Miami-Dade County

Bilzin Sumberg tops Gimenez donor list (but it’s early)

Bilzin Sumberg donated the most money to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s reelection effort last month. The law firm, which is home to some of the top lobbyists in the county, gave $16,200, barely edging out the other top donors, according to a Data Data review of finance records.

Gimenez started raising money last month for his 2016 reelection, and collected $500,202 in just a few weeks. Ralph Garcia-Toledo, finance chairman for the mayor’s reelection campaign, said donors were given an informal cap of $15,000 for the month. Twelve gave that amount.

Among the notable $15,000 donors: Donald Trump, who is pursuing a management deal for the county’s Crandon Park golf course; Odebrecht, the Miami International Airport contractor that secured a $65 million bid-waiver late last year at the urging of the Gimenez administration; and Turnberry, which has failed to win the administration’s backing for a western expansion of Miami-Dade’s development boundary in order to build a new mall.

To tally campaign donations, Dade Data examined the 143 contributions reported in January by Miami-Dade Residents First, a committee Gimenez is using to support his reelection. Then we matched addresses and corporate entities to businesses and individuals with connections to the dollars. Bilzin’s $16,200 tally, for example, came through 11 contributions from three addresses tied to the firm and its lawyers.

For this Dade Data report, we listed donors who gave at least $10,000. You should be able to see our chart of those donors above. (If you don’t, refresh your browser or click here for a link.)

Bilzin Sumberg may hold the No. 1 slot now, but the January numbers only reflect the first few weeks of Gimenez fund-raising.

The mayor, who took office in 2011 after the recall of then-mayor Carlos Alvarez and won a full term in 2012, launched the fund-raising effort with a round of calls to would-be donors. Garcia-Toledo said Gimenez called “95 percent” of the January donors himself to ask for contributions. “The game plan was for him to call them all,” he said.

Bilzin Sumberg has a lobbying practice that includes lawyers pursuing land-use changes from Miami-Dade and others helping clients chase county dollars through the procurement process. Garcia-Toledo’s wife, Vicky, is a Bilzin lawyer and lobbyist. She’s listed as giving $1,000 on Jan. 30 to Miami-Dade Residents First.

In a statement, Al Dotson, Bilzin’s top procurement lobbyist and lawyer, said of the firm’s campaign contributions: “Bilzin Sumberg appreciates the leadership and vision of Mayor Gimenez in growing our local economy responsibly by supporting transformational projects, working to improve our infrastructure and protecting the public's interest.”

Dade Data analyzes the numbers behind Miami-Dade County government. Read more Dade Data coverage at miamiherald.com.

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