Jeb Bush Archives - Page 7 of 149 - Florida Politics

Mitch Perry Report for 9.27.16 — The ‘what difference does it make?’ debate

Was it as good as you hoped it would be, America?

For months, people have talked about how they could not wait to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battle it out in their first presidential debate. We all know that excitement wasn’t because of Clinton’s sterling debate style. No, it was because of the unknown about how The Donald would perform.

And … ?

Let’s put it this way: Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, just said on MSNBC this morning that Clinton failed to deliver the knockout punch. Absolutely true; so is that how we’re grading this thing?

Look, under any which way you score a debate, Mrs. Clinton had the winning hand. But as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush can tell you, traditional scoring points don’t necessarily mean much in debating against Donald J.

Conservatives are upset at the question selections offered by moderator Lester Holt — no Benghazi, no Clinton Foundation, no immigration. But as some said about the criticism of NBC’s Matt Lauer after the “Commander in Chief” forum, if you’re complaining about the moderator, you’re probably losing.

Many of the questions did put Trump in a vise — his explanations for not disclosing his income taxes felt hollow (where he boasted about not paying them), and his attempt to blame Sidney Blumenthal and Patti Solis Doyle regarding where Barack Obama was born seemed weak.

On style, it was interesting to see how long Trump would stay relatively subdued before he became the more blustery, bombastic candidate who dominated most of the Republican presidential debates in 2015 and early 2016.

The momentum has been moving Trump’s away in the past two weeks. Does that get stalled now? Does Clinton pick up some of the undecided voters, or Berniebros flirting with Jill Stein and/or Gary Johnson?

So many questions. My favorite line this morning, though, is the phrase “this really doesn’t change much.”

Then why all the hype in the first place?

In other news …

House District 68 Republican JB Benshimen insists he’s still in it to win in in his race against Democrat Ben Diamond, but his poor fundraising numbers aren’t encouraging.

Dover Republican Ross Spano’s House District 59 seat is one Democrats are targeting this fall. He tells us what he’s done in office since his 2012 election.

Former Pasco County DEC Chair Alison Morano is now leading a group targeting Marco Rubio for his past statements regarding Social Security.

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and various Latino advocacy groups are working on signing up people to vote in advance of Florida’s Oct. 11 deadline.

And Dana Young gets the firefighters unions in Tampa and Hillsborough County’s endorsements in the Senate District 18 race.

Florida primaries eyed: Representation of few, or the many?

It took just 14,496 votes to win his closed Democratic primary for one of Florida’s 27 congressional seats. Now Darren Soto is virtually assured of going to Capitol Hill, unlikely to face a strong Republican challenge this November in his safely Democratic district.

The state senator snared the votes of just 2 percent of the Orlando area district’s 750,000 residents, beating three other candidates in last month’s closed-party, winner-takes-all primary. Only registered Democrats could cast ballots in Soto’s race and the small percentage of them likely decided the contest before the general election.

It’s a scenario repeated regularly in Florida’s state and congressional races in districts firmly controlled by one or the other of the two major parties. Now such outcomes are prompting calls to reform Florida’s primary system so more voters have a say in who represents them.

“That’s a question that comes up often,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters. Her group is studying the primary system and will make recommendations next year to lawmakers on broadening the electoral process.

Florida is one of only nine states with a strict closed primary system, which prevents independent and minor party voters from casting primary ballots. Proponents say political parties should have the sole say in who they nominate, but critics say closed primaries exclude a large swath of voters, particularly as the number of independent voters grows.

Until 16 years ago, Florida primaries weren’t even over until a candidate won a ballot majority. If no primary candidate received at least 50 percent plus one vote, the top two met in a runoff to decide who reached the general election.

But then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush eliminated the runoff in 2002, a year he was seeking re-election and two years after his brother George W. Bush carried the perennial swing state by 537 votes in a famously chaotic presidential election. Jettisoning the primary runoff was part of reforms aimed at making Florida elections run more smoothly.

The impact on Sunshine State politics was immediate.

In 2002, political newcomer Bill McBride won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno by 0.4 percentage points in a three-way race. Many believe Reno would have defeated McBride in a runoff and gone on to face Bush. And in 2010, now Gov. Rick Scott won the Republican nomination with only 46 percent of the vote though a runoff could have overturned the results.

And this year, state Rep. Matt Gaetz is a lock to represent northwest Florida in Congress after capturing just 36 percent of the vote in a seven-way Republican primary, meaning 64 percent of voters wanted someone else in Washington from their firmly GOP district. It’s a decision that essentially excludes Democrats and independents.

