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September 21, 2016

Clinton Foundation deemed more transparent than Trump Foundation


A philanthropy oversight group says the Clinton Foundation is more transparent than the Trump Foundation in providing detailed information about their recipients and activities.

While the Trump Foundation appears to meet the bare letter of IRS disclosure law, the Clinton Foundation has received Guidestar's "Platinum Seal," the group's highest ranking for transparency, for providing more information than legally required.

"The two organizations reflect the perceived styles of the two candidates: one systematized, the other improvisational," Guidestar said.

Read more here:



Giant Trump portrait paid for by foundation turns up at Doral golf resort


Most big stories have a link to Miami.

Case in point: The Washington Post investigation into spending by The Trump Foundation -- including into a pair of giant Donald Trump portraits. Federal law prohibiting charities from making purchases for their principals.

The Post had been unable to find the two paintings. But an eagle-eyed reader found a photo of one of them on the Trip Advisor website -- hanging at Trump National Doral, the golf resort outside Miami.

So Univision, the resort's next-door neighbor, checked it out. A reporter booked a room at Trump National on Tuesday night -- and found the 6-foot portrait, for which the foundation paid $10,000. 

Trump banned Univision employees from his premises last year, though his campaign never explained how it would enforce the edict.

The Trump campaign has maligned the Post for its reporting, without actually identifying any inaccuracies in the newspapers investigation. Trump has refused to release his tax returns.

NRSC releases Spanish-language version of Murphy attack ad



Senate Republicans' campaign committee on Wednesday released a Spanish-language version of a recent ad attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over his professional experience.

You can read more about the ad's message here from our previous coverage and about the problematic claims it includes here from PolitiFact. The independent fact-checking website found it's "too extreme" to say Murphy "never" worked as a CPA or as a small business owner.

Both versions of the ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee mirror one another with one key difference: The final line.

The English-language version ends with the narrator saying: "Patrick Murphy: We just can't trust him." But the Spanish-language version concludes by saying essentially that "Patrick Murphy is a great teller of tales" -- a play on words for the Spanish word contador, which means "accountant" but also means "someone who tells (a story)."

The 30-second ad will run in Tampa and Orlando, the NRSC said.

When the NRSC released the English-language version last week (called "Revealed"), Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said: "All the NRSC has 'revealed' in this ad is repeated lies, which have been rated 'mostly false' by PolitiFact."

The NRSC has committed $4.8 million on TV ads in Florida through Oct. 2, and the group could spend even more in the final month of the campaign season.

Here's the Spanish-language version of the NRSC ad:

Herald politics writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this story.

Image credit: NRSC / YouTube

PolitiFact's Obameter: A broken promise on path to citizenship

Obama Campaign 2016 ClintonphiliAP


In June, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over a Texas case related to President Barack Obama's efforts to help millions of illegal immigrants temporarily avoid deportation. That ruling and other events are stopping Obama from keeping his campaign promise on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Obama's programs were intended to help certain people who came here as children and their parents. While it would not have provided a permanent lawful status to applicants, it would have made it easier for them to work and study here.

The decision was another blow to Obama's efforts to change immigration laws and promise to provide a path to citizenship.

We rated Obama's 2008 pledge as In the Works after the Senate unveiled an immigration bill in 2013 that included several hurdles for undocumented immigrants, including fines, background checks and a waiting period, before they could be on a path to citizenship. But the bill stalled in the House when leadership refused to bring it up for a vote.

Keep reading from PolitiFact's Obameter here.

Photo by the AP

Liz Dudek, top health care official, retires after 40 years with state


Liz Dudek, one of the longest-serving agency heads under Gov. Rick Scott, is retiring as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the governor's office announced Wednesday.

Dudek, who earns $141,000, is responsible for the agency that manages Medicaid in Florida. Her leave is official Oct. 3.

Deputy Secretary of Medicaid Justin Senior has been appointed interim secretary of the agency.

Dudek, of Tallahassee, has led AHCA since 2011 when Scott took office. But her tenure with the state reaches back more than 40 years.

"Under her leadership, we have worked to make hospitals more transparent and accomplished historic Medicaid reform," Scott said in a statement. "She helped champion quality health services for children in our state and worked hard on our Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding where she fought to protect patients from being price gouged at hospitals."

She previously was bureau chief of health facility compliance and assistant deputy secretary of managed care and health quality for AHCA.

