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Atwater gets Democratic challenger

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Democratic candidate said Thursday he plans to challenge Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Palm Beach Gardens state lawmaker in his first term.

Allie Braswell, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League and an ex-Marine, plans to take on Atwater, who was Florida’s leading statewide vote-getter in the 2010 election. Atwater also is a robust fund-raiser but Braswell says he will run against Tallahassee.

“We need a leader who will help protect taxpayers by cracking down on huge contracts that politicians are handing over to their supporters and political allies,” Braswell said. ”I’ll be a fiscal watchdog who will hold our government and politicians accountable and fight to shift the focus of our leaders away from helping their friends and back to attracting good jobs to Florida.”

An Atwater spokesman, Brian Hughes, said Democrats are jumping the gun with Braswell’s announcement.

“Mr. Braswell and Democrats want to focus on politics well over a year before Election Day,” Hughes said.  “Jeff Atwater is focused on serving Floridians by working to bring relief to insurance ratepayers and fighting the consumer fraud that steals from seniors and families.”

 

 

 

Mack supporters demand LeMieux go away to ‘benefit the entire party’

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Political and financial heavy-weights backing U.S. Rep. Connie Mack are asking George LeMieux step out of the U.S. Senate race, a “difficult and selfless step toward unifying our party now.”

Mack supporters sent a letter to LeMieux saying that with Mack leading in the polls, it’s time for LeMieux to drop out.

“Your withdrawal from the election and endorsement of Connie would be of great benefit to the entire Party as we turn now to the fall elections and unify behind our shared goal of stopping President Obama and Senator Nelson from doing any more damage to our state and country. We thank you for your dedicated service to our Party, and hope that you will not only recognize how important it is for conservatives to win in November, but that you will take the difficult and selfless step toward unifying our Party now,” the group wrote.

The ask comes just days after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said some influential GOP’ers are trying to convince him to throw his hat into the race because they’re dissatisfied with both LeMieux and Mack and are worried that neither can oust incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix responded with a swipe at Mack.

“With Mack the Fourth’s history of violence and financial misconduct, voters will no doubt realize he lacks the maturity to be a United States Senator. George LeMieux is the only candidate who can defeat Bill Nelson in November and end Harry Reid’s reign as Majority Leader,” Nix said in a statement.

Read the entire letter after the jump.
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PIP: Scott ‘arm bending’ works. DLP ‘phoney-baloney’ rant. Negron ‘not a home-and-away’ game.

Friday, March 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott scored a huge victory late Friday night when the Florida Senate signed off on a last-ditch effort to crack down on personal injury protection fraud.

By a narrow 21-19 vote, the once-again divided Senate agreed to the compromise language passed earlier this evening by the House, and then passed the measure (HB 119) 22-17.

But the vote elicited rebukes from some senators who wanted the upper chamber to stand its ground and refuse to concur with the proposal – crafted largely by insurance industry lobbyists – in a debate highlighted by a stemwinder by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.

Diaz de la Portilla, a lawyer, repeatedly called the deal a “phoney baloney” attempt to combat fraud and pilloried the House for bowing to powerful insurance lobbyists and the governor, who made PIP reform his top priority this legislative session. Diaz de la Portilla had convinced the Senate in its version of the PIP reform to keep intact “multipliers” allowing lawyers to be paid escalated fees. The compromise did away with that but, in a concession to the Senate, did not cap attorneys’ fees or set an hourly rate.

Growing more incensed as his rant went on, Diaz de la Portilla said that PIP scams aren’t the real fraud.

“I think the House measure that’s been sent over to us and that we’re being asked to concede to, that’s the fraud. It’s a fraud on the consumers of the state of Florida. It’s a fraud on the people who have to buy these policies by law. It’s a fraud on those who are injured in accidents. It’s a fraud because it basically is the Insurance Company Relief Act of 2012. That’s what it is. That’s exactly what we’re talking about,” Diaz de la Portilla said, referring to the package as “phoney-baloney” at least three times to the delight of a bipartisan group of senators surrounding him.

