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10 posts from July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

From a ponzi schemer to a secret deposition, 2014's 'mudslinging' looks like 2010 throwback


In Florida’s bareknuckle governor’s race, it’s as if the 2010 campaign season never ended.

The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday announced a digital media effort to highlight a sealed deposition that damaged Rick Scott on the campaign trail four years ago.

At the same time, the Republican Party of Florida took to Twitter and mockingly marked Charlie Crist’s birthday by featuring a photo of the Democrat blowing out birthday candles with convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein — a relationship that haunted the then-governor in his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

The state GOP also filed elections complaints Thursday that accused Crist of using the recent tour promoting his book — which revolves around his 2010 race — to help circumvent campaign-finance laws. Earlier this week, a batch of election-year complaints against Crist and Scott were rejected as baseless.

The back-and-forth slugfest, which has led to $22 million in TV ads so far and a neck-and-neck race, promises only to intensify as each side tries to make the other guy look like a secretive crook.

Story here

Second take: How Q-Poll shows favorable trends for Rick Scott v. Charlie Crist


Yesterday morning, when Quinnipiac University posted its press release about the governor's race poll, I copied and pasted it on the blog. The news print story went into more depth about the context of the poll, which revealed better trendlines for Gov. Rick Scott than Democrat Charlie Crist.

And as, I've said numerous times: It ain't the topline, it's the trend.

An excerpt:

• Strong leadership. By 54-38 percent, voters say Scott is a strong leader compared to Crist’s 49-43 percent. That’s close to the opposite of the April findings. Scott’s index has moved 11 percentage points in the governor’s favor, Crist’s index has moved 12 points to his detriment.

• Truthfulness. Crist took a notable hit in appearing honest and trustworthy. His -9 index (39-48 percent) is down from a +2 index in April. That’s a net 11-point shift. Scott’s index is about the same.

• Favorability. Only 40 percent have a favorable impression of Scott and 45 percent an unfavorable impression. But his -5 favorability index is an all-time high and a 2-point improvement since April. Crist’s 40-42 percentage favorability spread is an all-time low; a -2 index that represents a 9-point shift to his detriment.

• Job approval. Scott’s anemic 43-48 percent job-approval numbers is his best ever. The -5 index represents a 3-point shift in his favor since April.

• Compassion and caring. Does Crist care about voters? More say no than yes now. His index is -3, a 9-point shift against him. Scott’s index is worse: -11. But that’s an improvement from -17. Crist is seen as more compassionate than Scott by 12 percentage points, but the spread is 3 points smaller than it was in April.

• Head-to-head lead. Leaving out [Libertarian Adrian] Wyllie, Crist’s 5-point lead of 45-40 percent has been cut exactly in half from his 10-point, 48-38 percentage lead he had in April.

Story here

Rubio cites case of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader in latest push for sanctions


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who has been pushing the Obama administration to impose targeted sanctions on individuals committing human rights violations in Venezuela, flagged the recent case of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López in a letter to the president.

López’s wife made a public plea to U.S. and international leaders this week, saying her husband had been jailed on trumped-up charges by what she called the weak and frightened regime of President Nicolas Maduro. Lilian Tintori spoke at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday.

López is the former mayor of Chacao, a part of greater Caracas. He was a rising star in the opposition ranks and seen as a presidential contender when he was banned from politics by late President Hugo Chávez in 2008. His arrest after a February protest was the beginning of wider crackdown on the opposition, and his trial is scheduled to continue this week.

Since February, Venezuelans protesting Maduro’s regime have been met with often-brutal state-sanctioned violence that’s resulted in deaths, detentions and torture, according to political leaders and human rights observers. U.S. politicians from both parties have urged the Obama administration to intervene more forcefully to help mitigate the violence, but the administration has taken a more cautious approach, saying it doesn’t want to make the situation worse.

In his letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, Rubio wrote: “Sadly, Maduro's persecution of Mr. López is emblematic of his regime's methods to cling to power... For these blatant violations of basic human rights, not a single Venezuelan official has paid a price.”

Rick Scott haunted by familiar refrain: Release the deposition!


Dr daveRelease the deposition! Your character’s in question!

Shouting into bullhorn and dressed in hospital scrubs, the chant from the Republican who called himself “Dr. Dave” interrupted Rick Scott in 2010 after he cast his ballot in Naples at the end of the GOP primary for governor.

