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Crist gets to work at Morgan & Morgan

Friday, January 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Charlie Crist has joined the Morgan & Morgan law firm as expected.

Crist was in talks with longtime political supporter and friend John Morgan before officially leaving office this week.

Crist also said he may take a part-time job as a visiting professor at Stetson Law School in his St. Petersburg hometown.

Crist passed the Florida Bar exam on his third attempt after receiving his law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Alabama.

It’s been 18 years since Crist punched the clock at a private job.

He was first elected to the state Senate in 1992 and has been a public servant ever since.

Scott rounds out executive office

Thursday, January 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

“Outsider” Gov. Rick Scott hired several of his campaign staffers, one of his primary opponent’s campaign honchos and hung on to a few of his predecessor’s worker bees to serve in the executive office inner sanctum.

One surprise: Spencer Geissinger, a former advance man for both Presidents Bush and led Scott’s campaign advance team with military-like precision, is now Scott’s external affairs director, earning $148,000 annually, according to documents provided by Scott’s office. Geissinger owns Strategic Events Group, a Washington, D.C.-based events planning business.

Campaign aide Dean Petrone is the governor’s personal assistant at a salary of $50,000 per year.

Scott, a multimillionaire who spent at least $70 million of his own money on his campaign, is forgoing the $138,000-a-year governor’s salary and will be paid just one cent.

Here’s the executive office line-up and salaries so far:
- Special policy advisor: Mary Ann “Mac” Carter, Scott’s long-time policy advisor, $150,000.
- Chief of staff: Mike Prendergast, $150,000.
- General counsel: Erik Figlio, who served in the same role under Gov. Charlie Crist, $130,000.
- Office of Policy and Budget director: Jerry McDaniel, who also served in the same role under Crist, $150,000.
- Legislative affairs director: Jon Costello, who served as a policy advisor on Scott’s campaign, $110,000.
- Special counsel: Hayden Dempsey, $140,000.
- Deputy chief of staff: Jenn Peter Ungru, a Republican Party operative, $100,000.
- Deputy chief of staff: Carrie O’Rourke, who was Scott’s GOP primary opponent Bill McCollum‘s campaign finance director, $100,000.
- Executive deputy chief of staff: Fritz Brogan, who served on Scott’s transition team, $80,000.
- Director of executive staff: Diane Moulton, keeping the same job she had for Crist, $95,000.
- Director of open government: Carolyn Timmann, who was Crist’s executive deputy chief of staff, $90,000.

It’s official – Rick Scott Florida’s 45th governor

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Accompanied by his wife and daughter, Rick Scott was sworn in as the state’s 45th governor under gray skies on the steps of the Old Capitol shortly before noon.

Scott was sworn in at 11:56 a.m. by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady followed by a 19-gun salute and a flyover by F-15s from the 125th Fighter Wing of the National Guard.

Country music star Lee Greenwood highlighted the day’s patriotic theme with his performance of “God Bless the USA” and “Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Flies.”

Former Govs. Jeb Bush, Claude Kirk and Bob Martinez – all Republicans – joined Scott and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll for the swearing-in ceremonies. Former Democratic Govs. Bob Graham, Buddy MacKay and Reubin Askew did not attend.

Outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, sat in the front row next to Scott’s mother Esther, and handed the seal of the state to Scott. Carole Crist was not present.

Some of the state’s most prominent lobbyists – big donors to Scott’s inaugural campaign – scored the best seats in the house after coughing up nearly $4 million for the week-long festivities culminating with a black-tie gala tonight. Among them: Brian Ballard, Mike Hightower, Billy Rubin, Bob Coker and Barney Bishop.

Leading up to Scott’s swearing-in, the Florida National Guard Army band played a medley of military tunes including the confederate anthem “Dixie,” considered by some to be offensive and banned from many school activities in Southern states.

Crist asks feds for disaster declaration

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist is seeking a federal emergency disaster declaration for nearly three dozen Florida counties, including Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie, impacted by severe cold weather and frost.

The disaster would allow farmers and other agricultural business owners to access federal disaster funds to cover the losses from damaged crops.

State officials estimate the cold snap caused at least $270 million in economic losses.

Vivian Myrtetus sets up PR shop

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Public relations doyenne Vivian Myrtetus, Gov. Charlie Crist‘s former spokeswoman, is setting up her own communications shop after leaving U.S. Sen. George LeMieux‘s office in Washington.

Myrtetus worked on Crist’s campaign for governor and served in a variety of other PR posts in Florida government before going to work for LeMieux after Crist appointed him to fill in for U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who retired early.

