Cash Rules Everything Around Politics

As the most important election in the 21st Century draws to a close, Banana Republican took a gander at the top campaign contributors in the congressional races pitting Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart against Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia, respectively. So far the Republican siblings have out-raised their Democratic challengers by about $700,000 as of October 15. Their biggest supporters represent some of South Florida's most influential forces in healthcare, construction, law and nightclubbing.

The top donor to both Diaz-Balarts in this election cycle isn't particularly well known, even though his company has pumped nearly $300,000 into the Republican party since 1999. And that's not the only secret chapter in the life of Benjamin Leon Jr., scion of a Cuban-American health care empire known as Leon Medical Centers. As you can read in the New Times cover story next Wednesday, Leon also helped drive one of the most unique collections of rare plants and birds in Miami-Dade to the brink of destruction through a years-long dispute with his neighbor. Check out "Rare Breed" for more. According to Opensecrets.org, Leon Medical Center gave $54,400 to both brothers' campaigns.

Close behind Leon Medical Center is MCM Corp, a construction firm owned by a family of builders who have given thousands of dollars to the reelection campaigns of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and several county commissioners. MCM is owned by general contractors Pedro and Jorge Munilla, who, along with relatives, ponied up $37,150 for the Diaz-Balarts.

MCM Corp. is one of the most proactive construction firms competing for county contracts. This past February, the county commission rejected the lowest bidder and awarded MCM a $125 million contract to do improvements to the Miami International Airport's north terminal.

The Diaz-Balarts can also thank Greenberg Traurig for raising $22,650 to keep them in office. The storied Miami law firm is best remembered for employing disgraced lobbyist and businessman Jack Abramoff who was the central figure in a series of high-profile political scandals.

On the Democrats side, Garcia and Martinez have received $32350 from MasTec Inc., the technology and construction firm founded by the late Cuban American icon Jorge Mas Canosa. MasTec has had its fair share of bad history too. In the late 1990s MasTec's predecessor company Church & Tower was accused by county officials for roadway striping work that was never done. The county was overbilled in excess of $1 million. The Miami-Dade State Attorney opened an investigation and charged a Church & Tower subcontractor with 32 counts of grand theft. However no Church & Tower executives or employees were ever charged with a crime.

Oddly, Garcia has collected $8,500 from the Opium Group, which owns South Beach hotspots Mansion, Prive, and Set. Maybe the nightclub empire by the Milon brothers wants new federal legislation to protect itself against patrons suing them for getting their asses beat inside their establishments.

-- Francisco Alvarado

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