Archive for the ‘Bill McCollum’ Category

While we listen in on the second day of the Republicans in the House making their arguments in the charade of “repealing” the health care reform law passed last year, it’s important to point out one more development in the lawsuit filed originally by former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. The lawsuit argues that the law is unconstitutional. In his run for the Governor’s mansion McCollum ran largely on the promise of “protecting Floridians” from health care reform. Never mind the cost to taxpayers from that very lawsuit which threatened to take away reforms that were popular among Florida voters. 20 other states joined in the lawsuit, along with business interests with a stake in the fight. Of course, McCollum lost the election to someone even worse as far as health care laws are concerned, Rick Scott, formerly known from Columbia/HCA, of Medicare fraud fame. (Scott himself was never charged with a crime.)

Today we learned that six more states have joined the lawsuit challenging the health care legislation that Republicans claim they want to “repeal and replace.” Or as some have said, actually “repeal and forget.” That’s now a total of 26 states jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon: Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine.

Not exactly surprising, many state officials who joined the lawsuit may have pretty good reasons for doing so. Like their Republican colleagues in the House who, as I write are grandstanding in their effort for “repeal,” they are big beneficiaries of campaign contributions from, wait for it….the health care industry!

From The Center For Public Integrity:

The state officials who joined together to file a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform have collectively received at least $5 million in campaign contributions from the health industry over the course of their political careers, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Using data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the Center found that top recipients of industry money include Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has received more than $1 million from health care professionals since 1996, and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who took in at least $970,163 from the industry starting in 1992, when he was a state senator, until he left the governor’s office this week. Other major recipients involved in the lawsuit include former Pennsylvania Attorney General and newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett, who has received about $830,000, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, with more than $770,000.

The money has flowed from a variety of interests ranging from hospitals and drug companies to health care insurers and doctors. Many oppose the mandate in the new law requiring Americans to buy health care coverage.

Florida Attorney General, Republican Pam Bondi has now continued with the lawsuit, saying she is taking up the fight “in the interests of families.” As those six states joined the lawsuit, Bondi said “It sends a strong message that more than half of the states consider the health care law unconstitutional and are willing to fight it in court. “I look forward to continuing to defend Florida’s families and businesses against this unconstitutional law and upholding the Constitution.”

In the interest of families? Bondi has also received campaign contributions from the health care industry:

Pam Bondi, who succeeded McCollum as attorney general and will take up his cause in the lawsuit, received about $75,000 from the industry, some $64,000 of which came from health professionals. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece this month, she said “our lawsuit, together with a similar lawsuit filed by Virginia’s attorney general, has exposed the health-care law’s threat to individual liberty and to the constitutional structure that the Founders designed as a means of protecting that liberty.”

As far the claim that the law is unconstitutional? Not necessarily according to The Center For American Progress, who issued a statement Tuesday signed by more than 125 legal scholars saying the law is constitutional.

As the Republicans in the House pull their “repeal Obamacare” stunt in front of the cameras for political gain, it’s pretty clear they’re acting on behalf of the health insurance companies they meet with behind closed doors who help them craft their arguments. Just like their colleagues in the House, state officials who have joined Bondi’s lawsuit have their own agendas as well.

Agendas so far to the tune of $5 million.

h/t Progress Florida


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Yesterday’s New York Times published an editorial on last Tuesday’s election results. While most of the “Monday morning quarterback” analysis of the election has been to focus on the Republicans gaining a majority in the House, the editorial focused more on state elections, and for good reasons.

State elections got less attention in the media before the election and they may well slip under the radar now. But they shouldn’t.

For starters, statewide elections were extremely important for one simple reason: redistricting. This cycle showed a big push to elect Republican governors that would allow Republicans to redraw districts which will be more favorable to.. (Surprise!) Republicans, and the push was successful. They gained 10 Republican governors seats, and they are now in control of 20 states compared to the previous number of nine.

From the Times editorial:

The changes in state government will have another long-term effect as states begin the redistricting process to comply with the population changes documented in the 2010 census. This means that Republicans will be in a position to consolidate this year’s gains by redrawing Congressional and state legislative district lines to their advantage.

Sound familiar? It should. Last week Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendments 5 and 6, which will prevent districts from being redrawn unfairly to the advantage of Republicans. More importantly, when the state legislature tried to undercut them with Amendment 7 last July, it was thrown off the ballot because it was misleading to voters, which of course, was the entire point of Amendment 7 in the first place.

