Dave Aronberg, courted by Dems for U.S. House seat, weighs in on Dem primary

 

Democratic congressional candidate Lauren Baer picks up an endorsement from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been courted in the past by national Democrats to run for Congress, is endorsing Lauren Baer in the Democratic primary for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast U.S. House seat.

Baer, a former foreign policy adviser in the Obama administration, is running against attorney and Navy veteran Pam Keith in the Aug. 28 primary in District 18, the seat held by freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

“Our community is facing many challenges. From the opioid epidemic to threats to our environment, we need a representative in Washington who will seek common sense solutions — and actually accomplish them. I am proud to endorse Lauren Baer, who has the experience of bringing people together in these divisive political times,” said Aronberg in a statement released by Baer’s campaign.

Some Democrats tried to woo Aronberg to run for Congress in 2010 against U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, when he held a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also approached Aronberg about being a 2016 candidate and again last year about running in 2018.

Aronberg’s support is the latest in a shock-and-awe endorsement campaign by Baer. She has previously announced the backing of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, current Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch and a variety of other elected officials. In addition to Aronberg, the Baer campaign today rolled out endorsements from Democratic state Sen. Lori Berman, state Rep. David Silvers, St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman Rachelle Litt, former Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin, Treasure Coast Black Chamber Founder and President Chauncelor Howell, Puerto Rican Association for Hispanic Affairs President Robert Roldan and Vice President Jacquelene Burke.

Mast, a decorated Army combat vet who was mentioned as a potential nominee to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, faces two GOP primary challengers: physician Mark Freeman and businessman Dave Cummings.

Aronberg: Fix Obamacare so unethical sober homes don’t exploit opioid crisis

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg in 2016. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says in a Time magazine op-ed that unscrupulous drug treatment providers have manipulated Obamacare “to foster a cycle of relapse, rather than recovery” and cash in on the opioid crisis.

Democrat Aronberg — who’s been mentioned as a potential 2018 congressional candidate but now appears to be sticking with his prosecutor’s job — says Congress can address the problem by incentivizing treatment programs that demonstrate successful outcomes.

Drug relapses must be covered by insurers as an essential health benefit and cannot be excluded as a pre-existing condition under the Affordable Care Act and other federal laws, Aronberg writes. The requirement that children be allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26 also makes young addicts a target for unethical operators, Aronberg says.

Obamacare already reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with high readmission rates; Aronberg suggests a similar model for drug rehab programs.

“When policymakers decide the future of the ACA, they should extend Medicare’s outcome-based reimbursement model to the world of private insurance payments for drug rehabilitation,” Aronberg writes. “This could reward the best recovery centers while shuttering rogue operators who give false promises and illicit benefits to patients, then siphon precious resources into treating and then encouraging repeated relapses.”

Click here to read Aronberg’s entire article at time.com.

 

 

Today: Opioid crisis briefings for Latvala in Lake Worth, Trump in New Jersey

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will host an opioid roundtable in Palm Beach County today. He’s expected to make an announcement about the 2018 governor’s race next week. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman and potential 2018 candidate for governor Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will visit the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College this morning to hear from a slew of elected officials and experts about the state’s opioid crisis.

» WATCH LIVE: The opioid roundtable is being livestreamed via The Florida Channel

And at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., work-vacationing President Donald Trump is scheduled to participate in a 3 p.m. briefing on the opioid crisis with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

In Florida, Latvala says he wants to visit the epicenter of the crisis to determine how to steer money — including $54 million in federal grants — to address the problem.

The discussion at the Palm Beach State College Public Safety Training Center begins at 9:30 a.m. and is scheduled to end at noon.

Follow PostOnPolitics.com, MyPalmBeachPost.com and @gbennettpost on Twitter for coverage today.

Among the elected officials expected to speak today: Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, state Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington, and West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio. Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and other first responders and medical and treatment professionals are also expected to make presentations. Fifty minutes of public comment are also scheduled.

Said Latvala in a statement released by his office: “Opioid abuse is a crisis facing our entire state. It’s costing lives and money. In fact, Florida hospital charges related to the heroin epidemic top $4 million a day. But the crisis seems to be affecting Palm Beach County more than many other parts of the state with more than 300 opioid overdoes in Palm Beach County already this year. Senator Rader and Commissioner McKinlay have worked particularly hard to bring attention to the issue. I want to visit and hear directly from the professionals and families directly involved with the issue.”

Latvala is expected to announce his 2018 political plans next week. Latvala, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are considering entering the GOP race for governor, where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the only major Republican candidate.

 

Another “Trump Divorce” in the offing?

Dave and Lynn Aronberg at a New Year’s Eve celebration at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion.

The divorce of Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg from former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Lynn Aronberg isn’t the only one being blamed, in part, on President Donald Trump.

