Sunburn for 8/2 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

HAPPY TAX-FREE WEEKEND 2013! 

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LIBERAL GROUPS LEAD 2014, 2016 MONEY RACES via Byron Tau and Tarini Parti of POLITICO

Groups backing Democratic candidates and causes in 2014 and 2016 all posted robust fundraising numbers, as did organizations supporting President Barack Obama’s top second-term priorities. Conservative groups – accustomed to dominating the outside money game – underperformed expectations with lackluster hauls. In the battle for control of the House, the Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC raised $3 million in the first six months of the year. On the other side of the aisle, both GOP groups working on behalf of Republican House candidates failed to raise more than $1 million – combined. The YG Action Fund raised about $170,000, while the Congressional Leadership Fund took in just under $600,000. … GOP mega-donors could easily write a couple of checks to close the gap …

Rove-backed outside groups – the super PAC American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS – posted a $3.37 million joint haul. That’s off the pace from a similar point in the 2011 – something that a spokesman chalked up to the lack of an ongoing presidential race. … The group Senate Majority PAC, which only focuses on Democratic Senate candidates, matched the two GOP-leaning groups, posting about a $3 million haul. On the research side, Republicans have set up an operation to mirror the Democratic research and tracking firm American Bridge. That effort, America Rising, took in just $22,048 since launch in February … American Bridge, which has been in operation since late 2010, raised about $3 million in conjunction with its nonprofit arm and plans to spend about $18 million for the 2014 cycle. Organizing for Action, the nonprofit formed by former Obama campaign staffers to support the president’s agenda, has posted one of the biggest fundraising numbers of the last six months. The group raised $13.1 million dollars according to voluntarily released fundraising totals.

THE OBAMA PARADOX FOR HOUSE DEMOCRATS via Roll Call

House Democrats face a conundrum in 2014: They can’t run with the president, but they don’t want to run without his campaign organization either.

On the surface, vulnerable Democrats in conservative districts will likely be aided by President Barack Obama’s absence from the ballot in 2014. But in some districts, Democrats will miss the president’s campaign organization and robust turnout operation.

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MARCO RUBIO BRUSHES OFF JESSE JACKSON’S COMMENTS via POLITICO

Rubio brushed off Rev. Jesse Jackson’s comments on Florida being “the Apartheid state” and the “Selma of our time,” saying outrageous comments by the civil rights advocate aren’t unusual.

“I think Jesse Jackson unfortunately has a long history of making outrageous comments and the only thing sadder than those comments is the fact that people still pay attention to some of them,” the Florida Republican said on Fox News’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto.” “I think…people that live in Florida or have visited Florida know how outrageous those comments are.”

On Tuesday, Jackson made the comments which prompted Gov. Scott to demand an apology for the “reckless” and “divisive” comments.

MY TAKE: JACKSON’S COMMENTS MORE IGNORANT THAN OFFENSIVE Full blog post here

Jackson’s statement that Florida is an “apartheid state” and “the Selma of our time” is possibly even more ignorant than it is offensive, particularly in light of data regarding the use of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which he and others have gathered around the capitol to protest.

The data I refer to have been compiled and analyzed by the Tampa Bay Times as an ongoing look at more than 200 fatal “Stand Your Ground” cases across Florida. This is the most comprehensive list of its type, accounting for data such as the race, age and gender of the people involved, whether the “Stand Your Ground” defense was accepted or rejected in court, and the outcome of the case.

Analysis of these cases reveals a few things that Jackson might want to consider before continuing his racist tirade.

First, per capita, black Floridians have utilized the “Stand Your Ground” defense more than white defendants have; and when used, the “Stand Your Ground” defense has a greater frequency of success when used by black defendants than by white defendants.  Specifically, black defendants who invoke the statute to justify their actions are acquitted of the charges 8% more frequently than whites who use invoke the law in their own defense.

This is important to note because the premise of Jackson’s protest rests on the misguided assumption that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws are intrinsically racist; or worse, have been utilized in a way that promotes discrimination against blacks.

