Vote Buying: South Florida's Richest Are Calling the Shots in This Election

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spent most of their second debate falling over each other to prove who cares more about middle-class voters.

"The middle class is getting crushed," Romney said. "That's what this election is about. It's about who can get the middle class in this country a bright and prosperous future." Obama quickly struck back, whacking Romney over his secretly recorded "47 percent" speech. "[He was talking about] people who are working hard every day," Obama said. "I want to fight for them."

It was all malarkey. Truth is, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling — which opened the floodgates for unlimited spending by corporations and billionaires — both candidates are more beholden than ever to the 1 percent.

So far, Romney and Obama's wealthiest supporters have pumped $275 million into just the three biggest SuperPACs — the secretive organizations that can take in and spend limitless cash. In all, there are 947 SuperPACs wielding more than half a billion dollars this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog.

"The system is based on how many wealthy people you know rather than how many votes you can get," says David Donnelly, executive director of D.C.-based Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonprofit aimed at strengthening campaign finance rules. "As a candidate for president, you spend a huge amount of time thinking about the concerns and problems of those at the top because those are the people you hear from the most."

The fat cats bankrolling both campaigns aren't just throwing around millions out of charity either; they expect to get something in return.

"You're seeing a lot of oil money going to Romney because they want more robust drilling offshore," Donnelly says. "And Obama is getting a lot of Hollywood money because of their concerns with piracy of intellectual properties in China."

South Florida is no exception. In fact, with the state emerging as one of the nation's key swing votes, the richest of the rich in our neck of the woods are intent on getting their money's worth.

Through federal finance reports, New Times has found the six locals who have funneled the most to the campaigns, scouted out just how much richer they are than the rest of us — and most important, tried to suss out just what they hope to gain by getting their guy elected.

Rich Guys for Obama:

Donor: Chris Korge, Coral Gables attorney and business investor.

Contribution: Bundled at least $500,000 for Obama.

How rich is he? Korge rocks a seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom compound near Old Cutler Road that he bought for $1.3 million in 1996. In February, he welcomed Obama for a $15,000-per-person fundraiser in his backyard, a concrete-enclosed pad that includes a pool, a hot tub, and a bar. In 2008, Korge convinced his neighbor, über-hip-hop producer Timbaland, to perform at his fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.

Source of his riches: He's a lawyer who made a fortune representing companies doing business at Miami International Airport. He is currently partners with one of his former clients in airport-concessions deals at MIA and airports around the country, as well as an investor and senior adviser at the Americas Group, a global business consulting firm.

Political infamy: Korge's cousin, disgraced former Miami Beach Mayor Alex Daoud, wrote in his tell-all book, The Sins of South Beach, that Korge tried to bribe him twice when he still ran the city in the early 1990s. (Korge has denied this.) Korge also stayed over at the White House on numerous occasions when Slick Willy was prez.

What would he gain from an Obama win? His company, the Americas Group, is itching to help American companies open up shop in Cuba. During his first term, Obama has relaxed some sanctions against the Castro regime. Last year, he lifted some travel restrictions and allowed Americans to send up to $500 per quarter to Cubans. Can you say Havana bonanza?

Donor: Steven J. Green, Miami Beach philanthropist and CEO of real estate firm Greenstreet Partners.

Contribution: Bundled at least $500,000 for Obama.

How rich is he? In 1987, he and his wife, Dorothea, donated $2.5 million to renovate the west campus library at Florida International University. Twenty-two years later, they dropped $10 million greenbacks for FIU's College of Medicine. The couple kick back inside the ten-bedroom, nine-bathroom La Gorce Country Club estate they bought for $10.7 million in 2004.

Source of his riches: From 1988 to 1996, Green was chairman and chief executive of luggage giant Samsonite Corp. He guided the firm out of bankruptcy in 1993 and took it public after expanding into Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He resigned in 1996 and is currently chairman and CEO of Greenstreet Real Estate Partners.

Political infamy: In 1994, Steven and Dorothea were among 938 Bill Clinton donors who were allegedly rewarded for their fundraising efforts with White House sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom. After contributing $51,000 to Bill Clinton's reelection effort, the prez named Green U.S. ambassador to Singapore, a cushy post he held until 2001.

What does he gain from Obama? Another plum overseas diplomatic assignment. How's Belgium sound, Stevey?

Donor: Barbara Stiefel, Coral Gables philanthropist and retired pharmaceutical executive.

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3 comments
Registered_Voter
Registered_Voter

Let's be honest with the world when discussing the purchase of votes.  What do you think Obamo did with an underfunded healthcare law named after himself?  Do you think it coincidental that the person taking his state seat had issues getting into office?

fred67
fred67

Making it easier to vote also makes it easier to cheat.  Look at welfare and medicaid, disability social security and medicare, disaster relief...TRUST BUT VERIFY.  This should be your guide in ever aspect of life..love, marriage, money AND POLITICS.   EARLY VOTING SHOULD BE FRIDAY TIL TUES. IF YOU CAN'T GET THERE BY THEN YOU PROBABLY WOULDN'T MAKE IT IF YOU WERE GIVEN A MONTH. Absentee ballots should be issue to people who are really going to be absent from their voting place. Voting by other mail should not be allowed.  Registration should be in person with documentation.  I've said it before if you gave a ham or turkey for each person at the polls who voted you'd get a bigger turnout.

drakemallard
drakemallard topcommenter

No More Games in Government," they've created a system based completely on bribery. Now, if we do bribery, it's hypocrisy. If we do bribery in the private sector, we go to jail. Yet, their entire political system is based upon bribery. Who can bribe and give the most money to the politician and now, thanks to our illustrious Supreme Court that ruled that corporations have the same right as individuals and that money is free speech, well, we're now being inundated with so much money from the corporations buying the Democrats and Republicans, both sides, that -- look at this hypothetically, a foreign country could now control our elections, because all they would have to do is form a corporation, start pumping money into the super PACs. Plus there's no -- they don't have to say where the money comes from, which is criminal. Every candidate should have to state openly, open disclosure where they get every dollar. You're not getting that now. So the whole system is corrupted now. The Democrats and Republicans are at fault because they've been in charge for 150 years. They can't pass the buck on it. And until they clean up the system, that's what you've got, it's bribery.

 
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