September 18, 2018

Rick Scott says Kavanaugh accuser should testify before U.S. Senate

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the Senate Judiciary Committee should allow the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault decades ago to testify, potentially lengthening or derailing the confirmation process for Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them. Kavanaugh denies the allegation and both Kavanaugh and Ford have said they will testify under oath if necessary. 

Scott accused Feinstein of sitting on the allegations to further delay the confirmation process. Feinstein says she didn't disclose the letter because Ford wanted to remain anonymous and Ford came forward only after multiple news outlets reported on the letter's existence.

"The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here," Scott said in a statement. "Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to have the chance to clear his name." 

Scott is running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said in a statement yesterday that "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting with him. Scott also criticized Nelson for not meeting with Kavanaugh, though scheduling conflicts for both are the reason a meeting hasn't happened yet. 

Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio are not members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so they have not been directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. 

September 12, 2018

State to deploy emergency teams, resources ahead of Hurricane Florence

8049053b-8612-4056-aa5e-fa74073f5724

@samanthajgross

TALLAHASSEE -- Ahead of Hurricane Florence's expected landfall Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the state will deploy resources to assist those affected in North and South Carolina.

"In Florida, we are fortunate to have the best emergency management professionals in the world to respond to disasters in our state and to help other states during times of emergency," Scott said in a statement. "As we continue to monitor the path of Hurricane Florence and make preparations, Floridians must remain vigilant."

The state has deployed two search and rescue teams, five ambulance teams, a nursing team and three teams from the state's emergency response office to help with operations and planning. More than 2,000 Florida utility workers were also sent to help restore power after the storm hits. 

Several teams of volunteers from the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Florida Baptists will also be sent to the Carolinas help. 

William Manley, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard, said the National Guard will not deploy units to assist with natural disasters unless the affected states -- the Carolinas in this case -- request help. 

The Florida National Guard has "Zodiac" boats built for high-water rescues, but states will generally request help from areas less prone to hurricanes in an effort to preserve resources. 

"We still have to be at the read to brace for impact in case we get a hurricane too," Manley said. "We can't deploy until the Governor directs."

September 11, 2018

Bill Nelson not on board with Andrew Gillum’s progressive proposals

NELSON_PUERTO RICO0138 JAI

via @scontorno

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is excited about the energy that Andrew Gillum brings to the Democratic ticket as the party's nominee for governor.

He is less enthusiastic about some of the ideas Gillum ran on to win his primary.

Take Gillum's call to abolish the agency known as ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "in its current form." Nelson isn't on board.

"I don't want to abolish ICE. I want to abolish Trump," Nelson said in a sit-down Monday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. "ICE is merely the administrative agency. It's the policies in that agency that is problem."

What about Gillum's support for universal healthcare, often called Medicare for all? "I've got enough trouble just trying to save Obamacare," Nelson said. "I'm into results."

A $15 minimum wage?

"I have supported a $12 minimum wage," Nelson said, "but I am certainly open to suggesting anything that will improve the lot of the average working man."

Nelson has staked his political career — and, perhaps, the Democratic Party's chances at winning the U.S. Senate — on the assumption that a purple state prefers a moderate politician with a penchant for crossing the aisle. "One of America's most independent senators," a recent ad touted.

But his party received a jolt last month when Democratic voters picked Gillum in the gubernatorial primary over a more moderate choice, Gwen Graham, and three others. Suddenly, Nelson, 75, is sharing the spotlight with a 39-year-old, African American mayor backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders who ran and won on an unapologetically progressive agenda.

After his stunning victory, Gillum declared a "political revolution" was afoot.

The coming months will determine: Is Nelson out of step with this movement?

"He's bringing a lot of new energy to the table and I think it's going to produce more African Americans, I think it's going to produce more young people," Nelson said. "And hopefully I might have some value that I bring to the ballot as well."

Gillum has advocated for many of the liberal policies en vogue among new age Democrats — some of which Nelson has tried to disassociate himself from as he battles for Florida's middle.

Gillum contends he has given Democratic voters a reason to show up on election day.

"Some of the people in this race for governor believe we've got to run as Republican flight in order to win Florida," Gillum said at an August rally with Sanders. "Our voters are going to stay home if they have choose between someone pretending to be a Republican and someone who is a real Republican."

Nelson's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, has already tried to lump the two together. Scott, like Gillum opponent Ron DeSantis, has thrown around the word "socialist" around a lot to describe the Democratic ticket.

