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THE BUZZ: FLORIDA POLITICS

What's Rick Scott worth? It's complicated

Rick Scott reported an eye-popping net worth of more than $218 million last month in forms filed with the state Division of Elections.

But the Republican candidate for governor also has tens of millions of dollars tucked in a trust under his wife's name and in a family limited partnership. He has amassed a complicated network of investments, holdings and companies designed to shield against legal and tax liabilities, according to a St. Petersburg Times review of his financial holdings.

In fact, it's likely impossible to know Scott's true wealth.

Posted by Alex Leary at 08:44:08 PM on July 2, 2010

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Gelber says Aronberg taking 'the low road'

State Sen. Dan Gelber doesn't pull any punches in an e-mail to supporters about his Democratic rival for attorney general, state Sen. Dave Aronberg, who made a stink over his law firm representing BP -- after Gelber says he had already quit.

People are tired of politics as usual and as much as I have tried to keep our campaign for Attorney General on the high road, my opponent has now decided the low road is where he stands his best chance. So now, he has decided the best argument he can make about his own qualifications, is to dishonestly attack mine. He has been behind in every poll taken in this race -- which is why candidates go negative. I intend to win the right way...

Several people, including some of my closest advisers told me to call a press conference last week and pat myself on the back for taking a principled stand. But I didn't because doing the right thing is never a cause for celebration. But unfortunately, last night, my opponent in the primary, in what could only be considered a rank political stunt, decided to politicize the tragic oil spill calling on me to resign even after I had already done so. Sadly, while I continue to offer real solutions to hold BP accountable and help victims impacted by the spill, my opponent is focused on scoring political points. The stakes in this race are too important for politics as usual and I really hoped this campaign, unlike so many others, would remain on the high road...

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 07:38:53 PM on July 2, 2010

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Smile, you're on candidate camera

They lurk, cameras at the ready, during every meeting of the Cabinet, three statewide candidates in their crosshairs. When Congressional hopeful Al Lawson of Tallahassee gives a speech, they're usually poised for a bone-headed remark. Even longshot gubernatorial candidate Bud Chiles drew one recently as he hunted for elusive supporters in Ybor City.

They're campaign video graphers, so-called "trackers," assigned to monitor rivals, record what they say and, ideally, catch an idiotic quote. In the YouTube era, they are nearly as indispensable to candidates as breath mints and fundraising consultants.

"They seem to be everywhere I go - filming along with someone asking mean questions,'' chuckled Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott.

Rival campaigns have sent spies to monitor one another's events forever, but digital technology over the past decade has made it easier to capture - and capitalize on - gaffes or flip-flops. Never has the practice been so widespread and visible in Florida as this chaotic election year.

Posted by Adam Smith at 07:06:20 PM on July 2, 2010

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Fla GOP fights Jim Greer's motion to delay civil trial

Former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer wants to delay a civil suit filed against the party until the pending criminal case is resolved. No way, says the Florida GOP. In a motion filed today in Seminole County, the party contends Greer is playing "fast and lose" with the court system and trying to avoid a deposition where Greer was expected to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"Having been on the attack since the criminal investigation was announced, Greer now seeks the court's assistance in sheltering him from any inquiry into his own allegations. While Greer has been quick to openly vilify the current party leadership and the RPOF, the defendants have placed their trust in the legal system to reveal the facts in due time," the party said in its motion. "Now that the time has come, Greer not only refuses to talk but implores this court to excuse him from the well-recognized costs of his silence.

Greer contends in his civil suit that the party welched on a $124,000 severance packaged promised before he stepped down. The GOP's latest filing says the severance agreement was not an enforceable contract because it "was induced through fraud and blatant deception" - namely that Greer failed to reveal he was a partner in a company paid tens of thousands of dollars by the party.

Posted by Adam Smith at 05:50:38 PM on July 2, 2010

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Charlie Crist camps out in Florida Panhandle

For Floridians, images of the governor's furrowed brow and tawny, beach-ready complexion have become as much of a symbol of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as BP's ubiquitous underwater video footage.

The media frenzy makes Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson look underexposed in comparison, growl critics, who paint Crist as an opportunist more interested in having his picture taken than helping the fishermen, hoteliers, boaters and restaurateurs who are losing customers because of the gushing oil.

Crist says his motivations are purely altruistic, but he is not above pointing out just how much time he has devoted to the oil crisis in recent weeks.

"I have become sort of a pseudo resident of the Panhandle lately and am enjoying it very much," Crist told a crowd of government leaders at a Florida Association of Counties conference in Tampa on July 1, 2010. "I've been in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Apalachicola, got some oysters out of the bay there, and I will tell you some of the most resilient people in this state reside there."

Minutes later he added, "I have spent virtually every weekend since Memorial Day in the Panhandle."

PolitiFact Florida checked it out.

Posted by Cristina Silva at 05:03:33 PM on July 2, 2010

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Will Marco Rubio beat Charlie Crist's record-setting fundraising quarter?

Charlie Crist raised a stunning $4.3-million in his first fundraising quarter of the U,S. Senate race - a national record for the cycle that should have scared any sensible primary challenger out of the race. Marco Rubio stuck with it, of course, and today is the de facto Republican nominee while Crist is no longer a Republican.

