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‘Neutral’ activist worked for mayor

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The chairwoman of the Miami Voice recall PAC, Vanessa Brito, has repeatedly said she was going to stay neutral in the mayoral race and has been made a media darling — including a Best Local Activist nod from New Times, which apparently does not vet its best candidates — for her role (read: paid Norman Braman campaign coordinator) in the historic recall.

But Brito has been working on the campaign for our mayor elect, Carlos Gimenez, for the past few weeks, at least. Maybe longer. Perhaps New Times should have named her Best Professional Activist. Here she is hiding from my camera at the Gimenez victory party, although she jumps at every other media exposure opportunity and even creates them when she can.

Not only did Alex Diaz de la Portilla tell me himself, between insults on Tuesday, that Brito was working with him on some of his campaign tasks — which we know includes advertising and the absentee ballot drive, and I will bet on the latter — but a Hialeah firefighter also told me, unwittingly, that he took some financial report from the city to her house (we assume he got permission from Gimenez campaign people) so she could have the “PAC attorney” look them over and see if there was some mismanagement they could attack on. As far as Ladra knows, the PAC attorney is Miami Lakes Mayor Michael “Muscles” Pizzi, whose own town overwhelmingly voted for former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina, who was narrowly defeated in the mayoral runoff Tuesday. But why would they need Muscles’s help with that? Maybe it was supposed to be “PAC accountant.” Although, really, anybody with a basic grasp of math can see that there are discrepancies and not a lot of transparency with Hialeah’s finances. People have asked questions already and I expect the next city council meeting to be fun. (I’ll be in the back row). Anyway, I called Vanessa and left her a message about her getting the financial reports and why she was working for the mayor when she said she was going to stay out of it. She never called me back. But she immediately called the firefighter, because she knew where I had gotten the information, and I was sitting next to him when the call came in on his cellphone.

And while Brito denies being the one behind the emails sent by vb@speakupmiami.us — who began to praise the Political Cortadito once Ladra started sniffing around this subject, but thanks anyway — and truthabout@8milliondollarmayor.org and rescuemiami@rescuemiami.info and ben@rescuemiami.info, the IP addresses for all four of those emails come back to the same IP address as brito@miamivoice.org and brito@myamimarketing.com. Let’s repeat that: All six emails have the same IP address, which come from the same domain client or host server. And even the emails from Hugo and Ralph Arza, who were working for Robaina, come from the same IP address. Weird, huh? (More on that a little further down) It could even mean they come from the same computer or network of computers at the same physical address. But it could also mean that the same client at go daddy owns the domains or the same host server hosts all those domains and emails. It could be that one consultant opened all those domains for her and also opened the Arza domain. But we don’t know because she won’t discuss it.

We do know that social media and email blasts are one of Brito’s specialties and a staple of her campaign strategies. Despite several replies to these emails, asking these people to come forth, only one email has been returned. I asked the speakupmiami writer — who began the first missives citing the Miami Voice voter guide — to please call me so we could establish it was really an independent group, not just another pseudonym for the same old people (like the PACs are). In the reply, the writer cited the movie Inception and said,”If you’ve seen inception then you’ll understand that I although I cannot call you will have to take a leap of faith.”

Later, when I insisted, the writer added more: “Look my name is Victor, I haven’t been out of college too long, but was really interested in investigative journalism. One of the reasons I follow you is because I thought your questions and writing were right on the mark. A friend of mine got me involved with all this as he brought up politics in the city and county I realized how bad things were and could get. I’ve just been following the campaigns since the recall but things have gotten too hot I think. I am humbly stepping away but stay in touch,” it said. Ladra pressed, and explained the IP discrepancy. “That I have no idea about, I do not work in computer technology or anything I don’t know how that works, and I said I was interested in investigative journalism, I am new and do not know much.” Ladra pressed again, asking for just 60 seconds by phone. If I could hear Victor’s voice, that would certainly go a long way toward easing doubts. His answer: “I’m a little busy right now but if you give me a little bit I will try to give you a call.”

