Officers of the Court Using Government Computers for Political Gain

There is growing evidence that State Attorneys and Judges in Florida are using government computers for personal or political gain.

Florida has “Sunshine Laws”. According to the Florida Attorney General’s Government Under the Sunshine website:

Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the ‘Public Records Law’. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. These statutes establish a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.”

According to the Attorney General, “The definition of what constitutes ‘public records’ has come to include not just traditional written documents such as papers, maps and books, but also tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and records stored in computers.” Chapter 286 of the Florida Statues gives the public basic rights to access to public records.

Recently public records requests have exposed Judges and State Attorneys using government computers for personal or political gain.

The Tampa Bay Times in an August 22, 2012 column on The Buzz reports, “State Attorney Robert ‘Skip’’ Jarvis of Live Oak [FL] has reached an agreement that will allow him to avoid prosecution for using law enforcement databases to research his political opponents and others.”

The Tampa Bay Times column notes, “The investigation of Jarvis began earlier this year when San Fillipo, a former assistant for Jarvis, complained to FDLE that his former boss had improperly researched state and federal records concerning his wife. Details of the investigation were included in a report King submitted to the governor’s office. FDLE agents determined that Jarvis had also conducted other searches that appeared to be improper, including a search of records relating to the wife of his Republican opponent.”

On April 12, 2012 Mr. Joel Chandler, a citizen, filed a public records request involving State Attorney Edward Brodsky, who serves as Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit. After a number of communications between Chandler and Brodsky a lawsuit was filed seeking over 300 emails that Brodsky has not released. According to the lawsuit, “This is an action seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief for a violation of the Florida Public Records Act by Eduardo Brodsky, Chief Assistant State Attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.  Plaintiff contends that Mr. Brodsky has unlawfully refused to produce public records in his possession to which no valid exemption applies.”

The lawsuit states, “Based  on information and belief, included  within the  364 pages of material withheld are public records to  which  no valid  exemption  applies. Review of other records obtained from other sources indicates that items included in the withheld material are records relating to official government business. Mr. Brodsky utilized his governmental e-mail address to conduct substantial governmental business, including the e-mail records sought here.”

Watchdog Wire previously reported on the use of 12th Circuit Court computers, including emails exchanges between Brodsky and Judge Janette Dunnigan, were used to coordinate a fund raising event for the Brodsky campaign. The email violates Canon 7 of the Judicial Code of Ethics and it is a crime under Florida Statutes. Cannon 7 states all judges shall not “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.”

A concern among citizens is when requesting public records for officers of the court, the determination of what is and is not a public record is determined after the fact. 

According to Dennis Menendez, Chief Information Officer for the 12th Circuit, the email from Judge Dunnigan, “was previously reviewed for another public records request and was determined to be a private email not subject to public disclosure pursuant to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(c) and case law.  See State v. City of Clearwater, 863 So. 2d 149 (Fla. 2003) and In re Amendments to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051-Public Access to Judicial Records, 651 So. 2d 1185 (Fla. 1995).”

When a public records request is made it is then that the officer of the court determines whether it is private or public. For most citizens the use of any government computer during working hours would constitute public use and must therefore be open to Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

It appears officers of the court live by a different set of rules.

A citizen went to both the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Circuit to file criminal charges against Judge Dunnigan. Both offices refused to take the complaint. The citizen believes there is probable cause that Florida Statute 104.31 was violated by Judge Dunnigan. FS 104.31 states in part:

No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:

(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.

(b) Directly or indirectly coerce or attempt to coerce, command, or advise any other officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute any part of his or her salary, or any money, or anything else of value to any party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes.

Florida Statute 106.15(4) – makes it a crime to use state property (email server, computer) for campaign purposes. Florida Statute 104.31 – makes it a crime for a state employee to participate in campaign activities while on duty (this email was sent on a date and time when Dunnigan was working on duty as a Judge.

The Florida judicial system appears to protect rather than prosecute its members under Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Perhaps it is time for Governor Rick Scott to appoint a State Attorney to investigate the case of Judge Dunnigan, as he did in the case of Mr. Jarvis?

First Amendment Rights Under Attack in Florida

Two Florida cities may have violated the First Amendment to the US Constitution with recent actions taken against local citizens. Those two cities are Venice and Winter Park, Florida.

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The City of Venice, Florida may have violated the First Amendment ” free exercise” clause when it fined Shane and Marlene Roessiger for holding a Bible study class in their home. Bethany Monk in her Citizen Link column, “Florida Town Threatens Family Over Bible Studies” reports:

The city of Venice, Fla., says a family that welomes six to 10 people in their home for a Friday night prayer meeting is breaking the law — and if the meetings continue, they could be forced to pay stiff penalties.

City officials say Shane and Marlene Roessiger’s group, called In Him Ministries, violates a city code prohibiting a “house of worship” from meeting on property that is less than 2.49 acres in size.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told CitizenLink the city is violating the family’s rights.

“This nation was built upon people being able to gather and pray and have Bible studies in their homes,” Dacus said. “Many churches are founded upon that as the beginning of their churches. For cities to be allowed to get away with this is totalitarian.”

Venice City Code Enforcement Officials are also threatening the family with fines of $250 per day for having a small sign in their yard that reads “Need Prayer?” followed by the family’s phone number. The code makes exceptions for political signs, however, which are present throughout the neighborhood.

