Sunday, January 31, 2010

Will Crist, Rubio Meet Answer On Equal Pay?

From FDP:

Or Will They Continue Dodge and Weave on Pocketbook Issues?

Tallahassee, FL - On the one-year anniversary of Congress passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act to require equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or national origin, Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist are oddly silent. Would they have supported or opposed the landmark equal-pay legislation had they been in Congress?

"Floridians deserve equal pay for equal work. And the people of our state deserve to know if those who wish to represent us support or oppose equal pay for equal work," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said. "How would Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio have voted?"

In January 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed Congress with the support of Senator Bill Nelson and despite the opposition of former Republican Senator Mel Martinez.

"Facing a roomful of reporters Wednesday, Florida's Republican candidates for U.S. Senate offered a glimpse of what's ahead in their campaigns when the heat is on: dodge and weave," Reported one newspaper earlier this week in a story headlined, "Rubio, Crist practice dodge, weave with reporters." [Times/Herald,, 1/28/10]

Will Bill Young Run To Put Washington Republicans First?

The Florida Democratic Party today urged Congressman Bill Young to seriously consider if he wants to run for re-election to represent the interests of his district or to please national Republican leaders in Congress. In recent days, media reports have made clear that Young might run for re-election because of pressure from national Republican leaders.

"After 39 years in Washington, Congressman Bill Young has lost touch with the people of Pinellas County. Rather than listening to the Floridians demanding change, Congressman Young instead has made it clear that his decision to retire depends on lobbying from the Republican Party bosses in Washington," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party Spokesman. "The people of Florida's 10th district need someone to represent them, unfortunately Congressman Young is only listening to Washington Republicans and their special interest friends. So rather than doing what Washington Republicans demand, maybe Young will finally put his district first and retire. If not, the voters will tarnish what legacy Young has left by throwing him out of office this fall."


According to Darryl Paulson, a political science professor with a "long relationship with Young", Rep. Young has changed his mind and decided to run "in response to intense lobbying from national Republicans." [Tampa Tribune, 1/25/2010]
Young has acknowledged that if he decides to run it's because: "I'm getting lobbied big time to run for re-election." [St. Petersburg Times, 1/13/2010]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Speaker Rubio's Just Saying No Won't Bring Jobs To Florida

Today, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff released the following statement demanding to know how Speaker Marco Rubio's "just saying no" to efforts to jumpstart Florida's economy will bring new jobs to Florida, after the Crist Administration announced Florida's unemployment rate is up to 11.8 percent:

"As Florida House Speaker, Marco Rubio crafted the economic policies that took our state's economy down the wrong path. During Speaker Rubio's watch, Florida's economy collapsed while Rubio did nothing to bring new jobs to Florida or jumpstart our economy.

"Like the typical politician that he is, Rubio's recent rhetoric doesn't fit his record. Speaker Rubio refuses to tell Floridians if he continues to support the largest sales tax increase in Florida's history, which he sponsored while in the Legislature. And Rubio won't say how he will help Floridians suffering during these hard economic times.

"Floridians deserve answers, but all Speaker Rubio has to say is 'No.'"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rubio Continues Paying Back Mortgage Industry For Sweetheart Home Loan

From FDP:

For the second time in as many days, the Florida Democratic Party slammed former House Speaker Marco Rubio for his extremist agenda and putting his fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party ahead of what is best for Florida after Rubio came out against President Obama's Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee that ensures that Americans are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance the government has provided Wall Street during the financial crisis.

"Marco Rubio's hypocrisy grew by leaps and bounds today on the news that he's not only been taking sweetheart home loan deals, but also using his position to payback the people who got him those sweetheart deals by opposing the full repayment of taxpayers for their money used to bailout his buddies in the financial industry," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party Spokesman. "Marco Rubio has proven to be a typical politician shilling for the special interests, the mortgage and insurance industries that have been gouging Florida customers for years."

Miami Herald: Rubio home equity loan questioned; Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio failed to disclose a $135,000 home equity loan he got from a Miami bank controlled by political supporters.


March 29, 2008

State House Speaker Marco Rubio abruptly amended his financial disclosure forms Friday after The Miami Herald asked why they lacked a $135,000 home-equity loan he obtained from a bank controlled by his political supporters.

Rubio and his wife bought the West Miami home for $550,000 in December 2005, with a $55,000 down payment. A month later, Rubio qualified for the equity loan from Miami-based U.S. Century Bank because an appraisal valued the home far higher than the purchase price: $735,000.

Real-estate experts said the deal -- on which Rubio gained $185,000 in equity in just 37 days -- was unusual. But the 36-year-old Republican said Friday that it was all above board, that he obtained no special favors and that the failure to disclose the loan was just ``an oversight.''

''There's nothing unusual about the loan or the application,'' Rubio said. ``They went out and ordered the appraisal. . . . They said I qualified for $135,000. I took the equity line.''

Rubio said the appraisal was legitimate, considering the heady days of Miami's real estate boom, but experts aren't so sure.

