Monday, September 18, 2006

FLORIDA DIGEST September 18, 2006


Crist picks up $1 million from GOP governors

Party puts high value on Florida's gubernatorial race
John Kennedy
Tallahassee Bureau Chief

September 18, 2006

TALLAHASSEE -- The Republican Governors Association is giving Charlie Crist$1 million for his race against Democrat Jim Davis, the highest of anyRepublican nominee for governor in the nation, Massachusetts Gov. MittRomney said Sunday.

Romney, head of the association and a likely 2008 presidential contender,called the race to succeed outgoing Repubican Gov. Jeb Bush "the highestpriority for us.

"We've got a couple of others [states] that are in this category. But nobodyis higher than Florida," Romney said during a brief appearance Sunday withCrist at Tallahassee's airport.

Romney also was scheduled to be featured guest at a Crist fundraiser Sundayin Tallahassee, at the home of an undisclosed supporter of the Republicancontender.

Crist emerged from his almost two-to-one victory over primary opponent TomGallagher with about $976,000 still on hand, according to campaign-financereports filed Friday. By comparison, Davis had about $279,000 in hiscampaign account after defeating Rod Smith in the Sept. 5 Democraticprimary.


State seeks insurer relief
Reinsurance companies drive premiums upward

By Paige St. John Capital Bureau
Originally posted on September 18, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - The villain of spiraling insurance rates in Florida is now reinsurance.

Lightly regulated, offshore companies provide backup coverage to insurancecompanies that have more than doubled their rates to homeowners in Florida.With no major hurricanes yet this year, they are reaping record profits inthe millions, if not billions, of dollars.

The money comes from people such as John Grogan, who last week was bowledover by the $9,669 premium renewal for his homeowner's policy, almost fourtimes higher than last year's bill.

"Living in Florida has been great," said Grogan, a middle- class mortgagebroker who lives with his wife and two kids in a midsized home on a barrierisland next to the Atlantic Ocean.


Another net cast in AIDS fight

High rates of HIV infections among blacks prompted the opening of a minority AIDS initiative in Pasco and Hernando counties.

Published September 18, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - He was 17 when he got the phone call that changed hislife.

It was in Newark, N.J., 1981. Low on cash, Benjamin Dunn donated blood formoney. But his blood turned out to be unusable because tests showed he had full-blown AIDS.

"I went into denial," said Dunn, a gay black man who said he contracted thedisease from unprotected sex. "You don't see nothing,and you don't feel different, so you don't think anything is wrong."

The alarming rates at which blacks such as Dunn are contracting HIV and AIDSprompted the July opening of the Minority AIDS Initiative of Pasco andHernando counties.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties already have MAI programs, which arefunded by $78,334 in federal dollars earmarked for minority AIDS programs bythe Congressional Black Caucus.

But a seven-county study conducted last year by the Ryan White Care Council,a nonprofit Tampa-based group, found a lack of available services forminority HIV and AIDS patients in Pasco and Hernando.


Crist relies on affable manner
GOP candidate for governor woos voters with charm.


TALLAHASSEE -- The secret to Charlie Crist's political success is as plainas the smile on his face.

Wherever he goes, well-wishers line up for his autograph and gush that they"love" Crist. The Republican candidate for governor reciprocates, asking fortheir hearts as well as their votes as he leaves no hand unshaken.

Crist's encyclopedic memory of first names, gathered during years ofstatewide campaigning for four different seats, is legendary. He silentlymouths hellos to supporters during warmup speeches, or calls out their namein the middle of his own talk.

"He has that warm, genuine friendship," said Peggy Farmer, a longtime GOPactivist in Volusia County. "I really feel he thinks of me as his friend."

"Charlie is a natural thoroughbred when it comes to this stuff," said TonyDiMatteo, chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party. "We met a guywho went to elementary school with him and my wife asked, 'What was he likeas a kid?' He was a nice polite guy, really good guy. That's the way he really is."



GOP leaves Harris to fend for herself
Jim Stratton
Sentinel Staff Writer

September 18, 2006

When Charlie Crist won Florida's gubernatorial primary, the Republican National Committee dashed off a note of congratulations and posted it on theparty Web site.

"Charlie Crist," wrote Chairman Ken Mehlman, "has the character and
credentials to successfully lead Florida as Governor."

Mehlman did the same for 10 other GOP congressional and gubernatorialcandidates. But U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, once a rising Republican star,got nothing.

In fact, her victory in the Senate primary wasn't mentioned by the RNC orthe National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Though that may seem like an oversight, there are few accidents in politics.

"When someone is left out, it's almost always done intentionally," said ToddHarris, a GOP consultant who was part of Jeb Bush's 2002 re-electioncampaign. "If nobody's standing next to you, they're saying they don't wantto be associated with you."

For the Harris campaign, that could be devastating.

She is a wounded challenger facing a well-funded incumbent who holds adouble-digit lead in the polls. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has amassed a$12 million war chest, second only to Sen. Hillary Clinton's.


Teachers wanted at polls on Nov. 7

Since students won't be on campus for the election in November, officials hope teachers will became poll workers for the day.


School will be out when voters go to the polls on Election Day in November,a move the Broward school district hopes will keep students safe, even if itcomes at the expense of a civics lesson.

The Broward election office wants schools to be closed during generalelections so teachers can spend the day working at the polls instead of intheir classrooms.

Polling places were so short-staffed during the September primary that sometechnicians were paid extra to monitor more than one precinct.

School Board members agreed to make Nov. 7 a day off, but for their ownreasons: Hundreds of voters flood the nearly 100 schools that are used aspolling sites. They have to compete with parents and employees for parking.School entrances are often jammed with candidates or their supporters wavingsigns.


Feds find S. Florida a hotbed of Medicare fraud

By Curt Anderson
The Associated Press

September 18, 2006

MIAMI · Medicare recipient J.D. got a $3,500 artificial leg and a $2,900 armprosthesis. For F.R., it was a $2,320 prosthetic arm with locking elbow anda $6,840 artificial leg. Medicare provided M.C. with a $1,200 shoulderapparatus and a $1,700 device for a below-knee amputation.

Each of those people, identified in court documents only by their initials,is a real Medicare beneficiary who lives in the Miami area. But none of themlost a finger, much less two limbs.

Instead, federal prosecutors say, they were paid by a crooked medicaldevices company for use of their Medicare status to steal more than $3million from the nation's health care program for the elderly. The company'sowners also paid doctors kickbacks to write false prescriptions for thedevices, investigators say.