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Bush endorses Scott, saying he “has delivered”

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed the man currently holding the job Tuesday –praising Rick Scott for his leadership “when Florida needed it most.”

“It’s simple why I’m supporting Rick Scott,” Bush said in a statement. “He campaigned on a platform of getting Florida’s economy back on track, and has delivered on that promise.”

Bush also included in the endorsement a dig at congressional Democrats and President Obama — who is expected to eventually weigh-in with support for the man sandwiched between Bush and Scott in the governor’s office, Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democratic who is now that party’s frontrunner for his old job.

“While President Obama and Democrats in Congress are fixated on penalizing success, Governor Scott is pursuing policies to restore prosperity for more Floridians while prioritizing core state responsibilities, including increasing the state’s investment in education,” Bush said.

“Rick Scott demonstrated leadership when Florida needed it most, and he is the best candidate to lead our state for four more years,” Bush concluded.

The timing of the Bush endorsement is difficult to gauge. Speculation has been mounting for weeks that Bush plans to name Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, as his choice for lieutenant governor for the election ahead, and that the selection was at least partially designed to cement the overall support of the Bush network for Scott’s re-election bid.

Thrasher was House Speaker when Bush first took office, and steered the new governor’s education, tax cut and lawsuit-limiting policies through the Legislature. Thrasher likened his relationship with Bush as that which existed between Col. Tom Parker and Elvis Presley.

Thrasher, though, continues to deny being talked to about the job. And Tuesday Scott also said he was still in search of someone to fill the lieutenant governor slot, now vacant since Jennifer Carroll resigned in the spring.

Crist formally announced his campaign last week and has since been vigorously fund-raising. Although Crist does not have to file his first campaign finance report until next month, Scott reported Tuesday that he raised $824,835 last month — bringing his cash-on-hand to $17 million.



Maxed out: 87% of donors to local state House candidates hit $500 limit; higher limit coming Friday

Monday, October 28th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Gov. Lawton Chiles signed 1991 law limiting contributions to $500; higher limits take effect Friday.

Florida’s $500 contribution limit, signed into law by former Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1991, is about to end.

Beginning Friday, candidates for statewide office will be allowed to accept up to $3,000 from each contributor for a primary and another $3,000 for a general election. Candidates for state House and Senate and for county offices will be allowed to accept contributions of up to $1,000.

A $500 contribution in 1992, when the limits took effect, is worth about $833 in today’s dollars.

State Rep. Patrick Rooney Jr., R-West Palm Beach, has an unusual perspective on the new limit since he’s both a candidate and president of the megadonor Palm Beach Kennel Club. Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.

In state legislative races, the $500 check has become the norm. For the nine state House members in Palm Beach County’s delegation, 481 of the 551 contributions received so far — 87.3 percent — been for the $500 maximum.

The two state Senators up for re-election in 2014 are also heavily reliant on $500 gifts. For state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, 536 of 639 contributions — 83.9 percent — have been for the $500 max. For state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, 128 of 175 donors — 73.1 percent — have maxed out.

See how maxed-out each legislator is after the jump….


Scott sees tuition veto as a money-maker

Monday, June 3rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday began using his veto of a 3 percent tuition increase for college and university students as a money maker– for his re-election campaign.

Scott’s Let’s Get to Work fund-raising committee issued a blast email urging contributors to give at least $10 to “join us in fighting the newest tax increase on Florida families — rising tuition.” Scott’s committee has raised $4.8 million already this year, mostly from big donors.

But in recent weeks Let’s Get to Work has taken a tactical turn and has begun drawing small scale contributions from close to 400 individuals.

The rising army of grassroots givers may be part of an effort to cast the poll-challenged governor in a more favorable light, while building a volunteer base for next year’s campaign.

For more:

Weatherford ready to disconnect legislators from their spending committees

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

In the wake of another big spending election, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford said Tuesday that he will make limiting the dollars flowing into political spending committees a top priority in next spring’s legislative session.

The Wesley Chapel Republican, who will take over leadership of the House at next week’s organizational session of the Legislature, said it is time to disconnect lawmakers from committees they can establish to raise and spend unlimited contributions from Florida’s biggest industries.

Weatherford, himself, raised more than $2 million for his Committee for a Conservative House, which he used to help elect favored candidates and for political expenses. One way to reduce the influence of these murky committees, he said, is to raise Florida’s $500 limit on individual contributions to political candidates.

“I think $500 is archaic,” Weatherford said of the current limit, in place about 20 years. “When you compare us to other states…Florida has one of the lowest contribution limits in the country.

