Homestead: Mark Bell PAC kills two birds with one mailer
When we last reported the finances of the mayoral campaign in Homestead, we said that hotelier Mark Bell was winning slightly with a comfortable $3,500 lead over former Mayor Steve Bateman with Bell’s total reaching $18,500 in contributions in half the time.
Mayoral candidate Mark Bell
But Bell, husband to Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell, actually has more than three times as much money, if you count the PACs sending mailers on his behalf.
One that landed in Homestead mailboxes Tuesday touts Bell as the best candidate for public safety, painting crime as one of his priorities and promising neighborhood crime prevention programs if he is elected. “Mark Bell is committed to keeping our families and neighborhoods safe,” reads the front, with a photo of Bell and a boy on a bicycle. That piece is pretty good, considering that crime and crime prevention is a big issue in Homestead and always a go-to issue in small town political campaigns.
But the other one — and Ladra believes there are even more out there — is even better: It compares and links former Mayor Steve Bateman to and with former Councilman Jeff Porter, who is also running for mayor.
“Birds of a feather flock together,” says the headline over two black crows, and the idea is brilliant because it smears two candidates in one swipe. Hits two “birds of a feather,” so to speak, with one stone. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that done before. Could be a record of some kind.
Former Mayor Steve Bateman, left, and former Councilman Jeff Porter, right.
“Jeff Porter is behaving just like Steve Bateman. The evidence is clear,” it says on the other side. The mailer prints images of documents that show Porter served as the treasurer of the Citizens for Reform for Miami-Dade PAC that supported Bateman in 2009 and a State of Florida ethics violation that indicates the former councilman, like Bateman — who was arrested for last month on charges of unlawful compensation for a secret lobbying gig – may have benefited financially from his elected office (The mailer even uses Bateman’s mug shot. Brilliant, I say!). Porter was investigated and found in violation of the state’s code of ethics for having an employment relationship with one firm that did business with the city and a contractual relationship with another.
And just in case you don’t get the inference, the mailer exclaims: “That sure sounds like Steve Bateman!”
A third tie is suggested in a story about how the alarm company Porter works for got a $25,000 contract for the new community center (coincidentally or not, that is the limit the city manager can spend without council approval) when the same alarm had cost the city $2,500 the year before. The suggestion: It was Bateman paying him back for his support.
Yet another mail piece that Ladra has only heard of compares the high Homestead unemployment rate with Bateman’s secret $125 job illegally lobbying for Community Health of South Florida, that is the post he was arrested for last month after investigators say he illegally lobbied the city and county officials on behalf of their projects. Which also seems pretty darned smart. The mailer. Not the graft.
Neither Bell nor Porter could be reached for comment but Ladra left messages on their voice mail.
Those two “hit” pieces were paid for by People for Truth and Integrity, a PAC run by attorney to the pols and former State Rep. JC Planas, who is also very heavily involved in the mayoral elections in Miami Beach and a commission race in the city of Miami.
The positive anti-crime piece was paid for by the Good Government Now PAC, an election communications organization formed in March that started raising money in April, months before Bell made his candidacy known. The chairperson is former Homestead Councilwoman Wendy Lobos, a known ally Lynda Bells’s who was once investigated for violating sunshine laws when the county commissioner was mayor of Homestead (apparently the Ethics Commission found no violation). Many expect Lobos to run for council again in two years, but she told Ladra she was not committed.
She also said that there was no reason to think the PAC, which was created in April, will be used exclusively for the Homestead mayoral race.
“Our team makes the decision,” Lobos said, referring to the ECO treasurer Juaquin Urquiola and Gloria Maggiolo, the deputy treasurer. “It will not just be for the mayoral race. We call it good government for a reason,” she told Ladra.
Urquiola was also treasurer for the similarly sounding Common Sense Now PAC, which raised more than $2.5 million for the 2011 and 2012 elections of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who was at a fundraiser for Bell. Urquiola is treasurer for a lot of PACs, including one last year called Coalition for a Stronger South Florida that was chaired by lobbyist Richard Candia, who was arrested last month in the FBI sting that netted two mayors on bribery and extortion charges. That PAC paid $6,200 to Absentee Ballot Queen Sasha Tirador during last year’s election cycle. So, yes, Joaquin Urquiola was paying consultants for Gimenez in that race while also paying Tirador, who was working for former Commission Chair Joe Martinez, who challenged Gimenez in that same race. (Incestuous, ain’t it?)
Anyway, according to campaign finance reports, People for Truth and Integrity has existed since 2011, seemingly created for the recall county mayor’s race. Several payments were made to Gimenez campaign consultants Al Lorenzo and JC Flores. Last year, the PAC also paid for some mailers in October. As of June, the PAC — which has collected almost $163,000 — had spent almost all of its funds with about $2,000 remaining. But donations from June to the present are not reflected and will not be public until mid October.
The Good Government Now PAC had $43,500 in contributions as of June 30. The biggest donation was a $10,000 check from developer Wayne Rosen, who everyone says practically owns Homestead, and gave his check on April 24. There is $5,000 each from Masoud Shojaee, owner of Shoma Homes, and Benjamin Leon of Leon Medical Centers. Another $3,000 comes from Capri Construction owned by Juan Llauro, and $2,500 each from developer Armando Codina, Downrite Engineering, owned by Samuel Lo Bue, and the law firms Weiss Serota and Akerman Senterfitt.
As the weeks wind down before the primary Oct. 1, expect more from both PACs — and other ECOs and EIEIOs — in Homestead mailboxes.