Charlie Crist, almost unique among political figures of his stature, has never had a consistent inner circle of advisers at his side.
Ask anyone who knows the former Florida governor well — or as well as anyone can know the ever-sunny but often inscrutable Crist — and they will tell you he has two primary confidants: Carole Crist, his wife, and Dr. Charles Crist, his father.
"He keeps his cards very close to the vest," said Eric Johnson, a South Florida Democratic consultant who worked on Crist's unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid as an independent in 2010 and now is chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. "He listens to everybody and takes in everybody's advice, but he definitely has an inner compass and does call a lot of his own shots."
That's partly why in campaign after campaign, the relentlessly frugal Crist has hired a bare-bones staff. From routine press calls to requests for speaking engagements, Crist often handled them directly rather than having them filtered through an entourage of aides.
On the big-picture political questions, few Floridians better understand state politics than Crist. …Full Story
The Republican Party of Florida came to Gov. Rick Scott's defense Friday after former state Senator Dan Gelber wrote a letter asking the governor to return a $110,000 contribution he received from an insurance startup that could get $52 million from the state-run insurance giant.
RPOF slammed Gelber, saying the Miami Beach Democrat was doing "dirty work" for former governor and potential 2014 candidate Charlie Crist. RPOF used the opportunity to ask Gelber about Crist's questionable "allies," including convicted felons Jim Greer and Scott Rothstein.
"Everyone knows that Dan Gelber and Charlie Crist are close allies and friends," RPOF chairman Lenny Curry said in a statment. "In fact, it's Dan Gelber who is shepherding Charlie Crist through through the Democratic Party. So it's no surprise that Dan Gelber is making a false, partisan attack on Governor Rick Scott."
Gelber immediately hit back at RPOF, which has received $30,000 in campaign contributions from the company in question, Heritage Insurance. …Full Story
The list of lawmakers criticizing Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for a $52 million takeout deal continues to grow, as House Speaker Will Weatherford said Friday that he had "serious concerns" about the plan.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Citizens did not provide sufficient notice to the Legislature before quickly approving the $52 million deal that was unveiled and voted on this week.
"I have serious concerns about the latest takeout agreement between Citizens and the Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, particularly the lengthy backdated payments for coverage that Heritage did not provide," Weatherford said in a statment. "Once again, Citizens did not provide a sufficient advanced briefing to the Legislature, and the proposal was hastily pushed through a sharply divided board."
Last year, Weatherford chided Citizens for attempting to loan out up to $250 million from its cash surplus to smaller private insurance companies. Citizens eventually abandoned the effort, but decided to go ahead with plans to pay companies cash for taking over policies in a unique retroactive reinsurance agreement. …Full Story
Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack
Former Florida Rep. Connie Mack and his wife, Mary Bono Mack, are divorcing.
“We are saddened to announce that we have reached the difficult decision to end our marriage," they said in a statement. "We have nothing but respect and admiration for each other and we intend to remain on the friendliest of terms. We appreciate the love and support of our family and friends."
Both ran unsuccessful campaigns in November: Connie Mack vacating his congressional district to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, and Bono Mack losing re-election to her California seat to a Democrat. Both went on to join Washington lobbying firms.
They were married in 2007 after dating for two years and stirring Washington buzz. Connie Mack is the son of the former U.S. senator and Mary Bono had been married to late singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono. Full Story
Gov. Rick Scott is signing the texting while driving bill (SB 52) at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School in Miami, but the state law doesn't take effect until Oct. 1.
The bill prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device, which includes text messaging, emailing and instant messaging through smart phones. Texting would be allowed in hands-off, high-tech cars and when a car is stopped at a red light or in a traffic jam.
Florida has been one of the last five states in the country without any type of texting ban.
In announcing the bill signing, Scott said "As a father and a grandfather, texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones are on the road. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers.
"We must do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe. I cannot think of a better time to officially sign this bill into law. …Full Story
Gov. Rick Scott today sent letters to the boards of trustees of Florida’s 12 universities urging them to forgo any tuition increase this year.
Scott already has vetoed a 3 percent tuition increase included in the state budget, but some people believe universities have the power to increase tuition 1.7 percent to keep up with inflation.
“I have consistently fought to hold the line on tuition, and to stop any tax increases, in Florida. Higher education should be affordable so it is as accessible to as many Florida families as possible,” Scott wrote.
“I would be proud for you to join me in our fight to hold the line on tuition.”
Read the full letter here.
Rep. Mike Fasano is the latest official to raise questions about a $52 million take-out deal between an upstart St. Petersburg insurance company and Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, penned a letter to the state’s Insurance Commissioner on Friday questioning whether Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance has already violated a May 17consent order from the Office of Insurance Regulation. Heritage has firmly denied the accusation.
Fasano alleged that Heritage had been contacting insurance agents and policyholders prior to May 23, when the company officially received approval to take out some 60,000 policies in a $52 million deal. That would be a violation of the OIR’s consent order, Fasano said, citing a part of the agreement that bans Heritage from contacting “any potential policyholder, including sending communication regarding this depopulation” prior to the deal being signed.