That call never came. Subsequent attempts to reach “Victor” have been met with no answer.

Brito did not respond to a telephone message left on her voice mail. She did reply to an email request. “That’s absolutely not true. I don’t know who those people are and in fact, contacted them about the initials. You can post anything you want. If you haven’t contacted the people who own the site, then you’re not doing your job. I will ask you once more not to contact me again.” But I did. I have to try harder. “You should have a tech help you out with IP research. I will not have anything to do with false accusations regarding this. I am asking, once again, that you do not contact me again – for this or any other issue.”

I did try her again today, just before I posted this. I had tried her yesterday, too. But she does not want to — or cannot — explain this seeming conflict of interest.

She sent me (under the subject line “good research”) the registration of speakupmiami.us to a Tallahassee address who is also behind rescuemiami.org, another pro-Gimenez group. Ladra was thinking the same thing: Flow chart! But it proves nothing because, as everone knows, you can have a registered agent hundreds of miles away and still be sending emails from the computer in your home, which is what the IP address footprint may indicate. At least, according to people who know far more about this than me. I did get tech help. And according to all the forensic computer and people with dedicated host servers, the dedicated server that hosts the Miami Voice email also hosts the other groups. And also hosts emails that come from Hugo and Ralph Arza at ralpharza.com. So all those emails are being routed through the same internet client.

It makes sense that Brito would want to join a winning mayoral campaign, and get a bite at a piece of it so she can later claim credit. Photographed here at the Gimenez victory party, where the self-promoting opportunist got herself a soundbite on WSVN Channel 7, Brito is also a political consultant with a marketing firm and while she has repeatedly insisted that the two hats are separate there seem to be blurry lines. But Ladra can’t help but wonder if she worked both sides. The Arza email connection is one weird thing. And then there’s this little “Twilight Zone” moment: The Miami Lakes office used as campaign HQ by former candidate Roosevelt Bradley, widely considered a Robaina plant who later endorsed the Hialeah pick, was also listed as the address of a political consultant with an inactive corporate name paid by North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin in his Congressional bid, on which Brito worked last year, and whose expense report has other vendors with inactive corporations or nonexisting addresses (more on later).

All of this might be explained of course. I believe in giving one the benefit of the doubt. But Brito will not give an explanation or even talk about any of these things. And that gives the doubt more benefit.

Meanwhile, the “neutral” Miami Voice chaired by a political consultant did give out one endorsement — to Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño’s chief of staff Francisco Lago, a buddy of Brito’s from her FIU days, in his unsuccessful bid for the state rep seat vacated by the new Miami-Dade district 13 Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who decidedly won the seat of former Commissioner Natasha Seijas Millan, who was the only one of five targetted commissioners that Brito’s efforts — which she admits were paid for by Norman Braman — was able to oust. (That’s success?) Anyway, Lago’s latest campaign finance reports do not show direct payments to her (the final one is not in yet, though), but she could have gotten the trickle effect of the $102,000 or so paid by Lago through Sasha Tirador, who also worked on Robaina’s campaign with David Custin. Both Tirador and Custin also worked for Braman on the recall, with Brito.

It’s all just too close for comfort. But this business is terribly incestuous. Yesterday’s enemies are working on campaigns together today. Take the case of Emiliano Nuñez, a direct mail specialist who was paid more than $3,500 by the Robaina campaign before the primary and then got hired by the Gimenez PAC, Common Sense Now, and made another $5,815 after Robaina’s people did not rehire him for the runoff (maybe that was their mistake). Nuñez told me himself that he will work for whoever hires him, which may leave a bit to be desired, but it’s honest.

Brito, on the other hand, is fooling the public by saying she is neutral when she is stumping for one of the candidates. And I cannot imagine she is doing it for free, but that shouldn’t matter.

This hypocrisy is something that our new mayor needs to distance himself from. He should know better, after he was already burned by her once, when she did the press release and radio spot against Gimenez for the Accountability Project.

