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June 28, 2016

Annette Taddeo planned to qualify for the ballot with petition signatures -- but she didn't


Democrat Annette Taddeo was supposed to qualify as a candidate for Congress the populist way, by collecting some 3,000 petition signatures to show her candidacy had grassroots support. Her campaign even hired a Republican consultant -- raising eyebrows among some Democrats -- to organize the signature-gathering.

Instead, Taddeo ended up handing over a check two weeks ago for $10,440 to get on the ballot.

What happened?

The petition effort appears to have gotten caught in the tumult of Taddeo's campaign shake-up. Her former campaign manager, Shaun Harris, hired consultant Emiliano Antunez, known for running local GOP races, to amass the petitions. But the hiring happened late, Antunez said, giving him only about 30 days to get the job done.

"It's not that she wasn't getting the support -- the signatures were coming in at the usual clip," Antunez said. "It's that by the time they decided to pull the trigger, there was just no way to do it with that time."

The belated hiring probably took place because national Democrats concerned about Taddeo's campaign spending -- and her lagging behind rival Joe Garcia -- didn't OK the expenditure earlier. Taddeo eventually fired Harris and his team.

Her new crew came in just a couple of weeks before the June 24 qualifying deadline and chose to pay the fee instead. But it made the mistake of saying in a news release that she had filed "qualifying petitions." Campaign spokesman Omer Farooque declined to comment about the error.

What the incident underscores, however, is that campaigns in upheaval make mistakes -- or spend money on things they later don't end up needing. And a trailing candidate who's got about a month before the first mail-in ballots go out probably can't afford more of them.

Garcia also paid a qualifying fee. Republican incumbent Carlos Curbelo collected enough petitions to qualify.

Back when Curbelo first ran, in 2014, he took heat from Democrats (then-incumbent Garcia and Taddeo herself, as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party) for trying to qualify by petition and then resorting to paying the fee.

This post has been updated.

Republicans attack Patrick Murphy's 'career built on lies'


Republican groups continue to hammer home revelations of résumé embellishment by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a new TV ad today condemning what it described as Murphy's "career built on lies."

The ad will run over the next two weeks in the Washington, D.C. area, the NRSC said. The group is spending about $45,000 on the airtime, a spokesman said.

Information in the 60-second spot draws largely from a scrutinizing TV investigation that aired last week by Jim DeFede of Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami. DeFede's two-part report highlighted the facts that -- despite Murphy's and his campaign's claims -- Murphy never "worked" as a certified public account and he wasn't actually a "small business owner."

The NRSC's ad also includes video of Murphy responding to questions by the Herald/Times about the documented discrepancies in his credentials that the Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida previously uncovered.

"What is Privileged Patrick Murphy hiding?" a narrator asks, using the nickname Republican critics use for the Jupiter congressman.

Watch the ad here:

Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement this morning: "The NRSC is welcome to waste their money in D.C., because Patrick is fighting for Florida."

The statement included a lengthy "fact check," seeking to debunk both the ad and, again, the CBS Miami report.

Murphy's campaign blasted the station's investigation as "deeply false" and "misleading" and, as part of its damage control, claimed that the station made several corrections.

However, while some wording was changed slightly from what was originally published in the online, written version, no official corrections have been made by the station, and CBS Miami has said it stands by its reporting.

The two key conclusions of DeFede's reporting -- that Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner" -- are true.

Murphy was -- and is -- licensed in Colorado as a CPA, not in Florida. Florida requires a license here to perform any work associated with being a CPA, such as "performing audits" or "representing oneself as a CPA."

And there is no conclusive evidence that shows Murphy "owned" Coastal Environmental Services, a subsidiary of his father's Coastal Construction company. The evidence to which the Murphy campaign links in an effort to prove Murphy owned the business is the company's incorporation documents from 2010. But those were signed by Coastal Construction executive Dan Whiteman and it lists Murphy third on a list of company directors behind Whiteman and his father, Tom Murphy Jr.

Last week, a new super PAC supporting Rubio also released an ad online to attack Murphy using the CBS Miami report.

This post has been updated.

June 27, 2016

Elected officials at Public Service Commission hearing in unanimous opposition to proposed Florida Power and Light rate increase


Eight elected officials made public comments at Monday's Public Service Commission hearing at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium and all of them were opposed to Florida Power and Light's proposal to raise base electric rates by 23.7 percent over the next four years. 

State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) voiced his opposition to the proposed rate increase, arguing that increased costs to consumers without proper environmental management means that FPL should not receive a rate increase from the PSC. 

"At a time when a lot of families and small businesses are struggling to get by, FPL is asking for 23 percent increase in base rates and a one percent increase in guaranteed profits," Rodriguez said. "This is not the time to be asking for that increase."

Rodriguez highlighted individuals living on social security and the fact that they saw no increase in their benefits last year and will only see a one-fifth of one percent increase in 2016.

"It hits directly in the pocketbook," Rodriguez said. "It's not simply that its excessive, its pure profit. What we're asking tonight, how is FPL doing? Is it safe and adequate? We do not have safe and adequate service when the water supply of our community is threatened by the mismanagement at Turkey Point." 

Rodriguez is challenging incumbent Republican State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who did not attend the hearing. A billboard truck provided by liberal advocacy group Florida Strong sat outside the auditorium read: "FPL Lobbyist Miguel Diaz de la Portilla gets get stuck with his new tax." 

Miami-Dade District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava also spoke in opposition to the increase. 

"I'm not here to speak against Florida Power and Light," Cava said. "But I am here to speak against a system that is undermining competition, its undermining job growth, environmental protection and our public welfare." 

Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner was more aggressive toward FPL. She was shouted down by PSC Chairman Julie Brown after going over her allotted time during the public hearing.

"I am here to speak against Florida Power and Light and their corporate greed," Lerner said after Cava's remarks. "We have the fifth highest income inequality in the country." 

Other public officials that spoke in opposition to the rate increase were South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, South Miami Vice Mayor Robert Welsh, South Miami Commissioners Walter Harris and Gabriel Edmond along with Miami-Dade School Board member Marta Pérez Wurtz

The Miami-Dade School Board is in opposition to the rate increase because it will cost the district $7 million more in energy costs. 

"That's 100 teachers," Wurtz said. 

Dozens of community members spoke at the FSC public hearing, which lasted four hours. About half were opposed to the rate increase while half praised FPL's service to the community and service to customers. Almost none directly said they would be happy paying more for electricity. 

In response to the elected officials who spoke against the rate increase, FPL director of public affairs Mark Bubriski said: "It was pretty clear that there were politicians who were here for a purpose, they had a billboard truck outside."  

UPDATE: Portilla responds to the billboard. ""Of course I oppose FPL's rate increase," Portilla said in an email. "I don't know a single FPL customer who supports it. However, Jose Rodriguez and his shadowy dark money group, Florida Strong, should stop playing politics with our power bills. We have seen what the politics of fear-mongering have done to our political discourse. Jose's demagoguery does nothing to protect consumers from FPL’s rate increases."

In 1st House endorsement, clean energy super PAC backs Carlos Curbelo


A young super PAC focused on promoting clean energy on Monday backed U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, pledging to spend six figures in an online ad campaign on behalf of the Miami Republican, who is seeking re-election in one of the country's most competitive districts.

ClearPath Action Fund, founded earlier this year by Jay Faison, a Republican entrepreneur and millionaire from North Carolina, picked Curbelo as its first candidate to endorse for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Carlos Curbelo has quickly proven to be a leader among Republicans in protecting the environment and expanding the development of clean energy, lowering energy costs for families, creating jobs and protecting South Florida's environment," Faison said in a statement. "We're excited to help ensure that he remains a central figure in Congress in promoting thoughtful and sensible solutions."

The super PAC highlighted Curbelo's position on climate change; he wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed last October that "to vie climate change through partisan lenses only detracts from efforts to discover practical solutions."

Also weighing in Curbelo's favor, according to ClearPath, were his votes to fund an advanced energy research program at the U.S. Energy Department, to make private companies more liable for cleaning up oil spills that occur in foreign water, and to expand tax credits for clean-power generation systems.

A poll commissioned by ClearPath found that 26 percent of respondents in Curbelo's district, which spans Westchester to Key West, consider environmental and energy one of their top issues. The survey, conducted by Washington-based Olive Tree Strategies, found voters were more likely to support Curbelo if they heard a message about his clean-energy support.

"After voters learn about Curbelo's positions on these issues, he receives a clear majority of the vote against either [Joe] Garcia (55% Curbelo-32% Garcia) or [Annette] Taddeo (56% Curbelo-27% Taddeo)," according to a poll memo provided by ClearPath.

As part of its online ad campaign, ClearPath will target ads on websites like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Faison has said he plans to spend about $5 million this election cycle promoting "conservative clean energy solutions through market-based principles."

An earlier version of this post misidentified the super PAC's name as CleanPath.

Clinton and Sanders supporters team up for phone bank

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will hold "Stronger Together" phone banking across Florida on behalf of Clinton.

Each event will be co-chaired by a supporter of each Democratic candidate. One such event will be held in Pembroke Pines Tuesday co-hosted by Broward Democratic Executive Committee chair Cynthia Busch, who initially supported Sanders from her home state of Vermont, and Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, who supported Clinton from the outset.

They will phone bank together starting at 2 p.m. at the Broward Democrats' office in Plantation.

Clinton beat Sanders in a rout  72.5 to 26.6 in Broward County March 15 and she won the entire state of Florida in landslide.


Panel clears prison whistleblower of wrongdoing

Doug GlissonA Department of Corrections whistleblower who was demoted after accusing his bosses of covering up inmate abuse and agency corruption was cleared of wrongdoing Monday as a panel of law enforcement officers unanimously ruled he was wrongly targeted.

Doug Glisson, a senior investigator at the Department of Corrections, is now seeking reinstatement to his position as a supervisor in the agency’s Office of Inspector General, after a five-member Complaint Review Board concluded that the complaint against him was “unfounded.”

Glisson was demoted and docked pay by the agency in April after six internal investigations were launched against him on Feb. 3, 2015 — a day after his former boss, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, was grilled by a Senate committee about allegations of cover-up and corruption. Three of those investigations were sustained, without interviewing Glisson, two were dismissed and one he challenged as violating his rights under the “Officers’ Bill of Rights.”

Glisson was accused of hearing a complaint from an inmate who alleged officer-on-inmate abuse at the Franklin Correctional Institution but failed to investigate — in violation of agency procedure. He sued after the agency refused to provide a hearing, as required by law, to allow him to bring forward his allegations that the investigation was biased against him. Story here. 

Two Libertarians will battle for minor-party Senate nomination

In this unpredictable political year, Florida will see something else that it hasn't seen in a very long time, if ever: a statewide minor-party primary.

Two Libertarian Party candidates met Friday's deadline to run for the U.S. Senate.

Augustus Invictus of Orlando, who appears in state voting records as a former Democrat, and Paul Stanton of DeLand both filed papers as Libertarian candidates. They'll duke it out on the Aug. 30 primary ballot for the right to be the party's nominee on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The primary is open to all Libertarian voters, and there were 23,513 of them in March. The two counties with the most registered Libertarians were Pinellas (1,733) and Hillsborough (1,715).

State senate candidate files for office -- in 2022


State Sen. John Legg is getting a serious jump on his would-be opponents, filing to run for office again in 2022.

The Pasco County Republican’s career in the Legislature appeared to be at an end earlier this year after redistricting put his home in the same district as Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Rather than challenge Simpson for the newly drawn Senate District 10, Legg announced he would not seek re-election in 2016.
But now, Legg is asking the Florida Division of Elections to move his campaign for the state Senate to the year 2022, in what would be the final year of Simpson’s eight years in office. That would allow him to move more than $170,000 in his 2016 campaign account to the race in 2022.

“I would like to redesignate both the year and district for which I am a candidate to Senate District 10 for the 2022 election,” Legg wrote in a letter to the Florida Division of Elections.

Legg could not be reached for comment.

The Florida Division of Elections does not have a section on its website to list candidates for office that far in advance. Instead, the Division of Elections has listed Legg as a candidate for District 10 in 2018, when Simpson would face what could be his final re-election campaign.

Legg has refused to take on Simpson, who is in line to become the Senate president in 2021 if Republicans retain the majority and Simpson when his re-election battles. Already he is assured of retaining Senate District 10 for the next two years as no challenger filed to challenge him for re-election at Friday’s filing deadline.

Legg, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, was elected to the House in 2004 and the Senate in 2012.

Beruff wants Rubio's spot at Republican National Convention


If U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio doesn't want to speak at the Republican National Convention next month, Carlos Beruff is more than ready to take his slot.

Other U.S. Senate candidates and prominent Republicans have announced they are not going to attend the convention next month in Ohio. And Rubio has suggested he too may not attend so he can campaign for re-election.

But Beruff said on Monday in a statement he's more than ready to speak out for Donald Trump at the convention if Rubio will not.

"I’m happy to take Marco Rubio’s slot at the Republican National Convention because I’m not ashamed of Donald Trump as our nominee," Beruff said. "Trump is motiving voters across Florida and the country who have felt ignored by the Republican and Democratic establishment alike. He’s looking to shake up Washington and I’m behind him 100 percent."

It's just the latest attempt by Beruff to align himself with Trump. Beruff, a businessman who is mostly self-funding his campaign, has spent much of his campaign trying to present himself as an anti-establishment candidate.

"The career politicians in Washington are always afraid to lose power and candidates like Trump and myself challenge their authority," Beruff said.