The issue of the deposition had haunted Scott in that race.

And Democrats hope it weighs on him again now that they’ve announced a new digital media buy and website, releasethedeposition.com.

“What is so damning that Rick Scott won’t release it, no matter what the price?” the Democrats’ party chairwoman, Allison Tant, said in a conference call with reporters.

Scott won't release it now, essentially the same answer he gave in 2010: "It's a private matter and I will not release the deposition.”

A week before he first announced for governor, Scott gave the sworn testimony in a lawsuit against Scott’s chain of walk-in-clinics, Solantic, which was accused by a doctor of unlawfully using his name in a regulatory matter.

The Democrats' attack has a one-two-punch against Scott because it leads to mention of: his former healthcare company, Columbia/HCA, which had paid a record Medicare fraud; and how Scott once pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times (due to pending criminal investigations) in yet another deposition in a later healthcare lawsuit.

In 2010, Scott’s refusal to release the Solantic deposition badly hurt him in the GOP Republican primary, where internal campaign tracking polls showed his lead over then-Attorney General Bill McCollum dropped precipitously in the wake of the controversy.

InmateMcCollum allies funded TV ads about the issue. They also paid two “Dr. Dave” and another heckler dressed in a black-and-white-striped jail outfit named “Inmate 2010” to follow Scott around in an SUV wrapped with a grainy image of Scott’s face and the message “Rick Scott: Release the Deposition.”

A similar message – “RICK SCOTT, RELEASE YOUR DEPOSITION” -- was trailed behind a biplane at a Jacksonville Jaguars game that Scott visited. NOTE: All these pictures in this blog are of Republicans or Republican-paid operatives, not Democrats, from 2010.

Scott won that GOP race and went on to beat Democrat Alex Sink who also put millions of dollars behind release-the-deposition TV ads. Scott, barely won in what was then a Republican-red year.

Scott received fewer votes than any of the other four Republicans on the statewide ballot.

The Republican Party response to the new website/old attack: "Charlie Crist’s campaign of constant distraction and mudslinging is an attempt to hide his own problems with ethics and transparency. Crist is drumming up old, failed attacks because he doesn’t want to talk about the 38 days it’s been since he refused to release his and his spouse’s tax returns, and the 179 days it’s been since he refused to debate Nan Rich.” –Susan Hepworth, RPOF Communications Director

Scott depo wagon

Wasserman Schultz claims about ACA, pizza and the states

PolitiFact recently fact-checked two claims by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, about the health care law. 

Wasserman Schultz said the Fourth Circuit Court in its ruling wrote, "If you ask for ham and pepperoni on your Pizza Hut pizza but then I actually go get your pizza from Domino’s, it’s implied if I bring back a pepperoni and ham pizza then that’s what you asked for."

This wasn’t the ruling of the entire three-member court, just one judge’s concurring opinion. And she did miss the distinction that the person ordering the pizza said in advance they wanted Pizza Hut, but would be "fine with a pizza from Domino’s."

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Wasserman Schultz said that there were "36 states where Republicans who were in charge refused to implement a state exchange." There are 36 states that use the federal exchange or state-federal partnerships instead of state-based marketplaces. But seven of those states are run by Democrats. And, some of the states with Republican governors, like New Mexico and Idaho, tried to institute a state exchange before opting for federally-facilitated marketplace. So while most of the 36 states had Republican governors, not all of them did.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

The fact-checks were written by Steve Contorno and Molly O'Connor.

The ABCs of RPOF's Mostly False claim about preschool

On the campaign trail, Gov. Rick Scott has appeared in a charming video alongside his toddler grandson and a darling photo with Florida preschoolers. So we know he likes cute little kids.

But does he invest in them?

A new ad by the Republican Party of Florida portrays him as generously funding preschool education.

The Spanish-language ad "Dedicación" shows teachers warmly talking about their profession -- and Scott.

"I like being a special education teacher because many people don’t see the potential of those students," says one teacher. "It's a profession of great dedication," says another.

The teachers continue:

"With Rick Scott, there are more funds for preschool education and that’s very important to me. Florida students are better off due to Scott. They can repeat all the falsehoods they want, the facts don’t lie."

