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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Did Miami-Dade housing funds go into campaign accounts? Looks like it.

We read the news today that state investigators now accuse Raul Masvidal of embezzling nearly $1 million, as opposed to $600,000, worth of Miami-Dade housing funds. As of today, he's still pleading not guilty. He previously cited business woes as one excuse for never building Hometown Station, an office complex that hasn't materialized along the Metrorail line in South Miami. In July 2003, the county commission approved a $5 million loan from the county housing agency to build the project.

We hate to bring it up again, but as we reported in a
Poder magazine article more than a year ago, after Masvidal received that loan he proceeded to spend a lot of loot on our representatives in Congress. Here's what we found then:

Somehow, despite the fiscal implosions at work and home, Masvidal managed to find about $70,000 between 2003 and 2007 for some of his preferred politicos. Masvidal donated $3,000 to Penelas’s 2003 senate bid; his wife, Mercedes Masvidal, kicked in another $2,000. The couple also dropped another $1,000 each on Bob Graham’s presidential account. Masvidal was especially generous to the Diaz-Balarts. He had given $1,000 to Mario Diaz-Balart in May 2002; after receiving the county loan Masvidal upped Mario’s gift to $2,000 in December 2003. Between 2003 and 2007 he gave $6,000 to the Diaz-Balarts’ Democracy Believers Political Action Committee, and $15,000 to another group they are involved with, the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC, which funds members of Congress who vote to maintain or tighten the embargo on trade with, and travel to, Cuba. During that time Masvidal also gave $2,000 to U.S. Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, $1,000 to U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a Jacksonville-area Republican, and $2,000 to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) via her IRL PAC in 2005. He also spent $500 on Michael Fitzpatrick, who served one term as a congressman for Pennsylvania. That was only the half of it. Masvidal’s munificence has been curiously bipartisan. Besides the $6,000 he and his wife gave to Miami area Democrats Penelas and Graham, in 2004 he sent $2,500 to the Democratic National Committee and $2,000 to the Campaign for Florida’s Future, which promotes fair elections and ethics in government. Then in 2005 and 2006 the uncannily magnanimous developer gave $4,000 to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Broward Democrat. During that period he also gave $7,200 to Florida’s Democratic U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson. (Previously, Masvidal had contributed $2,000 to Nelson’s first U.S. senate campaign in 1999).

As we noted in that column, county manager George Burgess, while waiting for Masvidal to repay the $5 million, could ask those public servants to serve the Miami-Dade public and return the $70,000 that Masvidal paid them. That's only the equivalent of a third of a county executive's salary, but it would be a nice gesture, and the recovery of any bit of wasted taxpayer money couldn't hurt Miami-Dade's ransacked budget.

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