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Sens. Nelson, Rubio to join Thursday to discuss Venezuela crisis

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 by George Bennett

Nelson in West Palm Beach today.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will appear together at a restaurant in Doral on Thursday to show solidarity with members of the Venezuelan community while the country’s leftist government continues its crackdown on dissent.

“Sen. Rubio and I have cosponsored a number of resolutions, we have written letters as well and we have a very similar opinion about what should be the posture of the United States (toward) this very repressive regime in Venezuela that is allowing its own people to be killed by these, in essence, paramilitaries or authorized gangs,” Nelson said today while stopping by his field office in West Palm Beach City Hall.

“We want to see economic sanctions clamp down, severe ones, on the repressive and dictatorial government of Venezuela,” Nelson said.

“Sen. Rubio and I, on this issue, there is no daylight between us and one of the surprises you’ll see in the interaction between us in the press conference, you think that Democrats and Republicans don’t get along, Sen. Rubio and I get along very, very well and so much of what we do you never see, for example, the selection of federal judges…It is a pleasure to deal with Sen. Rubio on a lot of the everyday detailed stuff that we do in the U.S. Senate.”

For all his pleasurable dealings with Rubio, Nelson said he had no insight into whether Rubio will launch a 2016 presidential bid.

“I don’t know” if Rubio will run, said Nelson, who’s a big Hillary Clinton fan. “I’m going to leave that to others. Really, when it comes to the presidential race I think it’s clear that we’re going to have the first woman president and what an incredible talent she is and we’re going to be fortunate to have her as our president.”

Frankel headed to Ukraine, says ‘my mother is not happy’

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 by George Bennett

Frankel speaking at a 55+ community west of Delray Beach today.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, will head to Ukraine on Thursday along with other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“My mother is not happy” with her visit to the international trouble spot, Frankel told about two dozen retirees at the Bridgeview community west of Delray Beach.

Frankel said she doesn’t know many details about her itinerary.

In an interview, Frankel said she’s had several meetings on Ukraine, including a dinner last week with about a dozen members of Congress and about six ambassadors from Eastern Europe.

“Their take is they are very worried,” Frankel said of the Eastern Europeans. “Some of them are just worried about us getting back into a Cold War kind of situation. I don’t think anybody really trusts (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”

Frankel added: “There’s absolutely no talk of any military action at all. I don’t even think that’s possible. But there’s other discussions: What do we provide to people in Ukraine? But that’s something I hope we’re going to explore on the ground when we talk to some of the leaders there.”

Did Republican Domino spend $42,087 to raise $31,840 in congressional race?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 by George Bennett

Carl Domino (left) and other Republican congressional candidates at a January forum.


UPDATED 5 PM – Former state Rep. Carl Domino, considered the leading Republican candidate to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, listed $42,087 in fundraising expenses during the first quarter of 2014 while collecting only $31,840 in contributions.

Domino adviser Larry Casey said this morning that the campaign mislabeled some of its expenditures.

“Our fault in descriptions…many of those items listed as fundraising were not fundraising,” Casey said in an e-mail. He said the campaign will amend its Federal Election Commission report.

Late in the day, the Domino camp filed an amended FEC report reclassifying many of the expenditures it previously described as being for fundraising. The campaign now says it spent only $10,492 in the quarter on fundraising.

Murphy raised $674,369 during the quarter and began April with $2.2 million in cash on hand for his re-election bid in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18.

Domino’s campaign spent a total of $68,301 between Jan. 1 and March 31, according to the latest Federal Election Commission report, with the majority of the expenditures specifically identified as being for “fundraising” in some way.

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Burt Aaronson, recovering from heart surgery, makes appearance at Crist speech

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Crist and Aaronson at Kravis Center today.


Six weeks after having a heart valve replaced and receiving a pacemaker, former Palm Beach County commissioner Burt Aaronson is slowly returning to the local political scene.

Aaronson, 85, put in an appearance at a Democratic Club of Greater Boynton meeting last week and today was on hand at the Kravis Center for former Gov. Charlie Crist‘s speech to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.