''It looks a lot like somebody's currying favor with an important political person,'' said Michael Cannon, a market analyst and executive director of Integra Realty Resources-Miami whose real estate column appears in The Herald. ``People off the street don't get this deal because he just purchased the property for $550,000. If it is a true equity loan, there has to be equity in the house to make the loan.''

Though U.S. Century Bank's appraiser said Rubio's new house was worth far more than the purchase price, none of the homes of similar size within a half-mile sold for any more than Rubio paid for his in the year before or after he bought it, according to home sales data.

Rubio provided The Herald a copy of the January 2006 appraisal. Because it was a new home, the appraisal says sales prices near the Rubio home ``do not reflect current market conditions as these were purchased at preconstruction prices prior to price increases in the area, thus these comparables were not used.''

The appraiser, Fidel Petisco of Alliance Appraisal Corp., then compared the home to newer homes located between a mile and a mile and a half away.

Petisco could not be reached Friday.

In his financial disclosure for 2006, Rubio said his home was worth $710,000.

''I definitely knew we had equity for that house when we moved in,'' Rubio said. ``We had spent a year looking for a comparable house in my district.''

Rubio said he went to U.S. Century Bank, whose board of directors includes such South Florida political heavyweights as developer Sergio Pino, lobbyist Rodney Barreto and consultant Jose Cancela, because his sister had a favorable experience with the bank that same year.

Pino, who is vice chairman of the board of Century, said Friday that the bank's decision to lend Rubio the money was based on the value of his home and had nothing to do with politics.

''Whatever loan Marco took, it was backed up by an appraisal,'' he said. ``I'm sure he could have gotten that loan at any other bank. We would not have given Marco a loan that he could not have gotten at any other bank.''

Pino said Rubio never called him personally asking for a loan and that he never called Rubio to suggest that Century could or should lend him money.

He said he didn't remember exactly when he learned of the loan, but that it was too small to require approval from the board of directors.

And Rubio pointed out that it's no surprise that powerful and connected people, like Pino or Cancela, run the bank where he got the loan because ``every bank has politically powerful people on their board.''

Cancela has been deeply involved with Floridians for Property Tax Reform, a group that has gotten behind Rubio's efforts to push for property-tax cuts. Rubio himself has raised money for the organization, which also helped push for a constitutional amendment to cap property taxes.

Rubio said Friday that he followed normal procedures to obtain the financing, saying that the amount U.S. Century agreed to give him was based on the appraisal that the bank ordered. He said he didn't ask for $135,000, the bank came up with that number.

He said he used the money to liquidate a previous debt and fix up his new home with new floors and furniture as he attempted to sell his first home. During much of 2006, he and his wife were carrying five different mortgages, records show.

Besides the two West Miami homes, Rubio owns a town house in Tallahassee which he bought with Republican Rep. David Rivera, the House rules chairman, in early 2005. Rubio sold his first home in West Miami in 2007.

Rubio said his failure to disclose the $135,000 loan on his last financial disclosure, for 2006, ``was an oversight.''

''As soon as I found about it, I corrected it,'' Rubio said. ``I over-disclose. I try to over-disclose as opposed to under-disclose.''

Rubio made the same mistake with another loan, however. He never disclosed a $64,000 equity loan that he took out on his previous home in February 2005. On Friday, he said he plans to amend the disclosure form for that year.

Rubio's most recent disclosure shows that he was earning nearly $32,000 from his position with the Legislature and $300,000 from the law firm of Broad and Cassel, a job he landed in 2004, two years before he became speaker.

Since he began leading the state House of Representatives, Rubio has established himself as the most vociferous of property-tax cutters and has clashed in recent days with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, against whom he is considering a run later this year.

Rubio has helped build up a formidable political machine, with the help of Cancela, and has long relied on Pino for campaign-finance support. Pino-controlled companies contributed about $3,000 to Rubio in 2006.

''I think that chances are on that board everybody knows Marco, everybody's a friend,'' Pino said. ``Chances are that most people there have given him checks for reelections at some point.''

Pino insisted the financial help from the bank was strictly business.

''I assure you everything is in order,'' Pino said. Rubio ``is a real good guy and it's a real good bank. We're not involved in politics. My bank is not involved in politics.''

Miami Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

Will Crist Follow Rubio's Extreme Pledge To Add to Deficit, Hurt Seniors, And Deny Health Coverage To Floridians?

From FDP:

While showing once again that he is out of step with mainstream Florida, today Marco Rubio once again showed he is part of Rush Limbaugh/Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party by pledging to repeal health insurance reforms, which when passed will lower the federal budget deficit, create jobs, and ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. The repeal will also hurt senior citizens across the Sunshine State, by re-opening the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole.

"The real question Floridians are asking today is if Charlie Crist will once again put his political ambition above Florida by following Rubio down the extreme right-wing path of trying to repeal health insurance reforms. Because Rubio is running for Senate to win the heart and soul of the Republican Party, rather than to do what is right for all Floridians, Rubio's actions today once again show he is nothing more than a typical politician who is in the hands of the health insurance industry," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman. "By pledging today to repeal health insurance reforms Marco Rubio not only promised to add to the federal budget deficit and deny Florida's families access to health care, but Rubio's repeal would also force senior citizens to continue paying for the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs out of their pockets by re-opening the Medicare Part D donut hole. Rubio's repeal also means that he wants allow insurance companies to deny coverage when you get sick because of a pre-existing condition."

