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Big lobbyist turnout at high-security Scott fete

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Some of Tallahassee’s most powerful lobbyists crowded into the ballroom at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina for “outsider” GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott’s election night party, including those once bankrolling his primary opponent Bill McCollum’s campaign.

Scott, who campaigned as an “outsider,” defeated the attorney general after a brutal primary campaign, not unlike his general race against Democrat Alex Sink.

Scott’s imposing security staff blocked off hallways at the waterfront marina and hotel and even employees complained about the restrictions. One hotel guest trying to leave the property had to plead with Scott’s bouncers to let him leave without walking around the entire hotel to get to his car.

The movers-and-shakers in attendance included Fred Leonhardt, who was on McCollum’s finance committee, and donors who contributed at least $100,000 to Scott’s campaign.

Others on the A-list getting an early foot in the door with Scott included Ron Book, Billy Rubin, Dave Ramba, Jim Eaton, Pat Malloy, Jennifer Green, and U.S. Sugar’s Robert Coker.

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, a handful of other GOP legislators and former RPOF executive director Will McKinley and former RPOF fundraiser are also in the house.

LeMieux joins Scott for some Palm Beach BBQ Monday; Clinton visit includes Sink

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will join Rick Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll in West Palm Beach for some (more) barbecue at the Park Avenue BBQ and Grille around noon tomorrow.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates will also visit their campaign headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale and a school in Davie before a homecoming party in Naples Monday evening capping Scott’s weeklong tour of the state leading up to Election Day.

Scott’s campaign rented the Cambier Park Bandshell and will have a live band to greet Scott, who moved to Naples seven years ago. Scott and his wife Ann’s pals Wayne and Susan Mullican, who joined the Scott family on the bus tour Sunday, took out a full page ad in the Naples Daily News to advertise the event.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Alex Sink will be onstage with the most sought-after Democrats nationwide tomorrow evening: Former president Bill Clinton, who’ll be in the Sunshine State stumping for pal Kendrick Meek. Clinton’s visit – his twelfth for Meek’s U.S. Senate bid – comes after a shakeup over reports that Clinton tried to persuade Meek to drop out of the U.S. Senate race.

Bob Graham and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will also campaign for Sink in Ft. Myers on Monday, but not only AFTER Scott has already left town.

Scott bus tour day 5: field trips, Jeb!, Haley and tea

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott bookended two GOP rock stars between a Tea Party rally and a private screening of the education documentary “Waiting for Superman” on Day 5 of his statewide bus tour as the clock ticks down until Election Day.

Rick Scott and RGA head Gov. Haley Barbourdd

Former Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the day with a rally for the GOP Cabinet slate and gubernatorial candidate Scott at an airport hangar in Orlando.

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

Scott capped off the day-long flyaround on a chartered plane with a rally near Tampa starring Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the head of the National Governor’s Association. (more…)

UPDATE: New Scott ad bashes Sink over ‘Debate-gate’

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Alex Sink campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin slams Scott for new TV ad.

“The ad’s a fraud. Rick Scott is a fraud. All of his attack ads in this campaign have been judged to be false,” McLaughlin said. “If it wasn’t this debate flap it would be something else because he makes these up. They are fabrications just like his entire Medicare fraud scheme was against the government and the taxpayers.”

GOP governor hopeful Rick Scott released a new television ad hammering Democratic opponent Alex Sink for breaking the rules during Monday night’s debate.

The ad begins with a clip of Sink featured in one of her own TV ads saying: “And if someone lies or cheats, I hold them accountable.”

“Cheating. Roll the tape,” a voiceover says then launches into a series of television news clips discussing Sink’s breach.

Scott, who dropped another $1.5 million into his campaign this week, began running the ad statewide today, just five days before Tuesday’s election.

Sink set off a firestorm after apparently reading a cell phone message during a commercial break at the debate Monday night. Scott went after her during the debate for breaking the rules, and Sink quickly fired her campaign aide who sent it. Both candidates had agreed not to have any communications with their staff during the hour-long face-off.

Sink went on the left-leaning MSNBC show Hardball Tuesday night to defend herself, saying she thought the call may have been from her 18-year-old daughter who is out of the country.

