Bernie Sanders Archives - Page 7 of 62 - Florida Politics

SD 19 candidates talk it out at Tampa Tiger Bay Forum

Although the candidates for Florida’s 19th Senate District have engaged in numerous campaign forums over the past couple of months, Friday’s encounter at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club did offer some new wrinkles.

One was the appearance of the lone Republican in the race, John Houman, who has carried such a light footprint to date in the campaign that Ed Narain joked that he didn’t know he actually existed. The other new element was watching Augie Ribeiro (twice) break into a not-so-terrible Bernie Sanders impression.

The Democratic primary — which will likely decide the winner in November in the decidedly liberal-voting district — also features two veteran Tampa Bay state lawmakers, former House District 59 Rep. Betty Reed, and current HD 70 Rep. Darryl Rouson.

The headlines in the race have lately featured a war of words between Narain, currently serving in the HD 61 seat, and Ribeiro, the high-powered, wealthy civil justice attorney who has poured approximately $400,000 of his own cash into the contest since entering on the second-to-last day of qualifying in late June. Ribeiro has defended those contributions by saying essentially he hasn’t taken the money from corporations that have business before the Legislature, a comment that rankled Narain, who works for AT&T.

“Just because you’ve received the contribution from somebody, it doesn’t mean they get to tell you how to vote or what to do,” Narain said, adding that the sources he’s received funding from are the same companies who give to most Democrats.

He then attempted to turn the tables on Riberio by saying that 60 percent of the more than 600 individual contributions he’s received in this campaign come from citizens in the district. “There are other candidates here who can’t say that, because they haven’t been doing the grassroots fundraising. They haven’t raised money from the ‘special interests ‘ in Tallahassee. I reject the idea that any of the candidates are bought and sold.”

Ribeiro didn’t back down.

“I think it’s very important that the folks know where money is coming from,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to take money from the corporations that historically he’s gone after in court (like BP and General Motors).

He also said he didn’t want to explicitly say Narain or the other candidates who received funding the utility companies in Florida were “bought and paid for,” but he did say that the public should know Narain took over $34,000 from utility companies and more than $40,000 from insurance companies. “That’s important because those amounts are more than the salary of a state senator (which is less than $30,000 annually),” Ribeiro said. “And I think the people, especially people in a poorer district, who are struggling to survive, who are really cost conscious, and need to make sure that their representatives are fighting these very industries to keep costs down.”

Reed added her own thoughts about big money. “I’ve served in Tallahassee, and when you take money from too many people, they are going to be there waiting to be paid,” she said, generating applause.

Later in the forum, Ribeiro said that one reason he decided to get into the race was that he wasn’t hearing anybody say anything about the 15,000 children in Senate District 19 who go hungry every night. But Narain said that the number was actually 144,000.

Houman was spare in his responses, sometimes eliciting laughter at the succinctness of his comments. “That’s a simple answer — yes,” he said when asked if he would support a proposal to make the education commissioner an elected position as it was previously. When discussing whether there was too much testing in the public schools (something all the candidates agreed that there was), the Republican responded, “Simple question. I agree. Less testing and more teaching.”

The candidates — including Houman — all decried the prevalence of pro-gun legislation that is part of Florida culture.

“I am proud of my F rating from the NRA, unlike some of the other people up here who have been endorsed by them,” Narain said to applause from the audience. That was a not-so-subtle dig at Rouson, who was the recipient of a campaign mailer from the powerful organization urging SD 19 voters to support him in the race, though they officially did not call it an endorsement.

Rouson has boasted at other forums that his legislation passed earlier this year making it illegal to discharge a firearm for recreational purposes in residential neighborhoods was the first pro-gun control legislation in Tallahassee since the late 1980s. But before he got a chance to mention that Friday, Narain prompted him, saying, “No disrespect, representative, but the last gun control bill passed by the Florida Legislature was passed by a Miami Beach Gardens Democrat Barbara Watson in 2013 that restricted those with mental illnesses to be able to purchase a firearm.”