It was a runoff that helped primary runner-up Bob Graham into the governor’s office in 1979.

Eventually a three-term U.S. senator, Graham avidly supports resurrecting the runoff primary. He said the current system often encourages election of the most extreme candidates among both major parties. He said primary reforms could make representation more moderate, in line with the views of most voters.

“The question ought to be not whose convenience are we serving, but what makes democracy work best and gives the people the opportunity to have persons in office who represent the broadest consensus,” said Graham, who now runs a University of Florida center for greater citizen engagement with government.

Only 11 states still have some form of a runoff primary, mostly in the Deep South. Louisiana, California and Washington state have all-inclusive primaries where the top two vote earners advance to the general election, 15 states have open primaries and nine states allow independent voters to choose which primary they’ll vote in.

People are increasingly open to changing primary systems because they don’t like current options that contribute to partisan extremes in Washington, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, a non-partisan Washington-area group that seeks to make voting more representative.

“There are different approaches that make sense for different states. There’s more openness in the reform world to not have a one-size fits all model,” he said.

Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County that includes Florida’s capital of Tallahassee, was first elected in 1988 aided by a primary runoff.

He agreed more voters should have a say in who’s elected, but isn’t espousing a return of the second primary. Instead, he said all candidates should be put on a primary ballot regardless of party and all registered voters, including independents, should be allowed to vote. The top two candidates would face off in November.

That notion doesn’t appeal to Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who chairs the House committee that considers election issues. He prefers the idea of voters picking their first two choices in a crowded primary. If no candidate wins a majority, then the second choice of voters are weighed to determine a winner.

Changing Florida’s primary system would require legislative action or a change in the state constitution through a ballot initiative.

“I’m not afraid to try to tinker with it,” Caldwell said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Charles Canady on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court wish list

Former lawmaker and current Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady now is on the final list of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s “potential Supreme Court picks.”

Canady
Canady

Canady, one of two conservatives on the state’s highest court, and 20 others are jurists that Trump on Friday said “he would consider as potential replacements” for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

“The freedoms we cherish and the constitutional values and principles our country was founded on are in jeopardy,” Trump said in a statement. “The responsibility is greater than ever to protect and uphold these freedoms and I will appoint justices, who like Justice Scalia, will protect our liberty with the highest regard for the Constitution.

“This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future justices,” he added. “I would like to thank the Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation and the many other individuals who helped in composing this list of 21 highly respected people who are the kind of scholars that we need to preserve the very core of our country, and make it greater than ever before.”

Canady, 62, had no comment Friday, Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said in an email.

The justice, a Lakeland native, got his undergraduate degree from Haverford College in 1976 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1979, according to his official biography.

He has been in private practice, including with the Holland and Knight firm, and served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives (1984-90) and four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2001), rising to chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.

He became general Counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, who later appointed him to the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, based in Lakeland, in 2002, the bio says. Gov. Charlie Crist then named him to the Supreme Court in 2008.

Canady also served as the court’s chief justice in 2010-12. He is married to Jennifer Houghton, and they have two children.

Others on Trump’s list include Supreme Court of Texas Justice Don Willett, Supreme Court of Georgia Justice Keith Blackwell, and U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno of Miami.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican who once clerked for conservative Justice Sam Alito, is also on the list, but his spokesman told POLITICO he wasn’t interested in the job.

Scalia was a stalwart conservative who authored the court’s 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision that affirmed individuals’ right to possess and use guns under the Second Amendment.

He “used his keen intellect and missionary zeal in an unyielding attempt to move the court farther to the right after his 1986 selection by President Ronald Reagan,” the AP reported in its obituary.

Standing room only for Bill Weld town hall in Jacksonville

On Thursday evening, in front of a standing room only crowd of 300 people at Jacksonville University, Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate William Weld expounded the message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.

For those looking for an alternative to the two major parties, the Libertarian message – and Mr. Weld himself – provided it.

Weld told the story of how he got into the race at the town hall.

Presidential nominee Gary Johnson, like Weld a former libertarian Republican governor, called Weld earlier this year with a straightforward proposition: “what about running together?”

Johnson was about to go into an extended pitch, but it wasn’t needed.

The candidates met in Las Vegas.

They had a four hour conversation.

Then, Weld related, they “agreed” to run together, “shook on the deal, and had a steak dinner.”

