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241 posts from September 2012

September 28, 2012

Number of counties reporting questionable GOP registrations grows

A vendor fired by the Republican Party of Florida for submitting questionable voter registrations forms in Palm Beach County is also responsible for filing flawed applications in other counties and states, election officials confirmed Friday.

Earlier this week, Florida Republicans fired Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting after Palm Beach County flagged about 100 registration forms that looked suspicious because of signatures that looked alike and incompleteness. The Palm Beach County state attorney's office is reviewing those forms, said spokeswoman Christine Weiss.

But subsequent to that revelation, other counties have reported irregularities with voter registration  forms with the identification number of 11-93 — which traces back to the Republican Party of Florida.

"We have heard from supervisors in five counties, Lee, Duval, Dade, Santa Rosa, Escambia, saying that they have seen irregularities on voter registrations," said Chris Cate, spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections in an email to the Times/Herald. "We are in the process of reviewing these cases and will provide our findings to the appropriate agency to investigate."

Continue reading "Number of counties reporting questionable GOP registrations grows" »

FDLE arrests Rep. Campbell's aide on grand theft charges

A legislative aide to state Rep. Daphne Campbell was arrested Friday for grand theft after she allegedly charged constituents phony fees for assistance that never materialized. 

Janice Y. Shackelford, 49, resigned her job as a secretary in Campbell’s Miami Shores office after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement started investigating complaints from constituents who said she charged them for assistance on mortgage issues, immigration concerns and traffic violations.

The victims were all of Haitian descent, investigators said, and Shackleford often would have them sign court forms and documents, charge them fake fees of as much as $1,110 and fail to follow through.

Sometimes Shackelford would claim their paperwork was processed and charge them additional fees to push it through the process. Other times, victims would arrive in court for a date set by Shackelford “only to discover it was a bogus court date and no court hearing was scheduled,” FDLE spokesman Keith Kameg said in a statement.

Continue reading "FDLE arrests Rep. Campbell's aide on grand theft charges" »

RPOF may have to return $10,000 in illegal contributions stemming from Buchanan case

The Republican Party of Florida is looking into returning about $10,000 in contributions that were deemed illegal and were tied to guilty pleas a Tampa developer and an accountant made yesterday in federal court.

"It is entirely appropriate to return contributions that are tainted by confirmed criminal actions of any donor," the party said in a statement to the Buzz. "In this case we are actively researching the scope of this issue and will take appropriate action once all the facts are known."

The actions follow a demand this morning by Florida Democrats, who pounced on the news that developer Tim Mobley admitted reimbursing employees for $84,300 in contributions to Rep. Vern Buchanan and $10,000 to the RPOF.

"The Republican Party of Florida should apologize for accepting these tainted funds, immediately refund the donations, and cooperate with federal authorities so that law enforcement can do it's work as they investigate the connection between the RPOF, Buchanan and these guilty individuals," said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

Democrats have also called on Buchanan to return donations. We've asked for a response.

-- Alex Leary

Movers & Shakers: VISIT FLORIDA CEO hits the road, DMS spokesman heads to DC

VISIT FLORIDA president hits the road

VISIT FLORIDA president and CEO Chris Thompson is leaving his post to be president and CEO of Brand USA, a public/private partnership to increase international travel to the United States.

The departure from the state's tourism marketing corporation prompted a mention from Gov. Rick Scott, whose office sent out a press release tying Thompson's promotion to the state's tourism and job numbers.

“Tourism is directly linked to Florida’s employment situation: for every 85 tourists that visit Florida, another job is created," a press release from The Governor's Office states.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers: VISIT FLORIDA CEO hits the road, DMS spokesman heads to DC" »

Red-line moment? Century Village voters concerned about Iran, but more so about Medicare

A day after Israel’s leader literally drew a red line over Iranian’s nuclear program, Vice president Joe Biden travelled to the heart of South Florida’s politically active Jewish community and found the views about the presidential race largely unchanged.

The Democrats are voting for the Democrat. The Republicans side with the Republican.

And few Jewish voters – who tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic -- in Boca Raton’s Century Village made any mention of at all of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s United Nation’s speech when he held up a pictogram of a mock-Iranian atomic bomb and drew a red line through it.

“Netanyahu was speaking to the converted to the degree he was being political at all,” said Ken Werden, a 73-year-old resident of the mammoth retirement community.

“Jewish voters back Obama because, historically, we didn’t see Republicans as friends of the Jewish community, especially when it comes to civil rights or Medicare.”

Werden, though, acknowledges he’s a minority of sorts: An Orthodox Jewish voter who’s siding with President Obama.

“For many Orthodox, the number one issue is Israel,” Werden said.

That was clear across the street at the Orthodox Chabad Weltman Synagogue, where congregants feel that President Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Obama is courting Ahmadinejad; he’s not standing up to him,” said Simon Mizrachi, a Republican member of the synagogue.

Continue reading "Red-line moment? Century Village voters concerned about Iran, but more so about Medicare" »

September 27, 2012

GOP donors plead guilty in fed court for illegally funding Congressman Buchanan, RPOF

A Tampa real estate developer and an accountant with ties to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan pleaded guilty in federal court today for their roles in illegal contributions to the Republican Party of Florida and Buchanan's campaign, the Department of Justice announced.

The press release:

WASHINGTON - Timothy F. Mobley, a real estate developer based in Tampa, Fla., and accountant Timothy F. Hohl pleaded guilty today in Jacksonville, Fla., federal court for their roles in illegal contributions to the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and the campaign of an elected member of the U.S. Congress, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer.

Mobley, 60, pleaded guilty to one count each of making illegal conduit and illegal corporate contributions in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).  Hohl, 60, of Tampa, Fla., pleaded guilty to three counts of aiding and abetting those illegal contributions.  Both defendants entered their guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel B. Toomey.

