September 20, 2016 | Miami Herald Opinion.
This summer, a local group calling itself An Accountable Miami-Dade circulated a petition to bring campaign finance reform to Miami-Dade County. The procedural aspects of the petition are being reviewed by the Florida Third District Court of Appeal.
An Accountable Miami-Dade collected more than 125,000 signatures in order to offer the following question to the Miami-Dade voters this November:
Should an ordinance be enacted addressing the appearance of ethical impropriety in county government; limiting campaign contributions to $250 per election per candidate to candidates for County Offices; prohibiting large county contractors from making campaign contributions; amending the election campaign financing trust fund; repealing prior ordinances and resolutions in conflict; and amending definition of a gift.
Sounds noble. Removing the influence of money from politics is definitely something we should all strive for. Unfortunately, the ordinance goes significantly further, and the motives behind the reform are questionable, at best.
The proposed ordinance creates penalties of up to $5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 364 days, and in some cases both. There is no mention of the “big house” in the question presented to voters.
It also incorporates both the members of the School Board and of the Board of Supervisors of the Soil & Water Conservation District. This is surprising because neither of these governmental entities are county offices.
The proposal aims to exclude “large county contractors” from making political contributions. This claim is misleading because the dollar amounts involved in the ordinance are for any contractor with a $250,000 county contract. That’s a lot of money. However, the contracts generally available to local mom-and-pop businesses hover at that amount. In effect, this ordinance will subsequently preclude local and minority small-business owners from contributing to county political campaigns.
In addition, the ordinance would forbid the managers, family members, owner’s children, lobbyists and minority partners of county contractors from contributing to county campaigns.
More alarming is that there is nothing “local” about the group backing the petition. This initiative has been funded by a union-backed Washington D.C., think tank to benefit county labor unions.
The true intent of this ordinance is to create a discrete exemption for unions and public employees to dominate campaign fundraising in county elections.
This is concerning when you consider that the largest union representing employees at Miami-Dade County has 120,000 members. So, let’s do the math — 120,000 union members time a modest $25 contribution per member equals $3 million per candidate, per election cycle. With dollars like that, this union’s agenda will be unstoppable.
Miami-Dade’s unions will be able raise millions of dollars in order to protect their interests, while the private sector is shut out. You can forget innovation and privatization with labor influencing policy.
Real campaign reform would eliminate political committees in county races. These committees convey the appearance of impropriety. Such committees can accept unlimited donations from lobbyists — like me, political parties, unions and vendors. Even worse, some committees are not required to disclose their donors.
An Accountable Miami-Dade is flying under false colors to camouflage its primary intent — to further the national labor agenda in our back yard.
LUIS ANDRE GAZITUA, A PROCUREMENT LAWYER, AND REGISTERED MIAMI-DADE LOBBYIST, AUTHORED THE STRONG-MAYOR CHARTER AMENDMENT APPROVED BY THE VOTERS IN JANUARY 2007.