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 firstname.lastname@example.org
— who began to praise the Political Cortadito once Ladra started sniffing around this subject, but thanks anyway — and email@example.com
, the IP addresses for all four
of those emails come back to the same IP address as firstname.lastname@example.org
. 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.