This is simply not so, no matter how you cut the data.

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FRANK ARTILES MIGHT RUN FOR CONGRESS via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

State Rep. Frank Artiles is examining a run for Florida’s most-scandalous Congressional seat in a bid that could spell a bloody GOP primary in the shadow of big-dollar outside interests from the Genting Group casino company to the Miami Dolphins.

For the past few days, Artiles has been phoning political players about running for Congressional District 26 and even spoke Wednesday night to one of his potential Republican opponents, Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo.

“Carlos Curbelo is a friend of mine; I don’t have a problem with him,” said Artiles, stressing that he hasn’t made up his mind yet on whether to run for office.

“Miami politics is a full-contact sport.”

FREDERICA WILSON AND HER HATS HIGHLIGHTED AS ONE OF THE HILL’S MOST BEAUTIFUL

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson was famous as a state legislator in Florida for her wearing of well-coordinated hats, and has continued to make an impression on the national scene in Congress.  She was named as one of the Hill’s Most Beautiful People of 2013, where it was stated: “The Florida Democrat, 70, quickly stood out from the freshman class of 2010 because of her spectacular collection of hats. She told our colleague Robin Givhan that she owns about 300.”  Wilson ranked at #7 on the list.

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS COMBAT CAMPAIGN FINANCE

The Campaign Legal Center co-filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court uphold campaign financing caps in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) lawsuit, which could once again expand campaign financing in the wake of the Citizens United decision. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education fund, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, AARP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the League of Women Voters of the United States, Progressives United, and Public Campaign also signed the brief.

RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE?

The federal minimum wage would be $10.74 instead of $7.25 if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, according to Raise the Minimum Wage. These findings come on the heels of a national minimum wage day of action and an eruption of strikes in seven cities by fast food workers demanding both a living wage and right to form a union. The National Employment Law Project also released an infographic exposing the largest low-wage employers. Check it out here.

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BENNETT RESIGNS

BENNETT FLOPS TWICE IN A YEAR via Jeff Henderson of Sunshine State News

Conservatives expected Tony Bennett to be a leading education reformer, but he could never get out of his own way, which is why he lost two education positions since November.

… Even before there were allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school backed by a large Republican donor, Bennett was bedeviled by a problem all conservatives wanting to reform education have to confront: how to win suburban voters who might lean Republican but who are convinced their children’s schools are wonderful and don’t need to be changed.

… Bennett had an opportunity to build on Jeb Bush’s education reforms in Florida. The education reforms Bennett backed in Indiana were more popular in the cities than in other parts of the state and that could have been the case in Florida. Bennett had the support of Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans. It appeared he had the opportunity to play a leading role in reshaping assessment and implementing Common Core in Florida.

But, eight months after the state Board of Education unanimously backed him, he resigned. Bennett simply didn’t spend enough time in Florida to leave much of a legacy and it’s telling that Bush and his allies talked more about his record in Indiana than in Florida in the statements they sent out on Thursday.

SCOTT, BUSH PRAISE BENNETT ON HIS WAY OUT via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Scott had some kind words for Bennett … “What I can tell you is Tony did a great job here,” Scotts aid.

Earlier in the day, Bennett told reporters that Scott had been among his supporters, and had even encouraged him to remain in the role after the news broke on Monday. Bennett said he resigned to avoid further districations.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush also praised Bennett Thursday, pointing specifically to his accomplishments as Indiana’s education chief.

“Tony started every day with the focus of creating a system that would equip kids to achieve their God-given potential,” Bush wrote in a statement. “Today, more Hoosier kids are graduating high school ready for college or a career and fewer are dropping out. Last year, the parents of nearly 10,000 children in low-income homes were able to select the school that best fit their son or daughter. Leadership is doing what is right, knowing the results will follow. The data is clear; thanks to Tony’s leadership children are better prepared for success.”

SCOTT DEALS WITH ANOTHER EMBARRASSING RESIGNATION via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Scott’s effort to re-invent himself as the education governor took another hit on Thursday.

