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471 posts from October 2016

October 31, 2016

Trump's coming to downtown Miami

126Trump14 NEW PPP

Bayfront Park will host Donald Trump for a rally Wednesday, according to the candidate's schedule.

Trump will hold a noon rally at the Bayfront amphitheater -- the same venue where rival Hillary Clinton treated supporters to a Jennifer Lopez concert Saturday night. Wednesday morning, Trump plans to raise money for his campaign at his Trump National Doral golf resort.

Tickets for Wednesday's rally are available online.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald

Confident Rubio votes early for himself -- and, apparently, for Trump


After voting early Monday, Marco Rubio fielded questions about how he voted for president, for U.S. Senate, for Miami-Dade County mayor and for two Florida constitutional amendments.

Not once did he — or anyone else — utter the name of his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy. Which may explain why Rubio looked so relaxed about casting his ballot for his own reelection.

“We’ve had our own campaign,” the Florida Republican senator said. “I’m pretty confident that, irrespective of the presidential ballot, that’s going to help us win.”

Eight days before the election, Rubio leads Murphy by 5.6 percentage points in a Real Clear Politics polling average.

Still, Rubio encouraged supporters who came to cheer for him at the West Miami Community Center voting location to vote.

“It took me less than 10 minutes,” he said.

More here.

Florida's congressional delegation will get a new look post election

10-31-FLAdelegationvia @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- In a career exceeding two decades, U.S. Rep. John Mica has earned considerable clout and can readily list his role in major projects across his Orlando-area district and beyond. This week, Ivanka Trump praised his effort in leasing a vacant federal building near the White House that is now the plush Trump International Hotel.

But the 12-term Republican is in danger of being retired by a political newcomer who embodies the diversity reshaping Orlando and other areas of Florida.

“A lot of being a good political leader comes from having empathy, and given my family’s working-class experience as well as my experience as a working mom, I understand the challenges that come with trying to work hard to provide opportunities for your family,” said Stephanie Murphy, a 38-year-old Democrat who has experience in national security and business and came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam.

“It’s become very clear to me that people are hungering for a change,” she said.

Even if Murphy does not prevail, significant change is coming to Florida’s representation in Congress. Retirements, redistricting and competitive races will sweep away roughly a third of the 27-member delegation. The turnover — eight members are definitely gone in January — is considered the most in the country.

“Florida could lose a ton of experience,” said David Wasserman, an expert on House elections for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which rates the Mica-Murphy race a toss-up.

“On the one hand people should be happy because they want change,” said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. “But when you have a system predicated on seniority, often people don’t realize the political implications. They may regret it. You can argue that Florida has not really had the clout it should, but even so, when you lose that many it’s going to be a tremendous hit.”

More here.

Obama, Woods golf outing cost taxpayers a pretty penny

NP-Golf Digest Tiger Woods Obama-102816


On a windy winter day in 2013 at one of Florida's top courses, Barack Obama and Tiger Woods played a friendly round of golf together together for the first time.

Some 44 months later, the government tallied the price tag of the president's outing with the sports superstar at the Floridian in Port St. Lucie: $3.6 million.

That's how much the General Accountability Office, Congress's bipartisan watchdog agency, figured it cost for Air Force One to ferry Obama to Florida along with supporting aircraft and U.S. Coast Guard boats, plus lodging, meals, commercial airfare and rental cars for Pentagon and Homeland Security Department personnel who accompanied him.

"The military aides, White House staffers and Secret Service agents who traveled with him are a reminder that he's never far from the responsibilities of the job," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the New York Times then.

The GAO report was requested by Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican.

Obama flew to Florida from his hometown of Chicago, where he'd delivered a speech on the economy.

Obama's game with Woods was part of a President's Day weekend he spent on Florida's Treasure Coast. He stayed at the exclusive yacht and golf club purchased in 2010 and then renovated by Houston businessman Jim Crane, who also owns the Houston Astros.

As First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters skied in Colorado, Crane joined Obama for the golf weekend, along with several major Texas donors to the president's campaigns: former U.S. Trade Representative and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk; Tony Chase, former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Milton Carroll, chairman of CenterPoint Energy.

Woods' former coach, Butch Harmon, golfed with the group on Saturday, and Obama joined Woods for a round on Sunday.

"Just to see the interaction between the two on the range was pretty neat," Harmon told Golf Digest. "The president said to Tiger, 'The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It's good to see you play well again.' You could tell he meant it. It wasn't just a throw-it-out compliment."

Their game was off-limits to White House reporters traveling with the president, but long-time golf journalist Tim Rosaforte tweeted: "Historic day of golf. Their first round."

Woods had attended Obama's first inauguration in January 2009 and visited the White House three months later.

The White House Press Association protested that its members were shut out from covering the historic outing while a golf reporter was included.

