Let Nothing Come Between Pam Bondi And Campaign Cash
How low can Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi go to avoid doing her job to protect Floridians?
If you thought things like blocking women from getting contraception, blocking Floridians from obtaining health care, and firing people in her office who were doing a pretty good job going after the banks and their foreclosure tactics, well, you don't know the half of it.
My, my. What a difference a year or two makes when one does "business" in Rick Scott's Florida, Inc.
In Scott's haste to make Florida the "Show Me The Money State" his plans either backfire, or his hypocrisy runs free like a river before pollution from lack of environmental regulations sets in. Let's take a short trip down the memory hole involving two instances where money made a big difference for Scott's business "decisions."
It should be a universal assumption in Florida by now. If Rick Scott is willingly in front of a camera and it doesn't involve questioning from reporters, it's likely for his benefit in some way. When the Governor officially requests your presence, most people are willing to step up and are sometimes even obliged to do so.
It makes sense that teachers would honor a request for an interview if he's considering them for a Florida Teacher of the Year Award. So it's one thing to submit to such an interview knowing that you're there for the purpose of being considered as a great teacher and a candidate for an award, but it's another when the Governor's reelection campaign uses video of those same interviews instead for a reelection campaign ad, and yet another when they do so without informing those teachers what they're actually using them for.
A least some candidates for Florida Teacher of the Year didn't realize the video interviews they gave during a reception at the governor's mansion would be used in a political advertisement for Gov. Rick Scott - and one called it inappropriate...[snip]
The videographer, a governor's office employee, "asked us different questions and said the video would be used for different things throughout the governor's office," said Megan Williamson, a fourth-grade teacher from Okeechobee. "I wasn't told I was going to be in a political ad."
Williamson, a Republican, said she wouldn't have minded even if she had known the video would be used in a political ad for Scott.
"I think he's gotten the state back on track," she said. "I appreciate his concern for education."
But Apryl Shackelford, a middle school teacher from Duval County, wasn't pleased when she learned from a reporter she was featured in video urging Scott's re-election.
"I don't think it's appropriate for me to be in any political ad, Democrat or Republican" as a statewide teacher of the year finalist, she said. "It's inappropriate for me to speak for 8,000 teachers" in Duval County. "I can't say what party they should choose."
This certainly isn't the first time Rick Scott has used others as campaign or photo-op props, especially when it comes to education. Scott has used school children as props, the first time as he made severe cuts to education, using them as backdrops in his budget signing ceremony, and another when he put a sliver of those cuts back into the budget to curry favor from voters who were outraged by the cuts in the first place. Further, he used education as campaign fodder again when he went out on his "Teacher Pay Raise Victory Tour" recently. Those "raises" weren't exactly what he promised, and as one educator put it: "The math simply does not add up."
As is often the case, promises made by Rick Scott don't always add up, and math isn't exactly his strong suit.
"A state employee on state time took this video at a state event and it was sent out publicly to the press and to all our email lists," said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz. "After that anyone can do anything they want with it."
Scott's office disclaimed responsibility for making the ad, which was posted on YouTube by the state Republican Party. Representatives from Scott's office and the state Department of Education said the party used video distributed by the governor's office as a news release, but without any coordination with the governor's office.
See? It was in no way coordinated with the state Republican Party, who at the moment do little else but campaign for Scott's reelection, and as the most unpopular governor in the country, he needs all the help he can get. Right now the RPOF is the reelect Rick Scott campaign.
But sure, this has nothing to do with Rick Scott's conducting those teacher interviews on video.
The Florida Chair of the national veterans’ group, VoteVets.org, with over 360,000 supporters, today is issuing the following statement in response to news accounts that one of Governor Scott’s largest contributors has been assessed a massive fine by the FTC. These fines resulted from misrepresentations made to members and veterans of the US Military by a St. Petersburg mortgage company run by Bill Edwards, Governor Scott’s largest individual contributor outside of family members.