The compromise does not require a set rate reduction, as the Senate plan did, but requires an actuarial analysis by an independent party to back up a detailed explanation of insurers’ rates if they do not roll back by 10 percent by October and 25 percent by 2014.
Sen. Dennis Jones, a Seminole chiropractor who said he is probably the only senator who actually treated a PIP patient, called the bill a “very, very punitive” measure for chiropractors. Patients will now be limited to $2,500 worth of chiropractic treatment, a change from the 24 visits over three months now allowed.

Gov. Rick Scott scored a huge victory late Friday night when the Florida Senate signed off on a last-ditch effort to crack down on personal injury protection fraud.

By a narrow 21-19 vote, the once-again divided Senate agreed to the compromise language passed earlier this evening by the House, and then passed the measure (HB 119) 22-17.

But the vote elicited rebukes from some senators who wanted the upper chamber to stand its ground and refuse to concur with the proposal – crafted largely by insurance industry lobbyists – in a debate highlighted by a stemwinder by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.

Diaz de la Portilla, a lawyer, repeatedly called the deal a “phoney baloney” attempt to combat fraud and pilloried the House for bowing to powerful insurance lobbyists and the governor, who made PIP reform his top priority this legislative session. Diaz de la Portilla convinced the Senate in its version of the PIP reform to keep intact “multipliers” allowing lawyers to be paid escalated fees. The compromise did away with that but, in a concession to the Senate, did not cap attorneys’ fees or set an hourly rate.

Growing more incensed as his rant went on, Diaz de la Portilla said that PIP scams aren’t the real fraud.

“I think the House measure that’s been sent over to us and that we’re being asked to concede to, that’s the fraud. It’s a fraud on the consumers of the state of Florida. It’s a fraud on the people who have to buy these policies by law. It’s a fraud on those who are injured in accidents. It’s a fraud because it basically is the Insurance Company Relief Act of 2012. That’s what it is. That’s exactly what we’re talking about,” Diaz de la Portilla said, referring to the package as “phoney-baloney” at least three times to the delight of a bipartisan group of senators surrounding him.

Sen. Dennis Jones, a chiropractor who said he is probably the only senator who actually treated a PIP patient, called the bill a “very, very punitive” measure for chiropractors. Patients will now be limited to $2,500 worth of chiropractic treatment, a change from who will now be limited to $2,500 worth of treatment. The House originally wanted to cut chiros out from PIP treatment altogether.

“I know it’s late and I know you all just want to flush something out and go home,” Jones, R-Seminole, said, adding “You’re making a major, major mistake.”

Scott worked lawmakers especially hard on PIP, stepping up pressure as the clock wound down toward the session end Friday. The governor gave hand-written thank you notes to House and Senate members who voted “yes” on the bill.

But Jones wasn’t on that list, especially after calling out Scott before the vote.

“Most people have had their arms bent or twisted or been down to the governors office two or three times,” Jones said.

Sen. Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican who brokered the deal for the Senate and sponsored the chamber’s trial lawyer-friendlier proposal, rejected his colleague’s criticism that the Senate would be giving up too much by taking the House offer.

It isn’t true “that somehow we’ve been run out of the gym by the House and we shouldn’t concur on their message because we passed our bill and by God our bill is better than their bill,” Negron said. “Anytime you have a bill of this magnitude, you’ve got to make principled compromises and find a middle ground.”

Negron then defended his efforts to keep chiropractors in the mix at all.

“The House wanted to take chiropractors, tie two 50-pound cement blocks to their ankles and drop them over the boat into the bottom of the ocean. And they were never going to be heard from in PIP again. I found that very offensive,” Negron, a lawyer, said.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Senate president who pushed alongside Scott for the overhaul, called Senate critics “dead wrong” about the deal.

“The Senate got all its fraud language. The Senate got all its licensure language. The Senate got room for chiropractic care. The Senate did not cap attorneys fees. The Senate did a fine job. The House was very firm on driving the cost drivers of utilization down. They came together with a really solid compromise,” Atwater said.

Atwater said he’s certain premiums will decrease although the bill does not require it.

“I think they’re going to see when that independent study comes down that they’re going to indicate rates need to be coming down. They need to come down now,” he said.

House passes bill requiring DJJ to pay funeral costs for kids who die in state care

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Florida House unanimously approved a measure requiring the Department of Juvenile Justice to pay $5,000 to the families to help cover the funeral costs for children who die in the state’s care.

