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PSC BlackBerry flap raises new concerns about compliance with Florida's public records law

Just last week, three staff members of the Public Service Commission were either reassigned or put on administrative leave after they sent their BlackBerry PIN codes to a Florida Power & Light lobbyist.

The dustup brought to light a practice that likely is unfamiliar to many citizens, but that is common in Tallahassee.

Walk through the Capitol or its surrounding streets during the legislative session and witness a sea of lawmakers and lobbyists pecking message after message into their BlackBerrys, iPhones and cell phones. Kill this bill. Add that amendment. What's the vote going to be? We need to talk.

Often, the messages are sent not through state e-mails but via text messages or PINs, unique instant messages that are routed between individual BlackBerrys without leaving a paper trail. Capitol reporters use PINs and text messages, too - in part for speedy delivery and in some cases because sources feel most comfortable using a medium they see as less traceable than e-mail. (story here) (

Posted by Alex Leary at 10:22:19 AM

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Rep. Buchanan also among most corrupt members, group says

Not only is Rep. Vern Buchanan one of the richest members of Congress ( - he's also one of the 15 most corrupt, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

For the second year running, CREW named the Sarasota Republican to its list because of allegations that employees of his auto dealerships were pressured to make campaign contributions and that corporate resources were improperly used for campaign purposes, as the St. Petersburg Times has recently reported. (§ionIds=&articleTypes=&field=2&optimized=false&stemType=0&sort=0&numOfMostRelevantSorted=500&hitsPrPage=10&pageNo=1&categoryIds=&mustContainAllCategoryIds=false¬HomeSecIds=)

Buchanan is the only Floridian to make the list, which includes Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, whose ethics issues stem from an affair with a campaign , and Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., appointed to fill President Barack Obama's Senate seat under controversial circumstances.

"CREW is a partisan front group whose false and absurd complaint already has been discredited in the press," said Sally Tibbetts, a Buchanan spokeswoman. "The congressman's policy is to fully comply with all FEC guidelines.

-- Susan Taylor Martin

Posted by Times Editor at 11:29:39 AM

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Nelson, LeMieux vote to deny ACORN funding

Capping a flurry of bad news for ACORN, the Senate voted Monday evening to prohibit federal funding for the community organizing group. Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (D) and George LeMieux (R) voted in favor of the amendment, which passed 83-7.

ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring, formerly head of operations in Florida, tells the Buzz that the vote was disappointing and reflection of "political expediency" not rooted in fact. "It shows the sorry state of our public discourse when the likes of Fox News are setting the terms of the debate."

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: House Republican Leader John Boehner today is introducing legislation - the Defund ACORN Act - to sever all ties between the federal government and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. House Republicans are also sending a letter to President Obama ( asking him to take action to end taxpayer funding of ACORN.

Posted by Alex Leary at 11:41:23 AM

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McMurrian sorry for 'cloud' lingering over PSC

Under fire for attending a dinner and conference with an FP&L executive, Public Service Commissioner Katrina McMurrian said during a Tuesday hearing that while she couldn't comment on specifics, she insisted she never broke any rules.

Still, McMurrian apologized that her actions might have placed a "cloud" over the commission. She did not say whether she would recuse herself from the pending FP&L rate case, as was requested by a citizen of Sarasota in a motion filed with the PSC on Monday.

Another commissioner, Nathan Skop, appeared to take a shot at McMurrian by saying that it was "inappropriate" for a regulated utility to recommend a PSC commissioner to sit on a conference board. McMurrian said she takes exception to such suggestions, and Skop said he wasn't singling her out.

Said Commissioner Nancy Argenziano: "Let's not get too warm and fuzzy because the people out there think we suck."

-- Marc Caputo

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 01:07:27 PM

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Senate has many questions on gambling deal

Gov. Charlie Crist is pretty certain the gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is in good shape, but the Senate is concerned. Senate President Jeff Atwater and the Senate's regulated industry committee attorney, James Rhea, have a load of questions. Rhea's letter has 24 questions subdivided alphabetically.

Said Atwater:"As you might imagine, questions from staff are largely technical in nature, and beg the continuing concerns senators may have regarding the philosophical deviations of this proposed compact from Chapter 2009-170, L.O.F. Therefore, please do not assume that failure to raise a question at this juncture signals acquiescence with all the other terms and conditions reflected in the proposed compact. Before we can begin to engage a much broader conversation on those questions that might remain, it is important that we fully understand the technical underpinnings and ramifications of the proposed compact language."

Download POS letter to GOV (

Download Reg Industries ltr to Gov Gen Counsel (

Posted by Times Editor at 02:24:07 PM

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Crist's new DCA picks

We're getting word Gov. Charlie Crist tapped his deputy chief of staff Lori Rowe and Kent Wetherell (son of retiring FSU prez T.K. Wetherell) to sit on the First District Court of Appeal.

