Adam Putnam – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Philip Levine launches Spanish ad on schools in Orlando, Miami

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is launching a new Spanish-language television commercial Friday in Orlando and Miami highlighting his commitments to public education in Florida.

The 30-second spot, “Escuela,” [“School,”] shows shots in a classroom and Levine visiting with students as a narrator talks about Florida public schools being underfunded and teachers underpaid, and about Levine’s pledge to raise teachers’ salaries by $10,000.

Levine concludes the ad by promising, in Spanish, that he will “put our children first.”

Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, is in an August 28 battle for the Democratic nomination with businessmen Chris King and Jeff Greene, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. The leading Republicans are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

His campaign said the Miami and Orlando commercials are being backed b a five-figure ad buy.

“Funding public education is the greatest investment we can make in our future, and as Governor, I will reverse the trend of underfunding our schools and leaving our teachers underpaid and under-appreciated,” Levine stated in a news release. “If we want to build a competitive 21st-century economy that attracts the best and brightest, it starts with giving every child a chance to succeed, no matter their background or where they come from.”

Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran’s political committee continues spending spree in May

House Speaker Richard Corcoran won’t be on the ballot this year, but that hasn’t stopped his political committee from spending beaucoup bucks.

Corcoran started Watchdog PAC in April 2017, and shortly after wrapping his first Legislative Session with the Speaker’s gavel, he started piling on cash — more than $6.9 million between May 2017 and April 2018, the last time it recorded a contribution.

For nearly its entire run, the committee was seen as Corcoran’s primary fundraising vehicle for a gubernatorial bid or, later on, a run for Attorney General. The Pasco Republican, who had repeatedly said he would run for Guv or “go home,” ended that speculation a month ago when he chose the latter option and threw his support behind Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial bid.

In the weeks since, Corcoran’s committee has spent more than $340,000 on payroll, office rent, contributions to other Republican pols, research and every flavor of consulting contract.

Topping the expenditure list was more than $50,000 in payments to public opinion research firm Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, which has worked with many Republican politicians including Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Watchdog PAC paid the firm $44,750 for a survey, $7,500 for research consulting and another $2,000 for research services.

Tallahassee shop Rapid Loop Consulting received $46,275 for travel expenses, web design, office supplies and meeting expenses; Jacksonville-based Political Capital received $40,000 for fundraising and political consulting; and $25,000 apiece to Capital City Friends of NRA and political committee Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy.

Further down the list were $1,000 campaign contributions to Republican Rep. Jeanette Nuñez’ 2020 bid for Senate District 39, Jeremiah Hawkes’ campaign for Pasco County Judge and Ronald Kitchen’s campaign for Citrus County Commission.

Watchdog PAC spent $341,361 in all last month, leaving it with $1.63 million banked heading into June.

Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam campaigning in Northeast Florida this weekend

For undecided Republican voters in Northeast Florida, this weekend will be a good time to get some grip and grin time with some of the gubernatorial candidates.

Friday evening sees Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with dueling events.

DeSantis will do a “Grand Ole Flag Day Meet and Greet” at 5:30 p.m., at Orange Park’s Club Continental.

Putnam will host a “Grassroots BBQ” at St. Augustine’s “Rod and Gun Club.”

In Duval? Don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity for the Adam Putnam experience Saturday afternoon, when the candidate opens up his Victory Headquarters in a strip mall on Jacksonville’s Southside.

Putnam won’t linger in Dirty Duval for long on Saturday. He is slated to speak Saturday night in Green Cove Springs at the Clay County Flag Day Dinner.

Both candidates are attempting to shore up a key region for Republicans this weekend, though it’s clear that Putnam will have more time on the ground.

In terms of metrics, Putnam still holds serve over DeSantis statewide.

According to the most recent poll of the race, conducted by the Putnam-friendly Florida Chamber, Putnam is ahead 32 percent to 15 percent.

Putnam also has a nearly 3-1 advantage in fundraising, having raised $30 million plus compared to DeSantis’ relatively modest $10.8 million receipts.

Local endorsements, by and large, are still up for grabs in this one.

Will this weekend change that?

#7 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Richard Corcoran

Although he had a good run in his two years as House Speaker — and managed to make a splash as a prospective candidate for governor, the Land O’ Lakes Republican falls five spots this year.

He claimed the No. 2 slot last year after his raucous showdown with Gov. Rick Scott over VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida funding.

Richard Corcoran might have ranked higher than he did this year had the political winds not shifted as they did over the course of the last several months — and if he wasn’t about to term out and face an uncertain future in politics.

