Bill Nelson – Florida Politics

Bill Nelson worries Russians will hack November election, have hacked Donald Trump

Sen. Bill Nelson is in for the fight of his political career against Gov. Rick Scott in November, but Scott for Florida isn’t his only concern.

On CNN Tuesday afternoon, the third-term Democrat expressed worries of Russian hacking playing a factor.

“It was a year and a half ago that unanimous report of the American intelligence community, that Russia interfered in the election,” Nelson said. “They are in the election records of 21 states, including my state.”

“And I have to worry in my election upcoming. Now I not only have to be concerned about my opponent,” Nelson added, “I have to be concerned about the Russians trying to influence the election against me.”

Later in the interview, Nelson joined what is now a chorus of Democrats suggesting that Moscow has something incriminating on President Donald Trump.

Nelson wondered “whatever it is that Putin has hanging over the head of Donald Trump.”

“Why does Donald Trump continue to defer, to curtsy, to bow, and will never say an unkind word toward Vladimir Putin? What is it going on with the U.S. President that he believes Putin instead of our own U.S. intelligence community?”

Gov. Scott has struggled to distance himself from the President in the wake of Trump’s kowtow to the Kremlin on Monday, preemptively asserting in Jacksonville that the Russians meddled in Florida elections.

“Putin is not our friend. Putin is not our ally. I don’t trust Putin. It clearly appears that Russia tried to meddle in our election,” Scott said.

“That’s why I’ve added more counter-terrorism experts at Secretary of State. Why I’ve made sure the federal money that came down, that could go to our Supervisors of Elections, got out as quickly as we can,” Scott said.

In response to that, Nelson noted Scott couldn’t name Trump, thus demonstrating political cowardice.

“Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself,” Nelson asserted.

Rick Scott calls Bill Nelson ‘a hypocrite’ over tax, health care for staff

Republican Gov. Rick Scott blasted his U.S. senate election opponent Bill Nelson on Tuesday, calling the Democratic U.S. senator a hypocrite for not paying payroll taxes or health care benefits for campaign staffers while railing against tax cuts and Republican opposition to health care programs in Washington.

Scott was responding to reports that Nelson’s campaign finance report details show that his campaign was not paying the matching Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for those laboring in his re-election campaign this year, and also was not offering any health care benefits.

“Here’s a guy who likes to raise our taxes all the time, Bill Nelson, and at the same time we got a report last week that for his campaign, he’s not even paying his payroll taxes. … And on top of that he likes all these big government health care mandates and he’s not even paying his own employees’ health care,” Scott said.

“He’s been a hypocrite,” Scott added.

Nelson’s campaign responded by insisting that Scott’s criticisms are based partly on out-of-date information, and partly on the fact that the Nelson campaign followed a very common start-up model: For the first few months the campaign was run and staffed significantly by consultants – independent contractors who get paid a contract amount and are on their own for dealing with taxes and benefits.

That has largely changed, starting July 1, as the Nelson campaign has gotten established, replacing many contractors with full-time employees. For them, the campaign does pay payroll taxes, and negotiates salaries to provide that the employees can be able to afford to purchase health insurance, Nelson’s campaign contended.

Scott said his campaign pays payroll taxes and provides health care benefits.

Scott’s campaign also uses contractors and consultants, but his staff argued it’s a different matter, because his are not used in lieu of full-time staff members.  The Scott for Florida team has more than 30 full-time employees. Full-time staffers are salaried with health insurance and the campaign pays payroll taxes.

Scott declined to speak to whether any of his businesses do not pay payroll taxes or health care benefits, saying they’re all in a blind trust.

He was in Orlando Tuesday, at Restaurant Supply World, a longtime supporter of his, to announce the endorsement from the National Federation of Independment Businesses of Florida, and the formation of his campaign’s Small Business Coalition, made up of more than 400 endorsing businesses spread across all 67 of Florida’s counties.

