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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

Fasano-Pruitt team up on 527 for Crist

State Sen. Mike Fasano has established a federal 527 political committee to help Gov. Charlie Crist get elected to the U.S. Senate. Helping Fasano is former Senate president -- and fellow Republican -- Ken Pruitt.

The organization is called Friends for Freedom and Prosperity, and has taken in $5,000 so far from Fasano's existing political committee, Floridians for Principled Government.

"ThereÕs no question that Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek, or whoever the Democratic nominee will be, is going to have a lot of financial support from Washington. It's important we do everything we can to counter that," Fasano told the St. Petersburg Times.

Crist, of course, is running as candidate with no party affiliation after being forced from the GOP primary by Rubio's popularity among conservatives. Fasano told us Pruitt is involved informally, but the involvement speaks volumes.

Pruitt was president of the senate opposite House Speaker Rubio.

Posted by Alex Leary at 07:30:18 PM on July 1, 2010

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Oil pays dividends for Charlie Crist

The nation's worst environmental disaster could be Gov. Charlie Crist's lucky charm.

The once-floundering U.S. Senate candidate is sitting on top of the polls, largely thanks to round-the-clock Ñ and free of charge Ñ publicity as he monitors the gulf oil spill.

There's Crist donning a life jacket for a boat tour. There he is clasping hands with protesters on the sand. There he is again, fielding questions from CBS Early Show anchor Harry Smith and CNN's Candy Crowley.

Also our story on Marco Rubio, who could not make it to the Panhandle today due to bad weather but met with residents via Skype.

Posted by Alex Leary at 06:13:54 PM on July 1, 2010

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"Tea Party" spokesman resigns

Nick Egoroff, an Orlando area activist associated with controversial operative Doug Guetzloe, has announced he's resigning as spokesman for the "Florida TEA Party," a group accused of trying to exploit the tea party movement and in some cases mislead voters by getting TEA Party nominees on the ballot:

Recently I have been involved with helping to support a third party called the Florida TEA Party. They now have candidates that will appear on the Florida November ballot.

While I'm no stranger to controversy, aligning myself with FTP has resulted in much criticism and misunderstanding. As a result I've had to weigh the consequences of staying with this group.

My passion has always been to get people to look beyond slogans and party affiliations. I've endeavored on this blog and on Facebook to engage political exploration on a variety of topics.

For this open communication to continue, I'm sensing that I must excuse myself from direct participation in FTP. My hope is that I can now write and speak about topics that won't leave people wondering if I'm just 'fronting' for FTP.

Posted by Adam Smith at 04:32:12 PM on July 1, 2010

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The John McCain-Scott Rothstein connection

Politico reports on Arizona Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth highlighting a couple fundraising events John McCain attended with convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein (and Charlie Crist).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaVaKDYiT2E&feature=player_embedded

Posted by Times Editor at 03:43:21 PM on July 1, 2010

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Crist says no hookers on Bahamas trip

Amid new allegations about Jim GreerÕs alleged antics, Gov. Charlie Crist again pleaded ignorance Thursday to the stories that ultimately cost the former GOP chairman his job. Crist, who tapped the obscure activist for party chairman in 2007, said he was not aware of any men-only policies promoted under Greer.

Beth Kigel, a lobbyist, fundraiser and member of the state party executive committee from Palm Beach County, told investigators she had heard about a men-only trip to the Bahamas and that "women were involved and paid."

Crist, who attended the Caribbean getaway, said the event was organized to raise money for his Amendment 1 campaign. He did not recall whether any women attended the meetings, but he said accusations of female escorts or entertainment were, "absurdly false."

Asked about Attorney General Bill McCollumÕs role in the Greer investigation, Crist said, "The statewide prosecutor is doing a pretty good job from what I can see."

In his official capacity, McCollum oversees the investigating agency and appointed the prosecutor who charged Greer.

Crist said, "This is an ongoing criminal investigation and I think we need to respect the process of that investigation."

Crist said he submitted an affidavit detailing what he knew of GreerÕs GOP reign without any prompting.

"I just thought it was a good idea," he said. "You know, I am a lawyer. I thought it was smart to do."

Greer faces six counts of grand theft, money laundering and organized fraud for a scheme in which he funneled $200,000 of party donations to a shell company he secretly owned.

Crist gave a sworn affidavit on May 10 and submitted it May 21. In it he denies knowing about GreerÕs company and its secret agreement, and said he did not authorize Greer to enter into the contract.

