Jeb Bush Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Negron named ‘Champion of the Everglades’

Environmental group Audubon Florida presented Senate President Joe Negron with an award Tuesday recognizing his “steadfast leadership” in Everglades restoration.

Negron earned the “Champion of the Everglades” award for a bill he ushered through the legislature earlier this past session that mandated the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and prevent a repeat of the historic and harmful algal blooms that wreaked havoc on Florida waters in 2016.

Audubon Florida’s deputy director, Julie Hill-Gabriel, described the legislation as “an incredible victory” for the Everglades.

“President Negron helped secure a much-needed restoration project for America’s Everglades. His tireless efforts responded to an ecological crisis by garnering support for one of the most important wins for Florida’s environment in a decade,” she said. “We applaud President Negron for his commitment to protecting Florida’s environment for generations to come. It is with great excitement we name President Negron as a Champion of the Everglades.”

Audubon Florida said the award is reserved for “individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to protect Florida’s water and wildlife in the River of Grass.” Past winners of the award include Nathaniel Reed and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Audubon Florida has been a strong partner in the ongoing effort to reduce and one day eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy,” Negron said. “I am honored to receive this award and look forward to working with Audubon in the future as we continue to closely monitor the implementation of Senate Bill 10 and other legislative efforts to restore and protect Florida’s environment and natural resources.”

Gwen Graham goes nuclear over recovery fees, fracking fees

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham wants to put a stop to Florida utility ratepayers paying for nuclear power  plants that were never built or which never worked, or for paying for fracking exploration in Florida.

The former congresswoman from Tallahassee went nuclear Tuesday denouncing the 2006 law that allowed Florida investor-owned utility companies to charge advance fees for nuclear power plants that were never built, something that the Florida Public Service Commission has allowed, to the tune of more than $3 million in fees, she said. She charged that the commission is out of control.

Her statement Tuesday in some ways echoes that made last month by her rival for the Democratic primary nomination, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who welcomed her on board the position Tuesday, yet also said “it feels like an election year conversion” for Graham.

Graham faces Democrats Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the 2018 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor.

On Oct. 17, Gillum declared in a statement, “Instead of forcing everyday Floridians to continue ponying up money for Florida Power & Light, the PSC should instead force FPL to pay for their Turkey Point nuclear energy license. Working people in this state face enough financial hardships as it is — they should not have to fork over more money to an enormous corporation who controls most of the state’s major energy decisions. Corporations have run roughshod over this state for too long, and when I’m Governor it will finally end.”

On Tuesday, Graham also called for an end.

“Floridians should not be forced to pay for nuclear power plants that are never built or for fracking exploration,” Graham stated in a news release. “For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have turned a blind eye to the Public Service Commission and utility companies as they’ve taxed seniors, small business owners and families. That ends when I’m elected governor.”

She also criticized both Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Rick Scott for what she said was stacking the commission with what she called “unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners.” She then went after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, for having voted for an unbuilt nuclear power plant while he was in Congress, and then go after likely Republican gubernatorial candidate House Speaker Richard Corcoran for appointing to the PSC nominating commission.

In 2015, the commission accepted a utilities’ request to allow the charges to Floridians as much as $500 million a year for natural gas fracking projects. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the commission exceeded its authority by approving it.

Now proposed legislation that would grant the commission new authority to charge what Graham called “the fracking tax.”

She pledged that as governor she would fight that and push for a statutory ban on any fracking tax.

“Rick Scott has appointed unqualified, industry-friendly commissioners. Adam Putnam voted to approve the construction of a $24-billion nuclear expansion that is unlikely to ever be built. As Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran makes half of the appointments to the PSC Nominating Council — which has refused to consider consumer advocates for the PSC,” Graham said. “Their records make it clear that Corcoran and Putnam would continue to allow the Public Service Commission and utilities to charge Floridians with outrageous and unfair taxes.”

Corcoran’s office responded by saying he has six appointments to that commission, and they included Democratic House Leader Janet Cruz and consumer Ann Marie Ryan.

The watchdog group Integrity Florida recently labeled the PSC a “Captured Regulatory Agency,” asserting it has been captured under the influence of the very utilities it is responsible for regulating.

“The Public Service Commission is out of control. As governor, I will appoint consumer advocates who will vote in Floridians best interests — not the special interests,” Graham said. “I will fight to repeal the advanced nuclear recovery taxes and to ban utilities from ever charging customers a speculative fracking tax.”

