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189 posts from June 2010

June 30, 2010

Skop says decision shows process is in need of reform

Public Service Commissioner Nathan Skop, who was rejected for a second four-year term today by the PSC nominating council because the council wanted to "start over" continued to point fingers at his colleague Commissioner Lisa Edgar whose aide delivered a text message to her from an FPL lobbyist while she was at the bench. The Ethics Commission has ruled that Edgar broke no rules.

"Today is a very sad day for the people of the State of Florida,'' Skop wrote in a statement, "a day that reflects the status quo and the desire to keep Commissioners who exhibit an open willingness to exchange PIN messages and engage in secret communication at bench with FPL, while removing honest public servants seeking to uphold the public trust and confidence in the Florida Public Service Commission."

Council member Mike Hightower, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield lobbyist, said at the start of the hour-long council meeting that he thought it was time to "clear the board." He said it was time for the PSC to ‘‘start over'' and create a commission whose members would work well together and with other agencies in the state, including the Legisla-
ture, to create a state energy policy.

Hightower made no reference to the rate case or the performance of the commissioners, but instead focused on internal infighting and lack of trust between council members, which he called ‘‘extraordinary."

Here's Skop's full statement:

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Crist asks for another $50M from BP for tourism ads

Gov. Charlie Crist has asked BP for another $50 million for tourism advertising. In a letter to BP's Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles, Crist says the state has already "deployed" the initial round of $25 million. (Officials have told us the money is planned for throughout the summer but has not yet been spent.)

"Your investment in Florida's tourism marketing not only helps Floridians, but it also benefits your company," Crist wrote. "Remember that visitors coming to Florida beaches, staying in Florida hotels and eating in Florida restaurants result in fewer claims for economic losses."

Rivera ducks debate to raise money

Republican state Rep. David Rivera skipped a debate today with his congressional rivals sponsored by the Downtown Bay Forum in Miami.

More than 100 people attended the debate, which featured Democrats Joe Garcia amd Luis Meurice and  Republicans Marili Cancio and Paul Crespo. The group's president, Annette Eisenberg, said Rivera's campaign had said he would be there.

"I paid $20 bucks for a meal he didn't eat,'' she said. "I don't think that's very responsible."

Rivera could not be immediately reached.

"We urge David Rivera to more fully embrace his responsibility to the voters of South Florida and participate more openly in the local democratic process,'' said Garcia's campaign.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Rivera's campaign, Leslie Veiga, said: "Rep. Rivera informed the forum over a month ago that he was going to be out of town due to a prior engagement." She said he was "fundraising and doing other events."

Union snubs Meek, endorses Crist

The Florida Pipe Trades typically leans Democratic in statewide races and heeds the endorsements of its umbrella organization, the AFL-CIO. Not this year. While the AFL-CIO is backing Democrat Kendrick Meek for the U.S. Senate, the12,000 pipefitters, plumbers and welders are going with Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-independent candidate.

"This is a bit unusual,'' said the union's international representative, John Lindstrom. "We stepped out on this one because we thought it was that important...We have probably 30-35 percent unemployment in our ranks, and we think Gov. Crist has a better handle on it and can feel our pain more than anyone else.''

Lindstrom said the union was also backing Crist for his veto of a bill vehemently opposed by the teachers' union, which co-endorsed the governor and Meek.

Crist says Argenziano and Skop's rejection is 'very disappointing'

Gov. Charlie Crist expressed dismay at the PSC nominating council's decision today to reject the reappointment of Commissioners Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop to the state utility board. 

"I am enormously disappointed,'' Crist told the Herald/Times. "I think that both Nancy and Nathan have done an exceptional job particularly looking out for the consumer. It shouldn’t be surprising to me, but it’s very, very disappointing on behalf of the consumers of Florida. They have served with such dignity and great passion and intellect for ratepayers all over the state."

Crist has eight names he must sort through to decide which of them he appoints to the first two open positions, vacated by the Senate's rejections of his two nominees: Benjamin "Steve" Stevens and David Klement. He said, "I think we’ve got some good candidates,'' but is still unhappy that the last two were not confirmed. "That was shortsighted and was more about politics than doing what’s right for the people of our state."

He said he will be guided by candiates who are "people with intellect and people with a compassion about them and a concern for the people. There’s an added element now that relates to the Gulf and that we have people who are open minded as it relates energy issues and the notion that we should encourage more independence from oil."

