Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Manatee lawmakers score high with National Rifle Association

Lawmakers in Washington and in Tallahassee representing Manatee County, who may find themselves in the midst of a new gun control debate in the wake of the Newtown massacre, have scored high marks with the National Rifle Association.

The NRA's Political Victory Fund most recently gave U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan a 92 percent rating based on his votes and positions on issues of interest to the NRA. By comparison, Buchanan's opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Keith Fitzgerald, received a 17 percent ranking, according to information compiled by Project Vote Smart.

But Buchanan's positions on issues important to the NRA and other gun rights activists did not translate into a financial boon for his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Buchanan most recently received a total of $1,000 in contributions from the "gun rights industry," not enough to crack the Top 50 industries supporting Buchanan. (No. 1 was the "health professionals" industry, with almost $251,000 for his campaign committee or his political action committee.)

A caveat: The data does not capture how much of the more than $2.5 million in contributions to Buchanan or his PAC he received from members of the NRA or other gun rights organizations.

At least in Florida, support from the NRA has not automatically translated into political success.

In 2012, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who also scored a 92 percent ranking from the NRA, received a total of $38,351 from the gun rights industry -- the most among Florida congressional candidates. But he lost his bid for re-election.

On the state level, Manatee's three representatives also scored high marks from the NRA.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; and Rep. Greg Steube, R-Parrish, each received 92 percent rankings from the NRA in 2012, according to Project Vote Smart. Their respective opponents were not included in the listing.

A review of their campaign finance reports did not reveal support from any political action committees or individuals associated with the gun industry. The reports, which are filed with the Florida Division of Elections, also do not reveal whether individual donors are members of the NRA or other gun rights organization.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rep. Vern Buchanan introduces bill to suspend aid to Egypt

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Tuesday upped his campaign to hold the Egyptian government accountable for recent actions by introducing legislation to suspend aid to the country.

Here's the press release:

Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today introduced legislation to immediately suspend U.S. aid to Egypt saying, “American tax dollars must not be used to aid and abet any dictatorial regime that stands with terrorists.” 
The Suspend Aid to Egypt Act comes in response to Egypt’s public support of the terrorist group Hamas and Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s recent decree granting himself absolute power over his country’s Judiciary. 
“Sending billions of hard-earned American dollars to a country that supports Hamas is immoral and irresponsible,” said Buchanan. 
“America is drowning in a sea of debt.  We should not attempt to buy friends across the world that do not have our best interests in mind.  Egypt has proven unworthy of our tax dollars and until they do I am calling for the immediate suspension of U.S. aid to that country.” 
Specifically, Buchanan’s bill immediately and indefinitely suspends all military and foreign assistance to Egypt.  Despite turmoil in the region, the Obama Administration is moving ahead with billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. 
Since 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, receiving an average of $2 billion annually. 
Last year, following the uprisings that forced out President Mubarak, the White House agreed to provide Egypt with $1 billion in debt relief in the hope of advancing a democratic transition. 
Earlier this month, in an unprecedented power grab, President Morsi issued a decree granting himself absolute authority over his country’s judiciary.  Morsi has since rescinded the decree but has refused to cancel a referendum, scheduled for Saturday, on a controversial draft constitution. 
On September 11, 2012, protestors climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and desecrated the American flag in the absence of adequate protection from the Egyptian government.

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's leadership bid ruffles Democratic feathers

State Rep. Darryl Rouson's bid to be leader of Florida House Democrats in 2014-16 isn't sitting well with some Democrats. And it may be costing the lawmaker, who represents part of Manatee County influence on election reform, which he sees as one of his signature issues in next year's session.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
For Democrats, it's a strategically important choice. Having picked up five seats in the House in November for a total of 44, they need a dynamic leader who can raise money, recruit candidates and keep the momentum going heading into 2014. 
Rouson, 58, a lawyer, is one of the most skilled debaters in the House, works hard and is viewed as less overtly partisan than some fellow Democrats. His inspiring life story of recovery from drug addiction is one he's proud to tell. 
But Democrats are muttering in the Capitol corridors that Rouson's pursuit of the leader's post is over the top and that he sought signed pledges of support two weekends ago at a casual caucus retreat in Fort Lauderdale. 
"I feel they are being pressured to make a decision way too early," said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach. 
Rouson, who loves a good fight, said he "caught them all flat-footed" by lining up pledges.
"The only speed I know is go," he said. "I got in this race conceivably a little late."
Jones has the title of minority leader pro tem, placing her within the inner circle of Rep. Perry Thurston, the current Democratic leader. Jones, 44, a Jacksonville native, is a special assistant to Mayor Alvin Brown and refuses to solicit pledges from lawmakers. 
She calls Rouson's pledge-seeking efforts "shenanigans," because the eventual vote by caucus members (likely before March) will be by secret ballot. She says Rouson "badgers" members to take sides before seeing the contenders do their jobs as legislators. 
"I have been working on making them understand who I am," Jones said. 
She would be the first woman to lead the House Democratic caucus since 2000, when Lois Frankel held the post. (Frankel just earned a seat in Congress.) 
Rouson wants a big role in shaping elections reform. He has filed a bill to address problems with last month's vote, and in October he held a press conference with former Gov. Charlie Crist alongside. 
But Thurston, as minority leader, appoints ranking members in each area, and in elections, he chose Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa. 
In case nobody but Rouson got the message, Thurston held a news conference last week to introduce Cruz as the Democrats' leader on elections matters. Rouson was nowhere in sight.
If Rouson wants to work on elections issues, Thurston said, "He will work through Rep. Cruz."

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/12/11/4312351/in-democratic-leadership-battle.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rep. Vern Buchanan: No room for 'posturing' on 'fiscal cliff'

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Friday spoke about the ongoing "fiscal cliff" during an appearance on national television Friday morning. Erika Bolstad of the Herald's Washington Bureau reports:
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, told a national television audience Friday morning that the President and Congress must "get out of the business of political posturing" to prevent pending tax increases and spending cuts. 
"We’re going bankrupt if we don’t figure out how to do this in a big way," Buchanan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. "I know how this works after being in business for over thirty years. At the end of the day, you get in the room and don’t leave until it’s done."
For more on the ongoing "posturing," negotiations or whatever, read more at Bradenton.com/fiscal-cliff.

Manatee Democrats elect new chairwoman

In December, The Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee elected new officers. Patty Benson, who is front and center, is the new chairwoman of the Manatee Democratic Party. She is surrounded, from left to right by Mitch Mallett, state committeeman; treasurer Carole Grayson; vice chairman Tom Finnerty; precinct development chair Petra Fuhrmans; and treasurer Jeff Stevens. Susie Copeland, state committeewoman and secretary Tom Ryan are not in the photo. PROVIDED PHOTO.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Magazine: Florida has the 6th worst state legislature

In ranking the nation's 50 state legislatures, a writer for Mother Jones magazine concludes that the bodies offered the best possible argument for gridlock. After all, sometimes getting things done can be a lot worse than the alternative."

Florida's was rated the sixth worst legislature, better than only statehouses in Tennessee (the worst), Oklahoma, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Georgia.

