Marco Rubio Archives - Florida Politics

Personnel note: Richard Reeves departs GrayRobinson to start own firm

Richard Reeves, a veteran lobbyist who founded his own firm before joining another that merged with GrayRobinson last year, now is leaving the firm, he told Florida Politics Friday. 

“I wanted to be out on my own again,” he said in a phone interview. “The opportunity to work with Dean (Cannon) was tremendous. He’s a great mentor and leader and friend.”

Cannon, a former House Speaker (2010-12), formed Tallahassee’s Capitol Insight, where Reeves also worked. It then merged with GrayRobinson.

His departure “was a friendly decision,” added Reeves, 46. He says he will continue to work with Cannon on projects that benefit their mutual clients.

“Richard is a great friend and asset to us at GrayRobinson, so it is bittersweet to see him go,” said Cannon. “However, we are happy he is going to form his own firm and looking forward to collaborating with him in the future.”

Reeves’ new firm will be called RLR Consulting, and he plans to rent space in the downtown building near the Capitol co-owned by Jennifer Green‘s Liberty Partners of Tallahassee and Tampa-based lobbyist Ron Pierce‘s RSA Consulting.

Reeves, who became GrayRobinson’s Senior Director of Government Affairs in Tallahassee after the merger, began his career in Florida politics working for now-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, during Nelson’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign, according to his bio.

In 1995, Reeves moved to Tallahassee to serve Nelson in his role as Insurance Commissioner, acting as an external affairs liaison, including board appointments and legislative affairs related to what is now Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA).

Reeves later served as campaign director for Nelson’s 1998 re-election campaign. After the re-election, he went on to become Finance Director for Nelson’s successful U.S. Senate Campaign in 2000.

In 2001, Reeves formed his own firm and began lobbying, “specializing in education, workforce development, insurance, utilities and appropriation issues,” his bio says. 

He also has served as a political consultant for political committees and candidates, including now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, in 2004-05. Reeves was finance consultant during Rubio’s successful campaign to become Speaker of the Florida House. 

Gwen Graham calls on Rick Scott to ‘immediately denounce’ Donald Trump’s Charlottesville comments

Rick Scott is set to sit down to lunch with President Trump this afternoon at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Gwen Graham says there’s no better time for him to do what he has declined to do all week — criticize the president for his remarks last weekend equating white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Public officials from coast to coast — both Democrats, and even some Republicans — have condemned Donald Trump’s outrageous remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, but there’s at least one glaring exception: Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has remained deafeningly silent,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said in a statement Thursday. “Silence is unacceptable in the face of a president who called white supremacists and neo-Nazis ‘very fine people’ and claimed ‘all sides’ were responsible for the violence that left three people dead.”

Scott and Trump are friends, and the governor had notably declined to address Trump’s controversial comments this week when he defended the white nationalists who demonstrated in Virginia and said they included “some very fine people.”

Trump laid some of the blame for the violence that broke out at the feet of “alt-left” counter-protesters; he also equated the Confederate General Robert E. Lee with America’s Founding Fathers. Florida Republicans like Marco Rubio, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have called out the president directly for the comments, but Scott has remained notably silent.

“You can ask President Trump what he said,” Scott told reporters Wednesday when asked his thoughts about the president’s latest comments.

The governor went on to say that there was “no moral equivalency between the two sides,” and that as a Navy veteran, he didn’t go into the military to defend neo-Nazi’s.

“I urge all political leaders at the state, local and federal level – including the president- to focus on unity,” he continued, adding, “how do we come together, how do we create more love and less hate? We’ve got to eliminate this divisiveness in this country.”

Graham says it’s time for Scott to specifically call out Trump’s comments.

“I am calling on Governor Scott to immediately denounce President Trump’s remarks and confirm that white supremacists are not welcome in Florida,” she said.

Jack Latvala says he’ll capture more Trump voters than GOP opponents

While President Trump is being disparaged this week even by some Republicans following his controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them, Jack Latvala showed no qualms about the commander in chief when he said Wednesday that Trump voters in Florida may look more favorably upon his candidacy for governor than his opponents.

“I’m looking at a field that’s made up of people who have been in government their entire lives—either in elective office or as a staff member—and don’t have any business experience and have never really had those challenges that those of us that have businesses have, and I just think that the party who nominated Donald Trump (is) not going to be comfortable with nominating somebody like that,” Latvala told Tampa 820 AM host Dan Maduri on Wednesday.

Trump easily defeated Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican presidential primary more than a year ago, before capturing the Sunshine State narrowly over Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential election.

The 63-year-old Clearwater state senator was referring to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran when he said that, unlike his opponents, he has no desire to run for higher office than governor, saying that leading Florida would be his ultimate destination.