Last year, after lawmakers reached stalemate over expanding Medicaid, Scott named Dudek the co-chairman of the Commission on Health Care and Hospital Funding.

Dudek's agency has been under scrutiny in recent years for its treatment of abortion clinics, and both she and Senior have been at the front lines of major political battles in the Florida Legislature over Medicaid expansion and health care reforms.

Still, even critics of the Scott administration's health care agenda laud Dudek's leadership.

"She was always really professional to work with," said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, CEO of pro-Medicaid expansion group Florida CHAIN. "There aren't very many people at all that I have tremendous respect for and admiration, but Liz is one of those few people."

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said AHCA is responsible for Medicare in Florida.

Gloria Estefan: donation to animal group not meant to support Raquel Regalado's mayoral run


Estefan invite regalado

The invitation to an event backing Miami-Dade mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado hinted at her first star-studded endorsement: a hotel stay donated by Gloria Estefan. But the singer's office said the gift wasn't meant to help a candidate.

The Animal Power Party, a spin-off of the Pets Trust political group, is hosting an Oct. 14 event for Regalado, the two-term school board member who is challenging incumbent Carlos Gimenez. Animal Power has been running ads for Regalado since the primary, and the effort is continuing into the general election.

"Please join us on Oct. 14, 2016 as we work to raise funds to help Raquel Regalado become the next mayor of Miami-Dade County," the invitation for evening event at a furniture galley in the Falls shopping center. 

The invitation suggests guests can participate in an auction "featuring items donated by Gloria Estefan." It offers a stay for an unspecified duration at Costa D'Este, an Estefan hotel in Vero Beach (which the invitation mistakenly identifies as Estefan's home.) The invitation doesn't actually mention the auction, but Animal Power co-founder Michael Rosenberg confirmed that is what's planned.

In a statement, Estefan's office said the singer gave the donation to support animal-rights causes in general, and did not intend to have the gift help raise money for a candidate. "The auction item was donated to support Pets Trust and not as any political fundraiser," the statement read.  

County politics are particularly sensitive for Estefan and her husband, Emilio. The celebrity couple's restaurant arm in 2015 won a Miami International Airport contract from the Gimenez administration that later proved controversial

Rita Schwartz, also a co-founder of the Animal Power Party, said the donation did not come from Estefan directly, but from a local music professor who helped found the Estefans' famous band, later called the Miami Sound Machine, in the 1970s. Raul Murciano Jr., an associate dean at the University of Miami's Frost Music School, secured the gift, Schwartz said.

"I don't even know if Gloria is aware of where the donation is going," Schwartz said.

Murciano confirmed that speculation, saying the donation was to support the Pets Trust's original cause of more tax funding for animal sterilization in Miami-Dade. "The intent was specifically for the pets initiative," he said. "It's not a political endorsement of a candidate. When I spoke to Gloria's people on this, i did not make any kind of mention of this being political or anything with Regalado." 

September 20, 2016

Fact-checking an attack about Patrick Murphy and utility bills


An anti-regulation group is accusing U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of wanting to use the Senate to adopt policies that would raise the cost of just about everything, starting with your utility bills.

"Vote against Patrick Murphy," reads a mailer we received Sept. 12, 2016, from Americans for Prosperity Florida. "We can’t afford his ‘Pay More’ agenda."

The flier cautions electricity and grocery prices will go up as wages go down with Murphy in the Senate.

"Patrick Murphy’s ‘Pay More’ energy agenda means you could pay another $500 a year for your utility bills!" the flier warns.

The group behind the attack is the Florida affiliate of the main political committee for the anti-tax industrialists and billionaires Charles and David Koch.

We wondered just what Murphy would be planning that would make utility costs go up $500 annually. There’s a tenuous link between what the Jupiter Democrat supports and the future of energy costs, but it’s not nearly as charged as AFP claimed.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

As Florida's crime rate drops, Rick Scott says anti-terrorism costs will rise

Even while state leaders continue to highlight the state's dropping crime rate, the somber realities of the worst mass murder in U.S. history and a summer of violent police encounters nationwide is provoking a response from the Florida government.

Over a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott and the state's Cabinet heard pleas from state law enforcement agencies to spend millions to hire dozens of new counter-terrorism specialists, revamp the state's counter-terrorism laws and double the number of Florida Highway Patrol pursuit vehicles with dashboard cameras.