“We all know people are spending a lot of money on campaigns, unfortunately, none of it is going to the actual campaign,” he said.

The campaign proposal is likely to be debated in an Ethics and Elections Committee the incoming speaker has established and was among a wide range of topics covered Tuesday as Weatherford prepares to assume leadership in the House, with Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, set to become Senate president.

Florida’s difficulty in tabulating all the ballots in last week’s election also will be part of the committee’s mission, Weatherford said. But he was reluctant to say that a 2011 law reducing the number of days and sites for early voting was a root cause of Florida’s election struggles.

Democrats and voting rights groups have argued in court that Florida’s ruling Republicans enacted the law to depress Democratic turnout.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the problems are,” Weatherford said.

Scott to help Boca Raton Republicans raise money

Monday, May 7th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott will be the featured speaker next week at a Boca Raton Republican Club fund-raiser, underscoring the political crosswinds buffeting the governor these days.

Polls show Scott remains unpopular with most Floridians – a position Florida Democrats hope to exploit in coming weeks by tying the governor to presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The state GOP poured almost $1 million into TV advertising the past six weeks, trying to bolster the governor’s image.

 But narrow the audience to just Republicans — and Scott’s holding his own. He even draws praise for attending plenty of state GOP events, like the $50-per-person fund-raiser planned the evening of May 15 at the Marriott at Boca Center.

Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein told the Post for a Sunday story on Scott’s political standing that Democrats will be mistaken if they think he’ll hurt Romney in the state. Dinerstein said Scott’s draw among Republicans was evident at last weekend’s state GOP meeting in Tampa, where the governor drew a standing ovation that refused to quit.

“He couldn’t get people to sit down,” Dinerstein said. “They love him. He’s done the Lincoln Day dinners. He’s been a partner in our fundraising. If the Democrats want to use him against Romney, I say bring it on.”


Florida political committees among nation’s top spenders, report shows

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Political committees that helped drive the election of Florida Gov. Rick Scott two years ago were among the biggest independent spenders in the nation, according to a report Thursday by the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Scott’s own Let’s Get to Work committee, heavily financed by his wife, Ann‘s, cash, spent $17.5 million in 2010, second only to the Republican Governors’ Association’s $26.5 million that cycle. While Let’s Get to Work confined its spending to Florida, the RGA cash was scattered across key battlegrounds.

Two other Florida committees also were included in the institute’s national top 10 of spenders.

Both formerly opposed Scott with fierce television spots and mailers.  But once Scott defeated rival Bill McCollum in state’s GOP primary that year, the cash and attack ads from these committees were aimed at Democratic rival Alex Sink.

The Florida First Initiative spent $6 million in 2010. The committee, led by Alachua County Republican Chairman Stafford Jones, ran television spots accusing Scott of profiting from the “largest Medicare fraud in American history,” before becoming friendly toward the GOP nominee.

During the free-swinging Republican primary, the Florida First Initiative had received $1.1 million from the Florida Liberty Fund, a committee associated with House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. That money helped sustain the scorched-earth campaign against Scott — who ultimately spent more than $70 million of his own cash to win the governor’s race.

Like the Florida First Initiative, the Cannon-allied Liberty Fund adjusted its aim after the primary, raising money from Florida corporations now intent on defeating Sink.

The third Florida big-spending committee cited in the institute’s findings, the Freedom First Committee, was tied to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and raised $3.6 million in 2010.  It, too, was a Scott enemy, turned ally.

These kinds of shadowy committees have mushroomed in recent years and their spending has climbed double that of conventional campaign donations, the institute reported. Independent spending on candidates increased 69 percent from 2006 through 2010, while the amount of campaign contributions rose by 25 percent, the study found..

In Florida, the spate of spending by these committees prompted one, short-term candidate for governor in 2010, to decry it as “legal money laundering.”

Lawton “Bud” Chiles, III, son of the late Democratic governor, who ran briefly as an no-party candidate, wanted political spending committees dubbed 527s to be required to disclose their $500-plus donors on every television ad or mailer they distribute, or when they give money to another group to use for or against a candidate.

Florida law currently requires 527s, named for the IRS code section that governs them, to report their contributions and spending on a website within five days of the activity.

But Chiles and many elections experts say most voters are unlikely to spend time tracking donations to groups with such names as Floridians for a Better Tomorrow, Floridians for Strong Leadership, or even Citizens for Transparency in Government – all 527s that he cited in his condemnation of the spending.

Nelson’s $1.8 million quarter doubles leading GOP rival

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Under fire from a pack of Republican challengers, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson raised more than $1.8 million over the past three months for his re-election, his campaign reported Tuesday.

