While everyone is watching the candidates and their campaigns, PACs have proliferated at an alarming rate as four cities known for raunchy races -- Hialeah, Homestead, Miami and Miami Beach -- get within the two week mark of Election Day.
We will get to the other cities later (really, we will... there is just too much PACing going on), but Ladra's favorite election grounds have to go first. Hialeah has been dry for too long and the City of Retrogress has at least seven PACs so far, split between the three mayoral candidates alone (and, yes, Ladra has written George "Who?" Castro off). The two ABC front running candidates, former Mayor Raul Martinez and former State Sen. Rudy Garcia (R, District 40) are apparently appeased for now with one PAC a piece, although the Dark Prince's PAC is outraising the Ghost's PAC by a 4 to 1 margin. The other five found so far are apparently going to bat for su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez, who has learned this divide and conquer mentality from master/mentor former Mayor Julio Robaina, with 11 or 12 PACs (who could keep count?) that spent more than $3.5 million on his failed bid for the county mayoral post (including millions in contributions from companies and their principals who are now doing business with the city through juicy no-bid contracts that are rubber-stamped by the dozens. In fact, several of the Hernandez PACs are hand-me-downs. One of those is (1) Citizens for Clarity, which had spent close to $130,000 on the Robaina campaign (including $92,000 for his absentee ballot broker Sasha Tirador, who is currently campaign manager for Hernandez and has been the only payee so far since July 1 for a total of $37,200 ($19,000 for consulting, nearly $10,000 for printing and another $8,000+ for tracking) by the Clarity PAC. (about $130,000 so far just from that one PAC so Tirador is having a very good year, despite her unfortunate TV appearances). That PAC reported collecting an additional $67,500 in contributions since the run-off, of which almost half are from gaming interests, including $20,000 from maquinita kingpin Jesus Navarro and his companies. There are also donations of $4,000 from Ignacio Zulueta, of Academica Charter schools, $5,000 from Gus Machado, and $3,500 from Masoud Shojaee, the owner of Shoma Homes. Another one of the post Robaina PACs is the (2) [Un]Truth for Our Community PAC chaired by Hialeah Housing Authority Director Julio Ponce out of the same Miami Lakes building where Robaina has his offices. Of the $48,000 spent so far since the county race, $16,000 went to McLaughlin & Associates for a survey, another $16,000 to the Americans for a Better Tomorrow PAC (more on that later? who knows?) in West Palm Beach and $12,000 to (3) The Democracy Project. Sound familiar? Yes, it's the new and improved version of the [Non]Accountability Project that spent more than $1 million on the failed Robaina race. Run by veteran PACman extraordinaire Keith Donner, the Democracy Project also got another $10,000 from the Roberto Cayon family that bundled tens of thousands of dollars into the Robaina campaign. Donner funneled the $12K from Ponce's group to the new (4) Citizen Action, Inc., which is responsible for the nasty and completely out of context TV commercials with the 1999 video of Martinez whaling on some poor "innocent" drug dealing convict who had been terrorizing the crowd, according to multiple sources. And, while some people think the TV ad came from the Garcia camp, Ladra believes that one is all alcaldito. Donner could be working with either side, of course. He has no loyalty other than to his fee. And he has friends in the Hernandez camp in Tirador and Tiradorita-in-training Vanessa Brito as well as on the Garcia campaign, in campaign operatives Al Lorenzo and Ana Carbonell. But the money trail leads back to Hernandez through the Ponce PAC contribution. Still... Citizen Action Inc. also got $37,000 from (5) Protect Florida's Economic Freedom, a Tampa PAC with contributions from developer Tibor Hollo ($15,000), Continental Citrus in Broward ($10,000) and Coastal Construction ($10,000). Hey, isn't Coastal Construction doing something at the water plant?
Garcia, whose whole public demeanor and rhetoric has focused on keeping his campaign clean, has his own attack PAC to do the dirty work. The Conservative Leadership Coalition is one of at least four PACs recently formed by treasurer extraordinaire Jose "Pepe" Riesco, the favorite fundraiser for Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. Riesco also tried, but failed, to stop the recall of former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and tried, and succeeded, to elect a relatively unknown cigar dealer named Jose Oliva in the contested race for state rep in District 110. Of the $24,000 the PAC collected from July 6 to Sept. 30, the largest donation ($6,000) came from Aneli Artwork, a company owned by Shojaee, the owner of Shoma Homes and all its conglomerates (who is hedging his bets Ladra bets). Another $5,000 came from a company tied to developer Armando Codina and another $5,000 came from a company owned by Luis Machado, who has several charter school businesses with Joaquin Aviño and other businesses with lobbyist Felix Lasarte, boss of Hialeah Councilman Pablito "Huh" Hernandez, who has to recuse himself every time the reverse osmosis hypermilliondollar water plant comes before the council. Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo gave $2,000 through his public affairs consulting firm, Capitol Gains. The Coalition PAC has spent $2,125 as of its Sept. 30 reporting deadline -- which does not include this mailer it sent attacking Hernandez.
Garcia, who never knows anything about any backroom dealings or who paid for what survey or where who stands because he doesn't pay any attention to that gossipy part of politics (yadda yadda), denies any connection to the PAC, as if that is going to be all it takes to keep his arm's length. Ladra doesn't like it when someone lies to her face and she knows that he knows about the PAC because, c'mon Senator, we know a lot of the same people. Didn't you think it'd get back to me? When I first asked Garcia about it, he said "I'm not involved." When I explained that of course he was not involved because that was the whole point, but that it was his supporters, he said, "I don't know about it," and "I can't help it if people want to do this." Ladra hardly believes that Riesco is the kind of wreckless freelancer that
would just go out on his own and "do this," as Garcia seems to want us to believe. And that's not very transparent, is it?
Martinez may not be forthcoming about everything. But he doesn't lie to my face when he doesn't want to tell me something. When I asked if he had a PAC, he didn't hesitate. "Of course, I have a PAC. Do you think I'm going to let them have a PAC and not have one myself?" Then, when I asked him to tell me the name of the PAC and how much he had raised or who the chairperson was, he laughed. Or scoffed. I can't always tell. "You find out," he barked at me while he walked off to his car. "You're the journalist. I'm not going to do your work for you." But this is honest. And I did find it. Because it wasn't hidden where he could claim no ties to it. It's quite obvious. Mabel Mizrahi, the Dark Prince's longtime assistant, is listed as the chairperson and treasurer of Fiscal Responsibility Now, formed Sept. 20. Yes, it sounds like the Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez PAC, Common Sense Now. And maybe it will be as effective. So far, it has outraised Garcia's PAC 4 to 1 with $108,500, almost half of which ($50,000) comes from John, Steve, and John Jr. Brunetti, $12,000 from Hollywood developer Mercedes Thomas and $10,000 from developer Armando Codina (who I guess is also hedging his bets, though he bet twice as much on Garcia) and Florida National College. He also has $5,000 from Telecuba Communications, a Hialeah company owned by Luis Coello which last year was granted licenses by the U.S. Government, Department of Treasury to install a first of its kind direct fiber optic subsea cable between Key West and Havana -- which will likely fuel the communist campaign crud that is sure to come. Fiscal Responsibility Now has spent $6,000 of its funds -- on advertising on America Teve.
Are we dizzy yet? Do you see why PACs make Ladra growl?