Miami's Third District Court of Appeal yesterday declined to place a citizen-backed campaign-finance-reform bill up for a public vote this November, according to documents published by blogger Al Crespo. The decision likely ends a summer-long fight between Miami-Dade County and a union-backed group pushing the county to get money out of politics.
More than 127,000 people signed a petition demanding the bill be written into law. The measure would have cut county campaign donations to just $250 per person (down from $1,000) and banned people who receive large and midsize county contracts from donating to political campaigns (a measure that has been federally legal for 75 years and is also on the books in Miami Beach). The bill would have also added a public-funding option for local elections.
The bill would also have banned county contractors' lobbyists from donating to local campaigns.
Last week, a county judge said Miami-Dade's highest governing body had dragged its feet and made up excuses to kill the bill. But the county appealed, and yesterday the appeals court voted 2-1 to effectively keep it off the ballot this November.
County commissioners initially declined to even authorize the petitions. They have been accused of trying to avoid messing with their sources of campaign money.
Opponents of the bill — many of them lobbyists — painted union leaders fighting for common-sense campaign-finance reform as dangerous boogeymen. They argued the proposals were somehow an attack on their civil rights and political free speech.
Now that the measure is dead for the time being, the happiest people seem to be some of Miami's corporate lobbyists and government-relations "consultants." Tim Gomez, a consultant at the huge statewide lobbying firm Floridian Partners — which represents the cable industry, the Miami Dolphins, and other massive corporations — thanked Tallahassee über-lobbyists Ron Book and Brian May for fighting the bill this summer. A host of Gomez's colleagues concurred:
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Last night, lobbyists and consultants thanked lobbyist Eric Zichella on Twitter for bravely "standing up" for them.
Zichella, who has donated thousands of dollars to local political campaigns, had filed a countersuit against both Miami-Dade County and An Accountable Miami-Dade. (Among other people, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine was affiliated with the group.) Zichella argued the bill's text was illegal, a charge that county Judge William Thomas steadfastly threw out last week. It remains to be seen which side Miami's appeals court will take.