Nelson’s campaign was quick to point out that the top Republican fund-raiser this quarter, George LeMieux, had collected half the Democrat’s total since April 1.

LeMieux collected $950,000 to Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ $900,000 over the past three months. Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach collected $560,000. A fourth likely well-heeled Republican, former Ruths’ Chris steakhouse CEO Craig Miller was flying around the state Tuesday, making his formal entry into the race.

“The support so far is adding to the momentum that’s building for Sen. Nelson’s re-election,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. “It’s a sign of strength and broad-based support.”

Fla GOP’s $3.5 million cash collection includes timely Jax dog track donation

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Florida Republican Party pulled in $3.5 million in the three months ending June 30, more than three times that collected by state Democrats during the span, new finance records show.

Health care companies, a private prison firm, and utilities were among the GOP’s biggest givers — cash that tracked some of the biggest issues of the 2011 legislative session, ongoing for most of the reporting period.

Still, a relatively modest $5,000 contribution from Jacksonville Greyhound Racing is noteworthy because of its timing. The check was posted by the party on May 6 — the same day the Orange Park dog track played a central role in the chaotic closing hours of the Legislature.

A duel between the House and Senate over a tax break for the track — a political favorite of Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine — forced the session to spill into overtime.

 The House insisted on removing the tax break from what was considered must-pass legislation, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, later said he was “embarrassed” by the stand-off between the two chambers, which also drew veiled questions about the U.S. Senate contender’s leadership skills.

Other GOP contributions were more conventional — and cash-laden. U.S. Sugar Corp., donated $225,000, Nextera Energy, the parent company of Juno Beach-base Florida Power & Light, gave $250,000, and the Boca Raton-based Geo Group, which hopes to gain a big portion of the state’s plan to privatize prisons across 18 counties, including Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast, gave $100,000 to the Florida GOP.

Fla Dem financing helped by Jax ‘conservatives’

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

What’s in a name?

About $426,000 if you’re Conservatives for a Better Jacksonville, the political committee, which poured money into the Florida Democratic Party in the month leading up to Alvin  Brown’s mayoral election in May. “Conservatives,” who haven’t filed a campaign finance report yet, are headed by Mark Herron, the Tallahassee elections lawyer who usually works Democratic Party issues.

The election of a black Democrat as Jacksonville mayor has been a rallying point for Florida Democrats. And for the party, the money steered through it by “Conservatives,” amounts to more than one-third of the $1.1 million collected during the three months ending  June 30.

The Florida Republican Party’s finance total was not posted on the state Elections  Division website Monday night.

LeMieux leads latest cash quarter, as GOP Senate fields expands

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux on Monday became the last of the big three GOP challengers to Democrat Bill Nelson to tout his latest finance total — but he is claiming victory in the dollar race.

LeMieux’s campaign said that in the quarter ending June 30, it took in more than $950,000 — edging Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ $900,000 collected, and the $560,000 former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach is reporting raising.

“With contributors from all over Florida, George’s campaign continues to strengthen and his grassroots momentum is reflected in his fundraising success,” campaign manager Brian Seitchik wrote on LeMieux’s website.

Haridopolos, who has been in the race longest, remains the leading money-raiser to date, with $3.4 million collected so far. Fund-raising details aren’t expected to be provided at least until reports are due July 15. Nelson hasn’t revealed his cash totals yet.

The Republican contest also is poised to grow further, with former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller to announce his candidacy this week. Miller ran for Congress in Central Florida last fall, finishing third in the Republican primary field behind Sandy Adams, the Orlando Republican who went on to defeat Democratic  U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas.

Bennett calls it quits on congressional campaign

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Term-limited state Sen. Mike Bennett abruptly ended his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on Monday, blaming a “fire in the belly” problem and frustration with spending most of his time fund-raising.

Bennett, 66, a Bradenton Republican who doesn’t live in Castor’s Tampa-area district, announced his candidacy late last month.

 At the time, Bennett said he was prepared to move to challenge the Democratic incumbent if redistricting next year didn’t tuck him into the boundaries served by Castor.

On Monday, Bennett called it quits. 

“In all honesty, I quickly realized that the ‘fire’ I was feeling was heartburn over constant fundraising, travel and the other demands of running for federal office. Traveling the world and fishing are candidly things I’m looking forward to catching up on when my term in the Florida Senate comes to an end,” Bennett said.

Scott ethics complaints tossed out by panel

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Two ethics complaints against Gov. Rick Scott’s ownership of Solantic, Corp., the urgent care company he is planning to sell, have been dismissed, the Florida Commission on Ethics said Wednesday.