Dacus said PJI will represent the Roessigers free of charge. “And we will do so until we [receive] final justice on their behalf,” he said.

The City of Winter Park, Florida may have violated the First Amendment “right to peaceably assemble” clause when the City Commission voted to shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and outlaw protests in any residential area. Freedom Outpost in its column City Prepares To Outlaw First Amendment reports:

Winter Park, Florida’s City Commission gave a preliminary approval to make an “emergency public safety ordinance” permanent. It would effectively shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and no ability to protest in a residential area. This is the First Amendment under attack.

The ban comes after pro-life protestors picketed the home of a notable resident on August 18. Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh said, “I literally had to push through these folks who were carrying massive protest signs and signs that said, ‘Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women.’”

That night the Commission passed and emergency 60-day ordinance that banned protesting in residential areas. Then on September 10 they voted to make that ordinance permanent.

Isaac Babcock from the Winter Park/Maitland Observer reports, “The 4-1 vote, which was opposed on the Commission by Mayor Ken Bradley, grabbed the interest of a local constitutional lawyer, who said the city went ‘way too far’ to stop anyone from protesting within 50 feet of a residential home in the city. Attorney and UCF political science instructor Derek Brett said the ordinance would ban protesting in ‘huge swaths of the city,’ referring to it as ‘unconstitutionally overboard’.”

City attorneys claim the ordinance will hold up in court. They cite Frisby v. Schultz that was decided by the Supreme Court in 1988. The Court ruled 6-3 that the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly and protest was not violated when the the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Brookfield passed an ordinance banning protests outside the home of Dr. Victoria, who performed abortions.

Florida to Lose 79,459 Jobs Due to Defense Cuts

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Florida stands to lose 79,459 jobs and $4.1 billion in labor income by the end of fiscal 2013 if $1.2 trillion in federal defense cuts take place in January as planned.  A report conducted by George Mason University by economist Stephen Fuller says Florida would suffer the sixth most job losses of all the states. The report measures the impact of both defense and nondefense employment reductions at federal agencies and their contractors, as well as at businesses that count them as customers. A little more than half of Florida’s lost jobs in the next fiscal year — 41,905 — would result from Department of Defense cuts, and the rest would stem from reductions at civilian agencies. During that period, Florida would also see gross state product losses of $8 billion. To read more click here. The George Mason University report concludes – The magnitude of economic impacts resulting from the Budget Control Act of 2011 over the combined FY 2012-FY 2013 period have been shown to be large and their impact on the U.S. economy to be significant:

• Combined DOD and non-DOD agency spending reductions totaling $115.7 billion in FY 2013 would reduce the 2013 U.S. GDP by $215.0 billion.

• These spending reductions would result in the loss of 746,222 direct jobs including cutbacks in the federal workforce totaling 277,263 and decreases in the federal contractor workforce totaling 468,959 jobs, thus affecting all sectors of the national economy.

• The loss of these 746,222 direct jobs and 432,978 jobs of suppliers and vendors (indirect jobs) dependent on the prime contractors would reduce total labor income in the U.S. by $109.4 billion.

• The loss of this labor income and the resultant impacts of reduced consumer spending in the economy would generate an additional loss of 958,508 jobs dependent on the spending and re-spending of payroll dollars associated with the direct and indirect jobs lost as a result of BCA.

• This loss of $215.0 billion in GDP and 2.14 million jobs in 2013 would erase two-thirds of the GDP gains projected for the year and raise the national unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points by the end of 2013.

• These economic impacts would affect every state with their respective vulnerabilities to projected DOD and non-DOD spending reductions being determined by their agency mix and relative magnitudes of federal payroll and procurement. Based on current patterns of federal spending by state, ten states account for more than half of total federal payroll and procurement outlays. This significant concentration of federal spending represents a major threat to these states’ economies in 2013. While other states may appear less vulnerable to federal spending reductions, these may also suffer significant impacts dues to their smaller sizes or more specialized economic structures.

Florida is has twenty-one military installations, and is home to U.S. Central Command at MacDill AFB in Tampa.

Are Smart Meters a Dumb Idea?

Citizens are gathering in Tallahassee next week to address placing smart meters in homes and rental properties across Florida. There is growing citizen concern about smart meters. Some have called smart meters “the 21st Century version of lead paint” and liken the radio waves emmitting from them as dangerous secondary smoke.

The Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) is holding a workshop on Smart Meters on September 20, 2012 from 9:30am – 5pm in the Betty Easley Conference Center, Commission Hearing Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee, FL.

Pat Wayman from Sarasota, FL states, “I have personally been contacted by people who are becoming ill after a smart meter(s) was installed on their home. You can be assured we will pay for these both monetarily and physically. And meter readers will lose their jobs. For those who live in multiple units, you will receive continuous pulsed radiation from multiple smart meters – unless you can get them to stop installing these devices.”

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), an industry group, has released the below video titled “Separating the Facts from the Fiction about Smart Meter”.  PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, BC Hydro, PEPCO, BGE, FPL, as well as other utility companies and Smart Meter manufacturers like Landis and Gyr, Itron, Silver Springs Networks, GE, Aclara, are SGCC members.  Affiliate members are utility regulators like Public Utility Commissions from California, Colorado, Texas, and environmental groups like EDF and NRDC.