Myrtetus’ Beacon Communications Group in Tallahassee will go up against a cadre of other former governors’ press secretaries PR firms, including Ron Sachs and April Herrle, who both served under the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Sunshine guru Pat Gleason goes back to AG office

Friday, December 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Pat Gleason, the veritable font of all government in the sunshine knowledge, is going back to work at the attorney general’s’ office, this time for AG-elect Pam Bondi.

Gleason is currently serving as Gov. Charlie Crist’s special counsel in the Office of Open Government and has for years been the go-to lawyer on matters regarding Florida’s broad Sunshine laws.

“Pat is a leading authority in our state on open government and public records, and I am honored to have her join my administration,” Bondi said in a press release. “We have worked together for over a decade, and I have the highest respect for her work ethic, integrity and the transparency she brings to the government process.”

Jim Morrison bandmates demand apology, not pardon

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet’s pardon of the late iconic rocker Jim Morrison nearly 40 years after his death wasn’t enough, his Doors bandmates are saying.

In fact, it was unnecessary, The Doors’ remaining members Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger contend, because Morrison never did what he was accused of.

“Four decades after the fact, with Jim an icon for multiple generations – and those who railed against him now a laughingstock – Florida has seen fit to issue a pardon,” the band members and the Morrison family wrote in a press release. “We don’t feel Jim needs to be pardoned for anything.”

What they want instead is an apology.

“If the State of Florida and the City of Miami want to make amends for the travesty of Jim Morrison’s arrest and prosecution forty years after the fact, an apology would be more appropriate – and expunging the whole sorry matter from the record,” they wrote.

Morrison was convicted after police reported he taunted a crowd March 1969, at the now-defunct Dinner Key auditorium in Miami with verbal sexual come-ons and simulated oral sex, then pulled down his pants and exposing himself to thousands of fans. He was convicted in 1970 of public profanity and indecent exposure and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

He died in a Paris bathtub in 1971 while his appeal was pending.

Read the entire press release after the jump.
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Ag commish-elect Putnam administration set to go

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam has his new team ready to go with less than two weeks until he takes office on Jan. 4.

Putnam has hired Sterling Ivey, who’s been Gov. Charlie Crist’s spokesman since Crist took office, as his press secretary. Ivey also served as spokesman for the Department of State under Gov. Jeb Bush.

Putnam’s tapped more than a dozen long-serving government workers such as his chief of staff Mike Joyner, who spent more than 25 years working for the state including a stint as chief of staff at the Department of Environmental Protection.

And Putnam’s hanging on to several of current Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson’s employees, many of whom have worked in the department for years.

See who’s on Putnam’s administrative team after the jump. (more…)

Hardball’s Matthews tells Crist ‘You’re not a Reagan Republican’

Monday, December 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball this evening after attending the startup “No Labels” nonpartisan political group meeting in D.C. today.

Crist responded to Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s flat-out rejection of compromise (“I reject the word”) on 60 Minutes.

“It’s unbelievable,” Crist, an independent, told Hardball host Chris Matthews.

“To have common sense means that you have to compromise, trying to do what’s right for the people instead of the party. I think what you see is evidence of the fact that there are certain segments of both parties that view compromise as a dirty word. And if you say you’re willing to compromise, in other words use common sense, try to do what’s right for the people instead of the party, then you may get shunned by your political party,” said Crist, who was indeed shunned by Florida Republican leaders after dumping the party and running as an independent for U.S. Senate. Crist lost to Republican Marco Rubio.

Matthews called Crist an Eisenhower Republican, prompting Crist to identify himself with other moderate Republicans, including Ronald Reagan.

Matthews interrupted him.

“No, no you’re not a Reagan Republican. No you’re not,” Matthews insisted.

Crist pointed out that Reagan and then-U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, worked together despite their ideological and political differences.

“They had the common sense and the civility to be able to get together after hours, a couple of Irishmen, and have a cold one,” Crist said. “We have to get back to that point where there can be personal relationships where some people in one party and those in another party are really treated as traitors if they dare to break bread with somebody else. Especially in this season, that’s just not the right thing to do. We need to come together for the country and put the country ahead of the party in order for the people to be victorious in the end.”
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Sink ‘wins’ MSNBC ‘Worst Candidate of 2010′ award

Monday, December 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Two top-tier Florida candidates – Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink – won the dubious distinction of making MSNBC’s “Worst Candidate of 2010″ list this morning.

Crist – an independent who jumped the GOP ship when it looked like he couldn’t win a primary against Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race – and Sink – a Democrat who lost her bid for governor to Republican Rick Scott – were named as two of the three “worst candidates” by MSNBC hosts Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie.