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That straightforward approach is a world away from the calculated nature of the major party tickets; two candidates who like each other, who align ideologically, and who saw an opening for their “true blue fiscal conservative” brand.

As governors, they walked the walk, moving their respective states to the right on fiscal and tax policy.

But they did so, Weld said, as “Jeffersonian liberals” who “don’t bully people” in the way of Donald Trump or, Weld added, the post-1994 GOP.

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Much of the coverage of this ticket, thus far in the campaign, has been of a few varieties.

Some reporters have treated the Johnson/Weld ticket as a novelty act – a perception embellished by Johnson’s “what is Aleppo” gaffe.

And some others have reminded voters that presidential elections in America are binary choices.

In making those decisions in framing stories, media avoids the actual policy positions that drive Johnson and Weld to run.

Those positions were on offer, writ large, during Weld’s hour-long town hall in Jacksonville.

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On immigration, for example, the Libertarian ticket deviates from the bipartisan consensus.

“Gary Johnson and I think the current amount is too low,” Weld said.

Weld believes that work visas should be “dramatically increased,” and he estimates that 60 percent of the current illegal immigrants in the country simply overstayed their visas.

The Johnson/Weld solution?

Not a great, big, beautiful wall, but something more prosaic: a Canadian style guest worker program, with safeguards such as background checks built in, so this population is not “living in the shadows.”

On trade, as well, the Libertarians deviate.

“We support the Trans Pacific Partnership vigorously,” Weld said, adding that while there might be a loss of “low wage jobs at the margin,” that attrition would be made up for in high wage jobs and taking advantage of America having the highest per-capita worker productivity in the world.

The Weld/Johnson affinity for the TPP is driven by pragmatic geopolitical concerns – bilateral relations with eleven Asian nations, none of them being China.

“Trump didn’t know China wasn’t a member of the TPP,” Weld said, drawing raucous laughter from throughout the room.

Weld had a rejoinder for Hillary Clinton as well.

“I’m disappointed in Mrs. Clinton,” Weld said, as she “turned her back on TPP and NAFTA,” deviating from her husband’s legacy, and forsaking the opportunity for an economic “beachhead in Asia.”

It’s that kind of optimistic pragmatism that distinguishes the Libertarian ticket from the two major parties in this cycle, Weld believes.

The “negativity out of both parties,” Weld believes, is designed to make voters “feel terrible about the U.S. now.”

In contrast, Weld says, he and his running mate are “professionally optimistic … happy warriors.”

****

On NATO, Weld hewed to an internationalism befitting his longtime status as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Weld took particular issue with Trump’s willingness to sacrifice Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

“We have to keep our word,” Weld said.

“I can’t tell you how many alarm bells it sets off” around the world, Weld said, when Trump threatens to “abrogate treaty obligations.”

And on military spending, Weld broke with Libertarian orthodoxy, saying that the U.S. has to be engaged globally.

If America were to abandon the Arab world, it would be “left to the tender mercies of Iran.”

And the Pacific presence, likewise, is non-negotiable.

“If one carrier group moved its anchors ten feet, it would be a topic in every cabinet meeting” in the capitals of our Asian allies.

“Military supremacy,” especially in the air and on the waters, is essential to America maintaining its position. As is the ability to demonstrate “crushing force.”

However, there are limits: Weld believes that land wars in Africa and Asia are bad for America. As is a regime change policy.

And regarding Afghanistan, Weld believes that American troops should be brought home.

There is, Weld contended, “some woolyheadedness in our desire to be the world’s policeman.”

On domestic policy, Weld likewise espouses the politics of reasonable expectation.

Regarding Social Security, Weld believes the retirement age should be increased, and a means test should be applied to benefits.

The worry that millennials have, Weld said, is that the program won’t be there when they retire.

And that, Weld said, is “dangerous.”

Also dangerous: Clinton and Trump vowing to not adjust entitlements.

These are “political statements to avoid exposure to the question,” Weld said.

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Likewise disingenuous, said Weld: Republicans that run on the platform of repealing Obamacare.

In perhaps the most surprising moment of the town hall event, Weld lampooned young conservatives, given talking points by the RNC, who say “I will repeat Obamacare.”

The moment was surprising not because of the sentiment … but because Weld mocked them using a falsetto voice, a few octaves up from his whisky-weathered Brahmin baritone.

The Johnson/Weld administration would support the individual mandate, while allowing for common sense solutions like being able to import pharmaceuticals from Canada (an indication of the ticket not getting Pfizer money).

As well, they would likely move toward mandating only catastrophic insurance, “not cradle to grave” healthcare.