Men-only events at RPOF

Some interesting nuggets in the Florida Depatment of Law Enforcement investigative report into former state party chairman Jim Greer.

From former party (and Charlie Crist) finance director Meredith O'Rourke: O'Rourke stated that she was aware of Greer having "men only" meetings. As an example, O'Rourke recalled a "Thank You Trip" that Greer planned for the major donors to Governor Crist's "Yes on 1" amendment dealing with property taxes. As a thank you to major donors, Greer took several major donors on a trip to the Bahamas. No female staffers were allowed to go on the trip although Delmar Johnson and Greer's travel aide, Jeremy Collins went on the trip. O'Rourke also recalled speaking to a female lobbyist friend, Beth Kigel who relayed to her of a "men's only" meeting at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee, Florida wherein Greer and Governor Crist were attempting to solicit major donors for the Governor's "Yes on 1" initiative. Kigel informed O'Rourke that she was excluded from the meeting while one of her clients, a male client, was allowed in to the meeting....

From Kigel's FDLE interview: Kigel said that Greer held a meeting sometime in 2009 at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee to discuss Amendment 1. Kigel stated that she attended the meeting with a client of hers. On the way in, Greer stopped Kigel and told her that she was not allowed to come in the meeting. He then told her to take care of the ladies at the bar. According to Kigel, the client told her that the meeting was about donating money to Amendment 1 and that Greer told everyone in the meeting to not discuss the meeting with anyone, including Kigel. Crist and Harry Sargant attended the meeting....Kigel said she heard of another trip from a client that took place in the Bahamas. Kigel was told that she was not supposed to know about this meeting either. Kigel further stated that she heard that women were involved and paid.

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Scott hits McCollum for role in Greer saga

This didn't take long. Rick Scott's campaign is asking challenger Bill McCollum about his role in the Jim Greer saga.

It comes after prosecutors released a secretly taped phone call in which Delmar Johnson said "McCollum played a much bigger role behind the scenes than we realize."

Scott campaign: With new information coming to light,  Florida voters deserve to know more about Bill McCollum’s behind the scenes role in negotiating his political kingmaker’s severance package and cover-up. Was Bill McCollum questioned and if not was it because of his position as Attorney General?

Scott bashes McCollum for backing 'pro-homosexual rights' Giuliani

From Politico Former hospital executive Rick Scott, a deep-pocketed and increasingly serious candidate for governor of Florida, attacked his Republican Primary rival today for having backed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Attorney General Bill McCollum "endorsed pro-abortion and pro-homosexual rights candidate Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008 and was a Giuliani campaign leader in Florida," wrote Scott consultant Keith Appell in a memo to reporters. McCollum faced attacks from the right on gay rights his 2004 Senate bid, but has more recently been criticized for retaining an anti-gay activist since accused of hiring a gay prostitute as an expert witness.

Argenziano blasts 'corrupted' legislature for PSC dysfunction

Stung by the Public Service Nominating Council when it refused to interview her for reappointment to her job, PSC Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano fired off a blistering statement that accuses the legislature for being "corrupt and corruptible'' and that "money talks in Tallahassee.''

"I take some pride in having leveled the playing field, consistent with the law, so that hte ratepayer, with no protection other than the integrity of five commissioners, could compete with the monopolies..." she said. "That this should have cost me my job, given the decreptitude of the legislature, was a foregone conclusion."

Here's her full statement: Download Argenziano Press Release - 06.30.2010

Crist not worried about Greer probe

Gov. Charlie Crist said he is not worried about his role as a state's witness in the criminal case against his handpicked GOP boss Jim Greer and how it might affect his U.S. Senate bid.

"No a whole lot. I'd rather it hadn't happened, obviously, but I have such an abundance of faith in the fairness of Floridians," he said in an interview with the Times/Herald's Steve Bousquet.

Crist, who said he has not retained an attorney, said the vast majority of voters have no interest in the Greer case. "It’s intriguing I guess," he said by phone as he was driving in Miami, "but I guarantee you these cars that are going by me now they don’t have a clue and they don’t really care."

Crist flew from Pensacola to Miami this morning for campaign fundraising events. Asked why he is listed as a witness, he said, "I don’t know why. I can’t tell you anything about it. But I’m happy to do anything to bring justice to bear."

He said he submitted an affidavit to clear the air. "I thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "I wanted to make it crystal clear that (Victory Strategies) was something that I had nothing to do with. The truth is in writing."