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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Republicans make their own DNC speech for Charlie Crist

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry sent this snarky letter to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz with a preview of what Charlie Crist might say in Charlotte.

Chairman Wasserman Schultz,

You and President Obama have invited our former Governor to address your party's national convention. In a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, I thought it would be beneficial for you to get a preview of some of the messages you could hear from Charlie Crist.  I think you'll find Crist's comments of interest.

We have a video online ...

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Digital journal: DNC2012 coverage in social media

Welcome to our social media coverage from the Democratic National Convention. Each day we'll document in tweets, posts, links and pictures what's going on at the convention where Barack Obama and Joe Biden will accept their party's nomination to run against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Check back often for updates.

And if you want to compare this digital journal with the ones we did for the Republican National Convention, you can find those here.

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Hundreds of public officials fail to file financial disclosure forms on time

 The clock is ticking for more than 1,200 elected officials and government employees who have not yet filed their financial disclosure reports for 2011.

Though the deadline to file the reports was July 1, late-filers have until Tuesday to submit their paperwork before fines start accruing, according to Integrity Florida, a watchdog group.

“These 1,240 late filers (as of August 29) will begin facing fines of $25 per late day (up to a $1,500 cap) if they fail to send their required financial disclosure forms to the Florida Commission on Ethics with a postmark on or before September 4, 2012,” said Dan Krassner, director of Integrity Florida, in a statement.

The financial disclosure reports are a requirement for tens of thousands of officials, from state Representatives to school principals and local mayors. The reports allow members of the public to know the financial assets and liabilities of elected officials, and can highlight any potential conflicts of interest.

For example, a recent report by Integrity Florida found that at least 12 lawmakers worked for firms that lobbied the state government. …

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Florida surgeon general: Jacksonville TB outbreak not a public threat

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong said the state’s Department of Health is still identifying and screening Jacksonville resident who may have come into contact with people infected with tuberculosis. But he also wanted to assure people who may live in or visit the area that they are not in harm’s way.

“The people of Jacksonville and of Duval county remain safe,” he told members of media during a conference call Friday morning.

The Jacksonville outbreak is among the worst the nation has seen in many years, and over a dozen people have died. However, the strain causing the infections is both treatable and traceable, Armstrong said.

Efforts continue to identify and screen people who may have come in contact with people with active infections.

So far, the state has tested 93 percent of “named contacts,” people with can be identified by name as people who TB patients had direct contact with. However, the state has only tested 53 percent of 2,100 “location contacts,” people who were in the same building as someone who had TB. …

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Tampa city officials recap RNC by the numbers

The City of Tampa's Joint Information Center published its final Republican National Convention media update this morning. And it broke down the week, from the city government's perspective, by the numbers. Here are a few highlights:

Total Number of RNC Related Arrests: 2

Total Number of Law Enforcement/Safety Officials on the Street: 3,500-4,000 from 60 local, state and federal agencies

Total Number of Heat Related Incidents: 5

Total Number of Gallons of Water Handed Out by Salvation Army: 26,628

Total Number of Minutes the Mayor Bob Buckhorn Spoke at the Convention: 3

Total Number of Calls to the Call Center: 1,556

Total Impact on the Tampa Bay Area: PRICELESS

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Fasano: 'Something must be done!' about Citizens' lavish spending

 Sen. Mike Fasano, the most outspoken legislator when it comes to property insurance issues, is calling on the Florida Cabinet to hold a hearing into the “lavish” spending by Citizens Property Insurance executives.

On Sunday, the Herald/Times reported on the growing travel and meals expenses by Citizens executives, who regularly stay in five-star hotels across the globe while publicly complaining that company finances are in trouble, and asking for rate increases.

On Friday, Fasano sent letters to Cabinet members—Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam—asking them to call the high-spending execs to the carpet for their expenditures. …

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Connie Mack sets tone with RNC speech

U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV gave an inspirational and nostalgic speech that set the tone for tonight’s Republican National Convention session, but many in the main hall weren’t listening.

Mack, the Florida congressman, was the first speaker of the evening and came on the stage directly after a musical interlude. Scores of people searched for their seats or socialized during the Florida congressman’s five-minute speech. But if they were paying attention, they heard a speech that focused on U.S. exceptionalism and a need to return to American values.

“Our success is built on our values and our principles but so many of them are under attack,” he said. “Our commitment to freedom and liberty and to everything that makes our country great seems to embarrass the ‘blame America first’ crowd.”

Mack hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this fall. Although other Republicans challengers  attacked him as Florida’s version of Charlie Sheen, he easily won the primary. The race is expected to be a close one.

He came across confident and poised on the main stage tonight. …

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Jeb Bush puts the emphasis on education

Former Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the prime time portion of the last night of the Republican National Convention by stressing the need to continue to raise standards in schools. Addressing a convention in prime time for the first time, the man known as Florida's "education governor" struck many of the themes he did as a two-term governor from 1999-2007.

