Conservatives target Miami, DeSantis doesn’t target FPL, and corruption chronicles from Central Florida


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Campaign manager Mario Catalino carries campaign signs for county commissioner candidate Victor Vazquez in front of the pink snail sculpture at Precinct 609 at the Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center on Tuesday, August 23, 2022.

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It’s Monday, Sept. 12, and Miami continues to be the place to be for Florida politics this week. The week began with the launch of the three-day National Conservative Conference, a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation, in Aventura.

On Thursday the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will visit Miami, where a panel will hear arguments in the case challenging Florida’s 2021 elections law that placed restrictions on the use of “drop boxes” for vote-by-mail ballots and other changes.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

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El gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, lidera una tendencia del Partido Republicano que busca el poder administrativo para gobernar siguiendo los intereses del partido, escribe el analista Armando Armengol. En la foto, DeSantis, da un discurso en el evento para firmar la ley HB7 de “libertad individual”, el 22 de abril de 2022 en Hialeah Gardens, Florida. Daniel A. Varela [email protected]

DeSantis gives conference keynote: In addition to a lengthy line-up of conservative thinkers, the conference on Sunday featured two evening keynote addresses, one from U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and the other from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

According to the group’s Twitter feed, the governor repeated many of the talking points he’s been making on his road trips across the country. “We need to teach our kids that, in the American system, our rights come from God, not from the government,’’ he said.

“We have the capacity to ensure the most secure elections in the country. Our model is one that other states can emulate.” And: “Does immigration favor the interests of the American people? We’re not globalists. We don’t think anyone has the right to come here anytime they choose.”

Kansas bound: DeSantis continues his national tour next week to headline an event in Kansas for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the GOP nominee for governor.

Crist appears on The View: Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor, was featured live on ABC’s “The View” on Friday, where he got a grilling from host, and former Republican, Ana Navarro. She chided him for choosing a teachers union boss as his running mate and alleged Karla Hernández-Mats was a Fidel Castro sympathizer. Navarro also pummeled Crist about his past positions as a Republican, in which he said he was “pro-life.”

DeSantis rejected an invitation from The View’s hosts with the governor’s spokesperson, Bryan Griffin, sending a missive noting the insults the show has inflicted on the governor. Worth noting, Griffin added: “we don’t coordinate appearances or events of a political nature from the official office.”

Crist to campaign with Giffords: On Monday, Crist joins Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in for a bus tour across South Florida to discuss gun violence prevention.

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Teachers union president Karla Hernandez-Mats is gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s choice for lieutenant governor. Lynne Sladky AP

Florida as Gilead? Karla Hernández-Mats, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said Friday at a fundraiser in Miami that living in Florida is beginning to feel like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the dystopian novel from 1985 by Margaret Atwood.

She said laws that have passed under DeSantis, including a 15-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape and incest, the push to redraw the Legislature’s congressional map, and the state’s decision to reject certain math textbooks, to the fictitious Republic of Gilead., a military and religious dictatorship that overthrows the US government.

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A court ruling limiting the use of a special conservation trust fund, and created by voters in a 2014 constitutional amendment, has divided environmentalists over whether the money should be spent only to buy sensitive land or include for Everglades plumbing. Joe Rimkus Jr. MIAMI HERALD Staff

DeSantis gets Everglades Trust endorsement: Gov. Ron DeSantis received the endorsement of the Everglades Trust, leading environmental advocacy groups in the state. It’s been a Cinderella story for DeSantis, who four years ago gambled against Big Sugar and sided with the Trust as he rode the endorsement of then-President Donald Trump to the GOP nomination. The governor followed through with his commitment to tackling road blocks to Everglades restoration and replaced the entire South Florida Water Management District board with appointees less aligned with sugar interests.

Crist’s enviro offensive: A day after the DeSantis endorsement, Crist blasted DeSantis for his environmental record and the 2021 fish kill in Tampa Bay linked to red tide.

The dance-with-the-one-who-brought-you endorsement of DeSantis was likely a disappointment to Democrat Crist. His former chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, leads the Trust’s sister organization, the Everglades Foundation. As governor, Crist earned the support of the Trust and the Foundation when he and Eikenberg brokered a 2008 Everglades restoration land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp., which was bitterly fought by competing sugar company, Florida Crystals Corp., run by the Fanjul family.

Toll road promise: DeSantis last week announced he wants to expand the credit for frequent drivers on the state toll roads, saying he will ask the Legislature in 2023 to give frequent SunPass and E-Pass users a 50 percent monthly credit for a full year.

Crist courts young voters: Crist joined Democratic lawmakers and candidates in Orlando last week to get out the message to Generation Z voters that November’s elections for governor and Legislature will determine the future of abortion rights in Florida.

WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the Broward County Courthouse: ‘If there are certain rules and regulations in place, if people don’t think that those are going to be enforced, you’re going to have more violations.’ Amy Beth Bennett South Florida Sun Sentinel

‘Money talks’ for FPL: “Powerful people rigging elections is far more dangerous than 20 people allegedly voting illegally.”

