February 26, 2015

And now, the unofficial response to the State of the County address


Needless to say, local versions of the president's annual State of the Union address never quite capture the pomp of that Congressional moment. But Miami-Dade's State of the County speech can now boast one presidential flourish: a video response from the opposition.

Hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez delivered his 45-minute speech before a crowd at Florida International University, likely challenger Raquel Regalado posted a two-minute response on her Facebook page. 


"Sadly, there were more questions than answers at today's speech as many of us wondered about these big projects and how we're going to be paying for them," the radio and television host said in the video, filmed in a studio with a backdrop of Miami. "There is a need for leadership in Miami-Dade County, but we did not see that today in today's State of the County."

Miami FDLE chief suspended with pay

via @DavidOvalle305

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s top agent in Miami has been put on administrative leave with pay as the agency investigates a “citizen’s complaint,” a spokesman said Thursday.

Troy Walker, the special agent in charge of the Miami regional field office, had only been on the job for two months after arriving from a high-ranking role in the Tampa field office.

FDLE declined to discuss the allegations against Walker. “Because this is an open investigation, no further details are available,” said agency spokesman Steve Arthur.

The suspension adds another twist to turmoil in FDLE’s high-level ranks.

More here.

Obama commemorates 3rd anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death


President Obama used part of his remarks in a reception Thursday honoring African American History month to remember Trayvon Martin, the Miami Gardens teenager killed three years ago in Sanford.

"Today, on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death, showing all of our kids -- all of them -- every single day, that their lives matter -- that's part of our task," the president said, according to a White House transcript. "I want to thank Trayvon's parents for being here on what's a very difficult day for them." 

Trayvon's parents were in the White House East Room for the event. The man who shot the unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman, was acquitted by a jury. The U.S. Justice Department announced this week that it would not charge Zimmerman with a federal hate crime.

The boy's death set off a national debate on racial profiling and self-defense laws.

NYT: Jeb Bush demands 'monogamy' from advisers

From The New York Times:

Mr. Bush has vowed to run a “joyful” presidential campaign free from the seamier sides of party politics, projecting the air of a cerebral man almost effortlessly drawing together Republicans eager to help him seek the White House. But behind the scenes, he and his aides have pursued the nation’s top campaign donors, political operatives and policy experts with a relentlessness and, in the eyes of rivals, ruthlessness that can seem discordant with his upbeat tone.

Their message, according to dozens of interviews, is blunt: They want the top talent now, they have no interest in sharing it, and they will remember those signed on early — and, implicitly, those who did not. The aim is not just to position Mr. Bush as a formidable front-runner for the Republican nomination but also to rapidly lock up the highest-caliber figures in the Republican Party and elbow out rivals by making it all but impossible for them to assemble a high-octane campaign team.

More here.

Tea-partier calls for walkout during Jeb Bush CPAC speech

via @lesleyclark

William Temple, a tri-corner hat wearing Brunswick, Ga., man who bills himself as the “Colonial face of the tea party,” is urging attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference to take a stand when Jeb Bush shows up Friday -- head for the exits.

“I’m asking for a mass bathroom retreat, nice and polite,” said Temple, who dresses as Button Gwinnett, one of three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. “I like Jeb as a friend, but I don’t like CPAC inviting non-conservatives.”

Temple, who has also pressed for walkouts of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others, said he opposes Bush’s stand on the education standards known as Common Core and on immigration.

“It’s pretty clear the Republican side wants none of that,” Temple said. Several attendees said Temple had approached them and asked them to boycott but said they’d decline.

“It’s not polite,” one woman told a reporter.

--LESLEY CLARK, McClatchy Washington Bureau

Rand Paul slams Jeb Bush over marijuana 'hypocrisy'

via @seancockerham

Sen. Rand Paul slammed Jeb Bush for "hypocrisy" as both prepare to make the case that conservatives should support their presidential aspirations.

Paul, R-Kentucky, noted that Bush opposes legalizing medical marijuana despite admitting that he smoked marijuana as a prep student at the elite Phillips Academy.

"When Jeb was a very wealthy kid at a very elite school, he used marijuana but didn’t get caught, didn’t have to go to prison." Paul said in a Wednesday night interview on the Fox News show, "The Kelly File." "I think it shows some hypocrisy that’s going to be difficult for young people to understand why we’d put a 65-year-old guy in jail for medical marijuana."

More here.

