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Archive for May, 2013

Disputed redistricting emails to get closed-door review

Friday, May 31st, 2013 by John Kennedy

More than 1,800 pages of emails and other documents from Republican consultants will be reviewed in coming weeks by a former Florida Supreme Court justice who will determine whether they should be made public in a lawsuit looking to overturn the state Senate’s new redistricting map.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday said that Major Harding, chosen by lawyers for both sides as a special magistrate in the case, should go through the disputed records behind closed doors to decide their fate.

Lawyers for voters groups want access to the material from Gainesville-based Data Targeting, Inc., a political affairs firm, which counters that the information is both irrelevant in the lawsuit and also poses a business threat, since the data could contain trade secrets.

Adam Schachter, attorney for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, said Friday that so far, only 166 pages of documents have been made public by the firm. Another original party in the lawsuit, the National Council of La Raza, withdrew from the case this week.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders illegally shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

In a brief hearing Friday, Lewis acknowledged the mass of emails he’d reviewed included some names he was familiar with from the political fight over redistricting. Others were from people he didn’t know — but “some (emails) suggested that somebody was being copied” with the information exchanged, Lewis said.


Former RNC chief Steele: ‘Nothing against old white men, but America is more than that’

Friday, May 31st, 2013 by George Bennett

BOCA RATON — Michael Steele, the African-American who was Republican National Committee chairman from 2009 to 2011, said the GOP doesn’t need a lot of high-priced consultants to diagnose its problems with blacks and other minorities.

“You don’t need to spend a million dollars to figure out, hey, we just got our behinds kicked. You don’t need to convene grand meetings and press conferences to know that you lost the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote, the African-American vote, the female vote, the gay vote, the vote of every class of citizen except old white men,” Steele said at a dinner aimed at wooing blacks into the conservative fold.

“And nothing against old white men, but America is more than that and our conversation has to go beyond that because, as I said, America has changed,” Steele said. “Nor do Republicans have to keep repeating — and Lord, please, let them stop – ‘We need to reach out to fill-in-the-blank.’ Just shut up and do it already. Just shut up and do it already because if you listen you’ll understand that that’s what Americans want you do to.”

Steele, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Congress Of Racial Equality spokesman Niger Innis and author Kevin Jackson spoke at the event sponsored by Boca Raton orthodontist Larry Kawa. Roughly half the audience of 400 was black.

Florida’s redistricting fight continues on paper trail

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Republican-allied campaign research and consulting firm surrendered more than 1,800 pages of records this week but asked a judge Thursday to block a demand by Democratic-leaning groups for more emails and documents in a lawsuit over last year’s legislative redistricting battle.

Data Targeting, Inc., a Gainesville-based political affairs firm, said in a motion filed with Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that organizations seeking the records are on an “old-fashioned fishing expedition.”

Lawyers for the company add that documents sought may include “proprietary” information that could threaten relationships with clients and reveal business secrets.

Lewis is expected to rule Friday in the matter, part of a post-redistricting clash that is already in the Florida Supreme Court. There, justices are being asked to dismiss the lawsuit before Lewis, which was filed by the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

Court documents filed earlier with Lewis show that emails were exchanged between aides to Senate President Don Gaetz,
House Speaker Will Weatherford and consultants who analyzed proposed maps.

The emails also show that in 2010, Rich Heffley, a Florida Republican Party consultant advising Gaetz, then the Senate’s
redistricting chairman, organized a “brainstorming” meeting at the state  party headquarters in Tallahassee.

Other documents in the case show that Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who are both angling for Senate presidency in coming years, emailed district information to consultants for review.

The  Supreme Court last year ruled the Senate’s initial proposal for redrawing the 40-member chamber unconstitutional. The 5-2 decision found  the Senate plan protected incumbents, packed minority voters into districts and numbered Senate districts in a way to give incumbents more time in office.

It marked the first time since the court was brought into that stage of redistricting in 1972 that justices overturned a legislative map. The House map was approved by justices.

Florida GOP urges Dems to #FreeNanRich

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Republican Party has stepped-up its pot-stirring in the Democratic Party kerfuffle over gubernatorial contender Nan Rich being denied a speaking spot at the upcoming Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

State GOP Chairman Lenny Curry sent letters Thursday to 13,000 South Florida Democrats urging them to mount a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #FreeNanRich.