And he should distance himself from her if he wants to continue to be known as honest and transparent. Because she is all about smoke and mirrors.

7 Responses to ‘Neutral’ activist worked for mayor

  1. Anonymous Reply

    July 2, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Enough is enough Candela said.

  2. Lickerpoet Reply

    July 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    The Miami New Times "apparently does not vet its best candidates " ? Gee, I don't know if I should be insulted or not. Well, truth be told , my best of Miami classification this year was quite the miscategorization. As for Ms. Brito, perhaps she isn't the picture perfect image of honesty and transparency; after all, there is only one Ladra; but this woman is just trying to make a living. Even Ladra must admit this is a tough economy in which to make a living. I remember one of Ladra's detractors decrying that Ladra was self-promoting and seeking to land in a cushy job. Well, where is the harm in this? If one can't promote one's own skills, what should one do? Hire a neutral activist? Wait, I'm getting myself confused here; for this is a really convoluted and "incestuous" ( I love when you text nasty) stage that all these activists are playing on. Like rats running through a maze, but after a tough political battle in Hialeah, I am a bit weary of vermin. Let Ms. Brito make a living and let Ladra make a little voodoo doll representation of Brito and give Brito the needle every once in a while. Activists will come and go, and jump to the other side of the fence when the grass, the money, is greener. But what has come and never gone are the maquinitas in Hialeah, and the Absentee Ballot Fraud. These absolutely illegal gambling machines are still stealing the money from desperately poor people and funneling it into drugs, prostitution, crime syndicates and political campaigns. Though justice barely squeaked by the AB machine this time; there will be future elections where the machine may yet triumph. Ladra has done a miraculous job fighting against tyranny and crime with hard research and charm. She deserves a break from Hialeah. She certainly also deserves a pat on the back; and a kiss on the cheeks…all four of them. (I like when I text nasty too.) Thank you for a job well done; but that was yesterday. Tomorrow awaits, and needs, Ladra.

  3. Ladra, the public watch dog Reply

    July 2, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Be still, my beating heart and whatever else decides to spontaneously throb. He's back! And perhaps Ladra — who is not picture perfect at anything but admits it readily, gosh o'mighty — deserves a break from Hialeah, but we don't think Hialeah deserves a break from Ladra. Especially with what promises to be a very interesting election in just a few months. Candidates — including a possible retro slate of some colorful yesteryear characters — should be amping up their yadda yadda soon. Campaign finance reports are due next week. Ladra is pacing. She will watch AB efforts and voting with keen interest, especially now that we know more about the key players and how the machinery works. She will watch how the maquinita interests impact and react as they lose ground all over the 305. She will needle imposters and fight against tyranny and crime with whatever true and just means we can muster. She will take the pat on the back (the kiss must be negotiated), but leave the cushy job for someone more, well, cushy. Because tomorrow is here.

  4. Stephen Murray Reply

    July 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Just as your attack post on Vanessa over Facebook was rooted in complete technological ignorance (even with your [unqualified] "expert advice"), this post is no different. After going back and forth with you via phone and Facebook chat for almost a full week disproving you allegations at every turn, instead of doing the correct thing — posting a retraction of a character assassination post that you left online for almost a week — all you did was delete the original post so you can slink back into your little cave of self-righteousness.

    I won't even bother to go into the long explaination about the flawed technical information you use in this post as the basis of your "analysis" — I will only say that yet again, you are WRONG. Look up the nature of IP addresses. IP stands for Internet Provider. Any person, within an area that can be up to 5-miles in radius, who has the same Internet Service Provider, can have the EXACT same IP address. There are only 3 ways to find out someone's identity using the "IP Addres" proof you claim to have.

    1. You need a subpoena as a result of a civil action, compelling the ISP to release the name of the person using the service
    2. You are a member of Law Enforcement, and subpoena the ISP as the result of a criminal investigation
    3. You are a hacker, know a hacker, or know someone at the ISP that will release that information.