“It’s a never ending ladder and I’m at the end of the ladder,” he said. “I’m old enough that this is my last race for anything, and I just want to get in and do what’s got to be done to solve some of these problems and straighten things out.”

Putnam declared his candidacy back in March, and remains the presumptive favorite in the race, thanks in part to his prodigious fundraising and simply the fact that he’s so well known after serving in politics for nearly half of his 43-year-old life. Corcoran has not declared for office, though he is expected to early in 2018.

Latvala announced last month that he would pledge to raise $50,000 over the next six months for the Republican Party of Florida. He told Maduri that someone has to do it, since Rick Scott and other high profile Republicans are raising money for their own political committees.

“The governor doesn’t participate with the party, the Cabinet members haven’t done that, and the leadership of the party is all out raising money for themselves, for their own PACS and own campaigns, and it’s taking it’s toll on the party,” he said. “We’ve got to remember the party.”

Latvala spoke to him the Tampa radio station en route to the Panhandle, where he was scheduled to make his third and final appearance around the state as he officially kicked off his run for governor on Wednesday.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco)

Rick Scott reluctant to question President Trump’s call for possible military action in Venezuela

As Venezuela’s economy continues to spiral downwards, Governor Rick Scott has been championing the opposition to President Nicholas Maduro.

Scott is expected to ask the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday for a resolution prohibiting the State Board of Administration, which acts as the state’s investment manager, from investing in companies or securities that are owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela last Friday night, sparking condemnation from around the region, including from countries which are usually some of Maduro’s harshest critics.

Maduro has seized on Trump’s comments to reaffirm long-standing accusations that Washington is preparing a military attack. He called for military exercises on Monday, urging the public to join in a two-day operation on August 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.

“I know that the president is very concerned,” Scott told Florida Politics Tuesday when asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s provocative comment.

“I’ve talked to him about Venezuela a number of times. I think doing the sanctions was right against everybody involved with Maduro,” said the Governor, speaking to reporters at the Florida Aquarium after holding a press conference touting the record number of tourists who visited Florida during the first half of 2017.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said.

Scott derided the Maduro government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez under house arrest after he was released from prison following a three year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“Maduro needs to step down, he needs to release all political prisoners, we need democracy again, ” Scott said.

The Governor has not officially declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate, but is expected to at some point in the next year. He’ll face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. With the crisis in Venezuela exploding, both men have been competing with each other to show how devoted they are to the Venezuelan-American constituency in Florida.

Nelson has been seemingly trying to catch up to Scott in talking tough on the Maduro government. Last month he called the Trump administration to consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil. While limiting Venezuela’s oil imports to the U.S. is seen as a powerful weapon, it’s not clear how effective it would be, and is not something that even Marco Rubio has publicly called for (though he has said the issue should be on the table).

Nelson and Rubio introduced legislation in May to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and increase sanctions on the Venezuelan officials responsible for the ongoing crisis there. Meanwhile, officials close to the governor note that he has been concerned about the Venezuelan people going back to 2014.

Scott brushed off a question about whether he supported Nelson’s request, saying that the Trump administration is looking at everything that they can do to promote democracy.

Over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April, driven by anger over shortages of food and medicine and Maduro’s creation of a legislative superbody that governments around the world say is dictatorial.

“I’ve talked to a variety of people, including some people who do charity care down there and they can’t even get charity care in there,” Scott decried.

The governor then got personal, saying that his daughter is pregnant with twins, and said he couldn’t imagine having a daughter or wife in a country that is enduring a shortage of medicine, which is the case currently in Venezuela.

“Can you imagine that knowing that your wife or daughter or somebody is going to have a baby and you know that unfortunately you’re in a country where they won’t even allow in the right medicine to take care of their citizens?” he asked. “That’s wrong.”

Joe Henderson: We’re heading for a defining showdown in the battle against hatred

Sometimes you just have to get away, and for the last month or so I tried to do just that. I really did. I went to the U.S. Virgin Islands to watch my oldest son get married, and I highly recommend the island of St. John to anyone considering a Caribbean trip.

It’s the place to go if you want to unplug for a while.

To be honest, though, the events of last weekend prove that suspicion, hatred and mistrust doesn’t take a vacation.

Neither does racism, so here we are — still fighting the Civil War, with some Republicans still making excuses for Donald Trump, and with Democrats still unable to turn all of this into a coherent vision of how things would better if they were in charge.

This time it was Charlottesville’s turn to be in the bullseye of the insanity that seems to be boiling toward an eruption that can only deepen the divide that exists in this country. The same level of hatred and violence that was on display there could easily have happened in any major Florida city though.