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Weld also had strong words regarding Black Lives Matter, which he said was a resounding “yes,” rejecting the Trumpian “dog whistle” politics of “all lives matter.”

The “all lives matter” canard, Weld said, was part of a pattern from Trump, who he alleged “retweeted a picture of George Lincoln Rockwell – the founder of the American Nazi Party.”

If meaningful moves aren’t made to redress the inequities – mass incarceration, police shootings, awful schools – visited on African American men, Weld predicted the emergence of a “gunpowder class of young black males.”

The treatment imposed on African-American young men, Weld said, is a “national disgrace.”

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Also a national disgrace: the debt crisis.

“We can’t go on the way we’ve been going,” Weld said, adding that if Clinton wins, ¾ of the new debt would be from her administration.

“She’s adopted much of Sen. Sanders’ platform,” one that Weld said was undergirded with the false premise that “everything is free.”

Weld believes, contra to that, the budget must be balanced.

“The debt crisis hits us in the solar plexus of jobs and the economy,” Weld said.

Before this event started, FloridaPolitics.com was able to conduct an extended interview with Weld: a function of a lack of other media showing up to ask questions much deeper than “what do you think of Jacksonville.”

Some of the more interesting bits included Weld expressing the belief that if the ticket’s name ID moves up from 30 to 50 percent, there would be a commensurate rise in “ballot preference,” perhaps into the 25 percent range.

As well, when we noted that Weld wasn’t exactly the first choice of the party regulars, he said that was an “understatement.”

“I don’t know if I’m winning over the party regulars,” Weld said, but they “probably like being at 10 t0 13 percent in the polls instead of 1 percent.”

As well, despite the theatrics seen by many at the Libertarian Party convention, Weld believes that the “hardcore” members are “20 percent max.”

“My internationalist view doesn’t offend everybody,” Weld said.

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Of course, there was expectation in some quarters that Weld’s inclusion on the ticket would build a bridge, perhaps, to endorsements from Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.

Those aren’t happening.

Weld believes that they had their “fingers singed” and “had enough of the presidential race.”

“Gary and I have to do this by ourselves,” Weld said.

“We want to send a friendly message, not a hateful one.”

When asked if the ticket had underperformed hopeful expectations in some quarters that Weld would offer a conduit to the donor class, the candidate got defensive, noting that between the campaign and the “victory fund,” over $10 million had been raised.

“It’s still September,” Weld said, and in the last cycle, the campaign raised “between two and three million in total.”

Much of that money, Weld added, was on the web – in modest increments, such as $7, $15, and $35.

That money adds up.

And maybe it does. But we wondered why the Koch Brothers hadn’t come through for the Johnson/Weld ticket.

Weld, at first, was evasive, saying euphemistically that the deep pocketed donors were “sticking to the Senate” and “not everybody can do everything.”

Then Weld got real.

“Nobody could be friendlier to the Koch Brothers’ economic interest than we are … I know David quite well,” Weld said, but “Charles is making most of the decisions.”

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Weld, vis a vis the GOP that historically was his home, is in a position analogous to Ronald Reagan, who famously said of the Democrats that he didn’t move away from the Democratic Party, but the party moved away from him.

“I didn’t change. I was always a social liberal,” Weld said, “but the Republican Party did move to the right” and “in Cleveland,” the platform became more “mean spirited.”

“I would have stayed happily in the tent,” Weld said, “but I got a call from Gary.”

And, speaking of Johnson, there are some that have suggested the ticket would work better with the polished Weld on top.

Weld rejects that proposition.

“I heard that from a lot of people, and all of them live in Massachusetts and New York,” Weld said.

“West of the Mississippi,” Weld said, Johnson gets “mobbed at airports.”

“Gary has a rat trap mind,” Weld said, with deep “analytical ability” and unlimited stamina … a proposition which might be news to the folks at Morning Joe, but we let it stand.

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Of course, for this campaign, the big enchilada is getting into at least one debate.

Weld recited the litany of campaign propaganda: they were at 13 percent in two recent polls, and the polls in which they do worst are only calling landlines, and are excluding millennials, setting up “math that hurts the poll results.”

With independents, Weld said, the ticket is at 31 percent – and, he adds, independents are 42 percent of the electorate.

And, Weld added, the ticket is running first with military voters, both active and veteran.

“This is a year when voters have to think for themselves,” Weld said.

****

If by thinking for themselves, that means being receptive to the Libertarian message, then there are positive auguries.