But the worst of the worst, according to MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” hosts?

Sink.

“You lost to a guy who defrauded Medicare,” Todd said when announcing the “winner, pausing for effect. “In Florida! Okay? More people on Medicare in Florida than maybe any other state.”

Scott started up and was CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain that wound up paying an historic fine to the federal government – $1.7 billion – for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Crist, clemency board give ‘Lizard King’ redemption

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Whether or not the “Lizard King” unzipped his pants and exposed himself to a crowd of thousands more than 40 years ago remains a mystery.

Jim Morrison’s alleged antics will remain forever a part of the late rocker’s legacy.

But the charges against him for indecent exposure and public intoxication won’t.

Gov. Charlie Crist, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Attorney General Bill McCollum, acting as the state Clemency Board, granted Morrison, the lead singer of “The Doors,” a pardon Thursday afternoon as one of their final acts as a panel before leaving office.

Should Jim Morrison have been pardoned?

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Former Miami cop shows up to protest Morrison pardon

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

An angry former Miami cop showed up at the Capitol today to protest Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Clemency Board’s expected pardon of the late “Lizard King” rocker Jim Morrison.

Angel Lago said he served on the police force with the Theodore Seaman, the officer who charged Morrison with indecent exposure and public profanity, and that the pardon is an insult to Seaman’s reputation because it implies that Seaman lied in his arrest report.

Lago, who said he retired from the police force because he is disabled, said that Morrison, who was found dead in a Paris bathtub from an apparent overdose, does not deserve to be exonerated.

“What example are we giving our children? Party hearty and die young?” an angry Lago said. “All Mr. Morrison ever did was do drugs and sing songs.”

GOP fundraiser admits guilt in corruption case, says he steered $82K to Mandy Dawson

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Alan Mendelsohn, an influential South Florida eye doctor and prominent GOP fundraiser, admitted in court this morning that he steered $82,000 to former state Sen. Mandy Dawson while she was in office.

Mendelsohn, who pleaded guilty in a federal corruption case, also admitted he skimmed more than $300,000 from political committees he oversaw and failed to report more than $600,000 in taxable income from his lobbying and medical work.

Mendelsohn, a member of Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2006 transition team, said in court today he paid $82,000 to a close friend of Dawson’s and that the money was funneled to the Ft. Lauderdale Democrat whose district included part of Palm Beach County.

Read the full story here.

Crist, clemency board express “profound regret” to Freedom Fighters

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Nearly 50 years after civil rights struggles rocked St. Augustine, Gov. Charlie Crist and the rest of the state Clemency Board issued an apology to hundreds of black activists – some of them schoolchildren -as their first action at their final meeting this morning.

Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson approved the resolution expressing “profound regret” and clearing the way for hundreds of civil rights activists arrested in 1963 and 1964 to have their records expunged.

“I think it makes a great statement about where Florida is today versus where part of Florida was back then,” Crist said this morning.

Sen. Tony Hill, a black Democrat from Jacksonville, asked Crist to sponsor the resolution after he failed to convince lawmakers to pass a bill clearing the civil rights activists’ records.

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Crist asks for agency heads’ resignations

Friday, November 19th, 2010 by Dara Kam

In a typical move as he prepares to leave office, Gov. Charlie Crist today asked for the resignations of his agency heads, their senior staff and Crist’s own workers.

“In an effort to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for Governor-elect Rick Scott’s executive and management team, I requested today letters of resignation from my senior executive staff, agency heads and their management teams, as well as all staff within the Executive Office of the Governor,” Crist said in a statement.

“There is no greater calling than to serve others, and I thank each of the dedicated public servants of my administration for their service to the people of Florida. The efficient transition from one leader to another is a testament to our nation’s democracy, and my administration stands ready and willing to assist as needed,” he wrote.

Scott’s amassed a transition team of more than a hundred individuals from Florida and throughout the country as he prepares to take office on Jan. 4.

Gov.-elect Scott resurrects inaugural ball

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov.-elect Rick Scott will revive the inaugural ball, a fete abandoned by Gov. Charlie Crist four years ago, as part of his two-day celebration of the Republican’s election as the state’s 45th governor.

Tickets for the event will cost $95, according to members of Scott’s inaugural team. Crist originally planned a ball after his 2006 election, but canceled the event after an outcry over the so-called “people’s governor” collecting contributions for the fancy-dress event during a time of economic crisis for the state.

Scott, who spent at least $73 million of his own vast fortune to finance his campaign for governor, is also hosting a variety of free events, including a youth concert, an event for military families and an event geared toward honoring the historic election of the state’s first black lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, and first female attorney general, Pam Bondi.