The commission found the complaints were legally insufficient to move forward. The decision was reached by the commission during its closed-door hearing Friday.

“I’m very comfortable that I’ve been transparent in all my business dealings,” Scott said Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, during a break in the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference. “And as you know…basically everything you do is public record, and I’ve filed lots of things.”

Scott, who reported a net worth of $218 million when he filed as a candidate for governor last year, has taken an evolving public stance on Solantic. (more…)

Senate joins House in cutting off union dues

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

After almost three hours of withering criticism from union representatives, a Senate panel approved legislation Wednesday that would bar governments from deducting dues for labor organizations.

Union officials testified that the legislation (CS/SB 830) was “union-busting,” designed to blunt the political power of organizations which last fall opposed Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Senate sponsor John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who last year was chairman of the state GOP.

But Thrasher insisted the measure is merely to shield state and local governments from playing a role in partisan politics with the payroll deductions.

“This is what I campaign on last year, and that’s limited government,” Thrasher said. “Government should not be the tax collector for unions.”

But Dwight Mattingly, a West Palm Beach transit union worker, said the legislation will hurt.

“This bill does not empower me,” Mattingly said. “It takes away my ability to have a voice.” (more…)

Unions rally against Scott, GOP Legislature, again

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

About 1,000 protesters rallied Tuesday across the street from the state Capitol, blasting Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers for advancing an array of bills condemned as union-busting.

Many of those crowding the grounds of the Leon County Courthouse wore green shirts bearing the motto, “Let’s Pull Together.” The shirts also were emblazoned with the logo for AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.”

“Sure, I’m worried about what’s going on,” said Shelton Locklear, 64, a carpenter, and 31-year employee of the Polk County School Board. “They’re making us pay for pensions, that’s a pay cut for us.”

Locklear, who said he hadn’t drawn an across-the-board pay raise in three years, acknowledged Scott and legislative leaders looked certain to make the pension changes. But he said he hoped a show of political force by unions might blunt the push.

Nearby, a voter registration table was set up. And Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams drew a stark contrast between the crowd gathered across the street from the Capitol, and the lawmakers inside the 22-story structure.

“It’s all about taking care of the corporate executives who bankrolled the companies that put our legislators into office,” Williams told those gathered. “There’s one voice, one group that stands in the way of the right-wing ideology — it’s organized labor.” (more…)

House OK’s barring union deductions

Friday, March 25th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Following the latest firefight between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP-dominated House OK’d legislation Friday that would bar state and local governments from collecting payroll deductions for union dues.

Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, in line to become House speaker in three years, if Republicans hold the majority, sponsored the measure (CS/HB 1021), which he said would keep the state out of “partisan politics.”

“There are other ways for unions to collect their dues that don’t involve state resources,” Dorworth said. On the Senate side, a former Florida Republican Party, Sen. John Thrasher, is sponsoring the measure.

The House approved the measure in a mostly party-line, 73-40 vote. The Senate bill (CS/SB 830) has at least one more committee stop before facing a full vote.

“Do not put lipstick on this elephant,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, adding the measure, “is about silencing the voices of working men and women.”

The measure also allows public employee union members to demand a refund of dollars spent on any union political activity with which they didn’t agree.

Thrasher, who last year guided the state’s GOP to campaign victories that tightened the party’s grip on power in Florida, has said the measure is designed to “empower unions” by making them collect their dues rather than the state. Automatic payroll deductions for union dues has been a common practice by state and local governments, including school boards, for decades.

Union representatives have said it is part of a national effort aimed at scuttling the political influence of teachers, police, firefighters and public employees’ organizations, which campaigned for Democrats last fall and are leading demonstrations against Republican policies this spring.

Unions, including the Florida Police Benevolent Association and Florida Education Association, poured millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns last fall.

Unlike Wisconsin and Ohio, where state capitals have been engulfed in opposition to efforts aimed at ending collective bargaining, union membership in Florida is voluntary.

The Florida Constitution shields workers from being forced to join a union. The constitution, though, also guarantees workers’ right to collective bargaining, a provision Republican Gov. Rick Scott last month said he would like to see repealed.

Overrides a’coming in the House

Monday, March 21st, 2011 by John Kennedy

The House looks poised to take another swipe at former Gov. Charlie Crist, with Speaker Dean Cannon saying Monday that veto overrides could be coming this week on a couple of bills.

