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94 posts from May 2018

May 31, 2018

Rick Sott on Puerto Rico: 'I don't know what I would do differently'

President Donald Trump and the federal government have faced intense criticism for the U.S. response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. But in a visit to the island Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott told reporters: "I don't know what I would do differently."

The question was posed as: "What would you do different from the federal government?"

Speaking from his seven-and-a-half years of experience as governor and dealing with multiple storms in Florida, Scott said: "What I've learned the most is, you've got to communicate. You've got to tell everybody your problem and you've got to figure out how to communicate."

The government's response to the worst hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in a century could be an issue in the U.S. Senate race between Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson.

Watch the video here.

Scott's visit to Puerto Rico was an official state visit that included three members of the governor's administration.

After the video appeared online, Scott's campaign criticized Nelson for urging displaced Puerto Ricans to vote and using Hurricane Maria to raise money. The campaign said: "While Gov. Scott continues to ask how Florida can be helpful for Puerto Rican families in our state and on the island, Bill Nelson's first question with every tragedy always seems to be, 'How can this help me?' … (Nelson) cares more about his re-election than the people who have been affected by this horrific storm."

Scott's campaign cited a tweet from Puerto Rico Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marin.


Miami congressional candidate says chemical attacks in Syria were staged

Mideast Syria_2


U..S. Sen. Marco Rubio once called Vladimir Putin a gangster, but a Miami congressional candidate has a very different word to describe the Russian president.


Souraya Faas, a Republican who has filed to run against Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the August primary, says Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad are "heroes" for fighting terrorism in Syria. She says chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018 that the U.S. government and the UN said were orchestrated by Assad's government never happened.

"All those attacks are staged by the White Helmets," Faas said in an interview, referring to a group of 3,000 volunteer rescuers who have saved thousands of lives since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. There is no evidence to suggest that the White Helmets faked chemical attacks in Syria. Pictures purporting to confirm Faas' argument on the internet are in fact from the set of a Syrian film.

Faas was so upset with the U.S response to the chemical attacks that the lifelong Republican called on Trump to resign.

U.N. ambassador "Nikki Haley is the worst thing that has happened to the United States, the worst thing that Trump did was appoint her," Faas said. "Trump was spot on with fake news until he started believing the fake news himself."

And Faas is a frequent guest on Russian state-sponsored television. She penned a recent op-ed for Russian televsion titled "Divide & conquer: America's blueprint for 'world peace' simply a roadmap for disaster," and praised Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an opponent of U.S. military involvement in Syria and the first sitting U.S. lawmaker to meet with Assad since the start of the Syrian conflict.

Read more here.

Was Jorge Pérez drunk when he made controversial sea level rise comment to Jeff Goodell?

Jorge PerezWhen author Jeff Goodell approached developer Jorge Pérez during a party at the Pérez Art Museum to ask him if sea-level rise had changed his approach to building, the chairman and CEO of The Related Group replied: "In 20 or 30 years, someone is going to find a solution for this. Besides, by that time, I’ll be dead, so what does it matter?”

That quote made it into Goodell's 2017 book, "The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World," a chilling, exhaustively researched look at the growing environmental threat poised to become a global disaster.

Because Pérez rarely speaks about sea level rise, his quote from the book went viral — embodying the seemingly cavalier approach real estate developers have toward sea-level rise in coastal cities.

During an interview with the Miami Herald to celebrate the upcoming opening of Related's latest project — the 57-story SLS Lux Brickell condo hotel at 805 South Miami Avenue — Pérez called his comment "idiotic," although he also says he doesn't remember saying it.

"Let me tell you — and I want to be very very candid, even though it might sound politically incorrect — I have no idea who this reporter is. I have absolutely no recollection of a reporter coming to me and asking me these questions," Pérez said. "So I am sorry that that quote ever happened. I did not mean that at all. Not only do I have children, but I hope to have grandchildren [who] will be here 30, 50, 100 years from now. It is very important for me that we are environmentally conscious, particularly in coastal areas."

He added: "To say this is an issue that doesn’t affect me is absolutely idiotic. If I said it, maybe I had too many drinks that night."

To read the full interview with Miami Herald real estate reporter Rene Rodriguez, click here.

Report: FBI serves another subpoena in Tallahassee city government probe


@KirbyWTweets and @elizabethrkoh

The FBI has requested more material relating to a business deal between the city of Tallahassee and Adam Corey, a local developer who was once a close associate of Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Citing "City Hall sources," the Tallahassee Democrat reported Thursday that the Bureau has subpoenaed records relating to Corey's Edison Restaurant. The developer got $2.1 million in tax money from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency to help with the restaurant's Cascades Park renovation and construction. The subpoena requires action by June 5.

Corey served for a brief time as Gillum's campaign treasurer during his 2014 run for mayor, but the mayor has since cut ties with the developer.

The subpoena, delivered Thursday morning, demands all city audit files and related reports regarding the project undertaken by Cascades Holdings, certified copies of approval documents (including staff evaluations) related to the restaurant and copies of any proposals business plans or submissions to the city regarding the restaurant.

The subpoena also demands records of any city commission votes on the restaurant’s applications, correspondence between Corey and city officials and documents on any and all financial transactions between the city or the city’s community redevelopment agency and Corey or the restaurant.

The new request is a blow to Gillum, who's in a wide-open race to be the Democratic nominee for governor. However, the FBI's actions are not completely surprising. The Bureau began investigating Tallahassee’s government as early as 2015 — before Gillum was mayor.

After years of information gathering, which included the work of at least one undercover agent, the Bureau issued a round of subpoenas in June 2017 relating to the CRA's various deals with local developers. None of them mentioned Gillum. And the mayor said around the time of those subpoenas that the FBI told him he's not the target of the probe.

"Mayor Gillum has zero tolerance for wrongdoing in Tallahassee. It's been clear for months that this investigation has focused on one of his colleagues and others," Gillum campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan told the Times in a statement. "The campaign is focused on voters' priorities like health care and public education."

The Times/Herald has obtained the subpoena. Read it here.


Photo: AP

Scott's sixth trip to Puerto Rico since Maria: It's not 'about politics'

Gov. Rick Scott travels to Puerto Rico Thursday to offer "guidance, advice and assistance" to the hurricane-ravaged island nearly nine months after Maria struck.

Scott was in New York Wednesday and was asked about Puerto Rico's potential impact on the 2018 election in Florida on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum.

"Well, first off, anything that happened with Puerto Rico should not be about politics," Scott said. "I'm going back there (Thursday) for my sixth visit. And I'm going back there to try to help them. I work with the governor."

Scott's office said Scott was invited by Gov. Ricardo Rossello and will also meet with Puerto Rico's lieutenant governor, secretary of state and speaker of the House, and he planned meetings with local business leaders.

It is Scott's sixth visit to the island since the storm hit last September. He brought with him Cissy Proctor, director of the state Department of Economic Opportunity, and Wes Maul, the state chief of emergency management.

Scott's opponent in Florida's U.S. Senate race, Democrat Bill Nelson, last visited the island earlier this month.

Harvard University researchers released a report this week that said at least 4,645 deaths are attributable to the storm. The official death toll is 64.

Asked by Fox News if he believed the numbers in Harvard's study, Scott said: "Whatever the number is, it's — I mean, you just — you know, it's horrible. We — you know, we went through Irma. And my whole goal that whole hurricane was, I want to keep everybody alive."

'Junkyard millionaire' and son plead guilty to bribing Opa-locka politician and lobbyist


Via @JayHWeaver

Hialeah’s “junkyard millionaire” Raul Sosa Sr. and his son, Raul Sosa Jr., pleaded guilty Wednesday to paying bribes to an Opa-locka politician and a city lobbyist to obtain a towing contract.

Both men admitted paying $10,000 in 2015 to then-City Commissioner Luis Santiago and lobbyist Dante Starks in the broadening FBI corruption investigation at Opa-locka City Hall.

The bribery arrangement was organized in a meeting between the Sosas, Santiago and Starks after the city sought bids from towing contractors that year, federal prosecutors said.

Click here to read the rest.


May 30, 2018

Parkland parents launch a Super PAC to go after politicians and the NRA

Jeff KaskyStarting Wednesday, some Parkland families are raising money for a campaign to push the National Rifle Association out of politics and ban assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines in the U.S.

Following the lead of their children, parents from the community where 17 died in a Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have joined together to form Families vs Assault Rifles, a nonprofit and political action committee founded to be a counterweight to the NRA. Jeff Kasky, the father of March For Our Lives' student activist Cameron Kasky, says the group is quickly gaining support and has already received commitments from "financial backers" willing to match grassroots donations.

