Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke — who is a candidate to replace more-boring-than-bread-pudding ex-Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez on May 24 — follows the money financing his opponents.
Before even filing his first campaign contribution report, my opponent Julio Robaina boasted April 1 on his Facebook page about raising more than $600,000. So far, the Hialeah mayor and the two other so-called front-runners in the mayor's race — county Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente — have raised a combined $1.2 million.
That kind of money is nothing to brag about. You have to ask: What do the people who provide that cash expect in return?
But the money given directly to these candidates is only part of the game. It's policed, and contributors are limited to $500 each. Then there's the soft money — from political action committees — with no contribution limit. Though not expressly tied to candidates, PACs often do the dirty work.
Consider Common Sense Now, a PAC chaired by Gimenez. It was launched this past November as a way to restore sanity to county government after then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez had stirred things up. The group has collected $277,000, including sizable donations from individuals and corporations that have given to Gimenez's mayoral effort and do business with the county. For instance, real estate developer Jeffrey Berkowitz, who raised $5,500 for Gimenez, gave Common Sense $15,000 this past December. High-end builder Coastal Construction Group forked over $10,000.
Since Alvarez was recalled March 15, the PAC has spent money on consultants who are working on Gimenez's campaign. Among them is Florida International University professor Dario Moreno, who has been paid $22,623.
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Then there's the Truth for Our Community, a PAC chaired by Robaina buddy and Hialeah Housing Authority executive director Julio Ponce. It took up the Hialeah pol's efforts against slot machines in Miami-Dade and term limits in Hialeah. It has raised more than $400,000, at least some from people and companies that do business with the county.
And Llorente chairs a PAC too. It's called A New Day in Miami-Dade and had raised $17,000 by March 31.
Who is controlling this race? The same developers, lobbyists, charter school owners, and corporate barons responsible for the collapse of the real estate market and the public school system. Greed, not reform, is driving this special election.
You have to follow the money to know what is really going on.