Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Legislature Still Trying to Get the Voters Out of Their Government

Senate Bill 1244 was temporarily killed in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, but now appears to have been revived. A similar bill is stuck in the House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Committee. The legislation would put onerous restrictions on petition gathering for citizen sponsored ballot initiatives - among other things it would throw out every signature of every registered voter who participated if even one signature is found to be invalid.

With the other restrictions, it would effectively eliminate the ability of voters to pass citizen sponsored initiatives. The legislation is part of the overall scheme of the legislators to take the voters out of government.

The bill is opposed by almost every group representing low income and middle class families, workers, and the environment. It is supported by business groups.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Voting Machine Manufacturers Won't Sell to Florida's Capital

The three major companies that manufacture voting machines are refusing to sell their machines to Leon County, Florida - the county where Tallahassee, Florida's capital city, is located.

The CEO of the largest voting machine manufacturer, Wally O'Dell of Diebold, is best known for being a Bush "Pioneer" (bundling at least $100,000 in contributions) and for telling supporters he was commited to delivering Ohio's electoral votes for President Bush's camapign.

Diebold has generously offered to sell its voting machines to Leon County, but only if they agree to stop testing the machines for security flaws - the same kind of testing that Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho and California Secretary of State performed that found that votes recorded by the machines were vulnerable to tampering without detection.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Legislature Winning Struggle to Strip Power from Voters

Not long after the Florida Supreme Court threw out a ballot initiative that would take away from legislators the power to gerrymander their own re-election, the legislature began working to take away the voter's right to pass citizen sponsored initiatives. Strangely, none of these efforts would affect the ability of the legislature to introduce and pass ballot initiatives.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bush Builds His Foundation's War Chest

As expected, Gov. Jeb Bush is using his last legislative session in office to raise five and six figure donations for his Foundation for Florida's Future from businesses and individuals with an interest in state affairs and contracts.

Even after he leaves office, he will still be able to use his name and connections to pull in large donations, but it is unlikely he will be able to pull in $500,000 contributions the way he can as a sitting governor.

Wisely for a man with probably presidential ambitions, he is building a war chest, which, while it cannot be used explicitly for a political campaign, can be used to keep a reasonably high profile and establish his policy credentials in key states.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bush Down 4 Points in Hypothetical Match Up Against Nelson

Putting the lie to common wisdom, the latest poll has Sen. Bill Nelson defeating Gov. Jeb Bush (see photo) in a hypothetical matchup.

The difference - 48 Nelson/44 Bush - is within the margin of error of less than 3 points, but the last poll done by the same firm back in November apparently gave Bush a 5 point advantage. This is not to say that Nelson would definitely win and that Bush would definitely lose (in fact, any honest pollster will tell you that the purpose of a poll is not to predict "victory" or "defeat," but to provide signposts and mile markers on the road to one or the other). This suggests that Nelson is steadily rising and that "Bush fatigue" is having an influence.

Jeb Bush himself is still very popular and if were he able to run for a third term, would probably win. But people are not ready to see the Bush dynasty continue into the Senate. This probably has as much to do with President George Bush as it does with Gov. Jeb Bush, but is also shows that Jeb was wise not to jump into the race against Nelson last year - winning a Senate race against a popular Democratic incumbent (which would be the story if he were to run and win) would not help his presidential aspirations nearly as much as losing to a vulnerable Democratic incumbent (which would be the story if Jeb were to run and lose) would damage them.

This poll should also stop the chattering about Jeb making a surprise run for president in 2008. If his own state is not eager to see him take another public office immediately, there is no reason to think the nation as a whole would want him to immediately succeed his brother in the White House.

Look for Gov. Bush to use his Foundation for Florida's Future to keep himself in the public eye and to maintain and expand his state and national donor base.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Katherine Harris to Self-Finance Campaign

Sometimes it seems like all the gossip and rumor-mongering about Florida politics has turned into the "Katherine Harris Circus Hour." Well, that hasn't changed, but the landscape has, if only slightly.

I was correct when I predicted that Congresswoman Harris was in the Senate race to stay - but I was way off when I said she would not be self-financing her campaign. I thought that she might sink $1-$2 million into the race, but she has proven us all wrong by announcing that she was prepared to spend $10 million of her own money.

Of course, $10 million essentially brings her to even in the money race, but still down 20 points to Sen. Nelson in the polls. But this makes the race for Senate a lot more interesting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gov. Jeb Bush Begins Ramping up Campaign to Stay Relevant After 2006

Barred by term limits from seeking a third term as Governor, Jeb Bush has reactivated his quiescent Foundation for Florida's Future. He has also won the support of one of Florida's leading GOP contributors - Ralph Hughes. Half a million dollars worth of support.

Not content with Mr. Hughes' $500,000 check, Gov. Bush's advocacy group appears to be engaged in an aggressive direct mail fundraising campaign.

One function of the Foundation will be to keep Bush in the spotlight and relevant as he waits for 2012 to roll around to begin a likely campaign for president, but an even more important function is to maintain, strengthen and expand his ties to the GOP donor class - the wealthy individuals, lobbyists and special interest groups - that underwrite Republican presidential campaigns.

That's what makes this check so important. It signals Gov. Bush's intentions and abilities to the donor class. Hughes is letting them know that Bush will be neither a lame duck nor a former governor for very long.

It will be interesting what other contributors get onboard.

Will She or Won't She?

As news outlet, after news outlet, after news outlet writes "will she or won't she" stories about Congresswoman Harris, her floundering campaign, and her big announcement coming up on March 15, let us all remember that we all expected her to drop out once or twice before. I have been wrong before, but it's very early to say that Katherine Harris is ready to abandon all hope of higher office - and dropping out of the Senate race would mean exactly.

