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August 25, 2016

Message from South Florida water managers: Don't make us mad

SFWMD InterlandiIf you want to keep a low profile, don't disagree with the South Florida Water Management District, or ask for its email list.

That's what Lisa Interlandi, a lawyer with the nonprofit Everglades Law Center, and other environmental advocates have learned in the last few months as they have become the target of email blasts by the state agency.

The latest email was issued Monday to the more than 5,000 addresses on the district's email list. With a subject head labeled "Your privacy," the agency gave out Interlandi's email address and then announced she had done what anyone in Florida is entitled to do: submit a records request seeking SFWMD's email distribution list.

"As you may know, such email lists and addresses are commercial commodities that are often bought and sold,'' the agency wrote. It cited no examples. "The law prohibits SFWMD from asking about the intended use for the information. Any concern you may have about a potential invasion of privacy is understandable."

Interlandi said the suggestion that she wanted to sell the list was “absurd.”

“It's a public record. It has no value. Anyone who asks for it can get it for free,’’ she said. Instead, she said she wanted the list after watching the water management district increasingly use hostile news releases to target critics of the agency and she thought having the list could be helpful if anyone wanted to "counter the attacks."

Randy Smith, spokesman for the SFWMD, said Thursday the agency never before had “received a mass public records demand for an email address list” and called the request “completely out of the ordinary.”

“Persons having entrusted their email addresses to the state have every right to know that their information has been obtained by a third party without their consent,’’ he said.

Most other state agencies include a standard disclosure on the bottom of agency emails remainding people that Florida has a broad public records law and most written communication to or from state officials regarding state business -- including all emails -- is considered a public record.

The SFWMD, which is funded by state and local tax dollars and is considered a state agency, does not include such a disclosure when it sends out blast emails to its more than 5,000 recipients. Smith did not answer why. Story here. 

Above: Excerpt from SFWMD Aug. 22 blast email


We asked the district to explain the policy and decisions surrounding it. Here are our questions and its answers:

Continue reading "Message from South Florida water managers: Don't make us mad" »

Florida to voters: Vote early in case storm hits

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It's too early to say if a tropical wave rumbling in the Caribbean will hit Florida early next week. But if it does, there's a chance the storm could drench Election Day.

On Thursday, the state's chief elections officer called on voters to cast their ballots early.

"While it is too premature to determine if voters will be impacted by adverse weather conditions, I encourage all Florida voters who have not voted by mail to get ahead of any possible weather disturbances by voting early," Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a statement disseminated by Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Election Day is Tuesday. Early polls will be open through Sunday in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Photo credit: National Hurricane Center

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans another DC trip to ask for Zika money


Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to return to Washington when Congress convenes after Labor Day to again press lawmakers for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

"I will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress on the day they return to work to make sure they immediately get something done on this urgent issue," Scott said in a statement Thursday. "During Congress's vacation, we have identified 43 cases of locally acquired Zika in four Florida counties. The Zika virus demands immediate federal action and I will impress upon our congressional members the urgency to protect our residents and visitors."

The Republican governor has already lobbied the GOP-controlled Congress for help, to no avail. Federal Zika dollars are scheduled to start drying up at the end of September.

Scott has blamed Democratic President Barack Obama for also failing to find money to deal with the virus outbreak. The president has requested a $1.9 billion allocation from Congress. Scott hasn't committed to any number.

Locally transmitted Zika has been identified in Wynwood and Miami Beach, and there are two cases under investigation in Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Patrick Murphy on debating Marco Rubio: "Yes, absolutely"



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is in general election mode. 

With five days to go until the Aug. 30 primary, Murphy continues to look ahead to November, where he will likely face Republican Marco Rubio

"We're about 75 days out, things are getting heated now," he said in Miami Beach Thursday. 

Murphy, who recently is polling within the margin of error against Rubio, did not hesitate when asked if he'll debate Rubio.

"Yes, absolutely," Murphy said. "I've always debated my opponents. I had a great debate with Congressman Allen West, Carl Domino my last opponent...I look forward to debating Senator Rubio because there is going to be a very sharp contrast." 

Murphy did not offer set terms for a potential debate, saying "Our teams will, I'm sure, be in touch with those terms but any forum where we can exchange ideas I look forward to." 

