When a group of citizens mounted an effort to recall Miami-Dade County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, unions representing county employees, including the South Florida AFL-CIO, rallied around her. Not only did the union provide man power at the polls, they pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the political action committee fighting the recall.
Turns out the PAC, known as Citizens to Protect the People’s Choice, returned the favor. According to its last campaign treasurer’s quarterly report released this past March, the PAC gave $25,000 to Working Families Count, Inc. on January 9. State incorporation records list Fred Frost as the for-profit corporation’s registered agent. Frost is president of the South Florida AFL-CIO.
Frost explains WFC is a political organization that used the donation to pay for advertising materials to fight the strong mayor referendum earlier this year. “With the money we have left over, we are helping Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez’s reelection,” Frost says, adding that he was unaware that Working Families Count is listed as a for-profit corporation with the state. “That must be a mistake,” he said.
Florida law prohibits candidates or their political action committees from donating money to for-profit corporations. Penalties for doing so include fines and possible criminal misdemeanor charges. However, the law does not apply to political action committees formed to fight an issue, such as the recall of an elected official, according to a Miami-Dade state prosecutor familiar with election laws. “I think you found a loophole,” he said.
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Regardless, the corporation has received tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service as a “political organization,” according to WFC’s lawyer. “It is not a taxable entity therefore it qualifies as a non-profit,” said attorney Ronald Meyer. --Francisco Alvarado