With the resignation of his education commissioner over charges he’d inflated grades at charter schools for political reasons, Scott is again left searching for someone to lead a high-profile agency that has been a revolving door since he took office in 2011.

And it is raising political questions about Scott’s eye for talent in filling top leadership positions. In the last 15 months alone, six top Scott administration officials have resigned amid controversy.

TWEET, TWEET: @JeremySWallace: Is there guv in country that has lost runningmate, chief o staff, & major depart heads like @FLGovScott in < 1yr?

STATE BOARD OF ED TO CONFERENCE TODAY RE: INTERIM COMMISSIONER. 11:00 a.m. Call-in number: 866-318-8612; Passcode: 59457686

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: DEM LAWMAKERS TO CALL FOR RETURN OF ELECTED EDUCATION COMMISSIONER: Senator Dwight Bullard and Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez will hold a call with the media to call for the Florida Education Comissioner to be directly elected by the people of Florida once again. “In the aftermath of Tony Bennett’s grade-fixing scandal, they will call for increased accountability for those who are charged with holding our schools accountable,” reads the statement. 10:30 a.m.

FLORIDA COULD HAVE A TOUGH TIME SNAGGING NEW ED COMMISH via The Gradebook

Despite its national reputation in school reform circles, Florida hasn’t found it easy to attract — or keep — a leader since Gov. Scott took office. Three commissioners and two interim commissioners have gone through the state Department of Education in Scott’s 31 months.

That track record could make it tough for Florida to recruit top-tier candidates.

“Good luck with that,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, who called Bennett’s departure a “big loss for Florida.”

Andy Smarick, former deputy education commissioner for New Jersey and a player in reform circles, said the constant churn sends the wrong signal.

“People qualified to be state chiefs take very seriously the political environment in the states they are considering,” he said. “They know changes in elections, changes in state boards, can leave them quickly without a job. That’s an issue.”

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FLORIDA GOP PAID DEMOCRATIC FIRM TO CONDUCT PRIVATE POLLING via Matt Dixon of the Florida Times-Union

The Republican Party of Florida has paid a prominent Democratic consulting firm $12,596 as part of a “private polling project.”

The state GOP paid the money to Clearview Research in June for “polling,” according to campaign finance records. That firm is owned by VancoreJones Communications, Inc., a Tallahassee-based consulting firm that’s well-known in Democratic circles.

It’s the first time RPOF has used Clearview. It has never used VancoreJones, records show.

“Clearview Research was used for a small, private polling project,” wrote RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth in an email. “Our team felt this firm was the best choice for this particular project as it did not involve a contested race with a Democratic candidate.”

She did not answer questions about what specific candidate or issue was being polled, or the size of the expenditure. At nearly $13,000, the expenditure would represent an expensive poll if it was for a single campaign.

Screven Watson, a partner with VancoreJones, said he could not discuss the issue because of a confidentiality clause.

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JOHN MORGAN: REPUBLICANS “SWEATING ALL OVER THE INTERNET” ABOUT CHARLIE CRIST via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

For months, the Florida Republican Party has been launching attacks on the former GOP governor widely expected to run for governor as a Democrat next year.

“I got a thing in the Morgan household, never let them see you sweat. Well, they’re sweating all over the Internet,” Morgan told reporters before delivering a speech to Tallahassee’s Tiger Bay Club. “He’s still a private citizen, and they’re falling apart. It’s premature.”

Morgan, a longtime fundraiser for Crist who hired him at his powerhouse law firm after Crist’s unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate race, said he expected the former governor to make an announcement by October.

… Morgan said Crist had “$50 million worth of name-ID” and another $50 million in “positive feelings” accrued among voters the state.

“Charlie Crist is also someone who’s going to be able to go to New York, Chicago, D.C., and California and raise unbelievable amounts of money,” Morgan said.

“There’s no Democratic governor [in the South]. If Charlie Crist was the governor, he’d be the first Southern domino to move the South. So, i think you’ll see a lot of people from outside of Florida that have a big interest.”

