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.

July 16, 2015

Miami Republican congressman leads cash race over Democratic challenger


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a freshman gearing up for a competitive 2016 re-election race, raked in nearly $450,000 in the quarter that ended June 30.

The haul brings Curbelo's total to about $1.2 million, with more than $993,000 of that remaining in the bank. The total includes more than $110,000 transferred from a political action committee set up for Curbelo set up jointly with the Republican Party.

"There is no doubt that our campaign will have all the resources necessary to make sure the voters of Florida's 26th Congressional District are aware of Carlos' bipartisan work in Congress on behalf of our community," campaign spokeswoman Nicole Rapanos said in a statement. His campaign has run afoul of the Federal Election Committee before, failing to property report a significant number of transactions and being forced to pay a fine as a result.

Challenger Annette Taddeo, who has the high-profile backing of national Democrats, collected about $235,000 in the same quarter that ended June 30, including $6,500 she contributed to herself. She has less than $170,000 on hand so far, and more than $405,000 in debts carried over from her unsuccessful 2008 congressional run against Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Her campaign touted an "outpouring of support from grassroots donors."

"The voters of South Dade and Monroe understand that the broken, divisive Washington politics pushed by our opponent and his wealthy special interest backers are politics at its worst, and they are ready for a change," campaign manager Shaun Daniels said in a statement,highlighting that more than 90 percent of Taddeo's contributors gave $200 or less. "Annette is the voter's candidate. And she's just getting started."

He also noted that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered state lawmakers to redraw the Westchester-to-Key West district to fix gerrymandering in Homestead -- a change that could benefit Democrats, though it may not involve a huge number of voters.

Still, Republicans pounced on the disparity in the totals, poking the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which brought its chairman to campaign with Taddeo last month. Curbelo has the advantage of being an incumbent, though when he posed his own challenge to former Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo also posted robust totals.

Moderate Marco? Not quite, but Rubio has history of bipartisanship


Marco Rubio came into the U.S. Senate in 2011 as a tea party darling and hero to the Republican right wing.

Since then, he has mostly lived up to his reputation, with ideological assessments by some advocates that rank him among the most conservative in the Senate.

But on some other measures, the presidential candidate from West Miami, Fla., is looking downright . . . bipartisan.

Consider the percentage of bills a senator joined that were introduced by a member of the opposition. On that measure, Rubio ranked No. 11 in the 2013-14 Congress, according to GovTrack, a website designed to help the public monitor Congress.

Rubio’s tally included bills sponsored by several Democratic senators; among them: legislation from Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on the disabled and on veterans, from Ron Wyden of Oregon on Internet taxation, and from Wyden and Al Franken of Minnesota on college costs. Rubio also signed onto a veterans’ health care bill from independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

There were others, as well.

He co-sponsored more pieces of legislation by Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey – 24 bills and resolutions – and Bill Nelson of Florida – nine – than by some fellow conservative stars. Among name-brand Republican colleagues, for example, he signed onto six pieces of legislation by Ted Cruz of Texas and four by Rand Paul of Kentucky. Both are also seeking the presidency.

In fact, of all the bills and resolutions Rubio signed onto in the previous Congress, Democrats and a couple of independents sponsored nearly half – 46 percent – of them.

For full story, go here.

Donald Trump's misleading claim about Jeb Bush and sanctuary cities

Donald Trump criticized GOP primary rival Jeb Bush’s stance on immigration, implying the former governor allowed parts of Florida to shield illegal immigrants from federal laws while Bush was in office.

"The polls just came out, and I'm tied with Jeb Bush. And I said, oh, that's too bad, how can I be tied with this guy? He's terrible. He's terrible. He's weak on immigration," Trump said during a speech in Phoenix on July 11, 2015. "You know, the sanctuary cities, do you know he had five of them in Florida while he was governor? Can you believe this? I didn't know that."

Trump was practically tied with Bush according to a poll released the same day. But more importantly, Trump seized upon an increasingly used talking point in the presidential campaign --  so-called "sanctuary cities" that thwart federal immigration law.

Bush’s stance on illegal immigration has wavered a bit over the years, but he was known for being in favor of deportation while in the Governor’s Mansion. Did five sanctuary cities exist in Florida during his time in office? Not according to any official metric, but the Internet is a big place.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see what we found.