Here's the case, according to Mother Jones, against the Florida Legislature:
GOP State Sen. Joe Negron, chair of the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, proposed slashing $76 million from the state's mental health budget,arguing that the mentally ill were simply weak-willed and should learn to fend for themselves. 
"I would argue that the majority of things that people do that cause negative things to happen to [them] and the people they care about are not a result of the lack of information, they're a result of a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, a lack of character." 
Under committee bill 7170 "information relating to the outsourcing or privatization of an agency function" would remain non-public until after said contract had already been agreed to. Because why would you want to know about the state's private prison contracts? 
On the plus side, state legislators have abandoned their push to legalize dwarf-tossing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sen. Bill Galvano named chairman of Senate education appropriations subcommittee

Education funding in Florida next year will have to pass muster with newly elected Sen. Bill Galvano.

Galvano, who was elected earlier this month, has been named chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

Senate President Don Gaetz made the announcement on Wednesday.

Galvano was also named to the Senate committees on Gaming, Agriculture, Education, Health Policy, Rules, Regulated Industries and Appropriations; and the subcommittee on Health and Human Services -- all areas he had experience with while in the Florida House from 2002 to 2010, when he was term-limited from running for re-election.

The Senate is blessed to have Senators whose  talents reflect the experience and abilities of the Floridians each senator represents," Gaetz said in a memo to senators. "In determining the attached committee assignments, each senator’s subject area expertise and interests were considered, as well as the work we need to accomplish over the next two years."

Committee assignments for Manatee's delegation to the Florida House -- Jim Boyd, Greg Steube and Darryl Rouson -- were announced earlier this week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rep. Jim Boyd to chair Ethics and Elections subcommittee

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton,  was named Monday as chairman of the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee -- which could give him a big say in any efforts to change Florida election law in the wake of complaints about changes made last year.

The panel, which has been dormant for six years, is under the House State Affair Committee, of which Boyd was also named a member by Speaker Will Weatherford.

The major election law change last year was the compression of the early voting period, which critics charge was designed to suppress the votes of some Florida residents; and was responsible for long lines at some locations during early voting and on Election Day.

Boyd, who was re-elected this month to a second term, will also be a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, also under State Affairs; the Civil Justice Subcommittee, under the Judiciary Committee; and the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Parrish, also re-elected to a second term, was named vice-chairman of two separate subcommittees, Health Innovation, under the Health and Human Services Committee; and Business and Professional Regulation, under Regulatory Affairs, of which he also is a member.

Steube was also named to the Appropriations Committee and the Rulemaking Oversight & Repeal Subcommittee, under the Rules and Calendar Committee.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, whose district includes part of Manatee, was named to the
Appropriations Committee, the  Business & Professional Regulation Subcommittee, the  Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, the  Regulatory Affairs Committee and the State Affairs Committee.

Newly elected state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has not yet received his committee assignments for the new Legislature, which will convene March 5.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Sarasota on Wednesday

Vice President Joe Biden is set to campaign in Sarasota on Wednesday.

Doors for a Obama-Biden "grasssroots event" open at 9 a.m. at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, 291 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

Free tickets, which are required, can be picked up from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Payne Park, 2050 Adams Lane, Sarasota; or Newtown Estates Park, 2800 Newtown Blvd., Sarasota. Both locations are across the street from early voting sites.

Parking for the Wednesday event is available at the Van Wezel lot behind the auditorium. Carpooling is encouraged. voting sites.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In new ad, Congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald promises 'a new tone'

Keith Fitzgerald has gone to air with a new television ad offering what he says is a "positive" message about the need to reform Congress -- starting locally with electing him over U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Here's the ad:

An accompanying news release from Fitzgerald's campaign was harsher:

Sarasota, FL — The Fitzgerald campaign is on the air with a new positive ad: Let’s Clean Up Congress. Now. 
To reduce the debt, cut the deficit and strengthen the middle class we need to reform Congress — and changing Congress starts by changing your Congressman. 
This is the second television ad from the Fitzgerald campaign. The first was a minute-long spot comparing Buchanan’s history of investigations for ethics violations to Fitzgerald’s reputation of supporting bipartisan reforms. 
The facts are clear on Congressman Buchanan’s history of corruption:-   Witness Tampering: The House Committee on Ethics is still probing a separate series of charges that Buchanan attempted to procure a false affidavit from a witness testifying about allegations of a straw-donor scheme. — The Hill -  Campaign Finance Felons: A Tampa real estate developer and an accountant with ties to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan pleaded guilty in federal court just weeks ago for their roles in illegal contributions to the Republican Party of Florida and Buchanan's campaign. — Tampa Bay Times -  Pay-to-Play Politics: Buchanan filed a bill to create a $400-million tax break for NASCAR after attending a fund-raising event and receiving more than $10,000 from NASCAR — Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sen. Bill Nelson endorses Keith Fitzgerald for Congress

Here's the press release from the Keith Fitzgerald for Congress campaign:

Senate candidate Connie Mack endorsed his fellow Congressman Vern Buchanan for re-election on Wednesday. 
“Congressmen Buchanan and Mack both vote for unbalanced budgets, fight to privatize Medicare, and support redefining rape,” Keith Fitzgerald said. “They make a perfect pair.” 
Buchanan, who has been mascaraing as a moderate, votes partisan with his party more often than Mack in the dysfunctional Tea Party Congress, according to OpenCongress.com. 
Senator Bill Nelson, who in 2006 carried 57 percent of the vote in Sarasota, offered his own Congressional endorsement on Wednesday. 
"Keith Fitzgerald will be a strong voice in the U.S. House of Representatives for helping the middle class and protecting the promises we have made to our seniors,” Senator Nelson said. “I look forward to working with him to continue the fight for Florida's families." 
Nelson is the latest in a succession of moderate statesman to back Keith Fitzgerald.  On Saturday, former Senator Bob Graham and Governor Charlie Crist appeared together in Sarasota to endorse Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald disputes Vern Buchanan's claim that he is bipartisan (UPDATED)

For update, see below.

Keith Fitzgerald on Tuesday disputed Rep. Vern Buchanan's claims to be a bipartisan standard-bearer. Here is the news release from the Fitzgerald campaign:
To distract voters from his record of partisanship in the dysfunctional Tea Party Congress, the Buchanan campaign touted support from less than .001 percent of his district’s registered Democrats. 
Congressman Buchanan continues to claim he is a moderate in the extremely partisan Congress, but the facts show otherwise: 
-   Buchanan votes with his party 94% of the time - Congressional Quarterly Vote Study-   Buchanan votes with Tea Party leader Eric Cantor 89% of the time - OpenCongress.org-   Buchanan votes to the right of Tea Party hero Allen West – National Journal 
And in 2010, when incumbent Congressman Buchanan was running toward the right, he told a local Tea Party group “We pretty much agree on everything.” 
“Buchanan is part of the problem in Washington,” Keith Fitzgerald said. “Democrats and Republicans both know cleaning up our economy starts with cleaning out Congress.” 
Buchanan also touts his election (by his fellow Republicans) to co-chair the Florida Congressional delegation. But the Democratic co-chair, Congressman Alcee Hastings, was recently quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as having said, “It is apparent by their actions and inactions that our Republican colleagues have absolutely no interest in working together as a delegation.” 
Congressman Buchanan is masquerading as a moderate because his opponent Keith Fitzgerald has a proven record of working with Republicans and Democrats. More than 60 percent of the legislation Fitzgerald sponsored had a Republican cosponsor and he was recognized by the Sarasota Herald-Tribuneas a legislator who “grasped the practical aspects of politics and labored to build bipartisan coalitions while remaining true to his principles.”

