Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez didn't like the news coverage of her campaign for Congress.
So she created her own.
With the help of a well-known Miami blogger, Rosen Gonzalez set up QuePasa27.com in order to produce flattering content about her candidacy. The website, which was registered in February, includes a disclaimer for Rosen Gonzalez’s campaign at the bottom of every page, but is designed to look like an anonymous blog.
The site features a picture of people waiting at a bus stop and the motto "News and views from your Congressional District." Scroll down and the blog features blurbs about a special Miami-Dade County commission election and municipal trolleys before offering readers a series of articles that talk up Rosen Gonzalez's bid to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.
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One article declares Rosen Gonzalez the winner of a debate held this month among the five Democrats running in Florida's 27th congressional district. Over the weekend, Rosen Gonzalez paid Facebook to promote the article so that it showed up at the top of voters' news feeds — without any hint that the article was created by her campaign.
"Clear winner at Young Democrats' debate: Kristen Rosen Gonzalez," Rosen Gonzalez wrote, mirroring the headline.
Another article criticizes an interview that former University of Miami president Donna Shalala gave on WPLG's Sunday morning news show, "This Week in South Florida." Another declares the Democratic primary a two-person race between Rosen Gonzalez and Shalala.
The content on QuePasa27 contrasts with stories in local publications about Rosen Gonzalez texting an opponent that no one can beat Shalala, getting a slap on the wrist from the ethics commission for emailing her city's police chief to lay off a campaign donor, and saying during a forum that most of the congressional district is "uneducated."
"We thought the Miami Herald and other media needed some help covering the congressional campaign, so, in full disclosure, we created a blog," Rosen Gonzalez texted Tuesday.
The articles on the blog do not identify the author. But Elaine de Valle, a former Miami Herald reporter who runs the website Political Cortadito and at times works for political campaigns, confirmed that she writes the content on the blog. The website does feature a Gmail address for de Valle at the bottom of every page next to Rosen Gonzalez's political disclaimer, although a Facebook page for the site doesn't appear to contain any disclaimers.
In an interview, de Valle said the blog was created to inform people who live in Florida's 27th congressional district and get them excited about the election. She dismissed suggestions that the site could mislead voters into believing the blog was independent of Rosen Gonzalez's campaign, and said the site has promoted events on its calendar for other candidates, including state Rep. David Richardson.
Rosen Gonzalez "doesn’t write the stories. She doesn’t approve them. She gets no prior approval process," said de Valle, adding that she supported Rosen Gonzalez before working for her campaign. "My job is to get information out to the public, not to skew the public one way or another. My observations are just as valid as yours."
De Valle said she may continue running the blog after the campaign ends.