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July 15, 2016

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo to report raising $508K, with $2.1M cash on hand


Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo raised more than half a million dollars last quarter, leaving him with more than $2.1 million to face his eventual Democratic opponent after Florida's Aug. 30 primary.

Curbelo's campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that he collected more than $508,000 from April 1-June 30, spokeswoman Nicole Rapanos said. 

That figure is Curbelo's second-highest for fundraising this cycle. He topped $705,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

Without a GOP primary opponent, Curbelo awaits a challenger from the Democratic primary between Annette Taddeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia. The swing 26th district is perhaps Florida's most competitive congressional seat this year.


'Phony Patrick' Murphy gets hit in new pro-Rubio super PAC ad

via @learyreports

Senate Leadership Fund is following through on a promise to spend $1.5 million in support of Marco Rubio, launching a TV ad attacking Patrick Murphy's background.

The ad, accompanied by a digital spot, will run on broadcast and cable in Tampa and Orlando, the Mitch McConnell-linked group said. The ad focuses on Murphy's work experience, which has come under scrutiny from reporters and opponents.

PolitiFact concluded that some assertions from opponents were stretched. Yet questions are unlikely to go away with Senate Leadership Fund and others turning them into TV ads.


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

NBC News poll: Clinton leads Trump in Florida, 44-37%


Democrat Hillary Clinton is ahead of Republican Donald Trump by 7 percentage points in Florida and leads him by similar margins in three other swing states, according to a new poll.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey of Florida shows Clinton besting Trump 44-37 percent in a head-to-head match-up. When third-party candidates are taken into account, she gets 41 percent to Trump's 36 percent, Libertarian Gary Johnson's 7 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein's 4 percent.

The other states where Marist found similar Clinton leads are Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia.

The Florida poll's results could cause some whiplash, coming two days after a Quinnipiac University survey found Clinton had lost her edge over Trump in the state, and Trump now led 42-39 percent. 

Marist surveyed slightly fewer respondents (871 compared to 1,015) over fewer days (July 5-11 compared to June 30-July 11). Marist's error margin was 3.3 percentage points; Quinnipiac's was 3.1. Both universities polled registered voters.

There's no month-to-month comparison in the Marist poll, whereas Quinnipiac showed the Florida numbers shifting against Clinton.

In Florida, the safe takeaway when polls differ is that numbers tighten as the general election gets closer -- and the nation's largest swing state usually sees close presidential races. 

According to Marist, Clinton's favorability rating is slightly better than Trump's in the state. She has a net rating of -21 percentage points, with 37 percent of respondents viewing her favorably and 58 percent unfavorably. Trump has a net rating of -27 percentage points, with favorable-unfavorable numbers of 34-61 percent

In a hypothetical U.S. Senate match-up, Marist found Republican Sen. Marco Rubio ahead of potential Democratic rival Patrick Murphy by 47-44 percent -- a much narrower gap than Quinnipiac, which found Rubio had opened a 13-point lead over Murphy.

July 14, 2016

League creates FL SUN to promote local solar co-ops to negotiate solar discounts

Solar panelsSaying they face a “David and Goliath” fight against Florida’s utility giants in trying to bring rooftop solar energy collection to the Sunshine State, the League of Women Voters on Thursday announced the creation of a new organization that will form “solar co-ops” around the state to obtain bulk discounts for community-based solar installations.

The group, FL SUN, is a non-profit established to solicit competitive bids from local installers and provide individualized proposals for groups of homeowners that reflect the group discounts.

The first two projects are in St. Petersburg and Orlando, using a model begun a decade ago by Community Power Network, a national nonprofit that helps communities build and promote local renewable energy projects and policies, in Washington, D.C., Maryland and is now also active in West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio. FL SUN, which is financed by public and private grants, also has plans to quickly expand to Brevard, Volusia, Alachua and Sarasota counties and hopes to operate in more parts of the state.

“The League’s role is going to be one we’re very comfortable and familiar with — that’s education,” said Deirdre Macnab, chair of the League’s Natural Resources/Solar Action Group and a member of the 80-member Orlando co-op. “We are going to be helping citizens understand how they can save money and better conserve energy in their houses by putting on forums.” More here. 