Under Scott, are there more funds for preschool education? We decided to do some homework

After old complaints thrown out, RPOF files new ones v. Charlie Crist


Another day, another election complaint in Florida's governor's race. Make that three. This time, they're from the Republican Party of Florida concerning Charlie Crist's book tour.

A batch of RPOF complaints against Crist and Crist-supporter complaints against Gov. Rick Scott were thrown out this week.

Here are the latest complaints

Download Horwitz.Complaint.7.23

Download Crist.Complaint.7.23

Download CristForGov.Complaint.7.23


Like old Q-poll, new one shows Hillary still leads GOP in FL, Jeb strongest Republican

From a press release:

Even though President Barack Obama remains stuck in a swamp in Florida, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dominates the 2016 presidential landscape, sweeping the Democratic field and topping former Gov. Jeb Bush and other possible Republican contenders by margins of 7 to 21 percentage points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Gov. Bush gets 21 percent in a Republican presidential primary in Florida, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio with 18 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 10 percent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 8 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 7 percent and New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie with 6 percent. No other candidate tops 5 percent and 13 percent of Republicans remain undecided.

This compares with results of a May 1 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, showing Bush leading the Republican pack with 27 percent, followed by Paul with 14 percent and Rubio with 11 percent.

Secretary Clinton takes 67 percent of Democratic presidential primary voters, compared to 64 percent May 1, followed by Vice President Joseph Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 8 percent each. Another 11 percent are undecided.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be taking some criticism recently in the news media and among some liberal Democratic precincts, but nothing has changed among average voters in Florida where she remains queen of the political prom,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“Two-thirds of Democrats say she is their candidate for 2016 and none of the others even makes it into double digits. Sunshine Staters are on top when Florida Republicans are asked their top 2016 choice, but former Gov. Jeb Bush slips a little and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio just about caught up with him.”

Florida voters back Clinton over Bush 49 – 42 percent in the 2016 White House race. The Democrat tops other Republicans by wider margins:

• 53 – 39 percent over Rubio;
• 53 – 37 percent over Paul;
• 54 – 33 percent over Christie;
• 51 – 38 percent over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

More here

State: Haitian American cancer awareness group founder bilked Florida taxpayers


Jacques Calixte ran a much-lauded publicly funded organization purporting to help Haitian American women detect cancer.

Florida authorities on Wednesday pronounced it a sham, saying Calixte billed the state for nearly $400,000 — but arranged hardly any actual breast cancer screenings for at-risk women.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, called Calixte’s actions “unconscionable.”

The alleged scam led to Calixte’s arrest on charges of grand theft, aggravated white collar crime and communications fraud. The 44-year-old previously had been hailed for his work as founder and operator of Miami’s Haitian American Association against Cancer, which was supposed to arrange and pay clinics to perform breast cancer screenings for women.

According to state investigators, Calixte provided phony bank statements, payroll checks and healthcare reports to Florida’s Department of Health, which had given the group hundreds of thousands of dollars between January 2011 and June 2013.

But a review of his finances showed Calixte spent as little as $16,000 on actual client screenings in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, there was no evidence of expenditures for clinical screenings or testing for Haitian American woman “as required by the contracts,” according to Florida Department of Financial Services.

In all, Calixte is accused of stealing at least $287,000 in state money.

More here.

Court asked to accept new redistricting map, delay primary elections

Florida should delay the primary or adjust its election dates this year in order to fix its unconstitutional congressional map and avoid an invalid election, lawyers for a coalition of voters argued Thursday in circuit court.

But lawyers for the Legislature told Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis that fixing the map before the November elections would "cause horrific uncertainty" for voters and would be an extreme, unnecessary remedy.

Lewis' ruled on July 10 that the state’s congressional redistricting maps are invalid and declared two of the states's 27 districts unconstitutional – those held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden.

But the Legislature surprised him last week and decided not to appeal the ruling. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz then urged Lewis to let them revise the map after the November elections, in order to avoid disrupting the fall elections and to comply with federal voting rules that impose a fixed schedule for sending ballots to overseas military.

The coalition of voters groups, led by the League of Women Voters, filed the lawsuit challenging the state's congressional map as violating the Fair Districts rules approved by voters in 2010.

After a 13-day trial, Lewis concluded that the Republican-controlled Legislature allowed “improper partisan intent” to infiltrate the redistricting process and seemingly ignored evidence that partisan political operatives were “making a mockery” out of their attempts to conduct themselves with transparency.

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