According to the Stop Smart Meters website:

This video attempts to counter legitimate Smart Meter complaints and serious problems. They start by saying there’s misinformation about Smart Meters floating about the internet (displaying a panic button) and they plan to set the record straight. “Let’s get down to business” is a key introductory phrase.

Promoting Smart Meters IS their business.

Industry fiction: Smart Meters don’t know how you’re using power

FACT: Smart Meters “…can be used to pinpoint the use of most major household appliances. Such detailed information about the in-home activities of electricity customers can thus be used to piece together a fairly detailed picture of an individual’s daily life or routine.” SmartGridPrivacy See also: Privacy-Problems-Inherent-in-the-Smart-Grid

Industry fiction: “Most of the time your meter is idle”

FACT: One PG&E Smart Meter can transmit up to 190,000 pulses a day. PG&E’s Big Confession

Industry fiction: “Your power company has kept your data private for decades.”

FACT: PG&E released names, email addresses and private online conversations they gathered by deception to the media. They redacted PG&E and third party names, and emails and left open customer data, at the same time claiming privacy was a great value to them. PG&E’s spying may cost them

Industry fiction:”Smart Meters allow you to make choices that limit your bills.”

FACT: Over-billing complaints have been reported widely after Smart Meters are installed. Customers in Bakersfield CA were so outraged about overcharging they filed a class action lawsuit against PG&E. See complaints. See also:PG&E admits billing errors, offers scanty refund

Industry fiction: Science doesn’t support the claim that RF causes cancer

FACT: The World Health Organization classified RF radiation as a 2b Carcinogen, same as DDT and lead.

Industry fiction: A household radio transmits RF

FACT: A household radio receives RF, it is not an RF transmitter.

Industry fiction: Smart Meters create less exposure to RF radiation than a microwave, cell phone, wi-fi.

FACT: Daniel Hirsch, a UC researcher, has calculated that smart meters expose you to more than 100 times the full body, cumulative exposure as a cell phone. Daniel Hirsch report

Industry fiction: “Even if you cozied up to a Smart Meter all day, it would require you to snuggle up to one for 375 years before it would equal the exposure of having a daily 15 minute cell phone call over the course of one year.”

FACT: Smart Meters can exceed FCC safety guidelines (Sage reports)

FACT: Smart Meters can violate FCC conditions for installment

Industry fiction: Read the Hobbit instead of worrying that the” Smart Meter is the fourth horseman of the apocalypse that will wreak havoc on your life”

FACT: Lawsuits are being filed against Smart Meters in several states, California, Maine, Hawaii, Texas, Illinois and more. Utility Regulators in Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania are investigating Smart Meter related fires.

Smart Meters are designed to work in a mesh network, transmitting radio frequency (RF) radiation pulses from home to home. If too many customers refuse, the mesh system can fail. Having to provide customers a choice has become a serious problem for the industry. The industry, with support from regulators, are penalizing customers for non-compliance by charging them to opt out. The Smart Grid program which was initiated by the federal government, was designed to be offered, but not forced on customers.

Click here to read a Stop Smart Meters flyer.

RELATED COLUMN: FPL busts myths at SKA meeting

 

Florida: Ranked In Bottom Ten For Lawsuit Climates

Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly stated that the axis of unemployment are taxation, regulation and litigation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal reform released its State Lawsuit Climates list and Florida is one of the ten worst offenders. Florida ranks 41st (in the bottom ten) in the U.S. Chamber survey of state lawsuit climates.

According to the U.S. Chamber:

A state’s legal climate is an increasingly important factor in business decisions, according to a survey of senior attorneys and executives conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) by Harris Interactive.

Seventy percent of the 1,125 survey respondents say that a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their companies, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That is up 13% from just five years ago.

“As our economic downturn has continued, a growing percentage of business leaders have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as significant in determining their growth and expansion plans and the jobs that come along with them,” says Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “That makes the consequences of this survey even more significant to the economic growth of individual states.”

The 2012 State Liability Systems Ranking Study found that 51% of senior attorneys view the fairness and reasonableness of state court liability systems in America as fair or poor. However, the percentage who said that liability systems were excellent or very good reached 49%, up from 44% in 2010. This continues a general upward trend in the overall average score—expressed numerically on a scale of 1 to 100—of state liability systems since the survey began in 2002. From 2002 to 2005, the overall score averaged 52, whereas from 2007 to 2012, the score averaged 59. The score increased 3 points from 2011 to 2012. (Scroll down to see a partial list of best and worst legal climates).

Survey respondents said that the most important issues that policymakers should focus on to improve the litigation environment in their states include limits on discovery, elimination of unnecessary lawsuits, fairness and impartiality, speeding up the trial process, and tort reform.

Methodology

Participants in the survey were made up of a national sample of 1,125 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who said that they are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues.

Respondents were asked to grade states (A–F) in each of the following areas: having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements, overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits, damages, timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical evidence; judges’ impartiality, judges’ competence, and juries’ fairness. They were also asked to give the state an overall grade for creating a fair and reasonable litigation environment. These elements were then combined to create an overall ranking of state liability systems.

Click here to check out the interactive map and download the report.

