Florida Politics

Florida politics mega-donor changes direction

MBF Healthcare Partners Chairman Mike Fernandez in his Coral Gables office on Feb. 22, 2018.
MBF Healthcare Partners Chairman Mike Fernandez in his Coral Gables office on Feb. 22, 2018. WLRN

Prominent political booster Mike Fernandez has cut the biggest check yet from his pro-immigration political committee — to himself.

Fernandez, a former GOP mega-donor who left the party following Donald Trump’s 2016 election, deposited $5 million six months ago into a political committee he said would be used to fund pro-immigration candidates. He made himself chairman of the committee, which he called Diversity ... The Key to the American Dream PAC, and quickly began stroking checks.

The PAC spent more than $500,000 over six months, including $200,000 on the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Andrew Gillum in mid-September. But only nine days later, Fernandez emptied out the remaining $4,461,157.53 in the committee’s account by refunding the unspent money.

Reached Thursday night, Fernandez, the 66-year-old chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, said he was shifting focus.

“All of the money will be redirected to a new effort,” he wrote in an email. “The focus and purpose of the [PAC] I just closed did not allow me to spend it on a new effort.”

Fernandez, once a top fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott, has made immigration reform a life goal. He fled Cuba with his family in 1964 following the rise of Fidel Castro and eventually moved to Miami, where he became a billionaire healthcare magnate. Last year, Fernandez created IMPAC Fund to promote immigration legislation and help provide legal services to unauthorized immigrants.

More recently, he’s launched himself into gun-safety efforts following the mass shooting in Parkland.

Fernandez, though, wouldn’t describe his new plan “until after the elections.” He also said he was unconcerned about creating perceptions of bailing on his commitment.

“I never do something, based on what others may do or say. This was a PAC to support certain FLORIDA political initiatives. I will be doing something else which has a greater return on investment,” he wrote.

Fernandez, who lives in Coral Gables, is just the latest wealthy South Floridian to abort a $5 million political committee.

In August, after promising for weeks to help fund other candidates’ campaigns, Palm Beach real estate mogul Jeff Greene opened a political committee with a $5 million donation and hedged statements about making good on his commitments. He refunded himself $4,999,509.94 the day after losing the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

Green later told POLITICO that he’d make the donations himself. But so far, the Florida Division of Elections’ campaign finance database shows no personal contributions from Greene. Fernandez, though, says he doesn’t plan to slink away.

“I am not going quietly,” Fernandez said, “as I have lived the loss of one country and will do all I can to save my adopted home.”

Marleine Bastien, Executive Director, Family Action Movement Network (FAMN) discusses a federal judge's preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on Thursday October 4, 2018.

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