Former Rep. Ron Klein, State Attorney Dave Aronberg and former Commissioner Burt Aaronson.

Aaronson was term-limited as a commissioner in 2012 but remains an influential figure in south-county Democratic politics. He has been a key supporter of former Republican Crist, vouching for him to Democratic clubs and frequently serving as his chauffeur.

Chauffeur duties have been put on hold, said Aaronson, who said doctors have told him not to drive long distances. He got a ride to the Kravis Center today with Boca Raton Councilman Robert Weinroth.

Aaronson and former state Sen. Steve Geller.

“This is too important of an election for me to only worry about myself,” Aaronson said.

Former Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller, a key Crist ally in Broward County, was also at the Kravis Center for Crist’s speech.

“This is Palm Beach, not Broward. It’s your duty to watch him, not mine,” Geller joked to Aaronson.

Murphy, Frankel cite ’77 cents’ statistic on women’s earnings; their staffs have bigger gender pay gaps

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel


Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel joined President Barack Obama and other Democrats last week in promoting “Equal Pay Day” and its much-repeated statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men are paid.

In Murphy’s and Frankel’s congressional offices, the gap between the average earnings of male and female staffers is even greater. Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can find more detail and context in this week’s Politics column.

A review of House records shows Murphy and Frankel provide similar pay to men and women who hold similar jobs. But women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs on both staffs, dragging down the overall female average compared to men.

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Crist to speak at Forum Club, Lopez-Cantera to be on hand for instant comment

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Carlos Lopez-Cantera, giving a no vote as state House majority leader in 2011, could reprise his thumbs-down role today when he attends Charlie Crist's speech at the Forum Club. (Florida House of Representatives photo)


Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who’s now the leading Democratic contender for the job, will speak to a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch at the Kravis Center today.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s campaign is making sure that whatever Crist says won’t go unanswered.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will attend “and will be available to reporters following the event,” according to an advisory from Scott’s re-election campaign.

Follow @gbennettpost on Twitter beginning around noon for real-time updates.

In GOP primary to replace cocaine congressman, ‘We need to stop all this negativity’

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by George Bennett

State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto greets a voter after a Republican congressional debate Wednesday in Fort Myers.

Over on Florida’s west coast, a nasty Republican primary is winding down for the seat of former Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned in January after being busted for cocaine possession.

Among the combatants: state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, who got her start in politics on the Wellington village council and has landed endorsements from Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

The race features a big-spending outsider, Curt Clawson, who made a splash by spending $200,000 to run ads during the Super Bowl that showed him draining three-pointers (he’s a former Purdue basketball player) and challenging President Barack Obama to a shooting contest.

Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and businessman Michael Dreikorn are also running in the April 22 prmary, which this week featured a rare three-candidate news conference to discuss a Utah sex offender.

“We need to stop all this negativity,” said Dreikorn (who, coincidentally, is the only candidate who can’t afford TV ads).

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read more about it by clicking here.

Dems target Domino and Turnquest with web ads, robocalls blasting Ryan budget

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

With House Republicans expected to vote this week on Budget Chairman Paul Ryan‘s spending blueprint, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for web ads and robocalls that single out two of the six Republicans running for the nationally targeted Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Former state Rep. Carl Domino and former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest are the targets of “Don’t Sell Out The Middle Class” web ads that launched last week and automated phone calls beginning today.

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Gov. Scott, former Gov. Martinez, 2006 Dem governor nominee Davis all on hand for business confab

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

Not the Blue Man Group at Palm Beach County Convention Center but Gov. Rick Scott in odd lighting at a business gathering.


WEST PALM BEACH — After failing to persuade Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to enter the governor’s race this year, former U.S. Rep. and 2006 Democratic nominee for governor Jim Davis says he’s not ready to endorse either of the leading Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist — who defeated Davis in the 2006 election — is favored to win the Democratic primary over former state Sen. Nan Rich.