Top 5 State Legal Climates:

1) Delaware
2) Nebraska
3) Wyoming
4) Minnesota
5) Kansas

Bottom 5 State Legal Climates:

41) Florida

46) Illinois
47) California
48) Mississippi
49) Louisiana
50) West Virginia

Five Worst Local Jurisdictions

46) Los Angeles
47) Chicago/Cook County
48) California (unspecified)
49) San Francisco
50) Philadelphia

The Case Against Energy Subsidies in Florida

State Rep. Scott Plankton

State Representative Scott Plankton and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam have been pushing for government subsidies to grow Florida’s economy. According to James M. Taylor, J.D., from Florida Political Press, reports, “Digital Domain Media Group Inc. closed its taxpayer-subsidized film studio Tuesday and filed for bankruptcy protection, just a few short months after State Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) told skeptical Tea Party leaders that the Florida film industry provides a sterling example of why government officials should hand over taxpayer dollars to politically connected renewable energy companies.”

According to Taylor, “Between 2009 and 2012, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature and various local governments handed over $135 million in taxpayer subsidies to Digital Domain. Those subsidies included prime real estate and a lavish headquarters building in addition to direct cash payments.

“$135 Million Wasted,” notes Taylor.

“In an April conversation with Tea Party leaders unhappy about legislation giving renewable energy companies $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, Plakon said state subsidies for film companies such as Digital Domain demonstrate why it is good for government to generously subsidize politically connected companies and industries,” writes Taylor.

Another effort to use government money to subsidize energy in Florida is the Energy Economic Zone (EEZ). There are two EEZ pilot projects currently underway, one in Sarasota County and another in the City of Miami, Florida.

Why an Energy Economic Zone, why now and for what purpose?

Dennis Cauchon, writer for USA Today, in his column “Household electricity bills skyrocket” points out, “Electricity is consuming a greater share of Americans’ after-tax income than at any time since 1996 — about $1.50 of every $100 in income at a time when income growth has stagnated, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found. Greater electricity use at home and higher prices per kilowatt hour are both driving the higher costs, in roughly equal measure. . .”

It makes sense for households, businesses and government to find ways to save on their electric bills. But is the creation of a government subsidized EEZ the way to do that?

One of the driving forces behind the creation of an EEZ in Sarasota County is the building of a methane power plant at the county landfill. According to Gary Bennett from Sarasota County, “County staff will be recommending that a private developer be allowed to design/build/operate a landfill gas to energy facility at the Central County Landfill in Nokomis. Staff believes the project is feasible. The estimated cost would be roughly $5-6 million dollars for a 3.2 megawatt facility based on cost estimates we have seen. Permitting is extensive. Includes both state and local. [The] Developer would pay the cost. Power would be fed to the power grid so no back up needed. This project once approved takes roughly 18 months to permit and complete.”

County staff was asked if a feasibility study was conducted.

According to Gary Bennett, “We did look at costs if the County would build a facility but it was looked at in a very simplistic manner. It was not feasible for the County when the price of renewable energy that would be paid the County dropped from about 7 cents a kilowatt hour to around 5 cents a kilowatt hour. Since this would be a developer driven project with all the financial risk on the developer, they will determine whether the project is feasible. The County would be looking for the developer to pay the County revenue for the landfill gas supplied to their facility.” Floridians currently pay 11.44 cents per kilowatt hour.

The two developers involved in the pilot EEZ are Hugh Culverhouse and Henry Rodriguez.

There is a key problem. EPA studies show a landfill must have trash rates over 1 million cubic feet/year minimum to produce enough methane for a plant. Sarasota County falls well below this level of trash rate per year. What will determine whether a generation unit can be successful are the percent of methane (usually 35-50 %) and the cubic feet per minute for each well. As the methane is collected it is sent thru scrubbers to clean and purify the gas prior to burning it to produce steam for a turbine or used in modified vehicles like buses or trash trucks as fuel. If not enough is available at a high enough concentration or pressure it is unlikely that Sarasota County landfill is a good candidate. Additionally, being a public/private utility it could be tax exempt and thus its inclusion in the EEZ is not needed.

The EEZ pilot projects are the first step in a process to create energy subsidies in all 67 of Florida’s counties and many cities for an questionable return on the taxpayers investment. After all saving energy is in everyone’s best interest. Do Floridians really need government stepping in to help?

Will the EEZ become Florida’s version of Solyndra?

Rep. West Receives Guardian of Small Business Award

Congressman Allen West (R-FL) received the National Federation of Independent Business Guardian of Small Business Award Thursday.

The award is presented to members of Congress who NFIB considers “champions” of small business owners. West received a perfect score of ‘100’ for his votes on 13 key NFIB supported pieces of legislation concerning issues from healthcare, energy and Federal Government regulations.

Rep. West received a perfect score from the National Federation of Independent Businesses as did sixteen other members of the Florida delegation. Republican Senate Candidate Connie Mack received a 100 percent, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz garnering a zero. Senator Bill Nelson received a score of 36 and Senator Marco Rubio a score of 100.

