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Ron DeSantis slams White House over the “marketing” of Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis says that while he always opposed the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran last year, he thought at worst they were simply naive about the Iranian regime.

But after comments made last week by a top White House adviser on the marketing of the proposal, he says that “it was all a fraud.”

“Basically this deal was initiated with Iran’s hardliners, negotiated with Iran’s hardliners, and is empowering Iran’s hardliners,” the Ponte Vedra Beach GOP Congressman and 2016 Senate candidate said early Friday evening while addressing members of the Republican Party of Florida at their spring quarterly meeting in Tampa.”What this deal has done is a boon to the Ayatollah, it’s been a boon to the Iranian regime, and they are emerging as the dominant power for the Middle East. That is not going to be good long term for America’s security,” he said.

Congressional Republicans like DeSantis are enraged by the comments made in last week’s New York Times Magazine by Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications for U.S. In the piece, Rhodes is quoted as boasting about creating an “echo chamber” of experts and journalists supportive of the deal.

The story depicts Rhodes as leading an effort to create a false narrative about the nuclear deal – that it would empower Iran’s moderates at the expense of Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei and other hardliners.

The deal sets limits on Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, while freeing the Middle Eastern nation of international sanctions.

“I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” Rhodes says in the piece. “But that’s impossible.”

DeSantis says that the warning lights should have been flickering when Rhodes called the Iran nuclear deal the “Obamacare of the second term.”

Noting how several promises made by Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act crumbled when enacted, DeSantis the same thing was happening with the Iran deal.

“The myth of the moderate and the opening and the ability to change the world for the better. They knew that wasn’t the case, they knew exactly who they were gong to be empowering,” he said.

Members of the House Oversight Committee want Rhodes to testify early next week to elaborate on his comments in the Times. So far, he reportedly has resisted the request.

DeSantis also blasted Hillary Clinton regarding her email issues while serving as secretary of state. He says that as somebody who dealt with classified material while serving in Iraq for the Navy as a JAG officer, he would be in serious trouble if he did what Clinton is accused of doing.

Having said that, he told the group of Republicans that  they shouldn’t  “hold your breath” regarding the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Referring to how President Obama recently said that while the White House doesn’t get involved in such cases, he’s sure that Clinton didn’t betray national security, DeSantis says it’s obvious what will happen.

“That’s sending a signal to (Attorney General) Loretta Lynch to say,’hey, no go on this, go ahead and pass on the prosecution.”

New poll says 49% of Floridians disapprove of Marco Rubio’s performance in Senate

Marco Rubio appears to be in free fall in Florida when it comes to how the voters fell about him, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

Less than two months after registered Republicans repudiated his presidential candidacy in the state’s presidential primary, 49 percent of all Floridians disapprove of his performance in the senate, with just 42 percent supporting him. Among independents, 56 percent disapprove of his performance.

Rubio is in the twilights of his first term in the senate, having declared a year ago when he ran for president that he would not run for reelection to the seat he won spectacularly in 2010. He’s maintained that stance, despite overtures after his presidential dreams crumbled after Donald Trump crushed him by 19 percentage points in March.

Rubio’s senate colleague, Democrat Bill Nelson, has a 47 percent approval rating, with 26 percent disapproving, and 28 percent not answering.

Meanwhile, although Rick Scott was able to garner enough votes to beat Alex Sink in 2010 and Charlie Crist in 2014, he consistently has been underwater in public opinion polls since being elected, and the Q poll released on Wednesday is no exception, with 49 percent disapproving of the job the Florida Governor is currently doing, with 40 percent supporting him. Sixty-five percent of Republicans support Scott, while 73 percent oppose him. Independents come down similar to the entire poll, with 51 percent disapproving, and 39 percent supporting him.

President Obama is underwater as well, with 48 percent supporting him and 50 percent disapproving of his performance. Like Scott, Obama has often been underwater in at least Quinnipiac polls over the years, despite the fact that he won the Sunshine State twice when he up for election.

However, Floridians back the president in his attempt to get his Supreme Court Justice nominee, Merrick Garland, an up or down vote from the U.S. Senate. By a 51 percent to 33 percent margin, Floridians support Garland’s nomination to the high court, and by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin, Floridians say the Senate should consider his nomination now, and not wait until the next president is elected in November, which is the current attitude of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Quinnipiac survey was conducted from April 27 – May 8, 2016 throughout the state of Florida. Responses are reported for 1,051 self-identified registered voters with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Mitch Perry Report for 5.10.16 – Rick Scott needs to address House GOP when it comes to unlocking Zika funds

Rick Scott takes his act to Washington on Wednesday, where the Florida Governor hopes to rally members of Congress to approve President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to combat the spread of the virus.

