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President Obama cuts radio ad for Patrick Murphy

Democrats nationally are putting all their chips on Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate contest this year, and none other than President Obama is featured in a new radio ad that will begin airing today throughout the Sunshine State, promoting the Jupiter Representative.

“In Congress, I could always count on Patrick to have my back. He’s been there for me when I needed him,” Obama says in the ad, paid for by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

The President touts Murphy’s support for Social Security and Medicare, gun control and the Affordable Care Act in the ad.

“Now I need Patrick Murphy in the Senate,” he says, “to create good paying jobs, make sure corporations pay their fair share, and grow an economy that works for all of us. with equal pay for equal work.”

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced their support for Murphy in March, taking sides in the Democratic Primary, where Murphy is running against Orlando area Congressman Alan Grayson and former Navy JAG officer Pam Keith.

Listen below:

Tampa women attend White House’s United State of Women Summit

On Tuesday, five thousand women from around the country came to the White House for the United State of Women conference, where they heard from a series of big-time speakers, such as President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

Issues such as violence and rape culture to the wage gap and absence of educational opportunities for women around the world were all on the agenda.

One of the major initiatives is the new White House Equal Pay Pledge, through which companies promise to conduct an annual gender pay analysis and reassess their hiring and promoting processes to ensure equity.

Among those in attendance were Tampa’s own Brunelda Montoya and Nadaije Paul Jajoute.

Both women are child care workers involved in the “Fight for 15!” movement coordinated by the Florida Service Employees International Union that is pushing for a raise in the wages of fast food workers, health home care workers, child care workers and adjunct professors.

Paul Jajoute says that of all the high profile personalities at the event, it was Julie Hanna, the board chairman for Kiva, the peer to peer lending pioneer and the world’s largest crowdlending marketplace for global entrepreneurs.

“They give out loans, not thru banks, not thru wealthy financial people, private investors, it’s to people like me and you, ” she says. “Anyone who wants to can donate money, and you chose where you want that money. Anyone in the world can be a borrower, anyone can be a lender, and what was so amazing about this it shows how women about the community that they’re in.”

Nadaije Paul Jajoute also says she was blown away by Biden’s speech, which addressed rape culture in the U.S. “It affected my heart so deeply,” she says. “It was amazing.”

Those of us who find this action reprehensible, the talk reprehensible, you have to be heard,”Biden said. “You are the ones who are going to impact the change in the culture.”

“Most inspiring was that the government knows what we are going through right now, and are taking the initiative to try to change things,” said Montoya about the summit. “It has to start from the top.”

Montoya and Nadaije Paul Jajoute are childcare workers, and don’t make that money. Both have doing the same work for decades, and Paul Jajoute says she still only makes $9.50 an hour.

“It was overwhelming and surprisingly way better than I thought it was going to be,” says Paul Jajoute. “It gave me a lot of  hope. It surprised me, it made me want to keep going. I felt that there was still love in the world.”

Rick Scott says money set aside for Orlando efforts

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday state agencies were setting aside millions of dollars for the Orlando area in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub there.

Also Wednesday, his office revealed Scott and President Obama finally had a one-on-one phone conversation in advance of the president’s scheduled Thursday visit to the area.

In a press release, Scott’s office said the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) “set aside more than $520,000 in residual Justice Assistance Grant funds for the City of Orlando and Orange County to be used for overtime pay for law enforcement and equipment associated with the terror attack.”

The department also asked for “$2 million in emergency funds from the Department of Justice to help with similar costs.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) also is “directing $500,000 in funding to local providers for crisis counseling services which include grief counseling, trauma support, and emotional support for victims and their families and loved ones,” the release said.

“We will continue to do all we can to help Orlando heal, and our state agencies are doing everything possible to provide assistance to those impacted by this horrific tragedy,” Scott said.

At around 3 p.m., his press office released a revised daily schedule for the governor, who is still in Orlando, showing he and Obama spoke on the phone at 12:40 p.m.

Scott had previously complained the president had not reached out to him directly after the shooting, which claimed 49 lives.

Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the president “expressed his condolences” in the roughly five-minute call.

