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10 posts from August 7, 2014

August 07, 2014

Elections complaint filed against Miami-Dade pets group




MIami-Dade's Pets Trust  group is under scrutiny for its organizers' central role in mounting a challenge to incumbent county commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz.

A state elections complaint filed this week by lawyer J.C. Planas accuses organizers of violating dislclosure laws by switching their campaign activities from a political-action committee, which must report contributions and expenses during the election, to a non-profit, which doesn't.

The complaint to the Florida Elections Commission formalizes an argument Diaz's campaign has been making in recent weeks against Pets' Trust founder Michael Rosenberg.

Rosenberg's new group, Pets' Voice, funded the television campaign soliciting candidates to run against Diaz, a three-term incumbent who last year rejected a call to raise taxes to fund more animal services. Marjorie Figueira, a retired schools administrator, responded to the ad is now Diaz's lone opponent for the District 12 commission race in Miami-Dade.

Thursday night, Rosenberg forwarded to Naked Politics an email he sent to a Florida elections official summarizing his approach. Pets' Voice, a non-profit under the 501c4 federal tax code, is funding the campaign efforts but the spending will make up only a portion of the organization's overall mission to help pets.

In an email to us, Rosenberg wrote that his group was advised "that the 501c4 can support and endorse candidates, as long as it is not the main goal.   We endorsed Philip Levine for Mayor of Miami Beach....and we endorsed Jeff Porter for Mayor of Homestead.  Both mayors told us our network of people helped hugely in their victories."

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Miami-Dade Democratic Party elects Dwight Bullard as new chairman

From a press release:

Today, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party elected by acclimation State Senator Dwight Bullard to succeed Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, who resigned from the post to become Governor Charlie Crist’s running mate. 

Taddeo-Goldstein, largely credited with rebuilding the local party, nominated Senator Bullard for Chair. “Dwight is a born leader, and with him at the helm, I am confident that Miami-Dade will – once again – be the reason Democrats win Florida," she said. Seconding the nomination was Congressman Joe Garcia.
Senator Bullard becomes the first elected African-American Chair in the history of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. 
“I am honored that my fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead the Party at this important moment," said Senator Bullard. "My number one priority will be to defeat Rick Scott in November. I have personally witnessed the damage he has done to our public education system, our civil rights, and our environment, and the many missed opportunities to do the right thing like expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, or pass equal pay for women. Scott has been a nightmare for main street. It’s time to wake up and vote him out.”
Senator Bullard has been a long-time leader of the Democratic Party. He was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2008 and then elected to the Florida Senate in 2012, where he currently represents the 39th district in the Florida Senate. He also serves as the Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.

Prominent PR firm sues family of brain-damaged Broward man for payment

A prominent Tallahassee public relations firm is suing the family of a paralyzed Broward County man, saying the family owes $375,000 for services rendered over the course of four legislative sessions.

The firm, Sachs Media Group, says it had a contract with the family of Eric Brody — and worked overtime to ensure the passage of a 2012 claims bill that awarded the Brody family $10.75 million in damages.

“I’m as proud of the work we did for Eric Brody as anything else we’ve done in 19 years of business,” president Ron Sachs said. “But we never agreed to do this pro bono. We believe we deserve to be paid.”

But the state lawmaker who sponsored the $10.75 million claims bill said the Brody family cannot pay the Sachs Media Group without jeopardizing his entire trust.

The reason: the claims bill made it clear that none of the money could go to “lobbying fees, costs or similar expenses incurred” in pursuit of the claim.

“Everyone agreed to waive the fees and costs, and have all of the money go to Eric Brody’s care,” said Republican Rep. Jamie Grant, of Tampa. “For a PR firm to file a lawsuit is disgusting.”

Read more here.

Maps are starting to emerge as proposed fixes to Florida's flawed maps

Plaintiffs remedial mapThe Florida House has proposed a map with minor fixes aimed at repairing the broken congressional redistricting map.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has submitted his own proposal to repair the map. State Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, and his aide have drawn map also aimed at fixing the flaws. 

And the group of left-leaning voting groups who filed the lawsuit and successfully persuaded a judge to throw out two of the state's 27 districts offer a detailed new map. It includes a new east-west District 5, which is now held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, that they say will increase the opportunities for minorities to elect a candidate in Central Florida.

The House and Senate redistricting committees, both dominated by Republicans, will decide which of the proposed maps to adopt at meetings tomorrow. The big question: how vast will the changes be to the controversial 10-county district held by Brown.  House remdial map 9057

Map 1: Plaintiff's proposed fix; Map 2: House proposed new map

The House and Soto make minor changes to Brown's district and Soto's map makes two other districts, those held by Republican Reps. Dan Webster of Winter Garden and John Mica of Orlando, equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Galvano's also makes minor changes, preserving most of the meandering district but taking out the black Democrats added to it in an effort to bleach neighboring districts to favor Webster and Mica.

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Appeal filed in dispute over Gov. Scott's blind trust

A former top aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew will continue his legal battle to strike down a state law that allows Gov. Rick Scott to place his personal financial assets in a blind trust.

Circuit Judge John Cooper upheld the law in a decision in late July.

Jim Apthorp, who was Askew's chief of staff, is asking the First District Court of Appeal to transfer the case to the Florida Supreme Court. Apthorp asserts that a blind trust law skirts a requirement in the state Constitution, championed by Askew, that elected officials must make a "full and public" disclosure of their financial assets (Scott did file a financial disclosure statement when he submitted his qualifying papers in June).

