<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - Miami Political News and South Florida Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:40:46 -0500 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:40:46 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NJ Officer Meets President Obama]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:39:24 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/216*120/Officer+Obama+Camden.jpg

Although cops are used to being called to important gatherings, a New Jersey officer was shocked to discover who she would be meeting at an upcoming event.

Officer Virginia Matias of the Camden County Police was told by Chief Scott Thompson that she would be meeting President Barack Obama.

“He called me and told me I would have the honor of meeting the president,” the 28-year-old said. “It was unreal, I thought ‘is this a joke?’”

Matias went to the White House and met Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in at the White House on Feb. 24 along with five other officers across the U.S. who were nominated by the heads of their respective departments.

“As soon as they opened the door to the Oval Office he was right there with a smile on his face,” Matias said. “He was very welcoming, I felt like I was at home.”

Obama met with the officers to thank them for their service and discuss how law enforcement can work with communities to ensure public safety.

“We’re a model of community policing, so he wanted to get our feedback on what’s working,” Matias said.

Matias was motivated by a tragic event in her teens to become an officer.

“When I was around 17, I had an uncle who was murdered in North Camden while he was operating his bodega in 2003,” Matias said. "At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a part of a change in my city."


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<![CDATA[Runoff for Rahm: Mayor Falls Short]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 07:22:19 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/rahm+and+chuy.jpg

Rahm Emanuel failed to clinch another term as Chicago's mayor on Tuesday, setting the stage for an unprecedented runoff election against challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

Results showed the incumbent mayor with about 46 percent of the vote, short of the 50 percent-plus-one support he needs to win another term outright. Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, came in second place with 34 percent. 

The results mean the two will face off April 7, a potentially embarrassing result for a high-profile politician who has already spent millions in his re-election bid. It is the first time since the city changed its election system in the 1990s that an incumbent mayor is forced into a runoff. 

"We have come a long way and we have a little bit farther to go," Emanuel told supporters. "This is the first step in a real important journey for our city. To those who voted for me in this election, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those who voted for someone else, I hope to earn your confidence and your support in the weeks to come." 

A boisterous Garcia celebrated the outcome as a win over moneyed interests and other powerful forces supporting the incumbent, saying the results show "the people have spoken."

"Nobody thought we’d be here tonight," Garcia said. "They wrote us off; they said we didn’t have a chance. They said we didn’t have any money while they spent millions attacking us. Well, we’re still standing! We’re still running! And we’re gonna win!" 

Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, struggled to rise above 50 support throughout the campaign, even as he outpolled his four lesser-funded and known challengers. A late campaign blitz that blanketed the airwaves and a public appearance last week with President Barack Obama — a move seen as an effort to appeal to undecided African-American voters — couldn’t propel the 55-year-old mayor to victory.

The 55-year-old Democrat anchored his re-election bid on first-term efforts to better the lives of Chicagoans, highlighting pushes to expand access to early childhood education, raise the minimum wage and improve the city’s business climate and infrastructure. But he faced criticism for other major policies pursued during his first term, including his decision to close dozens of schools.

The school closures fueled a tumultuous relationship with the Chicago’s Teachers Union, which went on strike in 2012. The union, which also clashed with Emanuel over other changes to the city’s education system, endorsed Garcia after a brain cancer diagnosis sidelined its own president, Karen Lewis.

Political expert John P. Frendreis said while Garcia is “funny, he’s got a good speaking presence, he’s been around long enough, he’s got this colorful nickname so people kind of know him,” it was the support of the teachers that made the race competitive. 

“It’s really the school controversy, the closure of schools, the continued opening of charter schools and then the ... battle with the CTU and Rahm that has generated any kind of heat in this and has made him even remotely vulnerable,” the political science professor at Loyola University in Chicago, said ahead of Tuesday’s race.

Emanuel's “bare-knuckles” approach to running the city, despite yielding results in some areas, also hurt his standing with some voters, analysts say.

“He’s reasonably good at his job,” Freindreis said. “Now where he has stumbled is that he is a tough guy and he is a bully and sometimes he is just too smart for his own good and so he’s rubbed people the wrong way because he’s not nice.”

Emanuel’s challengers criticized him throughout the campaign for not doing enough to help bring jobs, safer streets and other opportunities to all Chicagoans. Garcia told NBC Chicago he would, to hire a thousand more police officers, reduce class sizes and standardized tests and “invest in neighborhoods to attract manufacturing or industrial-creation jobs.” In addition to the backing from the teachers, he also gained headlines for winning the endorsement of the liberal political group MoveOn.org. The group applauded Tuesday's results as a "huge win for progressives and working families across Chicago." 

Even if Emanuel succeeds in winning a second term in April, some observers say the education initiatives he pushed in his first four years could take a hit in Chicago and beyond.

“Over the next few years you could have mayors, some Democrats and some Republicans, in cities across the nation saying I’m going to pick the kids over the unions,” said Keith Koeneman, author of “First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daly.”

Check back with NBCChicago.com for more on this developing story. For complete election night coverage, visit the Ward Room blog. 

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<![CDATA[Impact with Jackie Nespral - Feb. 15, 2015]]> Sun, 15 Feb 2015 18:03:11 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000016898633_1200x675_399594563926.jpg Impact with Jackie Nespral - Feb. 15, 2015]]> <![CDATA[Philly Chosen as 2016 DNC Host]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 19:51:07 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/philly+skyline+generic+camden+waterfront+sunset+comcast+liberty+place.jpg

The 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held in Philadelphia, party leaders announced Thursday.