CNN later reported that an examination of the audio showed that Sink was told by the hairdresser who handed her a cell phone that the message was from staff before Sink read it. Sink’s campaign did their own audio analysis that found CNN’s conclusions were wrong.

The release of the statewide ad Thursday came as a surprise.

Scott, on the third day of a week-long sweep of the state, has said repeatedly that his campaign had already purchased all of its television air time and did not intend to ad any new advertisements and has instead been releasing web-based ads as well as radio.

Scott heckler voting for Crist

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A heckler interrupted Rick Scott’s stump speech in Melbourne this morning for the first time since the GOP gubernatorial candidate kicked off a week-long sweep of the state leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Joseph Concannon didn’t have far to go to voice his dissatisfaction with Scott. Concannon works at Buz’s Automotive repair shop next door to That Little Restaurant where Scott’s caravan made a brief stop.

Scott ignored the interruption as he introduced one of his two daughters to a small gathering of supporters.

“Does she know you’re a crook? We do,” Concannon yelled.

Concannon said he was referring to the $1.7 billion fine Columbia/HCA paid to the federal government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud shortly after Scott was forced out as CEO of the hospital chain he founded.

Concannon was on a cell phone talking to his wife, Stephanie Hosala, a member of the local Democratic Executive Committee. He said she didn’t ask him to come to Scott’s event but he went over to voice his opinion when he saw Scott’s bus arrive.

Concannon conferred with his wife when asked who he backs in the U.S. Senate race.

“Charlie Crist,” he answered.

When asked why he wasn’t voting for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat vying with independent Crist for his party’s votes, Concannon repeated the answer his spouse apparently gave him.

“Meek is so far behind he doesn’t have a chance,” the Palm Bay resident said.

Scott celebrity star power – his mom

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Esther Scott with a Rick Scott supporter in Okeechobee

Folks throughout the small towns GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott is visiting on a week-long sweep of the state before election day are lining up to have their picture taken with the celebrity.

Not Scott. His mother, Esther, who’s visage has become familiar to Floridians on a television ad in which she assures voters that her son is a good boy.

Scott’s usual introduction of his mother runs along the lines of what he told a crowd at a pancake breakfast at his first stop this morning in Okeechobee.

“On those commercials she seems really nice,” Scott said. “She wasn’t. There was a reason I joined the military so young.”

“I’m just really glad my mom didn’t get on the ballot. I don’t think I’d win. I think she’d win,” Scott joked with the crowd at his next stop in Lake Placid.

Esther Scott is greeted wherever she goes, including at a pit stop on the turnpike where travelers posed for pictures with the 82-year-old great-grandmother.

Scott’s schedule today includes visits to Lakeland and Daytona Beach, where he’ll be joined by U.S. Sen. John Thune, the Republican who defeated former Sen. Tom Daschle and who’s rumored to be a possible presidential candidate in 2012. Scott will also be fundraising in Miami this evening.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Alex Sink will attend early vote rallies in Ft. Myers, Ft. Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Orlando.

New Scott radio ad: ‘Cheating. Hilarious.’

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

It didn’t take long for Republican Rick Scott’s campaign to make political hay out of Democrat Alex Sink’s “Debate-gate” gaffe at Monday night’s debate.

His campaign released a new radio ad poking fun at Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, for breaking the rules by taking a message from campaign aide Brian May, an insurance industry lobbyist who left his business to work for Sink.

Listen to Scott’s “She Cheated” ad.

Here’s part of the transcript:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?”

“You mean when CNN caught her breaking the debate rules and getting a note from her coach?”

“Cheating. Hilarious.”

“Here’s what’s not funny. Alex Sink’s debate coach…is a lobbyist.”

“The same guy who gave her the note in the debate?”

“Yep. He’s a lobbyist for the insurance industry that Sink is supposed to be regulating.”

Sink defends herself on MSNBC, gives conflicting explanation of ‘Debate-gate’

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Alex Sink appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball today to defend herself about breaking the rules during last night’s CNN debate by reading a cell phone message during a break.

But Sink’s explanation conflicts with an audio analysis of what transpired between the Democratic candidate for governor and the makeup artist who handed her a cell phone with a text message. Sink read the message, violating the debate rules she and opponent Rick Scott agreed to barring any contact with staff during the hour-long debate.

