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May 13, 2016

Candidates lining up for District 4 after Miami Commissioner says he'll run for mayor


Now that Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez has made clear he will run for mayor in 2017 -- a decision that if followed-through will eventually require him to resign from his commission seat -- look for more candidates to announce bids to become his successor in representing the city's fourth district.

On Friday, Monolo Reyes officially declared his interest in the District 4 seat. The announcement is hardly a surprise, given that Reyes kept his campaign account open following Suarez's aborted bid in 2013 to run for mayor. Reyes, a perennial commission candidate, ran against Suarez in 2009 and lost in a run-off election.

He joins Ralph Rosado as a candidate.

Continue reading "Candidates lining up for District 4 after Miami Commissioner says he'll run for mayor" »

Jeb Bush's daughter-in-law becomes U.S. citizen


Jeb Bush's daughter-in-law raised her right hand Friday and pledged allegiance to the United States as a newly naturalized citizen.

Sandra Bush, who is originally from Canada, attended a Miami citizenship ceremony along with her husband, Jeb Bush Jr., and father-in-law, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Ana Santiago said in a statement.

The former presidential candidate and Florida governor posed for photographs with others who took part in the ceremony or attended with their loved ones, according to a tweet by Bush Jr. Jeb Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish, often spoke sympathetically about immigrants on the campaign trail.

Reporters might have covered the event, but USCIS didn't send notice of the 9 a.m. ceremony until 8:08 a.m. One photographer who nevertheless managed to show up in time was told the swearing in began much earlier, at 7:30 a.m.

Bush has kept a relatively low profile since ending his candidacy in February.

Miami GOP congressman plans to file new DREAM Act


A newsy nugget from our story about U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo's political survival in the age of Donald Trump: The Miami Republican plans to soon file a new version of the DREAM Act.

Within a few weeks, Curbelo plans to file the sort of big legislation he can campaign on in a general election, even if the bill has virtually no chance of getting a vote: a new version of the DREAM Act — renamed Recognizing America’s Children Act — that would allow immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to stay.

Curbelo offered few details about his bill, but he told the Herald it's important to change the proposal's name to give it a fresh start. The new name -- acronym RACA -- might "put pressure" on legislators to do the "recognizing" of the young immigrants, he said.

Joe Biden: Patrick Murphy is a 'raw talent'


During his lunchtime visit to a soul-food restaurant in downtown Orlando on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden casually greeted adoring fans, while helping promote the U.S. Senate candidacy of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Biden described the Jupiter congressman as "the real deal" and a "raw talent."

Speaking to reporters briefly, Biden addressed the contentious Democratic primary in which Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- whose Orlando-based district was just three miles to the east.

"It wasn't about Alan; it was about the caliber of this guy," Biden said. "We need people in the Senate who can bring people together."

(Grayson, known nationally as a progressive firebrand, isn't afraid to say bluntly how he feels about other politicians, even within his own party.)

Biden reflected on his own time in the U.S. Senate -- saying how getting to know colleagues across the aisle was more effective and made it "hard to demonize" opponents.

Watch his remarks below, and click here to read more of our coverage.

May 12, 2016

Democrats slam Carlos Curbelo over Zika funding


Democrats have found a new line of attack against Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo: He's not pushing for $1.9 billion in emergency Zika-prevention funding.

"Rep. Curbelo is standing with extreme Republicans and introducing toothless legislation that would secure NO NEW FUNDING to address the growing threat of Zika," Annette Taddeo's campaign wrote in a fundraising email Thursday.

"Instead of cozying up to extremists like Rick Scott who have failed Floridians on Medicaid expansion, education funding, and the environment, Curbelo should challenge his party and push for new funding to fight this very serious public health threat," Joe Garcia said in a statement.

The twist? Curbelo told the Miami Herald he does back President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion request. Curbelo said he's expressed his support in at least one radio interview. The Herald couldn't find audio online of the interview with U.S. 1 Radio in the Florida Keys.

His office, however, has conspicuously failed to mention that in the several Zika-related statements it has issued over the past few days. The statements have largely focused on Curbelo's proposed bill dealing with how Zika money is spent rather than how much. Curbelo said his legislation is complementary to, not mutually exclusive from, the funding Obama wants.

"What a shame that some people are so desperate and opportunistic that they would use a serious public health concern for personal political gain," Curbelo said in a statement. "For weeks I have been working with both Republicans and Democrats on a longer-term Zika response package while supporting the Administration's decision to use leftover funds from the ebola outbreak response in the interim. Like Senators Rubio and Nelson, I support full funding for the Administration's request."

When Curbelo and other lawmakers met with Florida Gov. Scott in Congress earlier this week, they released joint statements that -- like Scott's -- made no mention of how much money they want to fight the mosquito-borne virus.

Compare that to other Florida Republicans who have gone out of their way to openly and repeatedly buck their party on the issue. On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio joined his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, in proposing legislative language to attach to a military-spending bill next week.

"This is a devastating disease," Rubio said on the Senate floor. "It's taken lives throughout our hemisphere. And the way it impacts unborn children alone should call us to action."

This post has been updated.

Vice President Joe Biden to fundraise for Debbie Wasserman Schultz in South Florida

Vice President Joe Biden will headline a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, in early June.

Stephen Bittel, a developer who lives in Coconut Grove, told the Miami Herald that he is hosting the fundraiser. 

It''s no surprise that Biden is supporting Wasserman Schultz who is President Barack Obama's Democratic National Committee chair.

But his presence at a fundraiser for her is another sign that Wasserman Schultz is taking her Democratic primary challenger -- Tim Canova -- seriously. Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, said in a fundraising email earlier this week that he is close to raising $1 million -- a huge sum for a first-time candidate who started his campaign in January.

Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March but hasn't announced what she has raised since that time.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is hosting a fundraiser for Wasserman Schultz on Monday.

The race in Congressional District 23 which spans Broward and Miami-Dade counties is expected to be one of the most expensive Democratic primaries in South Florida. 

Has Donald Trump flip flopped on abortion, minimum wage and other topics?

Donald Trump’s changing views have attracted attention, and criticism, during his run for the Republican presidential nomination. But how much of this stems from actual changes in position from one day to the next, and how much stems from his penchant for using confusing, vague and even contradictory language?

We decided to look into this question by scrutinizing a few of Trump’s alleged changes of position. We concluded that it’s a little of both.

In choosing these six issues, we decided to look at a half-dozen issues where Trump has been accused of changing his views during the course of the campaign. We ignored topics where Trump has been accused of flip-flopping over the course of many years. (He was, after all, a private citizen rather than a declared candidate for high office until recently.)

We’re highlighting reversals in order, starting with the clearest reversal and moving toward the murkiest.

More here from Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact.

Advocacy group wants voters to ask GOP legislators: Do you back Trump?

Who backs trumpIt was only a matter of time.

The weaving and dodging of some elected officials over whether or not to endorse the presumptive Republican nominee has prompted the left-leaning advocacy group, Florida Strong, to unveil a new web site,

The site urges voters to find out where their Republican legislators are when it comes to Donald Trump and ists the GOP lawmakers in the state House and state Senate. If voters don't know who their legislators are, the site provides a handy link to the interactive finder on the House and Senate sites.  

"Elected officials nationwide continue to stumble over the question when journalists ask whether they will support Donald Trump,'' he group claims in its statement. "What's more, many of Florida's lawmakers have yet to commit one way or the other despite the constant attention to the candidate's statements and policy statements. Floridians deserve to know whether their state representatives and senators will back The Donald."


Seminole Tribe wants the court to seal records obtained by reporter -- so it can redact profit data

CasinoThe Seminole Tribe of Florida is seeking an emergency hearing in federal court Friday to force Politico, the online news site, to seal a copy of a deposition given by Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen until it can redact the annual gaming revenue that was released by the state as part of a public records request.

The tribe sued the State of Florida last October for allegedly breaching its gambling compact and for failing to negotiate in good faith. Allen was deposed as part of the lawsuit last month and, the tribe argues, the state agreed not to release the transcripts of any depositions without prior review from the tribe.

"We had an understanding on all the depositions that before anything was released," said Barry Richard, attorney for the tribe, in an interview with the Herald/Times. "We would have a chance to go through it and redact any trade secret information. The state released it to Politico by accident."  Download Tribe protective order request

Politico responded late Thursday in a motion to intervene, saying that the he protective order sought by the tribe was an "unconstitutional prior restraint on the news media prohibiting dissemination of information that was lawfully obtained through a public records request."  Download Politico motion

"The deposition transcript was released to POLITICO in response to a lawful public records request. And the information in it that Seminole Tribe has informed POLITICO that seeks to keep secret – generally, the Tribe’s annual revenues and annual gaming revenues – is plainly a matter of legitimate public interest,'' read the motion filed by Mark R. Caramanica of the Thomas & LoCiciero law firm in Tampa.

Richard said the redactions would be minimal. "The only thing we want to take out of it is just a few lines of trade secret information that could be sought by our competitors regarding profit information,'' he said. "It's a big hassle over nothing."

The protective order filed May 11 in the Northern District Court of Florida asks the court to seal the document delivered by DBPR to a Politico Florida reporter "until the Tribe has had a reasonable opportunity to review and mark confidential and/or trade secret information." It also asks Judge Robert Hinkle to set an emergency hearing to conduct the review but, according to Hinkle's office, a hearing had not been granted by late afternoon on Thursday.

Politico "vigorously opposes the motion,'' said Ashley Kissinger, Politico's attorney, who signed the motion to intervene. The news site reported Thursday that it received an unredacted copy of the deposition on Tuesday. It has not posted a transcript. 

Barbara Petersen, attorney and president for the First Amendment Foundation, said that she sees no legal grounds to seal the deposition obtained by Politico.

"Politico has a copy of it. It's out there. What benefit does anyone have to seal it?,'' she asked. "If it's been entered into court records, and a copy of the deposition has been released pursuant to a public records request, I see no grounds for sealing it."

Under state law, DBPR cannot deny access to the entire deposition because it is by its nature a public record, Petersen said.

"If a private party takes a deposition, the deposition becomes a disclosure only if it's entered into a court record,'' she said. "But if government takes the deposition its a public records under Chapter 119."

Petersen added there is no exemption in this case for a trade secret.

"The Seminole Tribe has no authority to assert a trade secrets exemption,'' she said. "It's a public record in the hands of DBPR."


David Jolly pushes to ban lobbyists' political donations like $16K he gave when registered


U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, has built his bid for the Senate around campaign finance reforms. But as a lobbyist five years ago, he did some of what he now says should be illegal.

In a debate two weeks ago with U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, Jolly said lobbyists should not be allowed to give money to members of Congress that they're trying to persuade on behalf of clients.

"If you're a registered lobbyist who has declared you are lobbying the banking committee, then you can't contribute to anybody who sits on the banking committee," he said. "We could do that by an act of Congress today."

From 2007 to 2011, federal election records show Jolly personally gave $16,050 to members of the House and Senate appropriations committees. At the same time, he advocated for various clients — including defense contractor STS International, Florida Keys Community College and BayCare Health System — on budget issues before those same committees.

Read the full story.