Here is the list of the Florida delegation by district and their NFIB scores:

1      Miller, J. 100
2      Southerland 100
3      Brown, C. 0
4      Crenshaw 100
5      Nugent 100
6      Stearns 100
7      Mica 100
8      Webster 100
9      Bilirakis 100
10    Young, C.W. “Bill” 100
11    Castor 8
12    Ross, D. 100
13    Buchanan 100
14    Mack 100
15    Posey 100
16    Rooney 100
17    Wilson, F. 0
18    Ros-Lehtinen 9
19    Deutch 0
20    Wasserman Schultz 0
21    Diaz-Balart 92
22    West, A. 100
23    Hastings, A. 8
24    Adams 100
25    Rivera 100

For a complete look at how each Member of the 112th Congress voted, click here

“Our small businesses are at the heart of keeping this economy going and I am proud to receive this award,” West said. “As I travel Dixie Highway in Palm Beach County and visit small businesses in South Florida, I see firsthand the importance of expanding opportunities and reducing burdensome regulations on our independent employers. Our small businesses represent the best of the American spirit and I will continue to be their voice on Capitol Hill.”

NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner praised West for his commitment to American business owners.

“In the 112th Congress, Representative West proved he is willing to stand up and do big things for small business,” Danner said. “Guardian-award winners are genuine small business champions, consistently voting to promote and protect the right of small business owners to own, operate and grow their businesses.”

Congressman Allen West is a member of the House Committee on Small Business and is a member of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations.

The Guardian of Small Business Award is presented to lawmakers who vote with small businesses 70 percent or more of the time and demonstrate a commitment to protecting free enterprise.

National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business association. Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small and independent business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business. NFIB has 350,000 members and its mission is to promote and protect the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses.

Florida is #1 in Paid Political Ads

NBC’s Domenico Montanaro column, “Ads: A state-by-state breakdown of who’s spending where” states, “Clearly, and not surprisingly, the campaigns see Florida, Ohio, and Virginia as critical. They are far and away Nos. 1, 2, and 3 on the list.”

“Despite the huge influx of money from outside groups, only in Virginia are Romney and allies out in front. In Florida and Ohio, the Super PACs are chipping in just enough to be on par with Obama,” notes Montanaro.

Montanro’ list of ad spending by state:

1. Florida – $117.4 million
2. Ohio – $112.1 million
3. Virginia – $85.7 million
4. North Carolina – $56.5 million
5. Colorado – $54.2 million
6. Iowa – $46.6 million
7. Nevada – $38.2 million
8. New Hampshire – $25.3 million
9. Pennsylvania – $19.3 million
10. Wisconsin – $8.1 million
11. Michigan – $8 million
12. Minnesota – $3.2 million
13. New Mexico – $49,000

Spending in Florida by group/organization/party:

Team Obama: $58.9 million
Team Romney: $54.4 million
Romney $14,589,522
Am Crossroads $12,509,348
Crossroads GPS $12,293,037
AFP $9,014,582
Restore $7,819,601
Am Future Fund $1,359,061
Am Energy All $854,325
RNC $6,635
Team Romney $31,340,606
Obama $44,206,441
Priorities $12,713,685
SEIU $1,475,589
Planned Parenthod $447,657
MoveOn $64,359
ACLU $17,060
Team Obama $58,924,791

TOTAL: $117.4 million

Total booked on TV and radio this presidential general election: $575 million.

Pro-Islamist Protesters Try To Shout Down Tampa 9/11 Event

It is ironic and iconic that pro-Islamic protesters tried to disrupt a peaceful 9/11 event in Tampa while at the same time J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three consulate staffers were being murdered by Islamists.

Rob Shaw from Tampa Bay Online reports, “As many Americans observed a quiet remembrance of the deadly terrorist attacks 11 years ago on American soil, the scene Tuesday outside the Hillsborough County School District was anything but solemn. There was screaming. There was shouting. There were angry words and finger pointing.”

The pro-Islamic protesters were concerned about “insults to Islam”. Pro-Islamic protesters carried signs saying “No hate in Hillsborough,” another said “Racist jerks go home”. A young Jewish protester carried a sign stating, “This Jew Stands with our Muslim Brothers”. It is unclear if he meant the Muslim Brotherhood that has taken control in Egypt, attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and has called for the destruction of Israel.

Tampa was a more peaceful confrontation than in other areas in the Middle East. There were over fifty peaceful citizens who were at the school board to remember the events on 9/11 and ask the Hillsborough County School Board to ban the group CAIR from speaking to students. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holyland Foundation trial. The FBI directly linked CAIR to the terrorist organization HAMAS during the trial.

While the pro-Islamic protesters were few in number they were loud, shouting “Stop the War”. At one point the organizers of the 9/11 event began chanting “No More Debt” acknowledging Admiral Mullins, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who testified before Congress that “the greatest threat to our national security is our national debt.”

Many there to remember those lost on 9/11 tried to engage the protesters in dialogue. Several of the pro-Islam protesters called those assembled dirty names and tried to take over the 9/11 remembrance event. However, the event organizers were civil and engaging.

It is noteworthy that four Tampa police officers on motorcycles and uniformed security for the Hillsborough School Board stood by and did nothing to keep the two groups separated. Rather the police allowed the pro-Islamic protesters to cross the street and confront  face-to-face those there to peacefully commemorate 9/11.

Terry Kemple, who helped organize the 9/11 rememberance, stated, “This is not anti-Muslim, this is talking about groups with ties to terrorism. We want to let the school board know there’s more than a few of us who believe that. We want the people in America to wake up.” Kemple is running for the Hillsborough County School Board.

UPDATE: ISLAMISTS DRAG DEAD BODY OF US AMBASSADOR THROUGH THE STREETS OF BENGHAZI! Warning graphic images.