Pro-Rubio super PAC blasts Beruff as 'Charlie Crist Republican'


Charlie Crist isn't on the statewide ballot in Florida this year. But if Marco Rubio and his allies succeed, he will be a key player in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

A super PAC backing Rubio announced its first TV ad Thursday. Echoing the message sent by Rubio's campaign, Florida First Project will attack Rubio rival Carlos Beruff as a "Charlie Crist Republican." Crist ran against Rubio in 2010, first as a Republican and then as an independent. 

Polls show Beruff remains far behind Rubio. Beruff's campaign has started swinging at the senator -- including with a statement Thursday that derided Rubio's backbone as made of "Jello."

The ad will air statewide beginning this weekend, the PAC says.


In a statement, Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline accused Rubio of "lying" about Beruff, "just like he lied to the people of Florida when he said he wouldn't support amnesty for illegal immigrants, lied about his support for Donald Trump and lied when he said he wouldn't run for reelection.

"He's doing it, of course, hiding behind his Super PAC, which is run by his presidential campaign manager," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said. "Every Republican in Florida was conned by Charlie Crist, none more so than Marco Rubio, who supported his agenda in the legislature. But it's no surprise that Washington's candidate, Marco Rubio, would lie. He'll say and do whatever he needs to to hold on to political power."

Early look at Mike Pence's Florida donor network: Rick Scott, charter schools, private prisons and Publix


NYT_TRUMP_VP_2We don't know how Floridians feel about Mike Pence as a potential vice president, but it's clear the Republican governor of Indiana has a lot of reasons to like the Sunshine State.

As buzz grows about Donald Trump naming Pence his vice presidential pick, Pence's campaign finance reports offer an early look at a massive network of Florida donors.

From 2009, when Pence was running for his final term in Congress, through March of this year, Pence collected $888,645 from more than 300 Florida residents and businesses, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

He’s picked up more campaign cash from Florida than any other state, except Indiana and Washington, D.C.

By and large, Pence’s donors are big players in Florida politics as well. They include major companies, lobbyists — even the governor.

In February, Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave Pence $5,000. Three days earlier, the governors both attended an event at the Tripp Scott law firm in Fort Lauderdale. Tripp Scott donated $5,000 to Pence and its founder Norman Tripp gave $1,000.

The governor’s check is unusual. Scott has never given more than $500 to a Florida candidate other than himself.

The two Republican governors have crossed paths before at Republican Governors Association events. Melissa Stone, Scott’s former chief of staff-turned political consultant, did not immediately respond to requests for information about the contribution.

Pence’s biggest Florida boosters are Palm Beach County multimillionaires Lawrence DeGeorge and Suzanne Niedland-DeGeorge. The couple has given Pence’s gubernatorial re-election campaign $200,000. Indiana has no maximum campaign contribution.

Charter Schools USA, which is based in Florida, donated $12,000 to Pence. Its CEO, Jonathan Hage, threw in another $10,000. Lawmakers in both Indiana and Florida have aggressively pursued charter schools, and the company operates three schools in struggling Indianapolis neighborhoods.

Private prison operator GEO Group gave Pence $37,500, and the company’s CEO, George Zoley, gave $5,000. The Boca Raton-based company runs two prisons in the Hoosier State.

Even Florida's famous grocery store, Publix, has given to Pence, though the nearest place for Hoosiers to get their Pub Sub fix is in Clarksville, Tenn.

In 2010, when Pence was running for his final term in Congress as chair of the conservative House Republican Conference, Publix gave him $5,000. (Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam chaired the conference just before Pence.)

Tampa Electric Company donated $5,000 just last year. Red Apple Development, which wants to build a 41-story tower in St. Petersburg, gave $10,000. 

Akshay Desai, founder of the now-bankrupt St. Petersburg company Universal Health Care, gave Pence $5,000 in 2012 as his company was starting to crumble.

FCCI Insurance Group, based in Sarasota, gave $16,000. John Childs, a Vero Beach mega-donor to Republican causes, donated $125,000.

Even one of Tallahassee’s most influential lobbyists has given to Pence: Ron Book, whose daughter Lauren Book is about to become a Democratic state senator, donated $5,000.