Drawing hundreds of people to a room on the Jacksonville University campus – in fact, exceeding turnout for the Congressional District 4 and Congressional District 5 primary debates – is a strong indicator that the Johnson/Weld message is getting traction.

Will it be enough to where the campaign is at 25 percent by the end of October? History indicates that’s a tremendous longshot.

But history has, not since the Bull Moose Party, encountered a ticket with this kind of resonance … a ticket running against the two most unpopular major party candidates since the advent of universal suffrage.

Tom Jackson: Appeal puts poor students under FEA’s boot

Now that the Florida Education Association has chosen to appeal its legal double-drubbing over the state’s scholarship program for students from low-income families, the question that leaps immediately to mind is this:

Why does the teachers’ union hate poor kids?

Seriously. About 92,000 students from modest circumstances are attending private schools through the 15-year-old Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, but the FEA wants to cut them off and haul them back into a system that, for far too many, is an abject failure.

Think about that. Ninety-two-thousand kids. Meanwhile, Florida public schools are responsible for nearly 2.8 million students. In short, the FEA is losing its mind — and spending a bunch of its membership’s dues in legal fees — over a population that amounts to barely 3 percent of its existing audience. A rounding error.

This is like Wal-Mart going nuts over a local farmers market, or the NFL trying to squeeze websites that stream Division II games. Gnat, meet sledgehammer.

Here’s another raw figure to chew on: In the most recent year, the program spread out just over $490 million, an average of roughly $5,300 per scholarship. That might sound like a bunch of money, but, as in most cases, context is everything.

Know how much K-12 education scored? Round numbers, a state-record $20.2 billion, or $7,178 per pupil. Note the per-pupil differential. That’s not unimportant.

Here’s the irony: If the FEA got exactly what it wanted — the scholarship program killed; all 92,000 beneficiaries sucked back into public schools; and every dime of the scholarship money funneled into the education monopoly — per-pupil spending actually would sink, to $7,158.

I know. This isn’t about the money. (Wink.) It’s about the principle of the thing. (Wink, wink.)

As someone who was once president of a small homeowners’ association, I appreciate the thought. Once you establish a willingness to overlook small infractions, you’ve sacrificed your legal authority to crack down on the big ones.

So, there’s another way of thinking about the FEA: Your friendly neighborhood deed-restriction committee.

Now that we’re feeling all warm and fuzzy, the larger problem for the union bosses and their lawyers is, in its relentless pursuit of education reform — a pursuit that must, necessarily, weaken the FEA’s stranglehold — what the Legislature crafted does not violate, even a little bit, the state constitution.

Oh, sure, lawmakers bungled their first attempt to craft a scholarship/voucher scheme in 1999, the first year of the Jeb Bush administration. In its genesis iteration, money did, indeed, flow from the state budget to pay for scholarships. The state Supreme Court found the arrangement repugnant to the state constitution’s provisions protecting public schools from budgetary intrusions, and it wasn’t even close.

The Legislature anticipated a bad outcome. Even before the justices ruled, lawmakers tackled the project again in 2001 to fix the funding bug. Businesses that donated to certain nonprofit groups would receive a tax credit equal to their contribution; meanwhile, the nonprofits would fund scholarships for students from low-income families.

Just now, the FEA’s problem is standing. That is, it’s been ruled unable to sue. The trial judge ruled, and the 1st District Court of Appeal enthusiastically affirmed, the plaintiffs have demonstrated neither “special injury” nor that the Legislature acted beyond its constitutional powers to tax and spend.

Undaunted — not to mention just a wee bit desperate — the union appealed to the state Supreme Court last week. Give us standing, its lawyers said, and we’ll prove the case against the scholarship plan.

Except they won’t. They can’t. Too many tenuous assumptions are built into their complaint. They can’t prove the Legislature would maintain current tax rates on businesses or, if they did, that the presumed additional revenue would go to schools.

Their other complaint — scholarships set up a competing class of public schools, in violation of the constitution — fails the sniff test.

So why don’t the program’s opponents shift their focus, and instead lobby the Legislature to hold participating private schools to the same standards as public schools?

Simple. Monopolies do as monopolies are. And any monopoly worth its massive, soul-crushing boots knows the path to ruin is hacked out by consumers making informed choices among alternative, disruptive market options.

That’s also why the FEA won’t simply butt out. Never mind that we’re talking about a subset of a subset of a subset, that minuscule portion of kids from families of limited means whose parents care enough about education to go through the application rigmarole.