Philadelphia beat out two rival cities for the chance to host the party’s nominating convention in July 2016. Both Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio, were in the running through the final round of the bidding process.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the city’s “deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”

“I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee,” she said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said the city's "proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City's tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance" made it an ideal pick.

"We're all delighted to make history again, here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection," he said.

The final contract between the DNC and Philadelphia was signed Thursday, Wasserman Schultz said. The convention will take place the week of July 25, 2016. The decision was made following a meeting between Wasserman Schultz and President Barack Obama Wednesday night in the Oval Office, a source involved in the selection process confirmed to NBC10.

"The president enthusiastically signed off," said the source.

The meeting of Democratic politicians and delegates will be the second major event for the city in less than a year's time. In September, millions are expected to flock to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis during the 2015 World Meeting of Families.

Philadelphia last hosted a national convention in 2000, when Republicans gathered there. Republicans have already announced plans to hold their 2016 nominating convention in Cleveland.


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<![CDATA[Bill Could Criminalize Bathroom Use for Some]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 22:37:03 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/bathroom+generic.jpg

A new bill put forward by a Florida state lawmaker from Miami could make it a crime to use the restroom that doesn't correspond to your sex at birth, a proposal that could particularly impact transgender Floridians.

Rep. Frank Artiles’ bill would make it a first-degree misdemeanor for anyone who, in the bill's language, isn’t a “biological female” to use “single-sex public facilities designated for girls, women, ladies, or persons of the female sex.” The law would also limit men’s public restrooms to “biological males.”

The bill’s language was first reported by Salon.com, which noted that the bill would bar transgender people from using the restrooms that match their gender identities.

Artiles’ bill defined single-sex public facilities as “bathrooms, dressing rooms, fitting rooms, locker rooms, showers, and other similar facilities where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy” and that are maintained by “an owner of public accomodations, a school, or a place of employment; that conspicuously designated with appropriate signage for use by persons of only one sex; and that are designed or designated to be used by more than one person at a time.”

The proposed bill from Artiles also said that in the case of this law, “biological female” or “biological male” means the person’s sex “at birth.”

Artiles’ described the need for the protections in the bill saying, “Single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited 30 to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.”

The bill also opens up people who use the restroom that doesn't correspond to their sex at birth to civil penalties and allows civil action against operators of public facilities that violate the law.

The bill would also preempt any city or county “law, regulation, policy, or decree.”

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<![CDATA[WATCH: Fla. Rep. Hastings Calls Texas a "Crazy State"]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 18:26:01 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/hastings020215.jpg

Florida Representative Alcee Hastings left no doubt this week about the way he felt reagrding the state of Texas when he called it a “crazy state” during a meeting of the House Rules Committee.

“I don’t know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with — and I mean that just as I said it,” Hastings said when his time started to question Representative Michael Burgess of Texas about a state choosing not to implement parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Representative Burgess immediately fired back at Hastings telling the chair that “He (Hastings) made a defamatory statement about my state and I will not stand here and listen to it.”

(Watch the exchange which begins at 1:31:43 in the video below)

Hastings refused to back down from Burgess saying, “Well fine, you don’t have to listen. You can leave if you choose. I told you what I think about Texas. I wouldn’t live there for all the tea in China. And that’s how I feel. For all intents and purposes I know what my state did, which in many respects is close to being just as crazy, and that is they did not expand Medicaid.”

The hearing in the rules committee was marking up a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was approximately the 56th vote taken by the Republican-led House to repeal the bill. The discussion got heated as the parties talked about states implementing parts of the law including Medicaid expansion.

Burgess later asked that Hastings apologize for what he said about his home state. Hastings was unequivocal in his refusal to back off his earlier statement.

“You will wait until hell freezes over (in response to being told they would wait for an apology) for me to say anything in an apology,” Hastings said. “I would apologize to you if I was directing my comments at you. I was commenting about the state you happened to be a resident of. I will not apologize.”

Tuesday all 25 Texas House Republicans demanded Hastings apologize to the citizens of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle. Hastings has not issued an apology and has not indicated he will do so.

"I'm regretting that certain of their citizenry was offended, but what I would ask them to do is to take a line from the movie "Frozen" and let it go," Hastings told NBC 6.

The exchange was covered on "The Daily Show" in which host Jon Stewart pointed out to Hastings, “You’re from Florida and you’re calling Texas crazy?"



Photo Credit: NBC 6
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<![CDATA[Wilson Wants Vaccines Mandated for Students]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 10:17:30 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/106887013.jpg

Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida's 24th district said Tuesday that she is preparing to file legislation that will mandate certain vaccinations, with minimal exceptions, for all students who attend public schools.

Wilson’s legislation comes as a measles outbreak has started to make its way across the nation. The outbreak started at Disneyland in California and has since spread to 14 states and approximately 100 people have been diagnosed with the disease.

There have been four recorded cases of measles in Florida, but each case was of tourists coming into the state.

“As a former elementary school principal, I know the importance of childhood vaccinations. Research has shown that vaccinations are effective; they keep children healthy, save lives, and protect future generations of Americans,” Wilson said. “The health and safety of children should be our top priority. Children who are not vaccinated put themselves and others in danger of acquiring and spreading preventable diseases, particularly to those individuals who cannot receive vaccinations, such as infants, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems, including the elderly and those with diseases like HIV/AIDS and leukemia.”