Heritage firmly denies that it has been contacting policyholders, and said the company contacted agents last week as part of a standard procedure to alert them to an upcoming potential takeout. The company’s chairman, Bruce Lucas, said there was nothing untoward about that. …Full Story
A fast-paced deal to give a startup insurance company with ties to former CFO Tom Gallagher a $52 million take-out deal has drawn some political heat, as expected, for Gov. Rick Scott.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, sent a letter to the governor -- and copied the press -- blasting the arrangement and suggestiong the governor's political committee return the $110,000 from the company, Heritage Property and Casualty. Download LettertoScott
We are awaiting a response from the governor's office.
"In truth, the whole thing smells,'' wrote Gelber, who is clearly interested in replacing Scott in 2014. "Floridians will rightfully wonder if Heritage gave you the money because they support you or because they were, literally, trying to get a $52 million gift from an agency over which you have great sway.
"Who in your campaign received the money and did they know about the deal? Did you know? Even if you did nothing wrong or didn't have direct knowledge, the foul ambience of this deal provides sufficient reason to return the campaign cash you received from Heritage. Keeping it only confirms the dark suspicions so many Floridians have about state government."
Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth has another strong column today. He riffs off of great reporting by the Times/Herald's Toluse Olorunnipa about a deal that has Citizens giving $52 million to an upstart insurer that recently contributed a bunch to Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign. An excerpt from Ruth's column:
Just 10 months ago the firm didn't even exist and had no track record in selling insurance besides a company president with a history of fines and violations from state regulators. But this week Citizens Property Insurance Corp. voted to give Heritage up to $52 million to take up to 60,000 Citizens policies.
Talk about the scheme rising to the top.
Some nitpickers say this deal stinks to high heaven. Some naysayers kvetch that this is a classic example of insider bigwigs gaming the system. Some holier-than-thou types will look at the $140,000 in political contributions Heritage ponied up to Gov. Rick Scott and the state Republican Party as a damning indictment of the insidious influence of money on policymaking. …Full Story
Sen. Marco Rubio gets a national TV audience Friday night to sell conservatives on immigration reform. Sean Hannity's Fox News show will feature the Florida Republican in a town hall meeting. A promo Thursday said Rubio took "tough questions."
A clip showed him being questioned by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who said House Republicans would be willing to play ball if enforcement came before any plan to legalize undocumented immigrants. "I think you raise a very good point," Rubio said. But he said waiting to legalize would entice people to make a rush to enter the U.S.
The program, which was taped before the Senate plan passed the Judiciary Committee, begins at 9 p.m.
Rubio has done a lot of conservative radio this week, continuing a monthslong sales pitch that has had mixed results. Rubio is also talking with senators about a floor amendment that would shift responsibility for a border security plan to Congress from the Department of Homeland Security, an apparent attempt to mollify critics who say they don't trust the administration.Full Story
Democrats were firing off emails this afternoon as the GOP-controlled House voted on a plan that would upend the student loan program, setting up a clash with the Senate.
"Congressman Dan Webster just joined House Republicans to approve the “Students Pay More Act,” a measure to force college students to pay more interest for their education loans. With the average college student shouldering $26,000 in debt, the Associated Press this week described how 'student loan rates could steadily climb and cost students more over the long haul under the plan House Republicans are considering,' " read a blast from the DCCC.
But lost in the partisan noise was this: Democrat Joe Garcia of Florida was one of four Democrats to side with the GOP. (Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota was one of a handful of Republicans to join the minority.)
Garcia will face a tough re-election and needs to stress, as his own press release said, "reaching across the aisle." …Full Story
Associated Press: A long-simmering feud between establishment Republicans and tea partyers broke into full view Thursday, with Sen. John McCain accusing younger colleagues of overplaying their hands and tempting Democrats to change Senate rules that protect the minority party.
Tactics for dealing with the government's budget and debt became the latest quarrel In a string of them between McCain -- sometimes joined by other traditionalist Republicans -- and tea party champions such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Those four won Senate seats by defying the party establishment, and are shaking up the tradition-bound Senate with no-compromise, no-apology stands on key issues like debt and deficits, government spending and the use of drones in the war on terrorism.
Rubio, who has made a couple floor speeches about the standoff, tweeted this evening:Full Story
From the Florida GOPFull Story
Great news for longshot Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich: The Florida GOP is attacking her.
Here's the GOP press release, which Rich presumably would love to forward to every Democratic primary voter: …Full Story
Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped defeat, for the second straight year, a move to curtail the federal sugar quota, underscoring the industry's strength in Florida and in influencing politics.
The lawmakers were among 54 senators to vote yesterday afternoon against the proposed amendment to the farm bill. A big industry in Florida, sugar has close ties to Nelson and Rubio. The Democrat Nelson got more money in the 2012 election cycle than any other member of Congress, $71,250, according to maplight.org. Rubio got $17,400 in his 2010 election and $5,000 in the 2012 cycle.
"Sugar is an important industry in Florida. It employs thousands and thousands of people. It has a huge tax base," Nelson said today in an interview. "There's no taxpayer subsidy. It sets a price for those who want to export-in. It's a protection measure for our domestic farmers"
Siding with sugar is one of the few areas Rubio crosses conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, which urged passage of the amendment by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. …Full Story