"We appealed Judge Cooper's ruling because we believe it contradicts the clear meaning of Gov. Askew's Sunshine Amendment and would weaken financial disclosure requirements in Florida," Apthorp said in a statement Thursday. "we're confident that a higher court will agree with our assertion."

Numerous Florida news organizations, including The Miami Herald, Associated Press and Florida Society of News Editors also filed arguments siding with Apthorp's position.

Apthorp's attorneys are Talbot (Sandy) D'Alemberte, a former president of Florida State University, dean of the FSU law school and Democratic state legislator from Miami, and his wife, Patsy Palmer. The lawyers filed their original lawsuit with the Supreme Court, which reassigned it to a lower court.

Web ad hits Charlie Crist on plane trip


<p>The Florida GOP has a new web ad about Charlie Crist <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/crist-flies-to-enviro-press-conference-on-plane-of-developer-fined-for/2190134">hopping on a private plane owned </a>by a developer fined for pollution to get to media event touting his green credentials:</p>
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/54FoEh-2ENA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

House and Senate Dems are divided over how many redistricting fights to pick

Florida legislators opened their special session to rewrite their congressional redistricting map and the partisan strains immediately started to show. 

Leaders of the House Democratic caucus first complained that the same people who are creating the mess are now in charge of fixiing it and then agreed not to waive the rules and allow a vote on a final map on Monday.

In the Senate, Democrats agreed to waive the rules, potentially resulting in the Senate finishing its work on Monday while the House has to return into session on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a group of voters groups sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging lawmakers to answer a host of questions about the origins of the proposed maps in an attempt to increase the transparency of the process and avoid the criticism lodged by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis in his July 10 ruling. 

In an exchange on the House floor after session adjourned, House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston and Rep. Jim Waldman asked House Redistricting Chairman Richard Corcoran if legislators who are not members of the committee will be allowed to ask questions during the committee processs. The House Redistricting Committee is comprised of 8 Republicans and 5 Demcorats.

Corcoran, R-Trinity, responded that to maintain order he wanted any questions form non-committee members to be passed along to members of the committee.

“There is zero chance they won’t be able to ask a question they want, I just want them to do it through the committee structure,” Corcoran responded. 

But Waldman and Thurston warned that Democrats are not prepared to completely trust House Republicans and wanted the opportunity to ask questions before they vote on a redistricting bill. 

"We think the judge's order said that the leadership intentionally circumvented the process and violated the Constitution,'' Thurston told reporters.  

"All the questions need to be asked,'' he said. "We should know all the meetings that are occurring, know everyone who has their fingerprints on the maps, to follow the will of the law. The first time that wasn't done. We're spending millions of dollars in legal fees and other expenses because of what they've done, and they accept responsibility for that."

Staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this post. 

Voters groups urge legislators to ask questions about chastised redistricting process

Hours before Florida legislators gavel open a special session to repair their invalid congressional redistricting map, the coalition of voters groups that challenged the map said they are submitting their own version of the map and raised doubts about the legisalture's quick-fix approach.
In a letter to House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz on Thursday, the Florida League of Women Voters and Florida Common Cause offered several suggestions for how legislators can enhance their efforts to avoid being scalded again by the judge for allowing partisan operatives to infiltrate the redistricting process. 
The coalition groups also announced that they will be submitting an alternative map that they believe adheres to the requirements of Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis who threw out two districts drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Florida legislators have indicated they are prepared to make minor changes to the map to accommodate Lewis' July 10 ruling that declared two of the 27 districts invalid and ruled that legislators had allowed GOP consultants to make a "mockery" of the process.
The plaintiffs also offered a list of suggestions for how they can better approve the transparency of the process after legislators ordered lawmakers to retain documents and prohibited them from consulting with political operatives and other outside sources about the maps.

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WFLA/SurveyUSA: Rick Scott 45%, Charlie Crist 43%


Gov. Rick Scott has marginally retaken a marginal lead over Democrat Charlie Crist in the latest WFLA/SurveyUSA poll that shows the Republican pulling in 45% of the vote to Crist's 43%.

That's well within the error margin for the robopoll of 576 self-described likely voters.

The 45-43% race in this survey is identical to SurveyUSA's results at the beginning of July. In between, another SurveyUSA poll showed Crist pulling ahead 46-40. So this is a net 8 percentage point shift in Scott's favor (Scott gained 5 and Crist lost 3, which is the inverse of what happened between the early July and mid July polls).

So there's fluctuation and the trendline isn't smooth. Most of the up-and-down noise is with self-identified independents, who shift this way and that. But, generally speaking, the race is pretty much a tie. And all signs indicate it will stay that way.

One problem with this and other polls: it doesn't include Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. Quinnipiac University found he pulled a significant 9 percentage points. Not enough to win. But enough to change the toplines in a race (he pulled more from Crist than Scott).

Still, Quinnipiac polls are like SurveyUSA's in this regard: they indicate a close race that's getting closer.


Democratic Governors Association kicks in $500k more to Charlie Crist


The Democratic Governors Association cut another $500,000 check to Charlie Crist's political committee, bringing the total it has invested directly in him to $1.5 million. In addition, DGA has chipped in $1.1 million to the Florida Democratic Party and another $963,000 to a political group called Florida For All.

So put DGA down for almost $3,6 million spent so far to either boost Crist or tear at Gov. Rick Scott, one of the more-endangered Republican governors in the nation. (The race is about tied now, with Scott having a marginal edge in recent surveys).

But while the DGA's contributions are big, the Republican Governors Association are even larger.

RGA has poured $6.5 million into Scott's political committee and another $2.25 million into the Republican Party of Florida during this election cycle.