The outbreak has generated discussion on all levels about the need for vaccinations and the science behind vaccinations. Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the National Institutes for Health support vaccines as does a broad spectrum of politicians from both sides of the aisle.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[County Encourages Beckham to Use FIU Temporarily]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:31:38 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/466949757.jpg

It’s been almost a year since international soccer icon David Beckham announced his plans for a Major League Soccer team in Miami. Since then, two different sites for a soccer stadium have been rejected and now, the Miami-Dade County commission wants Beckham’s team to temporarily use FIU’s stadium for the new franchise.

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to propose using FIU’s stadium as the team’s temporary home, according to the Miami Herald. Whether or not Miami Beckham United, the group behind the MLS team, is willing to have a temporary home remains to be seen.

The move comes more than a month after Beckham was warned by MLS Commissioner Don Garber that some concrete progress with the franchise needs to happen soon, according to the BBC.

“This can’t go on forever,” Garber told the BBC of the delays getting the franchise rolling.

According to the Miami Herald, Beckham’s lead negotiator said the group’s focus in finding a permanent home for the unnamed franchise. Previously, Beckham and MLS have said they want a stadium to be built downtown. MLS made the construction of a new stadium a requirement for the new franchise.

According to the Herald, Beckham’s group hasn’t committed to FIU or any other temporary site like Sun Life Stadium or Marlins Park.

Beckham’s team will enter the MLS at a time where the league’s revenue is struggling. According to the BBC, MLS Commissioner Garber said the league’s existing franchises are combining to lose more than $100 million per year.

Plugging in the following Beckham has in the United States and around the world could be a much-needed shot in the arm for the league. If Beckham decided to play for his Miami franchise, as he hinted to the BBC he might, it would be a big public relations boost for the team and league.

Beckham told E! earlier this year that the franchise is “pretty close” to revealing certain items, possibly including logos, team colors, and other items; and that a stadium “will come after that.” According to the Herald, no deadline has been given by Beckham’s group or MLS for a stadium decision.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Floridians Don't Want Rubio to Run for Prez: Poll]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 17:06:54 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121714+marco+rubio+discusses+developments+in+cuba.jpg

Senator Marco Rubio appears to be gearing up for a run for the presidency in 2016, but a new poll of voters in the Sunshine State showed he may want to focus on his re-election rather than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

According to the new Mason-Dixon poll released Monday, 57 percent of those polled want Rubio to seek a second term in the Senate rather than going to for the White House. Only 15 percent of those surveyed said Rubio should run for president. Twenty-five percent of the respondents were unsure of what they want Rubio to do.

The poll found just more than 40 percent of voters in Florida supported a presidential campaign from former Governor Jeb Bush. Forty-two percent of voters said Bush should run, while 43 percent said he should not and another 15 percent weren’t sure.

The broadest support for Bush came from North Florida where 49 percent said he should run and 38 percent said he should not. Bush’s numbers struggled in the heavily populated southeast part of the state where 37 percent said he should run and 50 percent said he shouldn’t run.

The Mason-Dixon poll had a margin of error of +/- four points.

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<![CDATA[Donors at Koch Brothers Conference Like Rubio: Report]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:27:27 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121714+marco+rubio+discusses+developments+in+cuba.jpg

As Sen. Marco Rubio continues to take more steps towards making a run at the White House, he may is the early choice of several of the large donors to one of the biggest conservative organizations in the nation, the Koch Brothers network.

According to Politico, Senator Rubio was chosen in an informal straw poll of some donors as the top GOP presidential candidate. Politico reported the poll was conducted by veteran GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

If Rubio is the early choice of the many of the large donors to the Koch Brothers political action groups; he will be at a major advantage in the early presidential primaries in 2016. The Koch Brothers groups have said it hopes to raise $889 million to push a conservative agenda over the next two years.

The Koch Brothers and their network of donor money is highly sought after by Rubio, Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, along with Governor Scott Walker and just about any Republican ready to make a run at the White House.

The presidential election in 2016 is likely going to be a billion dollar campaign from both the Republican and Democratic nominees.

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<![CDATA[Despite Costs, House Voting Again to Overturn ACA]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:19:53 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/obamacare+site+screengrab.jpg

Republicans in Congress are planning to vote for approximately the 60th time to overturn all or parts of the Affordable Care Act, according to TheHill.com. The vote will come at a high price to taxpayers and on the heels of a new, much lower cost estimate on the ACA from the Congressional Budget Office.

For taxpayers, the previously calculated cost for each vote to overturn all or some of the ACA was set at approximately $1.45 million per vote, according to numbers from the Congressional Research Service and CBSNews.com.

Based on those numbers, Congress will have spent approximately $87 million in symbolic votes that either die in the U.S. Senate or will not be signed by President Barack Obama since 2010. The upcoming bill is also likely to either be filibustered in the Senate or get vetoed by President Obama.

At the same time, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Affordable Care Act will cost 20 percent less than originally projected over the next decade. The CBO said that part of the reason the costs are declining is the slowdown in the growth of health care costs overall, according to the Washington Post.

All of the fighting over the Affordable Care Act may be a moot point by June depending on how the Supreme Court rules in the case of King vs. Burwell. If the court rules against the law, it would strike down federal subsidies offered under the ACA which could cripple the law and take away health insurance from millions of Americans who received subsidies to help pay for coverage.