Any threat, no matter how small, must be squashed. With prejudice.

If it means stomping on 92,000 poor kids. Well, in every war there’s bound to be some collateral damage.

Joe Henderson: Pam Bondi is no ‘victim’ in Trump U scandal

Let’s get this straight: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says “Hillary Clinton will not bully me” over the legitimate scrutiny being paid to the timing of a campaign donation Bondi received in 2014 from Donald Trump.

Bullying is a pretty stern accusation, so let’s explore this further. What did Clinton do to rise to that level of schoolyard terror?

Start with the fact that Bondi admitted hitting Trump up for a campaign contribution, right around the time a lot of people in her position would have instead asked for a deposition.

“Of course I asked Donald Trump for a contribution; that’s not what this is about,” Bondi told Fox Business News. “She was saying he was under investigation by my office at the time, and I knew about it, none of which is true.”

Proving she is adept at doing the Tallahassee Two-Step, Bondi is absolutely telling the truth. Trump was not under investigation by her office for allegations that his Trump University bilked Florida consumers.

But, um … why not? That’s the real story, and it makes the contribution look downright slimy, coming as it did just days after Bondi decided she saw nothing wrong with Trump’s for-profit venture.

This doesn’t count the fine Trump just paid to the IRS because the check to Bondi came from his charitable foundation. Tax laws prohibit charities from giving political donations.

So Clinton is “bullying” Bondi by bringing this up? Either that was an unfortunate choice of words on live TV, or she is delusional — place your bets. Bondi, no stranger to big league politics, should know better. At this point, she is lucky this is only a campaign issue and not a legal one for her.

She is not the victim here.

Then again, Bondi’s record suggests she is a supreme opportunist who will shape-shift to whatever platform or alliance seems to work best. Remember, she originally endorsed Jeb Bush for president. She even declared, “This is the most important election of our lifetime, and he is the hands-on man we need to run our country.”

Then, after Trump mocked and tried to humiliate Bush during the campaign, Bondi shifted her allegiance to the man Bush probably loathes most of anyone today in politics.

Bondi has made the flimsy explanation that she elected not to join an investigation by New York state into Trump U because it was unnecessary. That’s ridiculous, of course, given Bondi’s enthusiasm for joining the legal actions of other states in the past.

In 2014, she even joined in an attempt to stop a large-scale cleanup of Chesapeake Bay. For the geographically challenged, that’s in Maryland.

This issue has the potential to dog Bondi in much the same way the email scandal has been impossible for Clinton to shake. Since Bondi is term-limited as attorney general and will have to find another gig in 2018, it could be a problem.

I just keep wondering what Bondi’s approach would have been if that was a Florida Democrat caught in a web like this. There would be investigations piled up on top of each other, and she would VOW to GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS immediately!!!

Instead, she calls one her accusers a bully, hoping this classic bob-and-weave makes everyone forget this isn’t Hillary Clinton bringing up an uncomfortable item from Bondi’s recent past. It calls her whole performance as attorney general into question.

That’s not bullying. It’s just reality.

Mitch Perry Report 9.6.16 — Enough nonsense about how ‘now’ the presidential election campaign season is beginning

My biggest fear of an approaching major storm living here in Tampa is losing electricity, with Florida still in full summer mode here in early September. That’s exactly what happened beginning last Friday in Tallahassee, and there were still some residential homes in North Florida as of yesterday still without power.

Back here in Tampa, Hillary Clinton will give a speech on national security this afternoon, where we’re officially nine weeks away from the General Election, and the first day of our lives post-Labor Day 2016, better known as when political reporters tell us is when the “election campaign really starts.”

Which is nonsense.

Perhaps Labor Day of 2015 was more like when the campaign began.

Seriously, Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy on Roosevelt Island in New York City in June of 2015. Donald Trump officially followed suit with his infamous escalator ride at Trump Towers a few weeks later, though both had “unofficially” been running for months.

Over 24 million people watched the first GOP debate 13 months ago. With Trump’s emergence, is there anyone you know in your sphere of friends who aren’t following this presidential race, to whatever extent?

No, the fact about Labor Day is that, just perhaps, we have a sense that this thing will be over in just a few more months, after having begun nearly two years ago (Jeb Bush announced he was “exploring” a run — which allowed him to start up his Right to Rise Super PAC, in December of 2015).

In other national political news, the spit take of the weekend goes to Mike Pence, Trump’s VP, who, with a straight face, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday that Donald Trump’s position on what to do with the roughly 11 million undocumented nonviolent immigrants in this country has been “consistent.”