Looks like we were right. Here's the press release text:

Governor Charlie Crist today announced the appointment of Lori S. Rowe and Administrative Law Judge T. Kent Wetherell II of Tallahassee to the First District Court of Appeal.

"Lori's outstanding record of public service speaks for itself," Governor Crist said. "I am confident she will bring to the bench the same integrity and commitment to excellence she has displayed throughout her career."

Lori Rowe, 38, was appointed by Governor Crist as deputy chief of staff in November 2006 and served as deputy transition director of the Crist/Kottkamp Transition Team. Previously, she served in the Office of the Attorney General in the roles of director of multi-state litigation, assistant deputy attorney general and executive deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2006. She practiced with Gray, Harris and Robinson from 2000 to 2003 and with Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell in 2000. From 1997 to 2000, she served in the antitrust section of the Office of the Attorney General as assistant attorney general. She received her law degree and master's in business administration from Florida State University in 1997, after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 1992.

"During his 15 years of service in Florida's criminal justice system and in private practice, Judge Wetherell has demonstrated sound judgment and a strong sense of fairness," Governor Crist said. "He brings to the First District a wealth of knowledge and expertise that will serve the people of Florida well."

Judge Wetherell, 38, has served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Division of Administrative Hearings since 2002. Previously, he served as deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Attorney General from 1999 to 2002. He practiced with Hopping, Green, Sams and Smith from 1995 to 1999. Wetherell earned a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1992 and a law degree from Florida State University in 1995.

Rowe and Wetherell will fill the vacancies created by the retirements of Judge Michael E. Allen and Judge Edwin B. Browning.

Posted by Times Editor at 02:34:10 PM

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Alexander's storm warning on state budget

It was just another snooze-inducing meeting of the Legislative Budget Commission Tuesday -- until Sen. JD Alexander, R-Winter Haven, suggested tweaking the state's official long-range financial outlook with some sobering property insurance data that he said "still nags at me."

Alexander is the Senate budget chief, and one who has never been fond of Gov. Charlie Crist's 2007 decision to massively increase the state's exposure to cover hurricane losses. The senator suggested adding this one-page revision ( to the outlook, laying out the potential financial catastrophe to Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed insurer of last resort.

As one who serves on the board of a publicly-traded corporation, Alexander said, he's required under the federal Sarbanes-Oxley legislation to disclose "all significant risks" to the firm's solvency, and he said state government should operate the same way. "The people of Florida don't expect us to sugar-coat anything," Alexander said. "The truth is the truth."

Alexander's revision was added on a 9-1 vote. Only Sen. Al Lawson D-Tallahassee, voted no, saying that if all worrisome financial factors must be laid out, then billions of dollars in tax cuts should, too.

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 04:13:40 PM

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House rebukes Joe 'You Lie' Wilson

The U.S. House of Representatives just voted on a resolution rebuking Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, for his outburst during President Obama's health care speech last week.

There was a voice vote on the "resolution of disapproval" ( but Republicans asked for a formal tally, which passed 240-179. ( Florida broke exactly on party lines.

"Joe is a good and honest man," Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, said in floor speech. "Just as it was wrong for my Democrat colleagues to boo former President Bush in this chamber, it was wrong for Joe Wilson to speak out of turn. The difference is that Joe Wilson apologized and the president very graciously accepted his apology. Every member in this chamber has uttered words they wish they could have said differently. I know Joe made this comment out of frustration because there seems to be a large gap between health care rhetoric and reality. What the president said did not match up with the bill that came before the House."

Miami Republicans Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart released a statement:

"What Congressman Wilson did during the President's speech last week was inappropriate. Congressman Wilson apologized publicly, as well as directly, to the President, and the President accepted his apology. The resolution filed by the Majority Congressional Leadership concerning Congressman Wilson today constitutes an attempt to divert public opinion away from the dismal failures of this Congressional Majority and the Administration, including a massive, so-called 'economic stimulus' which has not created jobs and has contributed to the dangerous indebtedness of the nation, and a health-care reform proposal which threatens to further increase unemployment and weaken the U.S. economy."

And Rep. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, reportedly ( told Wilson he's got his back.

Posted by Alex Leary at 05:08:31 PM

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John Thrasher cruises to victory in SD 8

Early returns ( had John Thrasher comfortably ahead of Dan Quiggle, Stan Jordan, and Art Graham in the contentious Republican primary for Senate District 8. Thrasher, bolstered by lots of money, a Jeb Bush endorsement and solid support from the business community, beat his rivals in all five counties in the Northeast Florida district. It was a bad night for the trial lawyers.

Posted by Adam Smith at 08:57:40 PM