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<![CDATA[Impact with Jackie Nespral - Jan. 25, 2015]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 17:43:40 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/impact+012515.PNG Impact with Jackie Nespral - Jan. 25, 2015]]> <![CDATA[Christie Woos Iowa Conservatives]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 01:46:55 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/12415chris.jpg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is trying to connect with Iowa conservatives by assuring them that "you'll always know who I am" if he runs for president.

While still undeclared, Christie left few doubts Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit that he is primed to enter the 2016 GOP race.

Christie told the Republican voters in the leadoff primary state in the nomination battle that they shouldn't let his blunt style turn them off. To those not enamored with all aspects of his record, Christie asserted "you'll always know what I believe and you'll always know where I stand."

He spoke at length about his anti-abortion views, which tends to resonate with Iowa's social conservative caucus-goers.

Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and many others turned the Iowa Freedom Forum into the unofficial launch of the next campaign for the Iowa caucuses. More than 1,000 religious conservatives met at a refurbished theater to hear their pitches.

The forum's sponsor, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, opened the event by asking the crowd, "Do you believe that the next president of the United States is going to be speaking to you today?"

The audience erupted in applause and King responded, "As do I."

Few would pick Christie, an abortion rights and gay marriage opponent better known for his union and budget battles, to emerge as the favorite among Iowa's evangelical voters. Yet his appearance could allow him to make inroads with a group focused as much on ideological purity as defeating the Democrat nominated to follow President Barack Obama.

"He has gusto that makes him an everyman. That appeals to me," 29-year-old Steve Friend of Sioux City said of Christie. "But I think he tanked the 2012 election by praising President Obama after (superstorm) Sandy."

Christie has defended his praise of the president for visiting storm-ravaged New Jersey in the weeks before Romney lost. But it's an image that sticks in the craw of Iowa's most right-wing conservatives.

"I don't trust him," said Mary Kay Hauser, another forum attendee. "I think he's disingenuous. I think he's part of the old New Jersey party."
 

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<![CDATA[Sen. Rubio Taking Steps Toward Possible 2016 Run]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:51:11 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/121113+marco+rubio.jpg

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio rode into Washington on a wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment in 2010. He may soon be hoping to ride a similar wave all the way up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in 2016.

NBC News has confirmed that Senator Rubio is taking steps to prepare for a run for the White House in the 2016 election. The news was first reported by ABC News on Friday.

Rubio has hired Anna Rogers to be his finance director. Rogers comes from American Crossroads, a Super PAC backed by former senior Bush advisor Karl Rove. Rogers is expected to start her new job with the Rubio campaign in the first week of February.

The senator has laid out plans to visit multiple states for the next month and will skip Senate votes next week in order to attend fundraisers in California.

Rubio’s rapid rise to political stardom started in the Florida Legislature, which he led at one point. He entered the 2010 Senate race far behind then-Governor Charlie Crist and was able to outflank Crist in the Republican primary. The moves electrified Rubio’s political star and sent Crist’s political career tumbling.

Rubio won his seat in 2010 primarily based on the Tea Party wave of anti-Obamacare sentiment. He also benefitted from having a three-way race with Crist as an independent and Kendrick Meek running as a Democrat. The two effectively split the electorate opposing Rubio, opening the door to the Senate for Rubio.

The junior senator from Florida may be hoping to start and catch a similar wave to the White House that Obama followed when he ran after just two years in the Senate. However, Rubio would have filled out his entire first-term if he runs in 2016.

The path to the White House for Rubio will be much tougher. He angered many of the Tea Party voters that supported him when he helped pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill a few years ago.

As the conservative backlash started, Rubio quickly backed away from support on many of the bill’s key policies and won back support from some of the voters who lifted him to the White House. He will also face a field full of big Republican names hoping to win the nomination.

While none have officially declared their pursuit of the presidency, it’s expected that Mitt Romney will make a run at the White House. He could be joined by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Rick Perry, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

“The interesting thing here is that Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are friends they look like they are both running for each other and they both live really close to each other and that is going to make for one interesting kind of awkward campaign,” said Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo.

Bush could prove to be the biggest obstacle for Rubio to make a successful presidential bid. Bush has more experience as an executive and skillfully navigated the Florida political machine for two terms as governor and is still well-liked by many of his former supporters in the Sunshine State.

“I think Jeb is going to be the one that’s going to finish the race,” said Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “Marco is still a young boy. He has a lot of years left in him.”

Rubio said Bush has the political acumen to raise the amount of money necessary to mount a successful presidential campaign. The 2016 presidential campaign could end up being a multi-billion dollar campaign and will likely be the most expensive in U.S. History.

Rubio has been a fierce critic of almost every policy move made by the Obama Administration. He’s also been a leading critic of the move to normalize relations with Cuba, though polls show a national majority back the moves by the White House.

For Republicans, if Rubio follows his previous comments that he will not run for re-election to the Senate if he runs for president (which also is a Florida law); his plans may open up a new battleground in the almost evenly-divided swing state of Florida.

That could prove especially beneficial to Democrats. The 2016 electoral map is expected to tilt towards the Democrats in many swing states and voter turnout could help Democrats re-take the U.S. Senate and also keep the White House.

Rubio could also be angling for another key position in a potential Republican White House, that of vice-president. If Rubio doesn’t win the presidential nomination, he could be a leading contender to join the winner’s ticket as the vice-presidential candidate.