Scott also followed up on his request for a federal emergency declaration and was told the Obama administration is “still reviewing it,” she said. Such a declaration would authorize up to $5 million in aid from federal agencies.

Mitch Perry Report for 6.8.16 – Common Cause Florida calls for Pam Bondi to come clean

There are now calls for an independent investigation into Pam Bondi’s decision not to investigate consumer complaints against Trump University, the for-profit education company created by Donald Trump that ran a real estate training program from 2005 until at least 2010 – and not just from Democrats.

“Attorney General Pam Bondi owes Floridians a full accounting of her office’s investigation of fraud allegations against Trump University and her acceptance of a $25,000 campaign contribution from a Trump-backed charity,” said Liza McClenaghan, chair of Florida Common Cause. “If she can’t provide it – immediately – Gov. Rick Scott should appoint an independent investigator to do so.”

After several days of reports about Bondi’s office deciding not to pursue charges, coming around the time that she received a $25,000 check from a Trump foundation in 2013, the Tampa native finally spoke out last night, saying that her office was never investigating Trump U.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that Bondi had “nixed” suing Trump. A spokesman for the AG has said that their office received “few complaints” about Trump U, and opted to let the it go and allow the investigation by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman be the lead agent for disgruntled Trump U customers around the nation.

Although this story has been in the news for months (after Bondi endorsed Trump in Tampa back in March), it was Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell’s recent piece that put it back on the front pages.

Maxwell received more than 8,400 pages of information from Bondi’s office on anything related to Trump U – he read by combing through the documents that in fact there had been 100 complaints from Floridians against the business.

Damningly, he also found that nobody in Bondi’s office seemed very interested in following up on those complaints.

And yes, this all happened at the same time that Bondi had requested and received that $25,000 contribution.

Bondi’s statement last night denied that her office was ever investigating Trump U – that it’s inaccurate to say that it was, and the inference that the financial contribution to her made her office turn course is terribly inaccurate. So I guess the first question I would ask at a news conference is – why is it that you’re so quick to jump on lawsuits going after President Obama regarding the Clean Power act, the Affordable Care Act, or immigration, but not on a consumer affairs issue that affected your constituents?

In other news…

GOP Senate candidate Carlos Beruff visited Cuba in 2011 with members of a group activity trying to end the economic embargo against the Communist island.

An activist group is blasting Marco Rubio for blocking a Barack Obama judicial appointee – and someone initially commended by the Florida senator himself.

Kathy Castor decides to endorse early in a Tampa City Council election that officially hasn’t been declared yet.

Dwight Dudley can’t endorse since the state house Democrat is running for the judiciary in Pinellas County, but his wife can – and has .

An angry Rich Nugent is upset about a Daniel Webster mailer that depicts him and Webster together, saying it implies that he’s endorsing Webster when in fact he’s backing opponent Justin Grabelle.

If you’re interested in giving the Tampa Police Dept. feedback regarding, well anything, you’ve got two more chances this week to do so.

Vern Buchanan praises reauthorization of National Estuary Program

President Obama has signed into law the first reauthorization of the National Estuary Program (NEP) since it expired in 2010, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency and the 28 individual NEPs to continue to support conservation and improvement at estuaries around the United States.

One of those NEPs is Sarasota Bay, prompting Sarasota GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan to praise the legislation, which reauthorizes the NEP through 2021.

“Sarasota Bay is a key contributor to the Suncoast’s economy,” Buchanan said. “In fact, researchers have found that 21,000 jobs depend on the bay. The bay provides crucial habitat for plants and wildlife including the iconic Florida manatee, the bald eagle, osprey, sea turtles, and bottlenose dolphins.”

The legislation signed by Obama on Friday authorizes $132.5 million over five years to help states and local partnerships develop and implement conservation and management plans and address threats to estuaries.

Sarasota Bay is home to more than 1,400 native species of diverse plants and animals, and it contributes nearly $1.8 billion to Florida’s economy, according to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

 

In GOP Saturday address, Gus Bilirakis blasts lack of adequate reforms at VA

You might have missed it this weekend, but Pasco County-based Congressman Gus Bilirakis addressed the nation to say that the reforms at the Veterans Affairs Department over the past two years have been ineffectual, at best.