Curry accused his Democratic counterpart, Allison Tant, of bowing to the wishes of big contributors who are uneasy with the liberal bent of the former state senator from Weston.

Curry also said that Tant is looking to head-off a potential Democratic primary challenge to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat gaining behind-the-scenes support from many party leaders.

Tant and her advisers have said she denied Rich’s request for five-minutes to speak from the podium at next month’s dinner because she is trying to streamline the event’s agenda. The Jefferson-Jackson gala is scheduled to take place at Hollywood’s Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa.

Curry said in his letter, “While Senator Rich and I might not see eye to eye politically, she has a long history of leadership in public service and deserves five minutes of speaking time as the only announced gubernatorial candidate in your party.”


Scott signs three dozen bills, including EBT and cyber crackdowns

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott signed 36 bills into law Thursday, including a new provision that prohibits state electronic benefit transfer cards (EBT) from being used in bars and gambling establishments and another that cracks down on cyberbullying.

Scott also approved measures (SB 1808, HB 999) which have drawn opposition from environmentalists and involve water nutrient standards and state-owned land in the Everglades leased to the powerful sugar industry.

Among the bills signed Thursday, the EBT change (HB 701) may have drawn the most attention during the legislative session completed earlier this month.

The measure prohibits EBT cards from being used at liquor stores, gambling locales or places that specialize in adult entertainment, including porn shops.

Florida officials earlier confirmed a 2011 TV news investigation that found that of 1.3 million EBT transactions totaling nearly $202 million over a two-year period in Florida, about $93,000 was drawn at places with liquor licenses, strip clubs or gambling sites.

The cyberbullying measure (HB 609) enhances existing laws against bullying by adding the use of a computer on school grounds to a list of potential harassment offenses. Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, a sponsor of the proposal, said the measure will give teachers and school administrators “essential tools to better protect our children.”

The nutrient legislation Scott OK’d will help determine Florida water quality by giving the state more authority in a long-ranging battle with the federal Environmental Protection Agency over allowable levels of pollutants.

The measure has drawn heat from environmental groups which suported the EPA having more control over pollution standards.

Environmentalists warned state cannot be trusted to formulate and regulate rules that set limits on the amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in Florida waterways that have been linked to outbreaks of toxic slime.

Many of the same groups also fought another measure (HB 999) signed Thursday by Scott that blocks a lawsuit filed by the Florida Wildlife Federation over a state-approved lease agreement that lets sugar giant Florida Crystals farm another 30 years in the Everglades.

The Florida Wildlife Federation filed an administrative complaint April 11, challenging leases on nearly 2,300 acres of land in southwestern Palm Beach County. The federation contends the renewed leases, approved Scott and the Cabinet, would allow fertilizer pollution from sugar cane fields to flow into the Everglades for decades.

A Florida Crystals representative, vice-president Gaston Cantens, a former state lawmaker, earlier acknowledged to the Palm Beach Post that he had spoken with Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Naples, about adding the lawsuit-blocking amendment to the legislation.

Caldwell said he was eager to get Everglades restoration efforts moving forward and said that validating the leases with sugar growners was important.

More on Scott’s signings here:

Immigration reform foes rent billboard slamming ‘Rubio-Obama amnesty’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by George Bennett

New Floridians for Immigration Enforcement billboard near Ocala.

Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, the Pompano Beach-based group that demonstrated outside Sen. Marco Rubio‘s recent Port St. Lucie appearance, has rented a billboard along Interstate 75 in Ocala to slam Rubio for co-sponsoring the “Gang of Eight” Senate bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.

While it’s a fairly minor expenditure in a pricey media state, the billboard is one indication that Rubio’s tireless efforts to sell immigration reform to conservatives have not succeeded in winning over many of the hard-liners who are influential in GOP primaries.

FLIMEN includes several Palm Beach and Treasure Coast activists who say Rubio promised them as a 2010 Senate candidate that he would oppose amnesty for people who are in the country illegally. Rubio says the measures in the bill that would allow millions to attain legal status are not amnesty.

FLIMEN Legislative Director Jack Oliver alluded to Rubio’s potential presidential ambitions in blasting the Senator.

“I predict that no politician who votes for the Senate immigration bill will ever be elected to higher office,” Oliver said.