Multiple news reports Friday indicated that the wife of the president’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, has filed for divorce citing, among other things, their differing views of Trump.

The news reports quote people supposedly close to Deidre Scaramucci saying she loathes Trump.

In his first press conference as communications director, Scaramucci said – many, many times – that he loves the president.

A press statement released by a media company that employs Lynn Aronberg was headlined: “Dave and Lynn Aronberg Sign Amicable Divorce Settlement Putting and End to What Some Were Calling The Trump Divorce.”

Dave Aronberg is a Democrat. The statement described Lynn Aronberg as “a staunch Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump” who “said she felt increasingly isolated in the marriage.”

Brian Mast amassing money for re-election bid

Rep. Brian Mast

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, figures to have a tough re-election battle.

He’s already drawn one opponent, former U.S. Navy attorney Pam Keith, and another formidable candidate, State Attorney Dave Aronberg, is rumored to be considering a run.

If they get in, they better have some generous supporters.

The Mast campaign will report raising $734,000 this quarter, bring its total so far to over $1.1 million.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reported that its internal polling shows Mast to be vulnerable, but the U.S. Army veteran said he’s not worried.

“While national democrats desperately dump money into the 18th District with lies to undermine Brian mast’s service to our country, people obviously aren’t buying it,” Mast spokesman Brad Stewart said. “With 92 percent of all donations being small dollar and a median donation of $25, it’s clearer than ever that there is a broad grassroots enthusiasm for Brian’s agenda to upend the status quo in Washington and restore fiscal sanity to our country.”

 

Could State Attorney Dave Aronberg challenge Rep. Brian Mast?

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, left, and U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

When Democrat Dave Aronberg was a state Senator in 2009, some Dems tried to recruit him to run for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat then held by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney. Aronberg declined and ran unsuccessfully for Florida attorney general in 2010.

In 2015, when U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, announced he was leaving his seat to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee talked to State Attorney Aronberg about running. Aronberg declined again and instead ran for a second term in 2016, ultimately winning without opposition.

Democrat Pam Keith has announced she’s running for Mast’s seat in 2018.

Now Aronberg’s name is getting some mention as a potential challenger to freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.

The DCCC says it conducted a poll pitting Mast against a specific Democratic challenger — it won’t say whether Aronberg is the Dem in the survey — and found Mast trailing by 3 points in a district Mast won by 10.5 points in November.

Click here to read reporter Wayne Washington’s story about Democratic hopes for Mast’s seat and what Aronberg is saying about the race.

Another Democrat, Pam Keith, has already announced she’s running for Mast’s District 18 seat.

Corey Jones shooting: Rep. Patrick Murphy says charges show ‘no one is above the law’

State Attorney Dave Aronberg with chief assistants Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis announce officer Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm in the death of Corey Jones in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
State Attorney Dave Aronberg with chief assistants Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis announce officer Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm in the death of Corey Jones in West Palm Beach, Florida on June 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The arrest of former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja in the 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones shows that “no one is above the law,” U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said this afternoon.

 

Murphy, whose congressional district includes Palm Beach Gardens, released a statement soon after Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg announced Raja’s arrest on charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

 

“Today’s indictment of former officer Nouman Raja demonstrates that no one is above the law. It is also an important step forward for our community to begin to heal and to restore trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” said Murphy. “While nothing will bring Corey back, I hope today’s action brings some peace to his loved ones as we continue to honor his life by working together to prevent future tragedies such as this.”

 

Murphy invited an attorney for Jones’ family to this year’s State of the Union address and joined other local lawmakers in co-sponsoring a bill by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, to withhold federal grant money from police departments that allow plainclothes officers in unmarked cars to make routine traffic stops. Raja was in plainclothes and an unmarked vehicle when he encountered Jones at an Interstate 95 exit ramp on Oct. 18.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg, several judges are hours away from re-election

State Attorney Dave Aronberg could walk into a second term without opposition at noon today. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
State Attorney Dave Aronberg could walk into a second term without opposition at noon today. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida’s deadline for judicial candidates and candidates for state attorney and public defender to pay filing fees and submit paperwork to qualify for the 2016 ballot is at noon today.

 

As of this morning, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and most of the county’s judges who are up for re-election have not drawn opposition. If no challengers emerge, they’ll automatically be re-elected this afternoon.

 

Four-term incumbent Public Defender Carey Haughwout, however, faces a Democratic primary challenge from attorney William Abramson. Circuit Judge Dina Keever and County Judge Marni Bryson are the only incumbent jurists in Palm Beach County to draw challengers so far.

 

Gov. Rick Scott wants to appoint a judge to fill a Palm Beach County vacancy, while attorney Gregg Lerman (right) says he'll sue to force an election and county Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher is caught in the middle.
Gov. Rick Scott wants to appoint a judge to fill a Palm Beach County vacancy, while attorney Gregg Lerman (right) says he’ll sue to force an election and county Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher is caught in the middle.