So what is the hold-up? The virus seems to only be getting greater penetration into the U.S.  On Monday, the Florida Department of Health announced two new travel-related cases of Zika in Florida. The new cases — found in Orange and Pinellas counties — bring the total number of cases in Florida to 107. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 470 cases in the continental U.S., all associated with travel to Zika-affected areas.

According to the Associated Press, Republicans from states at greatest risk, such as Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, have been reluctant to endorse Obama’s request for $1.9 billion to battle the virus. “GOP lawmakers said they haven’t heard from many constituents, though they said that could change.”

Not every Florida Republican feels that way.

“There’s a reason why the public has lost confidence in Washington — and this is the latest example,” Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan said last week. “Instead of working together to protect Americans, Washington has descended into another partisan fight, with both parties blaming each other for inaction on a growing and deadly health threat.”

Among the reasons Republicans are balking is that the request for the $1.9 billion is “supplemental” funding — that is, an emergency request that goes outside of the regular process for appropriation bills, and generally not subject to budget caps. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said last month the administration could use some of the leftover money in existing accounts to combat Ebola to address immediate needs with Zika, saying, “there is enough money there, especially to deal with this year.”

The White House has already moved to redirect $589 million in existing funds to Zika, most of it from Ebola response programs. Funds were also taken from other emergency preparedness programs, which has state and local jurisdictions warning that they may be unable to address other non-Zika threats. But their request for $1.9 billion has gone nowhere in both the House and the Senate.

In other news…

Meet Joseph “JB” Benshimen, a new resident of Pinellas County who is running as a Republican in the HD 68 seat.

Gene Siudut becomes the second candidate to officially file to run in the special District 7 Tampa City Council election later this year.

Kathleen Peters reported her fundraising total for April for her HD 69 reelection bid.

The Florida SEIU has endorsed Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race.

And a host of advocacy groups, led by Equality Florida, are calling on the Marion County School Board to repeal its controversial bathroom bill regarding transgendered people.

Mitch Perry Report for 5.3.16 – Only six more months of hearing about Hillary vs.The Donald – every day

Well today’s the Indiana primary, and aren’t you all excited about that?

I didn’t think so. A CNN/ORC poll released  yesterday shows that more than eight of ten Americans believe Hillary Clinton will challenge Donald Trump for president in November. That was taken before Indiana votes today, or Nebraska next week, or California and New Jersey next month.

But it’s still more fun to talk about a contested convention than start talking everyday about a Hillary vs. Donald confrontation, since that’s still a full half-year away!

So enough of this: Will this be it for Ted Cruz tonight, okay? It’s been over for quite awhile for the Texas Senate. But you wouldn’t believe that if you tune into cable news anytime – and why would you, since it’s all about keeping up interest (The Sanders/Clinton race tonight could be close, we should add).

Seriously, I’m sure everyone reading this watches their fair share of CNN, Fox and/or MSNBC. I’m telling you I’m trying to walk away from the flat-screen though, because there’s nothing really that new to learn.

I felt a little wistful watching John Heilemann try to keep the excitement up on his Bloomberg show, “With All Due Respect.” Heilemann was a great writer/reporter for New  York magazine for years. Now he makes $1 million acting like every other pundit on cable. Good for him. Bad for us.

However this race, thanks to  Donald J., has been great for everyone’s ratings (and clicks).

Since the start of the year CNN’s prime-time audience has more than doubled to 435,000 viewers a night in its target demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds, according to Nielsen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the fourth quarter last year, CNN’s average price for a 30-second prime-time spot was about $7,000, up from about $5,000 a year earlier. Fox News and MSNBC also have raised prices.

Thank God he survived, and Cruz didn’t, those network honchos are believing. Also a lot of political reporters.

But if it ain’t new, is it really news?

And before we go to the other news of yesterday, a quick shoutout to my sister Michele out in Richmond, Ca.  Happy Birthday!

In other news…

David Jolly, a former lobbyist, said on Sunday that he doesn’t believe that ex-members of Congress should go back into the lobbying game, prompting a response from one of his GOP senate opponents, Todd Wilcox.