Boca orthodontist and GOP donor brings in big-name black conservatives for outreach event

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 by George Bennett


Some prominent black Republicans and conservatives — including former U.S. Rep. Allen West, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele — are coming to Boca Raton on Thursday for a dinner that aims to bring African Americans into the conservative fold.

The event, which is expected to draw 450 people, is being underwritten by Dr. Larry Kawa, a Boca Raton orthodontist. Kawa is a Republican donor who founded a PAC called American Courage, but he said he’s paying for everything himself — including the dinner and speakers’ travel costs — so the event won’t be tied to the GOP or political organizations.


“The idea is that I want to help enhance awareness within the black community of fiscal conservatism and how it affects them,” said Kawa, who is white. Kawa said he put together a list of 450 dinner invitees by contacting friends and patients who are black and some black churches, including politically connected Rev. O’Neal Dozier‘s Worldwide Christian Center.

In addition to West, Carroll and Steele, the speaker lineup will include Congress Of Racial Equality President Niger Innis and author Kevin Jackson.

Scott calls tuition hike a “tax increase…that must be stopped”

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott underscored his veto this week of a 3 percent tuition hike by sending letters Friday to administrators at the
state’s 12 public universities, calling a tuition hike, “a tax increase on our families that must be stopped.”

With assurances already in hand from most schools that they won’t seek an increase from the State University System’s Board of Governors, Scott’s letter is aimed chiefly at blunting an automatic, 1.7 percent cost-of-living boost.

The provision was included in state law to help schools meet rising costs, even when no tuition hike is approved.

But Scott appears intent on getting schools to refuse the inflation dollars.

“As with many matters that come before us, I know there are several legal opinions concerning who would implement a tuition increase and how they would go about doing it,” Scott said in his letter.

“Again, we are committed to fighting against any tuition increase in Florida,” he added. “We should be proud that our state offers affordable tuition and a high quality education, just as we are proud to have no state income tax.”

Running for re-election next year, Scott could have the distinction of being the first governor in almost two decades to halt Florida’s tuition rise. It appears Scott and his advisers see the cost-of-living provision as a potential asterisk on an otherwise potent political claim – one aimed directly at a possible rival.

Scott’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is now a Democrat who many expect to seek that party’s nomination for governor next year.

Under Crist, lawmakers and business leaders across Florida had pushed through legislation giving universities more authority to raise tuition. Crist joined with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Council of 100 and others in promoting tuition hikes as a means of plowing more dollars into universities.

Scott to sign texting ban

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott is ready to make Florida the nation’s 40th state to smackdown smartphones — saying he will sign legislation next week to ban texting while driving.

“As a father and a grandfather, texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones are on the road,” Scott said Friday. “The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers. We must do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe.”

Scott plans to sign the texting ban, SB 52, on Tuesday at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami.

The legislation would make texting while driving a secondary offense. Motorists could be ticketed only if law enforcement officials stopped them for another reason, like careless driving.

A ticket could cost first-time offenders $30, plus court costs. But the bill includes exemptions that allow motorists to use phones to check maps, use voice-commands or listen to the radio through their phones.

Drivers also could text while stopped at a light, under the legislation. Talking on a cell phone would not be restricted.

Connie Mack IV and Mary Bono Mack to divorce

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

U.S. Reps. Connie Mack IV and Mary Bono Mack shared both a marriage and a political defeat last fall, when the Florida congressman lost a bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the California congresswoman failed to win re-election.

On Friday, the couple announced they are getting divorced after six years of marriage.

In a statement, the pair said, “We are saddened to announce that we have reached the difficult decision to end our marriage. We have nothing but respect and admiration for each other and we intend to remain on the friendliest of terms. We appreciate the love and support of our family and friends.”

Shortly after his defeat last fall, Mack joined Liberty Partners Group, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, as a partner and senior policy advisor. Mary Bono Mack also is consulting in Washington.


Democrat Murphy and Ohio Republican call for bipartisan cooperation at Forum Club

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by George Bennett

WEST PALM BEACH — Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, called for more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats when they appeared together at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch today to discuss a bipartisan bill to trim the deficit.

Murphy and Joyce are both freshmen and part of a bipartisan group seeking to find common ground on deficit issues. They co-sponsored a bill called the Savings, Accountability, Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Act, which identifies about $200 billion in savings over 10 years by adopting efficiency recommendations from the Government Accountability Office.