Todd said he observed Trump’s position on what to do with nonviolent immigrants isn’t clear.

“I think Donald Trump’s been completely consistent,” Pence countered. “And I think he did answer the question.” PolitiFact rated this false.

Oh, by the way, another reason why the public loathes Congress: Clinton chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate July 23.

Today, Congress returns to work. Although Kaine won’t be there, he officially hasn’t missed a day of work in the job he was elected to serve.

 

Super PAC, dark money spending on pace to obliterate record

Combined spending by super PACS and so-called “dark money” organizations that can hide financial sources is heading toward shattering all records set for outside spending for an election cycle in 2016, according to a new report.

And the groups set up to support Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the most active of all the super PACs and dark money groups in the country this year, according to the report today by The Center for Responsive Politics, better known as its internet portal OpenSecrets.org.

The Washington-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign finances, is reporting today the total of outside money spent on campaigns has reached $660 million so far this year. That compares with $289 million such groups spent on electioneering by the end of August in the 2012 campaign.

“Super PACs have led the charge, breaking the half-a-billion dollar mark in spending and making up about 80 percent of total outside spending,” writes by Soo Rin Kim, author of the report, which is a joint effort of the Weslyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics.

This year’s spending includes $529 million from so-called “super” political action committees, allowed to advocate or oppose candidates since the 2010 Citizens United decision; as well as millions of dollars from scores of dark money organizations. various 501(c) committees, parties, corporations, and others.

By this time in 2012, super PACs had spent just $177 million, according to OpenSecrets.org.

That means America can expect a lot, lot more during the fall campaign, the report advises.

“And by the end of the 2012 contest, that $177 million had skyrocketed to $609 million, so expect the groups to burn through much more cash by the time voters cast their ballots this November,” Kim writes.

In 2012, outside spending reached $945 million by election day, according to OpenSecrets.org. In 2014, it reached $507 million.

Bush’s “Right To Rise USA” has spent $86.8 million. Rubio’s “Conservative Solutions” PAC has spent $55.4 million, OpenSecrets.org reports. The next few big super PACS are the Democratic-aiming “Priorities USA” ($51 million;) the Republican-aiming “Get Our Jobs Back” ($50 million;) the “Democratic Senate Majority” PAC ($23.5 million;) and the Republican-aiming “Freedom Partners Action Fund” ($22.4 million.)

The leading dark money organizations are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $20.4 million, and the AFSCME PAC ($9.5 million,) according to OpenSecrets.org.

Perhaps ironically, “End Citizens United” PAC (not a Super PAC, but a standard committee required to report donations) has spent $4.7 million opposing four Republicans. In an email to FloridaPolitics.com, representatives of the group say its goal is to overturn Citizens United and end Super PACs and the use of dark money. As a regular PAC “End Citizens United” operates under the rules on contribution limits, and reports an average donation of about $13.

Almost $400 million has been spent on the presidential race, but tens of millions of dollars have been spent in individual U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns.

Florida’s U.S. Senate races, which just concluded their primaries Tuesday, was only the nation’s sixth-most attractive race to super PACs and dark money this year, with just over $6 million in outside money. That’s well behind what was spent on Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. But that’s likely to change now that Republican Rubio and Democratic state Rep. Patrick Murphy are heading for an epic November showdown over Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat, seen as critical to both parties’ desires to control the Senate.

OpenSecrets.org reported two other Florida races, Florida’s Congressional Districts 2 and 18, where outside money has topped $1 million in this cycle.

Will Scott Fuhrman become the ‘accidental congressman?’

Could Scott Fuhrman, challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, be this year’s Tim Mahoney? And is there a path for Fuhrman to become 2016’s “accidental” member of Congress that doesn’t involve Ros-Lehtinen having a Mark Foley-like implosion?

Increasingly, the answer to both questions keeps inching toward “yes.” The Cook Political Report recently included CD 27 in its list of 45 seats that moved from the “safe Republican” column to “likely Republican.”

POLITICO likewise featured Fuhrman in an Aug. 19 story about Florida House Republicans’ anxieties over the political risk they face having failed to fund Zika research and response before adjourning for summer recess. Today’s Miami Herald also mentioned the Ros-Lehtinen/Fuhrman race in the context of Zika.

While his personal connection to the Zika crisis — in the form of his six-months-pregnant wife, Lindsay — may be getting Fuhrman’s name in print recently, Zika alone is not taking down a much beloved, 25-year incumbent like Ros-Lehtinen. Mosquitoes aren’t going to force Ileana into an early retirement, but a troll could.

