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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

'Public option' dying, Nelson says co-ops key

WASHINGTON - When the long-awaited Senate health care bill is revealed today, the guillotine will drop on a government-run insurance plan. (read the bill here) (http://blogs.tampabay.com/files/091609-americas_healthy_future_act.pdf)

Sure, some Democrats will continue to fight for the "public option," but it's likely the beginning of the end for the controversy magnet. Instead, Senate leaders will move toward nonprofit health care cooperatives, a widely unknown and untested concept.

To Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the shift is a significant breakthrough, one that can secure enough Democratic support of an overall reform bill.

"If I had talked to you one week ago, I would have had a whole different attitude. I think a lot's changed. So I'm an optimist now," the Orlando Democrat said Monday in his most extensive comments on the emerging health care proposal.

Senate Democrats' quest for a bipartisan compromise on health care collapsed Tuesday, though, as Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced he would move ahead with his long-delayed proposals without any guarantee of Republican support after a negotiating session broke up late Tuesday. (story here) (http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/public-option-withers-in-plan-for-health-care-reform/1036495)

Posted by Alex Leary at 12:03:24 AM

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Video: Charlie Crist works the airport circuit

Straw polls, schmaw polls. Regular ole surveys show Gov. Charlie Crist is wildly popular. So does this slice-of-life video from Tallahassee Regional Airport.

VIDEO

Posted by Times Editor at 07:04:24 AM

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Times' editorial: Crist crossed line on PSC reappointments

St. Petersburg Times' editorial Wednesday: Gov. Charlie Crist has a long history - including his time as a state senator and attorney general - of championing consumer rights when it comes to the state's regulation of utilities.

It is understandable that he is skeptical of two electric utilities' proposals, under review by the Public Service Commission, to significantly increase their base rates. But Crist went too far Monday when he suggested he would not reappoint two commissioners if they voted for the rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy. That is inappropriate meddling, and it injects more politics into a PSC decision that should be an independent one based on the facts.

Crist contended Tuesday he was just expressing the views of an average taxpayer and that the vote would be just one factor in whether he reappoints Commissioners Matthew Carter and Katrina McMurrian. But the irony is that Crist is publicly wavering on the PSC appointments for the wrong reason.

Read full editorial in jump or at this link. (http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1036479.ece)

In recent weeks, the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau has uncovered a series of questionable communications between PSC staff and commissioners and the utilities they regulate. That has led to staff being fired, pressured to quit and investigated, and the filing of a series of ethics complaints. Among the disclosures: McMurrian had dinner in March with an FP&L executive at an out-of-state conference. She denies any wrongdoing, saying she never discussed the company's rate hike request and that she paid for her meal.

All of the intrigue has erupted against the backdrop of dramatic proposed rate increases by FP&L and Progress Energy. After more than two decades without increases in base rates (though there have been other charges added to consumers' bills in the interim), both companies have requested a base rate increase of about 30 percent starting in January.

Given the flood of allegations coming out of the PSC in recent days, it would be reasonable for the governor to cite concerns for the commission's transparency in regulating utilities and postpone reappointing any commissioner until the ethics complaints are investigated.

But Crist hasn't threatened that. Rather, the U.S. Senate candidate is using his bully pulpit to not-so-subtly influence the outcome of the rate cases. That shows a lack of respect for the commission's quasi-judicial status. The governor would never try to influence the outcome of a pending court case by suggesting a judge's appointment to a higher court rested on the outcome. And while his views about utility bill increases may reflect public sentiment, he should not be interfering here as the PSC decides two important rate cases.

Posted by Joni James at 09:16:51 AM

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Rubio looks to raise money off Joe Wilson uproar; takes a shot at LeMieux

Fundraising letter Marco Rubio sent out:

The nation's unemployment rate is at a 26-year high of 9.7 percent. Florida's is 10.7 percent, the highest since 1976. The deficit stands at $1.4 trillion, while our national debt is approaching $12 trillion - both continue to rapidly grow as you read this. Then there are the challenges we face on health care, energy and in Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, among other hot spots.

Yet, none of this seemed to be on the minds of Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats last night. Instead, their top priority was to embarrass Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) for shouting "You lie" during the President's address to Congress last week.

Joe Wilson made a mistake and apologized to the President, who accepted his apology. That should've been the end of it. Instead, House Democrats insisted on diverting valuable time from the nation's important business by pushing to rebuke Wilson. And last night, they succeeded.

Alarmingly for Floridians, Charlie Crist's newly appointed senator joined Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in playing politics with this issue by calling for Wilson's censure.

Is this the type of representation you want in the U.S. Senate? I, for one, have no doubt in my mind you deserve better. At this time of enormous challenges, we don't need partisan political votes or censure resolutions. We need leaders ready to tackle the real issues and keep Washington's eyes on the ball.

With your support, I can be one of those leaders. Please make a secure contribution of $25, $50 or $100 today. Together, we can send a message to Washington politicians about what America's true priorities should be - you and your loved ones.

Proud to Stand for You,

Marco Rubio

P.S. Make spread the word about how Congress continues wasting your time and money. Please forward this to five of your friends and relatives.

Posted by Alex Leary at 10:47:41 AM

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Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio cautious on 2012 GOP convention

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said she has an open mind about Tampa bidding to host (http://tampabay.com/news/politics/tampa-invited-to-bid-on-the-2012-republican-national-convention/1036088) the 2012 Republican convention, and will wait to see what kind of analysis Al Austin and other supporters of the idea present to her. But Iorio hardly sounded like a cheerleader for the idea, and one has to wonder how city and state leaders would sell ponying up public money or in-kind services while services and employees are being cut.

