« July 31, 2014 | Main | August 2, 2014 »

18 posts from August 1, 2014

August 01, 2014

New court records show how David Rivera is 'Co-conspirator A'


Congressional candidate and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera has a newly disclosed identity in a federal campaign-finance corruption case: “Co-conspirator A.”

The name “Co-conspirator A” appeared in a 2012 search warrant for the home office of Rivera’s friend and political operative, Ana Alliegro, who’s awaiting trial for breaking federal campaign-finance laws.

Alliegro implicitly revealed Rivera’s identity by filing a recent but failed court motion that claimed the search warrant wasn’t lawfully approved by a judge because the FBI didn’t disclose that “Co-conspirator A” served in Congress. It was the first time she had tied Rivera to the alleged campaign-finance scandal.

At the time, Alliegro worked with only one member of Congress: Rivera, a Republican whose cellphone and American Airlines travel records were also seized in the criminal case, new court documents show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer said the job description of Alliegro’s co-conspirator didn’t matter anyway.

“Here, Alliegro cannot support her argument that the Affiant’s failure to identify Co-conspirator A as a Member of Congress was a material omission that bore on the magistrate judge’s decision to issue the warrant,” Seltzer wrote in a Tuesday ruling smacking down her multiple motions to have evidence against her suppressed.

More here

Most high-profile Miami-Dade judicial race features ex-lawmaker vs. assistant city attorney


The normally staid Miami-Dade judicial elections have so far hosted plenty of intriguing story lines: Miami ethnic politics, some familiar political faces and one candidate dogged by recent ethics probes.

In all, there are eight races — with four incumbent Miami-Dade County judges fighting to keep their jobs.

Circuit judges preside over cases ranging from felonies to juvenile and complex civil disputes. Two seats in county court, where judges preside over minor civil disputes and misdemeanor cases, are also in play.

In this election cycle, 32 circuit judges and seven county judges retained their seats when no one chose to run against them.

Perhaps the most high-profile open circuit contest pits former Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla against Miami assistant city attorney Veronica Diaz.

More here.

Discord with Democrats: Sheldon says he's staying in AG race


Questions about whether the residency status of George Sheldon should disqualify him from the Attorney General's race have exposed a rift in the Florida Democratic Party.

On Friday, the president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, Henry Crespo, said Sheldon should step aside in his Aug. 26 primary race against House Democratic Leader Rep. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. 

"Recent questions about his residency and bar license are overwhelming," Crespo stated in a release. "(Attorney General) Pam Bondi is our target. If we allow the Sheldon campaign to continue it will become a distraction on winning the Attorney General's Office, which for African Americans is critical with issues like 'stand your ground,' voting rights and clemency board within the scope of the attorney general's office."

Earlier in the week, Sheldon's Florida Bar license lapsed. To reinstate it, Sheldon signed an exemption that stated he had been a nonresident living in Washington D.C. from 2011 to October 2013 while working in his $179,000 job at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Florida Constitution requires that candidates who run for Attorney General live in Florida the preceding seven years. If Sheldon is stating he's a nonresident with the Florida Bar, how does he qualify for AG?

When told about the conflict on Thursday, Sheldon said there's no problem. He maintained a home in Tallahassee, paying property taxes, was registered to vote in Florida, and had a Florida's driver's license. He said there's no question he was a Florida resident, but he would get a lawyer's opinion.

On Friday, he did. Democratic attorney Ron Meyer issued a three paragraph statement dismissing the issue.

"Accepting an appointment to serve our nation in Washington D.C. did not require George to give up his Florida residency," Meyer stated. "George Sheldon is qualified under Florida law to serve as Attorney General."

Continue reading "Discord with Democrats: Sheldon says he's staying in AG race" »

Feds OK continuing Medicaid managed care, give hospitals reprieve on money issue


It was an issue that threatened the bottom lines of Florida's safety net hospitals, who are now breathing a sigh of relief.

The federal government had accused them of receiving $267 million in Medicaid payments erroneously over the past eight years and wanted to recoup the dollars immediately. Hospitals asked for a compromise that would have spread the penalty over three years to soften the blow and give them time to finalize audits and possibly dispute the charges.

The hospitals got even better news Thursday. In a letter granting a three-year renewal of the state's Medicaid managed care program, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it will slow down on the repayment issue and focus only on part of the disputed funds.

