Bill Nelson

Trump ‘trash talking’ Gillum as a ‘thief’

As Sunshine State voters line up to cast ballots at early voting sites or hunch over mail-in ballots at home, President Donald Trump flexed his multi-million-follower Twitter muscle today in Florida’s closely watched governor’s race.

Trump’s already thrown his support behind DeSantis, who quit Congress to focus on his bid to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Today’s presidential tweet — which went out to his 55.4 million followers and was retweeted to who-only-knows how many more — is the latest installment of the GOP’s “crime & corruption” meme targeting DeSantis’s opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gillum quickly fired back with a tweet of his own, repeating a mantra where he’s chided the president for failing to use the mayor’s @AndrewGillum handle (to make it easier for his  407,000 followers to be in the know about the presidential attacks).

DeSantis and his supporters, including Trump, are making hay of the drip-drip-drip of documents being released by Christopher Kise, a Republican lawyer who represents Tally lobbyist Adam Corey. Corey appears to be at the heart of a years-long corruption probe by the FBI into Tallahassee city government. The documents, released in batches by Kise, are in response to an ethics complaint lodged against Gillum. The records show that Gillum accepted a ticket from “Mike Miller,” a faux developer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” two years ago.

Miller also dropped nearly $5,000 on a fundraiser for a committee linked to Gillum, prior to the mayor officially joining the governor’s race. The committee never reported the contribution.

Despite being branded a “thief” by the president, Gillum has repeatedly denied that he’s done anything wrong, and he maintains he’s not the subject of the FBI inquiry.

As for the Sunshine State capital’s rep as “one of the most corrupt cities in the Country,” we’re not sure what metric arrived at that conclusion.

But, in a state where the last governor’s races were determined by fewer than 100,000 votes, Trump’s social media reach might make a difference.

And if his virtual self doesn’t sway voters, perhaps his actual self will.

The part-time Florida man is stumping in two Florida GOP strongholds this week, to boost support for Scott — who’s trying to boot U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson out of his long-held seat — and DeSantis.

Trump’s coming to Fort Myers Wednesday, and he’ll be in Pensacola on Saturday.

Not-so-sexy beaches, a la Billy Corben

WARNING — It’s difficult to watch, but Miami filmmaker Billy Corben‘s tongue-in-cheek video playing off a somewhat less controversial Pitbull “Sexy Beaches” spot for Visit Florida is a must-see.

Corben’s clip stars the green slime that’s inundated Florida waterways and the dead fish, manatees and other creatures killed off by the effects of red tide creeping along both coastlines.

Visit Florida drew heat for a controversial contract inked with Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. The secrecy involving the $1 million contract with Pitbull cost the head of the public-private tourism agency his job late in 2016. Pitbull revealed the terms of the contract on Twitter, showing Visit Florida had paid him $1 million to pimp the state on social media, at concerts and on a “Sexy Beaches” video.

Florida Dems pimped Corben’s video, pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Scott (as does the film pastiche) for the toxic water situation that’s making people sick, closing Florida beaches and shuttering shore-front businesses. As widespread as they are, the red tide and toxic algae outbreaks could be problematic for Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate.

For a flashback to what the state’s #SexyBeaches once looked like, check out Pitbull’s video.

Throwback Wednesday: Connie Mack IV, Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign trope about the length of time his opponent, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, has spent in office, with ads featuring such things as broken-down Pintos to illustrate what was going on when Nelson was first elected to the Senate nearly two decades ago.

But Scott’s camp had its throwback moment of sorts this week, with the release of a spot that accuses Nelson of having “voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare.”

It’s an abbreviated version of a charge hurled by former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV in his losing race against Nelson six years ago.

But it isn’t true, according to Politifact, which repeatedly debunked the accusation made by Mack and other Republicans following the passage of President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Four times during a debate in 2012, Mack accused Nelson of voting to cut $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Here’s an excerpt from Politifact’s ruling, back in the day:

Medicare spending increases under Obamacare, but over 10 years, it rises more slowly that it would without the law. The money comes from reducing payments to insurance companies and hospitals.

Part of the savings go to reduce prescription drug payments for Medicare recipients, as well as to provide free preventive care.

Overall, the lower spending extends the solvency of Medicare by eight years.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

“It’s absurd to be leveling a charge that was used by Connie Mack IV to attack Bill Nelson six years ago,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Wednesday evening, pointing out that the allegation about voting to take money from Medicare was “repeatedly debunked” by Politifact.

The ad, entitled “Responsibility,” punches Nelson for a recent anti-Scott spot, launched by Majority Forward, that hits on Scott’s role in the Medicare fraud involving Columbia/HCA. The hospital company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicaid fraud, after Scott stepped down as CEO of the chain. Here’s Politifact breaking down the Scott/HCA allegations.

 

And here’s the ad, released by Majority Forward Tuesday,  that prompted the rebuttal:

Nelson takes to Senate floor to blast child separation

A day after being denied entry to a federal detention facility housing approximately 1,000 undocumented children, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to report his experience and scold President Donald Trump for what he called a “shameful” policy of separating children from undocumented families seeking asylum at the border.

The 94 children at the Homestead facility are among the 174 children — some of them who are still nursing — who have been removed from their loved ones and are being housed in detention facilities in the Florida, according to Nelson.

