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18 posts from November 2, 2012

November 02, 2012

PolitiFact checks Allen West ad about Patrick Murphy and the Miami-Dade SAO

he battle between U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy has featured dueling ads in which they portray each other as criminals.

And now West has reloaded his attack with a dramatic ad that suggests that when Murphy was arrested when he was a college freshman after a night of drinking and swearing at a police officer, his well-to-do Daddy got the case dismissed.

Earlier in the campaign, West ran an ad that attacked Murphy for an arrest about 10 years ago -- the charge was ultimately transferred to traffic court where it was dismissed. And Murphy attacked West for an incident during his Army career, when West fired over the head of a detainee in Iraq and prompted a military investigation. That led to a fine and reprimand, and West retired from the Army. You can read more about our analysis of those ads in our earlier fact-checks in the race for congressional district 18 in Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Here we will focus on West’s latest attacks about Murphy’s 2003 arrest in this ad: 

The narrator begins: "Patrick Murphy isn’t being honest about his drunken assault of a police officer."

The ad then shows Murphy saying: "I took responsibility and it was dismissed."

The narrator then continues: "The truth is after Murphy’s charges were dropped, Murphy’s father gave the prosecutor a huge campaign donation."

On screen, two men in suits shake hands in a stairwell; another image shows someone pushing stacks of cash across a table.

"Now Murphy is hiding behind his dad again using his money to fund a negative campaign. ... "

The ad paints a portrait of Murphy as relying on his Daddy’s big bucks to get him out of trouble and support his campaign. (West has called Murphy a "spoiled brat.")

Here we will focus on West’s claim that that after the charges against Patrick Murphy were dropped, his father "gave the prosecutor a huge campaign donation." We will also briefly explain West’s reference to the role of Murphy’s father’s money in the campaign. Read PolitiFact for our full analysis.

Had John McCain won Florida, Scott Rothstein would have taken part in the Electoral College

It's Florida in an election year, so it's not implausible that the fate of U.S. democracy will depend on Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime or state Sen. Anitere Flores.

Monestime and Flores are both presidential electors nominated by their parties -- Monestime by the Democrats, Flores by the Republicans -- to represent Florida in the Electoral College, where the presidency is really decided.

Technically, voters really aren't voting for president on Tuesday: They are voting for a slate of 29 "electors" representing either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Depending on who wins on Tuesday, their respective electors will meet on Dec. 17 to formally submit their electoral votes to Washington.

Electors tend to be local politicians or party activists, and the largely ceremonial positions have been used in the past to reward supporters or contributors. For example, in 2008, the state Republican party's electors included Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein, a Charlie Crist contributor later convicted of using his law firm to carry out a $1-billion-plus Ponzi scheme.

See after the jump for a full list of the 2012 electors.

Continue reading "Had John McCain won Florida, Scott Rothstein would have taken part in the Electoral College" »

Former Miami mayor Diaz in Spanish-ad pushback: Romney's "exploiting the suffering" of Cubans

One of Miami-Dade's better-respected and least-partisan of politicians, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, cut a Spanish-language ad for the Obama campaign pushing back on a Romney campaign ad that features favorable statements about the president that were made by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro's niece.

Diaz is a no-party-affiliation voter, aka an independent. However, he did endorse Obama and spoke at the 2008 DNC. And, boy, the Romney folks are going out of their way to point out Diaz left with a low approval rating (kind of like Romney, who was upside-down 39-59% in his approve/disapprove numbers in the final year as governor)

We're not sure, but this might be a presidential-campaign first: a Spanish-language pushback against another Spanish-language ad.

The script:

Continue reading "Former Miami mayor Diaz in Spanish-ad pushback: Romney's "exploiting the suffering" of Cubans" »

Bondi, Legislature reach deal on $300 million in foreclosure money

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Friday that her office has reached a deal with the Florida Legislature over how to use $300 million in foreclosure settlement money that has sat dormant since March amidst negotiations over spending authority.

One-fifth of the money, about $60 million, could be approved in the coming weeks for programs like down-payment assistance, legal counseling for foreclosures and initiatives to help deal with the backlog of foreclosures in state court.

The state Legislature will decide how to spend $200 million of the total during the next legislative session, meaning  it will be spent after May. According to the agreement, that money will go to “housing-related” initiatives, a broad term that could include "foreclosure prevention, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, homebuyer or renter assistance, legal assistance, counseling and other housing-related programs."

It also allows an additional $40 million to go to state coffers as a “civil penalty”, adding to the $33 million that has already been sent to the state treasury.

The deal was announced by Bondi, Speaker-designate Will Weatherford and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz. 

Bondi originally argued that she had the authority to spend the foreclosure-settlement cash, while legislative leaders pointed out that they are legally authorized to appropriate funds.

As the two groups negotiated, the money sat in an escrow account, while other states began putting their portion of the settlement to use. As of last month, Florida was the only state that had yet to announce how it would use the money.

Meanwhile, Florida recently became the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the country. The $300 million cash payment came in addition to more than $8 billion in mortgage assistance that Floridians were set to receive directly from banks as part of the national $25 billion settlement.

Other states have come under fire from consumer advocates for using money from the national mortgage settlement for issues not related to the housing crisis

Though Bondi has repeatedly stated that she wanted the money to go directly to housing-related issues, it was not clear if the Legislature would sign on to that.

"This plan gets much-needed assistance to the homeowners and communities suffering the effects of the foreclosure crisis, and ensures that the settlement funds are spent with the transparency, accountability and flexibility that comes from the legislative process,” Bondi said in a statement.  “I thank President-designate Gaetz and Speaker-designate Weatherford for working together with me to implement the mortgage settlement in a way that’s in the best interests of our state.”

 Added Gaetz: “I am grateful to Attorney General Bondi and Speaker-designate Weatherford for working with us on a proposal which ensures that these funds are appropriated by the legislature in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. “Together with the approximately $7.5 billion in relief that will go directly to homeowners, this funding will play an important role in the multitude of state and federal efforts to provide relief for homeowners facing foreclosure.”

 See the full press release below:

Continue reading "Bondi, Legislature reach deal on $300 million in foreclosure money" »

No criminal charges for former Miami Beach lawmaker in 'sexxxy mama' text scandal

Richard Steinberg, the former Miami Beach state representative, will not face criminal charges for sending creepy and harassing anonymous text messages to a married federal prosecutor.

He resigned from office in February after The Miami Herald reported he was under investigation for sending dozens of “inappropriate and unsolicited” text messages to the woman.

In a final report released Friday, state prosecutors said they could not prove Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, acted in a “malicious’” way, a key element for charges under Florida’s stalking statute.

“The victim, although supportive of any filing decision made, could not in good faith say she felt [Steinberg] was being malicious,” according to the final memo by prosecutor Johnette Hardiman.

Steinberg, a former Miami Beach commissioner, was elected in 2008 and was well-respected among his peers in the Florida House of Representatives.

Last summer, Steinberg used a Yahoo! account with the screen name “itsjustme24680” to send text messages to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos.

For months, Fernandez-Karavetsos told investigators, an anonymous texter sent suggestive messages, calling her “sexxxy mama” and asking about her infant son. She repeatedly asked the person to stop and identify himself.

Fernandez-Karavetsos, who is married to a federal prosecutor, only knew Steinberg through professional circles. Steinberg, a lawyer, is married with children.

More from David Ovalle here.

3.5 million FL early ballots in; Dems lead by 76,000. But it's not like 2008

About 3.5 million Floridians have already cast absentee and in-person early voting and Democrats have an edge of about 76,000 ballots cast before the polls re-opened this morning.

Expect that to continue to grow over the next two days of in-person early voting, which Democrats dominate, especially in South Florida, which is why the GOP Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott effectively shortened early voting days. Democrats have rolled up a 156,000 early vote edge while Republicans lead in absentee ballots case by about 80,000. If every Democrat and Republican who requested an absentee ballot voted it, the GOP absentee-ballot lead would be cut by half.

Most polls show Mitt Romney's winning, and Republicans note that Democrats won't have the early vote advantage they had in 2008 (when they led by anywhere from 250,000 to 363,000 ballots, depending on how you analyze the data).

Well, shortening early voting days from 14 to eight will, by definition, help shorten the number of early votes. Understand also that, relative to the actual early voting hours available in South Florida in 2008, early voting time has been cut 20 percent, or 24 total hours. And South Florida favors President Obama the most.

However, Democrats are barely matching their raw early vote numbers compared to four years ago. So there's an enthusiasm gap relative to 2008 as well.

Democrats also point out that Republicans have been talking a better game than they've produced on the ground. Republicans predicted they'd be up in early ballots cast on Election Day. It's pretty clear they won't be. The Democratic total vote margin increases with each day of early voting.

So what happens on Election Day? May the best ground game win.

Early votes

Party          EV Total            %
DEM         770,892 46%
REP         614,988 37%
IND         286,988 17%
Total       1,672,868

Absentee votes

Party         AB Total              %
REP         781,043 44%
DEM         700,970 39%
IND         308,646 17%
Total       1,790,659

Cumulative EVAB

Party            EVAB            %
DEM       1,471,862 42%
REP       1,396,031 40%
IND         595,634 17%
Total       3,463,527

Outstanding absentee ballots:

Party     Outstanding            %
REP         362,920 36%
DEM         406,634 41%
IND         230,042 23%
Total         999,596

U.S. Justice Department will monitor Miami-Dade early voting

The U.S. Justice Department will monitor early voting in Miami-Dade County to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, according to the agency.

"Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities during early voting in this county. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials," a release stated.

The oversight is standard for the DOJ but comes at a time of heightened concern over voting law changes in Florida.


Campaign for justices shatters $5 million mark as opposition ads barely materialized

When the Republican Party of Florida launched its “grassroots” offensive against the three justices of the Florida Supreme Court, it unleashed a sleeping giant.

The state’s legal community galvanized in defense of the justices and opened its wallets. According to reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections and the IRS, lawyers are on track to raise $4 million to defend the justices in their bid to remain on the court in the November retention campaign.

The list of campaign contributions is a Who’s Who of elite law firms in Florida, including top lawyers who are politically connected with both parties. The three justices, R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, also will have collectively raised another $1.5 million in their individual campaign accounts.

The $5.5 million war chest shatters any previous records for a judicial campaign in Florida.

In just three weeks, dozens of law firms ponied up checks as large as $100,000 to an electioneering and communications organization set up to defend the justices. The organization, called Defend Justice from Politics, used the cash to pay for mailers, robo-calls, ads on social media and four to six weeks of television ads in the state’s largest media markets.

Supporters are predicting victory. “It’s over,” said Neil Roth, a Miami trial lawyer who has quietly coordinated the campaign to defend the justices. He predicts the justices are going to win the 50 percent plus one margin to be retained on the bench another six years. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/02/3079019/campaign-for-justices-is-on-track.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/02/3079019/campaign-for-justices-is-on-track.html#storylink=cpy