"We have to be realistic about our economy and the cuts we as a city have sustained over the last three years,'' Iorio told Buzz."We have to make sure we don't make a commitment that can't be fulfilled in a first-class way."

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:40:33 AM

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IRS complaint form filed against Jim Greer

Remember that IRS complaint filed against Ray Sansom (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/2009/08/irs-complaint-filed-against-sansom.html) for his eye-catching use of a Republican Party of Florida-issued American Express? Now, an anonymous person has completed similar forms for Gov. Charlie Crist and RPOF Chairman Jim Greer.

"Jim Greer had a RPOF issued Amex card, like Ray Sansom," reads the complaint, a copy of which was mailed anonymously to the St. Petersburg Times. "Greer will not disclose his Amex statements, thus raising suspicion that he has unreported income, etc."

The second complaint (http://blogs.tampabay.com/files/irs-2.jpg) asks whether the governor had a charge card. "If so, he should disclose his Amex statements concerning unreported income, etc." But Greer said Crist has never had a card.

Greer said he has no concern over RPOF spending, including his own, saying it all related to party business. "It's unfortunate that the actions of Ray Sansom have created this controversy. But I have no concern as it relates to my expenditures as chairman."

Critics have said Greer should prove himself by releasing AmEx spending forms linked to various party officials, including Senate President Atwater. But Greer has refused. He said Wednesday that as a political organization, RPOF is following the law.

"Let's let the Democrats open their books, and then we'll talk," he said.

RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson said the party has not been contacted by the IRS -- which does not confirm or deny complaints -- regarding Greer or Crist. "Nor are we concerned about it."

Posted by Alex Leary at 12:31:49 PM

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Rep. Gus Bilirakis bashes ACORN

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnzXrLPq-as

Posted by Alex Leary at 12:41:09 PM

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Charlie Crist's ACORN issues

Does this explain the state GOP's silence over ACORN?

Huffington Post: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/13/acorn-mccain-and-gop-used_n_134284.html) Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, for example, partnered with ACORN in March 2008 for a "Homeownership Promotes The Economy" taskforce. More recently, Crist declared that -- contrary to GOP outrage -- he was not upset with the group's voter registration efforts in his state. The New York Times reported that ACORN supported a law signed by Governor Crist, which "changed the rules last year to restore the voting rights of about 112,000 former convicts."

The Buzz: (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/2008/10/crist-not-buyin.html) "Breaking with the talking points of his fellow Republicans in Washington, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he does not think voter fraud and the vote-registration group ACORN are a major problem in the Sunshine State. ''I think that there's probably less [fraud] than is being discussed. As we're coming into the closing days of any campaign, there are some who enjoy chaos,'' Crist told reporters. Crist made his comments as the Republican National Committee hosted a conference call with reporters to tie Democrat Barack Obama to suspicious voter-registration cards submitted by ACORN across the nation and in four Florida counties, including Broward. (photo from Acorn Web site)

Posted by Adam Smith at 02:19:53 PM

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Obama's Fla political director moves to D.C.

Stephanie Owens, Barack Obama's star political director in Florida, this week began working at the EPA as director of public outreach. Owens is among several Tampa Bay alums of the Florida Obama campaign, including Omar Khan working in HUD's legislative affairs office alongside former Tampa regional field director Laura Grossman. And press secretary/fashion plate Adora Andy also is at EPA.

About 40 alums of the Florida campaign have landed jobs in the administration.

Posted by Adam Smith at 05:23:22 PM

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Democrats call out Greer, say they will open books

Jim Greer told the Buzz earlier today (http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/2009/09/irs-complaints-filed-against-crist-greer.html) that he'd think about revealing Republican Party of Florida American Express reports if Democrats opened up their books. So Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said she'll invite reporters to come look over the finances.

"Because issuing credit cards in a manner similar to the Republican Party of Florida does not allow for the strict financial controls and level of transparency we demand, the Florida Democratic Party doesn't have credit cards and has nothing to hide," Thurman said. "The same can not be said of the Republican Party of Florida, which is why I am calling Chairman Greer on his bluff, demanding he open the RPOF's books to scrutiny and release all the RPOF AmEx statements.

"Over the past several years, the Republican Party has allowed disgraced Speaker Ray Sansom, Sen. Jeff Atwater, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, Rep. Dean Cannon, and many others to spend over $3.4 million on their AmEx cards. By handing out AmEx cards to Republican leaders, Chairman Greer has turned the RPOF into nothing more than a slush fund."

Posted by Alex Leary at 05:39:40 PM

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The 20-year-old Florida 'hooker' who took a bite out of ACORN

Because all good stories lead to Florida ... The woman who posed as a prostitute and got several ACORN workers across the country to offer advice on setting up a brothel is a 20-year-old Florida International University student.

Hannah Giles, described as a minister's daughter, studies journalism.

The New York Post has an interview and video of Giles and her "pimp," aka James O'Keefe. The pair met on FaceBook. She explains how it went down here. (http://biggovernment.com/author/hgiles/)

An ACORN official in Florida said Wednesday that Giles tried to enter at two offices in Miami. She was turned away at one and simply given a list of social services at another, according to director Stephanie Porta.

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