“Recent news reports indicate that Mortgage Investors, a company run by Mr. Bill Edwards, may have attempted to defraud veterans,” said Pablo Pantoja, an Iraq War Veteran and Florida State Chair of VoteVets.org. “In fact, Edwards' company recently received a $7.5 million fine. Mr. Edwards is Governor Scott's single largest individual donor, outside of Scott's own family. Surely Governor Scott will not willingly retain political contributions--totaling a half-million dollars--derived from funds that may have been the fruit of misrepresentations to veterans. VoteVets.org calls on Governor Scott to return any and all political contributions made to his campaign committees by Mr. Edwards and his affiliated entities. He should return these tainted contributions immediately. Quite simply our veterans deserve better.”
Recently, the FTC fined Mortgage Investors, run by Mr. Bill Edwards, $7.5 million for violations under its jurisdiction. Contribution records indicate that Mr. Edwards is Governor Scott's largest individual political contributor outside his family.
According to new accounts, telemarketers working for Mr. Edwards allegedly led service members and veterans to believe they could receive low-interest, fixed-rate mortgages.
Instead, regulators found that the company was only offering adjustable rate mortgages which left consumers liable for higher payments with rising interest rates. It also required consumers to pay closing costs.
Perhaps most troubling is that Mr. Edwards, Mr. Scott's single largest individual political contributor outside of family members, claims to have written the telemarketing pitches to service members, personally.
According to a Tampa Bay Times profile on Mr. Edwards:
He calls the script he personally wrote for telemarketers "the book." They are not to veer from it. It's based on sales principles he has culled from 20 years along with "understanding, firsthand, veterans, how they think, speak, analyze and relate to people."
Scott ignored similar complaints when he refused to return another big donation from Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company right before they received a special deal from Citizens to take over 60,000 policies from the insurer with a $52 million jackpot. Just two months before that deal, Heritage gave Scott $110,000 for his reelection campaign. At the time Scott said he had no intentions to return the contribution, and he didn't.
Rather than returning this donation, given Scott's history of rewarding businesses and big donors with everything from tax breaks to board appointments, who knows what other fortunes may fall on Edwards. Big real estate companies and developers are already drooling over prospects thanks to all those relaxed regulations.
Meanwhile, veterans can wind up homeless and with no benefits for all Scott cares. In fact, many already are.
Return that donation? Sadly, I wouldn't count on it.
Now that Rick Scott has finished off the dirty work of the Republicans in the legislature either by signature or veto, and is ignoring his other duties like picking a Lieutenant Governor, he's now getting busy with his reelection campaign.
Fresh from handing out more Great Floridian Awards than most governors before him, with two of the most recent going to....wait for it...... campaign donors with the biggest checkbooks in Florida, he began "telling his story" to potential voters this weekend. As if they didn't already read the writing on the wall during the past three years.
Yes, Scott is all about messaging. As long as people listen to what he says rather than watching what he does, he thinks people will be misguided enough to vote for him a second time, so over the weekend he ventured to North Florida, where voters are more inclined to vote GOP anyway and therefore, likely a captive audience.
"We're going to have another race," Scott said. "These elections have consequences. We have to show up. We have to tell our story ... If we don't tell our story, then it's our fault if everybody doesn't vote our way. Everybody should be a Republican."
This may be the first time ever that I've agreed with something Scott said, but yes, the 2010 election of Rick Scott certainly had consequences, and those voters were looking right at him over the weekend. Just trust him when he says to those more inclined to vote against their own best interests "everybody should be a Republican." If they don't understand why, well old Rick has a story to tell them, and it's quite a work of fiction.
Not that everyone is buying it:
Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, tagged along on the Sunday campaign swing, which included a brief stop at Holmes Correctional Institution in Bonifay.
Jackson County is very dependent on state government for employment, and some at the Circle Grill said Scott's paring of the work force and his support for privatization in the prison system will require some explaining on the campaign trail.
"There's some mixed emotions," said civic activist Karen Fader. "The privatization is a real issue with state workers. They don't want to go through that re-application process." (Scott backed the complete privatization of all prison health care in the state).
Yes, and they don't like getting fired by the "Jobs Governor" either, but who's counting?
