Miami-Dade Politics

Bank records raise questions in Hialeah legislative race

 

A Hialeah representative’s lawyer made bank records of his opponent’s campaign public. They raised questions about the opponent’s financial reporting.

pmazzei@MiamiHerald.com

A Florida House candidate may have broken campaign-finance laws by spending more money than he raised, back-dating checks and potentially using money from another campaign managed by the same political consultant, bank records from a lawsuit show.

The suit against Maykel “Miguel” Balboa was filed by his Republican primary opponent, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez of Hialeah, who failed Friday to persuade a judge to toss the political rookie Balboa from the ballot or shut down a political committee managed by consultant Sasha Tirador — who is also Balboa’s boss.

“He’s just pissed off because Balboa, with very little money, is literally beating Eddy Gonzalez,” Tirador said of Gonzalez’s lawyer, J.C. Planas.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley said he didn’t feel comfortable regulating political speech or disqualifying candidates so close to Tuesday’s election. He pointed out that Gonzalez had other remedies — namely an elections complaint — to stop Balboa’s allegedly unlawful conduct.

Gonzalez plans to file such a complaint on Monday and send the records to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, Planas said.

“What we have found is a serious violation of the campaign finance laws,” he said in an email.

Planas, a former state representative, attached to the email subpoenaed bank records of Balboa’s campaign account — a move Balboa and Tirador’s lawyer, Joe Geller, called a blatant political maneuver days before Tuesday’s election.

Planas first made the allegations Friday night on a Spanish-language television program.

The bank records show that Balboa had collected $12,290 in campaign contributions as of Wednesday. His campaign had made an advertising buy worth at least $18,824 at one Spanish-language radio station and one television station on Aug. 3, according to public records obtained in the lawsuit.

Tirador’s company, G&R Strategies, where Balboa is employed, made $14,008 in partial payments for the buy.

Planas suggested that Balboa’s campaign had run a deficit because Tirador may be using money from other races to front payments for Balboa’s expenses.

“Because Balboa has operated his campaign on an illegal deficit with all expenditures being covered by G&R Strategies, one has to wonder if there is co-mingling of all campaigns by G&R,” his email said.

Tirador and Geller dismissed that suggestion and denied any commingling of funds.

Planas’ records are incomplete, Geller and Tirador said; Balboa has yet to file his latest campaign finance report, which was due Friday.

“The last report hasn’t been filed because I’ve been so busy,” Tirador said. “[Planas] has no idea how much the candidate has raised.”

The bank records also show that several of the contributions to Balboa’s campaign appear to have been back-dated to appear that they were received in July, when they were actually deposited beginning on Aug. 1. For example, a $2,400 deposit slip for five checks was made Aug. 1 but dated July 14. One of the checks included in the deposit was dated July 15, and two others were dated July 18 — after the date on the deposit slip.

Campaign-finance laws requires that contributions be deposited within five business days from when they were received.

“I have people deposit for me,” Tirador said. “I don’t know what [Planas] is talking about.”

One of the back-dated contributions came from another Tirador candidate, Miami-Dade commission candidate Manny Machado. Others came from a Machado supporter, his companies and his relatives, and from Tirador’s relatives.

Tirador is running the campaign of County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, the chief reelection rival of Mayor Carlos Gimenez. And she is on the campaign payrolls of several other local and legislative candidates.

Planas also subpoenaed the bank records of Citizens for a Reality Check, an electioneering communications organization registered to a relative of Tirador’s. The ECO has aired a Spanish-language television ad against Gonzalez.

That ad buy, worth $14,050, was made with a partial, $11,985 payment from Tirador’s company on July 13. The ECO reported reimbursing Tirador’s company $11,942.50 that same day for “media.”

But the bank records, as of July 30, don’t show any outgoing check to Tirador’s company.

The account had $3,310 on July 13. By July 25, the account had $15,010 — but paid a $4,987 fine to the elections division that same day, leaving the account with $10,023.

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

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