RICK SCOTT’S FUNDRAISING COMMITTEE AT $9.3 MILLION FOR 2013 via The News Service of Florida

After collecting $3.2 million in June, fundraising slowed a bit in July for the political committee backing Gov. Scott’s re-election bid.

The “Let’s Get to Work” committee posted $563,273 in contributions in July, which brings the organization’s 2013 total to $9.3 million.

Among the big July contributors was Crystal Lagoons USA, which chipped in $101,000. Crystal Lagoons is the U.S. branch of Chile-based pool manufacturer Crystal Lagoons Corp., which Scott announced in May was setting up in Miami.

Also, Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, contributed $50,000. Meanwhile, Hartman & Tyner, the owner of Mardi Gras Casino, which includes the greyhound track in Hallandale Beach, contributed $100,000.

In a National Review story last month, Scott said he expected to have $25 million in the bank by the end of the year to use “in early 2014 to define my opponent.”

The Tallahassee-based political organization drew $4.8 million for all of 2012.

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DUKE ENERGY REACHES REVISED MULTI-YEAR SETTLEMENT WITH FLORIDA CONSUMER ADVOCATES

Duke Energy Florida today filed a revised settlement agreement with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) that provides long-term clarity for Florida customers, the company and other key stakeholders. Developed collaboratively with the Office of Public Counsel and other consumer advocates, the revised settlement agreement contains provisions related to the Crystal River 3 nuclear plant (CR3), the proposed Levy nuclear project, the Crystal River 1 and 2 coal units, and future generation needs in Florida.

Major components of the revised settlement agreement include: (1) Addressing issues related to the company’s decision to retire CR3, CR3 costs to be recovered in customer rates and the acceptance of the Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited (NEIL) mediator’s proposal; (2)Terminating the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement for the Levy nuclear project; (3) Establishing a framework for Duke Energy Florida to construct or acquire natural gas-fired generation.; (4) Allowing recovery of investments in CR3, the Levy nuclear project and the Crystal River 1 and 2 coal units, subject to limited prudence reviews as outlined in the agreement; and (5) Extending the company’s current base rate freeze an additional two years, through the end of 2018.

Additionally, Duke will write-off $295 million associated with CR3 and $65 million related to the wholesale allocation of investments in the Levy nuclear project, as well as accelerate the recovery of $135 million in cash flows related to CR3. As a result, Duke will recognize pretax charges of approximately $360 million in the second quarter of 2013. These non-cash charges will be treated as special items and, therefore, excluded from Duke Energy’s adjusted diluted earnings per share.The revised settlement agreement is subject to review and approval of the FPSC, which is expected by the end of 2013.

In February 2013, Duke decided to retire CR3 rather than attempt a complex and costly first-of-a-kind repair. The company also announced resolution of its insurance coverage claims related to CR3 through a mediation process with NEIL.  Under the terms of the mediator’s proposal, customers and the CR3 joint owners receive the benefit of $835 million in insurance proceeds. This is the largest claim payout in the history of NEIL.   The FPSC currently has an open regulatory proceeding to review several issues, including: (1) the company’s previous decision to retire CR3; (2) the acceptance of the mediator’s proposal resolving NEIL coverage; (3) the costs of the CR3 repairs from February 2012 to the present; and (4) the components of the CR3 investment balance that are eligible for recovery beginning in 2017. The revised settlement agreement, if approved, resolves the current pending regulatory docket before the FPSC.

Other provisions: As indicated by the company’s 10-year site plan, Duke projects a significant need for additional generation in service by 2018 to replace CR3 and the possible closing of Crystal River 1 and 2 before 2018. The company is evaluating various sites in Florida, including Citrus County, south of the Levy County site, for a new state-of-the-art, clean-burning natural gas-fired plant.