Speaking of prison privatization, which doesn't just kill jobs, Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law that makes executions faster while cutting the time it takes for a prisoner to present an appeal, which leads to the next chapter in Rick Scott's Warm And Fuzzy Florida Fairy Tales.
“Only God can judge. But we can sure set up the meeting.”
Isn't he adorable? Still not convinced? Well, here's more:
"We all need a governor who's pro-life," Matt Gaetz told the crowd. "We need a governor who believes in the Second Amendment and our right to hear arms, and this governor has been firm on those issues."
Yes, because nothing says you're pro-life more than making sure that everyone in the state has easy access to guns and the ability to get their hands on as many as they so desire, while also making sure you can execute prisoners at lightning speed regardless if they've had adequate time for due process in court.
Just which part of the term "pro-life" don't you understand?
Rick Scott's little experiment in fiction is just getting warmed up. Stay tuned for future chapters, where he'll explain how he's all about transparency, that he wants everyone to be able to vote, that handing out bonuses to those who can approve environmental permits faster than you can say "benzene" or "lower TMDL standards", that Medicaid expansion is a fantastic idea, that big campaign donations have nothing to do with bills getting passed, or getting you into a position to help write them, that he's never, EVER heard of the Koch brothers, and that if it weren't for that pesky blind trust of his, he would show you he's really not making a profit as the CEO of Florida, Inc.
In other words, it's going to be a long, nauseating campaign season...literally.
Carroll was asked if she felt she had been treated fairly by the governor.
“Anyone in my shoes would probably say no. I would have preferred to have a conversation directly with the governor, but I can’t bring back the past,” said Carroll. She said the last conversation she had with Scott was before her resignation.
Rick Scott's latest gift to corporate welfare at the expense of Floridians over his "deal" with Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance, and their hefty donation to him just prior to the deal which he claims had nothing to do with it, of course, gained him well earned attention in the national spotlight last Thursday. If you missed it, see Kurt Eichenwald's scathing article in Vanity Fair, "How Tea Party Favorite Rick Scott Helped Cook Up A Sweetheart Deal For His Florida Friends" here.
You may not be able to afford a vacation this year as you look for those jobs he claims he's creating everywhere, but Rick Scott can, since he's jetting off to Japan now and calling it another "trade mission." Add this to his list of similar trips to Chile, Spain, the UK, Brazil, Colombia, and France. While he maintains that he pays his own way, taxpayers are still on the hook for many of his traveling entourage, and you won't even get a lousy t-shirt.
And Scott wonders why he's unpopular.
Young conservatives are calling on Marco Rubio to deal with climate change. Good luck with that. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Rubio feels the "science" of climate change being caused by humans is debatable, and he's in no hurry to debate it at this time, but thanks for all your hard work writing that essay kids! Get back to him when you can compete with donations from the oil companies.
Do you miss Connie Mack? Well, neither does anyone else, including his wife Mary Bono Mack, who he split up with after they both lost their elections. But never fear, the grifter is still here. As usual, there are no losers in Congress when there are lobbying jobs to be had. Ka-ching.
He hasn't entered the race yet, but Republicans can hardly wait to get their Mean Girls act up and running against Charlie Crist. In fact, they aren't waiting at all. They've set up a website and everything, bless their little misguided hearts. Sadly, every time they take a shot at Crist, they inadvertently hit themselves. Walking away from Charlie won't be nearly as easy as they think.
Finally, Hurricane season began on Saturday, but sadly the sequester cuts forced by Republicans, all but one of them in Florida, will make forecasting and protecting the public's safety a little more difficult as the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service will be forced to begin furloughs. This year the NOAA has predicted above average activity with 13 to 20 named storms. Your safety can't compare to tax cuts for the wealthy that those Republicans will protect at all costs. Unfortunately those costs may be yours.
"Freedom Means Never Running Low On Campaign Cash"
Never one to miss an opportunity to raise money off of a GOP manufactured "scandal" Marco Rubio is at it again, trying to whip up a frenzy. This time over the IRS. Rubio has taken to the YouTubes for his latest faux rage aimed at Tea Party supporters suggesting that they are not only being unfairly "targeted," but are also about to lose more of their freedom! Be afraid. Be very afraid! Send money.
