Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keith Fitzgerald launches website on probes of Vern Buchanan; congressman's campaign calls Fitzgerald a 'hypocrite'

A screen shot of "The Buchanan Files," as sent out by the Buchanan campaign.

Keith Fitzgerald has made a hallmark of his campaign to unseat Rep. Vern Buchanan, the several investigations of the congressman's campaign finances and business practices that Fitzgerald suggests make Buchanan ethically unqualified to be re-elected.

To help make his case, Fitzgerald's campaign has launched a new website, "The Buchanan Files," which includes links to print and television news accounts of the various probes.

In response, the Buchanan campaign has gone on the offensive, on Tuesday accusing Fitzgerald of  hypocrisy for what it says are the same negative tactics he denounced in 2008 when he was running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives,

"Fitzgerald's decision to make character assassination the central theme of his campaign is sad, disappointing and symbolic of everything that's wrong with politics today," said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts in a news release. "These types of sleazy attacks insult the intelligence of Florida voters and are why people hate Washington."

The Fitzgerald campaign did not officially launch the website until Tuesday, when the Bradenton Herald inquired about it after the Buchanan campaign sent out the news release denouncing it.

Offering itself as a place "to learn more about the real Vern Buchanan," the site is free of attacks on Buchanan. Instead, it has links to media accounts, including in the Bradenton Herald, of the various investigations of Buchanan. It also asks visitors to e-mail Buchanan "to come clean. Cooperate with federal investigators. Sit for your court-ordered deposition. And release your tax returns."

"Congressman Buchanan has refused to come clean with voters on his investigations and is clearly worried that more Suncoast families are hearing the truth about his ongoing corruption and ethical scandals," said Fitzgerald spokesman Adam Scott, in a statement."

"It is also very strange that Congressman Buchanan would react so defensively to a factual, by the book presentation of the current investigations being conducted by the FBI, IRS, Justice Department, a federal grand jury, and the House Ethics Committee."

Some previous investigations of Buchanan by the Federal Elections Commission and the Ethics Committee have been closed with no action taken against Buchanan. Others remain pending.

During his 2008 re-election campaign for a Florida House seat, Fitzgerald accused his Republican opponent Laura Benson of "negative" and "dishonest" attacks -- a history that Buchanan's spokeswoman now says make Fitzgerald a hypocrite. Fitzgerald won the race.

They also are reminiscent of similar, and eventually unsuccessful attacks against Buchanan, by Democratic nominee Christine Jennings in the 2008 race, Buchanan's campaign said.

"Ten months after announcing his candidacy, Fitzgerald has failed to address the issues people care most about -- creating jobs, growing the economy and tackling the enormous debt facing our nation," Tibbets said.

"Instead of explaining his support for Nancy Pelosi's failed agenda in support of tax hikes on small businesses, Medicare cuts and wasteful stimulus bills, Fitzgerald decided to launch a false and sleazy website. Is this what he's teaching our kids?"

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dems using robo-calls to try to link Vern Buchanan with Todd Akin

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is joining with local congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald in trying to link his opponent, Rep. Vern Buchanan, with Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and his comments about "legitimate rape." To make its point, the DCCC may be calling you at home.

Here's the news release:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) continued on offense today, launching new automated phone calls targeting Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) for the extreme agenda that he shares with Congressman Todd Akin. 
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week, Congressman Buchanan’s Republican Party platform will include a ban on a woman’s right to choose with no exceptions for rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk. 
In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week, 54 percent of voters believe Republican candidates are “out of step” while only 38 percent believe they’re in the main stream. 
An example of an automated phone call Congressman Vern Buchanan’s (FL-16) district follows: 
Hello. This is Julie calling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard Congressman Todd Akin’s unbelievable comments about rape and his outrageous beliefs about women’s rights. 
You know what’s even more worrisome? He’s not alone. 
Republicans like your Congressman Vern Buchanan share some of these radical, right-wing beliefs– that the government should take away a woman’s access to making informed decisions about her own pregnancy. 
It’s outrageous. This week, Congressman Buchanan’s Republican Party platform will include a plank that says no to a woman’s right to choose without any exceptions even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk.
Buchanan has denounced Akin's comments, and dismissed Fitzgerald's attempts to saddle Akin to his campaign.

