Friday, March 4, 2011

Recall PAC again hides funding

The Miami Voice political action committee behind the recall effort against Natacha Seijas is the only party that has not submitted a campaign finance report due Feb. 25, reporting all contribution and expenditures from Jan. 1 to Feb. 18, as required by state law.

What don't they want us to know? Every day they delay is another day voters go to early voting and cast absentee ballots without knowing one important thing: Who is behind the recall and financing this effort?

The first report, filed Dec. 31, certainly shows a possibility of silent contributors (read: special interests) pulling the puppet strings. Miami Voice Chairwoman Vanessa Brito -- who is being sued by a political candidate for $11,000 for a brochure and education campaign he says she never produced -- contributed $5,000 from her PR firm, Myami Marketing. But anyone who knows Brito knows Myami Marketing has no clients and no money. In fact, the company was inactive according to Florida corporate records until it was reactivated two days before the donation to the PAC. That step, the reinstatement of a Florida Corporation, costs $750 (and I suspect whoever gave Brito the money for the PAC also gave her the money for that).

Brito admitted to me in January in a telephone conversation that she had taken the money on behalf of a "client" specifically for the purpose of funneling that money to the PAC. Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Joseph Centorino told me that sounded like money laundering and a clear violation of state campaign finance disclosure laws. Those laws exist so the people know where the money is really coming from. Vanessa Brito and Miami Voice do not want the people to know where that money is coming from.

Well, I do. I want to see if other illegal, third party donations are being made to the PAC through Brito and her pals.

"I've been calling them and they have not given the report yet," said Maria Acosta, a clerk at the Miami-Dade Elections Department who receives the reports. She has left Brito voice mail.

"They sent me an email saying they had trouble entering information into the site and I gave them a new password," Acosta said. But nobody else had problems with the system, Acosta said. That includes Abre Los Brazos, the Seijas supporters' PAC, which shows many contributions from unions and home builders, but also support from some Hialeah businesses. The group doesn't have much left for the campaign after spending about $50,000 of the $52,000 raised on legal fees for the lawsuit, later dropped, to block the recall because of questionable petitions.

Acosta doesn't know Vanessa Brito, but people who do may recognize the technology excuse ("someone hijacked my email," "my phone died," "I had no internet" and different versions that are so coincidental right when she needs it to happen). On a comment thread in another blog, Brito had a different defense: "I need help. I'm only one person." Huh? I thought she had a huge committee with so many supporters, all wearing matching t-shirts and working until the "wee hours" for their right to vote?

Meanwhile, seven days after it was due, Miami Voice has STILL not submitted the report. Brito -- who did not return a call from Ladra -- and PAC treasurer and Brito's life partner Heidy Medina (I guess Brito either finally got that domestic partnership divorce in California or she lied about that, too) each face hefty fines ($50 a day for the first three days and $500 a day for each day after, to tally at least $2,650 so far).

Ladra suspects they don't care because someone else will pay those fines. I mean, $500 a day is not a high price for thousands of early voting and absentee ballots, which would be cast before the voters get to know the PAC's real puppeteer. It's actually brilliant campaign strategy to pull the wool over voters eyes and get them to react on emotion alone. It's also just wrong.

This is an intentional delay, people. Miami Voice and Brito -- and the special interests backing them financially in secret -- do not want questions or concerns raised about their hidden agenda and their funding. Not yet. Not until we get a few hundred more votes cast.

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