UPDATED, 3:25 p.m. EDT --

The Buchanan campaign responds.
"As Nancy Pelosi's rubber stamp, Keith Fitzgerald is the last person in the world who should be talking about bipartisanship," said spokesman Max Goodman.  "He supports Pelosi's failed economic agenda including the wasteful stimulus, ObamaCare, the $700 billion raid on medicare, and amnesty -- even going so far as to say illegals often make better workers than Americans."

Conan O'Brien to Florida: The election could depend on you

With tongue firmly planted in cheek and with truth-telling that might make you cringe, late-night TV comedian Conan O'Brien pays tribute to Florida and the role it may play in deciding the outcome of the presidential election:

Monday, October 22, 2012

35 'prominent Democrats' endorse Rep. Vern Buchanan

The Vern Buchanan campaign on Monday played up what it says are the congressman's bipartisan credentials, releasing the names of 25 "prominent Democrats" who have endorsed Buchanan and pointing to a Washington publication's report showing Buchanan is one of the most bipartisan members of Congress from Florida.

"We need more folks like Vern in Washington -- people with real world experience creating jobs and opportunity," said Democratic Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy, in a news release issued by the Buchanan campaign. "I'm proud to endorse his re-election to Congress."

Buchanan's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election also has tried to play up his bipartisan credentials. Over the weekend, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was in Sarasota to help raise money for Fitzgerald's campaign. Crist, a former Republican, now identifies himself as an independent.

Also, the Buchanan campaign noted that Congressional Quarterly, which analyzes lawmakers' voting records, had found rated Buchanan "as one of the most bipartisan members of the Florida delegation."

The local Democrats -- a list that includes numerous current and former elected officials -- who have endorsed Buchanan are:

Beth Waskom, attorney, Sarasota.
John Shaugnessy, mayor, Bradenton Beach.
Pat Morton, commissioner, Holmes Beach.
Hal Lenobal, former  mayor, Longboat Key.
Jim Costa, firefighter, Bradenton.
Calvin Perry, Bradenton.
Jane T. Hasse, Sarasota.
John D. Burns, retired, Sarasota.
Meg Kestenbaum, Sarasota.
Adria Kayser, school guidance counselor, Sarasota.
Lydia Gonzalez, retail, Sarasota.
Ashley Carson, Sarasota.
Ryan Carson, real estate agent, Sarasota.
Robert Morey, Osprey.
Tammy Hillard, executive assistant, Sarasota.
Joshua Dreyfus, medical facility, Sarasota.
Brenda Carlton, attorney, Venice.
Robert Bruce Carlton, shipping, Venice.
Westanna Carlton, student, Venice.
Jean Ford, retired, Venice.
Susan Kenyon, nonprofit, Sarastoa.
Carol Brinkley, North Port.
Stan Sabok, business owner, Bradenton.
Linda Cavalieri, business development, Sarasota.
Teresa Schneider, North Port.
Jennine Anderson, administrative staff, Manatee Schools, Bradenton.
Meikka Mixon, hospitality management, Sarasota.
Gene Mixon, small business owner, Nokomis.
Steve Odegard, retired Navy, Sarasota.
Bette Mooney, Bradenton.
Bill Bonnett, Brussells.
Dale Decamp, Ellenton.
Jean Farquharson, Bradenton.
Walter Smith, Nokomis.
Gloria Palmer, Parrish.

The identifying information was provided by the Buchanan campaign.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Joe Biden campaigns in Sun City Center

Bradenton mayoral candidate Richard O'Brien likes the new Riverwalk but ...

Bradenton mayoral candidate Richard O'Brien used the dedication of the renovated Riverwalk on Thursday to take a shot at the incumbent, Wayne Poston, and the timing of the project. Here's O'Brien's news release:

The campaign to elect Richard OBrien for Mayor of Bradenton applauds Realize Bradenton, the Downtown Development Authority, City staff, volunteers and the Ambassadors who worked hard to make the Riverwalk opening a success. The new renovation to our waterfront adds activities and ‘destination’ charm as a first step of many in improving our City. Mr. OBrien and his family joined the hundreds of people that came out to experience and enjoy Bradenton’s newest attraction. 
Mr. OBrien has had some criticism of the project, aside from the costs, in the timing of this grand opening. It seems too much of a coincidence that after almost five years of no improvement activity around the city that all of these improvements would arrive just before the mayoral election. In light of the fact that the Mayor undemocratically extended his term an additional year, this timing cannot be a coincidence. 
The Mayor has benefited from what amounts to a $15 million campaign war chest on the voters’ credit card. A few examples of expensive projects conveniently timed right before election time: the $6.2 million Riverwalk, $7.5 million baseball seat improvements at McKechnie Field, and $1 million for the promised Pink Palace project. The record shows practically no activity for the first 4 years of his term. The Mayor’s attempt to convince voters that he is working to improve the City, by borrowing money from them and spending it for media opportunities just before the election, shouldn’t fool the voters of Bradenton. 
While the Riverwalk will likely benefit the public, Bradenton needs new leadership from someone who is more fiscally responsible and won’t wait years to begin city improvements.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Storify: Vern Buchanan vs. Keith Fitzgerald in debate

Video of Vern Buchanan-Keith Fitzgerald debate shows how bitter it was

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and his Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald clashed on various issues related to the issues and to their respective ethics Thursday morning during a debate co-sponsored by the Bradenton Herald, METV and Bay News 9.

You can watch it here:

I was tweeting during the debate. You can read the tweets @mrmasferrer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Manatee County Commission candidates Bustle, Holmes to face off in Parrish

Manatee County Commission candidates Larry Bustle and Corie Holmes are scheduled to appear at a forum  Thursday in Parrish.

The forum, hosted by the Parrish Civic Association, is set to start at 7 p.m. at the Parrish Community Center, 7006 122nd Ave. E.

Bustle is the Republican incumbent in District 1, which includes the Parrish area. Holmes is the Democratic nominee.

New Buchanan ad slams Fitzgerald for his support of Obamacare, likely vote to make Pelosi speaker (UPDATED)

Check below for the update.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has released a new TV spot that attempts to saddle Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald with the prospect of Rep. Nancy Pelosi again being elected speaker of the House.

