Sunday, March 6, 2011

PAC Chair speaks, says nothing

Finally got a response from Vanessa Brito, chairwoman of the Miami Voice PAC trying to oust Miami-Dade Commissioner Natasha Seijas, when I asked for details about LGBT discrimination claims she is making against Seijas' camp and another political enemy of hers.

Or a non-response (this falls under the Bait & Switch Trick type excuse).

"Please cease and desist," Brito wrote today. "Please do not contact my family or myself any further. Any claims made will see the result through appropriate legal means.

"Again, please do not email, call, or correspond with any of my family members, including my partner, our children, or my immediately family," she wrote, ending on a light note: "Best, Vanessa Brito."

Well, first, congratulations. I did not know you had children. But I also think that's a bit inflammatory and disingenuous, if not just silly, because everyone knows I wouldn't ask children about the campaign finance disclosure forms overdue from a rogue PAC. I'm a mom and I know the only PAC my daughter would have interest in is a Vote Bieber PAC.

Secondly, I have never contacted anyone in your family about the PAC and its finances, or anything. I contacted your life partner, Heidy Medina, but only because she is also the treasurer of the PAC. Or at least she was paid $300 for "treasurer compensation" in the only campaign finance report you have filed, which records activity through Dec. 31, which is a long time ago and also reflects your illegal third party $5,000 contribution from your marketing firm on behalf of a "secret" donor (read: special interest). Are you saying that because your treasurer is also your partner she is off limits to the press and unaccountable? Why wouldn't all PAC chairs appoint relatives to get that defacto gag going on? More silliness. If the treasurer had been someone outside the family, I would not have approached Medina in a public parking lot where she was stumping for "yes" votes and ask her about the failure to file the financial disclosures, which I only did after you repeatedly refused to address the issue in an adult, civilized, dignified and transparent way. And which only resulted in her aggressive physical threats. Tsk, tsk.

One more thing, I am not making claims. I am asking questions, reporting on location and from public documents as well as personal knowledge and history and connecting the dots. It's a good thing. I have no ulterior motives. Nobody is paying me under the table. What claims have I made that are untrue? Or, wait, just end it at what claims have I made? Can't say? (read: red herring). I am transparent. Why aren't you?

I can cease today on this one topic but I cannot desist because, you are, indeed, a public figure (even though you keep saying you are not when it is convenient) and I am a journalist who blogs on local political matters that others would want to keep in the dark. As chair of a PAC that is seeking the ouster of a democratically-elected official, and apparently violating state law to do it, you are very much a public figure and I will need to call or email you to ask questions as stories arise or give you an opportunity, as I do for others, to offer a different perspective. I do not participate in sabotage journalism. You can always decline to comment. This is Journalism 101. Many electeds, including your friend Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and your foe Seijas, would love to tell journalists to "cease and desist" and make no further contact. (I'm sure that was considered by some when I covered Coral Gables government for the Miami Herald). Though convenient, that's not how it works.

You cannot repeatedly go on TV and radio and social media avenues and say you are the "voice of the people" and then say you are not a public figure that should be held accountable for what that voice says. Your friends and supporters have been urging you to run for office on your facebook wall (or you have been urging people to urge you to run for office; remember, I have sat next to you). You have been promoting yourself as a public figure in the LGBT community for years. You even have a fan page on facebook as a "community activist," but surprisingly only 134 fans. What's up with that? I know, you're busy. Busy being a public figure. And you cannot stick your head in the sand now because it's getting a little uncomfortable out in that public you sought and love so much. That is not how it works.

This time, I will quote you in what you say here as your flippant response to my serious query (it's kind of a colorful "no comment"), even though I am quite adamant about holding people responsible for their words and actions when it involves prejudice. Everyone who knows me knows that I will not tolerate any hate speech or discrimination toward anyone. (Here we are photographed on a happier day as founding members of the SaveDade Women's Committee with fellow Miami Vice member Ivette Lisa Taylor in November or December of 2009 when we once worked together for the LGBT community before I separated myself from you professionally and personally after what I consider several ethical breaches). So if you have specific details, names, witnesses, documentation of any kind -- digital, anecdotal, circumstantial -- about this alleged injustice, please, again, share it with me or other members of the media or LGBT community leaders (who were copied on our email exchange and were also urged to use their judgement and seek independent confirmation of any future claims made).

Otherwise, they look like wild accusations -- the gay card, if you will -- thrown out to intentionally inflame voters for the wrong, false, reasons. It's called scare tactics. And it's a red herring. If you are really concerned about the LGBT community and the alleged discriminatory remarks, why wouldn't you want me and others to have more details so I can go to bat for you (just this once, because, we are on the same side this time). I suspect that you do not follow up on the very serious claims (and you talk so much about defamation of character, eh?) because you know they are either made up or generously exaggerated.

Again, your theme is a lack of transparency. And this is what you want for the residents of Miami Dade? Smoke and mirrors and red herrings? I hope they are spared.

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