“Well, what happened was, Chris, last night that the makeup artist held up her phone and said I just got this message, I don’t know who it’s from. I looked at it because, you know, I’m a mom. My instinct is my daughter’s in Europe. I don’t know who this mefor governor’s message is from. I glanced at it. I didn’t understand even what it was, and I just ignored it,” Sink told the news show host Chris Matthews.

But CNN’s John King, who moderated Monday’s debate in Tampa, gave a different account of what happened.

On CNN on Tuesday, King said that the network analyzed the video of what Scott’s camp is calling “iCheat.”
“We listened to the audio very carefully and the makeup artist when she approached Alex Sink said she had a message from the staff, and it was two sentences and advice saying that if that question comes up, say this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you and it is clear she looked down to read it and candidate Scott called her out, and it is clear that she cheated in the final exam,” King said.

Scott campaign abuzz about Sink’s phone gaffe

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott campaign staff were buzzing all day following news reports, tweets and Internet blog posts about Democratic opponent Alex Sink’s cell phone gaffe during last night’s debate.

Scott supporters used Sink’s flub to rev up the crowds at campaign appearances from New Port Richey to Okeechobee on Tuesday.

“Did you watch the debate last night?” Dick Windle, Citrus County Republican Executive Committee Chairman, asked a crowd of about 100 supporters at a barbecue in Inverness. “We caught her playing a little hanky-panky there.”

About an hour later, The Villages public relations executive Gary Lester again asked a gathering of about the same size about the debate.

“Rick’s opponent got caught cheating in the debate last night. Did you hear?” he said.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform who traveled with Scott throughout the day, got the biggest laugh.

“I’ve watched western movies so I knew, I knew that you could cheat at cards. But until last night I didn’t know you could cheat in a debate. But evidently Alex Sink has figured out how to do that,” Norquist quipped.

Scott campaign welcomes Sink snooper

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott’s campaign took a far different tack with a videographer on GOP gubernatorial candidate’s trail than Republican Congressional hopeful Allen West.

West, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Ron Klein, supporters were videotaped pressuring a Democratic operative to leave a rally.

But Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll were unfazed by the young man with a video camera who shadowed the candidates throughout the first day of a week-long bus tour and apparently has been a constant presence on the campaign trail.

Carroll pointed out the man in the crowd at a barbecue lunch stop in Inverness where she and Scott handed out pulled pork sandwiches to dozens of supporters.

Carroll identified him to the crowd as a campaign worker for Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink and invited him to join in the festivities. One of the GOP candidates’ staffers even offered him a bottle of water and a sandwich.

“Hopefully, you’ll be able to take some information back so she can run a government,” Carroll quipped.

At the next stop in The Villages, Carroll recognized him again and asked him to raise his hand. The videographer obliged.

“Show Alex Sink how government should be run,” Carroll advised.

Sink’s campaign referred questions about Scott’s tracker to the Florida Democratic Party.

“We as a policy don’t release his name – but I can tell you he works for the Florida Democratic Party not the Sink Campaign,” FDP spokesman Eric Jotkoff said in an e-mail.

Confident Scott: ‘I was shocked!’ over Sink iCheat

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

SPRING HILL – A beaming Rick Scott kicked off a seven-day sweep of Florida leading up to Election Day assuring supporters in Pasco and Hernando counties of the Republican’s victory over Democratic gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink and taking the high road over Sink’s cell phone faux pas during last night’s debate.

Scott’s bus tour began with an unexpected boost – the “iCheat” scandal that cast a cloud over Sink’s campaign. Sink broke the rules by taking an electronic message on a cell phone during a commercial break during the last of two live televised debates. Sink later fired the aide who sent her the message.

“I was shocked. I mean, I was shocked. You know the rules. You follow the rules,” Scott said with a look of disbelief when questioned by reporters early Tuesday morning. “She knew the rules. If somebody came in and tried to show me an e-mail I’d have said look, those aren’t the rules.”

