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6 posts from August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

NextGen's Half True claim about Scott and Duke Energy

Gov. Rick Scott has a new enemy on the campaign trail: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. And Steyer has started bringing his message and massive checkbook to the airwaves.

In an Aug. 8, 2014, commercial from Steyer’s political action committee NextGen Climate, the group accused the Republican incumbent of letting utility company Duke Energy run wild on the state’s citizens. The ad references the botched upgrade at the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and canceled Levy County nuclear project.

"We Floridians are paying billions to the nation's largest power company and getting nothing in return," says a TV reporter. Then the narrator: "One defective power plant. Another never built. Florida fleeced by Duke Energy. Rick Scott knew, but he’s letting Duke keep collecting billions anyway."

The ad flashes a statement attributed to the Tampa Bay Times: "Duke’s customers on the hook for up to $3.2 billion." It also says Scott received $500,000 in campaign contributions from Duke and its pre-merger counterpart, Progress Energy, strongly implying a connection.

The commercial was one of two NextGen Climate ads released attacking Scott. The other accused Scott of accepting campaign contributions from a Texas company performing unauthorized oil drilling in Collier County. We looked at that one in a separate item.

It’s obvious Scott heard of the troubles in Citrus and Levy counties, since it was a major headache for the 1.7 million Florida residents billed by Duke Energy for electricity (the company said it doesn’t comment on political ads). But we wondered, is there something Scott could have done to prevent the utility from pulling in billions for the troubled projects, even though no customer is benefitting from them? PolitiFact Florida decided to check the fine print.

Judge orders Google to provide details about gov's private email account

Project SunburstInternet giants Google and Yahoo must disclose who established several email accounts held by Gov. Rick Scott and his current and former employees as part of a lawsuit pending in Tallahassee that claims the governor routinely circumvented the state’s open records law, a court ruled Wednesday.
Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Charles A. Francis ordered the companies to respond to a limited request by lawyer Steven R. Andrews to explain who created the Gmail and Yahoo accounts and when they were established.
The governor’s lawyers did not deny the existence of the accounts but called the exercise a “fishing expedition” because the email accounts used by senior staff and the governor are private and not used for public business. 
Andrews argued that there is no way to verify whether the email accounts did not contain government business unless the court knows who created them and the owners of the accounts are put under oath. Andrews is suing is Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi over whether they hid records related to a dispute between him and the governor's office over property the governor wanted to buy to create a legacy park.

Continue reading "Judge orders Google to provide details about gov's private email account" »

Jeff Atwater dials up social media on campaign trail


Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is already way ahead of his competition as he seeks reelection. For every $1 his Democratic challenger collected in campaign cash, Atwater has raised $166.


Still, Atwater is campaigning in earnest. In recent weeks, he has taken advantage of the power of the incumbency by traveling the state to talk about fire prevention and unclaimed property -- part of his official duties -- in between campaign stops. He chronicles everything on his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Last week, Atwater stepped it up a notch by launching a smartphone app to allow even more direct contact with voters -- and their cash if they so chose. The app links to his social media accounts, allows voters to send the campaign a message and has a donation button.

As far as we can tell, none of the other candidates for statewide office have smartphone apps. Attorney General Pam Bondi launched one recently, but hers is an official resource of her state office and not a campaign resource.

Meanwhile, Democratic CFO candidate William Rankin started tweeting just today. 

Crist kicks off education tour in Tallahassee


Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist kicked off his "Restore the Cuts" school bus tour in a Tallahassee park on Wednesday.

The first elected official to arrive at the event: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, speaking for Republican Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign.

"[Crist] has got to start this bus tour and go around this state to talk to anything other than his jobs record because of course, Florida lost hundreds of thousands of jobs under Gov. Crist and we’ve added hundreds of thousands of jobs under Gov. Scott," Gaetz told reporters.

A dozen Scott supporters were also on hand. Three wore black-and-white striped prison uniforms and oversized nametags, each naming a jailed Crist supporter: Alan Mendelsohn, Scott Rothstein and Jim Greer.

Another wore a chicken suit. "Stop ducking Nan Rich," his sign said.

Crist arrived at the park about 20 minutes later, accompanied by his running mate Annette Taddeo and his wife Carole Crist. He was greeted by a dozen Leon County schoolteachers chanting his name.

Crist stepped up to the podium, flanked by supporters holding campaign signs. The Scott supporters crowded behind them with signs of their own.

Included in the fray: Kim McDougal, a top educator policy advisor on leave from Scott's office. She carried a sign that said, "CRIST RAISED MY TUITION."

Crist slammed Scott for cutting $1.3 billion from public schools in his first year in office, and was equally as critical of cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program.

"We don’t have a revenue problem," Crist said. "We have a priority problem. The priority needs to be education."

Taddeo also spoke, recounting how a teacher had inspired her to go to college and pursue a career in business and politics.

The bus then took off for Jacksonville.

Crist is scheduled to make additional stops in Orlando, Tampa and Miami over the next two days.

Libertarian governor hopeful Wyllie chooses running mate

The Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Adrian Wyllie of Palm Harbor, reached across the Pinellas County line for a running mate: Greg Roe, a 58-year-old Pasco County insurance executive.

Wyllie introduced Roe Monday on the second Tampa Bay stop of his statewide 30-city tour of craft breweries, at Wild Rover Pub and Brewery in Odessa. In a statement from his campaign, Wyllie said he picked Roe partly because of his insurance background and that "property, flood and especially health insurance" will continue to be major issues in the years ahead.

Roe was a registered Republican until July 8, 2013, when he became a Libertarian. When the Times/Herald asked the Pasco elections office for a copy of Roe's voter history, the timing of Roe's switch caught the eye of Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who recalled the Legislature's passage in 2011 of the so-called 365-day provision (the law that blocked ex-Republican Sen. Nancy Argenziano from running for Congress as a Democrat in 2012).

Under that provision, a candidate cannot qualify for office if he switched his party affiliation less than one year before qualifying. Corley asked the state for an opinion and the Division of Elections said Roe appears to be in the clear because he hasn't yet filed qualifying papers as a candidate for lieutenant governor. The standard week-long qualifying period was in June, but the deadline for qualifying for lieutenant governor is much later: 5 p.m. on Sept. 4.

"I don't see a problem," assistant state elections chief Gary Holland told Corley in an email, "but someone may challenge him in court to see if he would have had to meet the requirement before the beginning of the June qualifying period."

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Wyllie the favored candidate for governor by 9 percent of voters in a three-way race against Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, both of whom received low marks for trustworthiness from voters in the same poll. 

Health insurance for Florida government employees gets another look


Compared with other states, Florida's health insurance plan for government employees is about average.

It doesn't have the cheapest premiums or the most expensive. The state is generous to its employees, but not to an extreme.

The implementation of federal health care reform has caused more states to analyze spending. A national study released Tuesday provides a snapshot of each state, including how much public workers pay for health coverage and what they get in return.

The State Health Care Spending Project by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation found that, on average, states require employees to pay 16 percent of their health insurance costs. Florida public workers pay 13 percent.

In Florida, 54 percent of state workers are enrolled in zero-deductible plans compared with 45 percent nationwide. Florida doesn't offer any high-deductible plans, defined as $1,500 or more; nationally, 4 percent of public workers are enrolled in such plans, the report said.

Still, House Republicans see a system that needs fixing. They want to provide more choices and perhaps require state workers to pay more for their health coverage.

Read more here.