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237 posts from December 2009

December 31, 2009

Robert Wexler's "curious" $150,000 campaign bet

From former Miami Herald reporter Dan Christensen's new Broward Bulldog comes a story about outgoing Rep. Robert Wexler's interesting campaign finance reports.

"Most members of Congress keep their campaign money in the bank or in stocks and bonds," Christensen writes. "Wexler, who leaves office Sunday, used campaign funds to place a big bet on real estate in March 2004, Palm Beach records show.

"Until the mid-1990s, candidates for federal office were required to keep campaign funds in a federally insured bank account. But in a series of advisory opinions, the Federal Election Commission gradually changed the rules to allow campaigns to invest surplus funds as candidates see fit.

" 'But I don’t recall anyone investing in real estate before with campaign funds,” said a Washington election law attorney who asked not to be named.

Diaz-Balarts, Meek and Wasserman Schultz voted thumbs-down on full body image scans

From McClatchy: "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 has revived a battle in Congress over the use of whole-body imaging technology to screen airline passengers.

Some legislators argue that the machines...could have detected the explosive powder the 23-year-old Nigerian was carrying and should be approved for widespread use. Others, however, call whole-body scans 'virtual strip searches' that should be used only if there's probable cause to assume that someone might be carrying explosives.

In June, the House voted 310-118 to reject the widespread use of whole-body imaging technology as a primary tool for airport screening, a measure introduced by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. The measure died in the Senate.

Voting along with Chaffetz: Miami Republicans Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrats Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings. Opposing: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ron Klein.

Politico questions whether the votes will come back to haunt the reps. "The ad would go a little something like this: 'Fanatical terrorists are plotting to destroy our way of life, and Congressman X voted to hamstring efforts to protect your family.' "

Sansom case back in circuit court after appeals court ruling

The First District Court of Appeals says State Attorney Willie Meggs cannot appeal the Ray Sansom case, because parts of it are still in pending in circuit court. Here is today's ruling.

"We didn't think the state had the right to appeal at this point," Steve Dobson said. Meggs said he had not yet read the ruling. But he conceded the issue still in circuit court is not strong on its own. "There's no case there,"  he said.

Jtusenote Attorney General Bill McCollum had filed the First DCA appeal for Meggs. A circuit court judge did not dismiss all of the official misconduct charge against Sansom. At issue is a budget document from 2007 that Meggs contends shows Sansom all along intended to use state money to put a building at Destin Airport, next to Jay Odom's corporate jet business.

Continue reading "Sansom case back in circuit court after appeals court ruling" »

A look at Charlie Crist's rough year

Charlie Crist's final year as governor begins like no other: with perilous poll numbers, his optimism worn thin and his shell of political Teflon deeply scratched.

After two years of governing Florida by shrewdly gauging the prevailing political winds, Crist strayed off course as the economy spiraled downward in 2009, his nice-guy image no longer effective as a balm for frustrated Floridians.

He miscalculated the danger of his "man hug" with President Barack Obama in support of the Democrats' stimulus package. He signed a no-new taxes pledge only to raise taxes weeks later to balance the state budget. And the biggest contributor in his campaign for U.S. Senate, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein, was charged in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.

By year's end, his Republican Senate rival, Marco Rubio, had gained ground as a conservative alternative.

"It's been a rough patch, and certainly some of it's self-inflicted. No question. I mean, that happens. Nobody's perfect," Crist said in an interview with the Times/Herald. "But you learn from that, I think."

Read the full story here.

More on the Diaz-Balart defection

In his Miami Herald column, Michael Putney suggests the Diaz-Balart brothers' ties to Kendrick Meek were a contributing factor to the astounding decision to take back their endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist.

"There's more to it than pique over a rejected judicial appointment," Putney wrote. "The Diaz-Balart brothers have a close relationship with Kendrick Meek, who has followed their lead and that of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Cuba. The brothers were evidently feeling that by endorsing Crist they'd betrayed Meek, who sat on the sidelines instead of endorsing their Democratic opponents last year. So, the Diaz-Balarts met privately with Meek and his mother, former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, before the PAC luncheon and said they'll be sitting on the sidelines during the 2010 Senate race."