Although the business establishment supports the Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, they’ve kept that support relatively close to the vest in recent months. Not anymore, as they announced the creation of a coalition with a website backing the $3.3 billion proposal. Meanwhile, TBX opponents howled upon learning the news.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing becomes the first (and only, presumably) Democrat to enter the Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County – where he’ll likely face Dana Young in the fall.

Defying his leadership, Sarasota area Congressman Vern Buchanan says he doesn’t care – and is calling for the Congress to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion request to combat the Zika virus.

And while Hillsborough County Commissioners come up with new ideas on where to come up with funding transportation that won’t include a sales tax, County Administrator Mike Merrill just shakes his head.

Opposing GOP leadership, Vern Buchanan calls for full funding to eradicate Zika virus

Unlike some of his GOP colleagues, Sarasota-area Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling on the House of Representatives to support an additional $1.9 billion in funding requested by the Obama administration in February to contain and eradicate the virus.

“Zika’s shadow is spreading too quickly in Florida, which has one quarter of all the Zika cases in the United States,” Buchanan said. “The rest of the country should keep in mind that summer is coming and so are the mosquitoes. Congress needs to act quickly.”

Buchanan says he is basing his decision on recent developments, including the first fatality on U.S. soil and new research revealing that Zika eats away at the fetal brain and destroys the ability to think. Researchers also say they have learned that up to 29 percent (not 1 percent as originally believed) of pregnant women infected with Zika showed fetal abnormalities. New evidence also shows that the disease can be sexually transmitted in addition to being carried by mosquitos.

“There’s a reason why the public has lost confidence in Washington – and this is the latest example,” Buchanan said. “Instead of working together to protect Americans, Washington has descended into another partisan fight, with both parties blaming each other for inaction on a growing and deadly health threat.”

The White House has already moved to redirect $589 million in existing funds to Zika, most of it from Ebola response programs. Funds were also taken from other emergency preparedness programs, which has state and local jurisdictions warning that they may be unable to address other non-Zika threats. But their request for $1.9 billion has gone nowhere in both the House and the Senate.

Two weeks ago there appeared to be a deal iamong Senate appropriators in which a smaller sum, about $1 billion, would be provided in emergency Zika funding as an amendment to one of the 2017 spending bills. But the Washington Post reports that plan collapsed, partly due to an unrelated issue regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

Among the reasons that Republicans are balking is that they the request for the $1.9 billion is “supplemental” funding – that is, an emergency request that goes outside of the regular process for appropriation bills, and are generally not subject to budget caps. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said last week the administration could use some of the leftover money at existing accounts to combat Ebola to address immediate needs with Zika, saying, “there is enough money there, especially to deal with this year.”

That argument isn’t resonating with Buchanan.

“There’s a reason why the public has lost confidence in Washington – and this is the latest example,” he says. “Instead of working together to protect Americans, Washington has descended into another partisan fight, with both parties blaming each other for inaction on a growing and deadly health threat.”

Vern Buchanan’s small biz tax cut bill gets some love from Grover Norquist

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who once infamously said he’s like cut government down to the size “where we can drown it in the bathtub,” is publicly endorsing a small business tax cut proposal offered by Sarasota area Republican Representative Vern Buchanan.

The bill, dubbed the Main Street Fairness Act, would establish that businesses that file taxes as passthrough income, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and S corporations, will never pay a higher rate than a corporation.  Under current law, corporations pay a maximum tax rate of 35 percent, while small business owners pay up to 39.6 percent under the individual income tax code on top of additional taxes on earnings and investments. Buchanan says these small businesses pay more than 50 percent of their income in taxes in some states; in Florida, they face an effective tax rate of 42.6 percent according to the Tax Foundation.

“This important change helps ensure that businesses are on a level playing field for decades to come,” says Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “A key goal of tax reform should be taxing businesses equally, not discriminating based on arbitrary laws, and Congressman Buchanan’s legislation ensures this becomes reality. Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and co-sponsoring this pro-taxpayer, pro-small business legislation.”

Other business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, are all backing Buchanan’s bill.

The goal of tax reform should be to boost the economy and create more American jobs,” said Buchanan in a statement. “Even President Obama has called for reducing our corporate tax rate, but merely reducing the tax burden on corporations does nothing for more than 90% of American businesses.”