July 15, 2015

Finance report shows Marco Rubio with $9.9M in the bank

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1 @NickNehamas

Marco Rubio had collected a tidy $12.9 million in his political campaign account as of June 30, but he had to give up a large chunk of money when he decided to run for president instead of the U.S. Senate.

The Florida Republican refunded more than $821,000 to donors who had contributed to his Senate reelection campaign before Rubio switched races, according to his first finance report, filed Wednesday night with the Federal Election Commission.

Unless donors explicitly agreed to transfer their contributions to the presidential campaign, their checks had to be returned. Some donors say no, and others fail to respond to campaign queries about the transfers. Among Rubio’s refunds is one to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul being courted by several GOP presidential contenders.

Of Rubio’s total fundraising, $8.9 million came in new presidential contributions, while $3.2 million was carried over from his Senate account.

The total sum means Rubio lags behind primary rivals Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. But he boasts a larger amount of money in the bank, at least for now, than any of his better-funded Republican opponents. Rubio reported about $9.9 million on hand, compared with Cruz’s $8.5 million and Bush’s $8.4 million.

More here.

This post has been updated.

The Twitter war between Donald Trump and El Chapo Guzmán

via @glenngarvin

Despite what you may have been told in high-school civics class, American presidential campaigns are no strangers to weirdness. Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest as he prepared to give a speech in 1912, but refused to go to the hospital until he delivered his entire 50-page oration. Ross Perot dropped out of the 1992 election for months because, he said, Republicans were about to use the CIA to steal his money and loot his bank account. The fate of the 2000 election turned on the difference between hanging chads, bulging chads and pregnant chads.

But — seriously, now — could anybody ever have imagined that, three weeks before the first debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, the hottest political story would be a Twitter war between a tiny but murderous Mexican narcotrafficker and a badly-toupeed beauty-pageant producer?

“All presidential campaigns are weird, but this one is out of control,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, his voice thick with disbelief.

Wednesday actually marked a truce, however brief, in the vituperative Twitter barrages between Republican candidate Donald Trump, who owns the Miss America pageant and, if his own financial filings are to be believed, much of the rest of North America, and Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, whose diminutive 5-foot-6 height (hence his nickname, El Chapo, Shorty) somehow seems taller when considered in conjunction with the 2,000 to 3,000 murders he claims to have committed.

Trump was busy filing a financial statement required by federal law — which, he complained, didn’t have enough space for a detailed description of his $10 billion fortune. (“This report was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump's massive wealth,” sniffed a press release issued by his campaign.) Guzman was presumably busy finding a new hideout after escaping a supposedly maximum-security Mexican prison through an air-conditioned mile-and-a-quarter tunnel under his cell toilet.

More here.

Hillary Clinton discloses her top Florida fundraisers

via @learyreports

Hillary Clinton's campaign released the names of top bundlers, and Florida is well represented.

"Hillblazers" have raised $100,000 or more in primary election contributions since Clinton launched her campaign on April 12. The Florida list:

Mitchell W. Berger (Fort Lauderdale)

Elaine and Gerald Schuster (Palm Beach)

Alexander P. Heckler (Miami Beach)

Christopher G. Korge (Coral Gables)

John Morgan (Heathrow)

Abigail Pollak (Miami Beach)

Elaine and Gerald Schuster (Palm Beach)

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Trial court breaks silence on redistricting schedule -- orders Sept. 25 deadline

A Tallahassee judge broke the latest logjam over the future of the state's congressional maps Wednesday and ordered the Florida Legislature to finish its maps -- and subsequent trial to defend it -- by Sept. 25. 

"The Court will do its best to accommodate everyone's schedule but clearly there is not much time to do all that is required,'' wrote Second Judicial Circuit Judge George Reynolds in a scheduling order released late Wednesday.

The order is the first sign of movement on the congressional redistricting maps since the Florida Supreme Court ruled on July 9 that the Legislature had violated the Fair District provisions of the constitution and drew maps with "unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbent lawmakers."  

The court gave lawmakers 100 days -- until Oct. 17 -- to revise the map, have it reviewed by the trial court, and approved by the Florida Supreme Court.

