A suspicious slate card recently mailed to some Miami households deceptively represents itself as recommending Democrats but actually encourages voters to support some Republicans, including two incumbents for state Senate: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores — both of whom are fighting for re-election in newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning districts.
The true source of the mailer is dubious. The political action committee listed on the disclaimer doesn’t exist anymore, never operated in Florida and its treasurers — one of whom has past ties to Diaz de la Portilla — say they have no knowledge of it.
Both Diaz de la Portilla and Flores also said they had no involvement in it and that the first they had heard of the slate card was when a Herald/Times reporter asked for comment Monday.
“I have nothing to do with it; I don’t know it,” Diaz de la Portilla said emphatically.
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This isn’t the only deceptive slate card that has surfaced in Miami-Dade County in recent weeks. Another one that was distributed at early voting sites in North Miami-Dade and North Miami also appeared to be pro-Democrat but urged people to vote for Amendment 1, which Democrats oppose, and to support Raquel Regalado for Miami-Dade mayor, one of two Republicans on the ballot.
This new slate card — which was purportedly “paid for and approved by Democratic Action PAC” — was mailed to voters, rather than handed out at polling sites. It features a photo of President Barack Obama and urges voters to “preserve the legacy” and support Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton for president, Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate and Broward County U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But then for the Florida Senate, it recommends Diaz de la Portilla in District 37 (where state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez is the Democratic candidate) and Flores in District 39 (where Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is the Democratic candidate).
The card also recommends Carlos Gimenez for Miami-Dade mayor, Regalado’s opponent who is also a Republican.
The slate card includes several typos, such as erroneously listing Daphne Campbell’s Senate district as “37” (she’s running in 38) and misspelling the names of Wasserman Schultz, congressional candidate Alina Valdes and Circuit Court judge candidate Mark Blumstein.
Although the card claims to be the product of the Democratic Action PAC, that doesn’t appear to be true. The committee is not registered in Florida and is actually a defunct super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission.
FEC records show the committee was “administratively terminated” in June after failing to file any financial disclosures since it was established in spring 2015 as a super PAC for progressives supporting Clinton.
When contacted by the Herald/Times, Washington, D.C., consultant Keith Carbone — the registered treasurer for the PAC — said in an email: “The PAC was terminated. I have no idea what this mailer is.”
The PAC’s registered deputy treasurer, Akiva Fischman, gave a similar response when reached by phone Monday. “I’m not aware of the mailer nor its contents,” he said.
Fischman did political work for Diaz de la Portilla’s first state Senate race in 2010. Records with the Florida Division of Elections show Diaz de la Portilla paid Fischman $12,700 for advertising, marketing, postage and administrative help in that contest.
Both men also overlapped for a time while serving as officers of the former “Conservatives for Florida, Inc.” — an electioneering communications organization for which Diaz de la Portilla was eventually chairman before it was shuttered in spring 2015, Division of Elections records show.
Fischman said Monday his only campaign work for Diaz de la Portilla was the 2010 race. He added, “I haven’t spoken to Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in several years.”
“The last time I heard the name ‘Fischman’ was, like, six years ago,” Diaz de la Portilla said.
He suggested the mailer could be the creation of “the other side, somebody who’s losing, trying to create a diversion” — such as his opponent, Rodriguez.
In an email to the Herald/Times in response, Rodriguez’s campaign adviser, Christian Ulvert, accused Diaz de la Portilla of being the one responsible for the mailer.
“Diaz de la Portilla and his allies got caught using a dark-money, out-of-state PAC to confuse and lie to voters,” Ulvert said. “The piece speaks for itself and why all signs point to Diaz de la Portilla and his campaign.”
Yohana de la Torre, a spokeswoman for Flores’ campaign, said Monday that neither she nor Flores know anything about the slate card and weren’t aware of it before the Herald/Times asked for comment on it.
Mucarsel-Powell, Flores’ opponent, said she is focused on running her own campaign, but as for the slate card, she said: “No slate card, no matter how deceptive, can get voters to trust Anitere Flores.”