Read more about Buchanan's response, and those of some of his female supporters here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sarasota women blast Fitzgerald for 'exploiting rape'

Several Sarasota women on Friday lambasted congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald for "exploiting rape" by trying to link incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan with a Missouri Senate candidate under fire because of his comments about abortion and rape.

Fitzgerald on Friday delivered to Buchanan's Sarasota office 1,200 petitions demanding that the congressman withdraw his backing for anti-abortion legislation that critics say would redefine the meaning of "forcible rape."

Here's the news release on the counter-protest, as issued by the Buchanan campaign:
SARASOTA, Fla -- A group of Sarasota women, outraged at congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald's crass exploitation of rape, protested in front of the federal building today and demanded an apology.

"Rape is no joke" Darlene Harvey, 61, said at a protest against Fitzgerald at the old federal building in Sarasota. "Rape is not a political card to be used for scoring points in a campaign. Have you no shame, Mr. Fitgerald?"

Harvey, local advocate for women, and a dozen other protesters with placards were upset at Fitzgerald's cynical effort to link Congressman Vern Buchanan to comments made by Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin.

Buchanan condemned Akin's comments and also condemned Fitzgerald for his undignified attempt to exploit the issue of rape.

"The protesters said Fitzgerald owed the people an apology for sinking so low as to capitalize on rape.

"It's bad enough you have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri making reprehensible statements about rape," said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts. "But for Fitzgerald to blindly follow Nancy Pelosi's lead and dishonestly link it to others is why people hate Washington."

"Fitzgerald's unseemly use of rape as a political weapon displays a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the victims of this evil crime," Harvey said.

Keith Fitzgerald to deliver to Vern Buchanan petitions demanding he drop support for bill redefining 'rape'

The Keith Fitzgerald campaign for Congress is taking it right to incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan later today, delivering 1,200 petitions demanding that Buchanan withdraw his support for legislation -- co-sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin and more than 200 lawmakers -- Fitzgerald says would redefine the meaning of "rape."

At noon, the campaign says it will deliver the petitions to Buchanan's office at 111 S. Orange Ave. in Sarasota.

" In 2011, Congressman Buchanan co-sponsored legislation with Representative Todd Akin that sought to change the definition of rape and incest and limit health care options to women who are victims of so called 'forcible rape' only," a news release states.

Akin has drawn scorn from Democrats and Republicans -- including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- for comments he made over the weekend about "legitimate rape" and possible exceptions to prohibitions on abortion. Despite the criticisms, Akin has remained in a U.S. Senate race in Missouri.

The legislation passed the House, but there has been no action taken in the Senate.

Earlier this week, Fitzgerald said, "This is an issue of basic human dignity. We need to hear from Congressman Buchanan if he continues to support narrowing the definition of rape under federal law."

Buchanan's campaign denounced Akin's comments as "offensive and inexcusable," and Fitzgerald's response "cynical" and "sad and desperate."

"It's bad enough that you have a nominee for the U.S. Senate making such reprehensible statements about rape, but for Nancy Pelosi and Keith Fitzgerald to dishonestly link it to others is why people hate Washington," the Buchanan campaign said. "Fitzgerald needs to stop following Nancy Pelosi's talking points and start addressing the economy, jobs and protecting Medicare and Social Security."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Former Bradenton mayor Bill Evers to endorse Richard O'Brien in 2012 race

Former Bradenton mayor Bill Evers on Friday will publicly endorse mayoral candidate Richard O'Brien in the Nov. 6 election.

In the two prior mayor elections, Evers lost bids to unseat Wayne Poston, the man who ousted him in 1999. This year, Poston is again running for re-election, against city council member Marianne Barnebey and O'Brien, chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party.

"With a proud history of strong leadership and fiscal prudence as Bradenton’s mayor for 20 years, Mayor Evers strongly believes in Richard O’Brien’s ability to overcome the current challenges facing Bradenton and its residents," O'Brien's campaign said in a news release.

Evers will make the endorsement during the grand opening of O'Brien's campaign headquarters in downtown Bradenton., 1310 Third Ave. W., Suite 7. The event is set for 5:30 p.m.

