Controversial political committee Relentless for Progress has bought its first attack ad, but it’s not directed at any candidates.
Instead, the Miami Beach commissioner leading the PAC took out a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Miami Herald to defend his group and rip his critics.
Relentless for Progress, the PAC chaired by Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, has made headlines and drawn criticism for raising more than $1 million in three months from a smattering of prominent Beach developers, vendors and lobbyists. The county ethics commission is investigating the matter.
But on Wednesday, Wolfson fired off a lengthy missive in an advertisement on the back page of the Herald’s A section where he took aim at one of the PAC’s most notable critics, local veteran political journalist Michael Putney, who wrote an op-ed column in the Herald slamming Wolfson and Mayor Philip Levine for soliciting donations from companies that do business with the city.
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Putney accused Wolfson of wanting to rescind a $15 million city grant given to Mount Sinai Medical Center because the hospital would not donate to the committee.
On Wednesday, Wolfson fired back. He said Putney was wrong and members of Mount Sinai’s board actually tried to donate to RFP, and Wolfson refused the money. He also accused Putney of not disclosing a conflict of interest because his co-host on This Week in South Florida, Glenna Milberg, is married to Michael Milberg, executive director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation.
Wolfson said the scrutiny leveled at Relentless for Progress, whose initials RFP mirror the abbreviation for the solicitation made to bidders for city contracts, is unfair because such fund-raising is legal and no different from County Mayor’s Carlos Gimenez’s PAC, which has raised a little more than $1 million from vendors and developers.
He added that the public criticism has hurt the committee’s fund-raising efforts.
“As a result of Mr. Putney’s unprofessional, factually incorrect, and unethical op-ed he has adversely affected this committee’s ability to raise funds,” he said.
Wolfson did not mince words in his attack on Putney.
“Mr. Putney has reduced himself to a political hack for Mt. Sinai and its operatives,” he wrote. “Now that’s truly sleazy.”
Putney told the Miami Herald he did not wish to comment on the ad.
“I would only say, ‘God bless the First Amendment,”’ he said.
He added that he will continue to write and broadcast anything newsworthy he learned about Relentless for Progress.
Glenna Milberg and Mount Sinai declined to comment for this story.
Levine had a less aggressive response to Putney’s criticism a few weeks ago. He went on This Week in South Florida and discussed the committee with the well-respected journalist.
In his appearance, Levine repeatedly noted he is funding his own mayoral reelection campaign, and the committee is raising money legally.
The mayor has starred in a few video advertisements funded by RFP that have run on local TV and YouTube.
Reached Wednesday via text message while traveling abroad, Levine reiterated that he’s self-funding his campaign, he does not want any endorsement or assistance from Relentless for Progress when he files his candidacy, and the video spots he appears in are not as a candidate but to promote Miami Beach. He added that he went on This Week in South Florida to “defend himself and nothing more.”
Levine has donated $5,000 to RFP. As a donor, he said he had no comment on the purchase of the full-page ad.
“It is Commissioner Wolfson’s PAC and I prefer not to comment on it as I have no opinion either way.”