The $200 billion in savings amount to about 3 percent of the $6.3 trillion in projected deficits over the next decade, but Murphy and Joyce said their bill is at least a start.

“We are not going to solve the world’s problems overnight. We are freshman members. But we’re changing the tone and step by step that’s what we need to do in this country is change to the tone and get back to bipartisanship,” Murphy said.

“I view myself as a fact-based problem solver,” said Joyce, a former prosecutor whose district includes some Cleveland suburbs and northeast Ohio. “It’s about time we take off our red jerseys and we take off our blue jerseys and we put on our red-white-and-blue jerseys and do what’s right for this country.”

Murphy and Joyce were asked by an audience member if they feared that working across the aisle would make them targets for a primary challenge.

Joyce decried the influence of conservative groups that pressure Republican House members to vote their way or face primary opposition. He specifically mentioned Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform, which asks candidates to pledge to oppose all tax increases.

“I want taxes to do go down. But we can’t sign stupid pledges that abdicate our responsibility to some outside party,” Joyce said.

Both Murphy and Joyce represent battleground districts and are expected to be top targets in 2014. Joyce said he is also bracing for possible opposition from within the GOP.

Joyce was asked if any Republicans tried to dissuade him from appearing with Murphy.

“I’m not endorsing him (Murphy), I’m coming down to endorse the system and what we need to do in D.C. to fix it,” Joyce said in an interview.

Murphy draws another out-of-state Republican to South Florida

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett


Freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, is one of the national GOP’s top 2014 targets, so it’s likely that a parade of Republican figures will come to Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast over the next 18 months to assist efforts to defeat him.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., was in town recently to interview potential Murphy challengers. McHenry heads up recruiting efforts for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, is scheduled to make a Murphy-related visit on Friday — but not to try to oust Murphy from Congress.

Joyce and Murphy are co-sponsors of the Savings, Accountability, Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Act, which aims to trim $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years by implementing some efficiency recommendations put forward by the Government Accountability Office.

Murphy and Joyce are scheduled to discuss the SAVE Act and the prospects for bipartisan cooperation at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches luncheon on Friday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

Read more here.

Scott says deal-making hot in Chile

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that the Chilean company, Crystal Lagoons Corp., maker of the world’s largest swimming pool, is moving its worldwide headquarters to Miami.

Nearing the end of a four-day trade mission to Chile, Scott said the agreement with the Santiago-based company, which makes exotic water bodies used in resorts across the world, was among several sealed on the Enterprise Florida trip.

Scott also announced Wednesday a joint venture between Florida’s Advanced Magnet Lab and several Chilean companies that is expected to yield work within the state on wind turbine generators, aero-propulsion and space exploration products.

In a phone call to the Palm Beach Post, Scott said the tour also has promoted Florida ports to Chilean salmon producers and fruit exporters.

“We can help connect people,” Scott said. “We’ve got about 100 Florida business people with us. The message we can convey is that ‘you should be doing more business with Florida.”

Scott also said Crystal Lagoons Corp.’s move underscores his recurring sales pitch.

“If you want to be a worldwide player, and do business especially in the U.S. and the Latin America market, then Miami is the perfect


No surprises on Florida Chamber report card: R’s get A’s, Dems mostly fail

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Three Palm Beach County lawmakers earned perfect scores from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly, their Democratic counterparts received mostly failing grades from the powerful business lobby.

GOP Reps. Pat Rooney, R-West Palm Beach; MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta; and Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, all received marks of “100″ from the Chamber. Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, received an “87.”

The Chamber’s grades are based on 8,000 votes cast during the 2013 session that ended early this month. Fifty-nine percent of the 160 House and Senate members earned “A” grades with scores of 90-100 for “voting to make Florida more competitive and in support of the priority jobs issues” included in the Chamber’s legislative agenda, according to a press release.

Rep. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach insurance agent, fared the best of his fellow Palm Beach County Democrats with a “72,” the only PBC Dem that earned a passing Chamber mark. Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, was at the bottom of the delegation with a “36,” just two points more than the Chamber’s lowest scorer, Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood.

Here’s how the rest of the delegation fared:
Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington: 59;
Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana: 57;
Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach: 55;
Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach: 55;
Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth: 53;
Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth: 49;
Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton: 48.

