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14 posts from March 7, 2014

March 07, 2014

Mitt Romney joins Rick Scott to fundraise for RGA at Fernandez's Gables manse


MgLbhPC9ssjhWetbUvjV-pVTxy2iSYfd7k2VGT94kIhvPCZz0bVxJwJqlosnFDRen-aAiBYqnKEzxoJBN4KBfLnZ8UFNQU0WAnufQ7-2FqL6a5xQ0P3vkzRrPZBsE0n6LMcV1RcqtsZ8mgHSde65e005nCmXSAvkOuIJyKpH62llMDKCrtoTO8WOvePlNhmLZcY80eL9aU89a0eoCwo=s0-d-e1-Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott are headlining a Republican Governors Association fundraiser March 24.

For Scott, the event is paybacks of sorts: the RGA contributed $2.5 million to his Let's Get to Work political committee on Jan. 27 amid a Florida fundraising tour by the association's embattled leader, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

This RGA fundraiser -- suggested contributions start at $25,000 per couple -- is slated to be held at the Coral Gables mega-mansion of Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, a Florida health-insurance tycoon.

Fernandez was a major Romney donor in 2012 and serves as the finance chairman of Scott's re-election campaign. He contributed at least $1.4 million directly to the governor since 2010 -- including a single $1 million check he stroked on Nov. 2 as former Democratic Gov. Charlie Crist hopped into the race.

Fernandez's oceanfront home has one of the most-spectacular views of the Bay, so much so that he wound up in a tussle with famed former Miami Dolphin Nick Buoniconti, his son Marc and Miami-Dade County over a plan to erect an $18 million five-story dry-stack building for 360 powerboats in Matheson Hammock Park’s marina.

Among the event's chairs and vice chairs: Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, developer and one-time Jeb Bush business partner Armando Codina, former Ambassador John Rood and political player Manny Kadre.

Proposal would let winner of governor's race pack the Supreme Court

Retiring JusticesFlorida’s governor would have new powers to pack the state’s Supreme Court under a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to make prospective appointments to the bench even if a vacancy occurs the day the governor is leaving office.

Under the proposal by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, the next governor could appoint the successors to three justices of the Florida Supreme Court who would have to retire on the same day the governor’s term ends, on Jan. 8, 2019. Justices are required to retire at age 70, but can continue to serve on the bench until the end of their six-year term.

Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — the court’s liberal wing — will all turn 70 some time during the next governor’s term, and their six-year terms will all end on the same day as the a new governor is inaugurated.

The state constitution is unclear about whether the incoming or outgoing governor should make the appointment when the vacancy occurs on inauguration day. The proposal is designed to put some certainty into the law by giving governors a “prospective appointment” as part of the state’s merit selection system used for appellate courts.

If voters approve Lee’s amendment in November, Gov. Rick Scott, if reelected, or his successor will have the power to appoint a majority of the seven-member court, a legacy that could last for decades.

Here’s how it would work: Story here. 

Photo: Retiring justices, clockwise: Peggy Quince, Barbara Pariente, James E.C. Perry, R. Fred Lewis


County Commissioner Xavier Suarez upset over port's development plan


Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez lashed out against PortMiami brass on Friday over pushing a commercial development at the same the county is in talks with David Beckham about putting a soccer stadium on the port. 

Suarez sent a stern letter to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, citing a Miami Herald story detailing the port's global sales pitch for a development plan that outlines a 7 million square-foot commercial complex of hotel rooms, offices, entertainment, apartment and a convention center but no stadium. 

 "The idea that the Port of Miami should compete with downtown Miami for commercial development, using our staff resources and our land (and presumably subsidies) makes no sense and is counterproductive,'' wrote Suarez, whose District 7 ends just south of the island port.

Read the letter by clicking here: Download Suarezletter0307

The bulk of Suarez's letter deals with old news. A 2011 port master plan called for a new commercial district there, and the concept quickly drew fire from Miami's downtown real estate industry. 

But the detailed rendering and the potential scope of the project only became public in recent weeks. Suarez also criticized Port Director Bill Johnson's interest in helping develop the proposed project once he retires from government, which is he set to do by June 2015.

Port executives weren't immediately available for comment on Suarez's letter.

Continue reading "County Commissioner Xavier Suarez upset over port's development plan" »

Judge wants tweaks to Miami-Dade sewer mandate


A Miami federal judge on Friday asked for closer oversight and larger penalties in a $1.6 billion legal settlement over the county’s crumbling sewer pipes.

U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno did not accept or reject the settlement, known as a consent decree, between Miami-Dade County and the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Instead, Moreno suggested the county and federal governments make two revisions to the agreement “that would enhance the Court’s confidence” that Miami-Dade will comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The judge recommended the appointment of a special master to ensure that the sewer repairs are made, and that funding for the fixes does not get deviated to non-environmental projects. He also suggested increasing the penalties against the county if it fails to upgrade the pipes.

More here.

Crist gains ground on Scott in February, but is it enough money?


For the first time since he announced in November that he was running for governor, Charlie Crist’s political committee raised more money in a month than the campaign committee of his opponent, incumbent Rick Scott.

The “Charlie Crist for Governor Committee” raised $827,350 in February, nearly five times the $184,257 raised during the same period by Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” committee.

Surpassing Scott’s fundraising behemoth is at least an indication that Crist can compete financially.

But it falls far short of providing solid proof that Crist still won’t be blown out in the months to come or at least catch up so he can compete.

Consider the many caveats to February’s numbers.

1) The month of February: Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” Committee doesn’t raise big dollars this particular month. Maybe the staff takes off for a long Valentine’s Day sweetheart getaway. Maybe the cold weather and the long nights make the staff feel sorta lonely and depressed. February 2014’s total was the lowest the committee raised since...wait for it...February 2013, when it raised a paltry $11,500. And in February 2012, the committee mustered only $62,251. Since February 2012, Scott’s committee has averaged $1.26 million a month, but only $86,002 in the month of February -- making last month’s haul look pretty good by comparison.