He argued Nelson is no friend of small business, and, worse, doesn’t pay the taxes and health care mandates he helped create for those small businesses.

“I think it’s absolutely hypocritical for Bill Nelson to sit there and vote for all these tax increases but he doesn’t want to pay his own taxes,” Scott said. “Can you imagine? He’s not paying his fair share of payroll taxes and he’s not providing his workers health care, but he wants to go raise all these taxes on us and have all these big government health care mandates.”

Americans for Prosperity targets Bill Nelson over SCOTUS confirmation

Americans For Prosperity-Florida is launching a digital and direct mail effort to encourage U.S. Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Their target: Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Announced Tuesday, the Florida chapter of the Koch-funded think tank will be backing the campaign with a six-figure sum. Trump announced last week that Kavanaugh is his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is renowned for his demonstrated commitment to defending the Constitution and interpreting the law as written,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said. “President Trump succeeded in nominating a jurist who exercises judicial restraint and doesn’t legislate from the bench, and that is exactly why Senator Nelson should confirm this nominee to replace Justice Kennedy.”

The campaign isn’t exclusive to Florida. AFP called it a “multi-million dollar” effort across various states. Direct mail pieces will be sent to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota — all of which are states where President Donald Trump won in 2016 and have at least one Democratic sitting U.S. Senator. 

As well, a new thirty-second digital ad and website were unveiled.

From the voice over in the digital ad: “We are a country of laws, freedom and justice. For the second time in recent years, our country has a historic opportunity to see another defender of the constitution appointed to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh will interpret the law as it is written. Judge Kavanaugh has the integrity and character to serve on our highest court of justice and will respect our constitution and the rule of law.”

The ad ends with a prompt for watchers to contact their Senator (Nelson, in Florida’s case) in support of Judge Kavanaugh.

Hudson said the direct mail and digital efforts will be complemented by canvassing and phone banking across the state.

Nelson is undoubtedly expected to vote against Kavanaugh, but he hasn’t been as critical of the judge as his Democratic colleagues have. In fact, he’s remained relatively quiet and noncommittal.

“I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh to discuss his views on several issues such as protecting women’s rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions & protecting the right to vote, just to name a few,” Nelson tweeted after Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick. “I’ll make my decision after that.”

Watch the digital ad here or below:

Bill Nelson wants to put the ‘freeze’ on Russia

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling on Congress “to enact additional economic sanctions on Russia for their interference in the 2016 elections, and even suggested freezing the bank accounts of some of Russia’s most senior leaders,” according to a Monday press release.

“I hope we’re going to come together quickly, in a bipartisan way, to defend ourselves and to finally push back on Putin,” Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“I hope that we are going to insist that the White House enforce all of the economic sanctions that the Congress has already pushed through that the White House has been very slow to enact.

“And I hope this Congress is also going to enact more economic sanctions and get it to where it will really start causing a crimp in the step of the Russian leaders,” added Nelson, who faces a re-election challenge from term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. “Why not start freezing the bank accounts of some of the highest leaders?”

Nelson’s comments came just hours after President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met privately in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.

Nelson called Trump’s comments at a news conference after that meeting – and his refusal to accept the fact that Putin interfered in the 2016 election – “alarming,” “embarrassing” and “unacceptable.”

Rick Scott Victory Fund gets big push from oil, sports, prison moguls

Contributions to the Rick Scott Victory Fund include large checks from Big Sugar magnates, Florida-based developers, and the sports world, according to data published by ProPublica.

The new political committee, set up to help Gov. Rick Scott unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, just made its first filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

A few of the biggest names behind the bucks:

Jose “Pepe” Fanjul: The son of sugar baron Alfonso Fajul (and brother of Democratic mega-donor Anfonso Jr.) serves as president and chief operating officer for Florida Crystals. He’s also a longtime patron of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and also chipped in $39,300 to the Rick Scott Victory Fund.