Vern Buchanan says the truth needs to come out regarding 9/11 and the Saudi government

Sarasota area Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan says that the U.S. should “never buckle to the threats of a foreign government,” and that’s why he supports legislation that aims to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for any involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Even an ally like Saudi Arabia needs to understand our country will never compromise when it comes to keeping Americans safe and punishing those behind terrorist attacks,” Buchanan says. “If they were involved the truth needs to come out and they need to be held accountable. The time for justice is long overdue.”

Buchanan is a co-sponsor of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (H.R. 3815), which would allow victims of terrorism, including the families of the 9/11 attacks, to pursue foreign states and sponsors of terrorism in federal court.

Saudi officials have reacted with alarm to the proposed legislation, and has warned the Obama administration that if the bill passes, they could retaliate by selling up to to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the U.S., according to the New York Times.

Attention about possible Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks comes with President Obama‘s arrival in the Kingdom on Wednesday, where he received what CNN described as a “chilly reception” from Saudi leaders in Riyadh.

And it also arrives with mega attention being directed at the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 report that reportedly references possible Saudi involvement with the attacks, an issue that former Florida Senator Bob Graham has rallied about for years, and where he got a primetime platform to discuss on CBS’ 60 Minutes earlier this month.

Speaking with CBS’ Charlie Rose on Monday night, Obama said he opposes the bill, which is being sponsored in the Senate by New York Democrat Chuck Schumer. “If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being sued” by individuals in other countries, he said.

Buchanan said he is disappointed at the president’s veto threat. “It’s disgraceful that victims’ families cannot get into court to prove what senior intelligence officials believe to be true,” Buchanan said. “Our government should never put Saudi Arabia’s interests ahead of the American people.”

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio says he supports the release of the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 report, but says it’s not such a “cut and dry thing the way it’s been represented.”

“I personally am not at the end of the day, against it being released, other than I don’t think it paints a complete picture,” Rubio told Jimmy Cefalo on WIOD-AM 610 in Miami.

The former GOP presidential candidate downplays the Saudi threats to sell U.S. treasury securities if the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passes.

“I’m not a big fan of being threatened by foreign governments that they’re going to do this or that against us, I don’t think that’s a real threat,” Rubio said. “I’m not sure how easily they can do that.I’m not sure they can afford to do what they’re talking about doing, to be honest with you.”

Mitch Perry Report for 4.19.16 – Bernie Sanders goes after Hillary Clinton for violating campaign finance laws

Welcome to April 19, the 23rd anniversary of the Waco siege and the 21st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

And now today’s NY state primary, which, by the shape of things, could be pretty anti-climactic. Donald Trump‘s victory is a given, and right now most polls have Bernie Sanders down by double-digits to Hillary Clinton.

The Sanders campaign made news yesterday by going public with a complaint that has been big on the Internets over the past couple of weeks in BernieWorld — that being the charge that Clinton has violated campaign finance laws with the use of a joint fundraising committee set up with the Democratic National Committee.

An attorney for Sanders contacted the DNC and said that this joint committee appeared to be improperly subsidizing her campaign by paying Clinton staffers with funds from the committee and cited other alleged violations as well.

The deal is this: wealthy donors can give $356,100 annually to the Hillary Victory Fund, the largest joint fundraising committee of its kind, according to The Washington Post. The contributions are then distributed proportionally among the campaign, the DNC, and state parties.

But the Post reported that before distributing out its proceeds, “the victory fund has spent millions on direct mail and online ads seeking small donors to support Clinton’s campaign. The victory fund also sponsors Clinton’s online store, allowing donors who have already given the maximum to her campaign to purchase Hillary lapel pins, caps or car magnets, with their money benefiting the party.”

The questionable outlays “have grown to staggering magnitudes” and “can no longer be ignored,” writes Brad Deutsch, Sanders’ attorney.

The expenditures on advertising and fundraising are at best “an impermissible in-kind contribution from the DNC and the participating state party committees” to Clinton’s presidential campaign, the letter says. “At worst, using funds received from large-dollar donors who have already contributed the $2,700 maximum to HFA [Hillary for America] may represent an excessive contribution to HFA from these individuals.”

Robbie Mook, Hillary’s campaign manager, was furious in his response.

“This accusation is false,” he said in a statement. “They’re questioning our joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, which allows us to support Democrats running up and down the ticket — the same fundraising structure used by President Obama in 2008 and 2012.”