The bill (HB 173) was prompted by a dispute last year over funeral costs for Eric Perez, who died on July 10. Guards at a West Palm Beach DJJ facility waited more than six hours before calling 911 after Perez began vomiting, hallucinating and complaining of severe headaches, according to official reports of the incident.

In August, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office denied a payment to a funeral home to cover the costs of Perez’s funeral after initially approving the request from DJJ. Atwater’s staff told DJJ to cancel it because the agency lacked the authority for the payment, although DJJ has had a policy for at least two years to provide up to $5,000 for funeral costs of children who die while in their custody whose families are indigent.

The House unanimously approved the measure, which would put the agency’s policy into law and avoid disputes that arose over Perez’s funeral payment.

The Senate has yet to send an identical measure (SB 504) to the floor for a vote.

Internet ban, in limbo in Senate, on its way to House floor with blessing of Gov. Scott and Cabinet

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are putting pressure on lawmakers to approve an all-out ban on Internet cafés now on its way to the House floor but facing a doubtful future in the Senate.

The House Economic Affairs Committee approved the bill (HB 3) this morning, drawing the praise of the Republican governor and Cabinet who want the so-called “casinos on the corner” shuttered.

Critics of the cafés, an estimated $1 billion industry which operates under state “sweepstakes” laws and are largely unregulated, say they prey on the state’s poor and vulnerable. But the café operators say they provide good jobs for their employees and a place to socialize for seniors and others.

Scott believes the store-front casinos found in strip malls throughout the state are already illegal but wants lawmakers to officially ban them.

“These store front casinos are impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and families,” said Governor Scott. “They are and should be illegal. Representative Plakon’s bill closes this loophole and I commend his dedication to shutting down these establishments,” Scott said in a statement released by Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican who’s sponsored the bill.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined in the chorus demanding the shut-down.

But the Senate is moving forward with a separate measure that would regulate the cafés and impose a $100 fee per computer terminal for operators. Estimates of the number of cafés in the state range from 800 to 1,400 but all agree they have mushroomed in the past few years. Palm Beach County commissioners recently barred new cafés from opening in unincorporated areas.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a regulation measure and set aside a bill that would make the cafés illegal.

Atwater IG clears Bondi of meddling in foreclosure lawyers’ forced resignations

Friday, January 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

An inspector general late Friday cleared Attorney General Pam Bondi of wrongdoing in the forced resignations of former foreclosure lawyers Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson.

There was “no discovery of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of anyone involved in the matter,” an 85-page report written by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater‘s inspector general, asked by Bondi to look into accusations that her office mishandled the terminations, concluded.

“The report confirms the terminations had nothing to do with politics or outside influence. Rather, it was about doing the right thing, in defense of the people of Florida,” Bondi said in a press release.

The report drew criticism from two Democratic lawmakers who have asked for an independent investigation into the matter.

“From the outset, the investigation requested by Attorney General Pam Bondi raised troubling questions. There was little to no independence as she turned to a colleague, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to look into her own conduct and that of her office. Much like a close relative investigating as opposed to a distant cousin, the pronouncement by Mr. Atwater’s office of ‘guilt-free” is hardly reassuring – to me, or the thousands of Florida homeowners looking for protection from foreclosure fraud abuse,” Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said in a statement.

“Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson netted $2 million in foreclosure fraud damages for Floridians and were quickly fired thereafter. The termination of these attorneys is a violation of state policy by obstructing the prosecution of mortgage and foreclosure fraud. The inspector general’s report focuses, instead, on minutiae in order to avoid making a call on the big picture,” Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, said in press release.

Atwater round-up: CFO gives thanks, seeks more control over state contracts and goes after lawyers

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Times may be tough but there’s still plenty to be grateful for, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater tells Floridians in a Thanksgiving video message released today.

Atwater, a North Palm Beach banker and former Senate president, says he’s thankful for his “exciting year” as the executive in charge of the state’s checkbook and he’s appreciative of the country’s military serving overseas, who “risk their lives every day so that we can enjoy the blessings that we have been afforded: our safety, our security, the ability just to spend time with our families, our friends.”

Read about Atwater’s possible face-offs with Gov. Rick Scott over state contracting and The Florida Bar over PIP after the jump.
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Haridopolos agrees to CFO Atwater’s request for public meeting on SBA investment

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos has agreed to call in State Board of Administration executive director Ash Williams to answer questions about a $125 million investment after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Haridopolos’ predecessor, asked for the public meeting.