Sink took the message after hammering Scott for a lack of integrity evidenced by his former hospital chain’s $1.7 billion fine for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Scott quickly used Sink’s cell phone incident to strike back at his opponent for ducking questions about her own business transgressions, including a $1.65 million fine paid by her former bank for selling risky securities to investors, many of whom were seniors.

“It’s pretty consistent. She knew the rules. She didn’t have to read the e-mail. She did. That’s what she does. She never takes responsibility personally for what she does…She just fires people,” he said.

When asked if he would have fired his aide as Sink did, Scott didn’t miss a beat.

“I wouldn’t have read the e-mail,” he said. (more…)

Nelson: Sink will win by a wide margin

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, on the stump with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink this afternoon, exuded confidence over the chief financial officer’s chances of defeating GOP opponent Rick Scott next month.

Although recent polls have showed the candidates neck-and-neck, Nelson insisted Sink would win.

“I think she is ahead now. She is ahead in the polls. And I think by the time all these ballots that have been counted on election night…She’ll win by seven points or more,” Nelson said.

McCollum endorses Scott for governor…finally

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

After more than two months since GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott defeated him in a brutal primary election, Attorney General Bill McCollum finally came out in support of his one-time foe.

“Florida is facing a critical time. Our state needs conservative leaders who will grow our economy and create jobs. We need merit pay and an end to teacher tenure in our public schools, major litigation reform, smaller government, low taxes and a repeal of Obamacare. With this in mind, I will cast my vote for Rick Scott for Governor. It’s the better choice for Florida,” McCollum’s less-than-enthusiastic statement, released by the Republican Party of Sarasota, read.

McCollum, at one point a shoe-in for the nomination, lost the GOP primary after Scott spent $50 million of his own fortune on campaign ads attacking the former Congressman for being a Washington insider.

McCollum said recently he would not endorse Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink, in part because she supports the federal health care law over which McCollum has sued the federal government.

A federal judge recently allowed McCollum’s lawsuit to proceed.

McCollum was the final holdout among state GOP leaders who at one point pilloried Scott, who was forced out of the hospital chain he founded shortly before Columbia/HCA was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government for Medicare fraud.

Sink courts rural cross-over vote

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Alex Sink with supporters in Perry on Friday, Oct. 22

PERRY – Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink will spend the day wooing small-town Floridians in an effort to get crossover voters to cast their ballot for the Democrat with early voting already underway for a race considered a toss-up.

Sink began her day in the Big Bend by appealing to a few dozen supporters at downtown Joyce’s Main Street Cafe.

There, she pleaded with Taylor County voters to give her the same 56 percent win she earned there four years ago in her bid to become the state’s chief financial officer.

“I expect and hope that we’ll get about that much again,” Sink said.

Sink spoke broadly about her plans to jumpstart the state’s economy on the same day Florida’s latest unemployment figures showed a slight increase – 11.9 percent – from the previous month.

Sink said she supports giving tax credits to businesses that hire Floridians and wants to defer business taxes for start-up companies for up to three years.

Accompanied by her son Bert McBride, Sink boasted that she would be the only governor in 12 years whose two children graduated from Florida public schools.

Sink said it is her dream that her children, who both attend out-of-state universities, will one day, “They call me up and say, ”Mom, I’m coming back to Florida because I’ve got a great job lined up.”


Scott campaign pre-debate stunt: Sink ‘Rolodex’

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott’s campaign staff quietly passed out black index card boxes labeled “Sink” to reporters biding their time until tonight’s gubernatorial debate kicks off at Nova University at 7 p.m.

“Sink has long been one of those behind-the-scenes players whose money and Rolodex help get people elected,” reads a quote from the St. Petersburg Times from 2002 taped to the top of the box.

Inside, Alex Sink’s fake files include a variety of familiar names and their pseudo-associations to Scott’s Democratic opponent.

“Barack Obama” is listed as Sink’s “chief policy advisor.” Bill Clinton? Her “finance and policy advisor.” Sink’s husband Bill McBride is included as “hubby and chair, Trial Lawyers for Sink.”

The candidates will go mano-a-mano live for the first time this evening at the debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

At their only previous debate, a taped Univision event earlier this month, Scott’s campaign staff handed out whoopee cushions before the match began.