For instance, the debate is still raging in Tampa over what to do about the Confederate war statue that is being moved from its current location in front of the county courthouse. As Mitch Perry reported for SaintPetersBlog, a new survey by St. Pete Polls showed a majority of Hillsborough County residents support the county commissioners who voted to keep the monument on public property.

Yes, that will be an issue when Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Sandra Murman run for new commission seats in 2018.

There’s a guy out by the junction of Interstates 4 and 75 in Tampa who for years has flown a humongous Confederate flag, visible to thousands of motorists driving past it every day. I wonder how many people quietly give that display a thumbs-up when while motoring down the road. I’m thinking that number would be a lot higher than many of us want to believe.

It has been encouraging to see many prominent members of President Trump’s party condemn is tepid response to the hate on national display in Charlottesville. On Twitter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said it was important for the president to describe the events there for what they are — a terror attack by white supremacists.

Gov. Rick Scott noted, “We must be very clear — FL stands against all forms of racism & bigotry. The hatred displayed in VA is despicable & has no place in America.” And House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote, “We must fight against evil whatever form it takes….”

Good words, all.

It’s going to take more than a few well-expressed tweets to really change attitudes though. Bigotry is a learned behavior, reinforced by decades of ignorance and suspicion, and now it has a toehold with a president who seems oblivious to the damage he is causing. Alt-right supporters have already vowed that Charlottesville was just the first act in the chaos they have planned.

This is heading for a showdown, folks, in the streets and at the ballot box. The outcome will define who we are as a people.

Donald Trump drawing criticism for not explicitly rebuking white supremacists

President Donald Trump is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats for not explicitly denouncing white supremacists in the aftermath of violent clashes in Virginia, with lawmakers saying he needs to take a public stand against groups that espouse racism and hate.

Trump, while on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, addressed the nation Saturday soon after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, a college town where neo-Nazis and white nationalists had assembled for march. The president did not single out any group, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“Hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now,” he said. “We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other.”

Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

He did not answer questions from reporters about whether he rejected the support of white nationalists or whether he believed the car crash was an example of domestic terrorism. Aides who appeared on the Sunday news shows said the White House did believe those things, but many fellow Republicans demanded that Trump personally denounce the white supremacists.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

GOP Chris Christie of New Jersey, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

On the Democrat side, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said “of course we condemn ALL that hate stands for. Until @POTUS specifically condemns alt-right action in Charlottesville, he hasn’t done his job.”

The president’s only public statement early Sunday was a retweet saluting two Virginia state police officers killed in helicopter crash after being dispatched to monitor the Charlottesville clashes.

The previous day, Trump tweeted condolences to those officers soon after the helicopter crashed. His tweet sending condolences to the woman killed in the protests came more than five hours after the incident.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack in Charlottesville to be terrorism:

“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.”

“It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”

The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s statement by suggesting that some of the counter-protesters were violent too.

When pressed, he specifically condemned the racist groups. The president’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump, tweeted Sunday morning: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio says now’s the time to impose more sanctions on Venezuelan government

The Trump administration imposed sanctions Wednesday on eight more Venezuelan officials, including the brother of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, punishing them for their roles in President Nicolas Maduro‘s creation of a new Constituent Assembly.

The actions by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will result in freezing all assets of the eight officials subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and American citizens are prohibited from dealing with them.

“I support the Administration’s imposition of a new round of sanctions against corrupt individuals involved in organizing or supporting the illegitimate and anti-democratic Constituent Assembly in Venezuela,” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio responded. “Given the Maduro regime’s continued assault on democracy in Venezuela, the time has now come for the president to act on his promise to impose significant economic sanctions on the Maduro dictatorship.”

Washington slapped sanctions on Maduro himself last week, a day after the Constituent Assembly was sworn in. That same day Maduro ousted Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Diaz, who had ordered an investigation into possible fraud in the Constituent Assembly vote.

Most countries worldwide have dubbed the election fraudulent and say the Constituent Assembly is a sign of a dictatorship.

The Trump administration says harsher sanctions could come if the political situation continues to deteriorate. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson hinted that the U.S. could impose a ban on Venezuelan oil, the country’s sole source of income.

However, such a move would likely only further hurt the Venezuelan people, making the South American nation’s food and medical shortage worse than it already is.

In Florida, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted last month in a nonbinding straw poll, in advance of the Venezuelan vote on the Constituent Assembly.

Earlier this week, Nelson criticized Gov. Rick Scott for backtracking on a proposal to crack down on state money flowing to organizations or investments that could benefit the Venezuelan government.

Report: Pro-Marco Rubio nonprofit primarily funded by two anonymous megadonors

A nonprofit organization that raised $22 million for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s failed presidential bid could be a two-man show that went a little too heavy on its support for the Florida Republican’s campaign, according to a report on Open Secrets Blog.

Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, brought in over 90 percent of its funds from one or possibly two anonymous donors according to tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of the $22 million raised, $20.5 million came in through two anonymous donations, one for $13.5 million in 2014 and another for $7 million in 2015. Social welfare organizations aren’t required to disclose donor information, so it is unclear whether the two multimillion dollar contributions came from the same source.

The bulk of the money raised was spent on ads and campaign research to boost Rubio’s presidential bid, and it appears that little if any money was doled out for activities that could be deemed “social welfare.”

The nomenclature of “Conservative Solutions Project” is also strikingly similar to Rubio’s own political committee, “Conservative Solutions PAC,” and the web only gets more tangled from there.

Both CSPs, along with the Rubio campaign and the Rubio Victory Joint Fundraising Committee passed money around to largely the same people during the course of the Florida Republican’s presidential campaign.

Team Rubio didn’t deny the close relationship between the two groups when asked about it in 2015.

“Absolutely, the two groups are related,” said Jeff Sadosky in an interview with National Journal. “But they are separate and distinct entities. One is focused on supporting Marco Rubio’s potential presidential campaign, and one is focused on issue education.”

Sadosky’s “issue education” frame may be a little misleading, though, since the bulk of the ads run by the social welfare group were shining a spotlight on Rubio’s positions on taxes and national security. And since the ads were more than 60 days before an election, none of them had to be reported to the FEC.

That also runs afoul of nonprofit rules, which outlaw groups that primarily benefit one person. The IRS rarely pursues such cases, but if they did a former head of the IRS exempt organizations division said investigators “would probably say there’s an overwhelming private benefit to its activities” as well as possible campaign intervention “depending on if the messages got close to ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’” in substance.

 

Marco Rubio says NCAA is ‘out of control’

In a time of unprecedented chaos in the West Wing, with a new Chief of Staff shaking up the staff composition, and with questions continuing to mount regarding what Robert Mueller may uncover about the Trump Administration, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter Tuesday to discuss college football.

Specifically, Rubio opined on the suspension of a kicker from the University of Central Florida, who found a way to monetize YouTube videos promoting his athletic endeavors, and who UCF ultimately ruled to be ineligible in accordance with NCAA guidelines.

“The @NCAA is out of control. They ruled Central Florida kicker ineligible over YouTube videos,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday morning.

USA Today reports the kicker in question (Donald De La Haye) sought a waiver from UCF, which granted one on the condition that he could not sell ads promoting his athletic endeavors.

On Monday, NCAA representative Stacey Osburn Tweeted that “UCF declared [the player] ineligible, not the NCAA.”

This position was buttressed by a statement from UCF, which asserted that “The waiver also allowed him to create videos that referenced his status as a student-athlete or depict his football skill or ability if they were posted to a non-monetized account. De La Haye chose not to accept the conditions of the waiver and has therefore been ruled ineligible to compete in NCAA-sanctioned competition.”

Despite the facts of the case leading to UCF being the ultimate arbiter of ineligibility, Rubio had backup on Twitter from former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who tweeted that the NCAA has “been out of control for a long time … congressional oversight/engagement needed.”

Bill Nelson says U.S. should consider cutting off Venezuelan oil imports

Donald Trump is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after a vote Sunday that many see as a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is completely behind the sanctions, saying it’s time for the U.S. to “consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”

The directive from the Treasury Department freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.

“I talked to Treasury and we have frozen the assets of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and I expect other countries will follow,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime.”

Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has also been front and center in calling for the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Last week, Rubio warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela went through with what he termed a “fraudulent vote,” delivering a list of Venezuelan officials that he hoped that Trump would issue sanctions to before yesterday’s vote.

That prompted comments from top Venezuelan officials that Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of secretly conspiring against Caracas so that Washington could install new leaders amenable to U.S. interests. Speaking in Aspen earlier this month, Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.

“The sanctions imposed today on Nicolas Maduro are warranted,” Rubio said on Monday. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly.”

The Constituent Assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.

Over the past year, Venezuela has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis, which led to shortages in food and medicine as well as government violence against protesters.

For years, Rubio has called out the Maduro regime, while Nelson hasn’t been as public in his criticisms. That makes his comments Monday particularly noteworthy, especially when he said it may be time for the U.S. to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. — sending 10 percent of its imports last year — and the top supplier to refineries on the Gulf Coast. There are some concerns that cutting off the oil would only further devastate the Venezuelan economy.

Nelson is running for re-election for the Senate next year, probably against Gov. Rick Scott, who has been adroit in talking tough about the Maduro government.

Last week, Scott announced the details of his proposal to the Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) that would prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.

Fifteen days ago, in a nonbinding straw poll in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and a host of other Florida cities, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted to let people know their opinions about the Maduro administration’s plan to elect the National Constituent Assembly yesterday.

 

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