By Marc Caputo (; @MarcACaputo) with Emily Goldberg (; @ejgold94), Sergio Bustos (;@sbustosFL) and the staff of POLITICO Florida

STEARNS FINANCIAL “Stearns uses campaign account to pay personal expenses — 5 years after leaving Congress,” by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: Former Rep. Cliff Stearns’ congressional campaign committee has evolved into an investment account that he uses to fund a host of personal expenses that may raise legal questions, according to campaign finance experts. Ever since losing his seat in 2012, the 12-term congressman has kept his campaign committee open and used it to make investments that have netted nearly $300,000. That money has stayed in the committee, which still has $1.5 million cash on hand. The committee has funded contributions to other members, a monthly cell phone bill, trips to the annual conservative conference “Awakening,” membership dues at the Capitol Hill Club and payments to his wife, Joan, among other expenditures. The Capitol Hill Club was a longtime favorite fundraising locale for Stearns and many other congressional Republicans. “That to me seems flat out illegal,” said Adav Noti, a former attorney with the Federal Election Commission, in reference to the Capitol Hill Club membership expense. “I’m racking my brain to think of a legal use here.” Read more

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Good Thursday morning, Florida Playbookers. Committee week winds up in Tallahassee today. And it’s all about Irma. The state Senate Appropriations Committee will get an update about the hurricane’s effect impact on the budget; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will discuss the agricultural devastation with the Senate Agriculture Committee, and state House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness will also meet. An administrative court will also hear a nursing home industry challenge to Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency rule requiring air conditioners in all state nursing homes by Nov. 15. Scott issued the rule after Irma knocked out power to a Broward nursing home, leading to 14 deaths in the hot, air-conditionless facility.


BIGGER PROBLEM — “AHCA: Storm-related power outages posed problems for nursing homes, ALFs statewide,” by POLITICO Florida’s Alexandra Glorioso: The state Agency for Health Care Administration said Wednesday that there were pervasive problems related to power outages across the state after Hurricane Irma for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The majority of facilities never evacuated their residents during the storm and, of those that did, many residents returned before the facilities restored power because they couldn’t stay at shelters, said Molly McKinstry, AHCA’s deputy secretary. In all, residents in 79 of 683 nursing homes were evacuated and residents in 463 of 3,109 assisted living facilities were evacuated. Read more

DEBBIE VS. RICK “Frustrations boil over in D.C. as Gov. Rick Scott meets with Florida representatives,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary:“Frustrations bubbled up during a hurricane recovery meeting between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida House members Wednesday morning, with the governor pleading for federal funding for the state’s battered citrus industry and House members expressing a litany of concerns. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, pointedly challenged the Republican governor over debris removal and alleged he was unresponsive to her personal calls and requests for help. ‘I have tried to reach you and I have gotten no response from you,’ Wasserman Schultz said, charging that Scott’s administration has hindered cities from paying contractors more than pre-negotiated rates, by refusing to submit contracts to FEMA. ‘Can you explain why you would stand in the way. There is debris all over the state,’ Wasserman Schultz said.” Read more

—@Scott_Maxwell: “Rick Scott says Congress should make citrus/Ag whole for $2.5B in losses – while also saying farmers don’t want ‘government handouts.’”

FARM AID — “Caldwell proposes farm tax breaks for Hurricane Irma relief,” by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie: Read more

NOT SPARED — “State parks suffered $55M in damage from Hurricane Irma, DEP says,” by POLITICO Florida’s Bruce Ritchie: Read more

STORM OF STUDENTS? — “Districts seek alternate student head counts due to storm uncertainty,” by POLITICO Florida’s Daniel Ducassi: Twelve Florida school districts and 19 charter schools are asking state education officials for an “alternate” time period for student population surveys that determine how state funding is doled out to schools. Many of those requests have come as a result of expectations that there may be a significant influx of students from Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. The list of districts and schools requesting an alternate survey period includes some of the state’s largest, like Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange. This week, Oct. 9-13, is the normal student survey period that determines how much money each school gets based on student population. The alternate surveys, if approved, would have to happen no later than the week of Dec. 11-15. Read story here

“Puerto Rico teachers fleeing Hurricane Maria arrived at Orlando’s airport with nothing. They left with jobs,” by The 74’s Mark Keierleber: Read more

“Governor’s race: GOP candidates outpace Democrats 5-1 in September,” by Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett: Read more

“In Puerto Rico, lives depend on volunteer doctors and diesel generators,” by Reuters’ Robin Respaut and Nick Brown: Read more

“Starving Puerto Rican Towns Sharing Food, Eating Plants, and Waiting for FEMA,” by The Daily Beast’s Pablo Venes: Read more

HUNGRY “Thousands show up at ‘Food for Florida’ storm-benefit site in Jacksonville,” by The Florida Times-Union’s Beth Reese Cravey: Read more

CUTENESS ALERT — “Please stop feeding the Key deer. Wildlife managers say it hurts, not helps,” Miami Herald’s Jenny Staletovich: “Federal wildlife managers in the Florida Keys have a message for residents: Please stop feeding the endangered deer. Since Irma washed over Cudjoe Key Sept. 10, pushing a storm surge that submerged much of the Lower Keys including the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine, residents who have long tended to the deer like beloved pets began putting out water and food, fearful that saltwater contaminated foraging grounds. Since the storm, 26 deer deaths have been confirmed. Of those, biologists blamed 21 directly on the storm but have not determined the cause for the other five. Officials now worry that putting out dog food or grains not naturally in the deer’s diet could bring more harm and in recent weeks have repeated warnings about feeding them. Eating dog food, grain or other carbohydrates can increase acidity in the deer’s stomach, kill bacteria needed for digestion and result in diarrhea, enteritis or death, officials said.” Read more


THAT ALL? — “Judge surprised at feds’ slim disclosure on Mar-a-Lago visitors,” by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: “A federal judge indicated Wednesday that she was taken aback by how little information the government turned over in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about President Donald Trump’s visitors at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but she turned aside a request to rule that the authorities appeared to have violated a court order. Pro-transparency groups cried foul last month when, just before a court-ordered deadline, Justice Department lawyers did not produce a large sheaf of Secret Service records about Trump’s contacts at what he has termed the Winter White House. Instead, the government provided only a two-page document listing 22 members of the delegation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit in February.” Read more

NOT LISTENING TO TRUMP “‘I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it’: Rubio downplays Trump attack on Corker,” by The Arizona Republic’s Dan Nowicki: “Sens. Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake, both of whom have been on the receiving end of some harsh tweets from President Donald Trump, on Monday tried to stay out of Trump’s latest Twitter tirade against Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Rubio, a two-term senator from Florida and one of Trump’s 2016 Republican primary rivals, was in Scottsdale to headline a lunch fundraiser for Flake, R-Ariz., another one of Trump’s favorite GOP punching bags who is facing a tough 2018 re-election fight.” Read more

NOT LISTENING TO NAZI “Rubio: Don’t show up at UF speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer,” by News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner and Dara Kam: “U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter on Wednesday to urge folks to skip white nationalist leader Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida next week. In a pair of tweets, UF alum Rubio (@marcorubio) advised people not to give Spencer the attention he ‘craves:’ ‘Richard Spencer craves publicity. Desperate to incite outrage b/c terrified of @UF speech no one shows up for. #Sayfie #GatorNation 1/2 ‘#GatorNation not asking u to ignore his racist message. I am suggesting you embarrass him by denying him the attention he craves #Sayfie 2/2’ Spencer is scheduled to appear on campus Oct. 19.” Read more

“UF security costs top $500,000 for Richard Spencer’s talk on white ‘separation,’” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Claire McNeill: Read more

MILLION-DOLLAR MAN IN FL-06? — We’re getting word that businessman John Ward today will file to run as a Republican in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, in anticipation of Rep. Ron DeSantis leaving the seat to run for governor. To make a statement, Ward plans to raise and loan himself $1 million during his first quarter of fundraising. Ward is also a former Navy intelligence officer who deployed in Operation Desert Storm, and participated in joint services operations in counter-narcotics. Ward and his wife, Kristie, have three children ages: 13, 11, and 8.

JETTA VS. FRANKEL “Republican critic of Trump hopes to unseat Democrat Lois Frankel,” by Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett: “A Republican businessman who’s critical of President Donald Trump and GOP congressional leadership has launched a campaign for the Democrat-tilted seat of U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and says he has put $250,000 of his own money behind the effort. Kurt Jetta of Delray Beach filed papers last week to run for Frankel’s District 21 seat, where Democrats have a 44-to-26.4 percent registration advantage over Republicans.”Read more

ROSS HIRE — Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) has hired J.P. Freire, a former spokesman for EPA chief Scott Pruitt and former communications director for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as his communications director and policy adviser.


MOUSE MONEY — “Disney: Biggest political donor in Florida for third straight month,” by POLITICO Florida’s Brendan Cheney: Disney was the biggest donor to state political committees and candidates for the third straight month in September, giving $1.2 million. They have been the biggest donor in four of the last six months and were the second biggest donor in June. Disney gave $575,000 in September to Voters in Charge PAC, which is pushing for a ballot initiative on casino gambling. Disney has given more than $2.3 million to the PAC so far in 2017 and they have been part of an effort to prevent casino gambling legislation in the state. Disney also gave $260,000 to Florida Jobs PAC, associated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and $110,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in September. Read story here

SICK WATER “Blue-green algae defeated the field at prestigious triathlon,” by Bradenton Herald’s Richard Dymond: “The 30-acre man-made island known as Nathan Benderson Park was created by developers close to the border of Manatee and Sarasota counties specifically to showcase the area to the entire world. Designed for special events, like world-class rowing canoeing and triathlons, not to mention local use by avid bicyclists, runners, joggers and walkers, the park’s reputation has been soaring the past three years, culminating with a well-received World Rowing Championship two weeks ago. But the park received a bit of a disappointment last week when its lake was ruled off limits to swimmers due to a blue-green algae bloom during the first ever Sarasota-Bradenton International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup, which featured athletes from roughly 16 countries.” Read more

FLORIDA’S GULAG “At this juvenile justice program, staffers set up fights — and then bet on them,” by Miami Herald’s Carol Miller Marbin and Audra D.S. Buch: Read more

“An officer used a broom to beat juveniles into submission. They called it ‘Broomie,’” by Miami Herald’s Audra D.S. Buch and Carol Marbin Miller: Read more

SUBPOENA TIME? “Corcoran unhappy with Visit Orlando response, will seek more info,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer: Read more

WORST DEFENSE EVER “School Board outraged by claim that third graders had blame in sexual abuse case,” by Sun Sentinel’s Scott Travis: “For a dozen years, the Palm Beach County School District insisted that four third grade girlsbore the responsibility for allowing their teacher to molest them in 2005. In court documents, the district said the children were old enough to know better than to listen to their teacher when he told them to fondle him. That defense, made in response to a lawsuit from the girls’ families, has at least two Palm Beach County School Board members expressing outrage on Wednesday. ‘I don’t think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,’ said School Board member Frank Barbieri, whose district includes Coral Sunset Elementary west of Boca, where the molestations took place. ‘The School Board never authorized such a defense.’” Read more

DIXIELAND “Community calls on Indian River County School Board to ban Confederate flag from schools,” by TC Palm’s Andrew Atterbury: “Kedia Valido’s brother messaged her as a group of students flaunted Confederate flags at Vero Beach High School a few weeks ago. He was scared, Valido said, and wanted to come home after the incident that school officials said created no distractions on campus. Valido on Tuesday disagreed with the school district’s assessment of the situation. ‘We are all distracted by the hate, racism and bigotry displayed by (those) students,’ Valido, who graduated from Vero Beach High School last year, told the School Board. ‘I’m scared of how these students think. I’m scared of the mentality, the mindsets and the shared beliefs these students have.’” Read more

SOMEONE NEEDS A NAP “Hillsborough school board rift is on display at training event,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Colleen Wright: “The school boards of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were supposed to be learning how to become more effective through listening and respect. That was the goal, anyway, of the Florida School Boards Association’s training event Wednesday at the University of Phoenix. But just two hours into the day of kumbaya, Hillsborough board members Tamara Shamburger and April Griffin drowned out the room with an escalating argument. Shamburger said Griffin discounts newer board members on the dais. Griffin said she has ‘completely withdrawn’ from conflict on the board. Shamburger covered her face with her palm. She then packed up her belongings and stormed out of the room. ‘I don’t get pissed, and now you’re gonna get me pissed.’ Expletives ensued.” Read more

UH-OH “City gives FBI 150,000 Maddox records,” by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew: “The city of Tallahassee turned over 150,000 electronic records to the FBI on Wednesday to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena for communications of City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his closest current and former aides and associates. The city said that in cooperation with the FBI, it will provide another 1,500 or so records in coming weeks. ‘These records that are non-electronic (brochures, notes, etc.) were screened by the FBI (Wednesday) morning and require additional time for city staff to convert to a digital format for delivery,’ the city said in a news release.” Read more


“Tampa Bay’s first geek bar is for Star Trek and Harry Potter, not the NFL,” by the Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher Spata: Read more

“$5,000 Colombian vacation includes unlimited sex on a yacht with hookers,” by The Smoke Room’s David Hookstead: Read more

“Ex-postal worker gets house arrest for marijuana mailings,” by AP: Read more

“After weeks of flooding, Withlacoochee River returns to its banks,” by the Tampa Bay Times: Read more

“Bradenton imposes ban on additional marijuana dispensaries,” by Herald-Tribune’s Dale White: Read more

“Lynn Haven OKs medical pot dispensaries,” by Panama City News Herald’s Collin Breaux: Read more

“Latest storms bring St. Johns County’s drainage issues, new and old, to light,” by The St. Augustine Record’s Jake Martin: Read more

“Officials: Florida has the most fraud complaints in the nation,” by NWF Daily News’ Genevieve DiNatale: Read more

“Police: Palm Coast mom brings daughters along to shoplift,” by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Tony Holt: Read more

MONKEY BUSINESS “Hendry County didn’t break Sunshine Law in monkey farm suit, Florida appeals court rules,” by New-Press’ Amy Bennett Williams: “A Florida appeals court has quashed a lawsuit against Hendry County over two of its monkey farms once and for all. The initial 2014 suit charged that Hendry County had illegally approved a monkey breeding farm on the Lee County border without warning area residents. It was later amended to include another farm near Immokalee. When Circuit Judge James Sloan ruled the county hadn’t violated Florida’s Sunshine Law last year, the three plaintiffs appealed. After the three-judge panel’s decision Wednesday, no more appeals are possible. Neighbors of one of the farms originally brought suit against the county, alleging that because it never held hearings or told them about a primate facility being built in their neighborhood, the county violated Florida’s Sunshine Law.” Read more

FOR MORE political and policy news, check out Politico Florida’s home page: And please follow our staff @mdixon55, @sbustosFL, @aglorios, @dducassi, and @bruceritchie on Twitter.

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