All I can say is, watch this space.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Harris Quit Rumors Just Won't Die

One day after Congresswoman Harris told the Associated Press that she was committed to her campaign for U.S. Senate, the talk about her dropping out is as frenzied as ever. The problem for Republicans who want her gone is that none of the only top tier challenger who hasn't explicitly said they won't run for Senate (though they could easily change their minds) is Rep. Mark Foley.

Foley toyed with running two years ago, but dropped out early in the campaign. His major advantage is that he brings with him a large warchest (though considerably smaller than Sen. Nelson's).

But he is saying that he will not enter the race unless Harris drops out - and every day he stays out of the race, the less likely he is to see any chance of winning and the more likely he is to keep his congressional seat.

After all the pressure that has been put on her, all the bad press, Harris has persevered. For my money, I believe she is in this for the long haul. I don't believe she will win, but I also believe that the window to defeat Nelson closed several months ago. At this late date, all that a stronger challenger to Nelson is likely to do is force the incumbent Senator to ramp up his Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operation and provide a lift for Democratic candidates all the way down the ticket.

Katherine Harris to Stay in Senate Race

When Congresswoman Harris (see photo) finally made her announcement, it was, in fact, to dispel the rumors that she was abandoning her campaign for U.S. Senate.

After all the talk about the dropping out and the early pressure exerted on Rep. Harris not to run, it is safe to say that she is in this race for the long haul.

Many Republicans will be unsure what to think about her decision.

On one hand, her unpopularity with independents and moderates could affect the ability of down ticket GOP candidates to woo those voters - as well as the likelihood that she will inspire the Democratic base to turnout, with no comparable influence on the Republican base.

On the other hand, the Republicans simply lacked for a credible candidate to replace her on the ticket. While there has been a lot of talk about either Gallagher or Crist dropping out of the governor's race to run for Senate, that would be perceived as an admission that they could not win their own primary, discouraging donors and activists from flocking to their banner and neither wants to give up a race for an open Governor's Mansion to run against a well financed incumbent. The other talk has swirled about Republicans like Senate President Tom Lee or U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, but those are not credible either. Foley made some noises earlier in the election cycle, but never acted and his moment has passed. Lee, who is running for CFO, would have the same trouble as either Gallagher or Crist, but without either of those individuals statewide name recognition.

Republicans, meet your nominee.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tests Confirm ERCP's Concerns Were Well Founded

After repeatedly denying there was a problem - even after Leon County Elections Supervior, Ion Sancho found that Diebold voting machines could be hacked - Florida election officials finally gave in. The straw that broke the camel's back was a similar test performed on Diebold machines in California that also found that the machines were vulnerable to manipulation.

The Election Reform Coalition Pinellas has been a leader on this issue in the Tampa Bay area.

Harris to Make Announcement Today?

The Washington rumor mill is buzzing with the possibility that Congresswoman Katherine Harris will officially drop out of the race for U.S. Senate. While it is easy to dismiss the Washington press corps as out of touch with the states, there is no question that this rumor has buzzing around for some time. It seemed to fade away as the Republican establishment reluctantly united behind her, but then picked up momentum again as the scandals that took down convicted former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham bled over onto Congresswoman Harris. The Hotline is expecting her campaign to make an announcement some time today - and the suspicion is that the announcement will be that she will either be retiring from politics to "spend more time with her family" or that she will run for re-election to Congress (where she can look forward to facing several angry Republican primary opponents, a rejuvenated local Democratic organization and the lingering aura of shame and failure that results from abandoning a major campaign with her tail between her legs [see Jeanine Pirro]).

The Hotline posted the story at approximately 1:00 pm EST on March 8, 2006.

Search Engine Classifies Results by Political Ideology

I was reading about and went to look at it. Kosmix is a search engine which allows ranking based on various criteria - one of which is political ideology. The site suggests checking out this feature by searching "global warming." I found it interesting that, according to Kosmix, only "liberals" think global warming is both a) real b) a problem for humanity.

As a Floridian who doesn't want to see the family home underwater, I found this a little off putting. You would think that the GOP would not want to risk losing one of their biggest electoral prizes.

But I was amused to see that a page from Congresswoman Katherine Harris' official website was classified as liberal. That's not going to help reassure the Republican base about her Senate campaign.

P.S. - A political search for global warming florida underwater did not produce any results.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How Far Will the Federal Investigation into a Defense Contractor's Illegal Contributions Go?

The question is no longer “How will the recent scandals affect our Senate campaign?” No, the question for Congressman Katherine Harris and her senior staff must now be “Will indictments be handed down?”

The scandal involving illegal campaign contributions from MZM began as part of the investigation to former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who recently plead guilty to federal charges for accepting bribes from defense contractor MZM.

One of Rep. Harris’ aides, Mona Yost, left the Congresswoman’s office to work for MZM around the same time that Harris was working to secure the company a $10 million federal contract. It has now been revealed at MZM CEO Mitchell Wade illegally funneled $34,000 in campaign contributions by reimbursing his employees for the $2000 checks he forced them to write to the Congresswoman. Court documents which identify Harris as Representative B show Wade, who has plead guilty to federal charges, wining and dining Harris to get that $10 million contract. In point of fact, MZM did not receive the contract, though Harris did her level best to win it for them.

This is, unfortunately, not the first time Congresswoman Harris has found herself in this position. In 1994, she accepted more than $20,000 in illegal contributions from the insurance industry. Riscorp, Inc. used the same techniques as MZM to direct the money to her state senate campaign.

One member of Congress has already plead guilty to charges relating to MZM. Perhaps investigators will find the Harris is merely guilty of being easily duped. But she (and her staff) should be worried that someone besides the voters, who already overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate, doesn’t see it that way.