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17 posts from April 13, 2012

April 13, 2012

Big-time GOP donor says George LeMieux knew about secret contract in criminal case

Harry Sargeant III, former finance chair for the Florida Republican of Party says he and other party officials knew all about it when former GOP chairman Jim Greer and the party's executive director took over fundraising operations.

The accusations aim at the heart of a statewide grand jury indictment accusing Greer of grand theft of more than $100,000 from the party by diverting money to Victory Strategies, a company created to handle fundraising duties for the party. The criminal charges allege that Greer diverted the money without the knowledge or consent of party officials.

Damon Chase, a Lake Mary lawyer who represents Greer, said state prosecutors should dismiss the charges against the former chairman.

"They simply cannot, and should not, continue to put him through this hell,'' Chase said.

In an affidavit Chase released Friday, Sargeant said Greer was "frustrated and concerned'' over the way party fundraising was being handled by Meredith O'Rourke, a longtime fundraiser who was being paid as much as $30,000 a month to raise funds for party operations.

In late 2008 Greer terminated her contract with the party and helped create Victory Strategies, a corporation he and the party's executive director, Delmar Johnson jointly owned.

Sargeant said he, Gov. Charlie Crist and George LeMieux, the governor's former chief of staff, had several discussions about the situation and determined in January 2009 that Greer should terminate the contract with O'Rourke and take over fundraising responsibilities with Johnson.

"As finance chairman and a major donor to the RPOF, I did not consider it inappropriate for Greer and or Mr. Johnson to receive additional compensation for assuming additional fundraising responsibilities, and in fact believed it would be more efficient and beneficial to the RPOF,'' the affidavit notes.

Connie Mack won't spend much time during the campaign reminding people that he was an early Charlie Crist supporter in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, but his campaign is happy to see more uncomfortable questions surface about what George LeMieux knew about former GOP chairman Jim Greer's "secret" fundraising contract and when LeMieux knew it.

From Mack Campaign manager Jeff Cohen:"I wish I could say most people were flabbergasted this afternoon to read news articles alleging that George LeMieux, in his capacity as Chief of Staff to former Governor Charlie Crist, was at the epicenter of the Jim Greer finance scandal. But I doubt they were.
"So perhaps George LeMieux will come clean once and for all and answer the most basic questions of this scandal -- What did George LeMieux and Charlie Crist really know about the Jim Greer scandal, and what did they really do? The people of Florida anxiously await the truth."

More here

Casinos on the 2014 ballot? Political committee lays the groundwork

After failing to persuade the Florida Legislature to pass a bill to open South Florida to mega resort casinos, gambling interests have taken the first steps to bring the issue directly to voters in 2014.

A political committee under the name of “New Jobs and Revenues for Florida” was created April 10 with the purpose of promoting a “statewide constitutional initiative re gaming.” The committee chairman is Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist John French and its treasurer is political committee consultant and accountant Nancy Watkins of Tampa. Download New Jobs and Revenues for Florida Committee

The only group so far that has expressed an interest in conducting a petition drive to bypass lawmakers and go directly to voters is the Genting Group, the Malaysian-based conglomerate that has kept a low profile since a House committee knocked its chances off the legislative agenda in mid-session.  

Continue reading "Casinos on the 2014 ballot? Political committee lays the groundwork" »

Rick Scott allows Adam Putnam's energy bill to become law

Gov. Rick Scott approved Adam Putnam's energy proposal Friday by allowing it to become law without his signature.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

In a letter usually reserved for vetoes, Scott praised HB 7117 for stripping unnecessary regulation and repealing the renewable portfolio standard mandate.

Echoing tea party concerns voiced loudly this week, Scott said he isn't convinced the biggest part of the bill -- $100 million in tax incentives over five years for renewable energy investments -- will pay off for consumers.

"Absent clear documentation that the proposed tax credits have produced a sufficient return or provided significant cost savings for the state's taxpayers, I will request their repeal," he wrote.

Story to come.

Better late than never? Energy bill supporters rally Rick Scott with last-minute campaign

Gov. Rick Scott's office is getting an earful from people who like Adam Putnam's energy bill, the Legislature's first energy package in years.

As Scott's Saturday deadline nears, supporters have tripled the number of calls to his office from earlier in the week, when they trailed opponents by a huge gap.

The latest count shows calls in support grew from 685 to 2,001 by Friday, while opponents went from about 1,200 to 2,344. The email fight remained unbalanced Friday, with 49 in support vs. 2,344 against.

The last-minute surge in support follows a coordinated effort by Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity-Florida and state tea party groups who want Scott to veto the measure over $100 million in tax incentives for renewable energy investments over five years.

A Friday robo-call urged recipients to phone Scott's office and tell him he should sign the bill and stand against Exxon-Mobil and oil special interests in an attempt to quash the bill.

One of the groups pushing the energy proposal is Associated Industries of Florida. AIF president Tom Feeney would not confirm whether his organization was responsible for the calls.

"The 'how and why' question about why we are so effective is rarely discussed in public.," Feeney told the Times/Herald.

