Miami’s mayor and eldest son quietly steered thousands of dollars this summer into a political committee without disclosing their efforts as required under a new Miami-Dade law.
The campaign of Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado acknowledges that it actively steered supporters to Together Miami, a state-registered political committee tied to a Republican operative out of Alachua County. The mayor himself personally solicited money for the committee and delivered checks to his son’s campaign for Miami’s District 3 commission seat.
But neither the father nor the son filed paperwork acknowledging their fundraising as required under a new campaign solicitation law passed by county commissioners last year. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, was intended to improve transparency around efforts to raise money into third-party accounts, which aren’t subject to the donation caps that limit contributions to official campaign accounts.
Regalado campaign consultant Brian Swensen acknowledged that the team has encouraged supporters to contribute to Together Miami, which reported $65,000 raised from June to October. But he asserted that state statutes governing where and how political committees file their statements of organization trump local law and make the candidate disclosure requirement moot.
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“The understanding that we have in that respect is that state law reduced any of these redundancies that may have been created by the county law,” said Swensen. “My understanding is that everything has been done under what the law limits and what the law allows.”
Swensen told the Miami Herald that “there have been no dubious intentions” or attempts to hide a relationship with the political committee. A violation would result in only a warning, with a second offense punishable by fines capped at just $5,000. A violation is not considered a criminal offense.
But county ethics and legal officials say the new disclosure ordinance is clear that candidates and sitting politicians must file within five days of soliciting their first penny. Three sitting Miami city commissioners and four City Commission candidates have filed disclosure forms with Miami’s city clerk acknowledging their ties to political committees. The Miami-Dade elections department, which issues warnings and fines, has so far warned four candidates and officials to date about failure to comply with the law.
“If they solicit, that’s what triggers the disclosure,” said Joe Centorino, executive director of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, speaking only about the requirements of the law and not the specifics of the Regalado’s fundraising. “As far as what defines solicitation, there’s not actually a definition but it’s generally understood it means you ask for something, directly or indirectly.”
In an interview this week, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who says he accepted $5,000 in checks for Together Miami and delivered them to his son’s campaign, says he simply “wasn’t aware of that [law].”
“If I have to fill out some paperwork I will,” he said. “I wasn’t notified by the city clerk.”
Except, he was. On Jan. 5, four days after the law took effect, City Clerk Todd Hannon sent an email to Miami’s elected officials, including Regalado, informing them of the new requirements.
As election day nears, the Regalados’ quiet fundraising has become a central tenet of their chief nemesis Joe Carollo. The District 3 candidate and former Miami mayor came out blasting this month after learning about Together Miami, telling voters in a letter from his mother that the Regalados had planned to attack him through a third-party group funded in part by “enchufados Chavistas” — socialistic Venezuelan expats living and doing business in the U.S.
“They opened up secret committees and have gotten money from all kinds of strange people so they can attack me and defame me without getting caught,” said Carollo, whose Miami First political committee has launched a slew of attacks at the Regalados. “This is dirty tricks and politics at its worst.”
State records show Together Miami is registered to William S. Jones, an Alachua County Republican Party leader associated with dozens of political committees. Jones is also listed as chairman of the Accountability in Government political committee, which has distributed mailers that attempt to link Carollo to red light cameras in Doral.
A number listed for Jones’ political committees with the Florida Division of Elections went straight to voice mail. Jones did not return messages.
Swensen, who answered several questions posed to Regalado during a sit-down with the Miami Herald, said the Regalado campaign has no affiliation or knowledge of the Accountability in Government account, created in May of 2016 and funded through the start of October primarily by a $50,000 donation from another of Jones’ political committees. As for Together Miami, Swensen said the Regalado campaign didn’t create the committee, but rather learned about its plans to support Regalado through mutual acquaintances, whom he didn’t name.
Donors to Together Miami have mostly been mum about their contributions, either declining to discuss their donations or saying they don’t remember writing a check.
“I have a partner. Maybe it was my partner,” said Jesus Velez, a principal of glass installer JMV Installers Corp., which gave $20,000.
“At this present moment, I don’t remember anything,” said Maria Valdes, whose Superior Landscaping and Lawn Services gave $5,000.
The committee also received $2,500 from BD Coral Way Retail, a company registered to Alexander Boria, son of former Doral Mayor Luigi Boria. Delia Hospitality, registered to Venezuelan healthcare businessman Calogero “Carlos” Alaimo, gave another $5,000.
Those two contributions have led Carollo to claim that the Regalados are accepting money from enchufados.
Back in 2014, when Boria was mayor and he had just been fired as city manager of Doral, Carollo blasted the city’s chief executive and during a press conference distributed Venezuelan state documents that purported to show that a Boria company had built up an equity of $168 million thanks in part to business relationships with the regime of the late Hugo Chavez. Alaimo, meanwhile, has publicly acknowledged a friendship with Francisco Arias Cárdenas, the governor of the Venezuelan Zulia state and a former Chavez rival who later made up with the controversial leader.
Reached earlier this month, Alexander Boria said he had no recollection of making any donations to Together Miami. On Friday, Alaimo’s son, Vincenzo Alaimo, said his father is only the registered agent of Delia Hospitality and that he, the son, is the sole owner. He said his father runs privately operated healthcare services that do not have business with the government, and noted that his father is now running for mayor of Maracaibo on an anti-Chavism platform.
“We have more than 35 years here doing business in the United States. What he’s saying is wrong,” Alaimo said of Carollo. “We are not Chavistas. We are not enchufados.”
Swensen, who accused Carollo of “half-baked paranoia,” noted that Together Miami hasn’t put out any attacks on Carollo. But Carollo says Regalado was forced to abandon Together Miami and use Accountability in Government to attack him after he warned voters of the family’s secret fundraising efforts. He says the Regalados have “no regard for the law,” though ironically County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was warned in June for waiting nearly a month to disclose that he’d solicited contributions for Carollo’s Miami First political committee.
“They’re the ones that have been planning the attacks and in fact have been doing the defamation,” said Carollo. “This is like the Keystone cops of political committees.”