Atwater, a North Palm Beach banker, asked Haridopolos on Thursday to bring Williams in to satisfy Sen. Mike Fasano’s demands for information about an investment earlier this year in hedge fund Starboard Value and Opportunity. Williams gave Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a bill for more than $10,000 in response to a public records request for documents regarding the investment, which was in the works for more than two years before the investment was made in April.

“It is my deep belief that you and the other members of the legislature, elected to represent the interests of Floridians, should have full and open access to information wherever it might reside throughout government, including the SBA,” Atwater wrote in a letter to the senate president.

Atwater also said Fasano should not be charged to review the documents and that he trusts Fasano to keep any confidential information in the records private. On Monday, Fasano asked Haridopolos to subpoena Williams and the documents or to order him to appear before a Senate committee to explain the investment and the public records charges.

“Being that the CFO is a champion of transparency and given his expertise in this realm, I plan to take his recommendation and hold a meeting that will be open to the public and ask the Director of the SBA, Ash Williams, and his staff to be available to answer any questions that the public or my fellow legislators may have about the investment, as well as the public records request,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a statement late Thursday. “Like CFO Atwater, it is my hope that this meeting will alleviate any questions that lawmakers or the public may have regarding this investment and the SBA, and the IAC may continue to conduct business.”

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Atwater will reissue check for funeral expenses for teen who died in DJJ care

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Monday he will sign off on a $5,000 payment to cover funeral expenses for Eric Perez, an 18-year-old who died in state custody in West Palm Beach on July 10.

The Palm Beach Post and The Miami Herald reported this weekend that Atwater blocked the payment. His office told Department of Juvenile Justice officials they lacked statutory authority for the payment although the agency has had a policy for two years to pay up to $5,000 for funeral costs of children who die while in their custody and has issued the payments twice before.

On Monday, Atwater blamed Department of Juvenile Justice officials for what he called “a tragic delay” in a press release Monday afternoon. Atwater promised to send a check to the Perez family’s attorney within 48 hours.

“Regrettably, this tragic delay would not have occurred if the Department of Juvenile Justice had not blatantly ignored guidance from my office,” Atwater said in the release. “In the future, I would hope that DJJ would be more transparent in its dealings with the public and with taxpayer monies.”

CFO Atwater stops payment for funeral costs for teen who died in DJJ custody in Palm Beach County

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office has blocked a payment to cover the costs of the funeral of Eric Perez, the 18-year-old who died while in state custody in a Palm Beach County juvenile detention facility on July 10.

The Department of Juvenile Justice had promised to pay $5,000 towards the cost of Perez’ funeral, as it has done twice before in the past two years.

Atwater, in charge of the state’s check book, had gone so far as to print a $5,000 check for Tillman Funeral Home in West Palm Beach on July 13.

But before DJJ officials released it to the funeral home, Atwater’s office asked that the money be returned.

“Since the agency does not have statutory authority to make the payment, we are requesting a warrant cancellation for the following vendor payment,” Mark Merry, head of the Department of Financial Services auditing department, wrote to DJJ in an e-mail on Tuesday.

DJJ has had a policy of paying up to $5,000 towards funeral costs for children who die in their custody since 2008, department spokesman C.J. Drake said. Since then, the department has twice paid families the maximum amount – once in November 2008 and again in January 2009.

Discussions are now underway between the two agencies about how the payment can be made, Drake said.

“So far everyone’s been very cooperative and agreeable. We just have to resolve it. I’m confident that we’re going to make the payment,” he said.

Scott, Cabinet in Panhandle get their game (fish) on

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott with his new fishing license in Panama City

Gov. Rick Scott, in the Panhandle as the state’s cheerleader-in-chief, and the Florida Cabinet threw down the gauntlet – at each other – in advance of a “friendly” fishing tournament this afternoon.

In Panama City on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blast that sent 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held their first out-of-town Cabinet meeting at the Bay County Government Center in Panama City.

Some good news for Florida anglers other than the Cabinet – Putnam’s staff announced the state would hold two free fishing weekends at the open of the red snapper season on June 4 and again for Father’s Day on June 19. And they’ve extended the scallop season for three extra weeks. The season will begin a week before its previously scheduled July 1 kick off and last two weeks longer than the slated Sept. 10 close.