--SEAN COCKERHAM, McClatchy Washington Bureau

At CPAC, Chris Christie takes aim at Jeb Bush

via @learyreports

Chris Christie appeared at CPAC today outside Washington and took several shots at Jeb Bush, who is working to stifle Christie's support among center-right Republicans.

“If the elites in Washington make backroom deals to decide who he next president is going to be, (Bush) is definitely the front-runner,” the New Jersey governor  said. If voters choose “somebody who looks them in the eye, I’ll do OK.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Fact-checks about the Florida Legislature including claims by Badass Teachers, Jeff Clemens and Eckerd prof

When the Florida Legislature convenes March 3, it will kick off a 60-day session during which legislators and Republican Gov. Rick Scott will fashion a budget and set policies on topics including K-12 tests, guns on college campus and whether to allow online voter registration.

At PolitiFact Florida we have fact-checked claims related to the state Legislature since 2011. In years past, we have fact-checked claims about the state’s Stand Your Ground lawMedicaid expansionCommon Core environmental spending and Sharia law.

We have our ears open for claims this year, and not everything has to be wonky. In 2012, one of our most-clicked on items was a claim by then Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, that Tampa was "the strip club capital of the world." We rated that claim False.

During the session, we will be tracking Scott’s progress on many of the 20 promises he made  for his second term that we’ll rate on our Scott-O-Meter. We have already rated some of his promises -- including those to increase school security spendingand funding for springs -- as In the Works.

In the weeks leading up to the session, we’ve fact-checked a few claims related to bills proposed this year. Here’s a look at our fact-checks so far.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States'

At a congressional hearing reviewing President Barack Obama's Cuba policy, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told members of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee that the Castro regime "undermines our national security at every turn."

"Let me be clear," Ros-Lehtinen said in prepared remarks. "Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States."

Read her complete remarks after the jump.

Continue reading "Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States'" »

Fact-checking attack on Debbie Wasserman Schultz about her pot votes

As U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighs a potential presidential bid in 2016, a long list of politicians are considering whether to run for his Senate seat.

That includes U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, according to a Politico report on Feb. 17. (She’s not a lock on the Democratic side. A Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll suggests U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Palm Beach County and newly elected U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Leon County could also be strong contenders.)

One group was quick to attack Wasserman Schultz’s potential candidacy: The pro-pot lobby. Last year, she opposed Florida’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, which received almost 58 percent support, two points shy of passage. She also voted against a congressional amendment supported by advocates for medical marijuana.

"She’s voted repeatedly to send terminally ill patients to prison. And we’re certainly going to make sure Floridians know that — not to mince words," Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Drug Policy Alliance, told Politico.

Did Wasserman Schultz repeatedly take votes to send dying patients to prison? Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see what we found and here is our complete file on Wasserman Schultz.

Putnam's draft op-ed cites secrecy in Bailey's ouster

Photo(6)At the height of the outcry over the forced ouster of an FDLE commissioner by Gov. Rick Scott's office, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was poised to go public with a strongly-worded denunciation of the Gerald Bailey fiasco, including a reference to "key actions" made in secret that deny Floridians the constitutional right of access.

The words, under Putnam's byline, are in the form of a draft opinion piece for newspaper editorial pages that was never submitted.

Putnam's deputy chief of staff, Amanda Bevis, drafted the op-ed on Jan. 21. She said it was not sent because Putnam was giving interviews to Capitol reporters and making similar points that third week in January. "Because of the volume of media coverage around the issue, we decided not to do an op-ed," Bevis said.

The tone of the unpublished piece makes points similar to the court pleadings by Florida media outlets that accuse Scott and Cabinet members of violating the Sunshine Law by quietly sacking Bailey with no public discussion or vote.

"The members of the Cabinet are required to meet on a regular basis to consider items that are required by statute to come before the Cabinet," Putnam's piece reads. "The recent, sudden transition in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, however, represents a breakdown in the Cabinet process. When key decisions are made without the concurrence of all Cabinet members and outside of Cabinet meetings, we are robbing our constituents of their right to witness these deliberations. Moreover, such activities are not reflective of the governing body that was established in Florida's Constitution and do not represent the open process and shared responsibilities that were intended to be carried out by this governing body."

Putnam's piece goes on to list his proposals for Cabinet reform, which he had announced earlier that day, including mandatory confirmation votes of Cabinet agency heads, quarterly performance reports, an application process and formal interviews by a selection committee "following appropriate public meeting notices and sunshine requirements."

Putnam used the term "breakdown" at a Feb. 5 Cabinet meeting in Tampa, when he renewed his call for changes to bring more openness to the hiring and firing of Cabinet agency heads.