Jeffrey and Penny Vinik: He’s the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. She’s one of Tampa Bay’s most prominent philanthropists. Each donated $39,300 to the fund.

Tom O’Malley: The wealthy oilman and retired executive chairman of PBF Energy, O’Malley accepted a 2014 appointment from Scott to the Florida Polytechnic University Board of Trustees. He and wife Mary Alice each donated $39,300.

Dan Doyle, Sr. and Dan Doyle, Jr.: The father-and-son team behind Tampa-based Dex Imaging also made a heavy family investment in the fund. Both contributed $39,300, and a look further down the list also shows donations from Doyles named Dan (a student), Rosaleen (a homemaker) and Nicole (self-employed).

Jordan Zimmerman: The founder and chairman of Zimmerman Advertising and part owner of the Florida Panthers gave $39,300, with wife Terry donated the same. Scott reappointed him to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees after Zimmerman was initially being put on the board by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

Michael Durden: The Panama City rail executive was previously one of the biggest donors for Scott’s state political committee Let’s Get to Work. Now he’s donated $39,300 to the federal fund.

Jim Henderson: The board chairman and CEO of insurance giant AssuredPartners donated $39,300 to the fund, as did wife Carole.

George Zoley: The founder and CEO of GEO Group, a controversial but highly successful prison company labeled as profiteers by the American Civil Liberties Union, Zoley contributed $39,300 to the fund, and so did wife Donna. Zoley also previously served on the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees.

Brian D’Isernia: The founder and CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding, a company that two years ago landed the largest U.S. Coast Guard contract in history to build a series of offshore patrol cutters, donated $39,300 to the fund.

Carlos Beruff: The Medallion Home founder (and close Scott ally) chipped in $39,300. Beruff is currently chair of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission and waged an unsuccessful Republican primary challenge against incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio two years ago.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen call for consequences in Nicaragua

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega must face consequences after protests of his regime turned deadly this weekend.

A new wave of violence broke out late last week as anti-Ortega protesters clashed with the government. The Nicaraguan Bishop’s Conference tells the BBC that one man died when police and paramilitary forces on Friday evening assaulted a Managua church where 150 students had converged.

Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, on Friday called Ortega a coward in a Spanish-language tweet. She condemned the regime and called for the international community to take action in response to the violence.

Rubio said Ortega should consider himself on notice. “If his violence leads to a bloodbath he will face consequences,” he tweeted Friday.

Rubio also said that he had spoken with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres weeks ago, personally telling him an “opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen.”

The tweet referenced Rasio Murillo, Ortega’s wife and vice president.

Rubio said he was closely monitoring the situation and awaited news of a promised release of students, journalists and clergy still trapped inside the church.

Nelson also tweeted in Spanish on Friday that the Nicaraguan people face repression from the Ortega regime. He expressed fear the country could follow the same path as Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott chimed in as well, echoing concern that Nicaragua and Venezuela were on the same path to totalitarianism, while also expressing his belief that Cuba’s fate could be tied to that of those nations.

“What we are seeing in Nicaragua this weekend is scary,” he added. “We have to stand with the people of Nicaragua who desperately want freedom and safety.”

Violent protests in Nicaragua in April resulted in nearly 30 deaths, the deadliest political conflict in the nation since the close of the Nicaraguan Revolution, according to The New York Times.

Ros-Lehtinen in June led a Congressional effort urging President Donald Trump’s administration to strongly support the Nicaraguan people resisting totalitarianism. She and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, penned a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling for action.

“We are calling on the Administration to target additional regime officials for designation under the law, so that Ortega and his cronies feel the real impact of their brutal policies,” the letter reads.

Eight other federal lawmakers signed onto the letter, including fellow Floridians Rubio, Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The State Department announced new sanctions on Nicaragua on July 5.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio file bill wooing Canadian snowbirds for longer visits

Florida’s U.S. senators agree that those crossing the nation’s northern border should get to stay here for a while.

Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio filed The Canadian Snowbird Act, legislation that would let older Canadian visitors to the United States stay here as long as eight months without being considered residents.

“It’s no secret that Canadians love to visit Florida in the winter,” said Nelson. “The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state’s tourism-driven economy. Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit.”

With certain exceptions, Canadians merely visiting the United States do not typically need visas, according to the State Department. But under current law, those who come to the U.S. and stick around for longer than six months will be considered full-time residents of the U.S. and must pay income tax on their entire annual income, even money made in Canada.

Canadians who become permanent residents of the United States must have a visa or a waiver that says that the foreign nationals intend to be in the United States for less than 90 days.

If the new bill becomes law, Canadian citizens over the age of 50 could stay here for 240 days, or eight months, though they would be expressly prohibited from working for American employers or seeking public assistance in the U.S.

Regardless, visitors from the Great White North find their way to Florida and stay around for some time.

Visit Florida, which endorsed the legislation filed by Rubio and Nelson, estimates 3.2 Canadians visited the state in 2016. The Canadian embassy forecasts visitors from Canada contribute $4 billion each year to Florida’s economy.

The Canadian Snowbird Association is also endorsing the legislation.

Bill Nelson, Catherine Cortez Masto canvass Little Havana

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson campaigned alongside America’s first Latina senator today. At a rally in Little Havana, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, made the case her Florida colleague should win re-election.

“We need Bill in the Senate to fight alongside me for all people and to be a check on the harmful policies of this administration,” said Cortez Masto. “He is looking out for the people of Florida and our neighbors in Puerto Rico who continue to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Bill Nelson is fighting every single day for each and everyone of you.”

The two senators kicked off a “Vecinos de Nelson” canvassing event and spoke to voters at Mofongo’s, pushing the Democratic agenda on health care, education and jobs.

Nelson right now is locked in his toughest campaign since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2000. Republican Gov. Rick Scott just raised a record $10.7 million during the second quarter in his bid to unseat the incumbent.

The Democrat has taken criticism for not making a direct enough appeal to Hispanic voters, but the South Florida event seemed squarely aimed at that voter demographic.

“Catherine and I believe in opportunity for all people regardless of where they come from or what zip code they live in,” Nelson said.

“As we are learning the hard way, elections have consequences and this election is crucial. I appreciate all of you for knocking on doors, and calling your friends and neighbors to stress the importance of this election. In the last few weeks alone we’ve seen health care under attack, specifically protections for those with preexisting conditions, reminding us just how important it is to talk with our communities about what’s at stake this election year.”

With an influx of Puerto Rican voters, all American citizens, relocated to Florida following the impact of Hurricane Maria on the island, the Hispanic vote seems as important as it’s been in years.

While Scott has made inroads among Hispanic voters, Cortez Masto says Nelson’s policies should win voters over before Election Day.

“There is a clear contrast in this race and Bill will continue to fight for affordable health care and keep protections for those with preexisting conditions and protect the beautiful environment that brings millions of people to Florida every year,” she said.

Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz call on Donald Trump to cancel Vladimir Putin meetup

Florida congressmen Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined national Democrats calling for President Donald Trump to cancel an upcoming meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Deutch and Frankel signed onto a stern letter from Democrats on the House Foreign Relations Committee sharply criticizing Trump’s meeting with Putin.

“Unfortunately, due to your constant expressions of sympathy for Vladimir Putin, your conflicts of interest, and your attacks on our closest allies, we do not have faith that you can faithfully negotiate with the Russian leader, and we urge you to cancel the meeting,” the letter closes.

Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, furthered criticism of Trump in his own message on Twitter, where he asserted the president believes Putin over U.S. intelligence when it comes to election interference.

House Democrats issued the letter the same day a fresh round of indictments came out of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. The Tampa Bay Times notes those indictments show efforts specifically involving Florida election efforts.