Here's the spot:

Here's the press release from the Buchanan campaign:

SARASOTA -- The Buchanan campaign launched anew TV ad today highlighting Democrat Keith Fitzgerald's support for the failed economic policies of Nancy Pelosi, including Medicare cuts, tax hikes and the wasteful $800 billion stimulus. The ad also scolds Fitzgerald for running a relentlessly negative campaign that has been knocked by the media for "misleading" ads and by a local charity for "dishonestly" attacking Buchanan. If elected, Fitzgerald's first vote in Congress would be to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker. 
The ad highlights Fitzgerald's public support for the Affordable Care Act, which according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office raided $716 billion from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare.  A recent study confirmed that Sarasota and Manatee counties will be among the hardest hit in the nation by Medicare cuts contained in the President's national health care law.  ObamaCare also includes at least 20 new taxes or tax increases on American families and employers. 
Fitzgerald also publicly endorsed the failed economic stimulus which cost taxpayers $278,000 for every job created. 
Nancy Pelosi has donated $14,000 to Keith Fitzgerald's campaign.

UPDATED, 1:15 p.m. -- The Fitzgerald campaign responds with its own press release :
The Buchanan campaign is operating in an alternate reality, where Keith Fitzgerald has cut Medicare and Vern Buchanan supports the middle class.

Here on earth, the facts are simple:

- There’s only one candidate in this race who’s voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare and that’s incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

- There’s only one candidate in this race who’s voted to cut Medicaid funding for nursing homes, and that’s incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

- There’s only one candidate in this race who’s voted for unbalanced budgetsand that’s incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

- There’s only one candidate in this race who’s sponsored a bill to redefine rapeand that’s incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

- There’s only one candidate in this race who’s under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics and that’s incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.

Instead of defending his record, Congressman Vern Buchanan spends time in Washington raising money from special interests and producing new misleading ads attacking Keith Fitzgerald.

In the Buchanan campaign’s next trip to earth, hopefully Vern will stop by Sarasota and Manatee counties to explain his votes against the middle class.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald out-raises Vern Buchanan by almost 2-1 in past 2 months

Keith Fitzgerald raised almost twice as much in campaign cash as Rep. Vern Buchanan during the most recent reporting period, according to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Elections Committee.

Between July 26 and Sept. 30, Fitzgerald collected almost $402,000 in contributions, bringing his total haul so far to more than $1.36 million.

In the same period, Buchanan raised almost $216,000, for a total raised of  more than $1.76 million -- of which almost $125,000 has been refunded to donors.

Buchanan still holds a larger amount of cash-on-hand -- more than $1.1 million to Fitzgerald's $497,000.  Buchanan's total includes $250,000 he loaned his campaign.

Fitzgerald was buoyed by the latest reports, which were due to FEC on Monday.

“I’m humbled by the support we have received from thousands of Floridians,” Fitzgerald said in a news release. “Our campaign has the resources and voter enthusiasm to beat incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan.”

Buchanan's campaign said its latest filings reflects strong support for Buchanan in the newly drawn 16th Congressional District. It noted that a recent public poll showed Buchanan holding a 17-percentage-point lead over Fitzgerald.

"Vern's agenda to create jobs, restrain spending and strengthen Medicare has resonated with the people of the 16th District," said spokesman Max Goodman, in a news release. "We are humbled and grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support for Vern's re-election."

Fitzgerald has demonstrated an ability to remain financially competitive with Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members in Congress and one of the House GOP's top fund-raisers.

That  prowess earlier earned promises of substantial help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. However, in recent weeks the DCCC has canceled plans to buy television ads designed to boost Fitzgerald's campaign.

One Washington publication wrote this week that the Buchanan-Fitzgerald race is one where Democrats' chances of winning have "waned "-- an assessment that was trumpeted by the Buchanan campaign.

Other political handicappers watched closely in Washington have rated the race as one Buchanan is favored to win.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Republican environmental group endorses Vern Buchanan for Congress

ConservAmerica, a national grassroots organization of conservation-minded Republicans, is pleased to endorse Congressman Vern Buchanan for re-election to the House from Florida's 16th District. 
"Congressman Buchanan is a practical businessman who is willing to rise above partisanship to safeguard our quality of life and to find balanced environmental and energy solutions," ConservAmerica President Rob Sisson said. 
"Congressman Buchanan understands the economic benefits that a clean environment brings to his Gulf Coast district and to America overall," ConservAmerica Vice President for Government Affairs David Jenkins said. "During his career in the House, he has fought to protect Florida's Gulf Coast and its tourism-based economy from the risks of offshore oil drilling. He has led efforts to stop Cuba from drilling in waters only 50 miles from Florida’s coast." 
Congressman Buchanan has authored legislation eliminating liability limits for oil spills.
"Conservatives believe that individuals and organizations should be fully responsible for their actions. Congressman Buchanan's bill would require oil companies to take full responsibility for oil spills and not shift costs to taxpayers," Jenkins said. 
"Vern Buchanan has called for a balanced energy plan that would give America more energy choices and provide much-needed competition for oil in the transportation energy market. He understands the importance of efficiency as the foundation of any truly conservative energy policy, and accordingly supports strong motor vehicle fuel economy standards," 
ConservAmerica Vice President for Policy Jim DiPeso said.
"Congressman Buchanan is an independent conservative leader who has served his district, Florida, and the country well. We urge voters in the 16th District to return Vern Buchanan to the House for another term," Sisson said.

Former Fitzgerald spokeswoman slams Keith Fitzgerald, Vern Buchanan

Determined to have the last word about her recent firing as spokeswoman for the Keith Fitzgerald congressional campaign, Ana Maria Rosato has again taken to her blog to chide both Fitzgerald and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, for missing the point about the writings that got her in trouble.
Rather than discuss the Republican War on Women and how fundamentally different Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan and Democratic candidate Keith Fitzgerald are when it comes to women's health, these two candidates are warring over  . . . me and my blog posts in the Spring on my own personal website.

Yeah, a strong, intelligent, articulate woman who speaks fluently, comfortably, and publicly about the sexual politics of the Republican War on Women must be pretty scary for some folks.

Yeah, a strong, intelligent, articulate woman who speaks fluently, comfortably, and publicly about the sexual politics of the Republican War on Women must be pretty scary for some folks.
Below you'll find links to the three pieces that apparently resonated so much lest the Republican campaign would have left my blog alone. Those pieces are 1) Do Republicans Hate Sex?, 2)Republicans: The Vatican's American Inquisitors,  and 3) Catholic Bullies and their Blackmail Beatitude.

Yes, I took on the Catholic Church. I grew up in a large CatholicItalian family, and my mother always said never to confuse her religion with the Church. So I don't.  