A first look at the podium at the Republican National Convention in Tampa

Officials on Monday unveiled the stage, complete with 13 video screens, that will serve as the focal point at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Photo: Sara Kennedy/Bradenton Herald.

The huge stage and podium were bathed in an artful medley of bright red, white and an almost cobalt blue.

 It is designed to draw in the public and to reinforce the convention's theme, "We can do better," officials said.

The convention starts next week in Tampa.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who's paying for the anti-McClash fliers in your mailbox?

Manatee County Commission candidate Betsy Benac is one of the best-funded candidates in Tuesday's primary election, raising more than $94,000 in contributions, as of Aug. 9, according to the Manatee elections office. That's more than five times as much as the man she is trying to unseat, Joe McClash.

Benac also has been the beneficiary of independent expenditures from a developer-funded "electioneering communications organization" called Take Back Our Government, which has peppered local mailboxes and telephones with an anti-McClash campaign targeting the long-time commissioner because of editorial positions taken by his online newspaper, his opposition to certain development projects, and endorsements he has received from groups like the Sierra Club.

As the Bradenton Herald previously reported, the Sarasota-based Take Back Our Government is headed by former Sarasota Republican Party chairman Robert Waechter, who now is a member of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.

Funded almost entirely by development-related companies, Take Back Our Government as of Aug. 9 had spent almost $58,000 this election cycle on "electioneering communications," according to the Florida Division of Elections. The records don't specify where the money has been spent, but anyone who has taken a look at the fine print on the fliers that have flooded some Manatee mailboxes in recent days and weeks can testify, much of the group's efforts have been spent on targeting McClash.

(Of Take Back Our Government's expenditures, more than $54,100 has gone to Political Ink Inc., a Washington-based firm specializing in direct-mail campaigns.)

Where is the money coming from?

According to the Division of Elections, Take Back Our Government had collected  more than $65,000 in contributions, as of Aug. 9.

Of that, almost half, or $32,000, had come from Florida West Coast Holdings LLC, which shares a Bradenton address with Medallion Home, which is headed by developer Carlos Beruff -- who sits on the airport board with Waechter.

Another $27,000 came from Committee to Protect Florida's Seniors, another "electioneering communications organization" based in Venice and headed by Eric Robinson, another former chairman of the Sarasota GOP.

Take another step back, and its filings with the Division of Elections show that Committee to Protect Florida's Seniors has received $54,500 in contributions this elections cycle: $27,500 from Mosaic Fertilizer Inc.; $25,000 from Florida West Coast Holdings and Cargor Partners III Parrish, which shares the same Bradenton address as other Beruff-led firms; and $2,000 from Wilmington Land Company, which shares a Lakewood Ranch address with Neal Communities, one of the largest developers in the county.

Of the $27,312.45 spent by Committee to Protect Florida's Seniors, all but $312.45 has gone to Take Back Our Government.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Senate candidate Connie Mack IV to visit Sarasota

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack IV will be at the GOP’s North Sarasota County Victory office at 3 p.m. Friday to meet supporters.

Mack has represented a southwest Florida district since 2005, and is considered the front runner in the Republican primary Aug. 14. The winner will face Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in the Nov. 6 general election.

 The GOP’s North Sarasota Victory Office is on Fruitville Road, just off I-75 (Exit 210) in the Target Shopping Mall. For details, call 941-706-3672 or Mike Moran, president of the Sarasota Republican Club, at 586-484-8989.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Obama campaign to open Bradenton office

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign Friday evening will host a grand opening of its Bradenton headquarters.

The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m at 918 14th St. W.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vern Buchanan responds to 'wanted' poster with 'unwanted' poster for Keith Fitzgerald

There's a full scale "poster war" underway as a subplot of the race for Congress between Rep. Vern Buchanan and Keith Fitzgerald.

On Monday, the Florida Democratic Party issued a "wanted" poster for Buchanan, R-Sarasota, after he didn't show up to give a deposition in a lawsuit involving former business partner Sam Kazran, one of Buchanan's chief accusers in ongoing investigations of the congressman's business and campaign financing practices.

In response, Buchanan's campaign on Tuesday released an "unwanted" poster featuring Fitzgerald, a Democrat from Sarasota, alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

If you want to join in the fun, you can make your own poster here.