Adam Putnam: Roy Moore accusations are ‘repulsive’

UPDATED

Agriculture Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam denounced U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, of Alabama, following reports that he had a sexual encounter with an underage girl nearly four decades ago.

“I find the accusations repulsive,” Putnam said in a statement. “I believe that for the good of the people of Alabama, Roy Moore should drop out of the race.”

Jacksonville area state Representative Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General, also weighed in on Monday.

“Sexual assault is a disgusting act that we shouldn’t take lightly,” Fant told Florida Politics. “Under our Constitution, Roy Moore is entitled to due process. But if these allegations are true, Roy Moore belongs in prison, not the U.S. Senate.”

Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody weighed in Tuesday morning.

“The allegations against Roy Moore are extremely serious,” she said. “If true, these allegations would not only warrant that he drop out of a political race, but more importantly, require that he be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m confident that our legal system and Constitution, which ensure a fair process for both the accused and accusers, will lead to the truth of these allegations and ensure justice is served.”

Putnam is the the most prominent member of the Florida Republican Party to denounce Moore’s plight. Former Governor Jeb Bush called early on Monday for Moore to drop out.

***Update – Tuesday 7:39 a.m.*** – Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran tweeted to Florida Politics, “As the father of two teenage girls, there can’t seriously be a question of my position. Roy Moore should step aside.”

“This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding, this is a question of what’s right and wrong,” Bush said in an interview with CNBCs Brian Sullivan. “Acknowledging that you’re dating teenagers when you’re 32 years old as an assistant state attorney is wrong. It’s just plain wrong.”

Bush’s comments came shortly after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced in Louisville that he believed the women who told their stories about Moore to the Washington Post last week. Republican Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, also called for Moore to drop out of the race.

“We have to stand for basic principals, and decency has to be one of those,” Bush said on CNBC.

The former Governor also said the denouncements shouldn’t be partisan.

“When it happens to your team, you have an obligation to speak out as well,” Bush said during the CNBC interview.

Shortly after Bush made his remarks, a fifth woman came forward to accuse Moore of making sexual or romantic advances toward her when she was a teenager.

The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, said during a news conference in New York that Moore attacked her when she was 16 and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Alabama.

Florida Politics has reached out to other statewide running candidates Jack Latvala and Ashley Moody to get their thoughts on what Moore should do. This article will be updated with any future comments.

Personnel note: Chip Case, Foyt Ralston start Capitol Advocates

Veteran lobbyists Chip Case and Foyt Ralston have formed a new firm, Capitol Advocates, to represent clients before the Legislature, executive branch agencies, and in Washington, according to a news release. 

“In today’s political climate, clients need advocates in the Capitol who have the expertise to work with policymakers in all branches of government, and who can help them achieve their legislative priorities,” Case said. “We are excited about the access and expertise our team of political veterans is going to bring together for our clients.”

Ralston added, “Our combined experience in both the public and private sector not only gives clients unparalleled access to lawmakers but helps them successfully navigate various local, state and federal branches of government.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

Capitol Advocates represents a variety of business and non-profit clients from throughout the state of Florida in addition to providing crisis communications and political guidance to corporate and political organizations.

For more than 20 years, Case has been involved in state government and politics … He has held nearly every role in state government from legislative assistant to chief of staff.  

From 2004-06 he served as Deputy Chief of Staff to House Speaker Allan Bense, where his responsibilities included external affairs, policy development on Medicaid reform, tort Rrform, and transportation, as well as the coordination of all statutory appointments for the Speaker.

Case also has served as one of the state’s leading strategists and fundraisers to various successful election and re-election campaigns for some of the state’s top governmental officials for the last two decades. Upon his re-election to a second term, Case served on the transition team for Gov. Jeb Bush.

In 2006, Case returned to the Republican Party of Florida, where he became Chief of Staff for House campaigns. He was responsible for recruiting candidates, directing strategy and media outreach, fundraising, and managing a $14 million budget for the 2008 cycle.

That year, the Republican Party’s House campaign successfully maintained 76 State House seats for Republicans—the same year that President Obama won Florida and Democrats were expected to make significant gains at the state level.

Ralston has more than 20 years of experience in government relations in the public and private sectors and brings a wealth of knowledge to the firm.

His past professional experiences include serving as Florida’s chief information officer and as chief of staff of the State Technology Office. In this leadership position, Ralston helped create reforms affecting the conduct of business by government and private industry.