Nelson urges Scott to veto insurance rate bill

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott to veto legislation his fellow Republicans advanced that suspends for two years the state’s authority to set health insurance rates.

Nelson, a former state insurance commissioner, said in a Wednesday letter to Scott that allowing the bill (SB 1842) to become law would put consumers at risk of sky-high rate hikes.

“To eliminate the Florida insurance commissioner’s authority to turn down rate increases is unbelievable and unconscionable.”  Nelson wrote.

Nelson’s criticism echoes that raised during the session by legislative Democrats who said the legislation appeared designed to shield state regulators from any fallout stemming from the Affordable Care Act. Among them would be Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a Republican and former Senate president from North Palm Beach, whose office oversees the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Proponents of the legislation, however, said it is merely aimed at helping the state comply with evolving regulatory requirements under the federal health care overhaul.

Group or individual health plans in place in 2010 will still be subject to rate review by state regulators, under SB 1842. But the host of new coverage options expected to be created when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January will have rates controlled by federal agencies, although Atwater’s office will still review the proposals.

When the proposal was advanced in the Legislature, Republicans insisted they were not trying to shift blame for any problems that could rise from the influx of coverage plans and new companies.

They said that since the federal government has been imposing so many new regulations on the state, it made sense that federal officials do the rate-setting.

“This is not changing the consumer tradition of this state,” Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said at a House hearing last month. “But it is giving us
flexibility to understand a changing landscape.”

Democrats have been angered by the Republican-ruled Legislature’s long reluctance to enact provisions of the Affordable Care Act. They also said the new measure will give consumers the runaround in dealing with any issue with health insurance rates.

“We can do better for consumers,” said Rep. Jose Rodriquez, D-Miami, said during the April hearing.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act continue to criticize the Legislature’s move.

“Senate Bill 1842 brings bad news for Florida consumers in at least two distinct ways: it deregulates health insurance at the state level, putting consumers at risk; and, it sets up ACA to be blamed for Florida’s irresponsibility,” said the Jupiter-based health advocacy group, FloridaCHAIN.

Scott has until June 5 to act on the legislation.


Bondi, other AGs ask Urban Outfitters to quit selling druggy accessories

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Pam Bondi and 22 other attorneys general are demanding that Urban Outfitters quit selling accessories they say is glorifying drug use and “undermining” efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.

The trendy company is targeting the hipster crowd with a line of products that riff on prescription drugs, including a set of syringe-shaped shot glasses along with shot glasses, beer “koozies” and coasters that look like prescription pads.

The Rx-line appears to be as focused on booze as drugs. The prescription-pad coasters bear the label “Al Koholic, M.D.” whose address is on “Brewskis Lane” in “Sloshville, NY.” The beer koozie, also “prescribed” by “Dr. Koholic, Al,” appears to be a prescription bottle for “BOOZEMIN.” And the “prescription shot” glasses are printed with the “Rx #: VRY-NBR8TD” with a quantity “As many as you can stomach” and refills: “Sure!”

But for Bondi, whose made fighting prescription drug abuse her top issue since taking office in 2011, and the other top lawyers, the kitschy barware isn’t a joke.

“Profiting from a ‘prescription line’ that is contrary to Florida’s efforts to combat prescription drug overdoses and drinking is unacceptable. We are calling on Urban Outfitters to forgo a few sales and help us save a lot of lives,” Bondi said in a statement.

The products “demean the thousands of deaths that occur each month in the United States from accidental overdoses,” Bondi and the AGs from 22 states and Guam wrote to Urban Outfitters CEO and Chairman Richard A. Hayne in a letter dated today. “These products are not in any way fun or humorous but make light of this rampant problem. We invite you to pull these products from your shelves and join with us to fight prescription drug abuse.”

Read the attorneys general message here or after the jump.


Ex-Speaker Cannon joins online reputation firm

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

In a move that may sound a little like rain on your wedding day, a leading online reputation-building company announced Wednesday that former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon has joined its board of advisors., whose website says it is dedicated to “protecting and advocating for our clients’ online images,” is part of a growing industry of digital message-shapers.

Cannon, R-Winter Park, ended his two-year stint as House Speaker last fall and since has opened a Tallahassee lobbying firm, Capitol Insight, with another Republican ex-speaker, Larry Cretul, among his employees.