Mook goes on to say that “this latest incident is part of a troubling pattern of behavior — occurring just as Bernie’s mathematical odds of winning the nomination dwindle toward zero — in which Sanders and his team are not just debating us on issues (which we all agree is perfectly fair), but rather attacking Hillary Clinton’s character, integrity, and motivations.”

At the risk of sounding trite, these two camps are really, really growing bitter. Some say this doesn’t reach the vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps in ’08, but actually to me, it’s worse. I don’t remember up to 25 percent of Clinton supporters saying they wouldn’t vote for Obama (though I do remember many of those “Pumas” saying they would back John McCain).

And a programming note: I’ll be interviewing Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson on WMNF 88.5 FM radio at noon. Please listen!

In other news …

Congrats to Tampa Bay Times reporters Leonora LaPeter AntonCara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Garter and Michael La Forgia for their Pulitzer Prizes that were awarded Monday.

Activists opposing the Go Hillsborough half-cent sales tax are already gearing up to lobby against the proposal when Hillsborough County Commissioners vote on whether to put it on the ballot next week.

Want to celebrate tonight’s expected Donald Trump blowout in the Empire State with like-minded supporters? Go to Channelside, my friend.

Bill Nelson has some friendly advice for his Senate colleague Marco Rubio regarding his rant last week about an amendment failing to get passed in the Senate.

And Kathy Castor issued praise for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that came before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.


Kathy Castor praises Obama immigration actions as case goes to Supreme Court

Arguments were held in the Supreme Court Monday in United States v. Texas, the intensely fought legal battle regarding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that he made in November of 2014.

Obama’s proposal would create a new program to allow the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to obtain temporary work authorization to remain in the country. The administration also intends to expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, that provides similar relief and work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. years ago as children.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was one of twenty five Attorneys General who joined the Texas lawsuit, which asserts that the Obama administration overstepped its constitutional authority by granting work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants and promising them a reprieve from deportation. The states argue that “unilateral suspension of the Nation’s immigration laws is unlawful” and that only the judiciary’s “immediate intervention can protect the [states] from dramatic and irreparable injuries.”

Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor says Obama was compelled to make his executive action because of GOP intransigence.

“In the face of Republican obstruction, it was necessary for President Obama to act by executive order, just as he did in 2012 when he granted temporary relief to DREAM Act students who were born outside America but know no other country and have no other home,” Castor said in a statement. “It is within the President’s authority to take appropriate steps to focus law enforcement efforts on deporting felons, not families. In Florida, an estimated 150,000 of our neighbors are eligible for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and 14,000 are eligible for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – these productive individuals could come out of the shadows, work, go to school and participate in our economy.”

With only eight members on the high court, a 4-4 tie would essentially be a loss for the president and a win for his opponents. That’s because a tie would leave in place the appeals court ruling that blocks the plan from being implemented.

Throughout Florida, a coalition of immigration activists held actions noting the event, including members of SEIU Florida, LULAC and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, who met on Monday afternoon in Centennial Park in Ybor City.

Castor’s district includes much of Hillsborough County, which currently has a Latino population of at least 26.5 percent (according to U.S. Census Bureau information from mid-2014).

Former Cuban hostage Alan Gross to speak at USF next week

Alan Gross, the American aid worker who was imprisoned in Cuba for five years before his release in December of 2014, will speak at USF next Tuesday night, April 19.

Gross traveled to Cuba in December of 2011 to  spread the values and benefits of democracy by helping to make internet service more accessible; he had visited synagogues and Jewish leaders across the country, including introducing them to search engines and Spanish-language Wikipedia. For those actions, he was convicted buy Cuban authorities of undertaking “a subversive project” to “destroy the Revolution” in Cuba, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. U.S. officials protested strongly, characterizing Gross as a humanitarian.

Thanks to the work of a number of humanitarian groups and his wife, Gross was released in December of 2014 as part of an announcement by President Obama that the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after five decades.

A USF press release says that Gross will “candidly share the story of his incarceration, the people he met, the ordeals he experienced, and the adventures and lessons he has learned in his career.”

Since his release, Gross has become an outspoken advocate for ending the economic embargo against the Communist island.

Gross will speak in the Marshall Student Center at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

The lecture is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis following priority seating for USF students. There will be an open reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Top of the Palms restaurant on the third floor of the Marshall Student Center and a meet and greet following the lecture. For more information about the lecture series, including the audience policy,


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