Prior to working with the State of Florida executive branch, Ralston was staff director for the Florida Senate Majority Office. He has also served in numerous leadership positions with local and state campaigns as well as with several congressional campaigns.

In the private sector, Ralston has represented various local city and county governments as well as taxing districts. He has represented a variety of clients with diverse issues including information technology, energy, manufacturing, tort reform, public finance, environmental regulation, agriculture, insurance, regulated industries, special taxing districts, healthcare and telecommunications.

Supreme Court brings new meaning to ‘oral arguments’

What a year we’re having in Florida’s capital city. Just not in a good way.

In April, we had the sad spectacle of Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles resigning from the Senate after uttering racial slurs in the direction of Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson. Less than two weeks ago, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens resigned after admitting an affair with a lobbyist.

Now, we have six women alleging misconduct on the part of powerful Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, a candidate for governor. At the same time, another potentially big story, this one involving the Florida Supreme Court, is almost being ignored.

A few days ago Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica was at the Florida Supreme Court to hear arguments on the case involving whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court the day before he leaves office in January, 2019.

The lawsuit seeks to force Scott to prove he has the authority to fill the seats currently occupied by Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who all must retire due to constitutionally-imposed age restrictions. Something weird, or suspicious – choose the word – occurred after oral arguments.

Rosica reported Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga could be heard on a hot mic, where Labarga says “Izzy Reyes is on there. He’ll listen to me.” Listen to you about what?

“There” is the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends names to fill Supreme Court vacancies, from which the governor selects.

Israel U. Reyes from Miami-Dade is one of those members. Before Reyes’ name came up, Labarga can be heard uttering “Panuccio,” and Pariente shortly thereafter was picked up saying “crazy.”

Jesse Panuccio, former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, is also a JNC member.

Was this discussion about trying to influence the nominating process? It doesn’t look, or sound, good. Jason Unger, Chairman of the JNC, filed a public records request to try and get to the bottom of it.

Another piece of intrigue developed the following day. After the Florida Channel removed the portion that included the exchange from their website, Unger sought, and received the clip.

Jason Gonzalez, a former general counsel for Gov. Charlie Crist, posted the video only to be told to take it down by the Florida Channel. To the surprise of no one who knows Gonzalez, he refused (citing the Fair Use Doctrine) and it is now part of the YouTube universe.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Times reported Scott asked for documents and a copy of the recording. The request was made through his general counsel, Daniel Nordby, who is arguing the appointments case before the Court. Nordby is also a member of the 9-person JNC.

Capital watchers will recall 1998, when the outgoing and incoming governor faced a similar quandary with the impending retirement of Justice Ben Overton. Both Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush claimed authority to make the appointment, but the two agreed to both interview the candidates and decide on a nominee.

Quince was the choice and now she is part of the other end of the process.

The court will make a decision in the coming weeks, making future Chiles/Bush-type agreements no longer possible or necessary. Before they decide, calls by Republicans for Pariente and Labarga to step aside are likely to grow.

If nothing else, this budding controversy brought an all new meaning to the term “oral arguments.”

Ashley Moody’s Democratic past may raise questions in GOP primary for AG

Retired Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody, by many reckonings, is the front-runner in the Republican primary for Attorney General.

And with that front-runner status comes front-runner scrutiny — including Moody’s past as a registered Democrat … something that may not play well with the GOP die-hards who will vote in the primary next year.

Moody’s father James was appointed to a federal judgeship in 2000 — by Democratic President Bill Clinton,

Though this in itself is not dispositive, Moody has been registered as a Democrat in the past — as her 1993 voter registration form indicates.

Moody wasn’t a Democrat for long. She flipped voter registration to become a student representative to the Florida University System Board of Regents.

However, in that role, she showed a willingness to consider Democratic arguments that ran counter to Gov. Jeb Bush and his One Florida Initiative, which sought to end race-based criteria for admission to college.

Moody was on the losing end of an 11 to 3 vote that upheld Bush’s initiative, per the Florida Times-Union, lining up with Democrats like Rep. Corrine Brown against Bush’s reform measure.

While it is by no means certain that Brown will endorse in the GOP primary for Attorney General, what is very likely is that Moody’s primary opponents will capitalize on the alignment between Moody and the former Congresswoman and future convict.