The Cabinet fishing competition began almost as soon as the panel – all clad in Columbia fishing shirts embroidered with the new “Gulf Safe” seafood marketing logo – reached the podium.

“It’s great to be here,” said Scott, who purchased his $17.50 fishing license at C and G Sporting Goods in downtown Panama City earlier in the day. “We’re going to have a fishing tournament. And we all know that I’m going to win.”

Bondi stepped up to Scott’s challenge.

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New Florida Cabinet meets for the first time

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The all-new Florida Cabinet held a very brief meeting this morning, the first since the all-GOP panel took office early this month.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ran through the skimpy agenda in less than half an hour. The highlight: the Cabinet’s confirmation of Scott’s pick for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard.

“Congratulations. You’ve got a lot of work to do,” Scott told Vinyard, a Jacksonville businessman and lawyer, after the vote. Scott’s transition team was highly critical of the agency and recommended merging it with two other departments to help streamline permitting and regulation.

Scott has revamped the Cabinet procedures and eliminated the until-now routine Q-and-A with reporters before and after the bimonthly meeting, at least for today.

Before the 9 a.m. meeting, Scott’s spokesman advised reporters not to rush the governor on the dais after the meeting ended and that Scott would not answer questions until noon when he is scheduled to address the Associated Press annual editors meeting on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.

Scott’s Cabinet colleagues weren’t so media-shy, however.

Bondi, Atwater and Putnam – all University of Florida alumni – posed for photos and shook hands outside the Cabinet room for about 30 minutes before the meeting started and remained for nearly as long answering questions from reporters after its conclusion.

Scott answered a single question after the meeting.

“Fine. Fine,” he responded when asked how his first Cabinet meeting went. He was then whisked away.

Atwater recruits veteran Tallahassee aides for CFO office

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer-elect Jeff Atwater hired a cadre of veteran staffers to serve in his office after the former senate president is sworn in tomorrow.

Atwater’s chief of staff Robert “Budd” Kneip will hang on to his same job in the Cabinet office, and long-time Florida House staffer P.K. Jameson will serve as Atwater’s general counsel.

Atwater’s also hanging on to several long-time insurance personnel.

Tami Torres, who served under Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher and who is now the director of the Division of Consumer Services, will oversee the offices of Cabinet, communications and legislative affairs;

Karen Chandler, who also served under Gallagher and was communications chief for three Senate presidents, will be in charge of scheduling and appointments and Atwater’s’ administration.

Paul Whitfield, who served as a policy advisor to Atwater in the Senate, will oversee the budget office and have other duties.

Alexis Lambert, former spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, will serve in the same role for Atwater.

Atwater names transition team, includes former senate Dem leader Lawson

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Jeff Atwater named Thomas F. Petway III as chairman of his transition team as the former senate president readies for his new job as chief financial officer.

Petway, a Jacksonville businessman and major GOP contributor, served on the Florida Board of Governors and is an owner of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars team.

Tucked into a host of Republican big-wigs he tapped for his transition team, Atwater spread a little bipartisan love with his former colleague Al Lawson.

Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat who owns an insurance agency, served as the Senate Democrats’ head honcho while Atwater was president.

See the complete list of Atwater’s transition team after the jump.
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Haridopolos: ‘We will not raise taxes a single dime.’

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Flanked by his wife and children, a tearful Mike Haridopolos took the gavel in the Senate, pledging to not raise taxes even as Florida faces a $2.5 billion budget shortfall.

“We will do more with less. We will tighten our own belt. And we will not raise taxes a single dime,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said after outgoing Senate President Jeff Atwater passed him the ceremonial torch.

A choked up Haridopolos got even more tearful when speaking of his immigrant father.

“You’ve given me a incredible honor and opportunity, and I’ll cherish it,” Haridopolos, 40, said. “My father was not even born in this country and his son is sitting here today. That’s what America’s all about. And I want to be proud of that.”

Cabinet winner warns Republicans need to deliver or else

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Andrew Abramson

Adam Putnam, the state’s new Agricultural Commissioner, warned that Republicans need to deliver or else they will find themselves in 2012 in the same position as the Democrats this year.