The CD 12 Republican was chosen to given the GOP response to President Obama’s Saturday-morning address, and spent three minutes addressing the crisis at the VA, and his dissatisfaction about what hasn’t been done to address the problems there.

It was almost exactly two years ago when Eric Shinseki resigned as the head of the VA. It followed a firestorm of criticism and calls for him to step down following damaging revelations of sometimes deadly delays for veterans waiting for care at VA hospitals.

Bilirakis said that the problems with the agency haven’t been fixed since Shinseki’s ouster, and he questioned if it’s a priority for President Obama on Saturday.

“Despite receiving more funding, the VA is still taking too long to process claims,” Bilirakis said in his address. “Wait times are even worse. Despite receiving more authority to clean up the bureaucracy, the VA has held almost nobody accountable for manipulating wait times.”

Bilirakis, the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said that for veterans, these are life and death issues, but it seems to be business as usual with the VA.

“We cannot accept that,” he said, adding that committees in both the House and Senate are working on legislative reforms to boost accountability and improve care.

The major vehicle for such reforms is being called the Veterans First Act, and it would allow VA leaders to be able to more easily hire and fire department senior executives, changing the employment policies to rules closer to private-sector contracts. It also limits the amount of time any VA employee can be placed on administrative leave, blocking bonuses for some workers, and allowing any VA employee to be fired for misconduct with more limited appeals and a quicker timeline.

“We need real and meaningful reforms at the VA,” the congressman concludes in his address. “And we need President Obama to keep his word to you and make it his top priority to fix the problems at the VA. We will not rest until he does. That’s the least we can do.”

Mitch Perry Report for 5.18.16 — D.C. Republicans at odds with each other on Zika funding

The U.S. Senate advanced a $1.1 billion bill to help public officials battle the Zika virus Tuesday as it begins to threaten America.

That’s $800 million less than the $1.9 billion that President Obama has been calling for since February, but it is more than the $622 million that the GOP-led House passed on Monday. Much of it would come from money that was approved to fight the Ebola virus and that health officials say is still needed for that purpose.

That angered Florida House Democrats like Gwen Graham, Kathy Castor and Patrick Murphy.

“If this Republican-led Congress continues to ignore this public health threat, I’m very afraid and many across the business community are afraid for the disaster this could mean for our economy, jobs and Florida’s tourism-based economy,” Castor said Tuesday.

“There have already been more than 100 Zika cases reported in Florida, and as summer approaches, the situation will likely worsen,” said Graham. “Floridians can’t wait any longer — lives are at risk. It’s time for Republicans to quit stalling and end their political games. We must fully fund research, prevention and response efforts to fight this deadly virus.”

Marco Rubio is also calling on his colleagues in the House that they need to cough up more money, alienating him with some conservatives.

C.D.C. director Thomas Frieden tells The New York Times why he needs the higher figure to try to stem the virus.

“We’re scraping together dollars to try to move as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’re borrowing money from other programs. We’re writing short-term contracts. We can’t make long-term contracts with families to follow their kids. We can’t do long-term studies on how to stop the mosquito. We want to put together a whole package on how to kill inside, outside, how to kill larvae, how to do what works best. And it’s not possible under the House version.”

In other news …

There’s serious bad blood between Bernie Sanders and the rest of the world inside the Democratic Party. 

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Tampa Tuesday to talk driverless cars. The region has received a grant to have the Selmon Expressway be a “test bed” for such vehicles.

GOP senate candidate Todd Wilcox sounds off in an interview conducted during last weekend’s Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Tampa.

New College political science professor and TV pundit Frank Alcock is now a candidate for the state Senate in the Sarasota area.

Alex Sink has endorsed Pinellas newcomer Jennifer Webb in the HD 69 race in Pinellas County.

Every major senate candidate has criticized Carlos Beruff for referring to President Obama last week as an “animal.” Well, almost every candidate.

Mitch Perry Report for 5.17.16 – Elizabeth Warren for VP momentum grows

Democrats in Kentucky and Oregon go to the polls tonight, and all indications are Bernie Sanders will win at least one those two contests. Not that it will make much of a dent in Hillary Clinton‘s delegate lead. The way the party apportions delegates, he’s simply not going to be able to catch up by next month in pledged delegates to overcome her lead.