“I spent a lot of time talking with Sen. Nelson because we need a strong governor to lead this state and unite this state,” Davis, a Tampa attorney, said while attending the Palm Beach Strategic Forum at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Davis said he hasn’t endorsed Crist or Rich because “I’m still coming off the Sen. Nelson effort.”

Former Rep. Ron Klein (left) and former Gov. Bob Martinez (center) repping Holland & Knight at the convention center.

Davis, former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez and former Democratic Rep. Ron Klein — all members of the Holland & Knight law firm — were on hand for the international business gathering.

Scott spoke briefly in the morning, touting job growth and a drop in unemployment in the state since he took office.

Martinez, who was governor from 1987 to 1991, said the economy should be a plus for Scott.

“The state’s doing real well economically. We weathered the storm as well and without incurring operational deficits. So basically speaking he’s got a real good platform to run from,” Martinez said.

Martinez, Florida’s only governor of Hispanic descent, was asked about the GOP’s poor standing with Hispanic voters.

“It’s sometimes a matter of communication,” Martinez said. “I don’t think there’s that much difference in policy. Sometimes it’s how you communicate policy. Sometimes it’s how you express your views. And I think there the party can do better in terms of explaining what we stand for and when there’s a difference of opinion not to be using hot-button words to describe differences, which too often, unfortunately, that’s done.”

Scott announces $8.4 mil in school-recognition awards to Palm Beach County

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent (left) and Gov. Rick Scott at Palm Beach Strategic Forum in West Palm Beach this morning.

WEST PALM BEACH — Gov. Rick Scott announced this morning that the state has awarded $8.4 million to more than 80 Palm Beach County schools as part of Florida’s School Recognition Program.

Scott made the announcement with schools Superintendent Wayne Gent and school board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri on hand at the Palm Beach Strategic Forum, an international business gathering at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Scott said businesses who consider relocating to Florida like the state’s low taxes and regulatory and permitting environment and “they also care about our education system. We have a great education system.”

The School Recognition Program, according to a state press release, “acknowledges the quality of public schools by giving financial rewards based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement in reading, mathematics, science and writing. Schools eligible for recognition awards include those receiving an ‘A’ school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year.”

Schools can use the money for faculty or staff bonuses, to purchase educational equipment or materials, or hire temporary staff to help maintain or improve student performance.

Deadline mix-up: Congressional candidate falls 521 signatures short but says she had 700 more in car

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

Enright

Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Jean Enright, who has launched a Democratic primary challenge against 11-term U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, will have to pay a $10,440 filing fee to get on the ballot after falling 521 signatures short of qualifying by petition last week.

A “devastated” Enright said she thought the deadline to submit signatures was 5 p.m. last Monday. In fact, the deadline was noon. Enright said Friday that she had about 700 unsubmitted signatures in her car when the deadline passed and other campaign volunteers also had more signatures that didn’t get turned in on time.

Enright needed 4,046 signatures from registered voters in District 20 to qualify. She submitted 4,599 to the Palm Beach County elections office, but only 3,525 were valid. Given the 77 percent validity rate on the petitions Enright turned in on time, the additional 700 might have been just enough for Enright to qualify.

Enright says she plans to pay the $10,440 fee by May 2 to continue her challenge of Hastings.

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read about the congressional candidates who qualified by petition and those who didn’t in this week’s Politics column.

Murphy raises another $675,000, widens money advantage over potential GOP challengers

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by George Bennett

Freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy began April with $2.2 million in his campaign account.

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, raised more than $675,000 for his re-election bid in the first quarter of 2014, widening his money advantage over the Republicans vying to unseat him.

Murphy’s campaign says the incumbent began April with $2.2 million in cash on hand.

Republicans hold a slight registration edge in Murphy’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. Six Republicans have opened campaigns for the seat, which the national GOP has called a top target. Former state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter has been the GOP money leader, raising $121,464 from contributors adding $275,000 of his own money through the end of December.

Domino told PostOnPolitics.com that he added another $150,000 of his own money during the quarter that ended March 31 and raised less than that from contributors.

Former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest raised “significantly less” than Domino’s personal contribution during the first quarter, campaign manager Jacob Perry said.