VIDEO: U.S. embassies in both Cairo and Benghazi were targeted over alleged “insults” to Islam.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding riots in Libya and Egypt that resulted in the murder of America’s ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff:

“I am deeply saddened and troubled by the mob attacks in Libya that led to the murder of our ambassador and three members of his staff. I had the chance of meeting Ambassador Chris Stevens during his confirmation process and again when I visited Libya last year. He was an exemplary diplomat and his embassy staff could not have been more helpful and knowledgeable during my visit. My prayers are with the families and loved ones of these courageous diplomats who were working to help the Libyan people rise from the ashes of Gaddafi’s rule.

“It is imperative that these senseless mob attacks be condemned by the Libyan government and that it commit to stop this violence and bring those responsible for the deaths of our American diplomats to justice. In both Libya and Egypt, their governments have an obligation to resolutely condemn these violent attacks and protect American diplomatic missions and personnel based on their soil.

“The Libyan and Egyptian people should understand that the U.S. shares their commitment to building more hopeful and prosperous nations. However, if left unchecked, violent attacks like these against our embassies and diplomats will lead Libya and Egypt down a dark path and rob them of their hopes of a more prosperous and democratic future. The broader publics in Libya and Egypt should condemn the violence and distance themselves from the unruly and intolerant elements of their society that threaten the security and future of their nations.”

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U.S. Ambassador to Libya Is Killed

Krauthammer to Egyptian Protesters: ‘Go to Hell’

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Killed On 9/11

The last time a U.S. Ambassador was killed was in 1979 during the Carter Administration. Tamim Elyan and Omar al-Mosmari from Reuters report:

J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.

Gunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.

UPDATE: ISLAMISTS WITH DEAD BODY OF U.S. AMBASSADOR IN BENGHAZI! Warning graphic images.

The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.

“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated.

Libyan deputy prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagour condemned the killing of the U.S. diplomats as a cowardly act.

The consular official had died after clashes between Libyan security forces and Islamist militants around the consulate building. Looters raided the empty compound and some onlookers took pictures after calm returned.

In neighboring Egypt, demonstrators had torn down an American flag and burned it during the protest. Some tried to raise a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger”, a Reuters witness said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a statement late on Tuesday, confirmed the death of the U.S. consular diplomat in Libya, who was not identified, and condemned the attack there; but she made no mention of an attack on the Ambassador’s car.

RELATED VIDEO:

Sam Bacile’s “The Muhammad Movie” was used as the excuse by Libyans to fuel the murder of three consulate members including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The film was release in July 2012 but only recently translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East.

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Democrats Reveal Voter Fraud in Florida

Tom Tillison of Florida Political Press reports of, “A Democratic candidate in Maryland, Wendy Rosen, dropping out of her congressional race after her own party told state officials that she had committed fraud by voting in both Maryland and Florida in recent elections.”

“The Maryland Democratic Party has discovered that Ms. Rosen has been registered to vote in both Florida and Maryland since at least 2006; that she in fact voted in the 2006 general election both in Florida and Maryland; and that she voted in the presidential preference primaries held in both Florida and Maryland in 2008,” wrote Yvette Lewis, the state party chair,” notes Tillison.

Watchdog Wire recently reported on the problem of dual registration in Florida and referred to it as the “Snow Bird Scandal“.

Russ Buettner, New York Daily News staff writer, wrote in an August 2004 article titled “Registered to Vote in City & Fla.“, “Some 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote in both the city [of New York] and Florida, a shocking finding that exposes both states to potential abuses that could alter the outcome of elections, a Daily News investigation shows.”

“Registering in two places is illegal in both states, but the massive snowbird scandal goes undetected because election officials don’t check rolls across state lines. The News found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have voted twice in at least one election, a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. One was Norman Siegel, 84, who is registered as a Republican in both Pinellas Park, Fla., and Briarwood, Queens. Siegel has voted twice in seven elections, including the last four presidential races, records show,” writes Buettner.

Matthew Hay Brown, of The Baltimore Sun, reports, “Rosen, 57, a Cockeysville businesswoman and Maryland voter, told The Baltimore Sun that she registered to vote in Florida several years ago in order to support a “very close friend” running for the St. Petersburg City Council and to vote on local issues there.

“Rosen said she was able to register in Florida because she owned property there,” writes Brown.

Some states like Kansas have banded together to cross check voter rolls with bordering states. No action has been taken to date by Florida to work with those who have a residence in another state to determine if they are registered or have voted in both Florida and their home state.

Perhaps the Rosen problem is bigger than Florida wants to admit? Some are asking when will Florida address the dual registration issue?

RELATED COLUMN:

Maryland Democrat exits congressional race due to allegations of voter fraud

 

Putting Adults Before the Kids

Mark D’Alessio at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce points out a few facts about the dismal performance of Chicago public schools:

As of 12:00 a.m. this morning, more than 26,000 teachers in Chicago officially went on a union-led strike impacting 400,000 kids in 675 schools. The first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years was brought upon the city’s children and their parents as a result of failed negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public School officials. Some topics of negotiation include teacher evaluations, guaranteed wage increases, and health benefits.