Still, whoever the Republicans end up choosing to run for the White House will have one of the toughest challenges ahead in the general election, a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

“If Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush run against Hillary Clinton; they’re gonna lose and they’re not only going to lose the White House race, they’re even going to lose their home state of Florida,” said Caputo. “But, that is what the polling says now. And as you know and I know, in a state like Florida; don’t predict the elections too early, heck even on election day as we sometimes don’t know the winner.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top NY Lawmaker Arrested on Corruption Charges: Source]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 22:21:24 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/silver7.jpg

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday on federal corruption charges and is accused of using his position in the state legislature to collect millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, according to a criminal complaint.

Silver, who has held office in the State Assembly since 1976 and been speaker of the legislative body since 1994, turned himself into the FBI at its field office near Foley Square Thursday morning.

The embattled legislator told reporters after his court appearance that he did not plan to resign.

"I will be vindicated," he said. 

His attorneys, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, released a joint statement calling the allegations baseless.

"We’re disappointed that the prosecutors have chosen to proceed with these meritless criminal charges," the attorneys' statement said. "That said, Mr. Silver looks forward to responding to them -- in court -- and ultimately his full exoneration.”

At a news briefing shortly after Silver's arrest, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara accused the longtime politician of duping taxpayers through a series of secretive schemes and backroom dealings to line his own pockets, and "cleverly" seeking ways to monetize his public office in violation of federal law.

Silver allegedly collected around $4 million in bribes and kickbacks and used his law license and lax New York disclosure laws to disguise the profits as referral fees, Bharara said.

Those alleged ill-gotten gains accounted for two-thirds of the speaker's outside income since 2002, the prosecutor added. Bharara said a judge issued warrants allowing authorities to seize $3.8 million Silver had dispersed in eight bank accounts at six different banks in alleged fraud proceeds.

"For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question, 'How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly service his constituents?'" Bharara said. "Today, we provide the answer. He didn't."

The five-count criminal complaint unsealed Thursday focuses on two alleged schemes by which Silver acquired millions -- attorney referral payments and alleged real estate kickbacks. One firm, identified by sources familiar with the investigation as Goldberg & Iryami, allegedly paid Silver about $700,000 over the course of about a decade in "undisclosed bribes and kickbacks" to get real estate developers in the state to do their business with the firm.

One of the real estate developers, described in the court papers as "Developer 1," is Leonard Litwin of Glenwood Management, according to the sources. The sources said Litwin cooperated with investigators, as did law firm partner Jay Goldberg.

The firm Weitz and Luxemberg also allegedly paid Silver about $5.3 million since 2002. About $1.4 million came from an annual salary, which the complaint alleges Silver received "based on his official position rather than any work he was expected to perform."

"For many years New Yorkers have also asked the question, 'What exactly does Speaker Silver do to earn his substantial outside income?'" Bharara said. "Well, the head-scratching can come to an end on that score, too, because we answer that question today as well. He does nothing."

The rest of the money came from attorney referral fees, with about $3 million coming by way of a scheme where Silver allegedly passed on asbestos cases from a New York doctor, identified by sources as Dr. Robert Taub, in exchange for secretly providing Taub access to $500,000 in state grants and research funds. Taub is the director of the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center. 

Investigators said Silver referred about 100 clients to the firm, but none of the asbestos clients or their family had ever had any contact with Silver at all, court papers said.

Taub cooperated with investigators, sources said.

Messages left with Goldberg, Litwin and Taub were not immediately returned. 

Despite making assurances that he represents "plain ordinary and simple people," investigators found no court records indicating that Silver ever made a single appearance in state or federal court.

"The problem for Sheldon Silver was that he was neither a doctor nor an asbestos lawyer, so Silver did not have relevant legal or medical expertise, but what he did have was extraordinary power over state money that he had the ability to dole out quietly, even secretly," Bharara said.

Bharara had been focusing on how state representatives earned and reported income after the Moreland Commission was shut down in Albany before completing its own examination of alleged wrongdoing in Albany. Bharara says that too was Silver's doing.

"A deal was cut that cut off the commission's work to the great relief of Sheldon Silver, who furiously fought its subpoenas and urged the commission's early shutdown," he said. "Moreland was made to close its doors after only nine months, its work barely begun, and while litigation over those subpoenas about Sheldon Silver's outside income was still pending before a state judge."

If convicted of all five counts in the complaint, Silver faces up to 100 years in prison. He did not enter a plea during a brief court appearance Thursday and was released on $200,000 bond. Silver surrendered his passport and was told he needs permission to travel anywhere outside New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.  

Mayor de Blasio said New York should let the judicial process play out. 

"Although the charges announced today are very serious I want to note that I have always known Shelly Silver to be a man of integrity and he certainly has due process rights and I think it’s important that we let the judicial process play out here," the mayor said.

Questions in the past have been raised about Silver’s outside income that supplement his part-time assembly work and he has always denied wrongdoing.

In a statement Thursday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Frankel said Silver took advantage of his "political pulpit" to reap unlawful rewards.

"We hold our elected representatives to the highest standards and expect them to act in the best interest of their constituents," Frankel said. "In good faith, we trust they will do so while defending the fundamental tenets of the legal system. But as we are reminded today, those who make the laws don’t have the right to break the laws."

Albany has had its fair share of corruption scandals over the years. The last legislative leader to be charged was former State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Bruno, a Republican, was acquitted last year after fighting two federal corruption counts for much of the last decade.