Yes, I took on the Catholic Church. I grew up in a large CatholicItalian family, and my mother always said never to confuse her religion with the Church. So I don't.
Republican Congressman Buchanan's campaign became apoplectic. The audacity for me, a woman who grew up in a working class family and far away from the kind of wealth Mr. Buchanan possesses, a woman like me talking about sexual politics in a manner that is effective. You know -- with humor and satire and forthright truthfulness. 
Well, that congressional race needs a frank and truthful discussion that highlights the vast differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates especially when it comes to women and our health. That will provide much needed information that will permit the voters — women as well as the men who love and respect us with a real yard stick against which to measure each man running for Congress. Armed with real information regarding the opposing values that the Republican and Democratic candidates in this race embrace, voters can cast their ballots accordingly to which ever  values regarding women and our health. 
Unfortunately, these two campaigns have decided to focus on me and my redolent manner of communication. Redolent — you know, hot, strong, and spicy like the New Orleanian cuisine with which and culture in which I grew up and still reside.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Local Sierra Club president to endorse Keith Fitzgerald for Congress

Allison Chin, president of the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club on Monday will endorse Keith Fitzgerald in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Here is the press release from the Fitzgerald campaign:
Keith Fitzgerald will hold a roundtable discussion with members of the Manatee – Sarasota Sierra Club to discuss green job, energy and the Environment. Following the discussion,Sierra Club President Allison Chin will offer her endorsement of Keith Fitzgerald to represent the 16th district in Congress. 
WHO:            Keith Fitzgerald, candidate for Congress
WHAT:          Manatee – Sarasota Sierra ClubWHEN:          Monday, October 15th, 9:30 a.m.– 10:30 p.m.
WHERE:        2815 Proctor Road, Sarasota, FL 34231
Working with former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, Keith Fitzgerald led the way to banning oil drilling near Florida’s coast. Fitzgerald believes America’s path to energy independence should use an “all of the above” approach of traditional energy and new cleaner sources of energy. Moving toward clean-energy solutions will not only benefit our environment, but will provide needed jobs in our 21st century economy.  

Jeb Bush endorses Vern Buchanan for Congress

Jeb Bush (AP photo)

U.S. Vern Buchanan on Friday matched his Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald in endorsements from from former Republican governors of Florida -- albeit Buchanan's comes from a former chief executive still proud to call himself part of the GOP.

Three days after the now-independent Charlie Crist endorsed Fitzgerald, his immediate predecessor has endorsed Buchanan, the congressman's campaign announced Friday.

Here is the news release from Buchanan's campaign:

SARASOTA, FL – U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan, R-FL, announced today that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has endorsed Buchanan for re-election. 
“I have known Vern Buchanan as a businessman and a Congressman,” said Gov. Bush.  “He is honest, independent, and fighting every day in Washington to grow the economy, create jobs, control spending and strengthen Medicare.  We need more people like Vern Buchanan in Congress -- a self-made businessman, not a career politician.  He is working for you.” 
Jeb Bush is a highly sought after political leader.  The popular former Governor is often praised for his intellect, candor and stability. 
“Jeb Bush is one of Florida’s most respected public servants and policy makers,” said Buchanan.  "He is a principled leader whose steady leadership helped reform the state’s education system and improve the economy.  I am honored to have Jeb’s endorsement.” 
The Washington Post calls Bush “a successful two-term governor, with a record of reform and a inclusive attitude when it comes to courting voters and governing.” 
Politico notes that “More than three years after he left the governorship,Bush is still one of a handful of national Republicans who are frequently called on for political and policy advice.” 
Florida’s 16th District is comprised of all of Sarasota County and most Manatee County.  Bush won 59.37% percent of the vote in Sarasota and Manatee counties in his last election. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fitzgerald's spokesman tells Buchanan's campaign manager to quit 'misleading' voters

In the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter back and forth between U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat Keith Fitzgerald, the challenger's new communications director, Matt Harringer, this afternoon sent the following email to Buchanan's campaign manager, Sally Tibbetts.

The bottom line may go something like this: Tell your boss to quit lying about my boss.

Harringer got the job after Fitzgerald fired his first communications director after it was learned that Ana Maria Rosato had written on a private blog several posts highly critical of Republicians, Catholics and others.

In response, Buchanan's campaign has been relentless in demanding that

Read it for yourself below the fold.

Keith Fitzgerald says Vern Buchanan's negative ads show his 'lack of character' (UPDATED x 2)

See below for update.

U.S. Vern Buchanan's campaign has hammered away at Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald about his former communications director for longer than the few days between when Ana Maria Rosato was hired and fired, relentlessly raising questions about what the hiring of a woman who had written viciously about Republicans and other groups on a private blog says about Fitzgerald's judgement and character.

On Wednesday, Fitzgerald fired back with his own assault on Buchanan's character with a video of him speaking directly to voters in the 16th Congressional District.

"He’s too scared to discuss the issues," Fitzgerald says of Buchanan on the video. "But this election isn’t about staffer’s personal blog, it’s about backbone. And Vern has shown he lacks backbone completely."

WatchFitzgerald's video here:

UPDATED, 1:30 p.m. -- In a new salvo against Buchanan, Fitzgerald is accusing the congressman of possibly breaking federal law:
Sarasota, FL - Vern Buchanan is desperate to distribute his dishonest, misleading ads — even if it means invading voters’ privacy and possibly breaking the law. 
Voters across Sarasota and Manatee counties have spotted men tampering with their mailboxes and are reporting finding DVDs of a disingenuous attack ad produced by the Buchanan Campaign without postage. 
Not only is this a serious invasion of privacy for the constituents of the 16th district, but it is also a violation of federal law. “There’s no telling how low my opponent will go to protect his job.” Fitzgerald said. “Vern Buchanan can’t go a week without validating he is just too corrupt for Congress.” 
Several of the voters who have received the DVD have contacted the United States Postal Service Inspector General to file complaints. The complaints could lead to investigations by the Postal Service or United States Attorney’s Office. Corrupt Congressman Buchanan is no stranger to federal investigations — he’s already been in hot water with the U.S. Justice Department, F.B.I., I.R.S. and is currently under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics.
UPDATED, 2:30 p.m. -- In response, Buchanan's campaign has launched a new website, ShameOnFitzgerald.com, which features the video.

"Professor Fitzgerald's ludicrous and hysterical reaction convinced us to launch a new website featuring the video and broaden it for television," said spokesman Max Goodman, in an e-mail. "It's the video Fitzgerald doesn't want you to see, but the voters deserve to know that Fitzgerald refused to condemn these hateful, bigoted remarks that insult half the people in our district."  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vern Buchanan releases new ad on Medicare

The Vern Buchanan for Congress campaign on Tuesday released a new ad that it says contrasts the congressman's views on Medicare with those of his Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald.

Watch it here:

National Democrats shift money away from Fitzgerald-Buchanan race

A year ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political arm of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, heartily endorsed Keith Fitzgerald's bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan from Congress. They promised his money and other support, naming him as key to Democrats' efforts to re-gain majority control of the House.

Nine months later, what do national Democrats think of Fitzgerald's chances?

It might be helpful to follow the money -- right out of the race and to other Democratic candidates with better chances of winning on Nov. 6.

The Roll Call newspaper on Monday reported that the DCCC had shifted to other races money it had planned to spend Oct. 23-29 on advertising in support of Fitzgerald. The newspaper said the Fitzgerald-Buchanan race was one that appeared to be a "steep climb" for Democrats.

The DCCC had already canceled planned ad buys for earlier in the campaign.

The bad news for Fitzgerald comes on the heels of a prominent political handicapper listing the race as "favored Republican," and a new independent poll that showed Fitzgerald trailing Buchanan by 17 percentage points.