All of the candidates said they hoped Florida would echo the Justice Department’s announcement Thursday that they are phasing out privately owned prisons, citing safety concerns. Rouson says he is campaigning on a platform of prison reform, referring to the large number of unresolved deaths in state prisons. “We can’t just allow for-profit agencies come in and do what it is a core mission of government,” he said.

The St. Petersburg-based legislator also talked up his previous work for Driver’s License Reinstatement Day, in which various local agencies meet up with members of the public who have had their licenses suspended because of a failure to pay fines.

Betty Reed said it wasn’t easy to get legislation passed in the House as a member of the minority party, “but sometimes if you continue to work on it … sometimes it takes years before you can get it actually through, but if you keep working, you will get it there.”

All of the candidates have received important endorsements in the contest. Ribeiro said he was proud to get the backing of the group Tampa Bay for Bernie, which prompted him to (twice) begin doing a vocal impersonation of the Vermont senator.

SD 19 encompasses West Tampa, East Tampa, Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach, Sun City and downtown St. Petersburg and South St. Pete.

New poll shows Debbie Wasserman Schultz crushing Tim Canova in CD 23 Democratic primary

Despite the excitement insurgent Democrat Tim Canova has inspired nationally in his quest to defeat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, a new internal poll shows the incumbent crushing Canova by 33 percentage points, 59 percent to 26 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

The survey of 400 likely primary voters was conducted by Global Strategy Group on July 31 and Aug. 1.  It was commissioned by Patriot Majority PAC.

The poll shows the former DNC chair is familiar to 97 percent of those surveyed in the Miami-Dade/Broward County district, and 61 percent give her a favorable rating. Only 23 percent rate her unfavorably, with 13 percent neutral.

In comparison, only 28 percent gave Canova a favorable rating; 27 percent were neutral, and 10 percent were undecided (the information provided does not list where the other 35 percent stand).

The poll stands in strong contrast to an internal survey Canova released July 31 that showed him “within striking distance,” down by just eight percentage points.

Canova is a law professor at Nova Southeastern University who has raised millions of dollars nationwide, in part by deriding Wasserman Schultz as insufficiently progressive on a number of issues. He’s been endorsed by Bernie Sanders and has tapped into the Vermont Senator’s anti-establishment appeal.

But that appeal may not translate in Florida’s 23rd District.

According to the survey, three-quarters of this Democratic Primary electorate believes Wasserman Schultz “shares your values” (76 percent describes well) and a large majority say she is “willing to stand up to her own party to do what is right” (64 percent describes well). Very few think Wasserman Shultz “sides with special interests at the expense of South Florida families” (only 36 percent describes well), believes she “is not progressive enough on the issues” (only 35 percent describes well), or that she “is too close to Wall Street” (only 25 percent describes well).

Global Strategy Group conducted the survey with 400 likely 2016 Democratic Primary voters in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. The results have a margin of error of +/-4.9 percent.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.17.16 — Impeachment memories

Before Barack Obama was elected, a lot of political observers said that with such a divided nation, every president could face the potential of being impeached.

I’m reminded of that today on the 18th anniversary of Bill Clinton giving a prime-time address to the nation after seven months of silence on the Monica Lewinsky matter.

“I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife,” he said in a four-minute address. “I deeply regret that.”

“While legally accurate, I did not volunteer information,” Clinton added.

Ah, the ’90s. We all know what happened later that year: the House of Representatives impeached Clinton in December, but he was eventually acquitted by the Senate a couple of months later. It was a wasted year out of everybody’s lives, though Clinton came out of it more popular than ever (thanks to the booming economy) and House Republicans suffered, with Newt Gingrich losing his speakership after the November ’98 elections.

While Clinton has been the only president impeached in recent times, it should be noted Obama will leave his presidency in five months without ever seriously being threatened with the ultimate sanction from Congress.

Going back to the ’80s, there was serious talk that Ronald Reagan could be impeached for the Iran-Contra affair in 1986.

In 1991, on the day the Gulf War broke out, Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Gonzalez introduced a resolution with five impeachment charges against George H.W. Bush.