Bharara’s office is prosecuting Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith in an alleged scheme to bribe his way to run for mayor as a Republican, and has charged numerous other current and former state and local politicians including State Sens. Vincent Leibell, Hiram Monserrate and Carl Kruger and New York City councilman Larry Seabrook.

-- Pete Williams and Richard Esposito contributed to this report.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA["Pivotal": LGBT Groups Praise Obama's "Historic" SOTU]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 18:38:42 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/obama+state+of+union.JPG

LGBT rights activists and organizations across the country are applauding President Barack Obama for becoming the first U.S. president to use the words "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" in a State of the Union Address.

In the nearly hour-long address in front of Congress Tuesday, Obama condemned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, while declaring that same-sex marriage is a “civil right.” His remarks come on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court agreement last week to rule on whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

"As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're threatened, which is why I've prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained," Obama in his sixth State of the Union address. "That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer."

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in California, said the mention made the speech “especially historic for transgender and bisexual people.” The first-of-its-kind nature of the reference was widely reported following the Tuesday night address and confirmed by NBC Owned Television Stations.

“We’ve never heard a president address their needs during a State of the Union Address,” Davis said. “That was just historic. By simply saying the word 'transgender' in a speech, it represents the progress for transgender people and the United State’s broader movement for equality for all.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the Washington D.C-based National Center for Transgender Equality said that the “mention of us” is a way that “empower trans people to stand taller and work harder.”

“The president of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal,” the transgender rights activist said in a statement.

Former NFL player Wade Davis II, executive director for You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that is working to eradicate homophobia in sports, said the inclusion shows that society is starting to recognize that "gay" is not a universal term for those in the LGBT community.

“It’s not an inclusive term for someone who is bisexual or transgender, and we hope people would realize that,” said Davis, who came out as gay in 2012. “The struggle of someone being gay is not a representative of the struggles of someone who is bisexual or transgender. Gay is not this universal term that stands for lesbians, bisexual and transgender. And transgender has zero to do with sexual orientation.”

While the wait may have been long for a U.S president to make such move at the annual joint session of Congress, Obama’s calls for LGBT rights and protections are not entirely new. He was the country's first sitting leader to support same-sex marriage, an announcement he made in 2012.

Obama made a more robust move in 2013, when he reportedly became the first president to use the word “gay” during an inaugural address ─ at his second inauguration in 2013. Last year, the president signed an executive order extending protection against discrimination in the workplace for gay and transgender workers in the federal government.

Masen Davis said more work need to be done, and he urged Congress to pass laws to help LGBT individuals get more access to the services they need, including protections against housing discrimination.

Wade Davis, the NFL player, echoed those remarks, saying he hopes Obama’s message Tuesday night “will start some serious conversations about the discrimination” people in the LGBT community faces, particularly transgender individuals.

“It’s unfortunate for this to be the first time a president talks about it, but it speaks to some come change that is happening,” Wade Davis said. “I hope that the outcome of those conversations will be a policy. Talking without having a policy to back it up is just empty.”



Photo Credit: ap]]>
<![CDATA[New Md. Gov: What to Expect]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:02:30 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/20141104+Hogan.jpg

Larry Hogan was sworn in as Maryland governor Wednesday, becoming just the second Republican to hold the post in more than 45 years. He'll face a $750 million budget deficit, a legislature controlled by Democrats and an electorate awaiting the tax cuts he promised on the campaign trail.

But what he will try to do in office remains something of a mystery, political observers say.

"He was not at all specific about policies during the campaign," said Donald F. Norris, director of the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "He basically ran against the outgoing governor for being a tax-and-spend liberal and claimed that we were not only overtaxed but over-regulated."

Hogan, 58, defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown last fall, in what was described as an astonishing upset and a rebuke to two-term Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and the tax increases he implemented. Hogan, a commercial real estate broker, is the son of a former congressman and county executive for Prince George's County in Maryland. He is the state's second Republican governor since former Vice President Spiro Agnew held the role.

Hogan has promised better fiscal management, but now must contend with spending formulas that control some of the budget's largest expenses.

"I can't see him imposing new taxes so really he's left with cuts and that's where he begins to engage real battle with the legislature," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for The Cook Political Report.

Mandated appropriations account for 81 percent of the state's portion of spending proposed for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in July, according to a November report from the Department of Legislative Services' Office of Policy Analysis. The two-year budget shortfall has grown to nearly $1.2 billion.

"Beyond what's in his initial budget, I think you'll see him trying to change some of those mandatory spending patterns to give the state a little bit more flexibility and an ability to avoid ongoing structural deficits," said Todd Eberly, associate professor of political science and chairman of Political Science Department at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Hogan vowed during the campaign that he would work with the state legislature, and observers will be watching carefully to see how long bipartisanship will last in a state with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration.

"I would say the two presiding officers in the state legislature are moderate to conservative Democrats but their rank and file, particularly in the House, are very liberal so that's going to be a pressure point for all of these four years," said Josh Kurtz, a political blogger for Center Maryland.

Kurtz and others noted that the previous Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, similarly pledged compromise but instead fought with the legislature through much of his single four-year term.

"So if Hogan chooses to fight with the Democrats, it's going to be an ugly four years," Norris said. "He won't get anything accomplished. If he can find ground for compromise and cooperation, then I think things will work out pretty well for both sides. We just have to wait and see."

Hogan, who won 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Brown, has said he wants to appeal two environmental measures: a storm water remediation fee, otherwise known as the rain tax, and regulations governing how much nitrogen can be released into the Chesapeake Bay, particularly from chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore, Norris said.

