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137 posts from December 2008

December 23, 2008

Crist budget-gap plan: No layoffs, furloughs. Lots 'o borrowing

Gov. Charlie Crist has sent his letter to House Speaker Ray Sansom and Senate President Jeff Atwater outlining his plans to close the $2.3b budget gap. The big picture items are nearly identical in type and amount to what we reported last week.

The list is below

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Bush pardons include Miami man who helped in the struggle to create Israel

President Bush today granted pardons to 19 individuals and commutation of sentence to one person. The Florida names include the late Charles Thompson Winters of Miami.

His offense: Conspiracy to export, and exportation, of a military aircraft to a foreign country in violation of the Neutrality Act of 1939. Translation: Helping to fly weapons to the Jews in Palestine, fighting for what would later become Israel. According to the White House he was sentenced in 1949 in Florida to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine

Nearly 25 years after his death, his son, Jimmy, began working on what he considered the ultimate gift to his father: a presidential pardon.

He had the help of a bi-partisan letter signed by 21 members of Congress urging for the pardon, led by Democratic Rep. Ron Klein. The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County had also asked for the pardon.

"President Bush made the right decision today to issue a posthumous pardon to Charles Winters, a Florida resident who played an essential role in the creation of the state of Israel," Klein said.

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President Ros-Lehtinen? Nah

With Florida International University prez Mitch Maidique retiring, talk around town has Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a potential candidate to succeed him.

Maidique told the Herald he's heard the rumors that the Republican congresswoman is interested. But Ros-Lehtinen today sought to squash them, saying she's not putting her name in the running.

"Folks keep spreading that rumor. And everytime I hear of it I say 'NO' as loudly as I can," she said in an e-mail. She suggested the rumor circulates because she holds two degrees from FIU and in 2004 earned a doctorate in education from the University of Miami. But, she said, she's not interested in giving up her congressional seat.

"I love this Congressional job because I get to help constituents," she said. "I want to continue helping constituents as a member of Congress."

Staffer Alex Cruz noted the "hands-on congresswoman never stops. Right now she is touring the Coconut Grove Post Office and will then meet with the Miami postmaster, a Grove Commissioner and residents to try and help settle a dispute between residents and the post office."

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College handed Sansom $122M wish list

The president of the college where Ray Sansom now works provided him with a "pricey" $122-million funding request over five years with the implicit expectation that Sansom would help "make it a reality."

Sansom, who got the request in February, took care of the first part. This year, he secured $25.5-million in the budget for a student services building at Northwest Florida State College -- $24.5-million more than the Department of Education requested.

Records obtained today by the Times/Herald show the college wanted $18-million in PECO funds in the upcoming fiscal year (at some point, the request was pared back to $13.2-million, a figure we already reported. The DOE has recommended only $748,000).

Pecolist The big payoff was to come in Sansom's final year in the House, with $34-million. Then in the two years following, the college wanted an additional $45-million.

All told, the college laid out a five-year plan to obtain $122.5-million. "It's a pricey list ... hopefully we can make it a reality," President Bob Richburg wrote to Sansom on Feb. 26, 2008.

It was not the first time Richburg directly appealed to Sansom for funding. See below.

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Lawyer group blasts JNC's Jimenez pick

The Judicial Nominating Commission ''ran afoul of Florida law'' and appeared to bow to political pressure when it nominated Miami lawyer Frank Jimenez for the Florida Supreme Court, a group of high-powered lawyers complained in a strongly worded letter Monday.

Jimenez, a politically connected attorney who is currently the U.S. Navy's general counsel, was nominated for the seat Wednesday after a long and contentious JNC meeting called in response to Gov. Charlie Crist's request for more ''diversity'' in the list of prospective justices. Amid frequent 5-4 votes, the commission suspended its rules at times as some members questioned what they were doing and what Crist's motives were.

''We are very concerned that the integrity of the process with respect to the nomination and selection of justices and judges may be tainted in the eyes of the public,'' said the letter to JNC chairman Robert Hackleman.