For now, the federal government will only go after hospitals for $104 million that audits show was overpaid through the Low Income Pool (LIP) fund for the first three years of the program. Hospitals will also be allowed to file appeals and challenge the amounts before any money is recouped.

The remaining $163 million is off the table for now, although HHS said it will continue to review LIP payments for the other five years of the program that have already passed to determine if additional money has been overpaid.

The difference for individual hospitals is significant. Tampa General Hospital now faces a maximum penalty of $5.2 million instead of $13.3 million. The stakes were even higher at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami that initially was told it would be out $47 million but now is only facing an $18.3 million penalty.

Continue reading "Feds OK continuing Medicaid managed care, give hospitals reprieve on money issue" »

Reaction to latest redistricting ruling: silence, confusion and joy

Confusion is the primary reaction to the redistricting ruling today as legislators, elections officials and others sort through the order to immediately redraw congressional maps and contemplate what impact it will have on elections this year. 

"It's like jello -- you don't know where it all stands but it certainly has explosive implications for Florida politics,'' said Susan MacManus, a professor of political science at the University of South Florida and a redistricting expert.

Responding to reporters question Friday, Gov. Rick Scott implied that he won't be getting involved in calling legislators back into special session to redraw the map but he sounded ready to put an end to the discussion.

"The Legislature is reviewing what the court decided and the Legislature has the power to make their own decision about calling special session," he said while campaigning Friday in St. Petersburg.

Ron Labasky, general counsel for the state's 67 supervisors of elections, said supervisors are trying to figure out what to do next.

"It's like a car wreck when everyone gets out of their car and wonders what happened and they're not too sure if they all had the same experience,'' he said. 

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, who were ordered by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Friday to produce a revised map in two weeks, reacted with silence. They are expected to comment by Monday -- maybe in the form of an appeal to the First District Court of Appeal and a request for a stay. 

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, continues to oppose any suggestion that her winding, 10-county district be revised. Lewis threw out her district on July 10,  concluding it was drawn in violation of the state's Fair District rules because it was designed to benefit Republicans.

Continue reading "Reaction to latest redistricting ruling: silence, confusion and joy" »

Appeals filed in cases challenging residency of write-in candidates


An emergency hearing has been scheduled for Monday in a case that could determine whether or not Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, has an August primary.

The write-in candidate challenging Grant, Daniel Matthews, was kicked out of the race by a Leon County judge. Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey ruled Thursday that Matthews did not live in the district at the time of qualifying and therefore was ineligible to run for that office. As a result, she also ruled that the primary between Grant and fellow Republican Miriam Steinberg be moved to November and opened to all voters in the district.

Matthews' attorney immediately filed an emergency motion to stay the judge's order, meaning the primary between Grant and Steinberg would remain as scheduled in August and closed to all but registered Republican voters. That hearing is set for Monday, and whatever is decided will affect how the Pinellas and Hillsborough supervisors of elections treat thousands of ballots that have already been printed.

Meanwhile, the First District Court of Appeal will decide whether it wants to take up the Matthews case, kick it back to the Circuit Court or pass it on to the state Supreme Court.

Steinberg's husband, Michael, filed the initial lawsuit against Matthews saying he was not qualified to run as a write-in candidate. Michael Steinberg said the core question before the courts is whether a state law that requires write-in candidate to live in the district at the time of qualifying is constitutional. Demsey believed it is, and so did a Broward County judge who made a similar ruling in the case of a person running as a write-in candidate for the Broward County Commission.

But a different Leon County Circuit judge took the opposite stance. Judge George Reynolds ruled last week that write-in candidates are required to live in the district only upon election because that is the standard for all political candidates outlined in the state Constititution. He allowed a candidate for House District 96 in Broward County to remain in contention, effectively ensuring the race between two Democrats is decided by registered Democrats only.

RPOF to TV stations: Take down that ad

The Republican Party of Florida wants TV stations to stop airing one of Charlie Crist's ads.

The TV spot has drawn scrutiny because it was shot at Crist's alma mater, St. Petersburg High School, in violation of school board policy.

The Florida GOP also says the ad violates a state law prohibiting candidates from using government resources to further their candidacy. 

On Thursday, the party asked Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego to get involved.