He sent Scott a letter Tuesday, refuting Americans for Prosperity's claim that the tax credit "has any parallels with Solyndra or other failed initiatives of the federal government."

"This tax credit is only for energy delivered and is patterned after the federal production tax credit signed by several Republican administrations," he wrote.

Continue reading "Better late than never? Energy bill supporters rally Rick Scott with last-minute campaign" »

The week in PolitiFact Florida: communists, cocaine, monkeys and redistricting records

Take a look at our fact-checks posted this week on politifact.com/florida.

  • A mailer from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan says Barack Obama's administration "will no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act."
  • Speaking of Obama, he swung through Florida this week to promote the "Buffett Rule." He claimed 98 percent of American families make under $250,000 a year.
  • With new unemployment numbers in hand, we updated Gov. Rick Scott's promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.
  • Republican Rep. Allen West got a lot of attention for his claim at a town hall that about 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party. (This one got our worst rating of Pants on Fire. Follow for the flames!)
  • A campaign commercial for Rep. Connie Mack IV attacks Sen. Bill Nelson over a stimulus project involving cocaine and monkeys. Read why this approach isn't new in campaign warfare.
  • We capped the week with a long look at Florida's redistricting cycle and its effect on House incumbents. Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford claimed, "It’s the first time in the nation this many members have been drawn into the same districts where it wasn’t a court order." Is he right?

Send feedback to Florida@PolitiFact.com.

Miami-Dade GOP elects Ben Powell new chairman

As we predicted earlier this week, the Miami-Dade Republican Party picked Ben Powell of Palmetto Bay as its new chairman. Powell ran unopposed and was elected by acclamation by the local Republican Executive Committee Thursday night.

According to a party press release, Powell gave a speech at the meeting addressing his key goals and received a standing ovation.

"In addition to accountability, a major theme of mine would be openness," Powell said in the release. "I believe strongly in party unity and the concept of a Big Tent. Though we may support different candidates and have different ideas on certain issues, we also share common principles. These principles unite us and we should never forget that."

Powell replaces state Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who resigned from the post last month.

Connie Mack's gas prices-are-too-damn-high letter to President Obama


MIAMI - With gas prices soaring to over $4 a gallon in Florida this week, Congressman Connie Mack sent an open letter to President Obama upon his latest visit to Tampa today:
Dear Mr. President:
In the Tampa area today, regular gas is priced at the Sunoco on North 22nd is $4.09 and $4.19 at Bollinger on Tyrone in St. Petersburg. The price of gas has now soared to well over $4 a gallon in Florida, and is poised to climb even higher because your energy policy has failed the American public.

Continue reading "Connie Mack's gas prices-are-too-damn-high letter to President Obama" »

Connie Mack camp: George LeMieux's 'lackluster' campaign=paltry cash haul

From the Connie Mack campign on George LeMieux's fundraising:

"George LeMieux continues to raise less and less with each passing quarter, while Connie Mack raises more and more.  George LeMieux's weak fundraising performance is because his lackluster campaign of desperation has turned off supporters and, according to the latest Rasmussen poll, his negatives are three times higher than his positives.
"George LeMieux is proving there are fewer and fewer Charlie Crist supporters, and his own figures show he is spending almost everything he is raising in real time.
"Having raised barely over $300,000, one has to wonder how he managed that feat and how many cousins or law partners he has left to ask for a contribution."

Scott picks banker to lead jobs agency

Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a Florida banking executive to oversee the state's top economic development agency.

Hunting Deutsch, the vice president of Wealth Management at BankUnited, will lead the Department of Economic Opportunity, starting Monday.

He replaces Doug Darling, who left the agency abruptly in January.

Deutsch has spent more than 30 years in the banking industry, mostly in Florida and Alabama. Before working with private equity at BankUnited, Deutsch held high-level positions at AmSouth Bank in Birmingham, Citigroup Private Bank in Miami and SunTrust Bank in Orlando. He earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Miami and studied economics at the University of New Hampshire. 

Continue reading "Scott picks banker to lead jobs agency" »

George LeMieux: I raised $305k (but nearly tying Connie Mack with $1.2 million in bank)

From a press release:

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – George LeMieux today released his fundraising totals for the first quarter, reporting $1.2 million cash on hand, over $2 million raised to date, and $305,752 raised in the first three months of 2012.

“Cash on hand is what matters most and LeMieux and Mack the Fourth are neck in neck,” said Brian Seitchik, LeMieux campaign manager. “When Floridians’ attention turns to the Senate Primary, we will have the resources necessary to educate voters on George’s strong fiscal record contrasted with Connie Mack the Fourth’s history of earmarks, raising the debt ceiling, and increasing his own Congressional salary.”

This announcement follows LeMieux winning three consecutive straw polls in landslide victories over Mack who came in dead last every time and continuous key endorsements from Republicans throughout Florida, including 31 sitting state legislators, former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Tom Slade, and former Mayors Rich Crotty and John Peyton.