Fundraising by Relentless for Progress, the soon-to-be-closed controversial political action committee led by Miami Beach Commission Jonah Wolfson, slowed down significantly in August.
The committee has drawn heaps of criticism and incited a debate over the role money from interests such as vendors, lobbyists, and real estate developers plays in Miami Beach politics. Much of the conversation stemmed from a city ordinance that tries to curb such influences from creeping into Beach campaigns.
RFP planned to support candidates in the upcoming election. It has already funded two slick commercials promoting incumbent Mayor Philip Levine, who insists the spot was not a campaign ad even though it stars him touting achievements during his term. And the committee has paid for mailers attacking commission candidate Mark Weithorn, husband of term-limited Commissioner Deede Weithorn.
Last week, Wolfson announced his intention to close RFP and return the remaining contributions. Each donor would get an amount back in proportion to what was donated.
According to the August report, the remaining funds total about $619,000.
The committee finance report filed with the state shows only two contributors to Relentless for Progress in August:
▪ $50,000 from Tremont Towing, one of two city-authorized towing companies
▪ $5,000 from Bercow Radell and Fernandez, a law firm specializing in zoning and land-use issues. Attorneys from this firm regularly lobby before Miami Beach land-use boards and the city commission.
The committee spent about $95,000 on media buys, legal fees and contributions to two other political committees:
▪ People in Need of Government Accountability
▪ Jobs and Prosperity for Florida
The largest expense? Three full-page advertisements in the Miami Herald, at a cost of $42,400. Wolfson bought the space to run a lengthy letter defending his committee and responding to critics.
$1,419,000 were raised by Relentless for Progress from March through August.
Wolfson noted in his full-page letter that negative publicity had hurt the committee’s fundraising efforts. While announcing RFP’s closure, Wolfson told the Miami Herald he had not closed the committee because he was having trouble raising money.
He said he reflected after a visit from former Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer, with whom he discussed the PAC.
Wolfson also plans to propose an ordinance in October that prohibits elected officials and candidates from either directly or indirectly soliciting campaign contributions — through designees, campaign committees or otherwise — from vendors, lobbyists and real estate developers.