Sunburn for 8/6 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the state’s dominant public affairs PR firm: On this day in 1991, Sir Tim Berners-Lee released files describing his profound idea for a World Wide Web. Little could he know that his revolutionary concept – which provides virtually everyone in the world access to the majority of human knowledge – would one day be used to watch cat videos, download Candy Crush and connect our planet. For those of you still believing it was Al Gore, not so much, actually.

Now, on to the ‘burn…

POLL: OBAMA HEALTH LAW IS A TALE OF 2 AMERICAS via Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press

 President Barack Obama’s health care law has become a tale of two Americas.

States that fully embraced the law’s coverage expansion are experiencing a significant drop in the number of uninsured residents, according to a major new survey. States whose leaders still object to “Obamacare” are seeing much less change.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found an overall drop of 4 percentage points in the share of uninsured residents for states accepting the law’s core coverage provisions. Those are states that expanded their Medicaid programs and also built or took an active role managing new online insurance markets.

The drop was about half that level – 2.2 percentage points – in states that took neither of those steps, or just one of them.

Medicaid expansion mainly helps low-income uninsured adults in states accepting it. Insurance exchanges operate in every state, offering taxpayer-subsidized private coverage to people who have no health plan on the job.

Leading the nation were two southern states where the law has found political support. Arkansas saw a drop of about 10 percentage points in its share of uninsured residents, from 22.5 percent in 2013, to 12.4 percent by the middle of this year. Kentucky experienced a drop of nearly 9 percentage points, from 20.4 percent of its residents uninsured in 2013, to 11.9 percent.

The Gallup survey found some coverage gains in several major states opposing the law that were also the focus of sign-up campaigns by the Obama administration and its supporters. Texas saw a drop of 3 percentage points in its uninsured rate, while Florida saw a slightly higher decline.

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For the second time in a week, David Rivera, the embattled former Miami congressman who claimed he had suspended his campaign for his old seat, has reached out to voters through automated telephone calls.

This time, we have the audio recording of the call, in which Rivera tells voters, in Spanish, to ignore “the false campaign by the Miami Herald” and vote for him in the Aug. 26 Republican primary for Congressional District 26. (Thanks for the free publicity!)

“It’s Congressman David Rivera,” Rivera says on the call. “Your ballot to vote should have already arrived. And although the false campaign by the Miami Herald continues, I will keep fighting for our best interests. That’s why I ask that you vote for a conservative fighter like me, David Rivera, for Congress. Fill out your ballot and send it by mail today, voting for a conservative Republican like me, David Rivera. Thank you and may God bless you.”

“Political advertisement paid for by David Rivera for Congress.”

The call comes a few days after new filings in a federal court case revealed for the first time that Rivera is “Co-conspirator A” in the criminal investigation into a 2012 campaign-finance scheme. Rivera has denied wrongdoing but refused to comment on — or even acknowledge — the investigation, which is but the latest in a series of controversies to tarnish his reputation.


U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross has declined to appear at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum with his Democratic opponent for re-election, Alan Cohn, the club says.

In a newsletter e-mailed to members, the club said Cohn has accepted the invitation for the Aug. 15 appearance while Ross says no — but, it adds, “Maybe he’ll change his mind. Dennis is a savvy guy. Maybe we’ll see him after all.”

Cohn is a political novice, but as a former investigative television reporter, not a complete unknown. He vows to give Ross, who won re-election without opposition in 2012, a significant challenge.

The Tiger Bay Club is a non-partisan lunch club that focusses on politics and invites officeholders and candidates of both parties to speak and take questions. Members pride themselves on asking speakers tough questions.


Two years ago, political prognosticators gave Murphy not much more than a fair chance of knocking off incumbent Republican Allen West in a GOP-tilting district (Mitt Romney carried it with 52 percent of the vote), but beat West he did. Almost as soon as Murphy headed to D.C. he became a prime target for the GOP. Yet today, less than 100 days before the election, Murphy is well on his way to a second term.

Last week, The Rothenberg Report moved CD 18 from Lean Democrat to Democrat Favored, all but taking the seat off the board of competitive seats.

“(T)he congressman’s fundraising, endorsements and campaign have him in progressively better position for a second term,” writes Nathan Gonzales of Roll Call.

Think about that, in the course of two years, Murphy has gone from David to Goliath.