And there was serious talk — shut down by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — on the idea of impeaching George W. Bush because of the Iraq war.

And do you want make a bet that whether it’s Trump or Hillary in the White House next year, there will be ferocious congressional opposition waiting for a big slip to perhaps make a similar effort.

But with Obama, though he’s angered the political right throughout his 7.5 years in office, there’s never been anyone seriously saying he’s done something worthy of such consideration.

In other news:

Jackie Toledo is going all out in her quest to win the House District 60 GOP primary later this month. A new mailer says she’ll crack down on “illegal aliens,” and says she’d attempt to repeal two recent bills passed by the Legislature, including one that gives in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

CD 15 Democratic hopeful Jim Lange has some language on his website that echoes closely that of progressive icons Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond fought yesterday over who dropped the ball in trying to get a debate set up between the two Democrats in their race for the House District 68 campaign. The bottom line? No debates for anyone.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency (HART) held a transportation summit in Tampa yesterday.

And the NRA is backing Daniel Webster in his quest to win the Congressional District 11 race.

Some of CD 15 candidate Jim Lange’s website language is very similar to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Democrat Jim Lange is in an uphill battle to defeat Republican incumbent Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Though there hasn’t been much public polling on the race, Ross defeated the last Democrat he faced, Alan Cohn, by nearly 20 percentage points in 2014.

Lange is running as a progressive in the Polk/Hillsborough county-based district, and has been called by some supporters as “in the mold of Bernie Sanders.”

Some of the language on his website also appears to be in the mold — or language of — the Vermont senator, as well as that of Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

On Sanders’ website under the heading of “Improving the Rural Economy,” is a subsection that says “Family Farms instead of Factory Farms.”

It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82% of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85% of soybean processing, and 63% of pork processing. It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago. It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies. We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.

On Lange’s website, under the section called “Improving the Rural Economy,” there is this:

It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies leaving many of our local farmers out to dry. New policies must be adopted to turn this around.

In that same “Improving the Rural Economy” section on Sanders’ website, there is this:

Senator Sanders will fight for farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators. He will not back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.

On Lange’s site there is this:

I will fight for farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators. I will not back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all. I believe in family farms, and I will do my very best to help them survive and prosper.

On Social Security, this comes from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s website:

Too many have been using scare tactics when it comes to Social Security. The problems in Social Security funding are serious, but they are fixable. Social Security is safe for at least the next 20 years and, if we act quickly, we can make modest changes that will keep the system solvent without cutting back on benefits. We need honesty and political will to move forward. Social Security is a promise made to our seniors and it would be a breach of trust — and just plain poor economic policy — to jeopardize this program with unnecessary cuts or risky privatization schemes.

From Jim Lange’s website:

The issues with Social Security funding are serious, yet fixable. Social Security is safe for at least the next 20 years. I am prepared to take action and make modest changes that will keep the system solvent without cutting back on benefits. One modest change that I would support is raising or even eliminating the Social Security cap on taxable earnings. Of course, any change to the program will require the political will and resolve of both parties. Social Security is a promise made to our seniors. It would be both a breach of trust and poor economic policy to jeopardize this program with unnecessary cuts or risky privatization schemes.

When contacted on Tuesday, Lange wrote to FloridaPolitics in an email that, “My site reflects my philosophy and that of members of my party whom I respect and want to emulate. I will allow you to draw your own conclusion and distribute your opinion to your readers as you see fit. “

The Dennis Ross campaign did not respond to our requests for comment.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova clash over Iranian nuclear deal in first debate

For what will probably be the only time before the Aug. 30 primary election, Debbie Wasserman Schultz debated her opponent in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, Tim Canova. The setting was an hourlong debate broadcast live on “Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede” on CBS4 Miami at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Canova, an international law professor at Nova Southeastern University, has been calling on the six-term incumbent for months to debate him, a request Wasserman Schultz had blown off until just recently. With early voting beginning in Miami-Dade County Monday (it begins Saturday in Broward County, the other part of the district), it may be the only time the two engage in an exchange on the issues.