Scott and Sink will go at it again for their second live debate on Oct. 25.

New Scott ad fries felon-friendly Sink

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott released a new ad attacking Democratic opponent Alex Sink for licensing felons as insurance agents although a recent court ruling found Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, is too harsh on the ex-criminals.

Scott’s campaign released the ad the day of the duo’s first live televised debate set to begin at 7 p.m tonight. His campaign staff first handed out information about Sink licensing felons at their first match-up in Miami at a taped Univision debate on Oct. 8.

The ad claims that Sink “had broad discretion to withhold a license…but after 3 days of searching could not name one case in which she used that authority.”

But civil rights experts and Sink’s staff insist that she has limited authority to withhold the licenses and a judge decided that Sink’s waiting periods before felons are eligible to get licenses is too long. Her office has appealed that ruling.

Read The Palm Beach Post story about the licenses here.

PBS/League of Women voters scraps debates because GOP candidates are no-shows

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The League of Women Voters and PBS canceled debates between the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates because GOP candidates Marco Rubio and Rick Scott refused to participate.

The League’s president Deidre MacNab said the debate, scheduled for Oct. 14, would have been the only one to reach all television viewers throughout the state.

The League could not get Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent U.S. Senate candidate, to confirm to appear either, MacNab said, meaning only U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat in the three-way U.S. Senate race, had agreed to show up.


Argenziano quits utility reg panel, endorses Sink

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Nancy Argenziano resigned from the Florida Public Service Commission to endorse Alex Sink for governor, she told reporters this afternoon.

The life-long Republican and former lawmaker said today would be her final day on the utility regulatory panel, where she was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist nearly four years ago.

A fired-up Argenziano, an outspoken critic of GOP leaders of the Florida Legislature, said she was quitting so she could speak out in favor of Sink, a Democrat.

“I cannot imagine a more noxious mix of government than that which the legislative leaders and Rick Scott concoction would produce,” Argenziano said. “I’m terrified if Rick Scott became governor…With Alex Sink, I do believe she has integrity.

Argenziano was passed over for reappointment by a panel of lawmakers that give a list of candidates to the governor for appointment. Her term would have ended in three months.

Sink two-minute ad goes after Scott on fraud

Monday, October 11th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida Democrats are running an unusual, two-minute campaign ad slamming GOP governor candidate Rick Scott for fraud charges and fines against his health care companies.

The ad, “Fraud Files,” mimics TV crime shows and is styled as an investigative piece on the $1.7 billion in Medicare fraud fines paid by HCA/Columbia, the company Scott founded, and questions about a federal investigation into another Scott health care company, Solantic.

The ad makes much of Scott’s use 77 times of the Fifth Amendment in a deposition he made six days before announcing he was running for governor. Scott has refused to release a videotape of the deposition.

Scott’s opponent Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, held a press conference in Tampa announcing the release of the ad, which will run in the Tampa Bay area during nightly news programs.

Scott releases tax returns, Sink says not good enough

Saturday, October 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Self-made millionaire and GOP governor hopeful Rick Scott released his tax returns late Friday evening.

The three years of tax returns for Scott and his wife Ann show that they paid more in taxes – nearly $3.7 million – than his Democrat opponent Alex Sink and her husband reported as their total adjusted gross income, $2.9 million.

Scott’s release of the 412 pages of documents includes a side-by-side comparison of his earnings and tax payments with Sink and her husband’s, apparently to illustrate that he’s the bigger taxpayer.

But, according to Scott’s analysis, he and his wife paid a lower percentage of their adjusted gross income from 2007-2009. The Scotts paid 14.6 percent and Sink and McBride, who filed separately, paid a combined rate of 15.8 percent.

Sink’s been after Scott, who made his millions as the founder and CEO of the HCA/Columbia hospital chain, to release five years of his tax returns as she did last month.

But Friday night’s reports didn’t satisfy her campaign.

They want to know why he didn’t release the full five years worth of returns as he previously said he would.

“The list of why Rick Scott can’t be trusted keeps getting longer and longer, and not following through with his promise to release a full five years of his taxes is the latest example of not following through on his word and just another reason why he’s not fit to govern this state,” Sink campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said in a press release.

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