Weston Democrat Wasserman Schultz suggested on Twitter that Trump cancel the meeting and “use the opportunity to publicly call on Russia to extradite the 12 Russian intelligence officials who were just indicted for interfering in the 2016 election.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, also made note Florida elections offices had been targeted by Russian meddling, and said Trump should demand criminals be turned over and “quit denying that criminal conspiracy took place.”

On that part, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also strongly said Putin’s meddling was clear. “I don’t ‘believe’ Putin interfered in our elections,” Rubio tweeted. “I know for a fact he did.” He went on to criticize the partisan nature of media reaction to the Muller indictments.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, while less sharp in his critique than Democratic colleagues in the House, also said the indictments should be a “wake-up call for all Americans.” The Democrat did not go so far as to call for Trump to cancel his meeting.

Florida politicians reflect on passing of nursing legend Barbara Lumpkin

Barbara Lumpkin, a widely respected nurse and advocate in the Sunshine State, sadly passed away Thursday night at the age of 81.

An Ohio native, Lumpkin worked as a nurse for 16 years prior to moving in 1974 to Florida. There, she began work as a lobbyist for the Florida Nurses Association. 

“Barbara Lumpkin was the backbone of the FNA legislative program for over 30 years. She has educated and mentored countless nurses and built the foundation for a strong presence for nurses in the health policy arena in our state as well as nationally,” FNA Executive Director Willa Fuller said. “Her legacy is undeniable. She will be missed.”

She joined Baptist Health South Florida in 2007, but the fruits of her labor at FNA would continue to be witnessed almost a decade later.

Lumpkin — who was a fixture in the Capitol during legislative sessions — was “a trailblazer” and “giant of the nursing profession,” said Phillis Oeters, vice president of government relations for Baptist Health South Florida.

In 2016, the state passed the Barbara Lumpkin Prescribing Act. The legislation, backed by FNA, had appeared before the legislature for 22 years prior. The law permits advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe controlled substances.

“Her life’s work culminated with the passage of the Nurse Prescribing Act in 2016,” said Martha DeCastro, Vice President for Nursing and Clinical Care Policy at the Florida Hospital Association. “The outpouring of support from nurses across the state is a testament to her incredible legacy. I am so very grateful for her life, her passion, and for her friendship.”

Appreciation of her work and the widespread impact of her influence are evident. On Friday, a handful of politicians from both parties mourned Lumpkin’s passing. 

Gov. Rick Scott:

“Barbara Lumpkin was a relentless supporter of patients, nurses and the nursing profession in Florida. My wife, Ann, and I send our sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Barbara Lumpkin was a champion for nursing and access to healthcare. While we mourn her loss, we also celebrate her life, her service, and her immense legacy.

“She defined what it means to care deeply for others, and to use her compassion to get things done through the legislative process. We are all grateful.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“I am saddened by the loss of nursing champion Barbara Lumpkin. We are grateful for her service to our state, our nurses, and all those in need of compassionate care.”

Former Governor and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist:

“Barbara Lumpkin represented the best of the nursing and healthcare profession in our state. We will remember her for her decades of advocacy, selflessness, and service to our state. And we will honor her by serving others with the same compassion, kindness, and tenacity that made her so dearly loved.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush:

“Barbara Lumpkin was unmatched in her advocacy on behalf of nurses. She accomplished so much for so many, and her legacy will live on through the caring, hardworking nurses she loved so much.”

State Sen. Denise Grimsley:

“Barbara Lumpkin was a friend, a mentor and an inspiration to so many. She was a nurse at Highlands General Hospital in Sebring the year I was born, and led the Florida Nurses Association the year I was first elected.

“We worked together to pass the Nurse Prescribing Act that I renamed the Barbara Lumpkin Act, a proud moment for both of us. I will miss Barbara’s wisdom, her wit, and we take comfort in the inspiration and example of her life, so very well-lived.”  

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

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