The district reached out to Crist.

"The school district's legal office has reached out to Mr. Crist's campaign headquarters and has asked that campaign officials cease running the ad," school district spokeswoman Donna Winchester wrote in a statement. "The school district is taking this opportunity to clarify this particular School Board policy to all Pinellas County Schools employees."

Winchester conceded that a district administrator had given the Crist campaign permission to film at the school, but called the decision "an error in judgment."

On Friday, the party appealed directly to the television stations.

"Now that you are aware of the express wishes of Pinellas County schools and the Crist campaign’s apparent violations of Florida law in filming this ad, we request that you cease airing the ad immediately," RPOF Executive Director Juston Johnson wrote to stations in Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

The Crist campaign responded by providing a June 10 letter from St. Pete High's Assistant Principal for Facilities Darlene Lebo, acknowledging that the school had given them access to the campus for the purpose of filming a video. 

"This was done free of charge," Lebo wrote. "This is a service we would offer and provide to any candidate regardless of political affiliation."

Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan also noted a kerfuffle involving on-duty police officers who attended a campaign event for Republican Gov. Rick Scott last month.

"Unlike Rick Scott, who misled police officers to get them to participate in a campaign event, we requested and received permission from the school to shoot the ad," Gilfillan said. "The real reason the Scott campaign doesn't want Floridians to see this ad is because the truth hurts and they don't want folks to know that Rick Scott cut education by $1.3 billion and slashed Bright Futures scholarships in half."

Read the documents below.

Download RPOF_letter

Download StPeteHighLetter 


On House floor, Joe Garcia calls Ted Cruz's immigration moves 'un-American'


Congressman Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, gave an impassioned speech on the U.S. House of Representatives floor Friday lambasting Republicans -- and specifically Senator Ted Cruz of Texas -- for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Garcia didn't mention Cruz by name. But he railed against "a fellow Cuban American that sits in the other house" for "dictating to this house that we should strip away rights -- strip away rights from children."

"It's un-American," Garcia said, to applause inside the chambers.

The House extended its session to try to pass a child immigration bill before its summer recess. A day earlier, House Republicans met with Cruz, a conservative tea-party favorite, who said the legislation didn't go far enough.


Is David Rivera running a stealth Miami congressional campaign?


Former Congressman David Rivera supposedly put off his campaign last month for Florida's 26th congressional district. But now, some voters say he's back.

Several older Hispanics have told other Republican candidates in the race that they received automated phone calls this week urging them to vote for Rivera. Because Rivera never formally withdrew his candidacy, his name still appears on the Aug. 26 GOP primary ballot.

No one has come forward so far with a recording of the robocall, which was first reported by the Political Cortadito blog. But one voter told the Miami Herald that the call came in Tuesday or Wednesday and it featured Rivera's recorded voice, in Spanish, reminding voters of the upcoming elections and telling them to ignore "lies" about him circulating in the media.

Another voter who received the call: the mother-in-law of Joe Martinez, he said. Martinez is campaigning for the seat along with Carlos Curbelo, Ed MacDougall and Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck.

Rivera did not report raising any campaign money as of June 30.

A call to Rivera's cell phone Friday went straight to voice mail. He did not immediately respond to a message left by a Herald reporter.

Judge calls for special election and immediate revamp of congressional map

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled Friday that the Florida Legislature must immediately revise its flawed congressional map and ordered lawmakers to submit a revised map by Aug. 15 and the secretary of state to propose a special election plan for the affected congressional districts.

Lewis agreed with the Legislature's lawyers and concluded "there is just no way, legally or logistically, to put in place a new map, amend the various deadlines and have elections on November 4th as prescribed by Federal law."

While he acknowledged that there is no easy solution to fixing the map that violates the state's Fair Districts rules, he suggested "it might be possible to push the general election date back to allow for a special election in 2014 for any affected districts." Download Romo.Remedy Order.August 1, 2014 (1)

Lewis ruled on July 10 that the congressional redistricting map drawn by the Republican-led legislature included two districts drawn with illegal partisan intent which makes the entire map unconstitutional. His order on Friday requires the Legislature to modify the two districts, but it is estimated that could affect the lines of as many as 10 districts that touch them.

Continue reading "Judge calls for special election and immediate revamp of congressional map" »