Roll Call has rated the race as "likely Republican," and has written this about the race:
Allegations of ethical impropriety against Buchanan originally made this race look like it might be competitive, even though the district favors the incumbent. But those allegations didn’t really pan out, and now Buchanan looks in good shape to come back to Congress. 
He came out a big winner in redistricting: He got to keep almost all of his current constituents in his newly numbered seat. And with no wave breaking for Democrats, he appears to have the resources and the campaign infrastructure to handily beat his opponent, former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Former Gov. Charlie Crist to endorse Keith Fitzgerald for Congress

Charlie Crist (AP photo)

Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday will endorse Keith Fitzgerald's bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in the Nov. 6 election, according to Fitzgerald's campaign.

The former Republican governor, who in 2010 lost an independent bid for U.S. Senate after the GOP nominated now-Sen. Marco Rubio, is set to appear at a news conference in Sarasota to endorse Fitzgerald, according to a news release.

Crist has been rumored to be considering launching a new campaign to re-take the governorship in the 2014 election, maybe as a Democrat. Crist last month heartily endorsed President Barack Obama during a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Fitzgerald, a New College political science professor, is challenging Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in the 16th Congressional District. A prominent political handicapper last week rated the race as "favored Republican," after earlier listing it as "leaning Republican."

Also, a new independent poll taken Oct. 3-4 showed Buchanan with a 17-percentage-point lead over Fitzgerald.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vern Buchanan launches new attack on Keith Fitzgerald (UPDATED)

Updated, 5:45 p.m. -- For Keith Fitzgerald's response to the ad, see below.


Following up on the rapid departure of Keith Fitzgerald's spokeswoman after some of her earlier writings came to light, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is keeping the pressure on his challenger with a new that can be summed up like this: What does his hiring of Ana Maria Rosato say about Fitzgerald's character.

Watch the ad here:

Here is the news release on the ad from the Buchanan campaign:
SARASOTA -- U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today released a new ad calling on congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald to denounce the hate-filled remarks by the Democrat's top spokesperson. Fitzgerald's deafening silence has outraged Republicans AND Democrats alike in Southwest Florida.

On Monday, Fitzgerald was forced to fire his newly-hired communications director for publicly blogging that all "Republicans hate women, immigrants, African Americans, firefighters, police officers, teachers, citizens who vote for Democrats, the poor, the middle class, anyone but each other. Republicans simply hate...hate...hate." But when asked by the press on multiple occasions if he agreed with his spokesperson's comments, Fitzgerald "refused" to comment.

Democrat Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton said Tuesday that Fitzgerald should "immediately denounce" the hate-filled rant, saying "it has no place in politics."

Manatee County Republican Chairwoman Kathleen King also scolded Fitzgerald for his refusal to address the issue: "As a Republican woman, Catholic, and longtime resident of this community, I am outraged and appalled at the hate-filled rants by Fitzgerald's spokeswoman about our citizens," said King.

"Fitzgerald's spokeswoman has insulted half the voters in Florida's 16th District with her offensive tirade. The obvious question is why Fitzgerald hired her in the first place and whether he agrees with her statements."

Roll Call and National Journal both downgraded Fitzgerald's chances of winning less than 48 hours after the latest implosion to the Democrat's campaign.

Ad placement and buy to be determined....
Here is Fitzgerald's response:
"The people of the Suncoast deserve better than what they are getting from Vern Buchanan. Today, Congressman Buchanan sunk to a new low in negative politics. Afraid to debate on the real issues facing the district, like protecting Medicare, creating jobs, and reducing the deficit, Congressman Buchanan is resorting to the sleaziest tactics this community has ever seen. Congressman Buchanan ought to be ashamed and embarrassed to call himself a member of Congress."

In response, Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan, said:
"Stop deflecting and start explaining, Mr. Fitzgerald. ... Do you agree with your spokesperson's vile and offensive comments or not? The people of this District deserve to know where you stand."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Democratic state attorney candidate John Torraco hits TV with new ad

John Torraco, the Democratic candidate for 12th Judicial District state attorney, has released his first television campaign ad.

"The 30-second spot, titled “Accountability”, focuses on the need for change due to the low conviction rate in the 12th Judicial Circuit (Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties," a campaign news release states.

“We are excited to get John’s winning message out to the voting public,” said Mark Benoit, Torraco’s campaign manager, in the release “Just as John is getting the most out of his 1998 truck – with close to 350,000 miles on it – he will get the most mileage out of tax payers’ dollars by increasing the conviction rate, keeping violent criminals behind bars, targeting white collar crime and corruption, and prosecuting those who seek to scam our seniors.”

The ad will air on broadcast and cable systems throughout Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, according to the campaign.

Torraco faces Republican Ed Brodsky, currently an assistant state attorney, in the Nov. 6 election.

Watch the ad here:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald spokeswoman resigns after anti-Republican sex podcast is revealed

Updated, 3:11 p.m. -- Ana Maria Rosato has resigned as communications manager for Democratic congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald's campaign, after it came to light that she had produced a podcast in which she harshly criticized Republicans about their views on sex. Fitzgerald's campaign manager, Adam Scott, confirmed the resignation.

"She is no longer with the campaign," Scott said in the statement.

Rosato last week said she had joined the campaign as of Sept. 27.

Before Scott's statement was released, Rosato had declined to comment on the podcast, referring questions to the campaign.

The offending podcast has been removed from her website, but you can listen to it here.

Keith Fitzgerald's new campaign spokeswoman may just be the one to introduce some sass into his bid to unseat Vern Buchanan from Congress

In a podcast produced before she joined Fitzgerald's campaign last week as his communications director, veteran Democratic political operative Ana Maria Rosato asked, 'Do Republicans hate sex?'

She answers in language that's mostly too racy and too saucy for this blog.

"Today's 'Grand OB/Gyn Party' is obsessed with sex, mainly ensuring that the rest of us have the same apparently miserable sex lives that they themselves endure," Rosato says on the podcast. "Just look at them, do they look happy? Do they look like they are being romanced and courted? Do they look like they have happy, fulfilling, fabulous-can't-wait-to-get-my-honey relationships?

"Nope. They sure seem like a cranky, irritable miserable lot to me. They ain't getting any lovin', and they damned sure spend a lot of time devising ways to prevent the rest of us from having happy lives and in particular happy sexually fulfilling lives."

From there, it gets unprintable.

A link to a YouTube version of the podcast began arriving in email boxes Monday morning.

Born and raised "about an hour east of New Orleans," Rosato, whose career includes a stint with Tennessee Planned Parenthood,  describes her website, Sassy Political Insights, like this:

"Written in a scathing style redolent of the region’s famous cuisine — hot, strong and spicy, Sassy Political Insights provides a marvelously sane — and fun — lens through which to view the Republican Party’s push to bring the Taliban’s backwoods, backwards Stone Age of a miserable life to our homes, right into our bedrooms, and even deep inside of our bodies."

You can listen to her podcast on the sexual proclivities of Republicans, here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tampa developer pleads guilty to making illegal contributions to Vern Buchanan (UPDATED)

A financial supporter of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is again in trouble for making illegal financial contributions to the congressman's campaign.

Buchanan's campaign Friday afternoon said it would be returning $84,000 in tainted donations.

