover's video message on both his YouTube page and on a campaign webpage soliciting contributions from supporters.

In the Aug. 30 election, Grayson faces fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Pam Keith, a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer. Murphy is considered the front-runner, thanks to favorable polling and aggressive support by the Democratic establishment.

Grayson's campaign suffered a setback last month, after his former wife accused Grayson of domestic abuse during their 25-year marriage that was annulled last year. Grayson has disputed the allegations, but he nonetheless lost a couple high-profile progressive endorsements over the controversy.

Pro-Clinton super PAC unveils another anti-Trump TV ad in Florida

via @learyreports

A new Florida ad from Priorities USA Action juxtaposes children giving the Pledge of Allegiance with Donald Trump's greatest hits.

The ad will also run in North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada and Iowa, the Hillary Clinton super PAC said. By the end of August, Priorities will have spent $12 million in Florida.


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Private prison operator Geo Group boosts Rubio campaign coffers

Senate 2016 Rubio(2)
via @learyreports

The federal government’s decision to stop using private prisons puts a spotlight on one of Geo Group’s favorite politicians: Marco Rubio.

Few candidates in the country have gotten more help from the Boca Raton based company, including $80,400 in the last month alone.

Geo Group employees and political action committee contributed $30,400 to Rubio’s Senate campaign while the PAC gave $50,000 to the super PAC supporting Rubio, records show.

That’s on top of nearly $190,000 in support Rubio has received dating to his time as speaker of the Florda House, when Geo Group landed a major contract with the state, to his presidential run.

Rubio said Monday that he hadn’t read the Justice Department report citing cost and safety concerns at private prisons. Geo Group stock plunged but was on the rise Monday as company officials downplayed any significant harm to their bottom line.

“I’ll look at the report and what they found and if the findings are such that justify their decision, then it will be justified,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday while campaigning in Tallahassee. “At the end of the day, contractors are supposed to save us money, not cost us money.”

The campaign declined to answer a follow-up question about why Rubio has gotten so much attention from the country’s second-largest private prison operator.

Continue reading "Private prison operator Geo Group boosts Rubio campaign coffers" »

Gov. Rick Scott confirms non-travel Zika virus case in Pinellas County


CLEARWATER — Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that a locally-transmitted case of Zika virus has been confirmed in Pinellas County.

However, the state does not believe mosquitoes are actively spreading Zika in the county.

“While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” he said in a statement. Both of those locations are in Miami-Dade County.

The state is offering free Zika tests to pregnant women and is advising Pinellas residents who want mosquito control services to contact the county’s mosquito control.

Zika has been linked to birth defects, including babies being born with small heads.
Previously, cases in Tampa Bay have all been related to travel to places where Zika is spreading more rapidly, such as Brazil and Puerto Rico.

Carlos Beruff puts more than $8M into primary campaign against Marco Rubio



In his longshot bid for the U.S. Senate, Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff has loaned his campaign more than $8 million and donated another $151,000, new campaign finance reports released by the Federal Election Commission show.

From July 1 to Aug 10, Beruff loaned his campaign 3.9 million. That is in addition to $4.1 million he loaned his campaign from the time it started in February through June 30.

Beruff has raised just $30,000 from other donors.

The  $8.2 million so far from Beruff is short of his earlier projections to spend between $10 million to $15 million to win the seat. Beruff, however, is still not the nation’s top self-funded candidate of Congress this year. That title remains with David Trone, a Democrat who lost his primary race earlier this year for a U.S. House seat in Maryland, despite spending $10 million of his own money on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Beruff is the top U.S. Senate self-funder in the 2016 cycle.

For the total campaign Beruff has raised and loaned his campaign a total of $8.2 million and spent about $8.2 million - primarily on television ads. He had $300,000 left in his campaign account as of Aug. 10.

Beruff is trying to beat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the Aug. 30 primary. Rubio has reported raising $5.4 million since he jumped back into the U.S. Senate race in June. He spent just $760,000 as of Aug. 10, the newly released FEC reports show. That leaves him with $4.7 million cash on hand.

Beruff campaigns in Clearwater, Rubio back in Miami


With Election Day just a week away now, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff turns his attention to Clearwater. The Manatee County homebuilder is schedule to speak at a townhall-style meeting at a Springhill Suites in Clearwater at 11:30 a.m. 

Beruff is back on the trial after taking Monday off to focus on his role as chairman of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is back in Miami after spending most of Monday campaigning in North Florida. Rubio is primarily fundraising today, with no other public events scheduled.


Marco Rubio takes aim at Chuck Schumer in U.S. Senate race


More than 200 people turned out in Marianna to see U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio speak to the Jackson County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner. Photo:  Jeremy Wallace/Tampa Bay Times


Forget either of the Democrats challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio or even his Republican primary opponent on the ballot next week. During a pair of campaign stops in North Florida, Rubio made clear who he is really trying to stop: Chuck Schumer.

At a pair of speeches spread over 70 miles and six hours on Monday, Rubio told audiences that a big reason he finally decided to run for re-election was because of Schumer, the New York Democrat who would become the new Senate Majority Leader if Democrats win back the majority in November.

“If we lose the Senate in Florida, that means we probably lose the Senate,” Rubio told 60 supporters at meeting in Tallahassee. “That means Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader. That means all of the of these public policies that Barack Obama has put into place remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

Hours later in Jackson County, Rubio similarly told more than 200 people at a local Republican Party fundraising dinner that if he had not run, he feared it would make it easier for Schumer to become the leader of the Senate. That in turn he said would give the New York Senator too much say in picking the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died earlier this year.

“And I promise you that if Chuck Schumer is in charge of the U.S. Senate, the person they will confirm in that Senate will be nothing like the kind of justice we want and nothing like the kind of justice Scalia was,” Rubio said.

Rubio said after his speech in Tallahassee that he just wants people to understand that if Schumer is the majority leader he will become a rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton agenda if she wins the White House.

“That’s not the direction America wants to go in. I believe that,” Rubio said. “That’s the practical implication of losing the majority in the Senate. Chuck would be the majority leader. And I think Chuck stands for issues - stands for public policies ideas - that the majority of Floridians don’t support.”