Obama's predecessors, from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, often allowed brief media coverage at the start or end of their golf games, but the current president prefers privacy when he hits the links.

A notable exception occurred in 2011 when Obama had a highly publicized game with then-House Speaker John Boehner, joined by Clinton.

Image credit: Golf Digest


Murphy will donate campaign cash from Boston law firm at center of alleged payback scheme



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's campaign says the Jupiter congressman will donate nearly $22,000 in political contributions he received from a Boston law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe this weekend for allegedly engaging in a donation scheme.

The Globe, partnering with the Center for Responsive Politics, found that attorneys at the Thornton Law Firm have for several years been given "bonuses" to offset political contributions they have made, particularly to Democratic candidates -- including top party leaders and, this year, Murphy.

The newspaper reported that through what it calls a "payback system," three of the firm's partners alone received $1.4 million in "bonuses" between 2010-14, while at the same time donating nearly $1.6 million. "More than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days," according to the report.

MORE from The Boston Globe: "Law firm ‘bonuses’ tied to political donations"

Records from the Federal Elections Commission show Murphy received $21,800 from seven attorneys at the Thornton Law Firm, all on Jan. 28 of this year. Murphy's campaign said the donations were given during a Murphy fundraiser that month.

"The Globe's investigation has revealed troubling details about these donations," Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement Monday. "We'll be donating them to the U.S. Treasury, because that is the right thing to do."

State and national Republicans on Sunday called on Murphy to immediately return what they called "dirty campaign cash from this illegal scheme."

By Sunday night, two high-profile Democratic U.S. Senate candidates had announced they would: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (who received $45,000) and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (who received more than $30,000).

"It should not come as a surprise that once again, Patrick Murphy has added another shady campaign contribution case to his long list of politically illegal and unethical campaign finance problems," Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement Sunday calling on Murphy to "return the tainted contributions."

This summer, a national Republican super PAC accused Murphy of being involved in a different "straw donor" scheme, because he and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist each received donations from similar sources in 2011. (Murphy's campaign called that allegation "totally false.") The Hill reported in September that the FEC had started a preliminary review of the complaint.

Photo credit: AP

If vote is 'rigged,' then why does Trump have so few poll watchers?

If Donald Trump is convinced that the election is "rigged," then why do the Democrats have so many more poll watchers? That's certainly the case in Tampa Bay and South Florida during the early voting period.

Here's how it works. Republicans and Democrats, working for their parties or for individual candidates, sign up to be poll watchers, volunteer observers who can patrol early voting sites and keep an eye on voting who cannot wear any partisan badges and must abide by a state law prohibiting solicitation of voters within 100 feet of a polling place. The more poll watchers there are, the more people there are on alert for potential problems -- it's one more indication of a ground game.

In Pinellas, the Trump campaign has 44 poll watchers for the early voting period, and the Hillary Clinton campaign has more than twice as many, 94. The Marco Rubio Senate campaign has 91 poll watchers in Pinellas. (Campaigns and candidates have to apply for poll watcher credentials for Election Day, Nov. 8). Then there's Hillsborough, a bigger county with nearly 850,000 voters. Trump has 54 poll watchers and Clinton has 157.

This disparity isn't unique to Tampa Bay. Clinton and the Democrats also have far more poll watches in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, The Miami Herald has reported.

Even in strongly-Republican Lee County, a Trump stronghold where turnout has been among the highest in the state this election, 129 people applied to be early voting poll watchers, the News-Press of Fort Myers reports. Of that total, 52 work for Clinton, 42 work for the Lee County Democratic Party and 35 work for Trump.


Anti-medical marijuana robocalls wake voters early in morning


Before dawn Sunday, voters were awakened by a phone call urging them to vote against medical marijuana in Florida.

The calls -- some apparently as early as 1 a.m. -- clearly annoyed people, who took to social media and online forums to register their displeasure with the group sponsoring the calls: the Drug Free Florida Committee.

"Idiots robocalling my house at 3:30 a.m. Tallahassee number calling in the middle of the night when you've got two kids at FSU - heart in mouth time," wrote John Faith on Facebook.

"you woke me up at 4 am sunday and I was pissed off gonna file with the fcc and vote yes because of this," Matt Atwood wrote.

Drug Free Florida and its No on 2 campaign are the main opponents of Amendment 2 on the November ballot. The constitutional amendment would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients with conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and epillepsy.

The early-morning calls were caused by a vendor who accidentally sent them in the a.m. instead of p.m. It's not clear how many phone numbers were called so early in the morning.

“Our sincerest apologies to those voters who inadvertently received a recorded call during the early morning hours on Sunday," spokeswoman Christina Johnson said in a statement. "It was not our intention to have those calls made at that hour. These calls were supposed to be made starting in the early PM and were mistakenly sent in the early AM. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.”