“We will be giving the funds to the Treasury, similar to what Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid did under the same circumstances," said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan's campaign.
Timothy Mobley, a Tampa real estate developer, on Thursday pleaded guilty to illegally reimbursing employees for donations made to Buchanan's congressional campaigns. His accountant, Timothy Hohl, pleaded guilty to three counts of aiding the scheme.

In pleading guilty in a Jacksonville court to one count each of making illegal conduit and illegal corporate contributions, Mobley admitted that from March 2006 through October 2008, "he made contributions to the campaign of an individual referred to in court documents as 'Federal Elected Official A," a Justice Department news release states.

A review of Federal Elections Commission records shows that during the time in question, the only candidate Mobley contributed money to was Buchanan.

The amount of the reimbursements for donations to Buchanan totaled $84,300, according to the Justice Department. Mobley also improperly reimbursed employees for $10,000 in donations to the Republican Party of Florida.

Pleading guilty to three counts of aiding and abetting the illegal contributions was Mobley's accountant Timothy Hohl.

Buchanan's attorney Robert Luskin said the congressman and his campaign were not aware of the illegal donations.

“The announcement earlier this month that the Justice Department has cleared Congressman Buchanan of any wrongdoing proves conclusively that Congressman Buchanan and his campaign were totally unaware of any unlawful contributions and had no knowledge of -- or involvement in -- these activities,” Luskin said in a statement issued by Buchanan's campaign. “This situation is no different from the recent DOJ cases against donors who unlawfully raised money for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, all three of whom were similarly cleared of any knowledge or involvement in those matters."

The case was prosecuted by lawyers in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the same office that notified Buchanan earlier this month that it was no longer investigating him. FBI offices in Tampa and Jacksonville also participated in the investigation.

Allegations of illegal reimbursements for donations to Buchanan -- and in at least once instance, that Buchanan orchestrated the scheme -- have been at the root of several investigations of Buchanan's political and business practices.

During a FEC investigation, government lawyers initially said there was probable cause to believe allegations that Buchanan had instructed a former business partner, Sam Kazran, to reimburse employees of a car dealership they co-owned in Jacksonville. But like the Justice Department did later, the FEC closed its probe without taking action against Buchanan -- but fined Kazran and the dealership $67,900 each for the illegal donations.

The House Ethics Committee is currently reviewing allegations that Buchanan tried to improperly influence Kazran's testimony in the case.

As it has throughout the current campaign, Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald said the Mobley case shows again that Buchanan is too corrupt for Congress.

"The scandals with Congressman Buchanan continue. Seemingly each week, we hear something new about his legacy of corruption," Ana Maria Rosato, communications director for Fitzgerald campaign, said in a news release. "For once, Mr. Buchanan needs tell the truth to his constituents about the numerous investigations that he has been and continues to be under. At a time when the middle class needs a full-time champion fighting for them every day, Congressman Buchanan is continually consumed with his ongoing legal battles and personal self interest."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Buchanan to return the tainted donations.

“Now that two fundraisers for Congressman Vern Buchanan’s campaign are guilty of an illegal campaign finance scheme involving Congressman Vern Buchanan’s campaign, will Congressman Buchanan return this tainted campaign cash?” DCCC spokeswoman Stephanie Formas said in a news release. “First, the Federal Election Commission found that Congressman Buchannan ‘more likely than not’ violated federal law for an illegal campaign finance scheme involving his car dealerships and now we find out that a long time friend of Congressman Buchanan was convicted of a similar scandal. Suncoast families are tired of turning on the television to find Congressman Buchanan who has spent his time in Congress building a record of scandal.”

The Florida Democratic Party called on the Florida GOP to refund the donations it received, and joined in on the political attack on Buchanan.

"Given Vern Buchanan’s sordid history, these developments aren't surprising, but they are concerning," said party spokesman David Bergstein. "He’s clearly shown, yet again, he’s more focused on defending his own political career than looking out for middle class families of Sarasota and Bradenton.”

"It’s certainly a shake-up in this race.”

Mobley faces up to 10 years in prison and fines totaling $882,000. Hohl faces up to three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.

National Democrats cut ad spending on behalf of Keith Fitzgerald

Politico and Roll Call reported this week that as part of a strategic shifts in its efforts to win majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is reducing what it planned to spend in support of Keith Fitzgerald's campaign to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Roll Call put a dollar figure of almost $230,000 on the ads that now will not air in the 16th Congressional District race.

Earlier, the DCCC had named Fitzgerald as part of its "red-to-blue" campaign, promising financial and other support.

Politico reports:
Searching for a path to the House majority, Democrats are shuffling a series of TV ad buys in districts across the country, scaling back in races that are increasingly seen as long shots while adding investments in others. 
 In a series of strategic decisions Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reduced commercial buys in four, Republican-friendly districts, each of which are seen as uphill for the party, sources told POLITICO. The shifts are the broadest since the DCCC began its advertising campaign last month. 
The House Democratic campaign arm has reduced its investments against GOP Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia and GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, who earlier this year was cleared in an ethics committee investigation of his finances. The DCCC also scaled back on purchases in Indiana’s 2nd District and North Dakota’s At-Large seat, both of which are vacant. 
In each case, the trim in TV air time was for one week.

Vern Buchanan responds with negative ad on Keith Fitzgerald

Keith Fitzgerald earlier this week released an ad attacking Rep. Vern Buchanan for being under "federal investigation" -- which is not entirely true.

In response, Buchanan launched his own air attack on Fitzgerald's ethics and record as a Florida state representative, with a new ad soon to hit your TVs.

Here is a Buchanan news release on the ad:

Congressman Vern Buchanan today launched a new TV ad in Tampa and Sarasota markets that blasts Keith Fitzgerald's false and dishonest attacks and exposes an ethics complaint accusing Fitzgerald of failing to disclose his conflict of interest as a state legislator.

The ad, entitled "Serving Himself" opens with an announcer informing viewers that Fitzgerald is falsely attacking Buchanan to hide his own ethical lapses while he was a member of the state Legislature.  Fitzgerald faces an ethics complaint for failing to disclose, as required by state law, his conflict of interest in voting on millions of dollars for his employer, the New College of Florida.  Fitzgerald is a professor at the college who has been granted lifetime tenure. 
Section 3.2 of Florida House Ethics Laws requires legislators to disclose their conflict of interest in voting on "any measure that the member knows or believes would inure to the special private gain or loss of:  any principal by whom the member or the member's spouse, parent, or child is retained or employed." 
In Fitzgerald's case, he voted on six separate budgets as a state legislator that appropriated millions of taxpayer funds to his employer, New College of Florida.  In all cases, Fitzgerald failed to disclose his conflict of interest within the mandatory 15-day reporting period. 
Fitzgerald's behavior also prompted a sharp rebuke from FL Sen. John Thrasher -- the author of legislation banning university employees from serving in the state legislature:  "It isn't rocket science," said Thrasher.  "Citizens expect better from elected officials and it is disappointing that we find ourselves having to address this problem with individuals running for public office."
The Buchanan ad is in direct response to a Fitzgerald commercial that maligned the congressman and falsely claimed Buchanan is under federal investigation.  Buchanan's two previous ads were entirely about the congressman's jobs agenda and vision for the future.