Hogan also has questioned the expense of two large public transit projects on the boards: the Baltimore Red Line, a 14-mile light rail transit line linking the city's east and west sides to the downtown that would cost $2.9 billion, and the Greater Washington Purple Line, a 16-mile east-west transit line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton that would cost $2.45 billion. Both would gotten $100 million in federal funding, and could get up to $900 million each if Maryland signs funding agreements.

In recent days, Hogan refused to discuss the projects until after he took office, but during the campaign, he said he would spend money on roads rather than on expanding public transportation.
Observers noted that he was elected by predominantly suburban and rural voters.

Others programs that could prompt objections from voters if Hogan tries to cut them: school construction and prekindergarten.

"Nobody really knows what Hogan is going to be like when things don't go his way because he's never held elective office before," Kurtz said. "So in that respect, he's a big mystery."

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<![CDATA[GOP Congressman Slams Obama for "Deportable" SOTU Guest]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 20:52:56 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/AP060731031104.jpg

A Republican congressman took a social media swipe at the White House over one of its young State of the Union guests Tuesday, tweeting that the first lady would have a "deportable" joining her.

Iowa Rep. Steve King said the president "perverts 'prosecutorial discretion'" by inviting Ana Zamora, a 20-year-old student from Dallas, to sit "in a place of honor" with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's address.

Zamora, who was brought to the United States illegally as a young child, was granted temporary work authorization under Obama's executive order seeking to protect undocumented children living in the U.S. under such circumstances, often referred to as "DREAMers." The White House has said that Zamora's parents, a small business owner and a construction worker, are expected to benefit from more recent actions meant to shield millions from deportation.

When asked about the tweet by NBC News' Luke Russert, King, a vocal critic of Obama's immigration policies and actions, said to  "shake it off and have a sense of humor." The conservative congressman, who is hosting a gathering of potential GOP presidential candidates in this home state this weekend, said he didn't think the comment would hurt his party's possible 2016 contenders.

Zamora is one of nearly two dozen guests invited to watch the State of the Union along with the first lady. Others include a teen from Chicago's South Side who wrote a letter asking Santa for safety for Christmas, an astronaut set to spend a year aboard the International Space Station and Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen recently released after five years in Cuban prison.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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<![CDATA[Bill Would Force Students to Watch Conservative Movie]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 16:33:47 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/dinesh-court.jpg

A pair of Republican state lawmakers have proposed bill to require Florida students watch a movie by conservative commentator and convict Dinesh D’Souza twice before they graduate, according to the News-Press of Fort Myers.

Republican Senator Alan Hays and Representative Neil Combee introduced the bills in both houses of the Florida legislature. The News-Press reported that there is an option for parents to opt-out of the screening of the movie.

Showing D’Souza’s movie, “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” would be to combat what Hays and Combee see as “lies” and “anti-American” content of history classes in schools, according to the news-press..

D’Souza’s other most famous movie, “2016: Obama’s America” received widespread praise among the conservative base and ended up grossing more than $33.4 million.

D’Souza is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and this week drew the ire of Fox anchor Megyn Kelly when he argued that Obama “hasn’t actually had the African-American experience.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Va. Gov. Suffers 7 Broken Ribs in Fall From Horse]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 18:09:49 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/0115-mcauliffe.jpg

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is recovering from injuries he received after being thrown from a horse while on a family trip to Africa, several media outlets are reporting.

McAuliffe is being treated for seven broken ribs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Spokesman Brian Coy says the governor was with his family in Tanzania over the Christmas holidays when the riding accident occurred.

The governor had been working since his return from Africa and expected the injury to heal on its own, but Coy said doctors identified increased fluid around his lungs that required treatment.

The governor is expected to spend two to three days recovering.

"My husband is resting comfortably after a successful procedure this afternoon. He and I want to thank the outstanding medical team at VCU Medical Center who just informed us that he is expected to recover well and get back to his full schedule within the next few days," Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe said Monday. "We would also like to thank the many well-wishers from all across Virginia who expressed concern and support for Terry as he continues to recover."

Coy stressed that the injury is not a "dire thing'' and the governor has been on the job since the accident. That includes delivering the State of the Commonwealth last week.
 


 

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<![CDATA[State of the Union: What To Expect]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:31:05 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/NC_sotupreview0119001_1500x845.jpg President Obama's upcoming State of The Union address is already being met by Republican criticism.]]> <![CDATA[Chicago Teen Who Asked Santa for Safety Invited to State of the Union]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 18:54:02 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/217*120/letter+to+santa+safety.jpg

A South Side Chicago teen who wrote a letter to Santa asking for safety and received a reply from President Barack Obama has now earned an invitation from the first lady.

Michelle Obama invited 13-year-old Malik Bryant to be one of her guests for the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It is customary for the first lady to invite guests to the speech, and the guests are often mentioned in the president's address.

Malik, who lives in Englewood, wrote a letter as part of a charitable Letters to Santa program in Chicago in December that said, "All I ask for is for safety. I just want to be safe." The letter made its way to the president, who wrote Malik a response.

"I want to offer you a few words of encouragement," the president wrote, according to the Sun-Times. "Each day, I strive to ensure communities like yours are safe places to dream, discover, and grow. Please know your security is a priority for me in everything I do as President. If you dare to be bold and creative, work hard every day, and care for others, I'm confident you can achieve anything you imagine. I wish you and your family the very best for the coming year, and I will be rooting for you."

