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285 posts from October 2007

October 31, 2007

GOP chief, black leader call a truce

Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer and a black Republican leader sought to make yesterday's news out of their dispute over minority outreach by striking a conciliatory note in a press release today.

Greer and Deon Long, chairman of the Florida Federation of Black Republicans, met today to discuss how party staff and grassroots activists could work together. “Today’s meeting was productive and positive,” Greer said.

"I look forward to working side by side with chairman Greer and the party,'' added Long.

The fence-mending comes two weeks before the state party hosts a convention for black Republicans in Orlando. For more information on the conference, click here.

Charlie and the Water Wars

Gov. Charlie Crist goes to Washington Thursday to tackle, among other things, the tri-state water dispute commonly known as the Southeastern Water Wars. A record drought has Atlanta's suburbs drying up, Alabama's drinking water supply and power grid threatened, and Florida's fragile ecosystem of Apalachicola Bay at risk of degradation if the flow of water from theChattahoochee River gets any lower.

The Department of Interior has tried to sound the warning for the Western United States but it has yet to devote the same attention to the disappearing waters of the Southeast. On Thursday, DOI Secretary Dick Kempthorne will bring together Crist, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. The governors of these states have met before -- as far back as former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and most recently with former Gov. Jeb Bush. Yet the fighting continues. Stay tuned.

Wooing Katherine Harris proves pricey

The Federal Election Commission today announced the 2nd largest fine in its history - $1 million - against a defense contractor who wined and dined former Rep. Katherine Harris.

DC-based watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, says the fine was a result of the group's complaint against contractor Mitchell Wade and his company, MZM.

Crew filed the complaint with the FEC in June 2005, alleging that MZM and Wade violated federal campaign finance laws. The complaint was based on an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune that alleged that Wade had used corporate dollars to reimburse employees for contributions made to members of Congress whom Wade believed could be helpful to him.

The agreement with the FEC has Wade admitting that MZM made corporate contributions to the campaigns of Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., and Harris, and agreeing to pay $1 million to settle the matter.

The commission notes in a press release that it found "no evidence that either Goode for Congress or Friends of Katherine Harris" knew that contributions were illegal and that both politicians have "either refunded or disgorged all MZM-related contributions."

Said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan, "a fine of this magnitude should serve as a warning to all political donors that violating federal campaign finance laws has serious consequences."

Read the full story here and the FEC release on the matter here:

FEA: Crist's word on taxes isn't it enough.

School union president Andy Ford just finished a press conference where he said FEA would not support the new tax cut package but hasn't decided whether to actively oppose it.

Ford said the union is taking to other unions, considering a lawsuit and is conducting "strategic polling" as it decides its next course of action.

He noted state leaders said they'd pass a tax cut package that would hold schools harmless and "we held them at their word." Yet this package cuts between $1 billion to $3 bllion over five years.

Gov. Charlie Crist's pldege to try to protect schools from cuts isn't enough. "I need something in my hand," Ford said. "A verbal commitment isn't enough. We need to make sure that public schools are treated and funded the way that this state can afford to do."

Shak for Sheriff?

The website for Shahrukh "Shak'' Dhanji, a Florida Human Rights Commissioner and potential Broward sheriff's candidate, is www.shakforsheriff.com, but he insists the address isn't a play on the Miami Heat star with an interest in law enforcement.

Dhanji said he was known as "Shak'' before Shaquille O'Neal was known as "Shaq."

"It's a nickname that has been used from time to time,"  said Dhanji. "I think I am older than he is."

Dhanji said his website was set up by a friend when he was seeking the appointed sheriff's position and that he'll take it down until he decides by Monday whether to run for the job in 2008. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Al Lamberti to the job on Friday, with a term expiring next November.

O'Neal has said in the past that he's interested in working as a sheriff or undercover police officer in the future -- although he hasn't been specific about when. As a Miami Beach police reserve officer, he's helped officers solve a missing person's case and catch a hit-and-run driver.


Good-bye super exemption

At the request of the state, the Florida Supreme Court has dismissed the state-led appeal of the property tax amendment placed on the ballot in June by lawmakers. That means the amendment giving homeowners a choice between a super-exemption and status quo is dead, done, gone. That leaves the amendment placed on the Jan. 29 ballot as the final deal.

Crist: I'll back citizens tax-cut petition, too

Gov. Charlie Crist held another presser for the Jan. 29 vote on property-tax cuts at a citizen's home -- this time at the Kendall house of Stephanie Fay, a mother of two and teacher of government economics at Coral Gables High.

True to her field of expertise, Fay said the tax-cut package wasn't enough and that she'd back a citizens' petition drive to cut more taxes.

"So will I," Crist chimed

House Speaker Marco Rubio, whose office yesterday said he had a potential scheduling conflict, didn't show. He also didn't stand by Crist's side after the tax-cut package was passed by the Legislature.

FEA to announce their stance on prop tax amendment

The Florida Education Association, the state's teacher union, has called a 1 p.m. press conference where FEA President Andy Ford will discuss the property tax constitutional amendment that lawmakers placed on the Jan. 29th ballot.

On Monday, FEA representatives said they would likely oppose the amendment because of its potential impact to schools, but a day later FEA officials said that no decision had been made. Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday told reporters he planned to talk about the amendment with Ford.

Crist the campaigner stretches tax-cut truth

Gov. Charlie Crist is in Miami today on a two-day statewide flyaround ''campaign like the dickens'' for a new property-tax plan that was roundly trashed -- yet still passed -- by the Florida Legislature.

Like any seasoned campaigner, Crist is reaching out to potential opponents, like the teachers' unions. And he's staging press events with citizen taxpayers, while exaggerating the plan's scope and effect.

''This is going to fire up Florida's economy,'' Crist said in Tallahasee. He said that ''portability'' will free people ''trapped in their homes'' by the fear of buying a high-tax house, but doesn't mention that many people say the high sales cost of homes is the primary reason for staying put.

Those who plan to stay put would save an average of $220 when their homestead $25,000 homestead exemption is increased. Crist said the plan to ''double'' the exemption is ``very clear. Very straightforward.''

It isn't. The plan doesn't double the homestead exemption for anyone. And he touts the tax plan's five-year statewide savings of $12 billion -- though legislative analysts say that number is unreliable and possibly too high.

Story here.

October 30, 2007

Gutierrez Jr. launches conservative PAC

Miami developer Armando Gutierrez Jr., son of the political operative known for his role in the Elian Gonzalez saga, has started a new group aimed at electing conservatives in Washington and Tallahassee.

StrongParty.org is hosting a fundraiser Saturday at the Rusty Pelican for Jupiter attorney Tom Rooney, who is running for Congress. Also on the group's to-do list: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota and Florida House candidates Todd Goberville of Parkland and Eric Eisnaugle of Orlando.

Gutierrez, 26, runs his own company and is the youngest appointee to the Jackson Memorial Hospital Public Health Trust.