Earlier this year, he seemed to be sowing momentum. His Watchdog PAC released a TV ad demonizing immigrants via an inaccurate depiction of the shooting death of Kate Steinle, followed by Corcoran’s plea to Floridians to support a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. That ad was red meat to potential GOP primary voters, but critics said it was racist.

Barely two weeks after it first aired, in the middle of the 2018 Legislative Session, gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 19 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. As students across the state rallied for stricter gun laws, Corcoran’s PAC released yet another ad targeting illegal immigration, which some critics considered tone-deaf, given how the gun debate still raged.

Corcoran demonstrated his muscle in shepherding through a compromised gun law that raised the gun-buying age from 18 to 21 and mandated that schools train certain personnel to carry guns on campus. The NRA panned the bill for what it saw as limitations to the Second Amendment, though Corcoran seemed to make amends with the group in a letter to the Constitution Revision Commission calling on the panel to turn down a proposed amendment that could have banned assault-style rifles (which the commission did).

Another legislative win for Corcoran was an education package that shifts state dollars away from public schools and toward scholarship programs that favor charter schools, which school choice advocates heralded earlier this year. It also set new membership requirements that could potentially diminish teachers’ unions.

“The Speaker’s left a mark on the region,” said Seth McKeel of Southern Strategy Group. “He’s been a powerful and constant voice of conservatism in Florida.”

By the end of Session, many observers were ready for Corcoran to announce a run for governor, but a couple of forces were working against him. First, his potential primary opponents were way ahead of him in their fundraising. Second, the two major Republican candidates — Trump favorite Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — would have made it difficult for him to craft a message that stood out to primary voters. In May, he announced he would not run and endorsed Putnam.

Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC had some $2 million when he dropped his bid for governor.

Corcoran ranked second in 2017.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Adam Putnam says public safety ‘not at risk’ in license snafu

Although his department issued concealed-weapons licenses to 291 applicants who should have been disqualified, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Wednesday the breakdown has been corrected and there was no threat to the public.

“Public safety was not at risk,” Putnam told reporters after a state Cabinet meeting. “Two-hundred and ninety-one people who should not have gotten a license to carry a concealed weapon did so, but they were revoked as a result of the processes that we put in place.”

The problem, first reported Friday by the Tampa Bay Times, has led to heavy criticism of Putnam amid his campaign for governor. His comments Wednesday were similar to other statements he has made in recent days to address the controversy.

The issue began in February 2016 when a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employee stopped logging into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to see if applicants seeking state licenses to carry concealed weapons or firearms should be “flagged” for issues like drug abuse, involuntary mental confinements, dishonorable military discharges or undocumented immigrant status.

The problem wasn’t discovered until March 2017 when an investigation began that revealed 365 applications merited further review, leading the department to revoke 291 of the licenses. The employee who failed to carry out the background reviews was fired.

Putnam said there is no indication that any of the disqualified people who received concealed-weapons licenses were involved in criminal activity while they had the permits.

“Any time that anyone who has a concealed weapon license is arrested we are made aware of that. That reporting occurs on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, depending on the arresting agency,” Putnam said.

Although information is slower coming from arrests made outside of Florida, Putnam said there were “no flags” on the people who should not have been licensed. “We have not received information on any of the 291,” he said.

Putnam also emphasized that all the applicants were run through three databases, which are managed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, including two that are based on fingerprints and the so-called NICS, which is based on names of applicants.

“I am absolutely committed to public safety and managing this program accurately and thoroughly, which is why frankly I am so disappointed that there was a breakdown and why we have taken actions to make sure this wouldn’t happen again,” he said.

Since the problem was discovered, Putnam said his agency has “strengthened the information flow and technology transfer” with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on background checks.

The Office of Inspector General in Putnam’s agency issued a report on the review breakdown last June. But it did not become public knowledge until Friday when it was reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Putnam deflected questions on whether his agency should have alerted the public to the problem. He said, “stacks of inspector general reports” are issued routinely in state government but are not publicized, although the reports are available as public records.

As to how the breakdown occurred with the now-terminated employee, Putnam said: “It was the dumbest thing in the world. It happens to anybody with a computer. She emailed IT (information technology) and said my password isn’t working. And they emailed her back with instructions on how to fix the problem.”

But the former employee failed to follow through on the advice, Putnam said.

“I dropped the ball – I know I did that,” she told the investigators. “I should have been doing it and I didn’t.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Adam Putnam declares opposition to fracking in Florida

In a brief exchange with an volunteer for an anti-cracking group, Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared his opposition to fracking over the weekend.

“We don’t need to be fracking in Florida. Our geology, our limestone, we do not need to be fracking in Florida for oil and gas. It is just not the right spot,” Putnam is seen and heard saying in an exchange with anti-fracking volunteer Ginger Goepper, in a video released Wednesday by the Food & Water Action Fund.

Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said the statements “are consistent with his platform.”

The organization said the exchange took place at a Putnam campaign event in Sun City Center on Saturday, and was the first statement they’ve seen in which Putnam has declared opposition to fracking. The Food & Water Action Fund is an organization that is campaigning for the reduction of fossil fuel extraction and burning for energy in general, and against fracking in particular.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an oil and gas extraction technique in which drillers inject high-pressure water and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture the rock and thereby provide the drillers better access to oil and gas reserves. It is not practiced in Florida but has been the topic of intense debate in the Florida Legislature and in local governments for several years. Last year Senate Bill 462, to ban fracking, made some advances but died in the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House of Representatives died in infancy.

Opponents charge fracking risks contaminating groundwater, and they also charge it is the cause of unusual earthquakes hitting such states as Oklahoma and Ohio. The oil and gas industry disputes those risks and insist fracking is an effective and safe way to increase America’s domestic energy supplies.

All of the major Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew GillumChris King, and Jeff Greene, have come out in opposition to fracking.

“This is the first time we have heard Commissioner Putnam take a stance on fracking and as a major candidate for governor,  we are happy to see Commissioner Putnam take such a strong stance against the dangerous drilling practice,” the organization stated in a news release issued Wednesday.

“We hope Congressman [Ron] DeSantis [the other major Republican gubernatorial candidate] will stand with the other gubernatorial candidates in calling to protect Florida’s clean water and environment by banning fracking,” the release continued.

Adam Putnam sidesteps timing question about background check investigation

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose department handles concealed weapon licenses, didn’t directly answer questions about why he didn’t sooner divulge problems with applicants’ background checks.

Putnam, also a Republican candidate for governor, spoke with reporters Wednesday after a Florida Cabinet meeting.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last Friday that Putnam’s Division of Licensing stopped using a federal background check database — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) — in its license approval process for a little more than a year in 2016-17.

That’s because an employee, now fired, lost the password.

Putnam later said applications were still run through two other checks: the Florida Crime Information Center (FCIC) database and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. Only 365 applications during the gap would’ve required use of the NICS, he said.

“Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those applications, which resulted in 291 (license) revocations,” Putnam said in a statement. 

The news came to light when the Times got a copy of an “investigative report” by the Department’s inspector’s general, dated June 5, 2017.

Veteran statehouse reporter John Kennedy, now the GateHouse Media Tallahassee correspondent, asked Putnam on Wednesday: “Did you not consider disclosing the breach of protocol involving one of your own employees?”

“My focus is on preventing this in the future and solving the problem,” Putnam said. “When we became aware of the problem, we initiated the investigation we undertook the process of reviewing the 365 names … and ultimately revoking the 291 licenses.”

Kennedy tried again: “But you chose not to disclose this to the public?”

“We have been very forthcoming with all of your questions and all of the public records requests,” Putnam said. “My focus is on solving the problem so that it does not happen again.

“It was the dumbest thing in the world,” he added. “It was a thing that happens to anybody with a computer: She (referring to the former employee) emailed I.T. and said, ‘my password isn’t working.’ They emailed her back with instructions on how to fix the problem. By her own admission, she dropped the ball.”

With more than 1.8 million concealed weapons permit holders in Florida, nearly 268,000 applications were approved and 6,470 were rejected during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2017. That was the period when background checks were not conducted.

A long line of Democratic elected officials and candidates has since called for Putnam, term-limited this year, to step down or end his campaign for governor or both.

A Periscope video of Wednesday’s media availability is below:

Dark-money committee attacking Ron DeSantis on Orlando TV

A dark-money committee that has been attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis for months with radio and cable commercials is now going after him on broadcast TV, with a $200,000 buy on Orlando broadcast TV stations.

The National Liberty Federation, a 501(4) organization based in Palm Beach Gardens, began running commercials on broadcast TV Tuesday in Orlando and reportedly in other markets, charging that the Republican U.S. Rep. DeSantis has missed numerous important votes in Congress involving immigrants, but voted for an amnesty bill.

DeSantis’ campaign responded Wednesday that the claims in the spot are ‘lies” and counter charging that DeSantis’ opponent in the August 28 Republican gubernatorial primary, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is the one supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The National Liberty Federation’s sources of money, are unreported, though Politico and the Tampa Bay Times both have reported it has close ties to Florida’s sugar industry, which is unhappy with DeSantis’s congressional votes on sugar subsidies.

Federal Communication Commission records show that the group has purchased $239,000 worth of time, through Sunday, on Orlando’s top three television stations.