Ros-Lehtinen probably entered the 2016 cycle feeling — in the words of Larry David — pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. Obama, the only Democrat in generations to win a majority of Florida Cubans, was no longer eligible to run; her longtime ally, Jeb Bush, had amassed an insane war chest and looked like a lock for the nomination. Little Marco was going to fizzle early in his quixotic crusade against his old mentor, Jeb, and eventually run for re-election, helping with election-critical Cuban turnout in Miami-Dade County.

Only the last of those three things came to pass the way Ros-Lehtinen had hoped.

Instead, she finds herself on the ballot alongside a man who she’s been forced to say she’ll “never” vote for; a man whose bigoted rhetoric is driving Hispanic voters to Hillary Clinton in outrageous margins. A Public Religion Research Institute poll of Hispanic voters nationally, released today, showed Trump getting a mere 18 percent of that vote, 10 points less than Romney in 2012.

A May poll of CD 27 showed Clinton winning Ros-Lehtinen’s district by a whopping 23 points. Four years ago, Obama won it in the low 50s, and she won with 60 percent, spending over $1 million against two candidates who spent a combined $0.

Maybe a combination of her longevity and respect in Miami, her #NeverTrump status, and #LittleMarco making ticket splitting fashionable among Cuban Republicans, will save Ileana this November.

Maybe she can defy demography and partisanship and a 20-plus-point Hillary Clinton victory in the 27th.

Maybe the NRCC will have money to spend bailing out an incumbent who they never calculated in a million years would be vulnerable.

Maybe.

And maybe Scott Fuhrman becomes the accidental congressman from Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The cliché that, “stranger things have happened,” is perhaps more true in this election cycle, in this state, than it has ever been before.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.25.16 — Is Donald Trump reversing himself on his signature issue of immigration?

Donald Trump was in Tampa yesterday, in case you didn’t hear about it — and he continued to “reach out” to minority communities in his speech. Of course, saying, “I say to the African-American parent, you have a right to walk down the street in the inner city, without having your child or yourself shot” may not be the elixir that persuades anyone to switch sides.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow describes the way Trump is going about it as “urinating on you and telling you to dance in the rain.” Blow says the only people even taking Trump’s outreach seriously are white people.

So does he really think he can get more black voters to his side? The Washington Post reported yesterday Trump has been motivated by a private poll of black voters conducted by campaign adviser Tony Fabrizio.

“The survey found that blacks have a lesser affinity for Hillary Clinton than they did for her husband and that their support dips once they learn about her advocacy for a 1994 crime bill signed by Bill Clinton, according to two people briefed on the poll’s findings,” the paper wrote.

Meanwhile, is Trump “softening” on immigration? Who knows? He did mention he was going to build a wall in his speech in Tampa yesterday, which hardly sounds like he’s backing off. Then again, in the second part of an interview he taped with Sean Hannity on Tuesday that aired last night, Trump’s position seemed to echo that of Jeb Bush‘s — you know, the guy’s whose position on immigration was deemed out of sorts with the majority of the Republican primary electorate last year.

“When I look at the rooms, and I have this all over, now everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,” Trump said. “But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject … they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person that has been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and the family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump.'”

Trump received a large round of applause from the studio audience when he said he would make sure those immigrants who could stick around would have to pay “back taxes.” However, that requirement was something that everybody who talks about comprehensive immigration reform says — pay a fine, back taxes, learn English, etc.

Does it matter? It could affect some of his supporters, despite the contention nothing will deter them from supporting him in the fall. Immigration was perhaps the major issue that allowed Trump to break out of the pack of 17 Republicans last summer. The idea that he would attempt to deport 11 million people has always been considered impractical and unfeasible. But to admit it before the election?

In other news …

Among those on the opening bill before The Donald spoke was his good friend and ally, Attorney General Pam Bondi. To commemorate the occasion, the activist group Progress Florida sent out a petition for people to write to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to investigate Bondi’s refusal to go after Trump University in 2013 after her campaign received a financial contribution from a Trump charity.

A group of immigration activists held court in front of the Fairgrounds before Trump’s speech in Tampa.

Jim Norman became a bit hot when asked about the situation that led to his political exile some six years ago at a candidate forum Tuesday night.

At a forum Tuesday night, the Senate District 19 candidates talked about how they’d be able to get Republicans in Tallahassee to go along with proposals to increase early childhood education.

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