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Roger Stone to appear in Tampa later this month

Roger Stone, the longtime Donald Trump confidante and a GOP political adviser to Republicans going back to Richard Nixon, is appearing in Tampa later this month.

Stone will be signing copies of his latest book, “The Making of The President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution,” and taking questions from audience members Thursday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at the Centre Club in downtown Tampa.

Always a controversial character, Stone is now a central figure in the FBI investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia, an investigation that he called “a witch hunt.”

The flashy right-wing provocateur is also the subject of a new Netflix documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone.”

Although he had counseled Trump on politics over several years, Stone left the campaign in August 2015, staying on the sidelines and continuing to offer informal guidance through the primaries and into the general election against Hillary Clinton.

Before Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, Stone helped solidify the president’s decision.

As for Stone’s alleged connection to, or knowledge of, Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, he dismissed having any contact with the online hacker “Guccifer 2.0,” who claimed to be behind the attack on the Democratic National Committee last year.

Stone later volunteered to speak before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Trump and Russia about his role on the campaign.

“I acknowledge I am a hardball player. I have sharp elbows. I always play politics the way it is supposed to be played,” Stone told CNN last month. “But one thing isn’t in my bag of tricks — treason.”

The Centre Club is at 123 S Westshore Blvd, 8th Floor, in Tampa.

Information on obtaining tickets is available online.

If David Jolly runs again in 2018, would rank-and-file Republicans support him?

Unless you’ve been boycotting cable news, former Pinellas County GOP Congressman David Jolly has been a ubiquitous presence, thanks to his unflinching takedowns on Donald Trump, the titular head of the Republican Party.

“Donald Trump is done,” Jolly opined on “11th Hour with Brian Williams” last month after the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as the special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

While that independence from GOP orthodoxy makes the former lawmaker a desired quantity on MSNBC and CNN, the feelings among some rock-ribbed Republicans toward him aren’t nearly so warm and fuzzy.

That independence has led some observers to believe that Jolly is done for the time being for politics, but the former aide to longtime Congressman Bill Young said this week that the idea of running again in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is something that is “actively under consideration.”

Any decision won’t come until next January, however, when he says he’ll have a better idea on when can take the temperature of the “macro political environment.”

“But I’m also not convinced that Charlie (Crist) runs for re-election,” he says. “I think there’s a lot that can change between now and ’18 and so it’s still something under active consideration.”

Kevin Cate, a spokesperson for the Crist campaign, declined to comment.

Susan McGrath, the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, often takes to her Facebook page to disparage Jolly after he appears on the cable networks criticizing the president.

“David Jolly is the consummate example of a politician that wants to portray himself as something he’s not in order to fool the voters of CD 13 so that he can try to win back his old seat,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in an email.

McGrath continued: “He had no issues with the Republican Party when he ran in a district that had a Republican advantage. He may try to run from the Republican Party and Donald Trump, but the fact is he lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, lobbied in support of offshore drilling, dismissed his vote to deny additional VA funding as ‘a procedural vote’ and for ‘bricks and mortar’ and sponsored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and on and on. To present himself as moderate is simply not honest. His record speaks for itself.”

Jolly counters by pointing out he was for same-sex marriage and radical campaign finance reform well before CD 13 was reconfigured from a swing seat to a what is now a very Democratic-leaning district.

While the Pinellas Democratic chair is commenting on Jolly, her GOP counterpart is not.

Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie initially told FloridaPolitics.com he would answer the question of what Pinellas Republicans think of Jolly, but ultimately chose not to respond to further inquiries on the matter.

Another prominent Republican official in Pinellas would also not comment publicly on Jolly, but when promised anonymity, said he didn’t see a path for Jolly in the district.

“If your intention is to rally around the base, that’s not the way to do it,” the official said. “He must be trying to rally the independents, but I don’t know if there’s enough runway there for him to take off.”

“I appreciate his honesty and candor if he wants to have a career as a pundit or something,” he added. “But as far as trying to get people to rally behind you, that’s certainly not the way to go.”

Adding to the issue is while some Republicans feel personally ambivalent about Trump, they will still rally around the president when attacked by Democrats and (they say) the liberal media.

“In my observations, he alienated Trump Supporters and Second Amendment supporters before his failed election,” says Dan Tucker, a Pinellas County Republican State Committeeman.

“However, I like David as a person but what I understand from Republican Club members who are typically an older ‘die-hard conservative’ crowd, is that they feel he has lost it while some are openly hostile toward him and feel betrayed,” Tucker says. “I consider him a ‘Never Trumper’ and vying for Joe Scarborough’s job as a Progressive Republican.”

