Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Game Changing Race In Orlando, Florida-- Alan Grayson vs Ric Keller


Insiders just figured it out; the grassroots already knew

Inside the Beltway there's a buzz starting; it's a buzz Blue America has seen turn into a roar since we first met Alan Grayson last January and endorsed him as our very first candidate of 2008. Blue America buzz and Inside the Beltway buzz don't usually get going for the same reasons. They're buzzing because Alan looks like a winner. The latest polling shows him up over Republican rubber stamp Ric Keller by 4%. We're roaring because he not only looks like a winner but because he looks like a solid progressive leader and a genuine game changer who will spend every single day in Washington fighting for America and American families.

This morning Congresional Quarterly, a lagging indicator of what's going on in congressional races, changed its rating for FL-08 and has woken up to the fact that if Ric Keller is still in DC next January, he'll be working for the fast food restaurant lobby on K Street, a lobby he has served better than any other member of the House. The Beltway perspective:
For much of the year, Republican Rep. Ric Keller of Florida’s 8th Congressional District appeared headed for a relatively painless re-election campaign. But the four-term incumbent’s surprisingly close win in his Aug. 26 primary election signaled that his general election contest also might be more competitive than expected-- which in turn heightened the interest of national Democratic Party strategists in Alan Grayson, a lawyer who easily won the party’s crowded primary the same day.

If some of the Beltway insiders had been paying attention to the Blue America blogs they would have known that Orlando's registration base has changed in a way that makes it unlikely that rubber stamp Republicans will win elections there. And they would have known that Alan Grayson had built a formidable presence with a powerfully and unapologetically progressive message. On the eve of the primary, all the Insiders-- from the Florida Democratic Party and the DCCC to Senator Bob Graham and Ric Keller himself-- said conservative Establishment hack Charlie Stuart would walk away with the Democratic nomination. What they failed to understand was what Alan had built in the district and that Orlando isn't looking for more of the same from the bowels of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Stuart took 27% of the vote. When a shocked DCCC operative asked me how that happened, I asked him if he had seen any of Alan's ads. He hadn't! Strange this one wasn't just extremely effective on Orlando TV, it has had over 36,000 views on YouTube with thousands of views on Huffington Post, Crooks & Liars, Firedoglake, Democratic Underground and ThingsYoungerThanJohn McCain.

No wonder they're surprised-- and no wonder it took until last week for the DCCC to finally put Alan on their Red to Blue list. If only they had watched the 60 Minutes war profiteer expose or the BBC program that featured Alan or just read the powerful Vanity Fair story on the work he's been doing!

Meanwhile, clueless as ever, Keller was one of the 189 rubber stamp, bribed-- he's taken $58,325 in "donations" from Big Oil-- Republicans who voted against the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act last night. That's a losing proposition in FL-08, whether Keller knows it or not. And how will he defend himself and his miserable record? The same way he always has: smear and distortion.
Republicans will likely brand Grayson as a liberal in an effort to sway moderate and swing voters to stay with Keller.
...Keller retains advantages as the district’s incumbent and reported $870,000 on hand through Aug. 6, according to his pre-primary report filed with the Federal Election Commission.
...But working against Keller is an ever-evolving district population, including a surging Hispanic constituency, that has made the district increasingly competitive between the two major parties.
Democratic registration has grown significantly since 2002, Jewett noted, with a surge in Democratic voters evident within the past year. As of July 28, Republicans held a registration advantage equal to less than one-half a percentage point over Democrats in the district. By comparison, Republicans were up by 3.6 percent as recently as December.

Come November, both Obama and Grayson are going to win Orlando-- and Keller will be cashing in on services rendered for the fast food industry when he made sure they could continue feeding Americans garbage that causes cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Many in Orlando still resent the way he treated his family when, after campaigning as a James Dobson-backed Family Values Republican, he started cheating on his wife with a number of young staffers, then dumped the wife, showered the young woman with taxpayer money and married her. Harper's:
Consider the following chronology, which is based on multiple interviews, public records, and previously published accounts:

November 2000: Ric Keller, 36, won the House seat in the 8th district of Florida, which includes his hometown of Orlando. As an ardent proponent of family values, Keller used his wife–Cathy Schott, whom he married in 1992–as a frequent prop for his campaign. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Cathy, two years Ric’s junior, “was mentioned in his press releases. She was featured in his very first TV ad, where Keller told voters: ‘I believe we should send people to Washington with sound moral character.’”

January 3, 2001: Ric Keller was inaugurated as a member of the House freshman class. Beginning work for Keller that day was Danielle “Dee Dee” Michel, who held the title of staff assistant and received a starting salary of about $2,000 per month. Michel turned 23 the day she started work in the front office answering phones and greeting visitors. Keller, who I’m told liked to ruminate about his conservative political positions while dining at Hooter’s, hired a number of strikingly beautiful young female staffers. These included Jacyln Norris, who later married Kevin Madden, now spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign, and Jessica Ferguson. Hill staffers joked about the “Keller girls.”