Crist spoke to reporters about Greer after an appearance at a Florida Association of Counties conference in Tampa.

Posted by Cristina Silva at 03:00:13 PM on July 1, 2010

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Bud Chiles: Grand jury needed for PSC "corruption"

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bud Chiles (who back in the 90s used to promote the agenda of utility companies) is calling on Gov. Crist to request a grand jury investigation into the Public Service Commission. Chiles said he spoke with PSC Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano and Commissioner Nathan Skop, who had been booted off the commission by the PSC Nominating Council after having opposed utlity company rate increase requests. Two other commissioners who opposed the increased were not confirmed by the Florida Senate.

"Never in FloridaÕs history have special interests so actively and effectively subverted the will of the people," Chiles said. "The message to new commissioners is clear: side with consumers and weÕll have you removed. The people have a right to understand how this travesty happened....The members of the PSC Nominating Council have shown blatant disregard for the interests of Florida's consumers."

Posted by Adam Smith at 02:14:54 PM on July 1, 2010

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Putnam debuts first Florida campaign iPhone app

Florida campaigns are embracing high tech and none more than Republican Adam Putnam, who is running for agriculture commissioner. Known for his frequent Facebook posts, twittering and Skype interviews from the campaign trail, Putnam is now launching an iPhone app called iPutnam.

(Update: It's been brought to Buzz's attention that decidedly non-techie Charlie Crist actually was first to put out an iPhone ap)

See the details below.

Press release:

Adam Putnam...ThereÕs an App for That

iPhone apps are no longer just for paying bills and ordering pizza.

"I am excited to announce the launch of iPutnam, an iPhone application that will allow me to stay connected with you throughout the course of the campaign, keeping you updated on where we are and what we are doing, all through your mobile device," Adam Putnam said.

As the first candidate in Florida history to utilize this kind of technology, the app will be used to inform and engage the public in the new age of agriculture and policy.

"I am a different kind of candidate, running a different kind of campaign, and I hope this newest campaign tool will help you understand our commitment to operating the most efficient and advanced Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services," Putnam stated.

iPutnam will be utilized to send out alerts, photos and videos to keep you updated on breaking news or even last-minute changes to the campaign schedule. The application will allow voters to sign-up to volunteer, receive yard signs, e-mail friends and make contributions. As the campaign continues, more features will be added to include voters in every step of the journey toward Election Day.

"Since day one, we have led an innovative campaign. We know the launch of iPutnam will help us stay connected to voters and allow us to work effectively on behalf of all Floridians," Putnam said.

Click here to download iPutnam for FREE or visit the Apple App Store and search "iPutnam." To learn more about Congressman Putnam, visit www.adamputnam.com or follow Congressman Putnam on Twitter @adamputnam and Facebook www.facebook.com/adamputnam.

Posted by John Frank at 11:29:57 AM on July 1, 2010

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The word 'homosexual' enters the GOP governor's race

Bill McCollum received the endorsement of antiabortion leader John Stemberger. And moments later challenger Rick Scott criticized McCollum for his ties to "pro-homosexual rights" Rudy Giuliani, the former NYC mayor.

Here we go again.

And it only continues. McCollum supporters are returning fire, pointing to a Latino social networking website in which Scott invests called Quepasa.com. (We've written about Scott's connection to the site, and it's connection to Playboy Mexico before.) But the site also includes pages geared toward gays. See here and here.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because it is. (See, Florida Senate race, 2004.)

But this time Stemberger isn't leveling homosexual-supporting attacks at McCollum, as he did in the U.S. Senate race after endorsing rival Mel Martinez, who won the primary and the election.

At the time, Stemberger accused McCollum of "catering to the radical homosexual lobby" in a controversial flier distributed by the Martinez campaign. Martinez later denounced the attack.

Will McCollum (or Scott, for that matter) do the same this time? We'll see...

Posted by John Frank at 11:23:12 AM on July 1, 2010

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Times' editorial: Lawmakers favoring utilities over consumers

From Thursday's St. Petersburg Times editorial page: Five months after the Florida Public Service Commission acted on behalf of consumers by rejecting two utilities' record requests for rate increases, a handful of legislators have helped the industry extract another pound of flesh. The message sent Wednesday by the ousting of Commissioners Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop is clear: Stand up to the utilities at your own peril. There was not an attempt to create even the appearance of fairness, and consumers are the real losers when the process is rigged in favor of the powerful.

Editorial continues in jump or read it in full here.