“This is another lie from the same special interest group who’s been lying about Ron DeSantis for months,” DeSantis’ spokesman David Vasquez stated in a written response. “The record on immigration is clear and simple, Adam Putnam has stood against E-verify and he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants to help his special interest friends. Ron DeSantis has never supported amnesty and Florida voters aren’t falling for these fake news attack ads.”

FDP Medicaid Expansion Tour - Gainesville 6.12.18

Florida Democrats launch Medicaid expansion tour

Florida Democrats held the first in a series of planned stops in a statewide “Medicaid Expansion Tour” at Gainesville City Hall Monday afternoon.

The Florida Democratic Party event drew Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, City Commissioner David Arreola, Alachua County Democratic Party Executive Committee Chair Cynthia Chestnut and Senate District 8 candidate Kayser Enneking to expound on what the party believes will be a defining issue of the 2018 election cycle.

Chestnut said Medicaid expansion will play a role up and down the 2018 ballot including in the U.S. Senate race where incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is up against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, whom Chestnut said “lied” and “turned his back on Floridians” when he announced he said he was in favor of expansion in 2013.

The former lawmaker also slammed Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis as offering little more than a continuation of Scott administration policies at a time when Floridians are ready to “move forward.”

Enneking made similar comments regarding her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, noting Perry’s vote against Medicaid expansion during his time in the Florida House.

“States that have expanded Medicaid have seen their health care outcomes rise to the top,” she said. “The argument that we can’t afford to expand Medicaid is a false argument.”

Arreola, the youngest commissioner ever elected in Gainesville, said Florida’s decision not to expand the federal-state health insurance program for the poor wasn’t just affecting their medical bills but creating a “dangerous set of circumstances for our people and our economy.”

“What else does that prevent them from accessing? Better jobs?” he asked.

The tour, which will continue Monday in West Palm Beach, signals Florida Democrats’ intent to make health care access the keystone of their efforts to take back the Governor’s Mansion and state Legislature after two decades of Republican rule.

As Poe put it: “Medicaid expansion is on the ballot in 2018.”

USDA predictions end 30 million boxes short of pre-Irma orange forecasts

While unchanged from May, the latest and last forecast of the 2017-2018 orange growing season is a brutal reminder of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Agriculture forecast Florida would produce 44.95 million boxes of oranges in total. That’s a continuation from May forecasts, which saw a slight dip from April.

But before Hurricane Irma, private estimates claimed Florida growers were on track to produce roughly 75 million boxes — or more than 30 million boxes than what’s currently projected by the USDA. Florida growers produced close to 69 million boxes of oranges during last year’s season after harvesting 81.7 million boxes during the 2015-2016 season. Each box weighs 90 pounds.

“This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall.”

Grapefruit forecasts dropped to 3.88 million boxes — down 2 percent from May’s prediction. The USDA estimates tangerines and tangelos should be down 54 percent in total from last year’s growing season if forecasts hold steady.

When Irma swept through the state last year, authorities described the storm’s path as one that could not have been “more lethal” to Florida citrus. In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated the citrus industry suffered a $760 million blow.

The state’s citrus industry also has been hit by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease attacks the fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. The epidemic has waned citrus production in recent decades, though farmers were on track to bounce back — until Irma.

Currently, Florida farmers await remedy at the federal level. Congressionally authorized funding spawned the creation of the USDA’s 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP), which seeks to distribute $2.36 billion worth of federal funding to “agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,” according to the USDA.

The program will cover losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines for producers. Per the Florida Citrus Commission, Irma “uprooted trees and left many groves sitting in standing water for up to three weeks, potentially damaging the root systems and impacting future seasons’ growth.”

In discussing the final forecast of the season, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pointed to federal aid as the silver lining of Irma’s devastation.

“While today’s final citrus crop forecast brings this horrible season to a close, it’s important to remember that the industry is still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage last year,” Putnam said. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida’s agriculture industry and our elected leaders, much-needed disaster assistance is on the way to help Florida’s growers.”

Additionally, the WHIP will distribute individual payments to farmers worth up to $125,000. But, per the USDA, “Producers who derived 75 percent of their income in tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be subject to a $900,000 payment limitation.”

As well, producers who did not insure crops will receive 65 percent of their expected crop value if they are eligible for WHIP funding. Meanwhile, insured producers could receive up to 95 percent of their expected crop value.

Accompanying WHIP aid for Florida farmers is a $340 million block grant announced by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in May. That money will be used to cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation, and repairs to irrigation systems.

Florida leaders have pressured the USDA to disperse the WHIP funding sooner than later. The USDA expects to launch a sign-up period for the program no later than July 16.

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