Both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner have refrained from any commentary on the ruling and have not indicated if, or when, they would call the Legislature into special session to complete the maps.

Reynolds gave the lawyers for the Legislature and the plaintiffs until Wednesday, July 22, to submit proposed schedules for how much time it will take for lawmakers to revise the new congressional maps in a special session, then allow both sides to respond to the maps, and conduct a trial.

Lawmakers have speculated that the presiding officers would wait until the scheduled committee weeks in September to do the work on the new maps, and then call for the special session to finalize them during the committee weeks in October. But Reynold's order will force them to accelerate that schedule, potentially requiring a special session in Tallahassee in August. 

Reynolds also clarified that Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who presided over the trial last summer and first invalidated the maps, has been assigned to hear the case and all issues relating to it. He also scheduled a case management conference for Monday, July 27 in the Leon County Courthouse.



Jeb Bush put $388K of his own cash into campaign

@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1 @NickNehamas

Jeb Bush’s first campaign-finance report left no doubt that the former Florida governor, who is by far the most prolific fundraiser in the jam-packed 2016 presidential field, has many loyal friends with comfortably thick wallets.

Of the $11.4 million Bush raised in the first two weeks of his campaign, most of the donations reported Wednesday — nearly $9.2 million, or about 80 percent — came not from mom-and-pop supporters scraping together a few bills but from corner-office types who right off the bat gave Bush the maximum allowed by law, $2,700.

Small donors, who sent in $200 or less, made up about 3 percent of the total haul — about $368,000, according to the report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bush himself put more than that into his account, spending nearly $389,000 of his own cash to pay for trips, legal advice and other expenses before becoming a formal candidate.

Campaign-finance watchdogs have hounded Bush over his extensive travel and fundraising in the five months leading to his June 15 campaign launch, arguing he was running afoul of the law by saying he wasn’t a candidate when he was nevertheless acting like one. By disclosing that he paid for those expenses himself, the Republican can counter he was complying with the law that allows potential candidates to “test the waters.”

“Jeb 2016’s first report affirms what we have publicly stated over the past few months: that if Governor Bush engaged in any testing-the-waters activities that they would be paid for appropriately, and that if Governor Bush decided to run for office that any testing-the-waters expenses would be reported at the required time,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said in a statement.

More here.

This post has been updated.

Jeb Bush calls Miami congresswoman, gets voicemail, sings 'Happy Birthday'


Wednesday is Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's birthday.

Her pick in the 2016 GOP presidential race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, called to congratulate her. He got her voicemail.

So he sang to her machine instead. The full song.

"Happy birthday dear Ily," he intoned. Then: "This is Jeb." 

Ros-Lehtinen, true to form, posted the message to Twitter. Bush managed her first campaign for Congress, in 1989.

Solar wars flare up as group pitches rival amendment to codify what's allowed in law

Solar panelsThe latest flare-up in Florida's solar wars emerged Wednesday when a group sided with Florida's utility industry and announced it is gathering petitions for a rival constitutional amendment that would give consumers a right to do what they already can do -- put rooftop solar on their homes and be regulated by government.  Download Smart Solar Petition

The effort was blasted by supporters of the Solar Choice amendment as an attempt to undercut their proposal to allow homeowners and businesses to sell solar power up to two megawatts and prohibit government from erecting barriers to a rooftop solar in Florida. That amendment is opposed by Florida's public and private utility monopolies who want to control the sale of all solar power Florida. 

"This is an effort to deceive and confuse voters,'' said Mike Antheil, executive director of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and a member of Floridians for Solar Choice during a conference call with reporters.  "We are going to do exactly what we’ve been doing which is to continue to speak the truth about solar power and who is blocking solar power in Florida.'' 

The new group calls itself "Consumers for Smart Solar" and warns that by allowing rooftop solar, customers who don't take advantage of the solar will subsidize those who do. Currently, homeowners may install rooftop solar panels on their homes but cannot sell it back to the grid while electricity companies, such as Florida Power & Light, generate solar power using green fields and and sell it to whomever they wish. 

Continue reading "Solar wars flare up as group pitches rival amendment to codify what's allowed in law" »