In a column on The Huffington Post, Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen argues that the endorsement doesn't matter much anyhow, noting that the Diaz-Balart's "endorsements did not carry much weight the last time they opposed a fellow Cuban American in a statewide Republican primary." In 2004, they sided with Bill McCollum over Mel Martinez -- Martinez won more than 90 percent of the vote in majority Cuban American precincts, Bendixen writes -- and won the Senate seat.

Avoiding a Florida 2008 redux

The Washington Post: "Eighteen months removed from a protracted presidential primary fight, a group of Democrats gathered by President Obama has recommended that the party effectively eliminate the influence of so-called superdelegates by redefining their voting power.

"The Democratic Change Commission, which was convened last August to examine the nominating process, is recommending that superdelegates -- also known as unpledged delegates -- be required to vote along with the electoral majority of their state."

Florida Democratic Party chief Karen Thurman says though the changes "unfortunately don't address the issues that put Florida's 2008 primary vote in question, today's action by the Change Commission is the first step in a long process."

Florida and Michigan in 2008 lost votes in the Democratic primary by scheduling their contests ahead of party-sanctioned primaries. Iowa's Quad-City Times reports that state expects to keep its front-runner status and that the commission is "recommending the DNC offer incentives for states to follow the party calendar by offering, for example, preferred seating and hotel accommodations at national conventions."

December 30, 2009

Can you serve on a Super Bowl host committee behind bars?

Scott Rothstein, the disbarred attorney sitting in federal detention on corruption charges, is still listed as serving on the host committee for the Super Bowl according to an online media guide.

Rodney Barreto, a businessman who chairs the host committee, said that new media guides will omit Rothstein's name and he expects it to be removed from the website today.

Barreto said he invited Rothstein to join a few months ago, and Rothstein agreed but then was a no-show.

"He never came to a meeting, he never wrote us a check, he never sponsored anything,'' Barreto said.  

State lawmaker wants more transparency at PSC

State Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat, is seeking more transparency when it comes to the Florida Public Service Commission.

In legislation filed for the 2010 session, Pafford wants those who testify at PSC hearings to disclose any financial ties to the company or its entities. Pafford, a member of the Public Service Commission Nominating Council, said his legislation was prompted by the recent PSC controversies over rate-hike requests. Read his full press release below.

Continue reading "State lawmaker wants more transparency at PSC" »

GOP uber donors call for Jim Greer's ouster

This may be the biggest shoe to drop yet against Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer: A host of the most veteran and accomplished GOP bundlers in Florida are calling on Greer to resign now or be ousted. One might try to brush off these names as Jeb Bush allies, but we can't understate the significance for Charlie Crist of the name MEL SEMBLER on the following letter. No prediction yet for what will happen Jan 8-9 in Orlando, but at this moment it looks hard to see how Greer keeps his job:


We, the undersigned, constitute a geographically diverse group of professional, civic, and business leaders from all regions of Florida.  Nonetheless, we have been over the years, and more so now, singularly united in our firm conviction and support for the principles and values of the Republican Party here in our Great State of Florida.Each one of us has spent many years and many election cycles helping candidates at the local, county and state levels in elections, raising money and doing whatever was needed for the election of Republican candidates in Florida as well as across our country. Our success to date is of course testament to the hard work and dedication of the thousands of workers and generous donors who made possible  the incredible successes over the past twelve (12) years.

Continue reading "GOP uber donors call for Jim Greer's ouster" »

Lawmaker seeks more money for spring training baseball incentives

For the first time in history, Arizona will host as many Major League Baseball teams as Florida this spring.

It's a trend that concerns Florida tourism officials and lawmakers, who are determined to keep the Grapefruit League's 15 teams, if not entice others to join. Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Crist met with owners of the Chicago Cubs and promised to "do whatever it takes" to lure them to the Naples area for spring training. Lawmakers are talking about giving the Florida Sports Foundation more power to negotiate deals and grant the agency a dedicated funding source for incentives.

"The Legislature is starting to realize that we must protect our remaining spring training industry and become more aggressive in recruiting some of the teams back from Arizona that we have lost over the years," said Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill. Read more here.