Although the details of the contract negotiations are murky, according to the Wall Street Journal, preliminary demands from the Chicago Teachers Union included a 19% salary raise in the first year. The current average teacher salary in the city of Chicago is $70,000. Additionally, the union is demanding that any members who are laid off be first in line for new jobs. This would not allow a principal the flexibility to hire the best teacher for the job, but the one that the union says is “next in line.” And finally, the union takes issue with a new teacher evaluation system which would be based partially on students’ standardized test scores.

But Tampa’s schools aren’t any better and in some cases worse than Chicago’s. Below are the Chicago, IL and Tampa, FL public schools numbers according to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Nation’s Report Card in math and reading:

Chicago, Illinois NAEP Report Card Scores:

8th grade math

  • 90% of black students are not proficient.
  • 80% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 84% of low-income students are not proficient.

8th grade reading

  • 87% of black students are not proficient.
  • 79% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 84% of low-income students are not proficient.

Tampa, Florida NAEP Report Card Scores:

8th grade math

  • 90% of black students are not proficient.
  • 77% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 83% of low-income students are not proficient.

8th grade reading 

  • 88% of black students are not proficient.
  • 76% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 80% of low-income students are not proficient.

Danger: Energy Economic Zone Ahead

Government is famous for wasting time and money all at the expense of taxpayers. The greatest waste has been attributed to the “green movement” and its efforts to save the planet by controlling human activities, such as emissions of CO2. This political and uniquely unscientific movement has led the Florida legislature to create comprehensive planning legislation, implement caps on carbon emissions and most recently create an Energy Economic Zone (EEZ) pilot project.

Sarasota County has established by ordinance an Energy Economic Zone. The first public hearings on the EEZ pilot project in Sarasota County are being held in September. Citizens and business will learn what the EEZ is all about. But what is end purpose of an EEZ? What will be accomplished by establishing an EEZ in Sarasota County?

My answer: The greatest expansion of local government power over your and my pursuit of happiness.

Here are ten reasons why I believe the Sarasota County EEZ will fail:

1. Any governmental expansion of power always meets with stiff public resistance and the EEZ is meeting stiff resistance. The EEZ has been denounced with bi-partisan support in Sarasota County. Neighborhood associations, anti-growth proponents and Democrats are standing shoulder to shoulder with TEA Party groups, 912 Project members and the Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee to denounce this project and its attempt to control the lives of citizens.

2. Economic zones do not work. County Commissioner Nora Patterson in an e-mail to an opponent of the EEZ states, “Our existing enterprise zone [in Newtown] is truly a depressed area and I can tell you in advance that the overall situation has not improved, in fact quite the opposite given the economic downturn.” So Commissioners know that enterprise zones do not work from the Newtown failure. Why throw good money after bad? Because it feels good to do so. The EEZ is being driven by ideology, not by any proven method to create jobs or expand the economy in Florida.

3. One of the purposes of the EEZ is to create energy efficiencies and thereby reduce energy usage. This is a FALSE premise as greater efficiency leads inextricably to greater energy usage. This phenomenon is called the “rebound effect”. Increasing the efficiency of lighting encourages us to illuminate more. This means that we need more energy, not less to meet future demand, expected to increase by 30% over the next decade. The EEZ concept is a fallacy, even if the five sitting County Commissioners believe in this fallacy, it is still a fallacy.

4. The incentives provided in the ordinance as currently written are not defined. This makes the ordinance open to broad interpretation by staff in its implementation. We have experienced what happens when bureaucrats are given the leeway to implement policy in Florida. This has happened with numeric water standards being imposed on the state by the Environmental Protection Agency. Placing Draconian standards on water quality to save us from ourselves. Standards that cannot be met!

5. The incentives are front loaded without regard to clearly defined end results. Under the current proposed ordinance businesses would be awarded incentive grants in addition to tax abatements for job creation. The business would promise to create new “green jobs”. This is a failed model, see reason #2 above. You and I do not pay a business until the job is done. In this case County government is so trusting that they will pay upfront for a promise of future job creation. The County has tried this recently with Sanborn studios. Sanborn Studios closed its Lakewood Ranch facility in December 2011 after just one year in operation. The company that promised to produce Hollywood movies, TV shows and create more than 100 jobs in Sarasota got a $650,000 grant from Sarasota County. It is good to learn from experience right?

6. The EEZ is “crony capitalism” writ large. Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth. The proposed ordinance establishing an EEZ is the ultimate example of crony capitalism. Government picks the winners and losers, not the free markets. This always leads to corruption and political favoritism.

7. Government does not create jobs! The great myth is that government can via incentives create something from nothing. Jobs are created only when a business cannot meet the market demand for its products or services. That is an economic fact. What can government do to help create a market for a product or service? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What government can do best is to do the least. That is to say government is best that governs least. Protecting property rights is the role of government.

8. All of the County Commissioners are Republicans dedicated to limited government and the U.S. Constitution. The Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee passed a resolution condemning “local ‘sustainable development’ policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other ‘Green’ or ‘Alternative’ projects.” The EEZ falls squarely into all of these categories! A copy of the full resolution was presented to each Commissioner.