"This election offers Floridians a clear choice: continue the success of the last 8 years, or embrace the job-killing socialist policies of Senator Nelson and Andrew Gillum," Scott tweeted last week.

Independent fact-checking website PolitiFact deemed it False to call Gillum's agenda socialist.

For his part, Nelson has certainly embraced Gillum while maintaining his distance on contentious issues. Marijuana is one of them. Gillum wants to legalize marijuana, still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Nelson backs medical marijuana, including in smokable form. This week he unveiled a bill that allows the Department of Veteran Affairs to prescribe marijuana for its patients. But he doesn't support full legalization.

Gillum has also advocated for Trump's impeachment. Nelson won't go that far.

Nelson rightfully points out that nearly all these topics are federal in nature, meaning likely outside of the next governor's purview. When it comes to areas Gillum could affect, Nelson said he thinks they are more closely aligned.

"Look at the things that we agree on and look at the things that he has jurisdiction on that we agree," Nelson said. "Take for example, health care. Andrew certainly agrees that we ought to expand Medicaid for the 800,000 (would-be eligible Floridians)."

Though Nelson won't get behind some of Gillum's proposals, he has already shown a willingness to cede where the future of the party may be headed. At last month's post-election unity rally in Orlando, the elder statesman offered to speak first, leaving the headlining slot for the fresh face of the Democratic Party.

"I'm entirely comfortable with Andrew," Nelson said Monday. "And he with me."

August 28, 2018

After a hammering from Rick Scott, Bill Nelson going on TV with his first ad

IMG_AP_18218743953603.jp_3_1_8BE895CJ_L409731346

via @learyreports

After a continuous pounding on the airwaves from his wealthy rival, Sen. Bill Nelson is going up with his first TV ad, portraying himself to Florida voters as a voice of reason.

"I believe a public office is a public trust. You're there to serve the people, not the special interests. Just wake up every day and do what's right," the three-term incumbent Democrat says in the ad, titled "Oath," which touches on Nelson's service in the Army, his voyage to space and political office.

The statewide ad begins Wednesday, the day after the primary, and is the opening salvo in an $18 million ad buy from Nelson. Senate Majority PAC has put down another $23 million for ads to begin in October.

It's an answer to the onslaught from Gov. Rick Scott, who has been churning out ads since he entered the race in April. Scott and his allies have spent more than $47 million on ads, according to Kantar Media research reviewed by USA Today, and three-quarters of it has been negative toward Nelson.

Despite that, the race remains close, though some public polls show Scott with a slight edge.

To Nelson's campaign, that validates the conservative approach to spending, though he has benefited from millions in TV ads from outside groups, so it's not as though he's been completely dark.

The ad does not invoke Scott but by playing up the "public trust," it seems to portend a line of attack against the governor, who has faced numerous news stories about his personal wealth and decisions while governor.

Scott on Tuesday announced a new ad that highlights his humble beginnings.

Watch the ads below. 

Nelson: 

Scott: 

August 21, 2018

FBI, Homeland Security say Russians aren’t inside Florida election systems

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

The two federal agencies tasked with informing state and local officials about ongoing interference in Florida’s election systems say they have not seen any new or ongoing Russian attempts to compromise local election infrastructure.

“Although we have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida, Russian government actors have previously demonstrated both the intent and capability to conduct malicious cyber operations,” said a letter from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “DHS and the FBI will continue to notify any victim of a successful cyber intrusion into their election network in any jurisdiction nationwide.”

The letter comes two weeks after Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson first mentioned that Russians “penetrated” Florida’s election systems ahead of the 2018 election. He declined to go into further detail, arguing that the basis of his assertion was classified.

Since then, the Miami Herald and NBC News reported that government officials say there is information that shows Nelson is right, though the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information is classified.

Nelson is in the midst of a contentious and expensive reelection bid against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who oversees the Florida secretary of state’s office.

“Secretary Detzner sent a letter to DHS and the FBI and we have now received their response which continues to offer no evidence or information to corroborate Senator Nelson’s claims,” a statement from the secretary of state’s office said.

Nelson’s spokesperson said there’s nothing in the letter that proves Nelson wrong.

“In my opinion, there’s nothing in this letter that contradicts what Sen. Nelson said he was told a few months ago, and what he and Sen. Rubio have tried to warn about in order to guard against Russian meddling in our elections,” Nelson spokesperson Ryan Brown said in a statement. “The governor of Florida has a security clearance and could have quickly and directly received information, answers and posed any questions instead of engaging in these confusing and partisan histrionics of the past week.”