He's thrown out a "Constituent's Mailbox" video claiming to answer the email of a constituent, (wink, wink) named Larry from Orlando, which is nonsense. As we constituents of Rubio's know all too well, Marco never answers emails any more than he takes phone calls, holds town meetings, or pays even the slightest attention to what his actual constituents want. He only answers to his donors among the corporate and Wall Street welfare crowd. The rest of us never see him.
But getting back to "Larry from Orlando," Rubio reads that Larry is concerned about the IRS.....sort of. Rubio begins:
Is this America? We are all asking the question, Senator.
Coincidentally, old Lar's letter sounds almost exactly like Rubio's talking points. Oddly almost word for word. "Larry" feels that being able to see, much less afford a doctor will end freedom as he knows it. "Larry's" next request step jumps right into the subject of the IRS. If you're scratching your head wondering why a constituent would be concerned about how Tea Party groups are spending their "social welfare" donations and why the IRS should even care, wonder no more. He's not. You see, "Larry" thinks the IRS situation only points to a larger solution to holding onto his freedom: The IRS "scandal" must be used to repeal ObamaCare, otherwise Larry may be forced into being allowed to choose his own health insurance, his own doctor, and, God forbid, be able to afford both! Oh, the inhumanity!
"So the only answer to this is to repeal Obamacare," Rubio said in response to an email from a man in Orlando, Fla. "It’s just one more reason why this law is going to be a disaster for our country. And in the months to come, I’m really going to focus on the issue of repealing Obamacare because in addition to the IRS’s role there is all sorts of other problems with regards to Obamacare that we need to answer."
What a coincidence! It seems Larry and Marco have some sort of Tea Party telepathy! If Tea Party groups are discovered to be violating campaign finance laws, the only logical solution to the problem is to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Of course, what Marco....I'm sorry, I mean "Larry" is really saying is "look away from the real issue that we should be investigating, which actually involves Tea Party and conservative groups who have taken advantage of a tax loophole to raise funds to use in political activities, which campaign finance laws say they can't do." This is the last thing Rubio wants you to focus on because he's a big recipient of Tea Party campaign cash, and the last thing he wants is an IRS investigation to come between him and the hard earned money of a gullible Tea Party supporter. While he and his witch hunting GOP colleagues are screaming: "Scandal! Investigate!" they should be careful what they wish for. This likely has finally occurred to Rubio.
Here's the thing, "Larry from Orlando." Marco wants you to keep those donations coming as he laughs his way to the bank, while at the same time making sure that when you need health care and insurance, it will be out of reach and unaffordable to you. Of course by the time you've figured that out, it will be too late for you, possibly in more ways than one. Now there's the subject of some really good questions for your next email to Rubio. Ask him to spend some time investigating those campaign finance laws.
Unfortunately if you do, you'll likely find that Marco Rubio's "Constituent's Mailbox" is full.
The sun is about to set on the 2013 Florida legislative session, and there is little doubt that uninsured Floridians with low incomes will once again be left in the dark with no good health care options. The Senate refuses to budge on taking any federal money for Medicaid purely for political purposes.
We've heard all the excuses from House Speaker Will-Medicaid-For-Me-But-Not-For-Thee-Weatherford, one being time constraints. He's said there's no urgency to doing anything about it now, and if Medicaid goes nowhere this year it "won't be the end of the world." True, it won't be the end of the world for him, he pays just $8 a month for health care, thank you very much.
While Medicaid is such a long slog and a heavy lift, it's funny how fast Weatherford can move when a bill that greases the skids for him needs to go through. In fact, he jumped so quickly yesterday to speed a bill through giving away a big tax-break for manufacturers that it may well be unconstitutional.
And you thought that "Mary" the auto reader was fast.
Earlier in the day, Scott said he was still reviewing the bills. He previously questioned why campaign contribution limits needed to be raised. The ethics bill (SB 2) was a priority of Sen. President Don Gaetz and the campaign finance bill (HB 569) was important to House Speaker Will Weatherford. The House and Senate sent him the bills knowing they would have to be signed by or vetoed before midnight Wednesday, two days before the legislative session ends.