For George Hudak, a GOP political consultant from Palm Harbor who often works with Republicans in New York, the bigger question is will Democrats support a moderate Republican like Jolly over Crist.

“I think David is a truth speaker, he stands up for what he feels is right,” he says, referring to his fight against the National Republican Campaign Committee which resulted in that group opting not to help fund him in such a competitive election in 2016. “David has a lot of integrity; he and Laura are still loved by many Pinellas Republicans.”

Anthony Pedicini believes it doesn’t really matter who is the GOP candidate in CD 13.

“I do not think a Republican can beat Charlie Crist in the district as it is currently configured,” says the GOP political consultant.

Jolly lost to Crist in 2016 by 3.4 percentage points. That was without any financial help from the National Republican Campaign Committee, who essentially wrote him off after a dispute regarding the commitments made.

Paraphrasing John Kasich, Jolly says he also gets the right to define Republicanism in the 21st-century: “In many ways, I’m fighting for the future of the GOP and fighting for our brand, if you will.”

“The clearest strategy for 2018, if my only interest was running for re-election, would be to keep my mouth shut,” Jolly says. “I mean every consultant on the left and right would tell you — keep your mouth shut, raise money, keep your head down, and then we’ll figure out how to deploy campaign resources three months out — so that is the strategy.”

“If I was just worried about strategy, but I’m not. I’m calling balls and strike, and see what the field looks like next year, but there’s a good chance I’ll be on the ballot, and I will not have the full support of Republicans, nor will I bring over progressive Democrats who disagree with me on policy, but I do think we can put together a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats and hopefully do what I was trying to do last cycle, which was to truly change politics. “

With all that, Jolly still says he is a “long way” from making a decision.


Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid

After just three weeks on the campaign trail, former Mayor Rick Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee.

Baker is challenging incumbent Rick Kriseman, who is seeking a second term as the Sunshine City’s mayor.

Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government.

Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 dollars of less.

“Whether it’s five dollars or five hundred dollars, I’m honored to have the support of so many of my neighbors,” said Baker. “The overwhelming support from contributors is an endorsement of our vision for a seamless city and our laser-like focus on fixing things right here in St. Petersburg.”

Kriseman’s camp had yet to report its fundraising efforts for May, but last month the campaign and an associated Committee combined to raise over $100,000 in April, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to nearly $400,000.

Kriseman’s camp reported Thursday that it and an associated committee raised over $110,000 fin May, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to over $500,000.

“We’ve raised money at a comparative level,” said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith. “St. Pete deserves better than Rick Baker being silent on climate change while spending so much time raising money. But his silence on climate change is fine with his extremely partisan, right-wing donors.”

According to a release from Baker’s campaign, roughly half of all individual contributors to Baker’s campaign, who are registered Florida voters, were registered Democrats and independents.

Charlie Crist blasts bill that Democrats say will rollback Dodd-Frank Act

Charlie Crist took to the floor of the U.S. House on Thursday to blast the Financial CHOICE Act, a Republican-sponsored bill that would undo significant parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms implemented the wake of the Great Recession..

“Unrestrained greed on Wall Street caused a preventable disaster because at no point did anyone say: This is simply wrong,” Crist said before the House approved the measure.

“I remember 2008 and 2009: the bailouts, the foreclosures, the long, painful road to recovery,” he said. “The financial crisis exposed a broken regulatory system allowing Wall Street to gamble with Main Street’s future.”

Republicans have chafed at the existence of Dodd-Frank since it passed in 2010.

Sponsored by Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, the bill would give the president the power to fire the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog agency created under Dodd-Frank, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at any time for any — or no — reason.

It also gives Congress oversight over the CFPB’s budget, meaning lawmakers could defund the agency entirely, and bars the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing the living will process, which requires banks to write up plans on how they would safely be unwound in the event of a collapse. The FDIC and the Fed are the two regulators responsible for overseeing this requirement under the 2010 law.

It also repeals what’s known as “the Volcker rule,” named after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, that addresses self dealign and conflicts of interests between banks and their customers.

While Crist was denouncing the bill, other Tampa Bay area Republicans were rejoicing in its passage.

“Simply put, Dodd-Frank has failed,” said Polk County Representative Dennis Ross. The Financial CHOICE Act represents an alternative and effective approach to financial regulation, which will protect taxpayers, end bank bailouts, empower investors, and hold government bureaucracies accountable.

