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NUMBER 155 - OCTOBER 15, 2019
THIS IS A REAL OCTOBER SURPRISE: COMMISSIONER "SELLOUT" RUSSELL'S PAC GAVE HIS FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF ELEAZAR MELENDEZ'S PAC $150,000.00. IT'S THE SINGLE BIGGEST DONATION EVER GIVEN TO A CITY OF MIAMI CANDIDATE, AND THAT'S ONLY ONE JUICY TIDBIT GLEANED FROM HIS LATEST CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS
I've previously written how Ken Russell vowed after first being elected that he intended to be a new kind of politician, not controlled by deep pocket donors:
"At his victory party in November of 2015, after he won
the runoff against Teresa Sarnoff, Russell told those in
attendance that, "Money and special interests didn't elect
me, you did. So I can promise they won't guide me, you
Days later, Russell told David Smiley of the Miami Herald
that, "The amounts of money that were raised was surprising."
and piously declared that,"...we made a very conscious
decision to begin returning checks."
In 4 short years he went from being a underdog candidate who raised and spent $222.354.00, and returned $78,650 to donors when he surprisingly won, to a candidate who has so far raised S993,194.45, including 25 donations of $10,000.00 or more to his PAC from developers and others who've received, or are looking for favorable votes for their projects.
He's raised all of this money this against 3 mediocre opponents who've managed to raise a collective total of $54,246.34, and who have NO CHANCE of winning.
It was only in hindsight, and after a close inspection of his campaign reports from his first campaign as well as his subsequent aborted campaign for Congress and now his current reelection campaign that it became apparent that Russell had purposely misled supporters when it came to his claims about being a different kind of politician.
It took him all of about 8 months to go from a clueless first term city commissioner to a duplicitous megalomaniac capable of convincing himself that he had the makings of a US Congressman, and a national political star.
That epiphany came to him after trolling the 2016 Democratic National Convention and taking photographs of himself with anyone who would stand still long enough for him to whip out his cell phone. It was that behavior that caused me to nickname him, "Selfie Boy."
It's now become evident that Russell has gone beyond the silliness of posing for selfies to squandering whatever morals he has - and the available evidence is that he has few - in the pursuit of any political stunt that he believe will enhance his resume.
Russell it turns out is a sucker for anybody walking through the door of his office with a claim that begins, 'I've got a great deal for you that will make you look like a progressive democratic hero...' The emphasis being on 'democratic hero,' because Russell has more than any other city commissioner in at least the last 10 years, made political partisanship a central component of his decisions and actions.
The most recent and blatant example of this was - to support a deal that, gussied up with liberal rhetoric is at it's core little more than a sleazy and scummy hustle to take advantage of people who are facing the loss of their homes and/or businesses through foreclosure.
Who but a morally bankrupt scammer would try to take advantage of people who having been victimized by banks and lending institutions would support their being victimized a second time by conning them into believing that it was in their best interest to sign away whatever sanction money that they might justifiably and rightfully be entitled to as the result of bad behavior by their bank so that that money would be used for the construction of "affordable housing projects," managed by a corrupt group of gangsters pretending to be the municipal government of the City of Miami?
The City of Miami has a BILLION DOLLAR budget, and over the last ten years that I've been writing about them they have managed to piss away or misspend tens of millions of those dollars on bullshit, including financing sweetheart deals and give-a-ways to deep pocket campaign donors and on giving millions away in tax incentives to condo developers from the TIF money collected by the SEOPW and OMNI CRA's.
Somehow lost in the current smoke and mirrors debate over whether Russell's efforts to create an extension of the OMNI CRA in the West Grove is the fact that the extension of the original CRA that would allow this includes a provision that $400 MILLION of the projected $1 BILLION is earmarked for underwriting the activities of the Frost, and PAMM Museums, along with the Arsht Center.
All of this underscores a degree of fecklessness and irresponsibility to Russell's claim that has been in looking out for folks who are under duress, as well as his willingness to play fast and loose in trying to take away and spend other people's money, including money that was supposedly given to finance his reelection campaign.
Evidence of how he is using campaign money can be found in the latest financial reports for his PAC, ., where is shows that he gave Vision With Action PC, the PAC of his his former Chief of Staff, Eleazar Melendez, $150,000.00.
Copyrighted: 2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
In addition to the $150,000.00, Vision With Action PC also got $15,000.00 from the law firm of Sanchez-Medina, Gonzales, Quesada, Lage, Gomez & Machado LLP.
Sanchez-Medina, is Roland Sanchez Medina Jr., who .