Murphy’s slingshot of a political consultant, Eric Johnson, deserves credit for helping to make that happen.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gwen Graham and family will hold the final “Grillout With the Grahams” event featuring special guest U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, as well as perform the latest Panama City Workday. Events begin with the Workday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CST at St. Andrew’s Bay restoration in Panama City, 726 Bunkers Cove Rd. From 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST, the Grillout featuring Nelson will be at the Daffin Park Clubhouse, 320 N. Kraft Ave. in Panama City.

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Many of Crist’s ideas unveiled Tuesday in his “Fair Shot Florida” plan to grow middle class jobs were familiar campaign talking points.

Crist criticized Gov. Scott for rejecting billions of federal dollars for high-speed rail expansion and for the state’s failure to expand Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid “will create as many as 120,000 new high quality jobs,” Crist said at his policy announcement in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday afternoon.

PolitiFact previously fact-checked Crist when he said, “Expanding Medicaid would create 63k jobs.” PolitiFact rated that claim Half True. The 63,000 figure comes from a White House study chastising states such as Florida for failing to expand Medicaid. The Florida Hospital Association’s most recent analysis in 2013 predicts 120,000 jobs over about a decade — the association supports expansion. Meanwhile, Moody’s predicted between 10,000 and 30,000 jobs. Most of the health care experts we interviewed agreed that injecting billions of federal dollars into Florida for Medicaid would spark some job growth, but it’s difficult to pinpoint a number, particularly as there are other changes in the healthcare landscape.

PolitiFact Florida gave Scott a Full Flop on Medicaid expansion. Scott initially opposed Medicaid expansion but later said he supported it but didn’t advocate for it and the Legislature rejected it.

Much of Crist’s plan focused on his promises to restore education cuts under Scott. Crist promised if elected he would return per pupil K-12 funding to $7,126 — the amount in 2007-08 when Crist was governor.

Crist also promised to reverse Scott’s cuts to Bright Futures.


If you want proof that the politics of climate change are shifting, pay close attention to what Rick Scott has been saying … lately. Scott … has always denied climate change science. Except now he is reluctant to publicly admit this position, four years after he once said he was not “convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.”

In May, Scott hesitated to answer a question about man-made climate change, beyond saying, “I’m not a scientist.” Since then, he has gone from ignoring scientists who requested to meet with him to agreeing to a personal discussion, thanks to additional pressure from his opponent Charlie Crist. On the same day Next Generation—Tom Steyer’s political group—announced it would target Scott’s record, the GOP governor tried to bolster his environmental credentials by pledging a new fund to aid conservation efforts and to target polluters.

What changed: Scott’s electorate includes coastal residents who face the front lines of global warming. And as Floridians experience climate change first hand, their understanding of the threat changes. Rather than looking at it as a far-away issue, they begin to feel the impacts in their livelihoods and homes. It’s no wonder that the Republican governor considers it bad politics to dismiss sea level rise when Florida’s entire south coast faces crucial decisions of how to adapt to the changing climate. Outside spending from Steyer has helped to bolster this message, after years of lopsided political spending from fossil fuel groups.

One example of where Florida is hurting now is how property and construction have become too risky for insurers. According to the state-created storm risk management center, a growing number of insurance companies have exited the market entirely. Climate change and its related extreme weather both factored into that decision.

The truth is that while climate change is a global problem to solve, it is at the local level where people don’t get to indulge in denial. Florida may turn out to be a case study in how politics is beginning to tip in climate activists’ favor.

SCOTT TOUTS ENVIRONMENT PLAN, SAYS HE’S NOT SCARED OF BILLIONAIRE ACTIVIST via Marc Caputo, Craig Pittman and Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald

Gov. Scott gave a one-word response when asked if he was worried that billionaire climate-change activist Tom Steyer is targeting him.

“No,” Scott, a multi-millionaire who isn’t shy about spending his own fortune, smiled during a Miami campaign stop.


One of the biggest beneficiaries of Gov. Scott’s campaign spending record amounts in media markets across the state is Multi Media Services Corporation, a Virginia-based ad buyer.

The company has been paid $15.1 million so far this cycle. Nearly all of that has come from Let’s Get to Work, a group aligned with Scott that started an ad blitz in March. That number will jump as campaign intensity increases moving into the fall.

To put the number in perspective, the firm has received 10 of the top 11 individual expenditures paid to any group or campaign since the beginning of the 2014 cycle. Each of those came from Let’s Get to Work.