“The NRA purchases for cash money political favors," Kasky said in an interview. "That needs to stop."

The organization, according to its website, was created to "remove the NRA from our political system" and fight for gun-control policies by amending the National Firearms Act of 1934. The Super PAC registered with the state and federal governments on May 18 — the same day as a shooting that killed 10 at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas — and evokes a March For Our Lives motto that people should "either change the law or change the lawmakers."

The parents' Super PAC is soliciting $17 donations, one dollar for each life lost in the shooting.

Amy Harwood, a Boca Raton parent and friend of Kasky's, said the PAC is nonpartisan and won't be supporting candidates. She said the committee will target politicians who take NRA money and hammer them with "negative" ads during the midterm elections.

Harwood helped establish the committee when she helped introduce Kasky to Matt Gohd, a political strategist with Tipping Point Analytics. Kasky said Gohd is running point for the parents' Super PAC, but said most of the people involved in the efforts, including a number of families from Parkland, are helping out as volunteers.

"We don't have any skin in this game other than the actual skin of our kids and our families," Kasky said.

State asks feds for $19M in new election security money

Florida formally asked the federal government Wednesday for $19 million in election security money, one week after Gov. Rick Scott directed the state's top election official to request it and two months after the feds announced the money was available.

The Department of State released a three-page letter that made Florida the 17th state to apply for its share of a $380 million pot of money included in a spending bill that President Donald J. Trump signed two months ago.

Elections officials across the state are taking unprecedented steps to secure voting systems in the face of warnings from federal homeland security experts and members of Congress that Florida is a likely target of more intrusions in the 2018 election.

The state's letter said it will work with the 67 county election supervisors "to deploy the funds as rapidly as possible" for various purposes.

The letter said the money will strengthen implementation of cybersecurity for election systems, enhance election technology, facilitate cybersecurity training for the state and counties, implement cybersecurity best practices for election systems, continue election activities such as voter education, poll worker training and standardizing of election results reporting, and upgrading voting systems to address cyber vulnerabilities and "all other election costs deemed necessary by the Department of State."

Counties will receive money only after giving the state a detailed description of how they will spend the money. Any county that seeks money to pay for software or technology must ensure that that equipment has been certified by the Department of State.

This Democrat didn't like the news coverage of her campaign. So she created her own.


Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez didn't like the news coverage of her campaign for Congress.

So she created her own.

With the help of a well-known Miami blogger, Rosen Gonzalez set up QuePasa27.com in order to produce flattering content about her candidacy. The website, which was registered in February, includes a disclaimer for Rosen Gonzalez’s campaign at the bottom of every page, but is designed to look like an anonymous blog.

The site features a picture of people waiting at a bus stop and the motto "News and views from your Congressional District." Scroll down and the blog features blurbs about a special Miami-Dade County commission election and municipal trolleys before offering readers a series of articles that talk up Rosen Gonzalez's bid to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.

One article declares Rosen Gonzalez the winner of a debate held this month among the five Democrats running in Florida's 27th congressional district. Over the weekend, Rosen Gonzalez paid Facebook to promote the article so that it showed up at the top of voters' news feeds — without any hint that the article was created by her campaign.

Click here to read the rest.

Chris King campaign runs second commercial


Chris King has a new commercial promoting his campaign for governor. But you won’t see it in Miami.

King’s campaign on Wednesday released a 30-second TV ad criticizing Gov. Rick Scott and the state government for its inaction on gun laws following the 2016 shooting of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and embracing the youth gun-control movement that emerged after the school shooting in Parkland.

 “I want to shake up the old politics,” King says in the ad. “I’ll stand up to the NRA and hold both parties accountable.”

The Winter Park businessman is running the ad in the Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, Panama City and West Palm Beach markets. He’s so far stayed away from South Florida and Tampa – the two regions that have both high numbers of Democrats and high prices for air time. King’s ran his first commercial two weeks ago in the same markets.

The independently wealthy CEO of Elevation Financial – a private equity company that invests in affordable and senior housing - is partially self-financing his campaign. He had $2.4 million still unspent as of the beginning of the month after loaning his campaign $825,000 dollars, roughly the value of the purchase King’s campaign made two weeks ago.