The importance of Russell and Roland Sanchez-Medina's donations is that polling indicates that Melendez is currently in third place behind Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Miguel Gabala, and the $150,000.00 is intended to be a game changer in the waning days of the campaign.
Russell's hope obviously is that this money can be used to boost Melendez past Gabala into second place and into a run-off with Diaz de la Portilla.
There are a lot of if's in this scenario, and none of them necessarily conclude with Melendez pulling off an upset win. In fact, of the top 3 candidates, Melendez, who like Alex Diaz de la Portilla, moved into the district just in order to run for the commission seat, is considered to lack the kind of name recognition and ground support in the district needed to pull off an upset.
In the larger scheme of things I believe that there are few people under any illusion or expectation that if elected, Melendez would bring bring anything other than another clown to the current clown show at City Hall, and in fact, he would probably exacerbate the problems because of his arrogance and abrasive personality.
In light of Russell's donation, he should be asked why he embraces Melendez as such a close friend when the women in his commission office demanded that Melendez be fired, which was why he ended up leaving, and then ask him why Melendez left the cushy job with the Democratic Party after only a few months on the job, because Melendez showing up on the Miami City Commission might be the last place that anyone should want to see this so-called progressive,"doe-eyed millennial," even if the fireworks between him and Commissioner "Comemierda" Carollo would be worth selling tickets at the door.
In fact, the when it comes to this race, the only thing that most insiders are focusing on is the Melreese Golf Course/Beckham soccer deal and how each of these candidates would vote on the lease for the project.
In that regard, Melendez has already come out publicly in support of the deal, and while Alex Diaz de la Portilla is seen as Joe Carollo's candidate - Carollo opposes the stadium deal and has, with some success been strong-arming donors to give serious money to Diaz de la Portilla - Diaz de la Portilla has also been rumored to be an semi-secret ally of Francis Suarez, which means that at the end of the day he might very well screw Carollo and vote to support the deal.
Miguel Cabala's campaign is being managed by Steve Marin, who is the lobbyist for Jorge Mas on the soccer stadium deal, so that means he's a yes vote too, because of all of those involved, Marin is definitely doing everything he can to get this deal approved.
Marin seldom strays into the sunlight, so consequently he tends to get overlooked, but rumor has it he had a little to much to drink at a party a while back and started bragging about how he had an equity position in the deal and was going to make out like a bandit.
If those rumors are true and Marin does have an equity position, that would go a long way in providing a possible answer to the $64,000 question that a lot of people have been speculating on since this deal first surfaced, and that is: How will Francis Suarez benefit for his role in this deal?
As I wrote recently, from his dealings with the Suarez's and the other characters that populate Miami City Hall, and he's also been rumored to share that money with them as well.
Nobody pushes a BILLION DOLLAR deal like Francis Suarez has been pushing this deal just out of some sense of civic duty, and by his side as his errand boy has been Russell.
It's that relationship that caused me to change Russell's nickname from Commissioner "Selfie Boy" to Commissioner "Sellout," and his recent claims that he WILL NOT support the deal unless certain conditions are met, does not ring true.
Russell's so-called demands are less a commitment to vote against the deal, and more of a roadmap of how he can be manipulated - like he was the first time the deal was introduced in July of 2018 - by Francis Suarez and Jorge Mas into hearing what he needs to hear in order to vote for the deal.
All of that will in time play out, but for now let's look at some other juicy information gleaned from Russell's PAC.
SOME PEOPLE CALL IT LEGAL BRIBERY, OTHERS CALL IT HIDING THE WEENIE, BUT ALL OF IT SPELLS OUT THAT THIS IF RUSSELL IS NOT FOR SALE, HE IS AVAILABLE FOR LEASING
Here is the list of the folks and companies that have donated money to Turn The Page, Inc., Russell's PAC.
I have highlighted several donors to Russell's PAC because they provide examples of not only how politicians are rewarded for good behavior and votes they cast at Miami City Commission meetings, but to illustrate how hypocritical Russell's comments are in the above responce to the mailers sent out opposing his reelection where he claims the mailers were paid for by individuals who had items before the commission that he voted against.
Of course they were, and the other side of that coin is the money that people who get favors from politicians put up, as either a reward, or to insure that they keep getting favors.
Miami is not a city where a lot of people put up money, time or effort just of of a desire to support good government.
If you look at the above list, many of those donors, and especially donors who have given him big money have either received favorable votes from him, or have a project coming before the commission that they will expect Russell to support.