"Of 34 advanced nations in the world, American students rank 17th in science, 25th in math," Bush said in remarks as prepared for delivery. "Only one-fourth of high school graduates are ready for their next steps. China and India produce eight times more engineering students each year  than the United States. There is a moral cost to our failing schools. We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity. Tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning isn’t respected. Tell that to a parent stuck in a school where there is no leadership. Tell that to a young, talented teacher who just got laid off because she didn’t have tenure. …

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You didn't build that, but you are helping to pay it off

"We built it" has been a theme and a chant at this year's Republican National Convention, and a variation of it appears on T-shirts available in souvenir shops inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the big event is taking place.

Yes, the recasting of President Barack Obama's "You didn't build that" comment has taken on a life of its own. But this year's venue for the convention illustrates the context of Obama's quote -- that government spending on infrastructure and other things helps nurture private investment and entrepreneurship. 

Indeed, this year's RNC would not have been possible without a series of large government (translation: taxpayer) subsidies, and that's not including the $50 million in federal money sent to Tampa for the event.

The Times Forum, then the Ice Palace, broke ground in the mid-1990s as a a National Hockey League and concert venue, at an initial $144 million price tag. The original owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning committed $60 million toward construction costs. Tampa, Hillsborough County and the state of Florida contributed the difference, $84 million, from taxes. …

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Gov. Scott arrives for last night of GOP convention

Gov. Rick Scott made it. The host-state governor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa arrived for Thursday night's celebration of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee and prime-time speeches by three Floridians. The governor entered the Tampa Bay Times Forum shortly before the &:30 p.m. start of the session. Republican alternate delegates chanted "Rick! Rick! Rick!" when they saw him make his way through the crowd.

Scott had scrapped a convention speech and appearances at several private convention events last weekend because of the approaching Tropical Storm Isaac, and he spent recent days visiting areas hit by the storm and speaking with emergency managers across the state. He spent most of Thursday in Pensacola, visiting historic attractions and meeting with tourist industry leaders. 

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Protester who interrupted Paul Ryan's speech tells her tale

Laura Mills nearly blew it.

She is 21, from Washington D.C., and a member of the activist group Code Pink. Today, however, she is much better known as the woman who interrupted Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention and befuddled viewers worldwide. But her big moment almost didn’t happen.

She was hanging outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday when a group of angry Ron Paul supporters stormed out. She and a fellow Code Pinker, Ann Wright, asked for their credentials. The delegates obliged.

“I didn’t have to do anything crazy to get in,” said Mills, wearing one of the group’s infamous vagina costumes outside a Tampa Hooters Thursday afternoon.

Credential in hand, Mills walked inside the building and into the security area. When she raised up her arms to be searched, her protest sash fell out. She wouldn’t say where it was hidden: “That’s our trick of the trade."

Surely, Millls thought, she would be caught. No one noticed.

“I was trying,” she said, “not to make eye contact with any of them.” …

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Paul supporters say they won't allow 'elite' to control GOP

Agreeing to be “quiet and respectful” once the final session of the Republican National Convention begins tonight, Ron Paul supporters made one last stink outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

photo25.jpgThey still are angry about a rule changes that will allow future Republican presidential nominees greater control over convention delegates. They are still standing up for Maine, the state were some Paul-leaning delegates were replaced by Mitt Romney supporters. They are still smarting about perceived slights to Paul over the week.

But most of all, they believe the voice of the party’s “grassroots” is being stifled by the powers-that-be. Roughly 150 delegates and supporters attended the rally, including people from Hawaii, North Carolina, Indiana, California, and Nebraska.

“Grassroots Republicans are essential to the health and unity of our party,” Texan Luis LaRotta said during the demonstration. “We must all move forward to bring our party together.”

The group is requesting mediation with the Republican Party’s Rules Committee, but with the convention on its final night it's unclear if that can or will happen. …

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Obama plans big Florida swing next weekend

President Barack Obama plans will travel to St. Petersburg next Friday and spend the weekend campaigning across the state.

He'll arrive in St. Petersburg Friday night then travel Saturday to Kissimmee and Orlando. On Sunday he'll go to Melbourne and West Palm Beach.

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Gov. Scott Walker and a self-deprecating zinger

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker needed a way to stand out among the six governors, including Texas's Rick Perry, gathered at a pre-convention party at the St. Petersburg home of health insurance executive and veteran GOP fundraiser Akshay "A.K." Desai.

So Walker, who survived a recall, told the crowd of 75 he had something over Texas.

“I’m the only governor," said Walker, "who was elected twice in the same term.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was not among the guests.


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Jewish GOP group hosts governors, billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson

Half a dozen Republican governors, including S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, spoke as part of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Salute to Republican Governors” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Westshore.

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO and Republican donor, sat in the front row of the event but did not speak. Journalists, and two plates of cookies, were cordoned off by velvet ropes.

The coalition has a $6.5 million outreach campaign in the Jewish community that includes an anti-Obama Web site.

Several of the governors blasted Obama’s relationship with Israel. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said the only way to promote democracy in Israel is “to end the term of President Barack Obama.”

Haley told the audience of roughly 100 people that the Jewish community was doing a better job of mobilizing its people to vote Republican than hers. “I’m struggling to get the Indian community to understand we really are Republicans,” she said.

--Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer

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