Cannon’s path from being on the receiving end of lobbying to actually doing lobbying himself isn’t uncommon at the Capitol. But the trajectory became harshly condemned by senators this spring as they crafted a new state ethics law.

The measure approved by lawmakers and signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Rick Scott extends a current, two-year ban on former legislators lobbying the Legislature to include a new, two-year restriction on ex-lawmakers lobbying the executive branch and state agencies.

In a statement, president Michael Zammuto said there was a ”natural synergy” between and Capitol Insight.

“Online reputation management is critical across the political process, and indeed, political campaigns worldwide are won and lost on the basis of online reputation and the effectiveness of their online strategies,” Zammuto said.  “As such, has been busily gearing up for the
next election cycle, and expanding our services in the political realm.”

In the company statement, Cannon said, “The usefulness of online reputation management in the political campaign process is difficult to overstate.”

“Just imagine,” he added, “If an unflattering news headline or erroneous accusation come to light, a company like can help political campaigns get the facts of their message out aggressively, and even push those unwanted headlines off the first page of an online search results page. This can be a huge potential advantage for any political campaign.”



At IRS hearing, Sen. Bill Nelson questions political activity by ‘social welfare’ groups

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing today on the Internal Revenue Service’s admitted targeting of conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status, used his time to question why “social welfare” organizations are allowed to engage in any political activity at all.

It’s part of an effort by Democrats on the committee to shift focus from the hassling of tea party groups to the interpretation of the tax law that says 501(c)(4) groups must be operated “exclusively” for social welfare purposes.

IRS regulations say an organization meets the “exclusively” standard if it is “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.”

Nelson decried the “enormous money” going through 501(c)(4) organizations and asked “How could you all in the IRS allow the tax breaks funded basically by the taxpayer (to be spent) on these political campaign expenditures?”

He added: “I understand the king’s English, and it says the promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns. Now, how you interpret that to say that that does allow some intervention in political campaigns is beyond me.”

Sheriff’s $1 million ‘violence prevention’ program didn’t meet Scott’s jobs, education, cost-of-living criteria

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by George Bennett


FORT LAUDERDALE — After urging Broward County Republican activists to improve GOP messaging, Gov. Rick Scott was asked Monday night about his veto earlier in the day of $1 million for Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw‘s “violence prevention” program.

Legislators approved the money for a special unit aimed at heading off potential violence, including an anonymous tip line for callers to report on suspicious activity by their neighbors.


“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw told The Palm Beach Post last month. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ ”

Supporters hailed the measure as a way of potentially preventing another Newtown or Aurora mass murder. Critics said it smacked of Big Brotherism.

Scott addressed neither issue Monday night, instead offering a fairly generic explanation for the veto, which was part of $368 million he nixed from the state’s $74.1 billion budget.

“Here’s what I did: I went through the budget making sure I did the three things that are important for families. I went through and said look, what are the programs, the legislative proposals that are going to help us build jobs, improve education and keep the cost of living low because we’ve created an efficient government. That’s how I went through all of them,” Scott told reporters.

Asked if there was anything about the sheriff’s program in particular that stood out, Scott said: “There’s a lot of great programs around the state. That was how I thought about it.”

Scott to Broward GOP: ‘We should not lose…we have the right story’

Monday, May 20th, 2013 by George Bennett

FORT LAUDERDALE — Speaking to Republicans in one of Florida’s most heavily Democratic counties, Gov. Rick Scott tonight said the GOP should win every election if Republicans do a better job of telling their story to voters.

Scott, who was narrowly elected in 2010 and faces a tough re-election fight next year, exhorted the party faithful at the Broward County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner.

“I have not met one Floridian that should be anything but a Republican,” said Scott.

The GOP is the party of job creators, Scott said, and he said it should also be the party of people who rely on government social programs.

“Let’s say that you need a safety net,” Scott said. “Let’s say you need unemployment insurance or you need something to take care of you while times are hard before you get back on your feet, whether that’s health care, whether that’s unemployment insurance, whatever it is. Who pays for it? People that have jobs. So if you need anything from the government, any government, you should absolutely be a Republican because it won’t be there if it wasn’t for people who had jobs and build businesses.”


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