On the website whocallsme.com, some angry recipients of the calls claimed to have been awoken as early as 1 a.m.

'Insurance tycoon' defends himself against Diaz de la Portilla's attacks


Chris Findlater isn't running for Florida's Senate District 37, but his name has been evoked this election season almost as often as Republican incumbent Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic challenger State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Due to his significant financial support of Rodriguez's campaign -- more on that here -- Findlater has been accused by Diaz de la Portilla of trying to buy influence in the state legislature. The argument is a key counterpoint for the Republican senator, a land-use and government attorney who has been attacked aggressively for lobbying municipal boards by Rodriguez, the Florida Democratic Party and a political committee chaired by Findlater.

In turn, Diaz de la Portilla and Republicans are telling voters that Rodriguez owes big favors to an "insurance tycoon" who is bankrolling his campaign. The "tycoon" is a veiled reference to Findlater, who formerly owned NetQuote, an online insurance marketplace.

Findlater has stayed mum through the campaign. But Sunday evening, after Diaz de la Portilla mentioned him by name in a televised debate, Findlater took to Facebook to defend himself. Here's his post:



Mock website by Rubio trolls Murphy for withholding tax returns


Marco Rubio is doubling down on his call for his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to release his tax returns, and Rubio's campaign is amplifying that message with a mock website that trolls Murphy's decision to not release them.

Rubio's campaign launched MurphyTaxReturns.com on Monday morning. The site includes a "click here" link to purportedly guide visitors to Murphy's tax returns only to bump them to a series of "error" pages that insinuate Murphy could be hiding any number of things in his tax returns, such as "money made from business with Donald Trump."

The site features prominently a recently unearthed photo from 2007, which shows Murphy's father and the Republican presidential nominee at a groundbreaking for one of Trump's South Florida high-rises. Murphy insists his family's Coastal Construction Group never did direct business with Trump, but Coastal and Trump were both involved in two Trump-branded projects in South Florida.

MORE FROM POLITIFACT: "Patrick Murphy says his family never did business with Donald Trump, but it's more complicated"

Rubio's campaign argues that viewing Murphy's tax returns is now relevant because Murphy recently guaranteed a $1 million personal loan to his cash-strapped campaign, for which Murphy didn't have the cash assets to cover based on his financial disclosure.

Murphy told reporters in Tallahassee on Sunday that he sold stock from Coastal in order to pay for the loan; he had between $1 million and $5 million invested in the company, a "gift" from his father several years ago.

And Murphy again dismissed questions about why he won't release his tax returns, calling it something that "presidential candidates do" even though there's precedent from Florida's 2010 U.S. Senate race, Rubio's first Senate contest.

"Patrick Murphy’s decision to make a $1 million loan to his campaign is all the more reason why Florida voters deserve to see his tax returns," Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement Monday. "Murphy says ‘democracy requires transparency’ and wants to force others to release their tax returns, but his refusal to be transparent with voters begs the question: What is Patrick Murphy hiding?"

Rubio already released summaries of his tax returns this year as part of his previous presidential campaign.

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the website "an odd attack for Marco Rubio, who enthusiastically endorses Donald Trump for President." Trump has famously bucked decades of tradition in refusing to release his tax returns this year.

"Marco Rubio’s attempt to distract from his Trump problem with a website is laughable," Slayen said.

Murphy co-sponsored legislation in June mandating major-party presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Murphy says he's been "very transparent" about his own finances because he files federally required financial disclosure forms every year.

Image credit: Marco Rubio campaign / MurphyTaxReturns.com

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

The intricacies of counting votes in Florida

via @glenngarvin

With extended polling days, computerized voting and widespread use of mail-in ballots, it’s easier than ever to be a voter. And it’s more nuts than ever for Florida elections officials, for whom Election Day has turned into Election Two Weeks, a tip-toe path through about a zillion potential technological potholes.

“It’s so complicated, like a fancy watch with a lot of wheels spinning and buzzing,” says Tonya Edwards, spokeswoman for the Broward County elections office. “And everything has to tick exactly on time for the watch to work.”

Though the polls won’t close until the night of Nov. 8, elections supervisors all over Florida are already counting ballots (but not votes! more on that later), comparing smudgy mailed-in signatures to registration records, and coaxing temperamental computers to mind their manners.

“It’s pretty crazy over here,” said a worker at the Miami-Dade election department’s office in Doral last week. “And it’s not going to be sane until next month when the election is over.”

Practically everything about elections has gotten more complicated over the past quarter-century, as digital technology has pushed first its nose and now nearly its whole body into the tent. But nothing has evolved so much as the process of counting the votes. “There are three ways to cast a vote now, and that means we essentially have three processes for counting them,” says Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Christina White.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald