Open seats in Florida’s congressional delegation have drawn a number of candidates experienced in running for state office.
While federal election finance laws work differently than in the Sunshine State, money candidates once relied on seems to have found its way into dedicated super PACs supporting their candidacy.
The Keep Florida Red PAC, a federal super PAC, lists just one donor since it was formed in April. That’s the Florida Conservative Alliance, a Florida political committee originally chaired by Aaron Bean, a Republican state Senator now running for Congress in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.
Now, it’s chaired by former state Sen. Rob Bradley. Its only expenditures to date are for legal work. Many expect Keep Florida Red PAC will use more than $1.1 million to support Bean or maybe oppose his Primary opponents.
In Florida’s 15th Congressional District, there’s a similar conversion of state committee dollars into super PAC resources. The Conservative Warriors PAC formed in June with $1 million from Limited Government for a Stronger Florida, a state committee supportive of Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel. Now, Stargel is a candidate for the open CD 15 seat, and coincidentally, the only independent expenditure reported by the federal super PAC has been a $336,000 ad buy supportive of Stargel’s federal ambitions.,
Also in CD 15, the Conservative Action Fund, a newly formed super PAC, opened with $1 million it received from money tracing back to The Conservative. That’s an old state committee once working with former state Sen. Tom Lee. Now, it’s dropping expenditures in support of former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee as the Republican runs for Congress.
It is clear that resources are following politicians’ ambitions from the state to the federal realm, but candidates have to live under a distinct set of rules.
Federal law, unlike state law, forbids candidates from coordinating with super PACs. For example, Bean cannot control what Keep Florida Red PAC does with its money. That’s why candidates have left chairmanships of the state political committees before dollars make the complicated legal journey from state dollar pools to super PACs. And there could be consequences if any evidence surfaced that the committees and candidates have collaborated on strategy or messaging.
But it shows there are millions of dollars of interest in the makeup of the next congressional delegation, one that will have (at least) five new members.
A voting change on burn pit legislation drew Jon Stewart’s fire, with the comedian directing part of the heat at Florida’s junior Senator.
Sen. Rick Scott was among 30 Senate Republicans who supported the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act last month, which would provide Veterans Affairs health coverage for conditions related to burn pits. Stewart, who has become an advocate for veterans and first responders, spoke at an expletive-filled news conference and scorned those who changed votes. In Scott’s case, Stewart noted the Senator had gone so far as recently tweeting that he would support the PACT Act and boasted of his support for veterans. Stewart took particular offense when Scott posted videos of himself packing care packages for soldiers and then voting against providing health to those who get cancer from exposure to fumes during their service.
“There’s a beautiful picture. I wish you could see it. He’s standing with a little package,” Stewart said. “Did you get the package? It has M&Ms in it and some cookies and some moist towelettes. Honestly, I don’t know what to say.”
Scott tweeted that he intends to help the PACT Act pass but blamed Democratic leadership for refusing to consider Republican amendments to the bill.
“I was proud to vote for the PACT Act in the Senate previously and will support its final passage soon,” Scott said. “Sadly, Democrats purposely delayed this bill by adding a budget gimmick which warranted further discussion. We’re working to fix this and get veterans the care they deserve quickly.”
Flood plain language
A potential increase to a risk formula could mean some Floridians can’t afford flood insurance in the future, according to Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Miami Republican joined Senators from Gulf Coast states in calling for an explanation of the Risk Rating 2.0 pricing methodology. Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, led the letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Thus far, insufficient data has been disclosed to adequately evaluate Risk Rating 2.0 and make judgments about how to address FEMA’s implementation of premiums in a reauthorization bill,” the letter reads. “To improve public understanding and assessment of Risk Rating 2.0 and to achieve our essential transparency objectives in support of our evaluation of current (National Flood Insurance Program) practices and issues to be addressed in reauthorization legislation, we ask that FEMA publish all the datasets, programs, models, simulations, complete regression model outputs for rating factors, including associated confidence intervals, and inputs and outputs, including all the data and methods.”
The message cites concerns from the National Association of Property Insurance Agents and the Reinsurance Association of America about a lack of transparency in the process.
Rubio last year introduced Senate legislation to improve FEMA’s public flood-mapping data.
Side of CHIPS
Congress has passed a new CHIPS Act, and the House passed the COMPETES Act, but Rep. Val Demings said more work lies ahead. She called on Congress to pass the National Critical Capabilities Defense Act as a necessary provision to ensure American manufacturing competes with China.
“I’m calling on my colleagues to pass aggressive outbound investment screening to supplement the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. Outbound investment screening will protect our national security, protect taxpayer dollars, and ensure that supply chains for critical products are stable and secure,” she said.
“It’s going to take guts to stand up to some big-business lobbying groups in Washington who are thinking only of their profit margins, but this policy will help protect taxpayer money, secure our supply chains, and protect national security by blocking investment in foreign adversaries and human rights abusers.”
Indeed, the greatest criticism of the CHIPS Act to date, and the reason neither Rubio nor Scott voted for it, was that it allowed U.S. companies to receive incentives even if they continued to outsource parts made in China.
“We need to support American production of semiconductors, but we need to do it in a way that benefits our country and our workers,” Demings said. “Corporate interests stripped meaningful safeguards from this package and blocked consideration of others.”
Demings is the front-runner Democrat to challenge Rubio for his Senate seat in November.
“Investments in new technologies and national security must be secure, trustworthy, and America-friendly,” she said. “Not a dime should go to the Chinese Communist Party or its affiliated companies, or any other authoritarian foreign regime.”
Let’s make a deal
Panama City Republican Neal Dunn sent a supportive letter to the North American Aerospace Industry regarding a potential partnership with Tallahassee International Airport.
The company has been in talks with city leaders, under the working name Project Alpha, a project that could bring a $450-million economic impact to the region through 985 jobs.
“Please know I would welcome a conversation with you and your company’s leadership to discuss the benefits of Project Alpha and how the state of Florida is ready to take on the challenge of fulfilling your company’s vision,” Dunn wrote.
He suggested to company CEO Stan Koechler that the deal would be important not just in Tallahassee but the entire Panhandle. Dunn similarly stepped into economic development conversations with World Athletics, which ultimately announced it would host an internal championship in Tallahassee.
Does ground control need a faster way to reach Major Tom? Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto filed legislation that he said would streamline the ability of private space companies to obtain communications licenses needed for launches.
“Space exploration has long been an integral part of our national goal to advance humanity, science, and innovation,” Soto said. “However, the extent to which regulations and restrictions have been imposed on the rocket launching process only delays those who seek to make progress on this frontier.”
Soto’s Leveraging American Understanding of Next-Generation Challenges Exploring Space (LAUNCHES) Act would remove bureaucratic barriers to receiving a license to communicate on the electromagnetic spectrum, a necessary ability for each launch when blasting off from Cape Canaveral and other rocket ports in the U.S.
“The LAUNCHES Act is critical in enabling future developments and maintaining global competitiveness in the space sector,” Soto said. “Curiosity is a part of the American spirit, and it is past time we modernize the launch process in a way that’s beneficial to both the federal government and private companies.”
Industry leaders at once soared in support of the legislation.
“The United States — led by activity in Florida — will see a record number of commercial space launches this year, supporting everything from astronaut transportation, international payloads, to nationwide broadband expansion,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “As the industry takes off, we need to ensure our regulatory system is capable of supporting this rapid growth, and the LAUNCHES Act provides important guidance to modernize the launch spectrum licensing process.”
Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Karen Drees also cheered the bill. “This legislation modernizes federal launch spectrum licensing regulations, reduces unnecessary red tape in the licensing process, and encourages the further growth and competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry while protecting the government and federal spectrum users,” she said.
It’s been a decade since terrorists attacked a U.S. embassy in Libya. The Benghazi attack, itself taking place on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, would fuel coarse political discussion in the months and years that followed. But Congress came together to recognize the four Americans lost in the attack.
Stuart Republican Brian Mast carried legislation passed last week in the House to award Congressional Medals of Honor posthumously to Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and CIA operatives Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
“These four Americans represented the best of our country,” Mast said. “They were committed to advancing the cause of freedom around the globe, and they gave their last breath for that fight. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the highest civilian honor Congress has to offer.”
Legislation passed by unanimous consent in the House and awaits a vote in the Senate, where a similar bill passed in 2020.
If U.S. leaders want to limit oil consumption, Naples Republican Byron Donalds said the federal government should get serious about alternatives, including nuclear power. He filed legislation last week, the National Strategy to Utilize Microreactors for Natural Disaster Response Efforts Act, to start a conversation between the White House and other government entities to craft a strategy and dispatching microreactors around the country.
“Our nation must effectively utilize and optimize the benefits of microreactors,” Donalds said. “As an emerging energy force, nuclear provides the nation with a rare opportunity to promote bipartisan policies that ensures clean, reliable and long-lasting American energy independence. This legislation requires the President to work closely with key government agencies, who don’t regularly collaborate, to create an effective and strategic response to natural disasters.”
He introduced the bipartisan bill with Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle and Tennessee Republican Chuck Fleischmann. It also boasts the support of energy sector leaders in the nuclear area.
“Advanced nuclear reactors will be the backbone of the clean energy grid of the future,” said Nuclear Energy Institute President Maria Korsnick. “In times of emergency, these reactors can be easily transported and will be needed to offer the reliable and clean electricity options necessary to respond. This bipartisan legislation recognizes the critical role microreactors must play in disaster response, while also realizing that nuclear is the carbon-free solution to removing the reliance on carbon-emitting diesel generators when disaster strikes.”
Brian McCormack, principal director of the United Coalition for Advanced Nuclear Power, said the clean energy source could supply tremendous benefit to the U.S. “New generations of microreactors are an essential, reliable source for our future energy needs, including deployable applications for national security and emergency response to natural disasters when other power sources are knocked offline,” he said.
More Social Security money goes to Florida than any state except California. Before retiring from Congress, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch wants to guarantee those checks still come. The Congressman just filed the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which would extend the solvency of the federal program.
Right now, the chief actuary for the Social Security Office projects depletion of the funds backing Social Security come 2035. The changes proposed in legislation championed by Deutch in the House and Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirano in the Senate would extend the period until 2052.
“Social Security ensures that hardworking Americans can retire with dignity,” Deutch said. “And yet, this crucial lifeline is on track for depletion by 2035. Every day, I hear stories from seniors in my district about the importance of their Social Security checks to their quality of life and to their day-to-day survival. This bill will not only continue these lifesaving benefits but strengthen them for decades to come.”
The bill, if it becomes law, would require the use of the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CIP-E) to calculate relevant cost-of-living adjustments and phase out caps on contributions for the next seven years, and would encourage individuals to contribute above and beyond required amounts.
“This is a critical change — one that came about as a result of our constituents’ own experiences,” Deutch said. “We heard stories of families in our districts, coping with the loss of their loved one, who were suddenly unable to pay bills for beneficiaries who died late in the month. The survivors were forced to return their family members’ last checks, and their survivor benefits were not sufficient to cover costs. This was alarming. Social Security is still one of the most important programs for about 65 million Americans, who rely on it to pay for rent, caretakers and other non-negotiable costs. This change to the bill will ensure that beneficiaries’ survivors have one less thing to worry about when facing the monumental loss of a family member.”
Master of disaster
Miami Republican Carlos Giménez dealt with plenty of natural disaster responses as Mayor of Miami-Dade County. Now, he’s co-chairing the newly formed Bipartisan Congressional Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Caucus. The group intends to work across the aisle to improve general response to a variety of natural disasters.
“The creation of the new Bipartisan Congressional Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Caucus will serve as a phenomenal tool in crafting legislation to better protect our communities prone to natural disasters,” Giménez. “South Florida remains a high-risk area for flooding and storm damage. Advocating for crucial funding and programs through the caucus will fortify our ability to keeping South Florida the greatest place to live, work and raise a family.”
Similarly, other co-Chairs want a swift response ready for other events. Colorado Democrat Joe Neguse discussed mountain wildfires. South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace stressed preparation for coastal flooding.
“Disasters don’t recognize borders or political party, and neither should our nation’s disaster preparedness or recovery system,” said Louisiana Democrat Troy Carter. “As extreme weather events increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, we need to work together to strengthen our systems and save lives. I am proud to join with my fellow co-Chairs to launch this bipartisan caucus that is committed to advocating for effective preparedness and recovery measures and programs that best serve the American people and don’t leave anyone behind.”
Government affairs and public policy specialist Joseph Falk — one of Miami’s best-known gay political activists — could soon add another board membership to his sizable schedule of organizational responsibilities thanks to President Joe Biden.
Biden nominated Falk to the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace, a national, nonpartisan institute that works in conflict zones abroad to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflict.
Falk, a superdelegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention from Florida, was among the President’s top South Florida donors in 2020.
His nomination still pends Senate approval.
A licensed mortgage originator and consultant with the law firm Akerman LLP, Falk is no stranger to presidential appointments. Former President Barack Obama appointed him to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2014.
Falk is a past president and Legislative Chair of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB). and authored a text that in 2008 eased passage of the national S.A.F.E. Licensing Act. He testified before both chambers of Congress on how to improve regulation of the mortgage industry.
Other board activities include service as the capital campaign Chair of the Miami-based Frost Science Museum and a longtime membership to the national LGBTQ Victory Fund. He is also an alternate director with the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus and a former board member and past Chair of SAVE, a Florida-based LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Falk received recognition for his efforts in the South Florida LGBTQ community and for social justice in March 2015, when the Florida International University presented him with the Stempel Award.
On this day
Aug. 2, 1776 — “Declaration of Independence officially signed” via Constitution Daily — One of the most important but least celebrated days in American history, 56 members of the Second Continental Congress started signing the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Officially, the Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when it approved a resolution in a unanimous vote. The group needed to draft a document explaining the move to the public. It had been proposed in draft form by the Committee of Five and it took two days for the Congress to agree on the edits. Thomas Jefferson was the main author. Many members of the Continental Congress later started to sign an engrossed version.
Aug. 2, 1945 — “Potsdam Conference ends” via History.com — The leaders of the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union — the Big Three powers who had defeated Nazi Germany — met at the Potsdam Conference near Berlin starting on July 17 in what was a crucial moment in defining the new, post-World War II balance of power. The conference was attended by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Soviet leader Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was abruptly replaced on July 26 by his successor Clement Attlee, after results of the British election were announced. The conference came just three months after Truman took over the presidency following the death of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Jesse Scheckner.