“Dodd-Frank regulations disproportionately burden small companies and prevent them from competing”, said Hernando County Congressman Daniel Webster. “As a small business owner, I understand the importance of fair competition, and the Financial CHOICE Act will ensure equal opportunity in the financial sector, not an emphasis on big business. I thank Rep. Jeb Hensarling for his commitment to this bill. After years of defeat, with President Trump in the White House this bill has the opportunity to become law.”

Democrats have dubbed the bill the “Wrong Choice Act.”

“With this bill, Members are being asked to again trust the very people who brought us to this financial crisis,” Crist said. “Don’t put them back in charge.  Do not let them do it again.”


Labor relations panel will hear complaint against Sarasota Herald-Tribune

A Florida-based division of the National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on a complaint against the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the paper’s leadership intimidated and threatened “reprisals” if newsroom employees voted to form a union.

The hearing is currently set for Aug. 21 in Tampa.

Last September, the newsroom staff of the Herald-Tribune, a GateHouse Media paper, voted to unionize under the NewsGuild-CWA by a vote of 22-16.

Among the allegations, the complaint said publisher Patrick Dorsey in August “created an impression among employees that their union activities were under surveillance.”

Later that month, former executive editor William Church “threatened employees with unspecified reprisals” if they tried to unionize, the complaint said.

And investigations team editor Michael Braga “threatened to blackball employees from the industry and end their career in print journalism,” it said.

Dorsey, in an email, said he and the paper’s management “disagree with all the assertions made by the union, which were issued without talking to the people involved to get all sides of the story.”

“As we have said from the beginning, we do not think the union is good for our employees, for our newspaper or for the communities we serve,” said Dorsey, previously publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat. “These unfair allegations continue to create turmoil at our newspaper and, unfortunately, hurt all employees as we have to spend precious resources to defend ourselves against untrue allegations and attempts to create an inflexible newsroom environment.

“We are working very hard to maintain a strong business and protect our journalism and we will continue to negotiate with our local employees to that end, despite the divisive actions of the national union.”

Two reporters also said they were demoted and reassigned to other beats because of their involvement with the effort to unionize the newsroom.

Elizabeth Johnson was one of the reporters, who has since left the paper, who said she was “removed from the paper’s investigative unit.”

“I hope the Herald-Tribune management learns from this experience, so that reporters and other newsroom staff don’t have to endure the work environment that I and some of the others experienced,” she said in a NewsGuild statement.

The news staff of The Ledger of Lakeland, another GateHouse paper, also voted to join the News Guild-CWA last year, by a vote of 22-3.

The Ledger and the Herald-Tribune were owned for decades by the New York Times Co., then were sold to Halifax Media in 2011, and again sold to GateHouse in 2015.

New social media platform Paloozoo lets users take total charge online, help charities

Anger and negativity online have soured the social media experience for many, particularly during the most recent election cycle.

A Tampa-based company is looking to change all that with Paloozoo, a new social media platform designed to “put users first,” offering direct control over what they see online – all while raising money for charity.

Debuting this week, Paloozoo is a national network that allows members to take charge of their social media by real-time content viewing, without the interference of an algorithm. Users can filter content for a customized experience.

Paloozoo co-founders Mark Reinisch and Rick Link say the idea for the network came during the 2016 elections, after being “overwhelmed with aggressive and partisan language” online.

“Rick and I agreed there was a void in the marketplace and partnered to develop a tool without the many pitfalls of other social media sites,” Reinisch says. “We developed this site to put the user first.”

“The social media space is primarily managed by algorithms that benefit companies, not users,” Link adds. “If a Paloozoo member doesn’t like the commentary by friends, relatives or others, they can filter it out with confidence that the systems won’t override their filter using mysterious algorithms.”

Paloozoo users have multiple streams of engagement through social posts, reviews, classifieds and “best of” lists through a customizable one-stop platform. Through a patent-pending content controls feature, Paloozoo members can filter or completely block content and categories from friends, family or the entire Paloozoo community.

Those who regularly frequent Paloozoo will have an opportunity to give money to charity through “Paloozoo Points.”

With each action on Paloozoo, members earn points; at the end of each month, a user chosen at random drawing can donate to one of a number of charities: Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, Doctors Without Borders, Feeding America, Operation Homefront, Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Humane Society.

Paloozoo is now available through Paloozoo.com and on both desktop and mobile internet browsers. The company is also planning an app for easier user engagement.


Rick Scott signs death warrant for Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission

Among the bills Governor Rick Scott signed into law on Tuesday is HB 647, which eliminates of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission by December 31 of this year.

The agency, originally created by a special act of the Florida Legislature in the 1970’s and the only one of its kind in the state, has been shrouded in controversy for years. It’s last executive director,  Kyle Cockreamremains under investigation for his handling of public records.