That is the observation of Marvin Dunn, president of the Miami Center for Racial Justice at Barry University and a historian of race and civil rights in Florida, considering what he and others are calling “selective prosecution” of the state’s elections law.

DeSantis and his new Office of Election Crimes and Security last month arrested 19 convicted felons who were ineligible to vote but voted in 2020 after receiving state voter ID cards. But the same office says it won’t go after campaign finance schemes used by corporate donors like Florida Power & Light to hide the true sources of their election spending, in violation of the state’s ban on “straw donors.”

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Files leaked from inside Matrix political consulting firm show how the team planned to use a shell company called SUN Marketing & Advertising to funnel money to 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Documents show the company was used to pay Tim Fitzpatrick, the former FPL executive who took over operations at the Capitolist.

FPL’s committee gave to DeSantis: Among the beneficiaries of FPL’s money: Ron DeSantis. In his first run for governor, DeSantis received campaign cash from a nonprofit group secretly funded by FPL, secret documents obtained by the Miami Herald show.

Click here to read all our stories dissecting the secretive big-money by FPL and its consultant to secretly tilt elections in Florida.

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Under the proposal, the 1989 storm would have been factored into plans for expanding the capacity of power plants and making other changes to handle “peak” electricity demand during the winter. But the proposal drew opposition from the state Office of Public Counsel. Miami

Electric bills to increase more: Meanwhile, FPL is asking state regulators to raise rates next year, on top of the increases approved each of the next four years. FPL, along with Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co.,filed a petition with the Public Service Commission on Friday saying that the increased cost of natural gas has prompted their request for a rate increase.

Ghost candidate gets fine: The Florida Commission on Ethics recommended that Celso Alfonso, who ran as a no-party candidate in Senate District 39, be fined $250 for failing to report assets. He is the third ghost candidate state authorities have reprimanded in connection to key state Senate races in the 2020 election. However, the entities that funded the scheme, which involved bribing the candidates to siphon votes away from Democrats, have yet to be disclosed and prosecuted.

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Joel Greenberg, Seminole County Tax Collector was accused of impersonating an officer. Though a prosecutors report found he did not break any laws, officials said his actions were “inappropriate.” Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office

How deep is ‘pay to play’ corruption in Florida? Pretty deep if you believe disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

In a transcript of his jailhouse interview with state investigators in June, as part of the ghost candidate probe, Greenberg states under oath that county officials routinely dished out lucrative contracts to political allies, legislators prepared legislation for a local developer, candidates were paid to become “ghost” candidates in local races, and Republican Jason Brodeur “absolutely” knew about the scheme designed to siphon votes from his opponent to help him win a state Senate race in 2020. The Orlando Sentinel has the details.

Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a minor and several public corruption charges, is cooperating with state and federal investigators as part of a plea deal.

Brodeur’s boss takes note: The Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, where Brodeur serves as president, released this statement: “We believed we could separate Jason’s political career from his chamber career. Until recently, we accomplished this. However, there is no way to overstate that the alleged actions outlined in court testimony are unacceptable to us and has now eliminated that separation we wanted.”

Fourth lawsuit against “Stop WOKE”: Adriana Novoa, a University of South Florida history professor of 17 years who grew up under a dictatorship in Argentina before immigrating to the United States joined student Sam Rechek, head of USF’s First Amendment Forum and filed a federal lawsuit against the state last week seeking to block Florida’s “Individual Freedom” law (dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act” by DeSantis and supporters.) The plaintiffs argue that the measure impermissibly chills free expression and promotes unconstitutional censorship on the state’s college campuses.

The lawsuit is supported by the advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. A federal judge last month blocked a portion of the act that restricts workplace training programs related to race but similar provisions, relating to higher education restrictions, were not part of that lawsuit.

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In the past, Dr. Marvin Dunn has guided Students from the Gainesville area on a tour through the 5-acre Rosewood property he owns in Rosewood. The old Seaboard Airline Railway used to run through there. Provided by Marvin Dunn

Professor alleges racial targeting: Marvin Dunn, the Miami professor and one of Florida’s most prominent Black historians, said his group was targeted in a racially motivated altercation in historic Rosewood, a small North Florida city that was almost wiped off the map during infamous race riots a century ago.

Dunn, who has written several books about Florida’s troubled history on racial issues, said he and a small group were surveying a five-acre property he co-owns in Rosewood earlier this week when a white neighbor began questioning their intention.

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Senator Marco Rubio speaks at the “Keep Florida Free Tour” at Milander Center for the Arts & Entertainment in Hialeah on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. Al Diaz [email protected]

Rubio, loudest critic of FBI raid: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has emerged as one of the GOP’s foremost critics of the Justice Department investigation into former President Donald Trump. He has argued that it is nothing more than political payback from Democrats, dismissing concerns about the reported sensitivity of the documents sought by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago and denouncing media leaks he says come from the Justice Department.