"It doesn't matter whether Vern is up by 20 points in the polls or more, Fitzgerald will be held accountable to the truth and his attacks will not go unanswered," said campaign spokesman Max Goodman.  "Just because Fitzgerald is desperate and trailing doesn't give him the right to smear Vern with patently dishonest attacks."  
National Democrats have reportedly cancelled $230,000 in TV ads against Rep. Vern Buchanan, shifting the money away from "long shots" to "more promising targets."  The move comes after Buchanan was cleared by the Justice Department of false accusations and after prominent pundit Larry Sabato downgraded the Democrats' chances of beating Buchanan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sandra Fluke, target of Rush Limbaugh attack, to campaign with Keith Fitzgerald

Sandra Fluke, who was harshly criticized by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for her support of requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control, will be in Lakewood Ranch on Saturday to endorse Keith Fitzgerald's run for Congress.

A news conference and rally are set for 5 to 6 p.m. at the Polo Grill and Bar ballroom, 10670 Boardwalk Loop. Also scheduled to speak is Barbara A. Zdravecky, president/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

Limbaugh called Fluke, a Georgetown University law graduate, a "slut" and a "prostitute" for stating before Congress that insurance companies should be forced to cover the cost of birth control.

"Sandra Fluke will endorse Keith Fitzgerald's candidacy and talk about the importance of women's support to his campaign," a news release from Fitzgerald's campaign states. "She, Keith and Barbara Zdravecky will emphasize the critical issue of women's access to health care in this election and why women are supporting Keith Fitzgerald for Congress." Fitzgerald is running to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in the 16th Congressional District.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Social media reaction to new Buchanan, Fitzgerald ads

Keith Fitzgerald's 1st TV ad slams Vern Buchanan on ethics; congressman calls ad 'false and outrageous' (UPDATED x 5)

See below for updates.

Democratic congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald on Tuesday launched his first television ad of his campaign to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

The ad, entitled "Price," is designed to show "the clear contrast between Keith Fitzgerald, a proven reformer and leader in curtailing special interests while in the Florida legislature, and Congressman Vern Buchanan, the most ethically challenged member of Congress," a Fitzgerald campaign news release states.

More specifically, the ad, which is narrated by Fitzgerald, attempts to link damage to Buchanan's reputation as a result of numerous investigations of his political and business practices -- most of which have been closed with no action taken against the congressman --  to challenges facing the middle class in America. The ad includes news footage on the investigations.

The ad also includes two specific policy proposals from Fitzgerald: A ban on unlimited corporate spending on elections; and "if anyone in Congress abuses their power to enrich themselves, it ought to be punishable by prison."

Watch the ad here:

Updated, 9:11 a.m. EDT -- A Buchanan campaign spokesman Tuesday morning decried the ad as "false and outrageous."

Buchanan's lawyers earlier this month said a senior Justice Department official had informed them that DOJ and other federal agencies had closed their investigations of the congressman with no case being filed against him.

Fitzgerald "knows full well that Buchanan is not under federal investigation," said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan. "It just shows how desperate he is."

The House Ethics Committee continues to review allegations that Buchanan improperly tried to influence the testimony of former business partner Sam Kazran in an earlier Federal Elections Commission investigation by promising to settle a $2.9 million lawsuit he had filed against Kazran.

The FEC took no action against Buchanan after investigating charges that he, along with Kazran, had orchestrated a scheme to illegally reimburse employees of their car dealership for contributions made to Buchanan's campaign.

Updated, 3:08 p.m. -- In response to questions about the accuracy of the ad -- specifically, claims that Buchanan remains "under investigation" despite the Justice Department notification -- Fitzgerald's campaign manager Adam Scott noted that the House Ethics Committee is part of Congress, which is a branch of the federal government. He also cited a television report that coincided with the Justice Department notification that the Internal Revenue Service was continuing to investigate Buchanan.

"It's clear he was under investigation by the FBI, Department of Justice and a federal grand jury, and he remains under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the IRS," Scott said.

The IRS does not comment on pending or other investigations that end with no action taken against a taxpayer.

Scott said reaction to the ad has been positive, and that it is not surprising that Buchanan's campaign would question its accuracy. Buchanan, said Scott, is just trying to run away from his legal and legislative record as a congressman.

"When presented with his record in a factual way, he is trying to divert attention from it," Scott said.

In a further critique of the Fitzgerald ad, the Buchanan campaign Tuesday afternoon issued a press release, entitled "Keith Fitzgerald: Hypocrisy 101", in which it noted at at the same time Fitzgerald is denouncing political action committees, he has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from PACs. The release also repeats earlier charges that the ad is "misleading"; and that Fitzgerald had a conflict of interest when he tried to win funding for his employer, New College of Florida, while a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Updated, 3:55 p.m. -- In response to Scott's response, Buchanan spokesman Max Goodman reiterated that it is "categorically false" that Buchanan is under "federal investigation."

And, Goodman said, it is "100 percent not true" that the IRS is investigating Buchanan. Any IRS probe that might have occurred ended with the Justice Department deciding not to purse further investigation of the congressman.

"Vern is not being investigated by the IRS," Goodman said.

Updated, 4:20 p.m. -- In response to Buchanan's denials that he remains under investigation, the Fitzgerald campaign just issued this press release:
Despite facing a serious House Ethics investigation into federal bribery charges, Congressman Vern Buchanan falsely claimed today that he has been exonerated from all federal investigations. In reality, the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, chaired by Republican Congressman Jo Bonner (AL-01), announced in May that it was continuing to investigate Congressman Vern Buchanan for attempting to influence a witness in a federal investigation into his campaign finances. Furthermore, WTSP reported that Buchanan is still under investigation by the IRS. 
“The facts are quite clear. Congressman Buchanan currently faces a federal investigation for federal bribery, obstruction and witness tampering laws by the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee,” said Adam Scott, Keith Fitzgerald's campaign manager. “As someone who has built a record of scandal, Suncoast families have come to expect that anything that Congressman Buchanan says cannot be trusted.” 
Congressman Vern Buchanan also attempted to claim “exoneration” in a federal probe, but the investigation found that Congressman Buchanan “more likely than not” violated federal election laws, and the FEC questioned his credibility. In addition, Congressman Buchanan skipped his own deposition but is now scheduled to testify under oath next on October 4th and 5th.
Updated, 5:13 p.m. -- The Buchanan campaign responds.

"Lets face it, Fitzgerald lost all credibility when he falsely attacked Vern and Habitat for Humanity...and now he's lying about Vern facing federal investigation," spokesman Max Goodman said in a statement after the above Fitzgerald statement. " His ad specifically distinguishes between congressional and federal investigations. The facts are indisputable. Vern is NOT under federal investigation."

Updated, 5:25 p.m. -- Backing up the Buchanan response about the IRS claim is the following statement from William McGinley, a Washington attorney who has represented Buchanan during the various federal government investigations of the congressman:
"There was never anything but malicious speculation to support the claim that Congressman Buchanan was the subject of a criminal tax investigation. What is beyond dispute is that the Justice Department's announcement two weeks ago that it has closed all aspects of its investigation resolves the question categorically: There is no criminal IRS investigation of Vern Buchanan."