Malik will be seated with the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor to the president, along with Michelle Obama's other guests from across the country.

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<![CDATA[Romney Hints at Presidential Run]]> Sat, 17 Jan 2015 19:15:09 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/mitt+romney+rnc+011615.JPG

Mitt Romney is addressing the GOP's winter meeting delegates aboard the USS Midway Museum on the Embarcadero Friday evening, a week after he told donors he would consider another presidential run in 2016.

The early meeting of party leaders looking ahead to the 2016 Republican presidential primary season has been creating nationwide buzz in Coronado this week. But a big question is whether La Jolla's high-profile homeowner could become the party's nominee again.

Romney hinted at another run as he addressed the party’s winter meeting delegates aboard the USS Midway Museum Friday evening, saying he is "giving some serious consideration to the future." 

“In the last few days, the most frequently asked question I get is, ‘What does Ann think about all this?’" Romney joked. "She believes people get better with experience, and heaven knows I have experience running for president.”

His chances of making a third time running for president a success have been the subject of recent poor-mouthing in media outlets and among prospective rivals.

But former California GOP chairman Ron Nehring said the former Massachusetts governor’s doubters shouldn't overlook this: "He has universal name ID across the country. He has a large existing political enterprise of donors, supporters, volunteers, activists. Everybody knows who he is. So obviously he would go into a race with a tremendous number of advantages."

Still, Republican leaders are encouraging a large field of prospects — from household names such as Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Chris Christie to others less known outside the party, but highly regarded within it.

While the heavy hitters are a ways off from declaring candidacy, nearly two dozen possibilities have been mentioned as prospects, and it can't be said that Romney's considered the front-runner at this stage.

In any case, GOP leadership is risk-averse in considering the sharp downside posed by a third straight loss in presidential sweepstakes.

"We have to elect a Republican president,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus told an audience of several hundred party delegates at Hotel del Coronado Friday. "As we move forward in this election cycle, don't ever lose sight of that. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's not about us … 2016 could be a do-or-die moment for our party."

The GOP has seized control of both the House and Senate since Romney lost his 2012 challenge to President Obama.

And party bosses want to make it a clean sweep by taking the White House in 2016, vigorously talking up their chances at the gathering in Coronado.

"The candidates are all speaking at the public events,” said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. “But the real excitement happens behind the scenes where there are private meetings, and people get to kick the tires — if you will — of the candidates and the hopefuls."

So what's the pressure that would be left in "the tires" of a Mitt Romney candidacy for the White House, after he finished 4 points behind President Obama in the 2012 popular vote and 23 percent behind in the Electoral College numbers?

It's something that figures to give party leaders pause.

"This is why those people who want to do away with the primaries and just kind of anoint a candidate — they're wrong,” Nehring told NBC 7. “Because in the course of that primary contest, we get to decide: do we want to have a fresh face? Or do we want to go with a candidate who almost won last time?"

Meantime, a prominent local Democrat who's served as press secretary to congressmen and senators including Robert Kennedy cautions that Romney's credentials shouldn't be discounted.

"I think too many people, in judging him, judge him in just a solely political context,” said George Mitrovich, president of the City Club of San Diego. “Which means they don't like his politics. I don't think you can do that. I would not dismiss him as being the nominee of the Republican Party in 2016."

In an interview Friday, Mitrovich pointed to Richard Nixon's being elected president after losing eight years earlier: "So why are we so quick to think that Romney doesn't matter? Romney matters!"

Nonetheless, fresh online postings Friday raised continued raising concerns about Romney's viability as a prospective nominee.

Reports from Mother Jones magazine cited a former 2012 Romney policy adviser wishing that Romney wouldn’t run again, and a “huge new conflict of interest program” stemming from Romney family business ventures.

There have been earlier references to Romney as “a retread … recycled … yesterday’s news” – some speculating that he might meet the fate of the late Gov. Thomas Dewey (R-NJ), who lost presidential elections twice in the 1940s.

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<![CDATA[Millionaires Make Up Half of Congress: Report]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 16:32:59 -0500 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/capitol+generic+federal+government+generic.jpg

Congress is getting richer and seeing its number of millionaire members grow, as average Americans continue to struggle to recover from years of economic distress, according to a new report.

The median net worth of a member of Congress hit nearly $1.03 million by the end of 2013, an analysis of financial disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics found. That figure, up 2.5 percent fron the previous year, makes the body's average elected representative 18 times richer than the average American household, which one recent study found was worth about $56,000 the same year.

In all, Center for Responsive Politics identified 271 millionaires elected to federal office— about half the total membership of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. That's up slighly from the year before, when the group counted  at least 268 millionaires.

 “At a time when income inequality is much debated, the representatives we choose are overwhelmingly affluent,” CRP’s Executive Director Sheila Krumholz said in a statement. “Whether voters elect them because they are successful or because people of modest means do not run, or for other reasons, is unclear, but struggling Americans should not assume that their elected officials understand their circumstances.“

The Senate is the wealthier of the two bodies, with a median net worth of $2.97 million compared to the House of Representatives' $843,000.

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California led both houses with an estimated net worth of $448.4 million. At $254 million, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., was the wealthiest senator, the group found.

Not all members boast anywhere close to those nine-figure sums, though. About two dozen members, including Rep. David Valadao, a Republican from California who was named Congress' least wealthy member, reported being in the red.

Click here to read the full report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>