9. The County’s attempt to establish an EEZ has led to at least one law suit. According to Kathy Attunes, “The EEZ and attached Enterprise Zone incentives are separate statutes. It can be argued that the Enterprise Zone statutes exist independently of the EEZ statute (377.809), and these state Enterprise Zone statutes apply independent of any local eligibility requirements and a $300,000 cap. The EEZ green standards and $300,000 cap are not outlined in the Enterprise Zone statutes; the statutes do not mirror each other. We are concerned that the EEZ statute and linked Enterprise Zone incentives are in conflict, which potentially sets the County up for litigation brought by businesses who have met Enterprise Zone criteria but not County EEZ standards. We do not want the BCC to proceed with a program that opens the door to a flood of untargeted Enterprise Zone tax breaks, and the possibility of having local control negated by state statute.” I agree more litigation will follow.

10. Finally, this is just bad public policy and a waste of taxpayer money.

There are many other reasons why the EEZ is bad policy for Sarasota County but in the interest of brevity I have listed only my top ten.

I do not need nor want government telling me how to save energy. I am perfectly able doing that on my own. If I wish to waste energy then I will pay an economic price for that behavior. That is how personal freedom and free markets work. Government forcing choices upon me is morally wrong. The EEZ is morally wrong!

Palm Beach County Democrat Chair Attacks Christians

Courtesy of Tom Tillison of Florida Political Press:

Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel issued an apology over inflammatory comments made yesterday during an interview at the Democratic National Convention.

In response to being asked if he is a fan of Christianity, as shown in the video below, Siegel said;

“I’m Jewish, I’m not a fan of any other religion than Judaism….The Christians just want us to be there so we can all be slaughtered and converted and bring on the second coming of Jesus Christ.”

Siegel’s statement released today, no doubt coming after someone had a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment with him – pardon the pun;

“I apologize to all Democrats and Floridians for my ill chosen words last night. After watching the interview I realize that what I said did not accurately make the point I was trying to establish. More importantly I apologize to all Christians, Jews and other people of faith for any embarrassment or anger my remarks may have caused. Throughout my life I have practiced religious tolerance among all people of faith. I am sincerely sorry for any remarks I made that may have diminished that record. I alone am responsible for my remarks and I pray that they are not taken as the position of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.”

Watch the video of Siegel making his statement at the DNC:

UPDATE: Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel has resigned.

Media Matters vs. Investors Business Daily

As President Obama prepares to take the stage tonight and accept his party’s nomination for re-election there is an ongoing discussion about the state of the economy. The great question is: Are we as a nation better off today than four years ago?

Media Matters and Investors Business Daily (IBD) have both tried to answer this question. Each came to a different conclusion.

Media Matters states, “In their attempts to grapple with the question of whether Americans are better off, cable news outlets have regularly failed to provide important context about the dire state of the economy in late 2008, when millions of jobs were lost.” Investors Business Daily reports, “Obama’s argument is simple: The economy was headed for a second Great Depression when he took office — hemorrhaging GDP and jobs. His stimulus, the auto bailouts and so on, prevented that, and the economy has since been slowly digging out of the massive ditch into which President Bush drove it. Thus, Obama says, he deserves an ‘incomplete’ grade.”

Media Matters focuses on statements from five economists reflecting upon September 2008 and the financial crisis. Diana Henriques, who covered finance for The New York Times, states, “September 2008 was one of the scariest months I have ever experienced as a business reporter. We had seen Bear Stearns nearly fail, we had seen Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taken under receivership.”

IBD takes a comparative approach, looking at key indicators then and now. IBD uses the following examples to answer the question:

• Median incomes: These have fallen 7.3% since Obama took office, which translates into an average of $4,000. Since the so-called recovery started, median incomes continued to fall, dropping $2,544, or 4.8%.

• Long-term unemployed: More than three years into Obama’s recovery, 811,000 more still fall into this category than when the recession ended.

• Poverty: The poverty rate climbed to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009, and economists think it may have hit 15.7% last year, highest since the 1960s.

• Food stamps: There are 11.8 million more people on food stamps since Obama’s recovery started.

• Disability: More than 1 million workers have been added to Social Security’s disability program in the last three years.

• Gas prices: A gallon of gas cost $1.89 when Obama was sworn in. By June 2009, the price was $2.70. Today, it’s $3.84.

• Misery Index: When Obama took office, the combination of unemployment and inflation stood at 7.83. Today it’s 9.71.

• Union membership: Even unions are worse off under Obama, with membership dropping half a million between 2009 and 2011.

• Debt: Everyone is far worse off if you just look at the national debt. It has climbed more than $5 trillion under Obama, crossing $16 trillion for the first time on Tuesday and driving the U.S. credit rating down.

Media Matters states, “Other veteran financial scribes point to the overall economic picture today as compared to 2008, while also noting that the positive direction of the economy is important, too. Their comments are supported by a number of key indicators: The economy has grown for twelve consecutive quarters; private sector employment has grown for 29 consecutive months, adding millions of jobs; and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has nearly doubled from its low point in March 2009.”

Media Matters quotes Kevin Hall, McClatchy’s national economics correspondent, as saying, “If you go back and look at the charts — you can pull up the GDP chart, we are growing 2 to 2.2 percent — you would say it is clearly yes, compared to a 3.7 percent contraction in the third quarter of 2008, followed by an 8.9 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008.”

The real indicator of if we are doing better will not be determined by economists or statistics. It will be determined at kitchen tables across America. What each family, individual and business owner feels and experiences will determine the truth about are we better off. This will translate into motivation to vote for or against a particular candidate.

Bottom line: Are YOU better off today than 4 years ago?

RELATED COLUMN: The Five ‘Reasons’ to Re-elect Obama By Larry Elder