Nelson said he was told by the deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that the senior senator from Florida needed to fill out a form and wait two weeks to gain access to the facility, despite serving on the committee that oversees the agency.

“The question is why do they not want the senator from Florida to get into this detention facility where there are children that have been separated from their parents,” he said. “It must be that … this is being directed from the president and the White House and they don’t want me to see it because they don’t want us to know what is going on in there.”

Nelson, a Democrat who’s in the toughest election battle of his life as he squares off against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is part of a growing chorus calling on Trump — who’s blamed the situation on Democrats for inaction on immigration reform — to reverse the policy, initiated by the Trump administration earlier this year.

“It’s up to him. He doesn’t need Congress to act. He and he alone is allowing this shameful practice to continue and he alone can stop it right now,” Nelson said.

The senator, who joined U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and incoming state House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee in the futile attempt to access the detention center, said he wanted to inspect the facility for himself.

“Is the facility clean? Are the children sleeping in beds? Are they sleeping on the floor? Are they having adequate care? And if they were, I could report that that was a good news story,” Nelson said.

Yesterday evening, Scott — a close ally of Trump — sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, demanding information about the children being warehoused in Florida.

“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families. This practice needs to stop now,” Scott wrote in his harshest take on the issue yet, after returning from his seventh trip to Puerto Rico following island-ravaging Hurricane Maria in September.

Scott asked for details about where the children were being housed, if they were receiving health screenings, and what other services are being provided.

Scott drops $3.2 million on TV this week in “dogfight” against Nelson

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan told us this morning that incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson “is in for a dogfight” against Rick Scott, the Republican outgoing governor who’s trying to oust the veteran senator.

Judging by the amount of money Scott’s campaign dropped on TV ads this week alone, Morgan’s characterization of the race may be an understatement.

According to Scott’s camp, they dropped $3.2 million on TV spots this week alone — including on two Spanish-language ads as the governor relentlessly woos Hispanic voters.

That brings to $8 million the total Scott’s campaign has spent on television in a little more than a month since he announced his entry into the race.

The latest ad, “Cambiar,” focuses on Scott’s pledge to “change” Washington.

We did notice that the two Spanish-language ads feature some of the same stars, but no matter.

A second ad, “Presente,” tambien en español, highlights Scott’s efforts to aid Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The third ad relies on an English-speaking cast of characters who blast Nelson for, well, being too much of a Democrat and “voting the party line.”

Which is a bit odd, since — until this year, when he supported a school-safety measure that included some gun restrictions — Scott had never been viewed as a politician who was known for bridging the partisan divide.

 

John Morgan: “If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried”

IMG_0124Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan held court with reporters moments before a hearing in a lawsuit he initiated kicked off Wednesday morning.

Morgan is a political rainmaker who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida and was overwhelmingly approved by voters nearly two years ago.

Morgan, who had toyed with the notion of running for governor, spoke about his decision to stay out of the governor’s race.

“I’ll tell you. To run for governor, you’ve got to be done making money. And I’m not done making money. Or you have to be a professional politician. And I’m not a professional politician,” he said.

Morgan said he spoke yesterday with Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach Miami who is a contender in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not in ‘cause I would win in a landslide,” Morgan said, adding that he didn’t know which Democrat would capture the nomination.

“All I know is I’ve never known any governor that’s ever done anything for any of us. Ever. So it’s not a job that I really think I’d be good at every day. I’m better at this,” he said, standing outside the courtroom.

Morgan also said he supported House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s decision to stay on the sidelines in the governor’s race.

Morgan said Corcoran visited him a few weeks ago.

“I said, look, here’s the deal. It’s all about money. And if you don’t got the money, you can’t run. I said at the end of the day, questions answer themselves. And I think the question was answered for Richard Corcoran when the money froze up,” Morgan said.

While Corcoran is a friend and someone he would have helped, Morgan said the Land O’ Lakes Republican made the right choice.

“I think he made the right decision because I think he would have gotten beat and I think he knew he was going to get beat. And if I’m going to get beat, I don’t like to go to my own ass-kicking,” Morgan said.

Morgan also had what appeared to be a dim view of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s odds against challenger Rick Scott, who’s finishing his last year as governor.

“I think Sen Nelson is in for a dog fight. I think he’s got to get busy. You cannot underestimate this Rick Scott. He is a methodical, Eveready bunny, a bald-headed Eveready bunny who just never stops. He’s focused, and he’s got the money, and he’s got the message, and if I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried,” he said.

 

Ho-hum. Chamber endorses Scott.

Surprise, surprise.

Days after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rolled out a six-figure ad buy to attack Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Chamber — along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the political committee affiliated with the Jacksonville Chamber —  endorsed Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his bid to unseat the veteran Florida Democrat.

Scott’s campaign declared that “this is the first time in Florida history that local, state and national Chambers of Commerce have come together to announce a joint campaign endorsement.”

The announcement is the focus of Scott’s day, according to the schedule distributed by the governor’s office.

His office schedule simply lists “staff and call time (via phone)” at 10:35 a.m., while the campaign is holding events today in Jacksonville and Orlando for a “major announcement.”

By Jim Turner.