All three had something they really, really wanted, but they had to act fast to get them. And work fast Weatherford did. The man who has no time for Medicaid suddenly moved at lightening speed to seal a deal in order to get what he wanted: To raise campaign contributions to $1,000 for legislative and local races and $3,000 for statewide races, and a few other goodies.
But House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, a lawyer, said that was plainly wrong, and a lawsuit challenging the tax-change would be coming "immediately."
"The legal implication is that it requires a two-thirds vote on at least on bill in the package. We don't know everything that as in there. They did not get two-thirds vote," Thurston said. "Unfortunately, it looks like that is something that has to be challenged, and we're sure it will be challenged with all due speed."
The section of the constitution relevant states that "Except upon approval of each house of the legislature by two-thirds of the membership, the legislature may not enact, amend, or repeal any general law if the anticipated effect of doing so would be to reduce the authority that municipalities or counties have to raise revenues in the aggregate."
Surely Will Weatherford has a good answer to charges that in his haste he passed a bill that wasn't constitutional and possibly illegal? Well, funny story there.....no, he doesn't:
"We looked into that very closely. We do not believe it needs a two-thirds vote," Weatherford said, although his office declined to release any legal opinion.
"I disagree with [Thurston]. I think the bill is extremely constitutional," he said. "We do not believe [that section of the constitution] applies. I can't give you all the specifics. We talked with our attorneys. We had an entire team that looked at it and studied it. We do not believe it required a two-thirds vote."
After the brief media interview, Weatherford's office declined to provide any more specifics about the legality of the bill.
So Weatherford says it's not only constitutional, but it's extremely constitutional. So extreme in fact that he cannot give any details or specifics, but he believes this, and you'll just have to take his and some attorneys word for it.
Dare we ask, is this due to some sort of "double secret extreme constitution" we don't know about? Of course we dare not, because Weatherford is not discussing the matter further.
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott told reporters this morning that he decided to sign a bill raising campaign contribution limits – after saying repeatedly that he didn’t like the idea – because he listened “to a lot of people.”
“Like everything, you listen to a lot of people and try to make the best decision I can for every citizen in the state, so I made that decision to sign that bill last night,” Scott said.
“I look at everything but I made the right decision for all Floridians,” he said.
Oh, right. It's those "lots of people" he talks to again. We hear a lot about those guys, but oddly, we never see them. They must be in an extremely secret location somewhere hanging out with Weatherford's phantom attorneys, those scamps.
And how thoughtful of Scott to make sure he acts on things that are of the utmost importance to Floridians everywhere: Raising campaign contribution limits.
Ask any Floridian what matters most to them: Jobs? High-speed rail? Health care? Clean air and water? The right to vote? The desire to foot the bill for nuclear power plants that will never materialize? Protection from oil spills and hurricanes? Good education? Payng the bills? Nope.
What matters to them most is that politicians can be purchased at even higher prices by those who really run the show in Tallahassee. Just ask Rick Scott, Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford, they'll set you straight.
Yup. That's how Republicans do "ethics" in Florida.
Utility rates in Florida are regulated by the Public Service Commission. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and then confirmed by the State Senate, which should keep leaders totally independent.
But 9 Investigates found in practice, there's often just one degree of separation between regulators who set the rates you pay and the powerful utilities they regulate.
Other winners: AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies, who saw taxes on communication services slashed anywhere from $35 million to $300 million per year.
AT&T, which has 74 Florida lobbyists, spent $1.68 million on lobbying last year, more than any other company.
AT&T is also a member of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation that many in the legislature copy and paste into laws, and SPN (State Policy Network) which then "spins" misinformation to the public about how swell companies like AT&T are. (For a full list of Florida legislators who are ALEC members, click here.)
Oh, the ties that bind and propel Rick Scott and the legislature through that giant revolving door in Tallahassee...
So while AT&T may well be adding jobs that allow Scott to brag, consumers and employees pay the price one way or another. Amazingly, Scott thinks they, and the rest of the voters will reward him for that with a second term in 2014.