The House is looking to revive legislation killed by Crist that would give party leaders in both chambers enhanced authority over campaign cash they collect. The leadership funds legislation and another vetoed bill, shielding farm land from certain local fees, were both advanced Friday by the House State Affairs Committee.

The House has scheduled lengthy floor sessions Thursday and Friday. A two-thirds vote there would position the measures for similar Senate action.

End to $500 campaign contribution cap in sight?

Monday, March 21st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Candidates for governor could rake in up to $10,000 in individual contributions – currently capped at $500 – under campaign finance measure approved by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee this morning by a 7-5 vote.

The bill (SB 1690), sponsored by freshman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, would recreate the state’s pre-1991 tiered campaign contribution caps.
Under the proposal, individuals, political committees or CCEs could contribute a maximum of:
-$10,000 to a candidate for governor;
-$5,000 to other statewide candidates;
-$2,500 to state House or Senate candidates or other multi-county offices;
-$1,000 to candidates for county-wide offices or judges, including judges up for merit retention.

Lawmakers did away with the tiered system in 1991 after the state created public financing for candidates.

Diaz de la Portilla said the change is necessary because campaigns are so expensive.

“It’s a reality that you need to raise money in order to run for office,” he said. “By raising the limits back to a tiered system, I think those candidates for public office can spend a lot less time making phone calls for contributions, keeping track of contributions and more time talking to voters.”

GOP leaders send warning to GOP Gov

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Dean Cannon  and Senate President Mike Haridopolos sent memos Monday to  lawmakers, noting they could still consider a number of overrides to vetoes made last spring by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

But is the real target here new Gov. Rick Scott?

The memos warning that the Republican-led Legislature is ready to exert its muscle, follows Scott’s decision Friday to freeze at least until July $235 million in contracts for SunRail, the Central Florida commuter rail hailed by Cannon, Haridopolos and most other Orlando-area lawmakers.

 The delay threatens the $1.2 billion rail project. And it comes just weeks after the Republican governor antagonized many lawmakers — and was unsuccessfully sued by two of them — after refusing the federal government’s offer of $2.4 billion for high-speed rail linking Tampa to Orlando.

The two leaders’ notes are worded cautiously. But the intent is clear: Scott can mess with lawmakers, but they can mess right back.

” I am directing the committee chairs to evaluate potential veto overrides in their area and, should they find a candidate for an override, to conduct a public hearing on the bill,” Cannon wrote. ” The House will take up any override formally recommended by a committee.”

Haridopolos wrote, “Over the past few weeks, several members of the Senate have also expressed an interest in considering some of the remaining vetoed bills, and it is my desire to be open and inclusive in considering these requests.”

 Budget vetoes and slightly more than a dozen bills are eligible for override, the leaders wrote. Included are one measure that would shift the state’s Department of Management Services away from sole oversight by Scott and put it under the authority of the governor and the three independently elected Cabinet officers.

Another would create so-called leadership funds. These accounts would give legislative leaders total control of what typically is millions of dollars in campaign cash they raise but must deposit within the state’s political parties.

Rubio leads polls and push for cash

Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Jane Musgrave

The three U.S. Senate candidates began the last month of their campaigns exactly like their standings in the polls: GOP candidate Marco Rubio had $5.5 million left in the bank; independent Charlie Crist had $1.39 million and Democrat Kendrick Meek had $415,042.

Reports of fundraising activity in September were due Oct. 15, but there is always a lag in the posting by the Federal Election Commission.  While Rubio’s has been available online for awhile,  Crist’s just turned up over the weekend and Meek’s still hasn’t. His campaign provided a copy today of his latest campaign finance report.

Overall, Rubio has raised $16.9 million, Crist $13.3 million and Meek $7.8 million.

In a fundraising appeal over the weekend, Crist emphasized Rubio’s Saturday appearance in Orlando with tea party darling Sarah Palin. “Contribute now to stop Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio from handing Florida over to the radical right,” he wrote in an email to ‘concerned citizens.”

Meek’s campaign quickly responded, dubbing  Crist’s criticism of Rubio’s association with Palin as another case of “political amnesia.” Two years ago, staffers pointed out, Crist campaigned with Palin and even deemed her fit to be the next U.S. president.

Will Allen West’s expensive mail strategy work?

Monday, April 19th, 2010 by George Bennett



Republican congressional candidate Allen West’s money-raising numbers — $838,450 last quarter, more than $2 million overall — are among the most impressive in the nation.

But his burn rate has raised a few eyebrows.

West has already spent $977,853, including more than $500,000 on a direct mail effort that so far has yielded about $400,000 in contributions. But West and his team are confident the strategy will pay off in the long run.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

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