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Judge Aileen Cannon, seen here while appearing by video before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during a July 2020 hearing. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

Judge at the center: Who is Aileen Cannon, the young conservative appointed to the federal bench by Trump in 2020 who has authority over the former president’s request for a special master? Cannon was raised in Miami by a mother from Cuba and a father from Indiana. She handed Trump a temporary victory last week, ruling that a neutral arbiter should be appointed to review potentially privileged records that FBI agents took from Trump’s residence during an Aug. 8 raid, stalling the Justice Department’s criminal case.

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A woman looks up at Maxx Fenning while he speaks in support of LGBTQ+ History Month in schools during a Miami-Dade School Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in downtown Miami. People from the public spoke to the board ahead of a vote on whether to again recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month, which the School Board approved last year. Alie Skowronski [email protected]

LGBTQ month: Indoctrination or authoritarianism? After more than three hours of nasty debate, the Miami-Dade School Board last week voted against adopting a measure to recognize October as LGBTQ month and to teach 12th graders about two landmark Supreme Court cases impacting the gay, lesbian and trans communities. Among the questions: Is it indoctrination to teach 12th graders about Supreme Court cases addressing LGBTQ discrimination, or is it pandering to authoritarian thinking to avoid the subjects?

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04/24/21–Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn was a speaker at Saturday’s Save America Patriot Rally held at Bradenton’s DeSoto Mall. Tiffany Tompkins [email protected]

Michael Flynn and Sarasota GOP: Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was sworn in last week as a member of the Sarasota GOP executive committee, becoming the latest election-denier to join the leadership ranks of the Florida GOP. Flynn, a retired Army general, tried to persuade former President Donald Trump to use the military to overturn the 2020 election.

Abortion and privacy: The next abortion battle in Florida will be over the privacy clause in Florida’s Constitution. The clause was cited in a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that held that Florida’s privacy clause protects abortion rights. Abortion opponents have long argued that the clause was not meant to protect abortion rights.

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Florida legislators approved $300,000 for safety improvements to Card Sound Road, shown hear in a photo from July 30, 2019. MATIAS J. OCNER [email protected]

Legislature’s $175 million veto loophole: Florida legislators now have a new work-around for when they face a veto of their local projects. On Friday, the Legislative Budget Commission, made up of 14 legislators, approved $175 million for 238 “local support grants,” that not only bypass the normal budgetary process, they can’t get vetoed by the governor. Some of the projects were included in the $3.1 billion vetoed by DeSantis in June, when he signed the state’s $110 billion budget but, Politico reports, some vetoed projects have been modified to allow legislators to say they are new items.

National Guard to staff prisons: Legislators also approved using $31.25 million to cover the costs of deploying the Florida National Guard to work at correctional facilities throughout the state, an emergency measure aimed at alleviating a staffing shortage that has plagued the prison system for years.

Gaming exec betting on FL sports books: A Magic City Casino executive Scott Savin told Gaming Today that he expects sports betting to come to the Florida’s pari-mutuel facilities soon – as soon as 2025. to get there, however, Florida legislators would need to legalize sports betting outside of the compact with the Seminole Tribe and voters would have to approve it.

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Las vacunas bivalentes contra el COVID-19 de Moderna y Pfizer-BioNTech ya están disponibles para los residentes del Condado Miami-Dade. Matt Rourke AP

Florida leads in COVID deaths: For the third month in a row, Florida’s COVID death toll grew faster than anywhere else in the country, as 1,614 people died from the virus in August, according to the Palm Beach Post. This is also the third summer that the state has been No. 1 for COVID deaths.

Florida has had four COVID waves and “mortality in the current wave in Florida [has] not been mild,’’ Jason Salemi, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Deaths among unvaccinated: Half of the more than 80,000 COVID-related deaths in Florida came after the full introduction of vaccines in the spring of 2021, according to a study by the Brown School of Public Health. As a result, Florida ranks 13th per capita in what the study calls “preventable” COVID deaths. College of Public Health, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Pedro Pan kids speak up: Former Pedro Pan kids and South Florida Democrats blasted Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez last week for her recent remarks about Cuban immigrants and the governor’s goal to bus undocumented immigrants out of the state.

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Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava talks to reporters, elected officials and guests about her proposed HOMES Plan. Jose A. Iglesias [email protected]

Reducing rents: A plan by Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava would pay landlords $10 million to lower rents for about 4,500 apartments rented to middle-class residents.

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Mary Ellen Klas is the state Capitol bureau chief for the Miami Herald, where she covers government and politics and focuses on investigative and accountability reporting. In 2018-19, Mary Ellen was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and was named the 2019 Murrey Marder Nieman Fellow in Watchdog Journalism. In 2018, she won the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Herald’s statehouse bureau is a joint operation with the Tampa Bay Times’ statehouse staff. Please support her work with a digital subscription. You can reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas.





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