When Amendments 5 and 6 passed last week, the will of the people won out. Unfortunately, the day after the election, a suit was already being filed to undo Amendment 6, which would declare it invalid and prevent it from being enforced. Amendment 6 sets the rules for drawing Florida’s congressional districts.

Today Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolous (R-Merritt Island)) announced that Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) will oversee the redrawing of Florida’s district lines based on the 2010 census.

If the name Gaetz sounds familiar to those who followed the debate over Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called “Fair Districts” amendments limiting the legislature’s ability to gerrymander districts that passed a statewide vote on Nov. 2, that’s because Gaetz’s son, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, was a vocal opponent of 5 and 6.

In the week before the vote on Amendments 5 and 6, Matt penned an op-ed in theNorthwest Florida Daily News, urging readers to vote no on 5 and 6 because they would blunt “the conservative comeback” in Florida. The remarks were unusual, because anti-Fair Districts activists generally preferred to voice their opposition in less explicitly partisan terms. (Even if the Republican Party of Florida did largely fund the organized opposition to 5 and 6.) Matt’s argument was picked up by at least one tea party group, which included his op-ed in an email newsletter.

Voters in Florida may want fair districts, but the Republican controlled legislature is determined to change that as the above examples show.

Then there’s the fact that for some reason, a majority of voters in Florida elected Republican Rick Scott, who was not charged with Medicare fraud, to be their Governor. (But his company Columbia/HCA was fined more that $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. His current company which runs private clinics,  Solantic, is also facing accusations. As Governor, Scott may now appoint the agency head who will be investigating Solantic as well.)

Among the things that Scott ran under during the campaign was his goal of privatizing Medicaid, which would direct recipients to private clinics, like the ones Scott owns. Scott also led the push to defeat President Obama’s health care reform legislation by forming his non-profit organization Conservatives For Patients Rights. Add to that, Florida is also leading the lawsuit against the new health care reform laws filed by Bill McCollum and joined by other states as well. A majority of Florida voters also elected Republican and FOX-GOP spokesmodel Pam Bondi (also brought to you via Sarah Palin’s endorsement) as Attorney General, who vows to continue the fight to strip health care reform away from Floridians who might benefit from it.

Rick Scott also plans to slash spending by cutting government jobs and education, stripping away regulations, eliminating income tax for businesses, reducing property taxes, and many other cuts in order to “run Florida like a business.” (Recall again, Scott oversaw the company with one of the largest fines ever charged in a Medicare fraud case, which he was forced to leave, and so was never himself charged with Medicare fraud.)

Now it remains to be seen which of these goals Scott will actually be able to reach. They are lofty goals indeed and some might even say unrealistic given the realities Florida is facing. Making all of those cuts while promising to add 700,000 jobs at the same time may involve some tricky maneuvers. Scott may well be adept at tricky maneuvers, but it will take some doing in that he faces a veto proof legislature who may have different goals of their own. Campaign promises and wishful thinking don’t count.

Going back to the Times editorial:

There is no way that these newly elected Republican lawmakers and governors can follow through on their promises to erase huge deficits without raising taxes — except by making irresponsibly draconian cuts in critical state services, particularly for the poor and for education.

The states, like the federal government, need to get control of spending. That may mean dealing with out-of-control pensions. It may mean careful cuts in services combined with, yes, higher taxes. But with millions of people out of work, this is the worst possible time for the states to try to solve all their problems by simply slashing health care spending, spending on higher and elementary education, and services for the elderly and the poor. It would lead to tens of thousands of layoffs and even lower state revenues.

Many other states have little left to cut in government services. Nonetheless, as Monica Davey and Michael Luo reported in The Times this week, many newly elected Republican governors say they will balance their budgets that way. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and several state lawmakers have even floated the idea of dropping out of the Medicaid program and creating a low-cost insurance program for the poor.

That is an irresponsible, and counterproductive, way to try to close the state’s $25 billion deficit. It would mean giving up the federal government’s 60 percent share of the Texas program’s $40 billion annual cost. And for nearly four million participants, it would reduce the level of health care far below a minimum standard.

No matter what the politicians have promised, there is no sound way to balance budgets, protect the most vulnerable people, and the states’ own economies, without some tax increases.