Tensions continue to grow within the two camps, especially with Sanders supporters after the chaos that ensued in Nevada last weekend.

Since the whole world assumes Clinton will the Democratic nominee, let’s play along for a second and observe the all of a sudden surge in momentum for Clinton to ultimately name Elizabeth Warren to be her running mate.

The idea was first fleshed out in the Boston Globe last month. I initially dismissed the idea, if for no other reason, the fact that Massachusetts has a Republican governor who would replace Warren with a Republican. With the U.S. Senate at stake this November, surely the Dems wouldn’t want to hurt themselves there.

However, as the Globe’s Annie Linskey reports, that would pose only a short-term problem because Massachusetts law stipulates that a special election must be called between 145 and 160 days after a vacancy occurs — so Massachusetts Democrats would have another crack at the seat relatively soon.

Although putting another white woman on the ticket could be considered counterproductive, Slate’s Michelle Goldberg writes that Clinton isn’t going to persuade white men anyway to support her, so she should double down with Warren, who of course, can help her with the Bernie Bros and his intense contingent of supporters who do NOT trust Clinton.

“She will do it by turning out the Obama coalition, probably adding more married white women to it,” Goldberg writes. “Warren can help her do that. She’s shown that she’s eager to, leaping into the Twitter fray against Trump. If a vice presidential candidate’s job is to attack, Warren is ready. Watching her go after the short-fingered orange chauvinist from now until November will be a pleasure.”

Interesting to note, by the way, how the seemingly can’t miss top VP prospect, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, is reportedly going to announce changes to a controversial HUD program to sell bad mortgages on its books. “Castro’s actions could potentially defuse an issue that activists have been using to question his progressive credentials — and he’ll be doing it at the moment the running mate search has begun to get serious at Clinton campaign headquarters,” wrote POLITICO on Monday.

My sleeper pick is actually Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. But enough about that. The time to speculate about a vice-presidential nominee is when Clinton actually has the nomination, which she doesn’t have yet, so why rush the conversation?

In other news …

As we said we would do on Monday, this reporter contacted every Senate candidate who hadn’t weighed in on Carlos Beruff’s remarks last week when he called President Obama “an animal.” All but one responded.

In an interview with WFLA-NewsChannel 8 on Sunday, David Jolly ripped into Beruff’s business background.

Jolly shared the dais with Minnesota Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan to speak about Jolly’s Stop Act at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday.

Tampa attorney Sean Shaw picked up another endorsement in his race to win the House District 61 seat.

Three of Carlos Beruff’s U.S. Senate opponents speak out on his “animal” remark

Three more opponents of Florida GOP Senate hopeful Carlos Beruff are criticizing him after it was reported Sunday that he referred to President Obama as “an animal” while speaking in front of a group of St. John’s County Republicans last week.

“Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses,” Beruff said last week when discussing the president. “And they’ve all written books about it.”

“Sooner or later, you’re going to find, this was a plan, he wants us to be just another country. I don’t want to be another country. I want to be the United States of America, the greatest country in the world,” he added.

David Jolly issued a statement on Sunday night calling on Beruff to apologize. On Monday, Todd Wilcox and Ron DeSantis weighed in as well.

“This president has failed us and undermined the intent of our founders for the last seven and a half years. We can win the debate of ideas without sounding like schoolchildren,” said Wilcox. “Name calling the president of the United States for shock value isn’t going to keep us safe from terrorist threats or tackle our skyrocketing debt.”

“It’s clear that Carlos Beruff will say just about anything to try and distract from his record of supporting liberals like Charlie Crist,” added DeSantis’ spokesman Brad Herold.

On Sunday, Jolly said that “Like many Americans, I believe with the strongest conviction that the president’s policies the last seven years have weakened our leadership on the world stage and have weakened us economically here at home, but referring to the president of the United States as an ‘animal’ is an alarming insult of questionable intent and has no place in American politics. Carlos should immediately apologize.”

Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline says that “Carlos was making the point that President Obama has destroyed our country’s strength abroad.”