“The people of Florida have plenty to celebrate with the inauguration of our state’s next governor, including the implementation of an aggressive jobs plan and a new focus on revitalizing the state’s economy. Floridians are invited to participate in the Inaugural festivities, many free and open to the public, as Rick Scott prepares to forge a new path towards prosperity for all Floridians. We look forward to announcing event details in the coming weeks,” Scott’s inaugural committee spokeswoman Erin Isaac said in an e-mail.
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Under pressure, GOP lawmakers drop two bills from special session

Monday, November 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon dropped two suddenly contentious bills from their veto override list after objections from Gov.-elect Rick Scott and GOP donors.

One of the measures (HB 5611) would have taken power away from the governor by removing the Department of Management Services from the executive branch and putting the agency under the governor and Cabinet.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill this summer saying it was an encroachment of executive powers. Lawmakers gave the bill received near-unanimous consent this spring.

Cannon and Haridopolos said as late as last week that it was not a power-grab by the legislature, but Haridopolos said Scott asked him this weekend to drop the override.

The other measure would have imposed new restrictions on doctors’ repackaging of prescriptions and would have lowered workers’ comp costs for the state and private companies.

But Automated Healthcare Solutions, a Miramar company headed by two South Florida doctors, supported the veto and spent $1 million on political committees headed by Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and Cannon, R-Orlando, this summer.

Associated Industries of Florida, which supported the override and is also a major contributor to GOP campaigns, was one of the many business groups opposed to the legislation.

Scott gets lay of the land in future digs

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov.-elect Rick Scott scoped out the Capitol today for the first time since his election one week ago, meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon and staying on message about “getting the state back to work.”

A tight-lipped Scott took few questions from reporters after meeting briefly with Cannon, R-Orlando, and Crist, who said he and his successor had “a great talk.”

Scott said he asked Crist for his best advice on being the leader of the nation’s fourth-largest state.

“First thing he said was follow your heart, which makes all the sense in the world to me,” Scott told reporters during a brief photo op with Crist.

Scott said he has no problem with a bill lawmakers plan to override during a special session Tuesday that takes power away from the executive branch agencies’ ability to promulgate rules.

“I don’t think anybody’s trying to go after my power. They’re following through on things they believe in,” Scott said.

And the governor-elect said he has no plans to ask lawmakers to include an Arizona-like immigration reform bill during their one-day special session next week.

Instead, he launched into his campaign refrain about creating jobs.
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Special session on the day new leadership takes over legislature

Thursday, November 4th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Now that they’ve got a veto-proof majority in both the state House and Senate, GOP legislative leaders will override nine bills axed by Gov. Charlie Crist earlier this year as their first course of business later this month.

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon are holding the special session on the day they officially take over their chambers during the typically ceremonial organizational session beginning Nov. 16.

“We chose issues that had one or two negative votes, most, in the Senate, most of them unanimous,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters this morning. “Once we take these off the table, we can focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, because that’s what people care about.”

Lawmakers steered clear of two controversial measures – a bill that would have required pregnant women to view a sonogram before having an abortion and a measure (SB 6) that would have done away with teacher tenure.

Instead, most of the nine bills they selected received unanimous or near-unanimous approval.

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Bush star power with Scott and GOP Cabinet slate in Orlando

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

ORLANDO _ Florida GOP political icon Jeb Bush pumped up support for the Republican statewide candidates at a rally in Orlando this morning.

About 150 supporters crowded into a hangar at a private airport in Orlando to cheer on gubernatorial candidate, who made the Orlando event his first on the fifth day of his week-long statewide bus tour.

“There’s a cloud on our state. I think there’s a lot of pessimism in our state right now. I think we need a can-do leader that lifts the cloud,” Bush said in his introduction of Rick Scott. “I want a tax cutting, budget cutting, job creating governor and Rick Scott is the one.”

The rally was the first event on the fifth day of Scott’s week-long statewide sweep leading up to Election Day.

Bush and his lieutenant governor pumped up the crowd for the GOP Cabinet slate, who also joined Scott on the platform with Bush and his former lieutenant governor Toni Jennins.

Scott kept to his jobs, jobs, jobs theme in a brief speech before heading to a Tea Party rally in Jacksonville.

“All of us up here know we create jobs by getting government out of your life…and an attitude that business people are the lifeblood of the country,” he said.

Bush praised Scott to reporters after the brief event.

“I think he’s the right guy for the right time,” he said.

Bush said he was disappointed in Gov. Charlie Crist, who abandoned the GOP to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

“He responds to heat and light” rather than being true to his core convictions, Bush said.

Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink is slated to be in Orlando later this morning.

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