The requests — totalling nearly $10 million — come at a time state leaders are growing increasingly concerned about rising budget expenses that could result in budget shortfalls over the next three years. Still, with memories of the Pulse nightclub killings in Orlando fresh in their minds, Gov. Rick Scott left no doubt he expects the cost of fighting terrorism will increase.

"We all have to understand that we live in a time where people want to do harm to our country," Scott said. "We're going to have to spend more money to fight terrorism."

Under a plan detailed for the first time Tuesday before Scott and the Florida Cabinet, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it needs to hire 46 counter-terrorism specialists statewide costing more than $6 million. In addition, FDLE said it would push the Legislature for new laws that would allow it to investigate and go after terrorist suspects like the federal law enforcement agencies do now.

"What happened in Orlando on the morning June 12, 2016 shook us all but it did not break us," FDLE commissioner Richard Swearingen told Scott and the other three elected members of the Cabinet. "And it convinced me and my team that we can, and must do more to protect our state."

Full story here

Rubio, Murphy release letters on behalf of Orlando shooting victims

Three months after the Orlando nightclub massacre, both major candidates for the U.S. Senate in Florida are trying to show that they are using their positions in Congress to advocate for the victims.

On Tuesday, both Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy released copies of letters they sent to different federal agencies that aim to clear up potential bureaucratic problems for victims of the Pulse nightclub attack.

Rubio, a Miami Republican, sent a letter to FBI director James Comey calling on his agency to share forms with the city of Orlando that include nearly 1,000 victims and the families who may need resources as they recover. He said many people who filled out those intake forms after the attack in June did not realize the FBI would not share that information with local agencies. That has left many people waiting for help that has yet to arrive.

“These cases have fallen into what is essentially a black hole,” Rubio says in the letter dated Aug. 24, but posted on his official Senate website on Tuesday. “I understand there are privacy concerns regarding the fact the forms in question are part of an ongoing investigation into a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. However, I believe there should be some way to strike a balance between those privacy concerns and making sure my constituents receive the assistance they need - and that many though they were applying for when they filled out these forms in the first place.”

That comes a day after Rubio introduced legislation that would grant student loan deferments to survivors of the Pulse nightclub attack.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Murphy, a Democrat from Palm Beach County, sent a letter to IRS commissioner John Koskinen asking that the IRS not tax money given to victims through the One Orlando Fund, which has raised $25 million to help victims and their families.

“The compassion of a heartbroken nation should not lead to a massive tax bill,” Murphy wrote in his letter dated Sept. 20. “As of the date of this letter, the OneOrlando website responds to the question of taxation by recommending that victims and their families consult a tax advisor. This should not be necessary.”

Rubio and Murphy are facing off in the Nov. 8 election, which is now less than 50 days away.

FDLE asks Scott, Cabinet to expand anti-terrorism efforts

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday will consider the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's request for new laws and more agents from the 2017 Legislature to fight terrorism at the state level. The request, coming three months after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 48 bar patrons were killed, is expected to win support from the four statewide officials.

"Our current threat environment has seen a vast expansion and evolution of terrorist-related threats in recent years," an FDLE staff report says.

The leader of the statewide law enforcement agency, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, will ask for support for $6.2 million to add 46 full-time employees at eight new regional counter-terrorism squads; $4.2 million to improvement recruitment of FDLE agents; and $786,000 to address the backlog in processing sexual assault testing kits. FDLE also wants to make it a crime in Florida for anyone to belong to a foreign terrorist group or to receive any military-style training from foreign terrorist groups.

The Cabinet agenda also include the most detailed review of Swearingen's performance since he was appointed by Scott in December 2014. In a review of his own performance, Swearingen generally gave himself good marks, but he cited a backlog in the processing of applications for concealed weapons permits.

Swearingen said that in the 2014-2015 budget year, FDLE processed 800,000 firearms requests, most within four minutes each. The requests jumped by about 200,000 to nearly 1 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. "Unfortunately," Swearingen writes, "in FY 15-16, the percent of checks responded to within defined timeframes dropped to 96 percent, primarily due to an increase in firearms checks."

Scott and the Cabinet also will vote Tuesday on spending $1.3 million to acquire a 25-acre Tampa site from Florida Rock and Tank Lines as a buffer against future development next to MacDill Air Force Base. Florida Rock will retain development rights on a separate 15-acre tract to the north for a hotel project, according to a staff report.