Fundraising reports for the first quarter are due April 15.

8 quotes that probably will be edited out of later editions of Allen West’s new book

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by George Bennett

Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are among the famous figures misquoted in former Rep. Allen West's new book.

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West‘s new book is brimming with quotations from famous figures on the virtues of small government, the need for the Second Amendment, the importance of honoring veterans and the perils of redistributing wealth.

Several of the quotes in Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom are familiar — but have been flagged by historians as erroneous.

West joins President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in being duped by one George Washington quote that is widely circulated but, according to historians, wasn’t said by America’s first president.

Four quotes that West attributes to Thomas Jefferson have been branded “spurious” by researchers at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. West’s book also attributes words to Abraham Lincoln, Alexis de Tocqueville and Patrick Henry that have been debunked by historians.

Read the full article here.

See the bogus quotes after the jump…

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Turf war escalates as 2 Florida health care inspectors ‘escorted out’ of VA hospital, official says

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Gov. Rick Scott speaking outside Riviera Beach VA hospital on Tuesday.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Sec. Liz Dudek accused the federal Department of Veterans Affairs of a “lack of transparency” today after she said two AHCA inspectors were denied access to records at the VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach.

Responding to reports of veteran deaths and injuries caused by delays in diagnostic testing in the VA region that includes Florida, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday asked AHCA to inspect VA hospitals in the state. Dudek said AHCA sent two surveyors to the the hospital in Riviera Beach to conduct an onsite review.

“This morning, two surveyors went to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center at 10:15 a.m. and were escorted out around 11:15 after being declined the opportunity to review any records at that time,” a statement from Dudek said. “They were told an official response would be provided from the VA’s national office in Washington D.C.”

VA spokeswoman Mary Goodman said the agency will cooperate with AHCA, but could not do so today.

“VA is working with Governor Scott’s office to address his concerns. This was an unannounced inspection. Due to federal guidelines and the Privacy Act considerations, we cannot disclose patient information,” Goodman said.

The Riviera Beach visit was the only one AHCA attempted today.

“All of our inspections are unannounced so I cannot say whether there will be any other visits,” AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman said.

CNN reported last year that delays in simple gastrointestinal procedures, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy, were causing veterans to die from cancer that was detected too late. Last week, The Tampa Tribune reported that five of those deaths occurred between 2009 and 2011 in the VA region that includes Florida, southern Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have criticized VA officials for not providing more specific information on where the deaths occurred. Sen. Marco Rubio introduced legislation in February making it easier for the VA secretary to fire any senior officials who are deemed responsible.

Dudek added her voice to the criticism today.

“Florida’s veterans who have so bravely fought to defend and protect our nation deserve quality health care, and I am disappointed in the federal government’s lack of transparency to this point. We look forward to hearing back from the VA very soon so we can continue the dialogue about how the Agency can review their processes so any shortcomings can be promptly identified and addressed,” Dudek said.

In wake of preventable veteran deaths, Rubio touts legislation to hold top VA officials accountable

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Sen. Marco Rubio joined House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, today to tout legislation that would allow the Veterans Affairs secretary more authority to fire or demote senior VA employees based on performance.

The bill was introduced in February in response to reports of a persistent disability benefits backlog and preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country due to delays in basic diagnostic testing.

The issue has received renewed attention over the last week after the Tampa Tribune reported that VA officials wouldn’t reveal details on five veteran deaths in the region that includes Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have pressed VA officials to provide more information.

Democratic dudgeon: Nelson, House members blast Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by George Bennett

In this photo provided by Rep. Ted Deutch's office, the congressman criticizes the McCutcheon ruling while People For the American Way field director Diallo Brooks holds the electronic bullhorn outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down limits on the total amount of federal campaign contributions a donor can give, prompting criticism from Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and three Democratic members of Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation slammed the McCutcheon vs. FEC ruling. Donors still cannot give more than $5,200 to a federal candidate ($2,600 for a primary and $2,600 for a general election), but today’s ruling eliminates a federal law that capped overall donations to candidates at $48,600 and limited aggregate donations to political parties and committees at $74,600.