The most contentious moment of the debate came regarding the Iranian nuclear deal that President Obama made with the P5+1 countries in the summer of 2015. Canova has tied himself to Democrats who voted against the Iran nuclear deal, including Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel (both of whom have endorsed Wasserman Schultz). But he’s also been criticized by saying he couldn’t say himself whether or not he would have supported the nuclear deal since he wasn’t a member of Congress at the time.

DeFede told Canova he was “confused” about his stance on the pact.

“Quite frankly, I will say right now that was not a good agreement,” he said, admitting that he’s never come out that strongly against it until the debate.

“Let’s be clear: my opponent has been mealy-mouthed and waffling his position on Israel from Day One,” Wasserman Schultz replied. She defended the nuclear pact, but was asked by DeFede if she could “guarantee” the money that Iran has now begun to receive with the sanctions being removed “won’t be used to finance terror against Israel?”

“You can never guarantee anything, Jim,” she said after the moderator continued to ask that question.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wasserman Schultz said Canova had been all over the map on the issue, “He’s taken three different positions in the last eight months,” and said he supported disarmament in the Middle East, “including Israel. Which, anyone supporting Israel understands would jeopardize Israel’s security.”

Canova said he did support disarmament in the region, but insisted he never singled out Israel. “I am specifically speaking of Saudi Arabia and Iran. That’s where the cycle of violence is coming from.”

The debate kicked off for the first six minutes with a spirited back-and-forth about the WikiLeaks revelations of Democratic National Committee emails that showed party officials conspired to undermine the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The revelations forced Wasserman Schultz to resign her post as chair of the DNC and prompted Canova to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, alleging she illegally utilized the resources with the Democratic National Committee to undermine his campaign.

“I know how to run my own campaign,” Wasserman Schultz replied to that complaint. “I didn’t need anyone to help me. I’ve won every election where I’ve been on the ballot.” She went on to say she would hope the people she works with would be interested in her political success, but “that type of intangible incidental activity” did not violate any rules or laws.

The exchange about the WikiLeaks document dump ceased shortly after Canova said, “nobody cares about these emails right now,” as he tried to pivot to the series of policy positions in which he has accused Wasserman Schultz of being insufficiently progressive.

But before that happened, DeFede hammered Canova on his bona fides with the people in CD 23 and the Democratic Party, noting how he only re-registered back with the party in the last year.

Canova chided the moderator for that question, saying he had worked with former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas when Wasserman Schultz was still in high school back in the 1980s (He’s 56 years old, she turns 50 next month). He then added that he had become disaffected with the party for becoming “more corporatized” on certain issues, and said Wasserman Schultz leadership at the DNC was part of that disaffection.

Canova has been endorsed by Sanders, which has helped fundraise his campaign coffers to the tune of about $2.8 million. It’s become a national campaign because Wassermann Schultz is a national figure, who has been severely criticized by Sanders supporters who think she “rigged” the Democratic primaries, mainly because of televised debates that were scheduled to not bring in large audiences.

Those national donations prompted DeFede to then ask Canova point-blank: “Are you really just a vessel for the anti-Debbie Wasserman Schultz people around the country — the Bernie people — who are so angry at her, that they want to basically use you as an instrument to attack her, you’re less of a candidate than a revenge cycle for Bernie Sanders?”

“I don’t see that at all,” Canova responded. “If I had a different type of politics I would not get this kind of support nationwide that I have.”

When it comes to who’s the most progressive, Wasserman Schultz pushed back on any charges that she’s too corporatist. “I’m a liberal. I embrace the ‘L-word.'”

Two years ago, Wasserman Schultz opposed the citizens led initiative on medical marijuana. With the measure coming back on the ballot in Florida this November, DeFede asked about her stance on the issue this time around. After slightly equivocating, she said she supported “evidence-based medical marijuana.”

Canova also hammered on Wasserman Schultz not supporting benefit increases for Social Security, which she pushed back on strongly.

The big guns in the Democratic Party are for the incumbent. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi endorsed her re-election bid during a campaign swing through South Florida, and President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced their support for Wasserman Schultz in March.