Moody wasn’t finished bucking Jeb Bush; in the 2002 Gubernatorial race, Moody contributed $100 to the campaign of Democrat Bill McBride — another move that GOP supervoters are likely to find objectionable.

In addition to voting like a Democrat and donating like a Democrat, Moody also wrote speeches like — and for — a Democrat.

As her campaign website asserts, Moody was an assistant to then-American Bar Association President Martha Barnett.

Barnett is historically aligned with the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee, including describing herself as being “honored” by Clinton at one point, and “serving alongside” Clinton on a panel.

It is only a matter of time before Barnett’s speeches and publications attract scrutiny, as Moody’s opponents use those writings to define the candidate.

Notable: months after taking office, President George W. Bush stopped the long-standing federal practice of consulting the ABA on judicial nominees, per CBS News.

Though liberal stalwarts such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and advocacy groups like People for the American Way bristled, it was clear that the Republicans in the Bush Administration saw the ABA as interested in politicizing the judiciary.

“The question is whether the ABA should play a unique, quasi-official role and then have its voice heard before and above all others. We do not think that kind of preferential arrangement is either appropriate or fair,” wrote a White House counsel in 2001.

Martha Barnett has put her money where her mouth — and writings are — with big-dollar donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Kerry, Charlie Crist, Bill Nelson, Alex Sink, and reproductive rights group Emily’s List.

Barnett doesn’t just give to Democrats though; she has also donated to Moody.

With two other candidates in the Attorney General race tacking to Moody’s right, it’s inevitable that this information will factor into the race to define Moody.

She is going to have to counter a perception — based on historic associations — that she’s not a good fit for the Republican Party.

With over a million dollars banked as of the end of September, she is in a position to make that argument.

But will GOP voters buy the argument that a ghostwriter for one of the leading liberal lawyers in the country will carry their conservative values forward for four years?

That’s the existential question that the Moody campaign now faces.

One final shot: as is widely known, Moody once was on the plaintiff side of a lawsuit against President Donald Trump‘s private company,  charging fraud regarding a failed development project.

While POLITICO reports that Moody now supports Trump and his agenda, the question going into 2018 is whether Republican voters can believe her.

Ethics board cites Justin Sayfie, Capitol Group for reporting violations

The Florida Commission on Ethics is moving against lobbyist Justin Sayfie and another firm for problems arising from random audits of their compensation reports, according to a Wednesday press release.

But Sayfie called the problem “a simple math error.” The commission also dropped cases against three other executive-branch lobbying concerns.

The ethics board, which said it “conducted a required investigation of the Sayfie Law Firm based on the findings of a random audit,” found probable cause “to believe that the executive branch lobbying firm under-reported compensation received from a principal for the third and fourth quarters of 2015.”

Probable cause means that an investigative body believes it’s more likely than not that a violation of law has occurred.

Sayfie, the former Jeb Bush policy advisor turned political website whiz, had his own firm before joining Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners lobbying firm in 2015 as its managing partner in Fort Lauderdale. He’s now in Ballard’s Washington D.C. office.

“There was a computational error, a simple math error,” he told Florida Politics in a phone call. “I amended the reports immediately, but I guess (the commission’s) position is, the error still requires this finding.” Sayfie now has been randomly audited two years in a row, he said.

Under state law, once the commission finds probable cause, that finding is sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet for further action. The firms can request a hearing, or the governor and Cabinet members can decide to call a hearing on their own.

In any case, if they find that a reporting violation occurred, they “may reprimand the violator, censure the violator, or prohibit the violator from lobbying all agencies for a period not to exceed 2 years,” the law says.

No lobbying firm has yet been penalized under the law, although four cases filed this year are still pending review, according to records.

“If the violator is a lobbying firm, lobbyist, or principal, the Governor and Cabinet may also assess a fine of not more than $5,000 to be deposited in the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund,” the law says.

“My sense is (that) for transparency purposes it’s good to have these audits, but it’s a lot of reporting to do. There’s a lot of work that goes into them,” Sayfie added. “There should be some understanding that finding math mistakes is not the kind of thing the law was intended to penalize.”

Lawmakers have questioned the audits’ usefulness, going as far as to file a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would have repealed the audit requirement. It died before the session’s end.

“I don’t understand how the public’s interest is advanced by this exercise,” Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said in late 2015.

The commission also found probable cause to believe that The Capitol Group “inaccurately listed a principal for the first quarter of 2015 (and) probable cause also was found to believe the firm filed an inaccurate compensation report for that same reporting period, and for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2015,” the press release said.