Read more here.

August 18, 2018

Florida election officials seek info as support builds for Nelson’s Russian-hack claim

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty @greggordon2

Florida election officials said Saturday they are seeking more information to combat any possibility of ongoing hacking efforts on county voting systems, as support mounted over the weekend for Sen. Bill Nelson’s recent claims that Russian operatives have “penetrated” some county voter registration databases in Florida ahead of the 2018 elections.

A U.S. government official familiar with the matter confirmed to McClatchy on Saturday an NBC news report that Nelson was right when he said Russian hackers had “penetrated” some of Florida’s county voting systems. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee told Nelson recently that operatives working for Russia penetrated some county voter registration databases in Florida. That appears to represent new information about fallout from a Russian hacking operation nearly two years ago and not evidence of a fresh attack, the government official familiar with the matter said.

And on Saturday, Nelson defended himself against claims by Gov. Rick Scott, his likely opponent in a hotly contested U.S. Senate election, that he was careless with classified information.

“I did exactly what the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee — both the Republican chairman and the vice-Chairman — asked Marco Rubio and I to give that warning. And to give it to the supervisors, which we did,” Nelson said at a campaign stop in Tampa. “I think now that Marco Rubio and I have brought it to everybody’s attention, despite the attempts at politicization of it by Gov. Scott, I think now that it’s out there on the open on what is the potential threat, I think the supervisors will make sure that their systems are secure.”

However, the U.S. government official who spoke to McClatchy said Nelson overstated the threat in saying on Aug. 7 that, after penetrating county voter registration databases, Russian cyber operatives “now have free rein to move about.” Nelson since has voiced concerns that the Russians could tamper with voter registration databases, suppress votes and create chaos at the polls on Election Day.

Details of the extent of any election security threat from the Russians’ penetration of Florida counties are classified, and the limited information that has leaked presents a confusing picture.

Florida officials faced with the prospect of ongoing hacking attempts say they’ve seen no evidence of voter information being altered as early primary voting continues in counties around the state.

Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County and the president of the state Association of Supervisors of Elections, said county-level election officials have not been informed of concrete steps they should take to inoculate themselves from the specific threat of ongoing Russian hacking attempts that Nelson has alluded to. Florida officials who do have access to classified information regarding the state’s voting systems typically receive briefings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Read more here.

August 17, 2018

Nelson declares vindication on Russia hacking claim

Scott and nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson declared vindication Friday over his still unsubstantiated claim that Russians hacked into some county election systems in Florida, pointing to a news report that stated there is a "classified basis for Nelson's assertion."

The Florida Democrat tweeted a breaking news alert from NBC News. "Bill Nelson wasn't making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida election systems," it read.

The report was based on "three people familiar with the intelligence."

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson for re-election, has accused Nelson of leaking classified information or simply fabricating the story, first disclosed to the Tampa Bay Times more than a week ago.

The Times has reported how top Republicans in Washington, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Sen. Marco Rubio, have issued statements that neither confirm or contradict what Nelson said.

[Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems]

The Florida Department of State did not respond to the NBC News report.

Instead, a spokeswoman pointed to a Thursday letter sent to Nelson from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Paul Lux, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, asking for evidence to support his claims.

"The Department of State has no evidence to support his claims at this time. We look forward to his response," the spokeswoman said Friday, responding for the governor as well.

As governor, Scott has a security clearance and could have requested a briefing from Washington officials but did not. A spokesman said that Detzner's office was handling communication with federal authorities.

Republican groups hammering away at Nelson reacted to the report by questioning if the Democrat "broke the law" by revealing classified information.

Rules for the Senate Intelligence Committee do say senators are not to disclose material and can be referred to the ethics committee if they do.

August 01, 2018

Curbelo, Diaz-Balart campaigns to receive campaign contributions from Trump

Curbelo (1)

via @anitakumar

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but his campaign is about to get a cash infusion from the president as he fights for reelection. Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who did vote for Trump and is facing a competitive reelection himself, is also set to receive money along with Trump supporter and U.S. Senate hopeful Rick Scott. The Florida Republicans are part of a group of 100 Republicans nationwide that are receiving direct financial support from the president as the GOP seeks to maintain control of Congress. 

Read more below: 

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is giving money to a surprising group of Republican candidates this fall — those who are not only more moderate than he is, but also those have openly defied him on key issues of immigration and trade.