Sanders is backing Canova, and said at one point he would campaign with him, though that has yet to occur.

Canova said there needed to be more debates before the Aug. 30 primary. In response, Wasserman Schultz said she was “thrilled” to talk about the important issues, and said she would continue to reach out to the voters in CD 23 until Election Day.

In Tampa, Alan Grayson says a Senate victory for him is the chance “to take our govt. back”

“All rise!”

Those were the first words Alan Grayson uttered in jest while entering a conference room at the Seminole Heights Library in Tampa on Thursday night.

The Orlando area U.S. representative and U.S. Senate candidate then gave a sarcastic shoutout to the “trackers” who follow his every move in public, before setting in for the next hour-and-a-half to take questions from approximately 80 people at the town hall meeting.

Gun control, the environment, restoring voting rights to ex-felons, and even his run-in with a POLITICO reporter during the Democratic National Convention were all fodder for discussion, as well as the de rigueur slamming of his main opponent in the Senate race, Jupiter Congressman Patrick Murphy.

“My opponent has taken more money from Wall Street than any other Democrat … or any other Republican other that that of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,” he said. “He’s taken more money from Wall Street than the chairman of the Banking Committee (Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling). How do you do that?” he asked.

He then answered his own question.

“You cut the law into little pieces and you sell it to the highest bidder,” Grayson said, adding somewhat ominously that a vote for him was “the last chance to say that you can either work for the people, or work against the people? You can either do the greatest good for the greatest number, or you can be a toady for special interests. That’s really what this election is all about. It’s a referendum on our system of government. One last chance to take our government back.”

The crowd — some of them wearing Bernie Sanders T-shirts — seemed totally in his corner. A couple of citizens said they didn’t know much about him beforehand, but were impressed by what they were hearing.

One of those people was East Hillsborough activist Michelle Williams, who said her major issue was the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Grayson informed her it was an issue that he cared a lot about.

There was one moment that could have gone sideways during the discussion. One citizen said there were “three troubling issues” he hoped Grayson could speak to. One was his support for his wife, Dr. Dena Grayson, over his former staffer, Susannah Randolph, in the race to succeed him in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson swatted that question away easily, espousing the virtues of having a doctor elected to the House of Representatives, especially in the time of Zika.

The second question was about the House Office of Congressional Ethics report that alleged that there was a “substantial reason to believe” that Grayson broke federal and House ethics rules in connection with his offshore hedge fund. And the third question was about the “admittedly ambushed interview” he had last month in Philadelphia with a POLITICO reporter, as well as “the larger issues pertaining to that.”

Those “larger issues” were the allegations by Grayson’s ex-wife that he had physically abused her.

Grayson said he would answer “all of the questions you have,” but added that “the things you refer to actually touch the lives of no one in this room, except possibly me.”

But, in fact, he did not answer at all answer the questions regarding the hedge fund or those “larger issues,” and instead simply focused on his confrontation with POLITICO reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere.

“In the NBA, if you want to take a charge, you have to stop moving your feet,” the congressman began, as he started to shuffle his own feet to demonstrate what he meant. “He went here, and there, and everywhere and consistently tried to block me, leading the room with his chest. I’ll tell you, I’ve never gotten that treatment, even from Republican trackers.”

Grayson went on to say that that he kept on telling Dovere that “you are blocking me.”

“Is that my fault? I don’t think so. I think it’s a strange thing that just because you’re a U.S. congressman running for a Senate seat that somebody would do anything like that,” he said, before apologizing to the rest of the room because he said it had nothing to do with their lives.

In response, Dovere tells that, “I’m not sure why the Congressman wants to keep discussing this, but there is a video on our site showing what happened — including his pushing me while claiming I was pushing him. As he said in that video, he attended a public event, and he is a public official. I was attempting to ask him questions about the serious allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife.”

Grayson has made frequent appearances in Tampa as he vies for the Senate bid. Murphy hasn’t made as many visits, but his office did announce on Friday that he will be coming to Tampa on Monday to visit Tampa Bay Wave.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz agrees to debate Tim Canova this Sunday morning – for 15 minutes, anyway

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has finally agreed to debate her Democratic party challenger, Tim Canova. 

Canova, however, hasn’t said if he will participate, in part because it would only last fifteen minutes.

“The voters of my district deserve better than a mere 15 minutes of discussion on the issues,” Canova told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Does Debbie Wasserman Schultz even believe in democracy?”

Her campaign issued a short statement Wednesday that she has accepted an invitation to debate on WFOR’s Facing South Florida public affairs program with Jim DeFede at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

“I look forward to a thoughtful conversation and robust debate that addresses the issues important to the people of Florida’s 23rd Congressional district,” said Wasserman Schultz.

Wasserman Schultz announced last Thursday she would engage in at least one debate with Canova, a professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University. It comes less than three weeks before the Aug. 30 primary. The winner is expected to easily win the Democratic-friendly district in November.

Wasserman Schultz has held the CD 23 seat for the past 12 years, being elected in 2004 after a stint in the Florida Legislature. She resigned last month as chair of the Democratic National Committee, days after the release of 19,000 leaked emails from WikiLeaks, which showed top members of the DNC working to boost Hillary Clinton‘s presidential bid.

Earlier this week, Canova filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against Wasserman Schultz, asserting she illegally utilized the resources of the Democratic National Committee to undermine his campaign.

On Tuesday Canova’s most famous ally, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, sent out a fundraising email in support of Canova. “This race is very important for Our Revolution,” Sanders wrote. “If we can win this tough fight in Florida, it will send a clear message about the power of our grassroots movement that will send shockwaves through the political and media establishments.”

There has been very little polling about the primary. Ten days ago, Canova released an internal poll that showed him trailing the incumbent by eight percentage points, 46 percent to 38 percent.

Martin Dyckman: When investigating payday lending, knowledge is power

The adage that knowledge is power proves itself nowhere more forcefully than in politics.

One significant reason why the lobbyists have so much power — apart from their campaign money — is that they claim to know so much more than legislators and other policymakers do.

That accounts for the explosive growth and predatory practices of the payday lending industry. For years, Congress and half the states encouraged it with poor regulation, like Florida’s, or none at all. They relied on industry-sponsored studies that glossed over the shocking numbers of people perpetually trapped by exorbitantly high-interest, repeatedly renewing their loans because they could not afford to pay off the principal and accumulated interest.

When independent studies finally proved the extent to which payday lenders were preying on military families, Congress in 2007 put a stop to that.

Then, in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), armed with exceptional powers to demand facts and figures from industries subject to its regulations.

That history and some healthy results are described in “Payday for the Public,” a noteworthy article in the June-July-August edition of the “Washington Monthly,” from which this column is sourced.

After analyzing 12 million loans from 30 states over a one-year period, the CFPB found “as many as 48 percent of payday loan borrowers had taken out 10 or more loans over a 12-month period.” More than four in every five loans were being renewed within two weeks.

Acting on that knowledge, the CPFB is proposing regulations that would limit the number of loans to a borrower in a given year and require the lender to evaluate the person’s ability to repay.

The loan sharks argue their customers have nowhere else to go to meet an emergency. This is often true. But they don’t explain how it’s any more helpful to trap people in perpetual small loan debt than it was to issue home mortgages to those who really couldn’t afford them.

If this issue sounds timely to Floridians, it should. Nearly the entire Florida Congressional delegation had lined up behind a notorious bill to delay the CFPB regulations. They also wrote to CFPB director Richard Cordray, urging him to adopt the “Florida model” for payday regulation, which allows effective interest rates as high as 300 percent.

However, knowledge as power can work two ways. Aided by the internet, consumer groups put on enough pressure that the industry’s most conspicuous Florida backers, Rep. (and Senate candidate) Patrick Murphy, and Rep. (and former Democratic national chair) Debbie Wasserman Schultz have recanted their opposition to the CFPB initiative. Bernie Sanders had something to do with that.

Writing in the Tampa Bay Times July 29, Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a public interest group opposed to the payday lobby, cited reports that the industry has contributed more than $2.5 million to Florida politicians and political parties since 2009. Nearly $1 million of that came from payday lender Amscot Financial and the family that controls it.

Small wonder, then, that so many Florida politicians have been friendly to payday lending. But they know now that the public is on to them.

The payday lending issue points up several major gaps in the public’s access to knowledge and the power that can come from it.

As author Anne Kim writes in “Payday for the Public,” Congress has gutted, over the last quarter-century, much of its staff’s research ability. That was a deliberate favor to the lobbies. The capacity needs to be restored.

Other federal agencies need fact-finding powers such as the CFPB has.

“A foundation of the American legal system,” says Kim, “is that each side in a lawsuit must have access to the same evidence base.”

Government should have access to the same data as the lobbyists.

Thirdly, we need real-time — that’s to say instant — disclosure of the sources and amounts of all political contributions and where they’re put to use. Even the Supreme Court’s monumentally dreadful Citizens United decision acknowledged the government’s power to demand such information.

But there’s an enormous amount of “dark money” sludging through loopholes that Congress, and the eminently worthless Federal Elections Commission, refuse to plug.

This is what the political candidates of 2016 need to commit to doing if they are serious about returning power to the people.


Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

Tim Canova files FEC complaint against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Tim Canova has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, asserting she illegally utilized the resources with the Democratic National Committee to undermine his campaign. Canova says the DNC emails were released last month by WikiLeaks — which forced Wasserman Schultz to step down from her role as chair of the DNC — reveal she was working to stop his campaign.

Canova is challenging Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

“The FEC now has the authority to conduct an investigation of Wasserman Schultz’s use of DNC resources for her Congressional campaign,” Canova says in a statement. “The emails alone establish a pattern of wholly improper conduct on the part of Wasserman Schultz and clear violations of federal elections and campaign finance laws.” Canova goes on to say, “She repeatedly used her position as DNC chair for unfair advantage for her congressional campaign. She sought to use DNC resources to appropriate party fundraising opportunities for herself. And she abused her authority by bullying the media to stifle negative reporting on her divisive conduct at the DNC and to encourage positive reporting on her congressional campaign. Wasserman Schultz’s conduct while head of the DNC reflects poorly on her judgment and character, and has unfortunately brought shame and disgrace to our district here in South Florida.”

Canova has become a national figure among progressives for his attempt to defeat Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties who has had a national platform since being selected to chair the DNC back in 2011. Some of her moves over the past year as DNC chair alienated supporters of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator who provided a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. At the Democratic convention last month, Sanders endorsed Clinton in her race against Donald Trump.

According to the statement Canova issued Monday, the complaint charges that, “Wasserman Schultz had a fiduciary duty to the DNC and ultimately to the public to be a fair arbitrator and to separate her obligations as a candidate for federal office from her position as chair of a national committee.” Additionally, the complaint states, “She had a legal obligation to institute a firewall between her campaign and the DNC. Instead, the record establishes that she used her position with the DNC and the resources of the DNC to improperly benefit her congressional campaign.

“The emails establish that on numerous occasions the DNC, under Wasserman Schultz’s direction and control, used its resources to track my campaign, interfere with my campaign events and to assist the Wasserman Schultz campaign in her personal communications strategy,” said Canova.

The complaint further alleges “The DNC paid a team of national, senior communications and political professionals significant sums of money for their consulting services and the Wasserman Schultz for Congress Campaign utilized these services free of charge.”

The Miami New Times reported last month that simply by searching Canova’s last name in WikiLeaks’ file turns up 80 messages, though many emails stemmed from the same chain. DNC staffers repeatedly flagged positive news about the Canova campaign and shared it among themselves.

A poll released last week by the Canova camp shows he trails Wasserman Schultz by eight percentage points in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

FloridaPolitics has reached out to the Wasserman Schultz camp for comment, and we’ll update this post once we receive that.

Ousted from DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz fighting to stay in House

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz easily won her South Florida district six times, but a Democratic primary challenge from a Bernie Sanders-backed law professor is making her seventh bid less than a sure bet — and her recent resignation as Democratic National Committee chairwoman hasn’t helped.

Tim Canova has raised about $2.8 million thanks to the former presidential candidate’s endorsement, an almost unheard of amount for a first-time candidate and almost as much as Wasserman Schultz’s $3 million. He is running an aggressive campaign, accusing Wasserman Schultz of being a pawn of Wall Street who backs corporate donors over progressive causes. The primary is Aug. 30.

“Wasserman Schultz is like a lot of politicians who live in their own little bubble. They are not out and around the people and I have been,” said Canova, 56, who teaches business law at Nova Southeastern University.

Wasserman Schultz, 49, re-emerged in public Thursday, six days after the Democratic National Convention and her forced resignation as national party chair following a leaked email scandal. She immediately went on the counterattack, saying Canova is using “disingenuous half-truths, lies and distortions” to attack her record. She received loud applause Thursday night at a forum on healing the rift between the police and black community that was held at a predominantly African-American megachurch.

“I have a deep and proud commitment to our community,” she said, listing Social Security, the Affordable Care Act and recovery programs that eased the 2008 financial crisis as examples of progressive policies she helped pass. “My opponent can say whatever he wants, but the people I represent … know better.” She also has the support of Vice President Joe Biden, who will campaign on her behalf at a closed fundraiser Friday evening.

In Wasserman Schultz’s previous elections, she never drew a primary opponent in her suburban Fort Lauderdale district or a serious Republican challenge. In general elections, she received at least 60 percent of the vote in a 2-to-1 Democratic district that stretches from the ocean to the Everglades and includes high-rise beachfront hotels and condos, golf resorts and luxury malls and a mix of poor, middle-class, retiree and well-heeled communities.

Wasserman Schultz has been perceived as such a powerhouse — and the district so uncompetitive — that former U.S. Rep. Allen West, a tough-talking favorite of conservative Republicans and one of her fiercest critics, ran legally in a neighboring district even though he lived in hers to avoid near-certain defeat. The district favored Clinton over Sanders by a 68 to 31 percent margin in the March presidential primary.

“I’ve known Debbie for 25 years and she has always been very, very supportive of the district and environmental matters, which is important to me,” said supporter Lily Sayre, who owns a horse stable in Southwest Ranches, a semirural enclave in the district. “I’ve always known her to be forthright and standing by what she believes, whether it helps her politically or not.”

The email leaks that cost Wasserman Schultz her DNC post are motivating Canova’s backers, who say they prove what they long believed: that Wasserman Schultz threw aside fairness and neutrality to weaken Sanders’ chances of defeating Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

“My family fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War I and World War II, including my father. Some of them lost their lives. No one steals my right to a free vote,” said makeup artist Ellen Kinnally, a Sanders supporter who said she moved into the district specifically to vote for Canova.

Wasserman Schultz denies showing favoritism in the presidential race, saying she strictly followed party rules.

The leaked emails show that DNC staffers closely tracked their boss’s race. They monitored media coverage and tried to get details of a speech Canova gave by internet to an Alaska progressive group while she spoke at that state’s Democratic convention. They circulated a campaign news release about Canova getting Sander’s endorsement — Wasserman Schultz ordered Canova’s name stricken from its headline.

Canova said he began considering a challenge last year when he organized opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and Wasserman Schultz and her congressional staff never agreed to a meeting. She became the only Democrat in Florida’s House delegation who voted to fast-track the pact’s approval, which had been opposed by labor unions, environmental groups and other liberal constituencies as well as some tea party groups on the Republican side.

“She has been taking millions of dollars from the biggest Wall Street banks and corporations and I started looking at her voting record and it is lined up with these corporate interests,” he said.

Wasserman Schultz said her staff met with Canova and his group in her district office last year and had their concerns heard.

“Unfortunately, that’s been what my opponent has engaged in this entire campaign,” she said.

The winner of the Wasserman Schultz-Canova race will likely face Republican Joe Kaufman in November. He lost to Wasserman Schultz by a 63 to 37 percent margin in 2014.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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