A request for comment is pending with that firm.

No probable cause of lobbying law violations was found after investigations of Shutts & Bowen, Frank Meiners Governmental Consultants, and The Commerce Group, the press release said.

Here’s why Rick Baker’s latest ads are so awful

How awful are mayoral candidate Rick Baker‘s new television ads?

They’re so awful that the Rick Kriseman campaign is paying to sponsor a post on Facebook that essentially promotes them.

Think about that for a moment: Baker’s opponent is so confident that ads designed to make a positive impression on voters actually end up doing the opposite that he’s willing to spend campaign dollars to boost their reach.

Baker released two ads last week. Both stress the former mayor’s accomplishments while leading City Hall from 2001 to 2010.

In the first ad, a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant chat about all the great things about St. Petersburg including such things as dog parks and the Dali Museum.

“You know that’s all because of the mayor, right?” a waitress asks.

“Kriseman?”

The waitress laughs and says, “No, Mayor Rick Baker.”

She gestures behind her and the video cuts to a picture of Baker in sunglasses. Baker removes the glasses and says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Remember that moment during the 2016 presidential campaign when Jeb Bush blurted out, “Please clap” during a speech? Watching these commercials is like that.

It’s cringe-worthy.

A second ad has two people are in a record store and the clerk asks if they’re searching for the Rick Baker records. He points them out — Beach Drive, the Grand Prix, the “great Midtown comeback.”

Then the woman asks, “What’s this?”

The clerk says, “Kriseman record? No one’s buying.”

Baker enters, again wearing sunglasses. The clerk asks, “Hey, Rick, what you got?”

“New releases.”

The second spot is not as bad as the first. But that’s like saying the second Star Wars prequel was not as bad as the one that featured Jar Jar Binks.

Of course, the Baker campaign is proud of the ads. Those inside the campaign say the spots work because they’re giving supporters something new to talk about after Baker underperformed in the primary. They’re relieved that Baker is finally saying something that does not involve the word “sewers.”

Want to know how bad these ads are? Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith likes them.

On Sunday, he wrote that they are “fun, memorable and presumably not intended to be taken too seriously.”

This from the reporter whose last major pronouncement was that Andrew Gillum was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor.

One of Smith’s go-to sources is Adam Goodman, the ad maker who cut these spots for Baker. After Baker finished behind Kriseman in the primary, I argued that Baker should fire Goodman and bring in new creative. I argued that Baker’s ads neither properly introduced the former mayor nor did they offer voters a rationale for giving Baker a third term in City Hall.

Obviously, Baker went in another direction. And that’s his prerogative. I’m sure Baker and Goodman like these ads. Maybe Baker, Goodman, and Smith are right and I’m wrong. But I’ve spoken to consultants and operatives on both sides of the aisle and almost all of them are critical of the ads.

“I can’t stop watching it. So bad,” texted one veteran GOP consultant.

“I bite my tongue on a lot of bad commercials, but this one is just so, so bad,” tweeted Democratic ad maker Kevin Cate.

Even the folks Adam Smith spoke with were taken aback.

“The sunglasses almost make me cringe,” said Richard Hughes, the chief creative officer of St. Petersburg-based ClearpH Design Firm, noting that his younger designers were especially turned off by that and the ads could actually turn off younger voters. (Hughes told Smith he thought Baker’s rebranding effort was “fun and memorable,” which is almost exactly what Smith himself said he thought of the ads … hmmm.)

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe, just maybe these ads are effective.

I, for one, don’t think they are and now believe Baker is in no man’s land, like a tennis player stuck between the service line and the back baseline.

Baker no longer has the opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) himself to St. Petersburg voters. He just has a laundry list of projects he worked on (don’t forget about the dog parks!). Voters really have no clue about what he’s done since leaving office, such as his work at USF-St. Petersburg or toward revitalizing Sundial.

But neither is Baker articulating a clear vision for what he’d do. About the future, he says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” WE KNOW, that’s the damn point.

Meanwhile, the sewage system issue Baker mistakenly based much of primary campaign on no longer seems to resonate with voters (if it ever did), but Kriseman and his allies can continue to tie Baker to Trump because, well, Baker really doesn’t have an effective counter.

But here’s why Baker’s ads are genuinely so awful. It’s not their hipster vibe or flimsy message, it’s their opportunity cost.