It was signed by 17 attorneys, including former Florida Bar President Kelly Overstreet-Johnson, Wayne Hogan, two former Fifth District Court of Appeal judges and state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, and his father, José.

Yesterday's story here

Download hackleman_concerns_re_jnc_procedures.doc

December 22, 2008

Dem leader Sands was Madoff swindle victim

From a press statement:

"House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands has learned in recent days that he and his wife, Leslie Sands, are included among a number of individuals, philanthropic institutions, and for-profit investment companies that have been victimized by an alleged fraud perpetrated by the New York based firm, Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

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December 21, 2008

The First Lady's first public event

Two dozen foster children and their parents went to the Governor's Mansion on Sunday, where they took part in reading "The Twelve Days of Christmas in Florida" (seven shuttle launchings, six gators grinning, etc.) Married nine days and fresh off what Gov. Charlie Crist called a "working honeymoon," he and First Lady Carole Crist sat in chairs facing the kids, who took turns reading parts of the book.

Her two daughters were to have been at the event but were unable to fly from New York because of the snowstorm. Asked what it's like to be First Lady, Mrs. Crist said: "I love it. It's a tremendous honor and privilege, and I enjoy obviously being with my wonderful husband, always." She described her role this way: "Whatever I can do to be of help to the governor's office and this administration's agenda, I'm happy to help in any way I can, particularly for the children."

She said the landscaping and hills of Tallahassee remind her of her hometown of Roslyn, N.Y. She hasn't chosen a cause, but said: "I think charitable work is extremely important and it's very gratifying for me so I will make every effort to do what I can." When she was asked if the governor seeks policy advice from her, he cut in and said with a laugh, "Okay, that was the last question."

The governor said he'll spend Christmas Eve in St. Petersburg. He said he's "fine" with Senate President Jeff Atwater's position that the two-week special session next month should focus only on the budget deficit, and not a casino gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.

-- Steve Bousquet   

December 20, 2008

Obama ally, Thurman critic off DNC

Allan Katz, a key Barack Obama supporter who butted heads with Florida Democratic Chairwoman Karen Thurman over the state's early primary, declined to seek another term on the Democratic National Committee in today's party elections.

Florida will be represented on the DNC by Sen. Tony Hill, Mitch Ceasar, Chuck Mohlke, Alan Clendenin, Jon Ausman, Diane Glasser, Terrie Brady, Nancy Jacobson, Rep. Joyce Cusack and Evelyn Garcia.

As expected, Thurman won re-election as chairwoman. Party leaders also chose Rhett Bullard as vice chairman, Rick Boylan as secretary and Alma Gonzalez as treasurer.

December 19, 2008

It isn't Taddeo at SBA, but Hispanic groups hail Obama's Cabinet choices

Annette Taddeo earlier this week was said to be in the running to head up the Small Business Administration, but Karen Mills, a founding partner of the New York-based equity firm Solera Capital, just accepted the job on stage in Chicago.

Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., who campaigned with Taddeo this fall, touting her as a superior alternative to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was named secretary of labor.

Hispanic leaders, who had pushed for Hispanic representation in Obama's Cabinet, applauded his picks, with John Trasvina, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, saying they demonstrate that "Latinos will have a key role in governing and shaping needed change in America."

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Bill Clinton's Florida friends

The list of donors to former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation includes a few familiar Florida names:

Miamian Andrew Tobias, the Democratic National Committee treasurer, gave more than $100,000 but less than $250,000, the donor list reports. Tobias is also one of a number of Miami contributors to president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

Democratic fundraisers Carole Shields Westbrook and Hugh Westbrook also contributed between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. Miami developer Paul Cejas, a Clinton supporter, also contributed.

The Washington Post says the donors also include sugar baron Alfonso Fanjul, whom it noted "has heavily lobbied Washington and Clinton about his business interests."

Clinton agreed to release the list of donors as part of Hillary Clinton's new job as Secretary of State in the Obama administration.