Photo: Damon Winter, New York Times

Rubio admonishes federal agency that had 'no problem' with Murphy's algae presser request

Rubio lettervia @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio admonished the SBA for saying it had “no problem” complying with a request from Rep. Patrick Murphy’s office to delay news about relief for businesses affected by the algae bloom.

“Please answer the following question: In times of disasters, such as the algae bloom in Florida's waterways, why would the SBA have ‘no problem’ delaying any form of relief to my constituents?

“Suffice it to say, this incident leaves a profoundly bad taste in the mouths of many Floridians who see this as an example of the SBA putting politics and publicity plans ahead of the needs of our people. As the SBA continues its efforts to provide assistance to Florida on this matter and others throughout our state, I ask that you act swiftly and not delay the immediate relief my constituents desperately need.

“I request an immediate response to my question.”

Murphy's other Senate rivals also jumped on the news. Republican Carlos Beruff said Murphy should resign for using his House office for political purposes, though it's not clear Murphy violated any rules. He wouldn't be the first politician to try to maximize news. But the request from his office looks bad amid the crisis.

Murphy's office last night defended the situation and said he supported the opening of an office to facilitate SBA loans.

Meantime Murphy took a shot at Gov. Rick Scott during a news conference this afternoon and said he would stage a rally in Tallahassee.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

The time Govs. Rick Scott and Mike Pence crossed paths in Broward

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence crossed paths in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year at an event that also featured Bill Scherer, a lawyer and lobbyist who has been a prominent figure in Republican circles for a long time -- and who's a native of Indiana. Photos from the Feb. 5 event indicate they were at the Tripp Scott law firm, whose partners include former Senate President Jim Scott and Ed Pozzuoli, a former Broward County GOP chairman who's a delegate to next week's convention.

Speculation is mounting that Pence will be Donald Trump's choice for running mate -- especially after Pence's name was not listed among the speakers at next week's convention in Cleveland.

Take a look here from the Conrad Scherer firm's web site, and Tripp Scott's site includes a Pozzuoli interview with Pence.

Marco Rubio to give video address at GOP convention


Marco Rubio won't physically be at next week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland. But he'll address the gathering via video, organizers announced Thursday.

It'll be a message, not a live speech via satellite.

Later in the day, the RNC plans to release a more complete list of its video program. The first two names revealed were Rubio and retired basketball coach Bobby Knight.

Rubio has said he's staying in Florida to campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. His absence, though, was viewed by some Republicans as a less-than-full-throated endorsement of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Rubio's primary rival, Carlos Beruff, will be in Cleveland. His campaign quickly accused Rubio agreeing to speak to delegates only after finding out Beruff would go -- and after a new poll showed Trump narrowly leading presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida.

"Looks like he’s going to phone it in just like he’s phoned it in as a Senator," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said in an email to the Miami Herald. "Figuring out where Marco stands on Trump is like nailing Jello to a wall, which is fitting, since Jello is approximately the consistency of Marco's backbone."

Several other former Trump rivals -- Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker -- will speak at the convention in person. Conspicuously absent: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state is hosting the event.

The most high-profile Florida politicians scheduled to appear on stage are Attorney General Pam Bondi -- in prime time -- and Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Congressional Democrats push Paul Ryan for action on Zika funding

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic members of the Florida Congressional delegation sent a letter urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to act on Zika.

Partisan gridlock remains over Zika funding while the House is poised to recess Friday. In the Senate, Marco Rubio has joined Bill Nelson and the Democrats in calling for $1.9 billion in federal funding.

From the Florida House Democrats' letter:

"Florida Democrats stood united in demanding Speaker Paul Ryan act on the Zika virus before the Congressional recess. This is a serious public health crisis, which House Republicans have shamefully responded to with endless delays and refusals to provide the funding our public health experts have said we need to properly tackle Zika.  The number of Floridians with Zika is growing by the day. It is unconscionable for House Republicans to send Members home for seven weeks without passing legislation that would meaningfully address this deadly disease. This crisis falls squarely at their feet, and the House of Representatives should not recess until we do the job we were elected to do and help keep the American people healthy and safe.”

The letter was signed by Florida Democrats in the House: Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Patrick Murphy, Frederica Wilson, Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson, Gwen Graham and Kathy Castor.