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238 posts from January 2017

January 31, 2017

Bacardi USA accidentally reports $17,000 in illegal campaign contributions, blames 'administrative error'


When it comes to donating money to federal campaigns, a few basic tenets are well-known to the country's many corporations: thou shalt give early and often -- just not directly from the company.

For Bacardi, a 150-year-old wine and spirits producer that does in excess of $4 billion in annual sales, these rules are not unknown. The company, with headquarters in Bermuda and Coral Gables, has given a healthy-though-hardly-prolific $140,000 over the last decade through its Bacardi USA Inc. political action committee, tied to the company's import, sales and marketing arm.

The political committee is key, since federal law bans companies from giving directly to federal campaigns. Violations can draw the ire of the Federal Elections Commission, and lead to civil penalties.

And so, it was a bit odd to see Bacardi USA (Now Bacardi North America) file a federal disclosure form Monday reporting $17,000 in seemingly illegal contributions. The form, filled out by lobbyist Kristin Bodenstedt, appears to explain that the company itself gave to 15 federal candidates, including $2,000 a piece to the campaigns of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, $2,000 to Congressman Carlos Curbelo, and $500 to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, among others.

Continue reading "Bacardi USA accidentally reports $17,000 in illegal campaign contributions, blames 'administrative error'" »

President Trump at Mar-A-Lago, the 'winter White House,' this weekend



President Donald Trump will visit Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach this weekend, the first time since he became president.

But Trump, who promised never to take vacations, will be working at his lavish estate.

"On Friday, the President will depart from this White House to the winter White House down at Mar-a-Lago where he'll spend the weekend and be holding meetings," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday.

Trump's visits have created expensive headaches and transportation challenges for local government. The county asked members of Congress to help it get $7 million in federal funds and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office estimated Trump’s Thanksgiving visit to the island cost about $248,000 in overtime.

Earlier this month, the Palm Beach Town Council gave Trump permission to take off and land at Mar-a-Lago via helicopter during his “term(s) in office,” to alleviate motorcade traffic.


Senate Democratic leader from Miami Gardens recounts his 'reality' with gun violence

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With controversial gun legislation again proposed for Florida lawmakers to consider this spring, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told reporters Tuesday that the Legislature needs to do a better job of understanding the true reality of gun violence -- as opposed to referencing hypothetical, Hollywood-inspired examples.

And he speaks from experience.

RELATED: "These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017"

"My reality is a little different from their’s," the Miami Gardens Democrat said, referring to his fellow legislators. "How many people have been in a club that got shot up? I can raise my hand and say that I have."

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

Ag Commissioner Putnam: 'We need to make workforce development a priority'

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Although Republican Gov. Rick Scott has made jobs and business incentives a staple of his administration, a statewide official who might seek to replace him in next year’s election says Florida needs to do a better job of making sure its residents are actually qualified to fill in-demand jobs and be hired by the companies that move here.

“The talent pipeline is not in place,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told reporters Tuesday. “The worst of all worlds is for us to recruit contracts or recruit businesses to Florida and not be able to staff the pipeline to meet their talent needs.”

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

Scott's budget doesn't include money for Everglades land buy. No problem, Negron says.


Senate President Joe Negron told reporters Tuesday he isn't upset that Gov. Rick Scott's 2017-18 budget proposal doesn't include funding for Negron's top legislative priority: Purchasing land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

"I don’t expect the governor to put the priorities of the House and Senate in his budget," Negron, R-Stuart, said. "I have the burden of proof to convince him and convince my colleagues that based on Amendment 1 and based on the current issue that it’s appropriate to spend money on additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee."

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed legislation last week to carry out Negron's $2.4 billion plan to buy 60,000 acres of farmland to create a water-storing reservoir and prevent future toxic algae outbreaks in local estuaries, such as those that wreaked havoc on the state last summer.

In reiterating his pitch for the land buy, Negron said "the best we've come up with" as a state hasn't worked and isn't good enough.

"We have a lake in the middle of Florida -– one of the largest lakes in the country -– and it rises when you have a lot of rain. So when that happens, and it gets too high, we say the only solution we can come up with in the United States of America … is we’re going to open up floodgates and we’re going to drain the water through man-made canals and we are going to poison estuaries, rivers and now the ocean," Negron said.

"This is it? This is the plan?" he added. "It’s not acceptable. No one’s defending it anymore."

While Scott's budget proposal doesn't include money for the land-buy, it does recommend more than $215 million for several water storage projects around Lake O, including federal projects for the Indian River Lagoon for which the state bears some of the cost.

The Legislature ultimately decides on the state's annual budget, although the governor has some veto power over specific projects.

Image credit: Florida Channel


PolitiFact: Is Trump's immigration ban comparable to Obama's wet foot-dry foot Cuba change?

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President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry of people from seven countries prompted a wave of protests from immigration activists and Democrats in South Florida.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American Republican whose district includes parts of Miami-Dade, defended Trump’s ban by comparing it with an action President Barack Obama took on Cuban refugees in his final days in office.