In Miami-Dade County, a lobbyist's email prompts a spat


 A tiff over the guest list for a big speech by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has revealed a spat within his inner circle.

On Feb. 11, lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez sent an email to clients and others on his mailing list announcing Gimenez’s upcoming State of the County address, a public event being held Thursday morning at Florida International University.

“As customary, I wanted to bring to your attention an important upcoming event in our community,” Lopez wrote. “The State of the County Address is open to the public.”

Lopez’s email included an RSVP option. When people clicked “I will be attending!” they were taken to an internal registration page controlled by his Coral Gables firm.

The email blast prompted Gimenez’s communications chief, Michael Hernández, to publicly question this week why Lopez was taking names for an event hosted by Miami-Dade’s mayor.

“No one authorized Jorge to send the invitation on behalf of the Office of the Mayor,” Hernández wrote in a statement to Naked Politics. “Jorge never requested authorization. Jorge is not a representative of Mayor Gimenez.”

Lopez pushed back Wednesday, noting he regularly sends out emails to clients about major county events, and has them RSVP to his firm so he can gauge interest and know who to look for.

He said he’s provided RSVP lists to the Gimenez’s office in the past and to prior administrations, and asked why no one from the mayor’s office objected when his email went out.

“Mr. Hernandez opened and read my email nearly two weeks ago but raised no concerns,” Lopez said in a statement, accompanied by a log from his online-marketing program showing the disputed email was sent to Hernandez and opened Feb. 11. “Mr. Hernandez lacks an ounce of credibility; and owes me a public apology!”

The dispute first surfaced in Nelson Horta’s blog, citing unnamed sources. Now the squabble has escalated into an on-the-record exchange between Hernandez, one of the mayor’s top political advisers, and Lopez, a lobbyist with longstanding ties to Gimenez.


Continue reading "In Miami-Dade County, a lobbyist's email prompts a spat" »

Florida GOP chairman backs winner-take-all primary


State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, paid a visit this week to the Miami Young Republicans to rally their support and answer their questions about the party's future.

One of them was whether the GOP would support legislation filed in Tallahassee setting next year's presidential primary for March 15, the earliest possible date in which all of the state's nominating delegates would be awarded to a single candidate, rather than distributed proportionally.

"It is my personal belief that the primary process in the state of Florida should be winner takes all," said Ingoglia, who represents Spring Hill, near Tampa. "We are the largest, most diverse swing state in the nation. We are the prize."

If a candidate puts in the work to win Florida, he added, then he or she should be rewarded in full. Left unsaid was that the party would want all of its delegates to back one of the state's native sons -- Sen. Marco Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush -- should one of them run and win the Sunshine State primary.

"It's sort of like a microcosm of the United States in general," he said. The person who can win here is "the person that we want to get behind."

February 25, 2015

Family's war record won't dictate his, Jeb Bush says

via @lesleyclark

Jeb Bush said Wednesday his father and brother’s decisions to declare war in Iraq do not mean he’d seek to avoid -- or to start -- another war.

Asked by radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt in a wide ranging interview whether or not he’d be “overly cautious” to use military force for fear of sparking a “third Bush war,” the former Florida governor said he welcomed the question.

“It wouldn’t,” Bush said, noting if he wins the Republican presidential nomination and the presidency “then I would have a duty to protect the United States. And there are circumstances where a commander-in-chief, the president of the United States has to make tough decisions.”

He said he “wouldn’t be conflicted by any legacy issues of my family,” adding that he’s “quite comfortable being George Bush’s son and George Bush’s brother.

Continue reading "Family's war record won't dictate his, Jeb Bush says" »

Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One


After the November election, where Democrats lost badly to Republicans across the country, the Obama administration said it would make an effort to reach out to more members of the GOP in Congress. Part of that outreach was supposed to include bringing them along for rides on Air Force One.

Yet that's not what Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo found this week when he asked the White House if he could hitch a ride on the presidential airplane to Miami for a town hall-style immigration meeting to be held in his swing district. Invited only two days before the event, and unwilling to take an early-morning commercial flight that would make him miss House votes, Curbelo was denied a seat on the plane and didn't attend. (In the end, House votes didn't begin until the early afternoon.)

"In this case, we were unable to accommodate the congressman's request, but we typically try to do so when we can," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Miami. When asked if there was no space for Curbelo, as the congressman said he was told, Earnest said he wasn't "exactly sure."