To Baker needed to raise more money than Kriseman and then pummel him on the airwaves. Just like Jeb Bush was supposed to do in the 2016 presidential primary.

Instead, Kriseman is, at worse, not losing to Baker on the airwaves, while out-organizing him in the GOTV and field components.

No wonder Kriseman and his supporters are telling each other to “please clap” at Baker’s ads.

Jeb Bush: Donald Trump has ‘done well’ ahead of Irma

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, appearing on MSNBC Friday afternoon, had some praise for President Donald Trump‘s handling of hurricane preparation.

Bush, who saw eight storms during one two-year period in his tenure, noted that Irma is “bigger and meaner” than anything he dealt with before.

On Friday, he expressed confidence in the Trump Administration’s handling of the twin-bill of Harvey and now Irma, lauding an “understanding in Washington,” noting that “support from FEMA will likely be there” for Florida after Irma.

“They’ve done well. The President has had the right balance,” Bush said, “going [to Texas] without creating distractions from recovery efforts. FEMA has done its job.”

Bush was less laudatory about the disaster relief/debt ceiling hike bill that Trump pushed through with the help of congressional Democratic leadership.

While Bush is “thankful for FEMA funding,” his gratitude does not extend to a real faith in Trump’s philosophical consistency.

“I’m not surprised about anything the President does or says,” Bush said.

Bush noted that America is in a “fiscal crisis,” with $20 Trillion in debt, and $60 Trillion in “contingent debt.”

Trump is “going to have to rely on conservatives and Republicans to carry out the agenda,” Bush said, though how much buy-in Trump has with conservatives at this point is an open question.

Bush’s unease over the bill mirrors that of Sen. Marco Rubio, who messaged heavily Thursday about the “politically cynical” bill that allowed for $15.25B in Harvey relief funds in exchange for another debt ceiling hike.

Billionaire blasts Donald Trump ‘dreamer’ decision

A prominent Republican fund-raiser turned critic of President Donald Trump said Thursday it would be a huge economic mistake not to let young undocumented immigrants, called “Dreamers,” remain in the United States.

“There is something wrong in separating families,” Miguel “Mike” Fernandez said, after delivering a speech to students and faculty at Florida A&M University. “That is a universal wrong. We are doing that in DACA.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children brought to the country by their undocumented-immigrant parents to remain in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama put the program in place by executive order.

But the Trump administration this week rescinded the order, with an effective date of six months, giving Congress time to enact its own version of a DACA plan.

The Cuban-born Fernandez, who is a billionaire Miami businessman, supported Jeb Bush in last year’s presidential primary, but broke with his party over Trump’s anti-immigration stances and spent some $3 million in a campaign against Trump.

“If the president talks about Mexicans, murderers, criminals, rapists and so on, these (the Dreamers) are the very best. These are the opposite,” Fernandez said. “These are the students who are working hard. They are going to be tomorrow’s taxpayers.”

Fernandez, 65, who has created a number of health-care companies and later sold them, said Florida has more than 32,000 immigrants protected under DACA, and he estimates they will pay $6.7 billion in taxes over their lifetimes.

“It’s an economic issue,” he said. “Throw them out?”

Fernandez’s own story as a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old with his family was the focus of his speech to the FAMU students. Despite his enormous economic success, Fernandez repeatedly emphasized that he did not believe he had any great talents.

“I’m as average as they come,” he said.

He also talked about the many setbacks in his life, including business failures, three failed marriages, two heart attacks and cancer.

“You have to adjust,” Fernandez said. “There is not a linear path to success. Actually, I guarantee you that failure is a necessary step towards your success. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.”

Fernandez distributed 700 copies of his autobiography, “Humbled by the Journey,” and took time after the speech to sign dozens of copies and talk to individual students.

Fernandez’s candor was also on display. Earlier in the day, he sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times calling state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, who supports the elimination of DACA, a “bully” and an “intellectual midget.”

“They are just facts,” Fernandez said when asked about the comments. “That’s my opinion of the guy.”

Fernandez, who said he has given about $30 million to Republican causes over the last 15 years, also expressed “disappointment” in Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, although he had given $100,000 to help Putnam’s Republican gubernatorial campaign.

“I think that we lack in this country people who speak and stand on their backbone,” Fernandez said.

“He’s a guy who was fairly normal in his position until he is faced with an opponent who is more to the right. He feels he has to move to the right,” Fernandez said. “I move to where I am, and that’s who I respect.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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