Wednesday, October 08, 2008

South Florida: 6 Candidates Debate And 1 Gets Caught Up In A Major Bribery Scandal


Three corrupt extremists from Miami-Dade

I figured the big news out of south Florida today was going to be about the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce debate that pitted the 3 ultra-reactionary rubber stamps, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plus the notoriously crooked Diaz-Balart Brothers against Annette Taddeo, Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez. The contest, which promised to be a stultifying dud because the candidates were given the questions in advance, was overshadowed by some pretty heavy duty Republican corruption in the fundraising department, corruption that is more likely to lead to a prison sentence than to a lost election in the case of the maniac who fancies himself the next president of Cuba, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. But before we get to the $50,000 bribe Diaz-Balart scarfed up-- and I don't mean the legal bribes that are normally taken in and reported, I mean the heavy prison time kind of bribe-- I just wanted to point something out regarding the hubris and arrogance of the worst of the 3 horrible Republicans.

The Chamber of Commerce was furious (but smiling sweetly) about the demands from the 3 Republicans that they be given the questions in advance in order to agree to show up. Ros-Lehtinen has steadfastly refused to debate the far more intelligent and knowledgeable Annette Taddeo. ''Everybody knows who I am and what I stand for,'' she growled when asked why she has refused to participate in any debates "They don't need to see me debate.'' A little highhanded from her royal highness, La Rubber Stampa? Maybe someone needs to give her a little civics lesson about what democracy is.

Ileana, like many political hacks of both parties, no doubt thinks "democracy" is getting as many contributions from wealthy donors as possible. In her case, its been special interests galore and you don't even have to look them up to know who gave them. All you have to do is look at her disgraceful voting record, which consistently leaves her constituents out in the cold and gives everything to the special interests of her contributors. Among her big donors have been a real estate industry looking for deregulation ($303,194), an insurance industry looking for deregulation ($135,028), commercial banks looking for deregulation ($120,938), assorted corrupt lobbyists looking for whatever they could get their grubby paws on ($118,832), Big Oil looking for... well you know ($70,340), Big Pharma looking to rip off senior citizens on drug prices ($56,180) and a Sugar Industry looking for someone to keep relations between the US and Cuba bad ($48,200). They all found someone willing to do their bidding... at a price. Her voting record is one of the most disgraceful in Congress, a veritable honeycomb of corrupt practices.

On the other hand, as far as we know so far, Ros-Lehtinen has practiced her corruption within the very loose confines of the law; and well within the bounds of her extremist ideology. As she showed again during today's "debate," she is still an advocate of wrecking Social Security and turning it over to her pals in the banking industry, who just  cost the taxpayers a trillion dollars and helped evaporate another trillion dollars in the value of retirement accounts. The Diaz-Balarts, however, aren't quite so scrupulous about how they get their hands on the money that greases their slimy operations. Just as Bush scurries down to Coral Gables for a high dollar private fundraiser for all 3 of his vulnerable right-wing rubber stamps, news breaks that the Diaz-Balarts-- or at least Lincoln, the older of the two-- has been taking illegal campaign contributions and not reporting them. That's bribery pure and simple.

Today's Miami Herald approached the story rather gingerly. But even their story makes it clear that one of the most corrupt right-wing families in Puerto Rico, the Fonalledas, owners of Plaza Las Américas, have been laundering large sums of money to the Diaz-Balarts. This year the family has given between $10,000 and $20,000 to GOP candidates and committees, much of it to Romney and McCain. Searching the records I was able to find over $100,000 funneled into GOP coffers over the years, a great deal of it to a shady Puerto Rican congressman named Luis Fortuño (around $7,000 in 8 spread-out donations). Legally, they also donated to Lincoln Diaz-Balart a couple times (to the tune of $400). No biggie, right? Wait.

The FBI arrested Puerto Rican senator Jorge de Castro Font who traveled to Miami with Congressman Fortuño and a suitcase of unmarked bills from the Fonalledas, to the tune of $50,000... for Lincoln Diaz-Balart. It was supposedly for Diaz-Balart's 2006 re-election campaign. Needless to say, Diaz-Balart never reported it. In 2006 though, Diaz-Balart didn't have a serious race. He raised $839,873 and his opponent, Frank Gonzalez, raised $16,430. Diaz-Balart won with 59% of the vote and was never in any kind of electoral jeopardy. Font was arrested in August after his home and office were raided by the FBI and IRA.
De Castro Font has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 31 criminal counts including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. He’s also peeved that Fortuño has tried to distance himself from him since the scandal broke, and even tried to remove him from the November ballot. Fortuño is running for governor, and de Castro Font seeks reelection.

Further complicating this is the fact that Diaz-Balart obtained-- through earmarks of course, millions in taxpayer dollars for a gaggle of sleazy defense contractors who in turn kicked back tens of thousands of dollars to him and his equally corrupt-- but somewhat stupider-- brother Mario, whose major contribution to today's debate was to claim, with a straight face, that Bill Clinton started the war in Iraq.

Miami-Dade needs a clean sweep and Blue America has looked at the races carefully and diligently and come to the conclusion that Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia will make great progressive leaders, boons for both their Florida constituents and for the nation as a whole. If you'd like to donate to either or both of their campaigns, each is a Blue America endorsee and you can contribute here. A memorable scene from today's debate as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen learns that people actually favor Social Security:

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At 9:06 AM, Anonymous QG said...

Thanks for this post. It's so past time we clean house down here. I'm hopeful this will be the year! I was going to do a post about this today, but I'm going to link to this one instead!


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