    Do you have any of that? Is your dual personality an undercover officer? Or are you, yet again, displaying that you are nothing more than a washed-up hack? I think it's the latter.

  5. Ladra, the public watch dog Reply

    July 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    All I needed was my website's email tracer, Stephen. And I can say that many other emails within the five-mile radius (Tallahassee is farther, btw) do NOT have the same exact IP address. I can also say that the Arzas' emails, who do have the same IP address (among other IP addresses they use), are allegedly sent from a computer far outside that radius. I can also say that you are in the minority, Stephen. Because other eyebrows have also gone up at the fact that all these pro-Gimenez anonymous emails (as well as the Arzas') have the same IP address. We are not talking about one building with an email for an insurance company and an email for a medical doctor. We are talking about the same use for one campaign all going through the same server. The likelihood that these emails on the same topic were coming from four different computers within the same five mile radius as Brito's is somewhat remote. And we know from two sources within the campaign, independent to the emails, that she was working on the Gimenez campaign, so that coincidence becomes even more remote. But you know this.

    Why? Because, while you fail to make this important full disclosure, Stephen, you and Vanessa are working together to elect Kate Callahan to the Miami commission. Brito is Callahan's campaign manager so maybe it is in your job description to defend her. Like you did about the photo album she may have created for the elect Kate group page.

    You forgot to mention how you miserably failed to disprove anything about the photo album and, in fact, the only two people who had your "evidence" were people I could never get in touch with to independently confirm anything (guess that goes around over there. Wasn't one of them in Tallahassee? Could it be the owner of one of these domains with Vanessa's IP address?). They never got back to me after giving them much time. Don't even know if they ever existed.

    In fact, you know this (making this post disinguous and opportunistic; that goes around, too) because we spoke several times about the follow up I did begin to write but did not post because I could never confirm anything you said. And the last time you told me you were in agreement about not bringing it up again because of things you and Callahan had, inadvertently I am sure, said that would not make Brito look good.

    "It was an honest mistake. At first, I thought the same thing," you first told me, admitting that Vanessa was certainly capable. "But even if everything you say about her is true, she isn't as bad as Armando Gutierrez or anybody like that," you said. The candidate mentioned the same name, as if that's the litmus test for ethical political consultants. When I asked her why she continued to have Brito as her campaign manager, Callahan herself said she was limited by her budget to the economy scheister. "What do you want me to do? Hire Armando Gutierrez?" She actually asked me that question. (It would not make me look any less at your campaign, Kate, I told her). But it goes to show that you and your candidate both know that my suggestions are not out of left field. And you should know better, Stephen, before you lash out at me about some very reasonably questions that a lot of people want to know and which, by the way, Brito could have answered if she was up front about anything.

    Also, you forgot to mention (because it is not convenient in this context now) how you thanked me for bringing the Kat page photo album of alleged supporters — which caught my attention because it had a photo of me in it — to your attention and how you immediately had it removed.

  6. Ladra, the public watch dog Reply

    July 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    About that album, you told me you had to do several hours of calling around and digging first to find any reason to think it was not intentionally created (which still doesn't prove it was not) You then provided me with "evidence" that could not be independently confirmed. Meanwhile, I had someone involved in a Miami-Dade mayoral campaign tell me that they did not have such an album and could only have one if they created it intentionally. Other groups of which I was a member did not have the same phenomenom — a group album of supporters creating itself and titling itself — and I created my own group page that did link to "photos of members" but did not create an album, which is the distinction here.

    It was all a bit technical, and the mayoral race got complicated so I let it go, but thank you for the opportunity to follow up here.

    And stay tuned. Because your defense duties might come into play again soon as more is revealed about the woman who is only better than Armando Gutierrez and who will eventually cost Kate more votes than however many she will gain her.

  7. Ladra, the public watch dog Reply

    July 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Also, Stephen forgot to mention he himself is a professional activist with political aspirations. http://stephenmurrayactivism.wordpress.com/

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