"When the president travels outside of Washington, it's not uncommon at all for us to invite a member of Congress from the congressional district where the president is appearing," Earnest said. "And we do that, whether or not it's a Democrat or a Republican who's participating -- or who represents that district in Congress." 

Miami's two other Republicans in Congress didn't attend, either, though all support an immigration overhaul.

Continue reading "Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One" »

Jeb Bush name-dropped in Obama town hall


Only one potential 2016 presidential candidate -- Jeb Bush -- was named at a town hall-style meeting on immigration held in Miami on Wednesday with President Obama.

Moderator José Díaz-Balart cited a statement the former Florida governor made on Facebook after a Texas federal judge temporarily halted Obama's latest executive action on immigration.

"He said last week that you overstepped your authority, and as a consequence you hurt the effort to find a solution to the immigration problem, and all the affected families deserve something better," Díaz-Balart began before asking about Obama's message to his successor.

The president gave a lengthy answer that, at one point, addressed the Bush remark, and received a round of applause.

"I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform," Obama said. "I would suggest that what he do is talk to the speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn't do it."

There was no mention that the bipartisan legislation in question was pushed in part by another possible GOP presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

That time Obama made fun of a TV anchor's dye job


Nothing drew more laughter during President Obama's brief visit to Miami on Wednesday than when he made a playful jab at Telemundo and MSNBC anchor José Díaz-Balart.

The quick exchange happened at the end of an hour-long interview about immigration that Díaz-Balart conducted in English and Spanish at Florida International University. Obama was calling on young people to vote.

"It doesn't do any good to push candidates but not then back it up with action," Obama said. "And the action ultimately is going to be getting engaged and involved in the political process. The people who are least likely to vote are young people."

Then he turned to Díaz-Balart and said, "I'm going to include José in the category of being old."

"We're the same age," Díaz-Balart chimed in. "I just look a little younger..."

"He looks a little better," Obama added, pointing at his own graying head, "because, you know, I don't dye my hair."

"I know," Díaz-Balart responded with a smile. "It's called, 'The Obama.'"

The two men shook hands good-naturedly. "I'm exaggerating," Obama said.

Immigration reform will happen, Obama says in Miami: 'There will be a President Rodriguez'


Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed during a brief visit to Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally.

“In the short term, if Mr. [Mitch] McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Obama said, almost daring congressional leaders to challenge him. “I will veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

His veto threat was met with rousing applause from the friendly audience assembled at Florida International University, where Obama taped an hour-long town hall-style meeting hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. The event, moderated by bilingual anchor José Díaz-Balart, was later nationally televised on both networks.

McConnell, of Kentucky, wants a stand-alone bill blocking Obama’s 2014 actions, which were supposed to take effect this week but have been stalled by a Texas federal judge. Boehner, of Ohio, is waiting for the Senate’s move, after House Republicans passed a budget for the Homeland Security Department that wouldn’t pay for the president’s plan.

More here.

Conservative Club for Growth hosts Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush -- but not Florida reporters -- in Palm Beach


The Club for Growth, a conservative group, has invited a gaggle of potential Republican presidential candidates to speak at the organization's winter conference beginning Thursday at the Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach. Slated to appear are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Not invited: Florida reporters.

Asked by the Miami Herald for a media credential last week, Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller responded: "Media coverage is by invitation only."

We reporters often gripe about access to public events. But these are politicians flirting with running for the world's most powerful position, so trying to keep what they say to a few hand-picked news organizations is hardly transparent. The Club for Growth appears to be more keen on controlling coverage than on reaching the widest possible audience with their -- and the potential candidates' -- conservative message.

The approach stands in contrast to numerous other events attended by would-be candidates. For example, the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking place this week in Maryland with many of the same GOP hopefuls, had open media registration and allows news outlets to live stream, upload and archive video of speakers' remarks.

AFP takes Latvala and Detert to task on economic incentives

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by uber-rich brothers David and Charles Koch is lashing out against two powerful Senate Republicans who have introduced bills related to economic incentive programs.

One bill (S.B. 1046) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, would create an incentive fund “to respond to extraordinary opportunities and to compete effectively with other states” in attracting the entertainment industry to Florida.

The other bill (S.B. 1214), by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, makes changes to existing quick-action closing funds, which AFP says allow state dollars to subsidize private economic development without enough transparency or oversight.

But AFP isn’t really a fan of Detert or Latvala, despite its strong conservative reputation and the senators’ klout among fellow Republicans in the Legislature. In 2014, AFP gave them both “F” grades in its legislative scorecard.