Predicting their hauls this quarter is tricky, Summer is a lousy time to raise money in Florida, but at the same time this is the first quarter where Crist was no longer running as a Republican. Considering that Rubio raised a whopping $3.6-million in his last quarter and now is the GOP standard-bearer and Crist the ostensible GOP traitor, sure seems plausible he tops $4-million if not $4.3-million.

"It's really hard work. People are struggling to make ends meet," Rubio said, downplaying expectations. "It's the summer. The Summer in Florida is the dead zone in Florida. A lot of people just leave...The backbone of our finance operation are $25 to $50 donors."

Crist raised $1.1-million last quarter, but now he's tapping into a large, new pool of Democratic and independent donors. Our guess? north of $2.5-million.

Posted by Adam Smith at 03:50:44 PM on July 2, 2010

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Rubio bucks Steele on Afghan war

RNC chairman Michael Steele said at a fundraiser Thursday that the Afghanistan war is "a war of Obama's choosing" and the conflict "is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."

The comments drew an immediate rebuke from Republicans and Democrats and calls for gaffe-prone Steele to resign. The Buzz just caught up with Marco Rubio and asked him to respond. Rubio said he had not seen what Steele said and declined comment on calls for him to resign.

But he said the war is vital.

"I think the Afghan war effort is an important part of our national security strategy," Rubio said. "It think it's imperative that we succeed. The best thing that can happen to our country short term and long term in the region is to have an Afghan nation that has a civil society that is strong, a government that is free of corruption and legitimate and a willing economic and political partner. What we can do to help that come about is to provide the safety that they need to build these institutions. So I think the Afghan war effort is important."

Posted by Alex Leary at 03:08:55 PM on July 2, 2010

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Marco Rubio Wall Street pals

The Florida Democratic Party dinged Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio yesterday for raising money from Wall Street while opposing increased financial regulation out of Congress.

Politico reported that Paul Singer, who founded hedge fund Elliott Management, hosted a New York City fundraiser for several Senate hopefuls, including Rubio.

"Marco Rubio is now the Republican establishment's candidate, but now it is clear he's Wall Street's candidate too," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman.

Elliott Management is the second largest contributor to Rubio's campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which found $86,242 in donations tied to the hedge fund as of the end of March. Another top Rubio contributor is Alliance Capital Managent, which was sued by the state of Florida for losing hundreds of millions in pension funds by investing in Enron. The state lost the case.

In a broader look at donations to Rubio by industry, the securities and investment industry came in third, behind retirees and Republican/conservative groups, with $236,675. Rubio's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Beth Reinhard

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:56:19 AM on July 2, 2010

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Uber bundler Zach Zachariah gets help from Bob Butterworth

Broward Bulldog: Fort Lauderdale heart doctor and major GOP fundraiser Zachariah P. Zachariah has picked up two influential allies in advance of his federal insider stock-trading trial this summer. Former Florida Attorney General and top Democrat Bob Butterworth and Fourth District Court of Appeals Judge Melanie May, both Broward residents, testified under oath two weeks ago as character witnesses for Zachariah.

....Zachariah, former chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine who has raised millions of dollars for Republicans, is accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of using nonpublic information to rake in more than $400,000 in profits from illegal stock trades in 2005

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:49:09 AM on July 2, 2010

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GOP attorney general endorsements

Here's a round-up of endorsements this week in the Republican race for attorney general. If we're missing something significant, let us know and we'll add it.

Holly Benson: Collier County Medical Society Political Action Committee (in Jeff Kottkamp's backyard).

Pam Bondi: The business group Associated Industries of Florida PAC.

Jeff Kottkamp: Florida Right to Life PAC; Social conservative activist John Stemberger; Seven former Florida Bar presidents: Ted Aronovitz (2002-2003); Edward Blumberg (1997-98); Alan Bookman (2005-2006); Hank Coxe (2006-2007); Miles McGrane (2003-2004); Kelly Overstreet-Johnson (2004-2005); Terry Russell (2001-2002).

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:32:52 AM on July 2, 2010

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Rep. C.W. Bill Young seeks tougher drilling regulations

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, has introduced a bill that would strengthen environmental review of oil drilling proposal, require full-scale disaster response plans and improve the federal response. "The SAFEGUARDS Act addresses some of the systematic breakdowns which led to the BP Horizon catastrophe," he said.

One of the chief provisions calls for giving regulatory agencies 150 days to ensure exploration plans are properly reviewed, up from 30 days. It also requires the EPA to begin monitoring water quality within 48 hours after an oil spill is discovered.

Young said he has asked the chairmen of the committees drafting comprehensive oil spill legislation to include his "common sense solutions" in any final package they bring before the House later this summer.

Posted by Alex Leary at 11:25:47 AM on July 2, 2010

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Handy new tool for Fla voters

Division of Elections has a nice, new voter information access system for looking up voter registration, absentee ballot status and polling place location online. Voters can now check to see if they are registered and make sure that their information is correct. The website is: http://registration.election.myflorida.com . It can also be accessed on the main Division of Elections website: Elections.myflorida.com .

"The first priority of the Florida Division of Elections and the 67 Supervisors of Elections is the voters. This new online tool will give the voters access to the information they need on their own schedule," said Florida's Interim Secretary of State Dawn K. Roberts. "We are proud to continue to improve our service to Florida voters and do it in a cost-effective and innovative manner."

Posted by Adam Smith at 11:02:27 AM on July 2, 2010

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