The rest of Hartline’s remarks were directed towards Democratic hopeful Patrick Murphy, who said that “Mr. Beruff’s statement is not only offensive but extremely disrespectful to President Obama’s incredible service to our nation. I’m proud to stand by President Obama and his commitment to fighting for Florida families, and I call on Mr. Beruff to immediately apologize for his disrespectful comments. In the U.S. Senate, our diverse state deserves better than Mr. Beruff’s clear record of bigotry.”

Murphy’s response was quoted in the same Huffington Post story that first reported on Beruff’s remarks. It generated more response from Beruff’s spokesman Hartline, who said that when liberals like him cannot defend their views “they resort to name-calling and the politics of racial division. ”

He went on to say that “Congressman Murphy and the rest of the career politicians in Washington should apologize for aiding President Obama in making America weaker.”

“Carlos Beruff’s racist code words are not hard to crack,” said Orlando area Democratic representative and senate candidate Alan Grayson. “Whether he’s referring to President Obama, ‘secure’ borders or Muslim bans, Beruff employs the same hate-filled politics that Donald Trump used to destroy the Republican Party nationally. It’s not only morally repugnant, it’s political suicide in a state as diverse as Florida.”

Meanwhile, at an event in Orange County on Monday, Marco Rubio punted when asked if he had any comments regarding Beruff’s comments, saying, “I didn’t hear that comment. I haven’t read about that. So I don’t want to comment about something I haven’t heard about.”

The only candidate not to return a request for comment regarding Beruff’s comments has been Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

In local TV interview, David Jolly blasts Carlos Beruff’s business background

Slowly but surely, the GOP Senate candidates are taking more shots at each other in advance of the August 30 primary.

Carlos Beruff has yet to respond directly to David Jolly’s criticism that he should apologize for referring to President Obama as “an animal” in a speech last week before St. John’s County Republicans. Earlier on Sunday, however, Jolly took a major shot at Beruff’s past in a TV interview.

The context was Jolly responding to criticism of his congressional proposal in the House to ban federal office holders from fundraising, something that all four of Jolly’s opponents have said in reaction to his proposed Stop Act. But when WFLA News Channel 8’s Candace McGowan referred to Beruff’s criticism of the Stop Act in a Sunday morning interview, Jolly went nuclear.

“Cynicism is not leadership,” the Pinellas County Congressman began. “Particularly coming from one of the most prolific donors in the state, somehow who sought to destroy our coastlines, our mangroves, simply for the sake of his personal profit. Who built homes with Chinese drywall, chose not to compensate his victims. That is not someone who I’m going to suffer questions of integrity.”

Jolly went on to say that his legislation — which has earned him oodles of free media, including a scheduled appearance Monday at the National Press Club in Washington — has started a “national movement.”

“When you’re in politics, you say silly things, and I think that’s what we probably saw from him,” Jolly said about Beruff’s criticism of the legislation.

Let’s take a look at Jolly’s charges.

Public records show that Beruff and his wife Janelle have donated more than $600,000 to state and federal political campaigns since 2002.

Beruff’s role as a developer was controversial long before he entered the race earlier this year. Along with other development partners, Beruff sued Manatee County after the county commission rejected what was known as the Long Bar Pointe project, a 500-acre development that environmentalists say could cause irreparable damage to the shoreline.

Manatee County commissioners settled a lawsuit with Beruff and the other partners regarding the project last month.

Beruff was a member of the Southwest Florida Management District when that board voted to allow his friend and fellow developer Pat Neal a permit to tear down mangroves and build a family compound in what is known as Harbour Sound.

Jolly also got in a reference to Beruff’s Medallion Homes company back in 2010, when it was discovered that at least a half-dozen homes built by the firm used contaminated Chinese drywall.

At the time, Medallion’s attorney, Alan Tannenbaum said the reason Medallion was not repairing the affected home was that they did not have the money to do so. The company was part of a class-action lawsuit resolved in 2012 that ordered the supplier of the drywall and businesses that used it to remediate the damage the drywall caused.

“Jolly has perfected his craft as a professional Washington politician as a lobbyist, a congressional staffer, and a congressman, so it’s no surprise to see him slinging mud,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the Beruff campaign.

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