The big question mark in Palm Beach County is the Group 11 County Court judgeship that Laura Johnson is leaving to run for an opening on the Circuit Court. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner says Gov. Rick Scott should appoint a replacement to serve through 2021, when Johnson’s term ends. Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, however, is treating the vacancy as an open seat for election and has accepted candidate qualifying papers from attorney Gregg Lerman.

 

Follow PostOnPolitics.com and MyPalmBeachPost.com today for updates on qualifying.

 

Florida’s qualifying period for other offices — including U.S. Senate and House, state legislature, county commission, school board — is in June.

 

 

VIDEO: State attorney won’t charge Trump campaign manager Lewandowski with battery

The State Attorney’s office has found insufficient evidence to charge Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, with battery following a Jupiter event.

In a decision released Thursday by State Attorney Dave Aronberg, he says prosecutors will not press misdemeanor battery charges against Lewandowski.

Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, white jacket, questions Donald J. Trump as campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, top center, grabs her arm following a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Jupiter Police Department)
Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, white jacket, questions Donald J. Trump as campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, top center, grabs her arm following a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Jupiter Police Department)

Jupiter police had found probable cause to charge Lewandowski with misdemeanor battery on March 29 after a March 8 incident in which then-Brietbart reporter Michelle Fields said Lewandowski violently grabbed her after a Trump news conference.

Click here for more updates.

“I’ve made the decision that Corey Lewandowski will not be charged with battery,” Aronberg said in a news conference Thursday.

Aronberg says in the decision that the state reviewed the probable cause affidavit from Jupiter, along with photographs, statements from Fields and two witnesses, video surveillance and an audio recording from Fields’ cellphone.

Dropping charges against Lewandowski is not unusual in Palm Beach County. A Palm Beach Post analysis of more than 4,000 misdemeanor battery-only court cases filed by law enforcement through 2013 found that more than half were dropped and only one in 10 went to trial.

Lewandowski initially called Fields “delusional” and Trump vigorously defended his campaign manager, even accusing Fields of grabbing his arm and suggesting she should face charges.

View the full memo from Aronberg:

Page 1 of the memo saying the State Attorney's Office will not pursue charges against Corey Lewandowski.
Page 1 of the memo saying the State Attorney’s Office will not pursue charges against Corey Lewandowski.

 

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Page 2 of the memo saying the State Attorney’s Office will not pursue charges against Corey Lewandowski.

 

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Page 3 of the memo saying the State Attorney’s Office will not pursue charges against Corey Lewandowski.

Click here for more updates.

Addiction treatment ethics bill gets overhaul

An overhaul to a bill, HB 823, targeting unethical marketing practices in the substance abuse treatment industry would create a local pilot program headed by Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg to coordinate efforts to crack down on fraudulent business practices.Click for complete sober homes coverage

The late-filed amendment to the bill would create the Substance Abuse and Recovery Fraudulent Business Practices Pilot Program to “coordinate state and local agencies, law enforcement entities and investigative units in order to increase the effectiveness of programs and initiatives dealing with the regulation, prevention, detection and prosecution of unethical and fraudulent business practices within the substance abuse industry.”

The House Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to hear the bill this morning and can be watched live at 11:30 a.m. on The Florida Channel.

A Palm Beach Post investigation of the drug treatment industry found evidence of questionable business practices in the county’s largely unregulated, $1 billion drug treatment industry. Among the practices:

  • Kickbacks, bonuses, commissions and bribes between sober home operators and treatment programs to secure patients.
  • Free and reduced rent and “scholarships” offered to addicts with insurance to persuade patients to move into a specific sober home.
  • Predatory marketing, including call centers hired by treatment businesses and sober homes that do not tell addicts seeking help of those partnerships or that they receive a fee for every addict they refer to the center.

An FBI task force is also investigating the industry. John Lehman, head of the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, said he expects indictments to be handed down soon.

As part of the new proposal, Aronberg would appoint an advisory panel with at least nine members from the Department of Children and Families, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, representatives from local and county governments, business organizations, insurance companies and treatment providers.

Also on the panel, the executive directors of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association and the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, a Boca Raton-based non-profit that oversees voluntary certification of sober homes.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, is sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, SB 1138. As initially filed, the bills in both chambers spelled out specific crimes and punishments for violations of state laws. However, Hager’s amendment – filed Monday night – strikes all of his bill and replaces it with the proposal for the pilot program.

A similar amendment has not been filed to Clemens’ bill, which passed unanimously through the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs on Jan. 20.

Aronberg is not new to investigations of the industry. In 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi named Aronberg  a Special Prosecutor for Prescription Drug Trafficking. In his role as the Attorney General’s “Drug Czar,” Aronberg led an anti-pill mill initiative that helped clean up the pain clinic industry.