There are too many examples to go into in detail but a few examples start with the $5,000.00 donation by the PAC, Building Miami's Future,, whose Chairman is Steven Ray Brownstein, and whose Registered Agent is former State Representative J. C. Planas.
The PAC was created and funded exclusively by Michael Adler, of the Adler Group, and money donated to it came from his various real estate developments, including Lancelot Miami River, which earlier this year received a questionable 99 year lease - - from the City Commission for what is known as the Miami River Center property where the city's administrative offices are located.
Adler could have donated money to Russell either in his own name, or through anyone of his companies, but instead he chose to shield his donation by giving $5,000.00 to his PAC, which then turned around on the same day and cut a check for the same amount to Russell's PAC.
Because the local news media no longer devotes the kind of attention to campaign contributions that it should, this little sleight-of-hand trick is pretty much all that's needed in keeping this kind of information from the light of day in Miami.
When it came to this PAC, Russell wasn't the only one who got a donation. So did Commissioner Keon Hardemon, whose One Miami Dade PAC got $10,000 for his County Commission race next year, as did Alex Penelas and Daniela Levine Cava, both running for County Mayor.
Of passing interest, it turns out that the Chairman of this PAC, Steven Ray Brownstein, is a disbarred attorney, which somehow seem both appropriate and poetic.
Moving money in and out of PAC's, or moving money around from one PAC to another before the money pops up in some politician's campaign accounts is pretty much an every day occurrence in Florida politics.
A bigger problem is when you can't find out who's behind a particular PAC or donation, as in this case where he received $20,000.00 - the single largest contribution to his PAC - from a company called Baldwin 7 LLC..
The PAC lists this donation as coming from a real estate development company, and the only evidence of this company's existence is the house in Dover. Delaware, that serves as the mail drop for the Registered Agent.
The $20,000.00 could have from a legitimate developer, a scam artist, or even Bugs Bunny, but we don't know because the identity of the people who own or control Baldwin 7 LLC are shielded by Delaware law, so consequently there is no way to discover who put up this money, or what they might want or expect from Russell for this money.
Another interesting $10,000.00 donor is Location Development LLC, that is currently looking for the city to support their effort to jump into the"co-living" arena.
Do you think that their ten grand is a commitment in support of a good policy, or of buying off a pliable commissioner?
There's been little if any serious discussion of the long term impact or consequences of these so-called "co-living" housing projects, and I would argue that there won't be from a commissioner who's more than happy to take $10,000.00 and parrot the talking points he's given.
The list of donors is too long to devote the kind of detail that many of them deserve, but there is no question that the guy who four years ago proclaimed he would not be beholden to, "money and special interests," is in fact now owned lock, stock and barrel by these very same special interest folks, and if you want to spend the time just look at the list above and then go to and type in the names of the various corporations and individuals who've given Russell $5,000.00 or more and see who you find.
HOW MUCH IS A CAMPAIGN MANAGER WORTH
Among the biggest surprises in Russell's campaign reports is that he has paid his campaign manager, Fernando Diez a total of $227,721.32.
The payments to his political consulting company, Politique LLC, came from both his regular campaign account and from his PAC.
What this means that of the $993,193.45 he's received in donations to these accounts, his campaign manager has received over 25% of that money to manage a city commission campaign with no TV or radio spots to date, and just 2 or 3 mailers.
That, for those who do not understand how these campaigns work, is actually an astounding amount of money for an election that will generate 6000-7000 total votes.
In comparison, it took Tomas Regalado's children two campaigns for Mayor, and Raquelita's campaign for School Board and her campaign for County Mayor for them .
In 2015, when Russell first ran for office he repeatedly told those people close to him that the reason that Fernando - who was his campaign manager then too - never accompanied him to campaign events was that he didn't have the money, and that that Fernando was doing what he could for free.
No one back then thought to question Russell, or to look at his campaign reports, because everyone took him at his word.
When I did look at those reports several years later I discovered that Russell had lied, and that he had paid Diez thousands of dollars monthly throughout the campaign.
In fact, in 2015, Diez got a bigger percentage of the total amount raised than he has this time, which raises a question as to what is Fernando Diez really doing to justify being paid that kind of money, or better yet, where has that money gone?
It's Miami, Bitches!
COMMISSIONER "SELLOUT" RESPONDED TO A COUPLE NEGATIVE MAILERS SENT TO HIS COCONUT GROVE SUPPORTERS. IN THE STORY BELOW THIS YOU'LL SEE IT'S A CASE OF THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK