Debbie Wasserman Schultz – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Republicans target Debbie Wasserman Schultz in aide scandal ad

Congressional Republicans have released an internet video ad blasting Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her employment of and defense of an aide at the heart of a scandal in Washington D.C.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is circulating a 43-second spot dubbed “Corrupt” that says she waited until Democratic congressional information technology aide Imran Awan was arrested in late July to fire him, even though other members of Congress cut him and other suspects loose months earlier. The spot also alleges she did so reluctantly while contending he was the target of Islamophobia.

Awan reportedly was arrested while trying to leave the country and was charged with bank fraud. He and several other members of his family, two brothers and his wife, all Democratic congressional aides, have all reportedly been under federal investigation since at least early in 2017, a probe that became public in February. There have not been other arrests or other charges.

“Scandals, lies and corruption, that’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” the NRCC ad concludes.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan from her staff on July 25, the day after he was arrested by the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police at Washington’s Dulles International Airport.

In a statement released by her office prior to the NRCC ad, Wasserman Schultz said, in part, “As a mother, a Jew, and a member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: my commitment to doing what’s right and just – even if it isn’t what’s easy and simple – is unyielding.

“Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing; but that is not the woman my constituents elected, and that is not the mother my children know me to be.

She said that the investigation, as she watched reports, raised troubling concerns about fair treatment, due process and “potential ethnic and religious profiling.”

“At the end of the day, there are times in our lives when we must do what may be hard but right, even when there is a cost,” she concluded. “This was one of those times for me and I would make the same decision again.”

 

Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for special session to replace Confederate statue

(UPDATED) South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene for a special session to deal with a Confederate monument that represents the state in the U.S. Capitol.

A bronze statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith continues to sit in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, despite legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session that approved removing it.

“While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country. We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Momentum to remove Smith from the congressional collection began in 2015 shortly after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. That seminal event took place after Dylann Roof went on a shooting spree in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black men and women. Roof had posed with a Confederate flag in photos.

Two competing bills regarding a statue that would have taken the place of Smith died in this year’s Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, while another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of GrassNeither passed.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

Wasserman Schultz says that leaving Smith’s statue in a place of honor “symbolizes a painful, disgraceful legacy.”

“It’s time to stop playing games,” she said on Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

Wasserman Schultz says Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Douglas, Bethune or George Washington Jenkins, a philanthropist and the founder of Publix Super Markets.

“These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state,” she said. “The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”

“Like most politicians in Washington, the congresswoman is out of touch,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We’ve already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Senate President Joe Negron did not respond to a request for comment.

Ethics group wants Debbie Wasserman Schultz investigated over IT staffer

A right-leaning watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz because she continued to employ an IT staffer after he became the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust on Monday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation into “Wasserman Schultz’s apparent breach of House Ethics Rules.” According to the conservative ethics organization, Wasserman Schultz violated ethics rules by continuing to employ Imran Awan even after he was blocked from using the House IT system.

“There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems and a number of her colleagues severed ties with Awan,” said Matthew Whitaker, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan last week after he was arrested on one count of bank fraud while attempting to leave the United States for Pakistan, POLITICO reported. Awan and several family members, who also previously served as House staffers, have been at the center of a months-long House investigation.

The complaint says that since Awan was barred from accessing House computer system, he would have been prevented from “performing any reasonable IT work.”

“It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics rules,” wrote Whitaker in the complaint. “After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting — a position that he could not reasonably perform.”

David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, told POLITICO, the complaint was baseless and meant to undermine Wasserman Schultz.

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz fires IT staffer following fraud arrest

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has fired an information technology staffer following his arrest on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was attempting to fly to Pakistan.

Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron says Imran Awan was fired by the Florida lawmaker on Tuesday.

Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, confirmed that his client was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday. He says Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.

The 37-year-old Awan of Lorton, Virginia, was arraigned Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud. He pleaded not guilty and was released pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program, including the restriction that he not travel beyond a 50-mile radius of his home, according to the court.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint states there is probable cause to believe that Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, engaged in a scheme to defraud Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan. FBI Special Agent Brandon Merriman said in the affidavit that the misrepresentations revolved around written assurances that the home serving as collateral for the loan was a “principal residence.”

Merriman said that the credit union normally does not provide home equity lines of credit when the home used to secure the loan is a rental. That’s because they are riskier forms of collateral. The investigation, which included physical surveillance and interviews, determined that the couple did not reside at the property used to secure the loan.

The agent also attested that bank records show $283,000 was wired to two individuals in Pakistan. He stated that agents followed Alvi in March to Dulles International Airport and that she was allowed to board a flight. She has not returned. She has a return flight for September 2017, but the agent said that he believes Alvi has no intention of returning to the United States.

The FBI agent also stated Awan purchased a flight to Doha, Qatar, and then to Lahore, Pakistan. He purchased a return flight for a date in January 2018.

Gowen says the federal bank fraud count stems from a “modest real estate matter” and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. He said he’s confident Awan “will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life.”

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21, according to Gowen.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Blake Dowling: The almighty email

Ray Tomlinson invented email in 1972. Tomlinson was an ARPANET contractor and picked the @ symbol to reference digital communications between computers.

Since then, things have changed — just a wee bit.

In a perfect world, organizations use email to share quick bursts of info with clients, colleagues, constituents, etc.

But, in the real world, people send massive files, keep enormous inboxes, all while sending the most confidential voter, medical and financial info. Designed as a communicative tool for nonsensitive info, people are now using email as the send-all-be-all of their organizations.

If you don’t archive your emails and use a file structure (outside of your inbox) think about giving that some time. Digital organization is greatness.

Over the years, I’ve come across a few situations where people have emailed me some very sensitive info by mistake.

So, as a best practices rule-of-thumb, if you can’t say it aloud, don’t email it.

One client was considering an alternative to our company and sent our proposal to a competitor, asking the other company to break down our proposal and beat our price. They accidentally cc’ed me.

In my eyes, their brand is forever tarnished. An hour later, when I received a request to ignore the previous email, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was like a court order to “strike that comment from the record” — the cat is already out of the bag, and said cat holds a major grudge.

Recently, my wife was trying to get her air conditioning fixed at a local car shop; they were refusing to honor the warranty.

They then sent this gem to 6 internal staff, cc’ing me by mistake. There was nothing up, no one even looked at the car beside them. Now, whenever I think of auto repair, I see them as the clowns of the business. I always will.

Had they not sent this email, I would have been none the wiser. One person ruined their national brand. (I bet they got an A in clown school.)

We will not name names here, but here is part of the message:

“Paul Harvey version was the washer bottle is broken! How does a washer bottle get broken, and AC system over charged ???? We were asking questions since vehicle has not ever been in our stores for repairs or service. Car fax was clean so we are fixing the vehicle under warranty since we cannot prove anything and the Dowling’s are giving us any information other than being very defensive which usually in my book means something up.”

The Democratic National Committee learned the power of email — the wrong way.

Jobs were lost, trust destroyed. In the aftermath of the Nevada Democratic convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote about Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager: “Damn liar. Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.”

In another email, Wasserman Schultz said of Sanders: “He isn’t going to be president.”

Other emails had her stating that Sanders doesn’t understand the Democratic Party. Bernie got hosed. Email pain is not just for Democrats, Republicans past and present have had their fair share of problems.

Email woes have no party affiliation.

There should be an email protocol — in writing — for all your staffers, including interns, volunteers, and all the way to the top.

We don’t need to go into mail servers (or things like that); email is simply not a secure platform for communication.

Don’t talk trash, send credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or anything confidential via email. Yes, there are encryption packages available to secure email communication, if you are willing to make the investment.

Nevertheless, use email as designed, and you will have a pleasant and (most importantly) more secure computing experience.

Be safe out there.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

 

Alcee Hastings wants FBI investigation of Ivanka Trump security clearance

A group of House Democrats is asking the FBI to review whether first daughter and White House Adviser Ivanka Trump omitted information from her security clearance application when she joined the administration as an unpaid White House adviser.

Broward/Palm Beach Representative Alcee Hastings is among the 22 signers of a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Democrats want McCabe to investigate whether Ivanka Trump was truthful in her filling out an FS-86 application for a top-level security clearance. The document requires applicants disclose foreign contacts, meetings, and business interests by the clearance holder in addition to those of their spouse and siblings.

The issue refers to Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, who had been making continuous revisions to his own FS-86, omitting key meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey KislyackSergey Gorkov, head of state-run Vnesheconombank and most recently, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. in June 2006.

“We are concerned that Ivanka Trump may have engaged in similar deception,” the letter states. “The high standard to which we hold public servants, particularly senior advisers to the President of the United States, requires that these questions be raised, and promptly answered.”

