Democratic Candidate Donna Shalala Has Donated Thousands to Conservative Republicans

Democratic congressional candidate and former UM president Donna Shalala
Democratic congressional candidate and former UM president Donna Shalala Bluerasberry / Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday Donna Shalala's campaign told Politico that the congressional candidate's "name is synonymous with the Democratic Party." But her record of political donations sure isn't.

Politico's Marc Caputo revealed that Shalala, the Clinton ally and former University of Miami president now running as a self-proclaimed "progressive" for Miami's 27th congressional district, has donated a total of $21,500 to Florida Republicans over the past ten years.

But the article didn't get into the weeds of exactly which GOP candidates received money from Shalala, and the full list is staggering. Since 2008, Shalala has donated $14,500 to state-level Republicans, including N-word-dropping Frank Artiles, Trump ally Jose Felix Diaz, anti-abortion Denise Grimsley, anti-Medicare Will Weatherford, and even the fully disgraced former Rep. David Rivera, whom the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington once labeled "one of the most corrupt members of Congress."

At the county level, Shalala has donated thousands to local Republicans in the past decade. That list includes Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro (who is running against her for the CD27 seat and has been regularly whacked for being a deposit bank for billionaires and a lackey for Jeffrey Loria), Marco Rubio ally Esteban Bovo, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who in 2017 became the first big-city mayor to cooperate with Donald Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities.

In terms of federal races, Shalala has donated almost exclusively to centrist (and sometimes right-leaning) Democrats, including Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Missouri Sen. Claire McKaskill, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Shalala has, however, also donated at least $1,500 to retiring Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the centrist Republican whom Shalala hopes to replace.

Shalala also previously sat on the board of Mednax, a Sunrise-based medical and pediatric supply company. Records show she has donated $20,000 to Mednax's political action committee since 2014. Mednax uses its PAC to donate to a group of cartoonishly evil people, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Tom Price (Trump's former health secretary), Mike Pompeo (Trump's CIA director and nominee for Secretary of State), Rep. Devin Nunes (where do we even start with that guy?), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (who is so racist he once spoke at an event for a group led by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke), Allen West (Tea Party lunatic and conspiracy theorist), and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Speaking to Politico, Shalala's campaign spokesperson, Fernand Amandi, downplayed the donations and said they were not an issue that Democrats should worry about. Amandi noted Shalala has also contributed $230,000 to Democrats over her lifetime. From Politico:

“Questioning Donna Shalala’s credentials as a Democrat is ridiculous on its face, as her name is synonymous with the Democratic Party,” her campaign adviser, Fernand Amandi, said in a written statement.

“The voters in CD 27 know that Donna Shalala is one of America’s most respected public servants precisely because of her track record of working across party lines to get things done, without ever sacrificing her principles as a Democratic stalwart,” he said. “Her pedigree as a Democrat is unassailable, just ask the three living Democratic Presidents that she’s worked with and for.”
Amandi did not respond to a message from New Times today seeking comment.

Shalala's donations only add to the seemingly endless list of conundrums, ethical compromises, and flat-out indefensible past decisions from the deep-pocketed, 77-year-old candidate. Shalala has been rightfully whacked from the left for her past support for the War on Drugs; her incomprehensible decision to sell off globally endangered land to build a Walmart; her handling of the Clinton Foundation; the millions she made selling stock from a for-profit medical insurance company; and the decade she spent sitting on the board of the Lennar Corporation, a huge homebuilding company that sold subprime loans and contributed to the 2008 housing crash.

There were already eight other Democrats battling for the CD27 nomination — and some are even running competent and fairly progressive campaigns. Shalala has since turned the entire race upside down and, thanks to her deep pockets and name recognition, has already found herself atop recent polls. She says she was motivated to run in order to "fight" Donald Trump, but local progressives have asked whether local Dems should turn to a veteran with deep ties to corporations such as Lennar and the wealthy class of milquetoast public servants who have led the party into a historic electoral decline since the 1990s.

Amandi told Politico that Shalala's donation record shows her willingness to work with Republicans on "bipartisan" fixes on pressing issues. But her donations show she helped elect some of the same hard-right candidates she is now running to oppose.

Tonight Shalala will hold a fundraiser at the home of Cesar L. Alvarez, the wealthy former CEO of the massive Miami-based law firm Greenberg Traurig. Three of the listed attendees — Manny Kadre, Roger Medel, and Alvarez himself — sit on the Mednax board.

Of the 11 listed host couples, nine have given more than $1.27 million to Republican candidates since 2008. Politico noted that, when the group's Democratic donations are taken into account, those donors have still given $785,000 more to GOP politicians.

Shalala's donor record came to light after she invited former Democratic candidate Scott Fuhrman to a campaign fundraiser scheduled from 6 to 8 tonight. Fuhrman previously ran for the Seventh District in 2016 to unseat longtime GOP Representative Ros-Lehtinen. It turns out Shalala herself donated to Ros-Lehtinen instead of any Democrats running to replace her — so Fuhrman wrote Shalala back "GFY," shorthand for "go fuck yourself."

“You do know that she donated to my opponent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, last cycle?" Fuhrman emailed the Shalala campaign, per Politico. "Are you seriously asking me for money? GFY."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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