Fall 2001: A number of Hill staffers and lobbyists became aware that Keller and Michel seemed unusually close, and talk about their relationship began circulating in political circles. Michel was transferred down to Keller’s Orlando office and given the job of campaign finance director. This represented a significant leap from her original position. She also remained on the office payroll, making her one of six Keller employees who were getting two checks-- one from the campaign and one for her staff work. (That was a situation that at least one watchdog group found most unusual.)

June-2002: Keller was a frequent companion of Michel’s when he returned to Orlando from Washington. In late June, the pair attended a Fort Lauderdale-area campaign event sponsored by marine industry interests. (That years Keller strongly supported a bill that exempted the “recreational marine” industry from certain labor rules.) Keller and Michel met with crewmembers aboard the Wehr Nuts, a 124-foot mega-yacht. The congressman overnighted in South Florida.

November 2002: According to House disclosure records, Keller and Michel traveled together on the 12th and 16th of the month. On the 18th, campaign disclosure records show that Michel received an early year-end bonus of $1,000. Disclosure filings showed no other Keller staffer received a bonus during the election cycle. Keller and his wife separated later in November.

December 2002: Michel departed from Keller’s staff. From January of 2001, when she started to work for Keller, and her departure date, she received a combined total of roughly $68,000–$17,000 for her work on his campaign and $51,000 for her work on his staff.

January 2003: According to the Orlando Weekly, “Keller isn’t answering questions” about the separation, but sources “close to the congressman” told the newspaper that he had “been unhappy with his marriage for two years.” (His unhappiness, thus, could be traced to January of 2001.) The sources suggest to the Weekly that the root problem was that “he [Keller] is outgoing while Cathy is quiet and reserved.” Those sources don’t mention that this “family values” congressman left his wife as she was battling Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that impacts both sight and hearing.

Early-2003 (estimated): Michel began to work for Hammond & Associates, Keller’s political fundraising firm. The firm is based in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. Between 2001 and 2006, Keller’s campaign paid Hammond more than $211,000. In 2006, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington issued a report listing Keller as one of 72 members of Congress who used campaign funds to pay relatives or their relatives’ employers during the prior six years. Among the firms that employed lawmakers’ relatives, Hammond ranked eighth highest in payments received.

March 5, 2003: Divorce finalized for Ric and Cathy Keller.

June 2004: According to the Orlando Sentinel, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s website “listed [Michel] as a contact for a Keller campaign fund-raiser where political action committees were asked to pay $2,500 to attend a weekend of festivities in Orlando, which included a ‘reception, theme park and golf for up to four people.’”

March 19, 2005: Keller wed Michel. His chief of staff, Bryan Malenius, told the Orlando Sentinel that he is “positive” that his boss “would not want to answer questions about when the two began dating.” Asked about that same question, ex-wife Cathy Keller said, “I don’t think, for the sake of the children, I can say anything about that.” (Cathy Keller declined to comment for this story.)

May 3, 2007: Keller filed his most recent financial disclosure statement with the House. Michel is still identified as an employee of Hammond & Associates–yet Hammond & Associates never seems to have listed Michel as an employee on its website. Did she work there or not? Was she an independent contractor? If so, did she raise money for Keller? Did she get a salary or a percentage of what she brought in? There’s no way of knowing for sure, since neither Hammond & Associates nor Keller replied to a request for comment. (As of early this year, Keller has primarily relied on a firm called Bellwether Consulting Group for fundraising help.)

Today, the one-time “Citizen Legislator” sits atop a campaign war chest of almost half a million dollars, much of it, according to the Orlando Sentinel, donated “from interests affected by legislation that comes before Keller’s two committees: judiciary and education.” Some outsider. Life in Congress has been good to Keller, who by all accounts enjoys the status, star power, and personal attention it brings him. It’s easy to see why he has reconsidered his ideas over both term limits and the sanctity of family values.

And he's never had to face an effective opponent before. Want to help?

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At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUTSTANDING!!! Right On! It's about time people regardless of partisan relationships take notice! It doesn't surprise me one bit that people make mistakes, after all that is the privilege of being human. What does surprise me is the inability to take it that one step further and learn from those mistakes and that is the privilege of being smart! Whether we're talking about Keller or Bush, or any of those people that have made it into office by portraying themselves in a convincing manner, the trick is why are they still there? Let's take them Out! Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on ME!WAKE UP AMERICA! Learn from the mistakes...It was a mistake to keep Bush and Keller for 8 years, you cannot be blind to that, look around...Are you seriously considering repeating that? All because of partisanship? This is a race about Facts NOT Parties and anyone who cannot see that is not only blind but is A FOOL!!! I know my MAMA didn't raise NO FOOL...


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