The PTC had been criticized for years by local lawmakers, but previous attempts to dismantle the agency consistently fell short.

That changed however, after extensive reporting about the agency’s handling of ride sharing services Uber and Lyft ultimately compelled the entire Hillsborough County delegation to agree to a local bill sponsored by Tampa Republican House member Jamie Grant that would dismantle the organization.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” Grant declared in announcing his legislation.

The beginning of the end for the agency started in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

And then came Uber and Lyft into Hillsborough County in the spring of 2014. As those two companies refused to comply with PTC regulations (as they did in other jurisdictions throughout the country), PTC agents began citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are scheduled to provide an update to the Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday on how the transition of the duties of the PTC into other parts of Hillsborough County’s government are going. The county is also expected to sign an interlocal agreement with heath governments of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace on regulating for hire vehicles.

Charlie Crist files bill to provide small business tax relief

Democrat Charlie Crist is teaming up with Naples Republican Tom Rooney for legislation to provide immediate tax relief to small businesses, which Crist says would enable them to invest in growth and provide higher wages to employees.

“The lingering impact of the Great Recession continues to make it difficult for many small businesses to obtain bank loans in order to grow,” the St. Petersburg congressman said Tuesday about HR 2680. “Economic expansion starts on Main Street — not Wall Street. Our bill gives locally owned businesses a much-needed boost, from the barber shop in South St. Petersburg to the tech entrepreneur in Clearwater. They should have an easier time hiring more people to serve more customers and expand their businesses. I look forward to working with Congressman Rooney to promote this common-sense, bipartisan effort to help our small businesses grow and improve communities across America.”

“This common-sense bill rewards small business for creating jobs in our communities,” Rooney added. “Promoting local businesses and encouraging job growth is not a partisan issue. I look forward to working with Congressman Crist on this innovative approach to helping America’s communities thrive.”

The bill calls for amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for small businesses an annual tax credit of 3.825 percent, equivalent to half of an employer’s payroll tax obligation, for up to three new employees and totaling $100,000 in wages.

New Port Richey Democrat Linda Jack to challenge Amber Mariano in state House Distirct 36

Democrat Linda Jack, a veterinarian from New Port Richey, has filed to run for the Florida House District 36 seat currently held by Republican Amber Mariano. 

Dr.Jack is a Florida native who spent many years traveling, performing and teaching as a professional musician, based in New York, Boston and Nashville. She then switched careers after obtaining a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2006 from North Carolina State University and subsequently worked in Virginia and North Carolina before moving back home to Florida in 2015.

The 21-year-old Mariano upset Democratic incumbent Amanda Murphy last fall to become the youngest person ever elected to the state House. She won by 732 votes, or .6 percent.

Murphy had held the seat for three years. She won the seat in a special election in 2013 after then-incumbent Mike Fasano left the seat to take over as tax collector and she easily won re-election in 2014.

But, in what some analysts called a “Trump tsunami,” Mariano was aided by a surge of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pasco County by 21 percentage points, 58 percent to 37 percent.

Jack has been a member of “Indivisible Pasco,” an anti-Trump group organized earlier this year in Pasco County. She calls herself a Democrat with an independent streak, with a progressive stance on most issues but a fiscal conservative.

“I’m new to politics but not to public service,” she says.

House candidate Berny Jacques wins another local elected official’s endorsement

The endorsements keep coming for state House candidate Berny Jacques.

A week after receiving the support of Largo City Commissioner John Carroll, the first-time candidate today announced that Seminole City Coouncilmember Roger Edelman is backing his campaign.

“I believe Berny has a good understanding of the issues and concerns we are now facing in Tallahassee, and has the necessary qualifications and desire to get the job done,” said Edelman in a release. “Based on that and the fact that he is a resident of Seminole, I am endorsing him in his bid for election.”

Jacques, 29, is running for the seat currently occupied by Larry Ahern, a Republican who will is term-limited from running again in 2018. House District 66 includes parts of Clearwater, Largo, Seminole and Belleair.

“I’m honored to have the support of a great community leader like Councilbember Edelman,” Jacques said. “He will make a great partner in making sure that there are great economic opportunities for the residents of our city.”

In addition to Carroll and Edelman, Jacques is also being backed by Seminole Councilmember Trish Springer, Largo Commissioner Jamie Robinson, and the Pinellas County Young Republicans.

Jacques is an attorney working for the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer. He previously served as assistant state attorney in Pinellas County.

Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie told SPB in March that he was also going to enter the GOP race for HD 66, but he has yet to file.

Jacques has raised more than $40,000 since entering the contest in late March.

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