There’s also the matter of the stimulus money, which Florida is getting a big chunk of for high-speed rail projects. Scott has waffled on his support or the lack thereof for high-speed-rail. While other Republican Governors have talked big against the stimulus while accepting those very funds and taking credit for receiving them at the same time, yesterday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that any states which refuse to proceed with high-speed rail projects will lose those stimulus funds. If that condition holds true for Florida Scott will have to walk a fine line. If he stands in the way and blocks plans for high-speed rail in Florida, he’ll also be blocking an estimated 23,000 jobs, not to mention stimulating business development that will boost Florida’s economy which is sorely needed.

NY Times:

The Republicans’ big wins in Washington will make the states’ plight even worse. As part of their campaigns, Republican members of Congress have vowed to cut discretionary spending, much of which goes to state capitols. Meanwhile, federal stimulus money — decried by the Republicans — is drying up.

Rick Scott made a lot of big campaign promises to voters, and apparently they believed him, given his history with business and Medicare fraud. He portrayed himself to be an outsider, when in fact he lined up rather quickly with Republican cronies in a now veto proof legislature. He has to keep them and voters happy all at the same time, or risk the wrath of both. That in itself should be interesting to watch.

NY Times:

These highly partisan exercises in self-aggrandizement go on every 10 years, but the unusually large number of states with both Republican legislatures and governorships will sharply reduce the ability of Democrats to bring a little balance to the process.

States have long been in the paradoxical position of being closer to the lives of voters than the federal government, while receiving far less scrutiny and attention. But if Republicans begin abusing the privilege they have been handed, imposing unconscionable cuts and claiming an unfair partisan advantage, they may find the public’s outrage turning back on them in a hurry.

In Florida it’s in fact quite safe to say that Republicans will “begin abusing the privilege they have been handed.” They already have. They began abusing that privilege in less than 24 hours after the election last Tuesday by filing suit against Amendment 6, which will go against the will of the voters and stack the deck against them and in favor of Republican lawmakers.

All this before Governor elect Rick Scott, who was never charged with Medicare fraud, is even sworn in.

So I have to ask those voters who chose Rick Scott a question: I know it’s early, but has “voters remorse” started to kick in yet?


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Bill McCollum: "Champion" of Ethics, Law, and Order


Facing the prospect of having to look for a “real” job just a week after losing the Republican gubernatorial primary, Bill McCollum turned to the Florida Commission On Ethics. McCollum wrote to the Commission to make a request that he be allowed to lobby the Governor’s office and the Cabinet, or, to lobby his soon to be ex-coworkers in Tallahassee.

The answer? No.

The Commission and State law won’t allow him to lobby on behalf of private clients before the state government and collect fees for two years. McCollum knew that, but he didn’t let that stop him from asking anyway.

McCollum’s Sept. 3 letter acknowledged the fact that under state law, he can’t lobby his former agency, the attorney general’s office, for two years after leaving. But he asked “what entities” are also included under the post-employment restriction. The advisory opinion, to be acted on at the ethics panel’s Oct. 22 meeting, concludes that the lobbying ban applies to the governor and Cabinet as a group as well as the governor’s office and each Cabinet member individually “for a period of two years after leaving office.”

Put another way, McCollum apparently would prefer that the revolving door in Florida politics just be taken off its hinges entirely, but here’s the kicker:

McCollum asked that his request be kept a secret.

McCollum, who earned $400,000 a year as a lobbyist at Baker & Hostetler between two of his earlier statewide campaigns, asked that his name be withheld from any published opinion. But it wasn’t. His letter appears in the agenda materials along with the opinion.

Psst. Bill, it’s called the “ETHICS COMMISSION.” Oh, and you’re the “ATTORNEY GENERAL.”

No, McCollum certainly won’t endorse Rick Scott, his former rival in the Governor’s race, but he’s not above potentially profiting from a GOP win, should Scott somehow manage to wind up in the Governor’s mansion. (Perish the thought.)

McCollum, the man who balked at being referred to as a “career politician” served 20 years in Congress, collects an $82,000 pension, and had a net worth of $1.3 million as of last year. But not satisfied with that, and the fact that he lost the Governor’s race and may be out of offices to run for, McCollum would now like to profit from the state in other ways immediately, by jumping the two-year ethics law, and he would prefer that no one know that he made the request to do so.

Sure sounds like a career politician to me.

Can you say “hypocrisy?”

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Apparently for the Republicans in Florida, it depends on who you ask, and when you ask them.

In the real world, it’s defined this way:

unity |ˈyoōnətē|noun ( pl. -ties)

1 the state of being united or joined as a whole, esp. in a political context

Just a couple weeks ago, they were pretty clear on what the definition of a “real Republican,” was. But after the primary they made a “clarification” and perhaps changed their interpretation of “fraud” as well.