The PSC Nominating Council, dominated by legislators, decided to exclude Argenziano and Skop even from the list of 18 people it would interview before forwarding nominations for their jobs to Gov. Charlie Crist. It's the second time in recent months that prominent legislators have rebuffed Crist's chosen commissioners. The Florida Senate refused in April to confirm two other commissioners Crist had appointed and who had also voted against the rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy in January.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Sarasota, who leads the nominating council, claimed Wednesday that the decision not to even grant Argenziano and Skop the courtesy of an interview was an effort to change the internal dynamic of the PSC. The hostilities and petty bickering among staff and commissioners have run high in recent months amid various ethics investigations. But there was no public discussion to that point. And Bennett's explanation is in direct conflict to the council's action earlier this month when it nominated a recent PSC executive director, Mary Bane, to fill one of the two other openings.

The far more logical yet indefensible explanation is that big businesses' interests have aligned with petty partisan politics to override any concern for consumers. To be sure, Argenziano, a former state senator from Dunnellon, and Skop, an engineer who had just finished law school when he joined the PSC, have their baggage. Both are aggressive and sometimes argumentative, frequently challenging staff and their colleagues. Argenziano, in particular, had been a divisive personality on the board just as she was previously in the Legislature.

But there's also no denying that they both were outsiders in an institution that had become far too cozy with industry. Staff members were socializing with industry executives and exchanging text messages outside the purview of the state's public records. Both Argenziano and Skop stood on the side of disclosure and transparency even when others did not. To not even visit with them and consider them among other candidates is a disservice to all Floridians. It also could cast a shadow over their eventual successors, who will have to overcome the perception that they were the beneficiaries of a tainted process that favored utilities over consumers.

Now four of the five commissioners who voted against the rate increases sought by Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, now known as NextEra Energy, will no longer be on the commission. And the Republican legislative members who dominate the nominating council have extracted another bit of revenge on Crist, who left the Republican Party earlier this year and is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate. Ultimately, it will be Florida consumers who pay the price.

Posted by Joni James at 10:36:07 AM on July 1, 2010

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Greer pleads not guilty; preliminary trial date set

At an arraignment in Orlando this morning, Jim Greer's attorney entered a not guilty plea for the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He filed a document ahead of the hearing and neither the attorney nor Greer made an appearance.

Greer faces 75 years in prison if convicted on six felony counts for a scheme to steer party donations to a company he owned. Circuit Judge Marc Lubet set a preliminary trial date for Oct. 18 and another pretrial appearance Oct. 5, though it's likely to get delayed.

The hearing lasted less than a minute.

--Michael Kruse and John Frank

Posted by John Frank at 10:25:24 AM on July 1, 2010

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Why should a little fraud mess up a state contract?

Howard Troxler: Suppose you had a contract with a guy to work on your house, and you found out he was taking advantage of you. Maybe he was overcharging, or billing for work he didn't do, or knowingly taking more money than he should.

So you confront him, and the guy says: "Hey, mistakes were made. But I've changed. Let's put it behind us.I'll even give you part of the money back."

I know what I'd say. You?

But forget this little example. Instead, let's say we were talking about hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the public É

Well, then! Ho-hum. This week, we learned that Tampa-based WellCare Health Care Plans Inc. has agreed to pay $137.5 million to the feds to settle charges that it overcharged for its Medicare and Medicaid programs. WellCare was already in trouble. Last year, the company agreed to pay $80 million to settle a charge of conspiracy to defraud Florida's Medicaid and Healthy Kids program....

Posted by Adam Smith at 10:17:09 AM on July 1, 2010

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Republicans: Florida spends billions on illegal immigrants

As Florida lawmakers prepare to introduce their own version of Arizona's strict immigration law, Republican state Rep. Ritch Workman has been championing the cause by painting the state's illegal immigrant population as the scourge of fiscal conservatism, business owners and taxpayers.

"All businesses and taxpayers face the unfair burden of providing federally mandated services to illegal immigrants, and putting the brakes on this noncitizen entitlement program will save Arizona a considerable amount of money," wrote Workman in a Florida Today opinion page article on June 6, 2010. "In Florida alone, more than $3.5 billion a year is spent on health care and criminal justice for illegal immigrants. Given this, I think it is time for Florida to follow ArizonaÕs lead."

$3.5 billion and change is a lot of money in a state that had to close a $6 billion budget gap in 2010, so PolitiFact Florida decided to take this claim on a ride through the Truth-O-Meter.

Posted by Cristina Silva at 09:45:07 AM on July 1, 2010

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