What do a dentist and an attorney from Vero Beach, a landscaping company out of Troy, Mich., and a Pennsylvania treasurer have in common? Theyre linked to Conservatives United, one of those stealth independent electioneering communication organizations, or ECO, that drop nasty mailers twisting the facts to attack legislative candidates, freeing the opponents from any responsibility for the dirty tricks.
In this case, the attacks are aimed at state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, whos in a bitter Republican primary duke-out with Rep. Jose Feliz Diaz for District 116, where legislative redistricting now pits the two freshman incumbents.
One flier sent to voters accuses Rivas Logan of raising property taxes by billions when she was a member of the Miami-Dade School Board in 2005. Who knew? In fact, the Herald story for that budget meeting noted that the board actually reduced the tax rate, but not enough to compensate for skyrocketing real estate values. Rivas Logan was among the school board majority that expected to have that money go toward teachers salaries a worthy goal, as teachers are poorly compensated.
But the attacks that really upset Rivas Logan, an educator who was a high school assistant principal when she was first elected to the school board, are robocalls and fliers by Tell the Public the Facts, Inc., another ECO. This one has with a Miami address, with Roberto Novoa as chairman and money coming from various interests, including pari-mutuels. One flier makes it seem as if she embraced the controversial Vamos a Cuba
childrens book, with a menacing-looking Rudy Crew staring in the background. In fact, she let the process of book selection by a committee of volunteers play out, but when they didnt see anything wrong with a book that was pure propaganda about the Cuban dictatorship being paradise for the kiddies, she was among the school board members in 2006 who led the charge against the book (upheld in court) and eventually for Crews ouster.Playing ethnic card
And dont get her started about her cubania. During the heated debate to oust Crew, she challenged those of his supporters who referred to his detractors as a Cuban mafia the same way Fidel Castro has long referred to exiles. So she made the point that she had supported many of Crews education initiatives, and that she was born in Nicaragua. Now the abuelitas and abuelitos, the so-called supervoters, are getting robocalls saying Rivas Logan isnt Cuban, which is partly true and false. She was born in Nicaragua because her pregnant mother fled Cuba to that Central American country with Rivas father and sister, later moving to the U.S.
To be sure, playing the ethnicity, race or religious card is a delicate thing that divides or unites by counting on group pride, but its used all the time and not just by Cuban-American candidates.
The Anti-Defamation League recently asked state House candidate Sheldon Lisbon to retract an email he wrote with the subject line, A vote for Shelly Lisbon is a vote for the Jewish Community. Lisbon, an Orthodox Jew, is running for District 100 in the Democratic primary against state Rep. Joe Gibbons, who is African American. The newly drawn district is, in fact, heavily Jewish. But the Florida ADL, which is on the frontlines of fighting hate speech of any kind, noted to Lisbon in its letter that a candidates religious beliefs or lack thereof should never be used as a test for public office or as a shorthand summary of a candidates qualifications.
Lisbon got so upset for the reprimand that he called the ADL despicable during a meeting with me and the Heralds editorial board, later apologizing for mouthing off against such a highly regarded organization. ECO warfare
Back to the Rivas Logan/Diaz attack-fest. Diaz, too, has been the subject of ECO warfare.
Among the stealth groups taking on Diaz is Citizen Action, Inc., which the most recent state records show raised about $172,000 from various businesses, including a financial services company registered in Delaware. Also giving handsomely to Citizen Action, chaired by Keith Donner of Miami, is The Democracy Project, a committee of continuous existence, another one of those Tallahassee-created stealth-campaign creatures. Among its contributors is Genting, the resorts casino company that bought the Herald property last year and failed this year to get the Legislature to pass a casino resorts bill.
One flier blasts Diaz for voting against legislation that would require our underaged daughters to have parental consent for an abortion! Huh? In fact, the proposal in question was a proclamation of sorts that told Congress to approve a constitutional amendment supporting parental rights for state ratification. Thing is, abortion isnt even mentioned, and on the specific issue of parental consent for a teens abortion, Diaz has sided with the parents in his vote.
Two good people and solid candidates one an experienced educator, the other a civic-minded up-and-comer can point to the nasty fliers that attack the other and claim deniability.
Forget the facts. The ECOs will be at war until theres one bloody candidate left standing.