The revised settlement agreement contains provisions that allow the company to construct, acquire or add to existing generation of up to 1,150 megawatts of gas-fired generation with an in-service date prior to the end of 2017. Prudently incurred costs are recoverable without a general rate case. Duke will also agree to extend its current general base rate freeze for an additional two years through the end of 2018 as long as the company’s return on equity does not drop below 9.5 percent.

CRITICS REACT TO DUKE’S PLANS

Rep. Dwight Dudley: “I believe that this moment could mark a transition toward coherent energy policy in the state of Florida…However, we cannot allow this victory to cloud our focus. Until the tax has been repealed, once and for all, the utility companies will still have the power to do as they please … I will continue to fight until the power has been restored to consumers.”

Rep. Mike Fasano: “Duke Progress have not been honest with the customers, legislature and the Florida Public Service Commission. I have unsuccessfully tried to repeal the cost recovery tax – I have said many times Duke Progress would never build the nuclear power plants in Levy County. It’s time for a full investigation and for the Public Service Commission and Florida Legislature to step up to plate and hold the utility accountable. 1 billion dollars has been paid to Duke Progress by its customers and those customers will never get anything for the dollars they paid out.”

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INTERNET CARE RE-OPENS IN JACKSONVILLE via Larry Hannan of the St. Augustine Record

Months after the Florida Legislature passed a bill to outlaw them, an “Internet cafe” has reopened in Jacksonville with its employees wearing T-shirts with bulls eyes on the back.

“We were told by the city that we opened at our own risk and that we would have bulls eyes on our backs,” said Pete Miller, general manager of Pete’s Retreat Cyber Cafe on Normandy Boulevard.

Pete’s Retreat is owned by William Carpenter of North Carolina. Miller said he was speaking on behalf of the owner.

Like every other Internet cafe in Florida, Pete’s Retreat shut down in April after lawmakers passed a bill that banned about 1,000 strip-mall gaming centers from using slot-machine-like computer games. It reopened for business at 6 p.m. Friday and had about 70 people show up that night. On Monday, about 245 people came, Miller said.

Miller said Pete’s Retreat has overhauled how it operates to conform with the new law but acknowledges that police may disagree.

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HEARING that former Broward GOP Chair Richard DeNapoli might file to run for House District 74 which is currently held by term-limited Rep. Doug Holder. Venice Republican Julio Gonzalez has already raised $76,200 for the race.

REP. JAKE RABURN ENDORSES BLAISE INGOGLIA FOR HD 35

Blaise Ingoglia announced on Thursday the endorsement of State Rep. Jake Raburn.  Raburn joins seven other House members and twelve other state legislators in his endorsement of the Brooksville Republican.  “Blaise Ingoglia has been a leader in Hernando and throughout our state advocating for lower taxes, less government, more personal responsibility and personal freedom,” stated Rep. Raburn. “I also appreciate Blaise’s strong commitment to strengthening Florida’s education system, so each and every child has an opportunity to succeed.  I enthusiastically endorse and support Blaise Ingoglia’s campaign for State House, District 35.”

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NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Fred Baggett, Greenberg Traurig: Florida Association of Court Clerks Services Group; The Lighter Association

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: Univita Health, Inc.

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FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via former Senator Paula Dockery: “Ok, here’s my big news: After a 3-month writing hiatus, I have decided to write a weekly self-syndicated political column. I start next week. Several papers have already picked it up: (Lakeland) Ledger, (Ft Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Tampa Tribune. Several others in discussions.”

WEEKEND TV

Flashpoint Orlando on WKMG 6: Orange County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Jenkins.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: PolitiFact’s Angie Drobnic Holan, The Tampa Bay Times’ Ernest Hooper, political consultant Mark Proctor, and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.

Political Connections on Orlando’s 13 News: Dan Krassner, Executive Director of Integrity Florida.

Political Connections on Tampa Bay’s BayNews 9: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The Usual Suspects on Tallahassee’s WCTV: John Morgan.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my good friend, Kevin Cate. Also celebrating today is former Speaker Dean Cannon. This weekend, wish Lisa Ard a happy birthday.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.