Continue reading "GOP donors plead guilty in fed court for illegally funding Congressman Buchanan, RPOF" »

After fraud claims, RNC fires voter-registration group that also worked for Romney camp

From NBC (which conveniently fails to credit the Palm Beach Post for first breaking the fraud allegations):

The Republican National Committee has fired a controversial consulting firm it was paying millions of dollars to conduct voter registration in five battleground states, NBC News has learned. 

The move came after the Palm Beach County elections supervisor discovered 108 potentially fraudulent registration forms submitted by the GOP consulting firm, including suspected phony signatures and home addresses that matched those of a gas station, a medical building and a Land Rover dealership.  

While Republican groups as a whole are still outspending Democratic groups, the gap is narrowing, in part to the individual donors finally stepping up on the Democrats' behalf. NBC News' Michael Isikoff discusses.

Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm run by veteran GOP consultant Nathan Sproul, had been retained by the RNC and state Republican parties to register new Republican voters in five key battleground states, said Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC. 

But Spicer said that the party's relationship with the firm -- which has been paid $2.9 million by the RNC so far this year, according to federal elections records -- has now been terminated in light of alleged voter fraud, linked to one of the firm's employees, that was reported this week to Florida prosecutors by election officials in Palm Beach County.  

"We've made it clear we're not doing business with these guys anymore," said Spicer. "We've come out pretty strong against this kind of stuff -- and we have zero tolerance for this." 

Another firm run by Sproul, called Lincoln Strategy Group, has been paid about $80,000 by the Romney campaign to conduct "field consulting," according to election records. Asked for comment, Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, said by email:  "We used this vendor for signature gathering services during the primary but have not used them since 2011."
More here

Judge schedules November hearing for Miami-Dade mayor, property appraiser election contests

The final hearing in a pair of lawsuits challenging the election results of last month's Miami-Dade mayor and property appraiser contests has been pushed back to November.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa I. Rodriguez postponed the hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, to Nov. 5 -- the day before Election Day -- after allowing a lawyer who represents two of the plaintiffs to withdraw from the case, citing an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Attorney Stephen Cody had filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Tuesday. Judge Rodriguez held a hearing on the matter Thursday. Cody was not required to publicly explain his conflict, though he met with the judge behind closed doors, without defense attorneys present. The judge granted his request.

The plaintiffs, Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia, will have until Oct. 10 to hire a new attorney (or attorneys). Their cases were filed separately but are so similar that the court has agreed to hear them together.

Martinez and Garcia, citing a pair of absentee-ballot fraud investigations in Hialeah, are asking the court throw out absentee ballots from the Aug. 14 primary election. Were the absentee vote to be discarded, Martinez would go to a runoff against incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Garcia would defeat his successful challenger, state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Jacksonville senator blames governor's office for TB crisis

In an opinion piece submitted to The Florida Times-Union newspaper, state Sen. Audrey Gibson blames Gov. Rick Scott's administration for a lackluster responsed to the tuberculosis outbreak among Jacksonville's homeless population.

Duval County Health Department Director Bob Harmon announced his hasty retirement Tuesday, giving 24 hours notice that he would be leaving the job. Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, calls Harmon the "fall guy" and writes that prior to the TB dustup he had done a stellar job.

From Gibson's letter:

I read with continued interest and frankly no surprise of the immediate “retirement” of Duval County Health Department Director, Robert Harmon.

“Fall guy” immediately comes to mind as I reflect on the delegation meeting I requested to be convened and the information requested at that meeting from the state Department of Health on the testing, necessary funds and “containment” steps being taken that were never made.

While a part of the saga centered on the closing of the AG Holley TB Hospital, the real debate has more to do with a revolving door in the governor’s administration and the communication gap that results.

Continue reading "Jacksonville senator blames governor's office for TB crisis" »

Gary Johnson sues FEC for $750k

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's campaign has filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission, claiming the agency is unlawfully holding back public funds.

The FEC wouldn't comment, citing the suit that was filed Monday in a federal court in California.

Johnson claims that, as a minor-party candidate, he's entitled to a set amount of funds that are supposed to be distributed by the commission. The amount is set forth in a complicated federal formula that awards public funds to parties based on their candidates' prior performances in other elections.

The federal law suggests in one place that a candidate such as Johnson "is eligible to receive pre-election payments" only if his party "received at least 5% but less than 25% of the total popular vote" in the prior election. But Johnson's attorney, Paul Rolf Jensen said that 5 percent threshold doesn't apply.

Total owed: $747,115.34, Johnson's suit says.

"Unless Plaintiffs receive their pre-election entitlement before the general election, it is of little use, because the election will have already taken place," Johnson's suit reads.

A good chunk of that money would be spent in Florida on campaign ads, said Roger Stone, a Florida political advisor to Johnson. Stone, a long-time GOP operative, said he suspects Republicans, threatened that Johnson would siphon votes from Romney, is working behind the scenes to block the flow of funds.

Johnson, a former Republican New Mexico governor, was locked out of most of the GOP primary debates this winter. He became a Libertarian shortly afterward and secured his new party's nomination in May.

The FEC has awarded Johnson's campaign $303,751.20 as of Aug. 8, according to a press release. The Democratic and Republican parties each received $18,248,300 for their conventions. The two major party candidates are entitled to as much as $92,241,400, Johnson's suit says.

The presidential public funding program is financed through the $3 check-off that appears on individual income tax returns, according to the FEC.

Then there's the matter or irony. Libertarians generally oppose taxes and entitlements, yet they're filing suit to get public money to fund a political campaign.

Download Johnson Suit