The national firm is no stranger to Florida.

It has done regular work in the state since the 2004. During that election cycle it placed ads for a group fighting a proposed constitutional amendment that would have increased the state’s minimum wage by $1.

The company has always been Scott’s ad buyer of choice. It made $73 million from Scott’s campaign or the state GOP during the 2010 cycle.

Multi Media Services Corporation is a so-called “ad buyer,” which means it does things like plan ad campaigns, places the advertisements, and tracking ads – including those of a client’s political opponents.

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The heads of the House and Senate redistricting committees asked their staff to start developing remedial plans to fix the congressional redistricting plan but added a caveat: they must refrain from any conversation with congressmen and their staff and may not discuss the maps with anyone other than the Legislature’s legal counsel.

The warnings from state Sen. Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Richard Corcoran come after legislators were stung by a ruling from Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis last month who concluded that lawmakers allowed Republican political consultants to hijack the redistricting process in 2012 and create a shadow process that “made a mockery” of legislators’ claims of transparency.

Galvano, a former state House member who did not serve in the Legislature when the first congressional map was passed, said in an email to members said he has asked staff “to refrain from discussing their map drawing efforts with anyone outside of the Legislature except our legal counsel and not to share their work product with any outside interests.”

Meanwhile, both expect a quick fix to the map — a sign they are unlikely to make any significant changes — and the session is expected to be adjourned on Monday or Tuesday.


Elections officials in the counties facing redrawn congressional districts concluded that, contrary to arguments of Republican legislators, the state could conduct special elections for a handful of districts this year – but winners would not be chosen until after Nov. 4.

By postponing the primary and general elections for as many as 10 congressional seats in North and Central Florida, Florida could again become the last state in the nation to announce its elections results. But, officials said, it may be the only option to avoid electing candidates to Congress from unconstitutional districts.

Elections for all other congressional districts that are unchanged by the map — and all other races on the ballot — will continue as planned under the current election schedule.


Get your checkbooks ready, because prior to Thursday’s special session of the Florida Legislature, called to address court-mandated redistricting, state GOP leaders will host a trio of fundraisers in support of Republican candidates.

Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Reps. Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva are hosting three separate fundraising receptions on Wednesday, each beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the Governor’s Club on 202 South Adams St. Tallahassee.

Blaise Ingoglia will be fundraising at the Governor’s Club Board Room for his House District 35 campaign. Ingoglia, a vice chair of the RPOF, is facing Democrat Rose Rocco in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Rob Schenck for the seat covering much of Hernando County. Outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford will also be in attendance.

In the Governor’s Club Library Room, incumbent Rep. Carlos Trujillo has a reception for his House District 105 race. Trujill faces Democrat Carlos Pereira for the district covering parts of Broward, Collier and Miami-Dade counties.

At the same time, Rep. Keith Perry will be fundraising for his Gainesville area House District 21 re-election effort, taking place at the Governor’s Club Capital Room. Perry faces Democrat Jon Uman for the district covering Dixie, Gilchrist and Alachua Counties.

EMAIL DU JOUR via Chris Turner: “As most of you  know, Mark Hollis is no longer with the House of Representatives and is currently enjoying his time in Austin.  In the interim, I will be acting Press Secretary for the House Democratic Caucus.  Please feel free to contact me on my cell phone at 407-595-7388, or direct office line 850-717-5509, if you need any assistance with members of the Caucus or media matters.”

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Following recent rulings from judges in three South Florida counties, a Palm Beach County Circuit judge issued a ruling declaring Florida’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Diana Lewis’ opinion was tied to a probate case surrounding the death of Frank Bangor, a man who owned property in Florida and married W. Jason Simpson in Delaware, where gay marriage is legal. Lewis is running for re-election this month.

Under Florida law, a spouse is recognized as a personal representative of an estate provided the out-of-state marriage is recognized as valid under state law. Simpson, through attorney Andrew Fein, petitioned Lewis to be recognized as Bangor’s personal representative despite a ban on gay marriage in Florida.

Lewis’ ruling comes after a Broward judge shot down Florida’s same-sex marriage ban in a decision regarding a West Palm Beach woman’s quest to divorce a woman she wed in a civil union in Vermont. Judges in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have issued similar rulings.

