As the Florida Democratic Party gets ready to pick its next leader, it is important that the leadership candidates have listened to the voice of the people. As Bernie Sanders says, people are “sick and tired” of politics being bought. They are tired of the dark money. Moreover, they are tired of corporations and those with money who undermine the political process. Because Florida Democrats are seeking a new leader in a new political climate, it is important all the leadership candidates understand that message.
So, as John Cleese would say, “now for something completely different”.
Over the past few months, some of Florida’s political journalists have reported on a secretive group of Democratic donors that have been funding elections. In May, Politico’s Matt Dixon reported on Florida Alliance, a “Democratic group comprised of big-money individual donors and labor unions who grew weary of the Florida Democratic Party”. A few weeks ago, David Smiley of the Miami Herald also wrote an article about the organization, repeating many of the same things in Dixon’s report. However, Smiley was able to get an interesting quote from the executive director of Florida Alliance, Carlos Odio. Odio stated:
“This is about creating a counter-balance to the overwhelming influence of big corporations who stood in the way of policies most Floridians need and want. Corporate interests have a lot of money at stake and they won’t hesitate to bring down people who challenge them. There is no transparency on the corporate side” – Carlos Odio
Besides the ironic statement of transparency, since Florida Alliance also doesn’t have to disclose its donors either, the rest sounds pretty good. Yes, we do need policies that represent the people of Florida. The last two legislative sessions have been a disaster. And if Dixon and Smiley are correct (which they are), why not have an alternative to the Florida Democratic Party which continues to fail when it comes to fielding candidates and raising funds. All sound pretty good right? Why not!
However, in July of this year, Christopher Findlater (who we have written about extensively on this blog before, and who is affiliated with Florida Alliance according to Dixon and Smiley) became chairman of a new political committee called South Florida’s Future, Inc. Since it has “Inc”, we know that this organization is a dark money fundraising machine listed as a non-profit, according the SunBiz. The non-profit was effective as of July 18th, 2016. South Florida’s Future, Inc. then submitted paperwork to become a political committee, which was received by the Secretary of State on July 27th. In the paperwork, Findlater is the chairman of the political committee, with Carlos Odio being the treasurer. Odio is also listed as a director under the non-profit paperwork submitted to the Division of Corporations.
So, the way that dark money works is…ah…just watch this video. Anyway, in the case we are talking about, people who want to donate will give to the South Florida’s Future, Inc. non-profit organization. In turn, the non-profit organization gives to the South Florida Future, Inc. political committee. However, in this case, the money somehow went to the political committee instead of the non-profit that was set up. What does that mean? Well, the names of those connected to the political committee are actually disclosed. So, let’s look at a few of those names, shall we (at the same time remembering Mr. Odio’s quote above)?
The individual who have given the most ($200,000) is Donald Sussman. Sussman is the founder of a company called the New China Capital Management, LLC. According the Bloomberg, this company “seeks to invest in companies operating in China. It invests between $8 million and $80 million in it portfolio companies”. He is also the founder of a company called Paloma which is, wait for it…a hedge-fund management company! He and his company were named in the Panama Papers and have sent billions of American dollars to offshore tax havens, according the The Huffington Post. And yes, he is involved with a number of other so-called “opportunities”, but I am not going to get into that, as it will take too much time.
Another person who has given ($17,500) to the South Florida’s Future PC is Michael Singer. Former CEO of Medical Management Health Systems, Singer, a self-describe inspirational guru in Alachua, FL, who has been an inspiration Oprah Winfrey and who claims to hear “neurotic voices in this head”, was indicted for “participating in a conspiracy to fraudulently inflate the company’s earnings by more than $16 million for four years” in 2005. He also settled out of court for $2.5 million a number of years later.
Other people that are on the South Florida’s Future PC page also have connections to investment banking and offshore accounts. However, the amount that was contributed by these individuals was much less.
So, back to that quote by Mr. Odio, shall we? “Corporate interests have a lot of money at stake and they won’t hesitate to bring down people who challenge them.” Well, seems like his organization is more in cahoots with them than “challenging them”.
Mr. Odio also said “[t]here is no transparency on the corporate side”. Luckily for us, and those who forgot to donate the money through the non-profit, there is a little bit of transparency.
The question that needs to be asked is if the future leader of the Florida Democratic Party has heard the message of change loud and clear? Many in the Bernie Sanders movement (including myself) feel that any FDP chair candidate with any links to organizations like this should be immediately disqualified. Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections not only led to her defeat, but also to the rise of Sanders and, unfortunately, Donald Trump. If there isn’t a true restructuring of the Florida Democratic Party, then we really do need to reevaluate our party, and if it truly fights for us.
….and honestly, there is a lot more. I mean A LOT!