Hastings is not the only Florida Democrat to try to block a Trump family member’s security clearance. Last week Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced two amendments into a spending bill that would have revoked the security clearance of Kushner, a White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law.

One of the amendments to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill would bar funds from being used “to issue, renew, or maintain a security clearance for any individual in a position in the Executive Office of the President who is under a criminal investigation by a Federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government.”

The amendment failed by a 30-22 vote.

A second amendment sought to revoke the security clearance of White House staffers who deliberately fail to disclose meetings with foreign nationals or governments on their questionnaire for national security positions. It also failed on a 30-22 vote.

Tim Canova raises $32K out of the gate in CD 23 race

Tim Canova, who announced less than three weeks ago that he will challenge Debbie Wasserman Schultz again in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District CD 23, raised nearly $32,000 in June.

Over the weekend, Canova’s campaign announced that he had raised $31,928 from 1,323 small contributions, with an average donation of just $24.

Canova announced that he would run against Debbie Wasserman on June 15.

“We are encouraged that so many of our grassroots supporters are stepping up to make donations in such a short period of time. It’s an indication that progressives are ready to fight back against the corporate machine and career politicians who have lost touch with working folks,” said Canova.

Canova has pledged not to take any money from PACS or corporate interests in his second bid to unseat Wasserman Schultz who, he says, “has been swimming  in big corporate money for most of her political career.”

Wasserman Schultz defeated Canova by 14 percentage points in the CD 23 primary last August, the first serious challenge that she faced since being elected to the Broward/Miami-Dade County congressional seat back in 2004.

Although the race wasn’t close, Canova became a vehicle for Democrats nationally who were disenchanted by Wasserman Schultz’s leadership as chair of the Democratic National Committee, and he raised millions from donors all across the country.

Less than a month after his loss to DWS, Canova announced he would stay involved in Florida politics by creating a public advocacy group called Progress For All, which raised more than $100,000 from over 6,000 donations in 2017.

“It’s like our campaign never ended,” Canova said. “We never stopped working for the people of this district. Through Progress For All, we have remained active on the issues that matter in Florida and across our country.”

 

Florida Congresspeople: No to seismic testing in Atlantic Ocean

On Thursday, over 100 Congress members, many from Florida, signed off on a letter to the Department of the Interior opposing Atlantic Ocean seismic testing.

In April, the Trump Administration announced that it is considering opening the Outer Continental Shelf Planning Areas to oil and gas exploration and drilling, via seismic testing

Even for Congressmen like John Rutherford, a stalwart Trump supporter, seismic testing is a bridge too far.

Congressman Rutherford said, “Traveling through my district I have heard from countless business owners and residents along the North Florida coasts who are concerned about the risks of seismic testing to our healthy ocean fisheries. While future offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic would put our communities at risk down the road, seismic testing threatens our fragile coastal economies today. Our coastal economy should not be put at undue risk at a time when our booming oil and gas production is more than enough to meet our current energy needs.”

The letter asserts that the “decision to move forward with permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits puts at risk the vibrant Atlantic Coast economies dependent on healthy ocean ecosystems.”

The letter also notes that information obtained from seismic surveys is proprietary to the oil and gas industry, with even Congress restricted from the information.

Rutherford was not the only Florida signatory to the letter.

Joining him: Reps. Ted YohoAlcee HastingsDennis RossFrancis RooneyDebbie Wasserman SchultzRon DeSantisTed DeutchLois FrankelAl LawsonStephanie MurphyIleana Ros-Lehtinen, and Fredrica Wilson.

Florida Man thoughts on Georgia’s special election

Florida Man Steve Schale

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate — and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn’t exactly home team territory, but like GA 06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called “woefully unprepared” who “lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida’s tax structure or its school system works.”

Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bona fides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm — the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect setup for the race (again, you can Google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state House seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So, what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Bilirakis‘ district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch‘s seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect — and even then, it’s often not enough.

And it wasn’t.

Taking nothing away from the campaign — I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic matchup was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of “but” to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word “but,” especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don’t know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in the camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47 percent, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen — sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don’t think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the “better” candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering that means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the “better” candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options — and when the wave happened, the map blew wide-open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side — occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave.

At the same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won’t get just anyone across the line — especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyperpartisan environment, campaigns aren’t simply plug-and-play operations — they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high-quality candidates and register voters.

And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.

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