Putnam, who along with North Palm’s Jeff Atwater (Chief Financial Officer) and Tampa’s Pam Bondi (Attorney General), will be part of the state’s second all-Republican cabinet, and the first since 2007.

“If we fail to produce, we will suffer the consequences like the current administration suffered tonight,” Putnam said late Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Bondi is promising to fight against President Obama’s agenda.

“I also look forward to continuing Florida’s leadership in the fight against the federal healthcare takeover,” Bondi said in her victory speech.

Atwater calls new Republican cabinet historic

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Andrew Abramson

For the second time in state history, and the first time since 2007, Florida will have an all Republican cabinet.

North Palm Beach’s Jeff Atwater, celebrating at Duffy’s on PGA and US1, believes the Republican trio of himself, Pam Bondi (attorney general) and Adam Putnam (agricultural commissioner) can help create business in Florida.

“It means a consistent and deep seated belief in the entrepreneurial spirit,” Atwater said. “This will be a cabinet wanting to facilitate a true support for the small business risk takers that are in Florida.”

Atwater said he is looking forward to working with Bondi and Putnam.

“They truly come with a level of expertise into these roles that may have never been matched historically,” Atwater said. “From Adam Putnam’s lifetime experience in the agricultural industry, to Pam Bondi’s hands on real life experiences in the courtroom to my experiences in the financial service industry of 25 years and a governor (if Rick Scott wins) who has made a lifetime of creating jobs in the private sector, it’s (great) for all Floridians.”

Scott stumps in WPB one day before election

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Just one day before the crucial vote that will decide whether his $75 million investment paid off, Rick Scott included West Palm Beach in a last-minute appeal to Republicans.

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux climbed on the stage with Scott, also joined by Palm Beach County homeboys U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, outgoing Senate president and chief financial officer candidate Jeff Atwater, and a host of other local officials.

Mark Foley, who once held Rooney’s Congressional seat, also showed up in the crowd at Park Avenue BBQ Grille.

PBC businessman and longtime GOP donor Llywd Ecclestone, who escaped the restaurant parking lot heat under an awning, said he supports Scott’s plan to get the state’s economy back on track.

“He will create jobs and that’s what we need,” Ecclestone said.

But Scott’s pledge of 700,000 jobs is an ambitious goal, the developer acknowledged.

“It’s going to be difficult. It’s not going to be easy,” Ecclestone said.

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Ausley debuts new ad

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by John Lantigua

Democratic candidate for chief financial officer Loranne Ausley introduced a new television ad Tuesday that rips her opponent, Republican Jeff Atwater, for what it calls “pay to play contracts” issued under his watch as Senate president.

The ad depicts an actor playing Atwater in the office of the Senate president welcoming a series of visitors who each hand him an envelope and shake hands enthusiastically. A voice over enumerates instances of what the Ausley campaign considers questionable spending decisions in which Atwater participated.

Those instances include $48 million spent on a new 1st District Court of Appeals courthouse in Tallahassee, which has been attacked for its luxurious details and is derisively called “the Taj Mahal.”

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CFO debate debacle

Friday, October 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

There either will or won’t be a debate between chief financial officer candidates Jeff Atwater and his Democrat opponent Loranne Ausley.

Ausley, a former state representative from Tallahassee, has made much of Atwater, the outgoing Senate president, avoiding a debate in the statewide race.

She held a press conference in Tallahassee this morning Florida demanding that Atwater agree to a debate before the Nov. 2 election.

“I’m running to clean up the mess in Tallahassee, not to hide from problems, duck debates, and refuse to be held accountable,” she said.

Hold on, Atwater’s campaign insists. The North Palm Beach banker’s campaign spokesman Brian Hughes said they had agreed to an Oct. 21 debate at Univision but Ausley backed out.

“As for the issue of a debate, the facts are as I laid them out to you. She needs to tell you guys why she said no the the 21st. We accepted one date Oct 21) that they’ve said no to because of schedule. (Univision) They accepted one that we couldn’t do because of schedule (Leadership FL/UofF). Now, they’ve accepted an alternate date at Univision and we’re seeing if it will work,” Hughes said in an e-mail.

The upshot is that the duo may take part in a verbal duel on Oct. 28 sponsored by Univision.

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