“I am struck by the double standard and hypocrisy of those who are offended by this executive order, but who failed to challenge President Obama when he took similar action against Cuban refugees; especially since President Obama’s action was meant to appease the Castro regime and not for national security reasons,“ Diaz-Balart wrote in a statement to the press Jan. 30.

Obama’s rule change was about the “wet foot dry foot policy,” which Diaz-Balart criticized at the time as a “concession to the Castro regime.”

Was Diaz-Balart accurate when he said Trump’s action was similar to Obama’s?

In a word, no. Trump’s order, which singled out immigrants from seven countries and refugees from everywhere, was far more broad than Obama’s administrative rule change to put Cubans on more equal footing with arrivals from other countries.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.


Corcoran: 'Cockroaches' in Scott's jobs and tourism programs

House Speaker Richard Corcoran sounded like a man in a hurry at Tuesday's annual AP legislative planning session in Tallahassee.

The Land O'Lakes lawmaker began a 15-minute talk by noting that it was Day 71 of his two-year speakership, and with his two sessions in close proximity to each other, "It's 13 months from the end."

In a bit of imagery that's not likely to endear him to Gov. Rick Scott, Corcoran said the House's discovery of spending problems at Enterprise Florida was like turning on a light at 3 a.m. "I don't mean this in a disparaging way to anybody, but there's cockroaches everywhere," he said. "Bonuses, severance packages, furniture, trips." He noted that even Scott told both EFI and Visit Florida "Clean up your act," and later told reporters there was no chance the House will approve Scott's requests for $85 million for job incentives and $76 million to promote tourism.

Corcoran was just getting warmed up. He declared Scott's education budget proposal dead on arrival because it would hold the line on the the local property tax rate but would produce $475 million more in tax revenue because of rising property values. Scott does not consider that a tax increase, but Corcoran does, and said: "We're not raising taxes."

The House speaker poured cold water on Senate President Joe Negron's proposal for "reasonable, measured and cautious" borrowing by issuing bonds for improvements to the environment and higher education. "We're not bonding," Corcoran said.

He joked that he was going to show three different videos to symbolize the 2017 session -- one of which was two trains colliding and derailing. In a Q-and-A with Capitol reporters, AP's Gary Fineout said to Corcoran: "You just keep saying no." Corcoran replied: "No. No. That's not it at all ... There's good compromise and bad compromise, and I absolutely despire bad compromise."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says on Fox that Trump believes he was elected as a dictator



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Fox Business Network  Tuesday that President Donald Trump "believes he was elected as a dictator" and that the acting Attorney General Sally Yates is a "profile in courage."

Trump fired Yates after she refused to comply with his immigration ban.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, is no longer the Democratic National Committee chair but she remains South Florida's most outspoken basher-in-chief of Trump and his administration.

Here is a partial transcript:

On acting Attorney General Sally Yates recent actions:

“I think it’s important to note that she did exactly what she said she would do if she was given an order by the President of the United States, which she believed violated the law… Her answer to Jeff Sessions was that she would make sure that the Department of Justice followed the law. And frankly, because President Trump did absolutely nothing to consult the Department of Justice, his Secretary of Homeland Security, any members of Congress, the leadership of Congress, since they basically slapped this policy together in which they were barring immigrants and refugees for a period of time from countries, by the way, none of which had the 9/11 attackers come from.”

On President Trump’s tweet this morning regarding Democrats delaying his cabinet nominations:

“The President’s tweet this morning was very interesting and telling because it shows that he believes he was elected as a dictator. There is an advised and consent role in the United States Senate, and that is what they are doing. He doesn’t just get to have his nominations rubber stamped, and he has nominated some very disturbing individuals.”

On Steve Mnuchin:

“Mnuchin was a Goldman Sachs alumni, an executive at Goldman Sachs. He actually wants to roll back Dodd-Frank. He wants to undo all the consumer protections that have been put in place, that caused the crash in our economy, that allowed all the banks to make money unethically off of the backs of consumers.”

On the 2016 election:

“Look, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by nearly 3 million votes. The people did speak and Donald Trump would do well to listen to them.”



Former State Senator Dan Gelber to run for Miami Beach mayor



Dan Gelber, former Florida legislator and federal prosecutor, will file to run for Miami Beach mayor Tuesday.

Gelber, son of former Beach mayor Seymour Gelber, will run against Commissioner Michael Grieco

Read more here.

Billionaire Miami developer calls Trump's wall 'idiotic'


by @nicknehemas

Billionaire Miami developer Jorge Pérez — a friend and former business partner of President Donald Trump — thinks the plan for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico is “idiotic,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Pérez told Bloomberg that Trump asked him if he would be interested in working on the project, an offer the Related Group honcho declined.

“The wall is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life,” Pérez said in a Tuesday interview with Bloomberg. “A wall for what? You think a wall is going to stop people that are hungry? Good employment in Mexico, economic growth in Mexico, equality is going to stop people from coming over the border.”

Keep reading here.