However, Murphy made similar comments earlier in the primary phase of this campaign but ultimately didn't follow through on his pledge.

Murphy generally avoided public forums where he would have shared the stage with his Democratic rivals, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Miami attorney Pam Keith. This summer, Murphy dropped out of a planned debate against Grayson and he has ignored offers by Keith to debate her. Neither opponent was mentioned during his remarks on Thursday.

"We agreed to debate Alan Grayson...but the only thing that changed from when I agreed to debate Congressman Grayson and now is his former wife coming out with 20 years of reports of domestic violence," Murphy said at a campaign stop in South Miami last week.  "I cannot in good conscience continue to give him this platform."

The U.S. Rep. from Jupiter was in Miami Beach on Thursday to receive the endorsement of mayor Philip Levine, who repeatedly attacked Rubio for failing to address climate change. 

"I've never even seen him show up here and talk about sea level rise," Levine said. "We need pumps, we need to raise our roads."

Levine's dog briefly walked through the press conference, stopping to stare at the politicians before continuing down the hallway.

Mystery flier tries to link Miami-Dade mayoral challenger to Trump

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Donald Trump's name won't be on the Miami-Dade County ballot Tuesday. But he's popping up in the county mayor's race anyway -- this time, in an attack flier against challenger Raquel Regalado.

"Miami doesn't need its own Donald Trump!" says the piece, which pictures Regalado's face on one end of the flier and Trump's on the other.

In the middle, it cites the Miami Herald editorial board's endorsement of Regalado's opponent, Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The editorial characterized Regalado as making "over the top" charges against Gimenez "much like Donald Trump's."

Regalado has no known ties to Trump. She has said that, even though she's a Republican, she won't vote for him. It's Gimenez -- who also won't vote for Trump -- who has met Trump, golfed with him and tried to work out a deal for Trump to run a county-owned golf course. Gimenez's son Carlos J. Gimenez also lobbies on behalf of Trump National Doral.

Regalado's political committee has highlighted Gimenez's Trump connection in a flier of its own. Both sides appear certain Trump's name is so unpopular in liberal, Hispanic Miami-Dade -- the only county Trump lost in the March 15 presidential primary -- that they are trying to use him to drag each other down.

The group behind the anti-Regalado mailer, however, is a mystery.

A disclaimer on the piece says it was paid for by Committee for Integrity, Inc., a corporation registered in Tampa. But corporate records don't reveal who's behind it; the entity, created in June, is listed to a Daniel Silverman of Tampa. The organization isn't registered as a state or county political committee.

Committee for Integrity has also put out a robocall against Regalado.

Regalado characterized the flier attack as a sign Gimenez's allies fear she has gained ground on him and could force him into a November run-off.

"Despite the rhetoric desperation is clearly setting it at [the] Gimenez campaign as they focus on Stopping Raquel Regalado," she said in a text message.

--with Douglas Hanks

PolitiFact: Donald Trump's misleading claim about Hispanics and poverty


Furthering his efforts to reach out to minorities, Donald Trump at a rally in Tampa decried how Hispanics have fared economically under President Barack Obama.

"Hispanic citizens have been suffering under this president," Trump said Aug. 24, 2016. "Since President Obama came into office, another 2 million Hispanics have joined the ranks of those in poverty. Two million have joined the ranks of poverty, not of wealth. I want you to join the ranks of people that are making phenomenal livings. ... The number of Hispanic children living in poverty increased by 15 percent in that short period of time."

To test the accuracy of Trump’s comment, we turned to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks poverty by age and race, among other characteristics. The most recent full year for which data has been published is 2014.

Keep reading Louis Jacobson's fact-check from PolitiFact.

Hollywood lawyer Alan Koslow pleads guilty


Hollywood lawyer Alan Koslow pleaded guilty this morning to one count related to money laundering in an FBI sting that took down the politically influential lobbyist.

Koslow entered the plea before U.S. District Court Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, according to court records. He faces a maximum of five years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 10.

Koslow was once known as the "King of Hollywood" for the power he held at City Hall. He was the city's attorney between 1990-93 until he had to resign after it came to light that he had a relationship with a city secretary with whom he helped negotiate a settlement. He later became a lawyer and lobbyist at Becker and Poliakoff and represented developers before the city.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office, here is what led to the criminal charges:

Beginning in November 2012, Koslow met with two undercover agents from the FBI. During the course of several meetings that followed, the undercover agents explained to Koslow, and later to business owner Susan Mohr, their need to launder cash that was being generated from an illegal gambling business and from the unlawful sale of narcotics and counterfeit Viagra.

Koslow and Mohr agreed to accept the cash and then provide checks to the agents, for the amount of the cash minus a five percent fee, drawn on the business bank account of “Mohr2GoGifts,” a business owned by Mohr and located in Fort Lauderdale. The FBI sting ended in 2013 but Koslow wasn't charged until this year leading to speculation that federal authorities used him to help nab others.

Koslow entered drug treatment this summer after testing positive for cocaine multiple times. He now attends outpatient treatment in Boca Ration, court records show. Mohr also pleaded guilty to one count this week.

Tim Canova ad says Debbie Wasserman Schultz flip flopped on fracking, medical marijuana


Tim Canova's new TV ad attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz accuses her of flip flopping on a few issues including fracking.

In an Aug. 14th debate on CBS4, Wasserman Schultz sounded open to fracking in Florida.

Host Jim DeFede asked: "So you are open to fracking as a possibility in Florida?"

She replied: "As long as we have significant regulations."

When the Miami Herald sent her spokesman a list of questions asking what type of regulations she wants, the campaign sent a statement saying she supports a state ban.

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida," she said in a statement.

The ad also accuses Wasserman Schultz of flip flopping on medical marijuana, payday lending and Trans Pacific Partnership. Here is some background:

Medical marijuana: Wasserman Schultz opposed the 2014 state constitutional amendment but in this race says she is undecided about the similar amendment on Nov. 8th ballot. In May, she voted in favor of a measure to give veterans access to medical marijuana after opposing a similar measure in 2014.

Payday lending: Wasserman Schultz defended Florida's payday law which has been bashed by consumer groups and she pushed back against proposed rules by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In June, she backed away from opposition to the new rules.

Trans Pacific Partnership: She voted to fast track TPP in 2015 but recently told the Sun Sentinel that she is still evaluating it.

Canova and Wasserman Schultz are competing in the Aug. 30th Democratic primary in a district that stretches from Weston to northern Miami-Dade County. The ad is running on cable and broadcast.



Mason-Dixon poll: Rubio 46%, Murphy 43%


Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy might cruise to primary victories in Florida's U.S. Senate race Tuesday, a new poll suggests, but they will be locked in a much tighter contest for the November general election.

The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey shows Rubio, the incumbent senator, romping primary challenger Carlos Beruff by 61-22 percent. Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, leads Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson by a commanding 55-22 percent.

But in a general-election match-up, Rubio is ahead of Murphy by 46-43 percent -- a virtual tie, given the poll's error margin of 4 percentage points. Rubio leads among Republicans, independents, men, whites and Hispanics. Murphy is ahead among Democrats, women and African-Americans.

Mason-Dixon polled 625 registered voters by phone from Aug. 22-24. The error margin for the primary numbers -- obtained by oversampling 400 likely Democratic voters and 400 likely Republican voters -- is 5 percentage points.

PolitiFact: Donald Trump distorts facts about immigrants and social security


Donald Trump's first ad of the general election campaign focuses on immigration, predicting what will happen if Hillary Clinton is elected.

"In Hillary Clinton's America," it warns, "illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open, it's more of the same, but worse."

We've previously looked at whether illegal immigrants convicted of crimes get to stay in the United States, a statement that rates Half True. But what about his other claim about immigrants getting Social Security?

If you take the Trump ad literally, it is accusing Clinton of wanting illegal immigrants convicted of crimes to stay in the United States and collect Social Security benefits — an easily disprovable assertion.

Instead, for this fact-check, we’ll examine another interpretation: whether a Clinton administration would have Social Security benefit checks going to the 11 million people currently in the United States illegally. This reading dovetails with information cited by the ad, an article by the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors strict immigration policies.

There's some truth to that argument that immigrants would be getting Social Security benefits under policies favored by Clinton. But, like all things related to immigration, it can get complicated.

Let's take this a step at a time.

Keep reading C. Eugene Emery' Jr.'s fact-check from PolitiFact.