FLORIDA RANKS NO. 2 IN TECH JOB CREATION via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

In just the first six months of 2014, Florida has created nearly as many tech jobs as the state did in all of last year.

That puts Florida in the No. 2 spot in a new report from Dice, a career site for technology and engineering professionals.

Texas was the fastest-growing state for tech jobs so far this year, Dice said, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas added 8,100 jobs and now has 143,300 tech workers, second only to California.

Florida created 4,100 tech jobs from Jan. 1 through June 30, compared to 4,500 in all of 2013.

Tech hiring and availability of professionals has become a campaign issue during the gubernatorial election. The focus for Florida, like many states, is on growing its tech workforce and starting techCAMPs is one initiative, Dice said. TechCAMPs offer educators experience in various high tech environments and provide tools for classroom applications.


Enterprise Florida (EFI) will lead a delegation of Florida-based logistics and distribution companies to Movimat + Transport & Logistics in Brazil from Sept. 16-18. The two co-located trade shows will provide Florida companies with networking opportunities and face-to-face appointments with the top businesses in this leading global marketplace.

EFI Senior Vice President of International Trade & Development Manny Mencia said, “Participating in this trip will provide companies with tremendous exposure. As the gateway to Latin America, Florida’s logistics and distribution industry is poised to grow further with the Panama Canal expansion, and the numerous infrastructure developments and upgrades underway around the state. This trade show in Brazil is another great opportunity for Florida companies to expand globally.”

Movimat-Intralogistics Trade Show is a platform for showcasing equipment, services and solutions in intralogistics to buyers from large manufacturers, wholesaler, retailers, and distributors seeking efficient storage and supply chain solutions. Over 200 brands in the segments of packing, handling, forklifts, storage, elevation and automation are represented.

Transport & Logistics Brazil gathers decision-makers in the Logistics industry for simulations and presentations of information systems, modal of transport and solutions in infrastructure and logistics condominiums. This trade show also provides a springboard for logistics companies that are seeking smoother control of operations and cost optimizations. Companies represented will be members of: transportation & logistics services, logistics infrastructures, logistics real estate and technologies & information systems.

7 TRUSTEE TERMS ENDING AT FSU, FAMU via Doug Blackburn of the Tallahassee Democrat

If Florida State University’s search for a new president drags on into next year, it could be a markedly different board of trustees making the final decision.

The terms of four of FSU’s 11 appointed trustees – including Andy Haggard, a Jeb Bush appointee who has been on the board since 2002 – end in January 2015. Trustees Haggard and Brent Sembler are governor appointees while Mark Hillis and Peggy Rolando are Board of Governors appointees, and all four will be replaced or reappointed at the start of 2015.

Florida’s state universities have 13-member boards: six named by the governor, five by BOG. The other two seats go to the Faculty Senate president and the student body president.

The boards are responsible for hiring – and in rare cases, firing – the university’s president. They also have fiduciary responsibility and oversee other policies at the institution.

It’s possible all four could be reappointed, presuming they submit the proper paperwork. Hillis, Rolando and Sembler are all completing their first five-year terms.

At Florida A&M, three trustees’ terms will conclude in January: Torey Alston, Solomon Badger, the chairman of FAMU’s board for the past three years, and Marjorie Turnbull.

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At noon on Friday, June 20, when 46 state legislative candidates – 38 in the House, eight in the Senate –were elected without opposition, their respective campaign treasurers were faced with an interesting quandary: what to do with all of the money in the candidates’ bank accounts.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, the lucky 46 candidates running for the State House or Senate had approximately $3,402,340 in their campaign coffers.

Combined, the 30 candidates for the Florida House who won without opposition had approximately $1,980,656 cash-on-hand. The eight candidates for the Senate had approximately $1,421,684 left among them.

The average amount left in these legislative accounts is $55,018 for State House candidates and $176,585 for State Senate candidates.

With all of that money, candidates have a variety of options for disposing of it – and dispose of it they must, at least most of it. Unlike previous election cycles, candidates can retain up to $20,000 for re-election to the same office.

But that’s not the only major change to the campaign finance laws governing how candidates must dispose of funds. The other change is a new $25,000 limit to the amount a candidate can transfer to a political party.

Once a candidate is unopposed, he or she may only expend funds from the campaign account to: 1. Purchase “thank you” advertising for up to 75 days after he or she became unopposed; 2. Pay for items that were obligated before he or she became unopposed; 3. Pay for expenditures necessary to close down the campaign office and to prepare final campaign reports; or 4. Dispose of surplus funds as provided in Section 106.141, F.S.


