Brian Lee Everspring, a real estate attorney and lobbyist for the Association for Developers With Nothing To Hide So Why Bother Even Looking, has been working hard to stop a citizens’ initiative that seeks to reduce the influence of money on local elections from being placed on the ballot this November.
“I just think things are fine the way they are,” said Mr. Everspring as he licked one of many envelopes on his desk, each stuffed with $8,000 worth of campaign checks that he bundled for several incumbent county officials. “I mean, why mess with a good thing?”, asked Mr. Everspring rhetorically from his Brickell office.
The initiative Mr. Everspring and his clients are trying to block would ban representatives and lobbyist who hold contracts with the city worth more than $250,000 from being allowed to donate to county races and would limit the amount of money an individual can donate in local elections to $250 per person.
Per local rules, a coalition of groups supporting the reform have collected more than 127,000 petitions to put the proposal to the voters, but have found that their efforts may have gone to waste thanks to a quirk in the Miami-Dade County Charter that gives the County Commission up to 30-days to order the Supervisor of Election to begin verifying the petitions, even though the Commission has absolutely no discretion in whether they ultimately order the count.
Last week, the County Commission held a special meeting to order the petitions counted, but found itself unable to do so for lack of quorum when several Commissioners failed to attend after unexpectedly coming down with a case of I-don’t-want-to-make-it-harder-for-me-to-raise-money-for-my-own-reelection-itis. Now, advocates for the reform will likely be unable to force the Commission to reconvene in time for the petition to be placed on the November ballot before the September 1st deadline to finalize the ballot.
“I have to admit, we were all getting really, really nervous about the initiative because the electorate this November is uncharacteristically energized to vote against money politics,” said Mr. Everspring. “But when I realized that the citizens groups waited for some crazy reason until August 2nd to turn in the petitions, I realized that if I could just get the Commission to just take no action before the 30 days afforded to them by the Charter ended, then they could just do nothing and the proposal would be pushed to the 2017 ballot when younger and progressive voters hoping for political reform are less likely to vote,” explained Mr. Everspring.
“It was frankly very, very easy to get Commissioners to just not show up for the vote. I mean, they could effectively block the entire effort without appearing to be against campaign finance reform. I really can’t believe they waited until August 2nd to turn in those petitions. What a gift!” laughed Mr. Everspring so loudly that he began to cough.
A last-ditch effort is currently underway to try to force Miami-Dade’s Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who is seeking reelection this November, to intervene and force the Commission to act. But the County is claiming the Mayor has no ability to order the count or force the Commission to act.
“I really wish I could help, but there is just nothing I can do,” said Mayor Gimenez who has raised more than 1.6 million dollars in campaign donations for his reelection. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to speak at a reelection fundraiser being thrown for me by The Chamber of Chemicals in Water Aren’t Necessarily a Bad Thing So Don’t Jump To Any Conclusions,” said the Mayor as he pushed an empty wheelbarrow through the lobby of a downtown office building while whistling I’m In The Money to himself.