Category Archives: Politics: FL-25/FL-27
The Herald splashed it as a five-column lead across the front page this morning: Top Garcia aide quits over ballot plot.
Here’s what we know so far:
- Cops raided the homes of two Joe Garcia campaign operatives: Giancarlo Sopo, 30, now Joe Garcia’s communications director and John Estes, 26, formerly his campaign manager for the 2012 election. The raids were in search of electronic evidence of fake absentee ballot requests.
- The ‘plot’ consisted of someone sending hundreds of electronic requests for absentee ballots for the 2012 Democratic primary, so-called phantom ballot requests. The bulk of the requests were masked by foreign IP addresses. The Miami Herald found that 2,552 fraudulent requests for the Aug. 14 primaries originated from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami, and got the prosecutors to re-open the case, leading to yesterday’s raids. Incidentally, although today’s Herald article calls the automated e-requests a “sophisticated scheme to manipulate the election” an earlier article by the same reporter stated that “no special skills” were needed. Unfortunately, the first article was right — since the ballots would have gone to the voters’ registered postal addresses, it didn’t take much to fill in the online ballot request forms: “any moderately or even marginally skilled programmer could have done this,” as Patricia Mazzei’s first article reported.
- Regardless, requesting ballots for others in this manner is illegal: only the voter or a family member can request an absentee ballot.
- The Elections Department flagged the requests as suspicious, and didn’t send the ballots, so none of this affected the primary (between Joe Garcia and fraudulent candidate Justin Lamar Sternad), much less the general election.
- According to the Miami Herald, Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia (no relation to the Congressman), “took responsibility” (despite not having been the campaign manager for the 2012 campaign) and Joe Garcia asked for his resignation. Thus the headline. Sopo is on administrative leave for now.
- There’s no sign that Congressman Joe Garcia himself knew anything about any of this (although the Herald doesn’t report this fact):
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press that Congressman Garcia is cooperating with her office, and prosecutors don’t believe he knew anything about the fraud.
- Meanwhile, there’s a separate “ongoing investigation targeting multiple individuals involving alleged absentee ballot fraud” (per NBC Miami) — but that investigation does not involve Joe Garcia, either. That, I take it, is about the really serious stuff, where people collected actual ballots from the old and infirm, and filled them out and/or mailed them in batches (both illegal). Indeed, the ‘boletera’ operation has been a staple of the local Republican machine, which worked it hard to defeat Joe Garcia in 2008 and 2010.
- None of this has to do with the even zanier investigation into ex-Congressman David Rivera, complete with a key witness hiding out in Nicaragua.
There are some key details we don’t know:
- Why did the computer-generated ‘phantom ballot requests’ target both registered Democrats and Republicans? Was someone trying to cover tracks? Incompetent? Running a false-flag op? Were the domestic and foreign-origin phantom requests part of the same operation, or different one?
- Was there actually a ‘plot’? Or is this a one-man show?
- What is it that Jeff Garcia (Joe Garcia’s chief of staff) actually did, if anything? Is he just resigning because he should have known, or because he did know (before or after the fact), or because he participated in some way? Based on what we know now, the direct participation seems unlikely as the cops apparently didn’t raid him looking for computer evidence.
- Did the domestic IP numbers lead to either staff member’s home? Both? What, if anything, did the raids find after all this time? Who, if anyone, will be charged?
OBDisclosure: I know all three of the staffers mentioned above. My son volunteered full-time for the Garcia campaign in 2010, although not in 2012 (when this stuff allegedly occurred). He began interning in Garcia’s DC office this week. He knows all three men better than I do and says he was was shocked at the allegation that any of them would be involved.
UPDATE 1: Reports of this morning’s press conference are now online. Biggest new thing I learned from the Herald’s write-up is that Giancarlo Sopo “denied taking part” in the “plot”. As to Jeff Garcia’s role, the Herald, without any quotes, says he was dismissed “for apparently orchestrating a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.” Apparently? Did he or didn’t he?
UPDATE 2: Here it comes: Local GOP asking, ‘What did Garcia know and when did he know it’?
UPDATE 3: Political Cortadito weighs in with several theories including this one: “The other possibility is that it was a third party vendor who did it. Sure, [Jeff] Garcia has to take responsibility. He was Joe Garcia’s campaign manager. But this is not like him. This doesn’t sound like his baby. This sounds like something that was offered to him by someone else.”
Renters make good Democrats, and other demographic observations suggests that FL-27, the congressional district I live in (it used to be numbered FL-25), is one of the ripest districts demographically for an R-to-D switch.
I agree about the demographics: this is a district whose economic needs and other interests are very badly served by the Republican party. Sooner or later demographics will tell. There are, however, three reasons why despite voting regularly against her district’s economic interests incumbent Ilena Ros-Lehtinen has one of the safest seats in the country: (1) Castro; (2) Personal popularity; (3) Huge campaign warchest.
Take away any two of those, and there’s a good chance the district will flip. In particular, if and when IRL retires, it will be a very winnable Democratic seat — especially if the current Cuban government has collapsed by then. (Sooner or later the current Cuban government will run out of foreign benefactors.) On the other hand, Ros-Lehtinen is only in her early sixties, so she is still in only in the middle age band of our surprisingly elderly Congress. Meanwhile, however, IRL will continue to vote against her constituents’ interests on just about every issue except gay rights, an issue on which she has a progressive record.
Federal investigators have opened a second criminal probe of U.S. Rep. David Rivera
State Rep. Luis Garcia has already announced he’s running (feel the excitement), and Annette Taddeo is said to be thinking about it.
I’m happy to see that the DCC has someone who gets how to win an election: start work early.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it began robo calls today in several districts where lawmakers have encountered questions over campaign finances or other ethics problems. In Florida, Reps. David Rivera of Miami and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota get the treatment.
“Hi, this is Clare calling on behalf of the DCCC. Did you know Congressman David Rivera received over one hundred thousand dollars in secret payments from his mother’s company? The Miami-Dade Police Department’s Public Corruption Bureau and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating Congressman Rivera for it,” reads the script, which also recounts an episode involving Rivera chasing down a truck that carried campaign material from his opponent.
from The Buzz
Politico says Annette Taddeo is planning to run in FL-25 — the seat now held by Republican David Rivera, a strong contender for most ethically creepy member of Congress.
I was, as longtime readers may recall, a big supporter of Taddeo when she ran for Congress in my district, FL-18. I even went out and canvassed for her here in my neighborhood. I do think she’d make a great Congressperson.
But. Can she pull it off?
I though Taddeo ran a good campaign for Congress in 2008. I was impressed by her work ethic, organization, and by the staff she put together. The fact is that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is just very hard to beat due her giant war chest (she spent $3m beating Taddeo) and, to be fair, also her personal rapport with so many of the voters here, a rapport sufficient to overcome a number of policies that work against the district’s actual interests.
Taddeo then ran for County Commissioner in District 8. As I live (just) outside District 8, I didn’t pay that much attention to the race, but Taddeo narrowly failed to make the run-off in a crowded field.
All of which is preamble to the question whether FL-25 is a good fit? Not that I have someone better in mind, or that I doubt they’d be lucky to have her, I’m just wondering how she’ll play in the district.