Within 24 hours, give or take, when Bill McCollum lost his bid for Governor in the primary the Republicans were falling all over themselves trying to save a sinking ship with Rick Scott and his deep pockets. Today, nearly everyone in the Florida GOP “establishment” has gone full blown Tea Bagger in pursuit Scott. They’re low on cash, desperate, and as I write they’re all over the state doing photo-ops and fundraisers. Looks like Jeb Bush doesn’t even wear the pants in the party anymore.

So if you ask the group now wearing the “We’re With Voldemort” t-shirts, they prefer to embrace this version of “unity”:

unity |ˈyoōnətē|noun ( pl. -ties)

• the state of forming a complete and pleasing whole, esp. in an artistic context : the repeated phrase gives the piece unity and cohesion.

They feel dogs will believe anything, especially with repeated promises of future meaty bones in reward for a vote come November. Unfortunately some of their own “unity” dogs won’t hunt.

For instance, Bill McCollum. So far he won’t endorse “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, and “you can’t make him!” Still wearing his grudge on his sleeve, McCollum still had this on his website today:

The “countdown clock” then morphs into a picture of Jeb Bush that says “support my friend Bill McCollum.” (Psst..Bill, Jeb has a new BFF. Can you say “denial?”)

Meanwhile, another attempt at “Party Unity” in the race for U.S. Senate isn’t going so well for the GOP either. Republicans in Tallahassee are pointing fingers at Marco Rubio’s involvement in spending millions in funds from the State Workers Compensation Trust Fund for a lavish courthouse deemed the “Taj Mahal.” After all, nothing says “fiscal responsibility” like 60-inch flat screen TV’s in 18 judicial “suites” when other courthouses are in need of building repairs and law books, and have laid off more than 280 employees. To Rubio, things like the latter are merely wasteful spending that needs to be cut. What voter wouldn’t agree: selfish is the employee who won’t give up his job so that a judge won’t have to squint watching a 20-inch during recess?

Believe it or not, at least one Republican in Tallahassee has a problem with that:

Legislative approval of money for the $48 million project came after an intensive lobbying campaign by the 1st District’s chief judge, Paul Hawkes, and fellow Judge Brad Thomas, both former legislative staffers.

Now, a key legislator has raised new questions about how that happened. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, was chairman of the House committee that oversaw court expenditures. Dean says he rejected a plea from Hawkes and Thomas to fund the courthouse after Dean toured the existing courthouse. He said he rejected it because the state was slashing budgets, and he said the courts had more important needs than the construction of a new courthouse for the appellate court.

Dean said Hawkes and Thomas indicated they would go around him to get the funding they needed.

“He (Hawkes) just looked at me and grinned and said, ‘I got friends,’ ” Dean said.

Dean said the two judges had help from Richard Corcoran, then chief of staff for House Speaker Marco Rubio, and from Hawkes’ son Jeremiah, who was general counsel for Rubio.

In final budget negotiations that year, Dean said the decision about money for the courthouse was bumped up to then-Appropriations Chairman Ray Sansom and Rubio. The final budget included $7.9 million to begin planning and construction.

“The next thing I knew, they were going to build a building,” Dean said. He said he didn’t know about the last-minute bond issue amendment until he read about it this month in the St. Petersburg Times.

Now voters can prepare themselves for the next wave of smokescreens and fear-mongering from the GOP as the Democratic candidate for Governor, Alex Sink orders an audit of said courthouse finances. But before you run from Republicans who yell “BOO!” or become distracted by whatever new “demon” appears on the horizon, stop and think about a couple of things first.

Would you rather have a job, be able to afford to educate your children and have health care? Or would you rather give all that up so that the top two percent of the wealthiest can continue getting those tax cuts, watch corporations swallow our elections, and look the other way as they install all those flat screens and appliances in the judges chambers?

Perhaps the GOP fears “unity” among voters this time around.

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There’s a line from one of my all time favorite movies, “My Cousin Vinny.” If you’ve seen it you’ll know which one I mean. An attorney is asking a prospective juror her views on the death penalty. When the woman says “Fry him!” the attorney gives a thumbs up to the judge and says: “She’ll do!”