Some didn’t even vote for him.

Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who led a failed effort opposed by the White House to circumvent House leaders and force a vote on granting citizenship to so-called Dreamers, are getting Trump’s money, according to a list of favored candidates obtained by McClatchy.

Some vulnerable Republicans may not welcome the donations, fearful that Democrats will seize on the money as they look to tie the GOP to a controversial president in districts he lost in 2016 or where he remains unpopular.

“We have neither solicited nor received said contribution,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo, who represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country held by a Republican seeking re-election.

Curbelo of Miami is a frequent critic of Trump and did not support him in the 2016 race.

The Trump campaign announced last week that it would donate the maximum amount allowed by law — $2,000 per candidate — to 100 Republicans running for Congress in November, perhaps a sign that the GOP is worried it will lose its majorities in Congress. Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

The Trump campaign did not disclose which candidates would receive contributions and did not respond to subsequent questions about how the candidates were selected, but McClatchy obtained a detailed list.

Read more here.

July 28, 2018

In disclosure Q and A, Scott campaign provides its own questions, then avoids some answers

Rick Scott 2015 APHere is the Q and A provided by the Scott campaign as part of the governor's financial disclosure. Note that even some of their own questions didn't get answers.

Our updates and context are in blue italics:

"TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Scott for Florida campaign released Governor Rick Scott’s annual financial disclosure report, as required by federal law for U.S. Senate candidates. Following the Governor signing the federal financial disclosure report, his assets were immediately placed back into a blind trust. The use of a blind trust avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest for an elected official, protects the people of Florida from an elected official making decisions based on personal finances, and is recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics."

Update: Scott's campaign staff clarified that the governor has not decided whether or not to continue the use of a blind trust if he were to be elected to the U.S. Senate. 

"A blind trust has been used by Florida elected officials such as Jeb Bush and Alex Sink, and even now, a majority of the democratic primary candidates for governor have committed to using a blind trust. Blind trusts are also used by governors in other states, both republicans and democrats. The Governor’s blind trust has also been upheld multiple times by the State Commission on Ethics and the court system."

Scott is being sued for violating the blind trust statutes by shifting assets for shifting millions of assets into his wife's name and retaining control as the beneficial owner. A motion to dismiss the case has been rejected by the circuit court and is now on appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeal. 

"Governor Scott has worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott’s Federal Disclosure Report 

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott's Notice to the Florida Commission on Ethics of his Blind Trust 

Please see the below FAQ and timeline for more information:

Q: What is Governor Rick Scott’s net worth?

That information is thoroughly provided in the financial disclosure.

No, it is not thoroughly provided. The governor has provided his liabilities but his assets are not clear because it is unknown how many assets held in the name of his wife, Ann, are also controlled by Scott. SEC documents show Scott has been the beneficial owner of many of the assets held in Ann Scott's name. Scott's worth may include the millions held by his wife, but the value of Ann Scott's assets are listed only as a range, with as many as 150 investments listed as "over $1 million." 

"Governor Scott grew up in a family that struggled financially. After attending high school and community college, Governor Scott enlisted in the United States Navy, then used the GI Bill to continue his education and ultimately open his first small business. He and his wife Ann, his high school sweetheart, have been able to live the American Dream thanks to the opportunities they had in this country, and now, Governor Scott is working to make sure every child in Florida will have these same opportunities. 

"Governor Scott has also worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

Q: Why has Governor Scott’s net worth increased over his years as governor?

Continue reading "In disclosure Q and A, Scott campaign provides its own questions, then avoids some answers" »

July 27, 2018

Is Rick Scott right to think releasing his schedule presents more of security risk than any gov before him? Lawsuit wants to know

Rick Scott and policeA not-for-profit healthcare company that lost a bid to renew its Medicaid contract with the state had a question for Gov. Rick Scott: Where can we find you?

They asked his staff to send them a copy of his schedule — in the office and on the campaign trail — for the next three months so they could talk to him about their concerns.

They argued that documents, compiled and recorded by taxpayer-paid staff and followed by the state’s top executive, his security entourage and other people on the state payroll, are public record and ought to be available for anyone in the state to see.

But the governor’s office wouldn’t turn them over, claiming the details on those calendars are exempt from public disclosure. His communications staff says it's about protecting the governor from a security risk -- even shielding details from calendars from years ago -- a higher standard than any governor before him. Story here.