By pledging to repeal insurance reforms, Rubio wants to undo the follow:

1. PROTECTIONS AGAINST INSURANCE COMPANY DISCRIMINATION AND LOSING COVERAGE WHEN YOU GET SICK: People who have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition will finally have access to affordable coverage. Insurers will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick and are in the middle of treatment.

2. LOWER DRUG COSTS FOR SENIORS, LOWER PREMIUMS FOR EARLY RETIREES: Seniors who fall into the Medicare Part D donut hole will see lower prescription drug costs as immediate steps are taken to close the donut hole. Employers who cover their early retirees will receive temporary funds to help offset the cost of expensive claims for retirees' health benefits - lowering premiums and protecting coverage for early retirees.

3. INSURANCE SECURITY IF YOU LOSE YOUR JOB: Never again will you lose access to insurance if you get laid off or switch jobs.

4. RELIEF FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND EMPLOYERS, JOBS FOR AMERICANS: Small businesses and employers getting crushed by soaring health care costs will see lower costs, allowing them to create as many as 4 million more jobs over the next decade.

5. NO LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE: Never again will you be subject to annual or lifetime limits on what insurance companies will pay, protecting millions of Americans from the threat of medical bankruptcy.

6. FREE PREVENTIVE CARE: Insurers will be required to offer free preventive care, lowering your out-of-pocket expenses and helping ensure that diseases or conditions can be caught early on.

7. INDEPENDENT CONSUMER ADVOCATES AND SUNSHINE ON RATE INCREASES: For the first time, consumers will have independent advocates dedicated to upholding consumer protections, answering their questions, and helping with any problems related to their plans. Insurance companies will be required to disclose their rates to consumers - discouraging them from runaway rate increases.

8. BETTER ACCESS AND STRONGER PROTECTIONS FOR WOMEN: Prohibits insurers from charging women more than men for health insurance or discriminating on the basis of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. Required maternity services as part of the essential benefits package in the exchange.

9. EXTENDED COVERAGE FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Young adults will now be able to stay on their parents' insurance much longer, through their 26th or 27th birthday.

10. AT LEAST 30 MILLION MORE AMERICANS WILL FINALLY HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE: Health reform will finally guarantee access to quality, affordable health insurance for 30-35 million Americans who don't have coverage today, also eliminating the annual hidden tax of $1,100 that American families pay to cover the cost of the uninsured. While the official health insurance exchanges are being created, a temporary insurance pool will be available for individuals with pre-existing conditions or chronic illnesses.

Reacting to ABC News Investigation, Florida Democrats Question Mica's Conflicts of Interest

From FDP:

Reacting to the recent ABC News investigation into Congressman John Mica's potential conflicts-of-interests between his daughters public relations work and earmarks Congressman Mica sought, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff released the following statement:

"This investigation raises major questions regarding potential conflicts of interest for Representative Mica and it is time that the people of Florida got some answers. It's difficult to believe it's a coincidence that Representative Mica consistently uses his power and influence in Washington for big spending projects that his daughter's clients have interests in. His daughter does the spin for the Wash and Dry cycle that gets money from her influential father to her big spending clients. This sort of unsavory backroom dealing is exactly what's wrong with politics as usual and why we need a new direction in Florida's 7th district."

Rooney Needs To Explain Why He Consistently Votes Against Critical Everglades Funding At Everglades Conference

From FDP:

Florida Democrats today called on Congressman Tom Rooney to explain his consistent opposition to Everglades restoration funding in his speech tomorrow to the Everglades Coalition Conference.

"In tomorrow's speech, we hope Congressman Rooney will come clean and tell the Everglades Coalition why he left the Glades high and dry," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman. "We call on Congressman Rooney to use his speech tomorrow to explain to Everglades supporters why he continues to vote against funding for the restoration of this national treasure. The Everglades needs an advocate in Congress who, unlike Congressman Rooney, will never choose politics over the preservation of this national treasure. The Everglades deserve better and so do the people of the 16th District."


Rooney is scheduled to speak tomorrow to the Everglades Coalition Conference being held this weekend in Palm Beach Gardens.

While in Congress, Rooney consistently voted against critical funding to keep Everglades restoration on track.

o Congressman Rooney voted against the Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation, 2010 which included over $240 million in funding for Everglades restoration, including the critical modified waters delivery program [Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation, 2010, Roll Call 475, 6/26/09].

o Had Congressman Rooney gotten his way, $4 million to restore the Indian River Lagoon would not have been available. NOAA will award a $4 million grant for the Indian River Lagoon restoration through the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act [NOAA Press Release, 6/30/09]. Congressman Rooney, however, voted against the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act [Roll Call 70,, 2/13/2009].