Land Use and Campaign Contributions 101

On its corporate website, Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod boasts that its land use and zoning lawyers have "literally helped to reshape the skyline of our community." 

No doubt the influential downtown Miami law firm knows how to persuade local government officials to allow developers to build, build, and build all over Miami-Dade. A lot of that success can be attributed to the firm's astute practice of showering campaign contributions on favored candidates. 

In last year's county commission races, Bilzin Sumberg attorneys and some of their spouses contributed $2,300 to Audrey Edmonson, $1,150 to Carlos Gimenez, and $4,950 to Natacha Seijas. Chairman Dennis Moss got the most, pulling in $6,550.

More recently, the firm has taken an active interest in seeing North Miami Beach Mayor Ray Marin re-elected in the upcoming May 5 election. The firm has a lot of stake in the city, and Marin has been on Bilzin's side on several occasions. 

In 2004, when he was a councilman, Marin voted to give Bilzin client Boca Developers permission to build two 24-story towers on Biscayne Boulevard. The city council approved the project despite strong citizen opposition. A year later, an appeals court overturned the council's decision.

According to campaign treasurer reports, Marin has collected $2,200 from people with direct ties to Bilzin Sumberg. Name partners Brian Bilzin and Stanley Price each gave the mayor $500. So did Price's wife, Barbara. Partner Carter McDowell gave $200. Five other attorneys from the law firm gave $100 apiece. 

You can verify it yourself by clicking on the links over the names of the elected officials. The links take you to their campaign treasurers' reports, where you can search for Bilzin contributions by typing in the first three parts of the firm's address: 200 S. Biscayne.

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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.