The question was straightforward.

“Have you ever been arrested?”

The answer from Mike Miller, one of two Republicans running in House District 47, was also straightforward. But was it the full story?

“No,” Miller replied to the question asked during an interview with the Orlando Sentinel‘s editorial board.

Technically, Miller’s answer is accurate, but his answer is not the full story. And it appears the Orlando Sentinel editorial board dropped the ball in getting to the bottom of the story.

After Miller said that he had never been arrested, he’s asked “about some things that came up” during the Sentinel‘s background check. Almost immediately, Miller’s facial expression and body language change.

“…a nolo contendere in 1990 … a second degree misdemeanor in 1991 … something in 1997?” the interviewer asks.

Miller shakes his head “No” as if he has no clue what the interviewer is asking about. “I would have to see and make sure I know what you are talking about. I don’t have recollection of those.”

In other words, the interviewer is no longer asking if Miller has ever been arrested, he’s asking about a no contest plea to a second degree misdemeanor.

Miller then goes on to tell the editorial board that whatever they’re talking about, it’s a case of mistaken identity.

“I know I’ve had this circumstance happen to me before,” explains Miller. “There’s a lot of Michael J. Millers, so I don’t know if you need a social security number or something else but I had that similar circumstance happen to me when I started working at Rolling where they had me mistaken for someone else.”

Huh? Someone else.


Shawna Vercher, one of three Democratic candidates in House District 67 in Pinellas County, has posted this quote from the Tampa Bay Times on her campaign web site:

“Shawna Vercher is a poised, articulate businesswoman who in many ways appears an ideal Democratic candidate…”

What the web site doesn’t say: The excerpt comes from a Times article quoting people who dispute many claims that Vercher has raised in a book and in her campaign.

Also, under a lead-in that says “Find out what others are saying about why Shawna Vercher should be your voice in Tallahassee,” the web site includes this quote from the Tampa Tribune: “Vercher is well versed in the issues and understands the political process…”

What the web site doesn’t say: That quote actually came from a Tribune editorial, which recommended one of her opponents, fellow Democrat Steve Sarnoff.

Vercher said in an interview that she did not think her use of the quotations was misleading. “The page is what it says it is: This is what people are saying about me.”


The Tampa Tribune looks at the GOP primary in HD 65 here.

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A new poll finds a slight uptick in support for super PACs and corporate lobbying priorities. The Public Affairs Council – a trade group representing the government affairs and public affairs space – finds in a new survey that 50 percent of Americans say they would feel less favorable toward a company that hires lobbyists. But when asked about specific lobbying priorities, public support for the tactic increases.

The survey finds that 84 percent of Americans are fine with corporate lobbying efforts that would protect jobs, 79 percent are in favor of lobbying on behalf of new market access, 74 percent are in favor of advocacy to level the playing field and 68 percent are in favor of pushing to power business costs. The survey even finds that 56 percent of Americans approval of lobbying to obtain government funding.

“In 2012, the last time this question was asked, a majority of respondents also approved of these same reasons for lobbying; but surprisingly, support has grown since then,” the association reports in a release.

The Public Affairs Pulse survey was conducted June 16-29 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The telephone poll interviewed 1,609 adults nationwide. The full results of the poll are here.

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On Context FloridaStephen Goldstein notes that while promoting Florida’s Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday this year, Gov. Rick Scott boasted, “families will be able to save money on school supplies and other back-to-school items that will set students up for success in the upcoming school year.” The only thing he left out was, “Remember to vote for me because I gave you 6 cents on the dollar.” Scott might tell voters what he will do if he is re-elected to another four years in office, but not beyond that, writes Bruce Ritchie. Scott holding a press conference to declare he wants to clean Florida’s water is sort of like Darth Vader declaring he supports intergalactic peace, says Dan Gelber. Israelis claim to have eliminated most of the tunnels and missiles and have pulled their ground troops out of Gaza and the killing has stopped for now. In the meantime, Bob Sparkspoints out that Israel’s critics in America need to remember our own history and what this country did when our people were being killed. Until we walk a mile in Israel’s shoes, let us save the sanctimony and put the pressure where it belongs.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Arlene DiBenigno.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.