Well, that is the current mentality of the desperate state of the Republican Party in Florida at the moment. On Tuesday their big gamble on the Governor’s office didn’t pan out as they had hoped. It seems that Bill McCollum just couldn’t pull it off, in spite of his popular voter friendly platforms, like: “I want to take away your health care”, and “I’ll put my boot to the rear of anyone who is brown and without papers,” and in spite of his scintillating debating skills (against himself, no less) and “vibrant” personality. He couldn’t cut it. Add to that, the GOP is so involved in corruption scandals down here and low on cash, McCollum had a bit of a problem running against someone perhaps even worse who was loaded and spending millions to “buy” the Governor’s office: Rick Scott.

Well, he lost. And as of this moment, Bill McCollum is still cowering in an office somewhere feeling sorry for himself. Worse still, he’s doing a really bad impression of a man who has principles, and appears in public only briefly to say things like “I still have questions about Rick Scott” when asked if he’ll endorse him or not.

Now it’s time to add insult to McCollum’s injury. It seems his best pals in the Republican Party Of Florida have bailed on him faster than, well, a loser with no cash. It seems they waited almost 24 hours before they said, with thumbs in the air: “He’ll do!” to Rick Scott.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman John Thrasher, the “Drill Off The Coast Of Florida Yesterday” twins, Senator Mike Haridopolos and Representative Dean Cannon, lesser brother Jeb Bush and many others have dived off the McCollum titanic, into a lifeboat, and are paddling faster than you can say: “Gov. Sink” in hopes that Scott will keep them afloat.

Make no mistake, the Republican Party of Florida will never be labeled as the “Party With Principles.” They have none, and they apparently don’t care that you, the voter, know that. Never before has it been so clear that they value two things more than anything:

1. Cash

2. Power

And it’s never been clearer that the GOP, Florida and otherwise, would like nothing more than to take both of those things away from you, the voter. Just take a look at this video made by the committee that Mike Haridopolos and Dean Cannon threw cash at earlier this month in order to fight against Rick Scott in favor of McCollum:

Yes. There’s nothing Republican about Rick Scott. Unless Rick Scott is all they’ve got. How do the “real Republicans” feel about selling out voters and the State of Florida?

“He’ll do!”

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Wow. Florida Republicans Mike Haridopolos and Dean Cannon, otherwise known as the Drill, Baby, Drill Twins, have wasted little time fleeing the sinking McCollum Titanic in favor of the lifeboat of desperation that is Rick Scott, the new GOP nominee in the race for Governor.

The Haridopolos statement, from the Orlando Sentinel:

“Allow me to extend my congratulations to Rick Scott on earning the Republican nomination for Governor.  I look forward to meeting with the Republican gubernatorial nominee in the next few days.  I am interested in the two of us exchanging our views regarding our great state and our visions for Florida’s future.

“As the Republican nominee, Mr. Scott has proven his commitment to this effort beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I respect that tremendously.

“We will now turn our focus and efforts toward Republican victories in November so that we may continue to achieve our common goals of cutting waste, decreasing taxes and decreasing regulations so that we can jump start this economy and create jobs.”

Shorter Haridopolos: Follow the money? Who knows? Groveling is groveling.

It will be interesting to see who gives the marching orders to whom in this new Republican Party Of Florida.

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It’s official. Last night voters in Florida kicked Bill McCollum and the GOP Jeb Bush establishment to the curb.

On the downside however, Republicans went with the other guy. The one who barely escaped Medicare fraud charges and threw $50 million of his own into his campaign, Rick Scott, as their nominee for Governor of the great state of Medicare.

But look out, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Democrat Alex Sink easily won her party nomination early in the evening, and no grass is growing under her feet. Before Rick Scott had even made his victory speech, Sink was already out in front with a message to voters as she jumped into the general election.

In the U.S. Senate race, Kendrick Meek was also the early winner in his race against the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire And Buy A Seat In The Senate?” candidate Jeff Greene.

Meek will be wasting no time either, as he’ll be facing not one but two candidates, Marco Rubio (R-Tea Bagger-FOX-GOPTV) and Charlie Crist (I-As Of 12:27 a.m. Wed.) in the general. Crist and Rubio got a head start knocking each other around before Crist jumped off the GOP Titanic and switched parties.

Rubio is rather fond of the three or four catch phrases he’s been throwing around since he got in the race, and not much has changed there. While he’s deviated just a little from the standard Tea Bagger talking points, he still has the same solution for every problem known to man, which is of course, tax cuts.

As for Charlie Crist? Well, he’s for whatever you want him to be on any given day. Really, just ask him.

It should be an interesting couple of months.

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