Carlos Gimenez and Akerman Senterfitt Are Looking Out for Each Other

​A local law firm that raised at least

$30,000 in campaign funds for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is

seeing its investment pay off. On Monday, the

county commission approved Gimenez's request to split Miami-Dade's

state lobbying contract among four companies, including

Orlando-based Akerman Senterfitt & Eidson, which has an extensive

presence in Miami. The law firm played a big role in Gimenez's

campaign for mayor earlier this year.

This past June 3, Akerman hosted a

fundraiser for Gimenez at its Brickell Avenue office that raised

$4,575 from 25 firm shareholders, junior partners, and government

consultant Michael Abrams. Between

March and August, the law firm also contributed $25,09.50 to Gimenez's political action committee, Common Sense Now.

The move to four lobbying firms undoes a three-year, $2 million agreement the county entered into last year with the law firms of Ronald L. Book and Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell, which have extensive experience lobbying in Tallahassee. Under the new deal, spearheaded by Gimenez's handpicked deputy mayor, Edward Marquez, the county kept Book and Rutledge at $200,000 $175,000 each for one year. The contract also added Akerman for a $60,000 $50,000 annual fee, as well as Ballard Partners, whose principal, Brian Ballard, was a top fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott's inaugural committee, at $120,000 $50,000.

The Akerman and Ballard firms are also lobbyists for Malaysian gambling juggernaut Genting, which is pushing the state legislature to allow it to build a megacasino resort on the site of the Miami Herald's waterfront home. Genting gave $10,000 to Gimenez's Common Sense Now on August 29, the same day Akerman hosted its second fundraiser for the mayor.

Suzie Trutie, the mayor's spokeswoman, says her boss had nothing to do with drawing up a new state lobbying contract. She provided Banana Republican with an October memo from county commission Chairman Joe Martinez asking Gimenez to scrap the old lobbying contract in order to save the county some money. 

Yet at the Dec. 19 meeting shows county commissioners failed to do that when they approved contracts that total more than the previous deal that only included Book and Rutledge.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.