The Democratic dudgeon begins after the jump…

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Democrat Crist to speak and sign books at Forum Club; appeared as Republican non-author in 2009

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Crist

Former Gov. Charlie Crist will speak and sign books at an April 14 Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch at the Kravis Center.

Crist has appeared at the Forum Club before, but this will be his first time as a Democrat. He’s the Democratic frontrunner for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November.

Crist spoke to the nonpartisan luncheon society in January 2009 as Florida’s Republican governor. Foreshadowing his eventual split with the GOP, Crist in that appearance expressed optimism about the Democratic stimulus package taking shape in Washington under recently inaugurated President Barack Obama.

Crist was also scheduled to speak to the club in 2010 as a no-party candidate for U.S. Senate in a debate with Democratic Senate nominee Kendrick Meek. But Crist pulled out the day before because of a union picket of the Kravis Center. Meek also canceled.

Tickets for Crist’s speech are $35 for Forum Club members; $45 for guest tickets ordered by members; $45 for club applicant; and $60 for the general public. For tickets, call Forum Club Administrator Wendy Norris: (561) 881-9977. Mail checks to: P.O. Box 14877, North Palm Beach, FL 33408.

After the speech, Barnes & Noble will hold a book sale and signing of Crist’s book The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.

Scott blasts feds on veteran deaths, wants state to inspect VA hospitals

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 by George Bennett

With Riviera Beach VA Hospital in background, Gov. Rick Scott is flanked by Air Force Brigadier Gen. Chip Diehl (left) and Col. Chris Hart

RIVIERA BEACH — Accusing the federal government of “outrageous” stonewalling on deaths at Veterans Affairs hospitals, Gov. Rick Scott this morning said he’s asking the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to inspect veterans hospitals in the state.

The Tampa Tribune reported that delays in diagnostic testing contributed to the deaths of 19 veterans nationwide, including five in the VA region that includes Florida. But the VA has not provided further details.

“The federal government’s not answering the questions: Where did these deaths happen? What facility? What caused it? What’s the process to improve it? We deserve those answers,” Scott said during a brief appearance with the Riviera Beach VA Hospital in the background. “It’s outrageous that the federal government is not giving us those answers.”

Scott’s office released a letter to AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek asking her agency to inspect VA hospitals in the state and “publicly report these findings and ultimately drive the high-quality care Florida veterans deserve.”

Click here to read Scott’s letter.

‘Congressman who can count’? Blackjack player Schlesinger puts different spin on CPA Murphy slogan

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 by George Bennett

When Democrat Patrick Murphy ran for Congress in 2012 against Republican Rep. Allen West, he contrasted his experience as a Certified Public Accountant with West’s reputation for polarizing rhetoric.

“We need a few more people in Congress who can count, and a few less who divide,” Murphy said in one campaign ad.

Two years later, half a dozen Republicans are hoping to unseat freshman Rep. Murphy in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. One of the Republican hopefuls is Alan Schlesinger, a former legislator and mayor in Connecticut who’s also a card counter at blackjack.

“Isn’t it about time we have a congressman who can count?” Schlesinger quipped last week.

Stories about Schlesinger’s gambling caused some problems for his 2006 campaign for Senate in Connecticut. Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read Schlesinger’s explanation in this week’s Politics column.

Digital duel: Crist and Scott release new online ads while Scott has TV to himself

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by George Bennett

Charlie Crist’s new digital ad (above) and Rick Scott’s latest online offering (below).

With Republican Gov. Rick Scott already spending $4 million on statewide TV buys, Democrat Charlie Crist countered today by spending “thousands of dollars” on a digital ad that attacks Scott and defends the federal health care law.

Scott released a new digital ad as well today, this one featuring a 20-year-old cancer patient who says Scott “supports people like me” by backing funding for cancer research. The Republican Party of Florida says the new Facebook ad is “part of a more than $350,000 buy to promote Governor Scott’s message” in addition to his spending on TV.

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