So far, most of the campaign cash spent by Miami-Dade County commissioners has gone to the man who got many of their political donors to open their checkbooks.
Brian Goldmeier, a professional fundraiser, has been paid $92,508 to help three commissioners rake in money. Lynda Bell, Jean Monestime and to a lesser extent Jose “Pepe” Diaz have hired Goldmeier’s firm, BYG Strategies, since January 2013. Bell and Monestime have drawn serious challengers.
Second on the list of top recipients is Bell’s campaign manager, Jose Luis Castillo, whose Green Point Group firm has made $89,515. A small portion of that — $8,550 — came from assorted campaign work for Monestime.
No one else has been paid nearly as much. The third-place vendor is Signal Outdoor, which has received $33,550 from Bell for advertising.
With more than two months left before the Aug. 26 primary, commissioners have spent relatively little of their cash — only $398,307 out of about $2.3 million, between their campaign accounts and political committees, according to a Miami Herald analysis.
The front end of campaigns is persuading contributors to donate. Most of that money won’t be spent until closer to the election to advertise and directly contact voters closer to Election Day.
As a result, political operatives like Goldmeier are busy earlier in campaigns. People who produce ads get paid later.
Hiring a professional fundraiser is fairly new for local races. Goldmeier got his break in 2011, when he was fresh off Democrat Alex Sink’s failed gubernatorial campaign and went to work for the underdog team of now-County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Since then, Goldmeier has become well known in local political circles, organizing large events that draw scores of donors — and leave him with a commission of about 10 percent, records show. Goldmeier declined to comment. Castillo, Bell’s campaign manager, could not be reached.
Coral Gables business man Chris Korge, a friend of Goldmeier’s and one of Florida’s top Democratic fundraisers, said it makes sense for local candidates to follow the playbook of state and federal campaigns and hire someone to wrangle the donors.
“Raising money takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of follow up,” he said. A fundraiser “frees up candidates’ time up to go meet directly with constituents.”
Fundraisers can also tap networks of potential contributors previously unknown to a candidate.
“It probably pays for itself,” Korge said.