Continue reading "Crist gains ground on Scott in February, but is it enough money?" »

Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera's gal pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme

@MarcACaputo @Patricia Mazzei

Alliegro w copsAna Alliegro, the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested and informally extradited Friday from Nicaragua to Miami, where a federal grand jury charged her in a four-count indictment for her alleged role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman.

She will be locked up in a federal detention center until her first court appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White.

Alliegro had fled to Nicaragua in 2012 as the FBI began investigating her and Rivera in a scheme to steer and conceal $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a no-name congressional candidate, who appeared to be doing Rivera’s political dirty work.

That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign-finance laws and lying about it.

Now, the 44-year-old Alliegro faces charges of helping Sternad make false statements on his campaign reports and of making illegal contributions well in excess of federal campaign limits. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Rivera has not been charged. Neither Alliegro nor Rivera, who have long denied wrongdoing, could be reached for comment.

The indictment against Alliegro lists unnamed co-conspirators.

Story is here

Download Alliegro, Ana Indictment (1) 

Can the House and Senate find a compromise on vouchers?

The House and the Senate would agree on the proposed expansion of the school voucher program, were it not for one sticking point.

Senate President Don Gaetz is insisting that children who receive the private-school scholarships take the statewide assessments or something similar. Gaetz also wants the private schools held accountable for the results.

But House leaders say that kind of testing provision is unnecessary. They point out that scholarship students are already required to take some form of standardized test, though the statewide assessment is not mandated.

This debate goes back to 2008, when Gaetz was sponsoring legislation to expand the voucher program. His original Senate bill would have encouraged participating private schools to have their scholarship students take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests. But the House stripped the language out of its proposal, ultimately forcing the Senate to go along.

Flash forward to 2014.

Last month, House Speaker Will Weatherford said he would throw his weight behind a proposal to expand the tax credit scholarship program. Gaetz said he, too, would support the proposal -- so long as his provision about the state assessments was included.

Teachers union and parent groups say the new testing requirement makes the proposed voucher expansion a little more palatable, but they aren't exactly thrilled.

Why won't the House just agree?

Step Up for Students, the non-profit that administers the scholarship program, says it's not that easy.

For one, next year's state assessment will be a computer-based test. Many of the private schools participating in the tax credit scholarship program have neither the technology nor the bandwidth to administer an online test.

Private schools could send their scholarship students to nearby public schools for testing. But that would cost money, and there is no guarantee that the traditional schools could accomodate the extra test takers.

There is also a philosophical question. The state assessments measure how well students have mastered the state standards. But private schools, even those that accept scholarship students, are not required to teach the state standards. Many don't. Would it be fair to test scholarship students on standards they were never taught?

The compromise may be an incentive for participating private schools to teach the new state standards (now known as the Florida Standards) and administer the accompanying exams. 

We'll be watching.

Outside groups dwarf candidate spending in Florida special election

From our friends at the Center for Public Integrity:

The campaign money machines of Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly have not just been matched by outside forces, they’ve been lapped.

Roughly $12.5 million has flooded the heated special election on central Florida's gulf coast, but less than one-third of that sum was controlled by the candidates’ own campaigns, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records.

Outside political groups spending more money than candidates during an election used to be exceedingly rare. Now, it's increasingly common in the big-money era following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissiondecision in January 2010.

Read the rest here



Conservative group targets Rep. Joe Garcia in $20k online ad over Medicare Advantage


From an email

WASHINGTON – The American Action Network (@AAN) is launching a $20,000 issue advocacy advertising campaign in Florida calling on Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26) to fight the Obama Administration’s new cuts to Medicare Advantage. The two-week campaign features online video and display ads calling on Congressman Joe Garcia to act. Seniors can take action by calling Congressman Garcia and signing a petition atwww.DontCutOurMedicare.com. This is part of a $1 million campaign calling on nine Senators and Members of Congress to act.

Garcia's camp responds:

“Congressman Garcia opposes cuts to Medicare Advantage, and he spoke with the President today about this very issue. We are working with the White House, and have made our position clear. “

“Congressman Garcia also opposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, which has helped thousands of his constituents in his district get coverage for the first time and has protected the long term solvency of Medicare for all senior citizens.”

“This ad by a right wing group is attacking Congressman Garcia for a position he doesn’t hold, and demanding he do something he has is already doing."


PolitiFact passes 100 mark on Rick Scott fact-checks


Back in 2010, Rick Scott drew national attention for spending more than $70 million of his own money to win his first elected office as Florida’s governor. Since then, the Republican has become known for serious matters, like his staunch opposition to the federal health law, as well as lighter moments, like when The Daily Show crashed one of his press conferences to make fun of Florida’s effort to drug test welfare recipients.

On March 4, 2014, after Scott gave his fourthState of the State speech, PolitiFact Florida published its 100th and 101st fact-check of Scott. We published one more fact-check from that speech on March 6, bringing the total to 102.

At PolitiFact Florida, we’ve been fact-checking Scott since he entered state politics, shaking up the establishment. We launched PolitiFact Florida about one month before Scott announced his 2010 candidacy and have fact-checked Scottmore than any other Florida politician. We’ve also kept track of Scott’s progress on dozens of campaign promises on our Scott-O-Meter.

As Scott faces re-election next year, the Republican Party has contrasted his record with former Gov. Charlie Crist who announced in November that he will try to regain the seat, this time as a Democrat. (Crist will face former state sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, in a primary.)

We have fact-checked 101 claims by Scott as of March 4 -- about two-thirds had received a Half True, Mostly True or True rating.