Robaina met with Brito, chair and founder of the Miami Voice recall PAC, early last month to chat campaign strategy and he thought she was on board until just the other day. He didn't even know, til Ladra told him, that Brito’s Myami Marketing firm was paid $2,000 for "PR consulting" April 21 by former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, Robaina’s only opponent in the race. But he got an inkling something was up. She hadn't return a single call of more than a dozen he made to her in the two weeks since the April 6 breakfast meeting at a Bird Road Denny’s where Brito indicated energetically that she would be on his team, he said. In attendance were the two men who Robaina said “highly recommended” Brito: The late Carlos Alvarez, a campaign consultant and local democratic party activist who had a sudden massive heart attack last Friday, and Johnny Farias, who ran for state rep last year but lost the Democratic primary to Sandra Ruiz. Also there, former State Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata (Rep., District 119), who is running for commissioner in District 12 next year, and someone named Yoel Alfonso, who might be a union guy and the same Yoel Alfonso quoted in a 1997 New Times story as an avid Suarez supporter. (What the...? Don't these candidates vet people anymore?)
Brito, who looks like she is picking her next switcheroo here, was excited about the get together, posting on facebook at 8:14 a.m. April 6 via blackberry that she was “looking forward to a great morning meeting.” And she was excited in her email to Robaina the next day, and furnished here to Ladra. To quote in its entirety:
“Hi Julio! Great meeting with you and Juan yesterday. I hope we can work together, especially mobilizing the recall voters in the District. Let's just hope CG stays in the race!
As promised, here are the counts for voters for 3/15 election. I will get you the numbers for the Key Biscayne precincts separately in a bit.
Dist. 7 Voters who voted in Recall Election: 22,671
Dist. 7 Voters who signed a Recall petition or requested an AB through us: 9,722
Dist. 7 Voters whose AB solicitation has expired, was not renewed, and would not receive an AB for your election: 9,390
Dist. 7 Voters who voted AB: 8,579
Hope this serves as a starting point. These folks are more likely to vote for you over Suarez, so long as you get to them first and target them correctly.”
Wonder what her current boss would say/think about that last line. But Robaina took it as a sign that she really did want to do something, even if they couldn't afford the $4,000 he said she asked for. ”She said, ‘We like you, Julio. We know your past. You are a breath of fresh air.' Why would she give me data if she was working for the opposition?"
Brito said all she gave him were raw numbers. "Did I give him names and addresses? There is a lot more data than that," she said. She acknowledged she had gone to the meeting, but said she never agreed to work for Robaina or indicated that she would work for him. She said that Yoel Alfonso, who was also there, was also supporting Suarez now. But, as Ladra said, we suspect he was always supporting Suarez. Maybe Brito was, too. The other people at the meeting, the two that are still with us, told Ladra that Brito indicated she was part of Robaina's camp.
"She told Julio she wanted to help," Juan Carlos Zapata, who is one of Robaina's partners in their condo management business, told Ladra. "She was taking notes."
Said Farias: "She was very enthusiastic about it."
Brito also sent two other emails on April 7 -- one with the Key Biscayne numbers and another that ends "let me know if you need anything else, please." Sounds like she is on board, right?
Wrong. Robaina said he tried to call Brito at least a dozen times since that last email. He left messages. Brito never called him back. Farias, a known Vanessican, told Ladra the same thing. "I tried getting a hold of her several times. I couldn't get a hold of her," Farias said, adding that Alvarez, before he died of a massive heart attack Friday, had also tried to reach Brito several times, to no avail. "I haven't talked to Vanessa in almost a month," Farias said. "I heard that she started working with him [Suarez] because a friend of hers asked her to help him out."
Perhaps it was Norman Braman, the other recall media darling, who recently endorsed Suarez. After all, he pays Brito an undisclosed sum through an Arizona company for "data research" and, Ladra suspects, other work on local campaigns. But Ladra thinks that the gypsy con artist was more motivated by the money (that $2,000 is what's on the books as of April 22. The next financial disclosure report is not due until May 19). Brito has every right to get paid for her work as a political consultant and to work for whoever compensates her what she thinks she is worth. But she should have called Robaina and told him. To leave him hanging is not as bad as coming out with a press release and attack ad after telling another candidate that he was the bomb and she was going to help him. But it's still bad.
Zapata said he warned Robaina against trusting Brito. "I like community activists. But I also get very skittish when community activists also take on political agendas," Zapata told Ladra. "Julio said she was going to help him without any money. I told him, 'You gotta be careful. Folks like that who get into the scene through some popular movement and then they become famous and then they get politically involved -- it never ends well.'"
Ladra told Zapata that she is quite sure, actually, that Brito planned her political agenda first and then became a self-proclaimed "community activist" to further it.
"That's the sense I got," he shot back.