In the first sign of an opposition campaign against a subsidized renovation to the Miami Dolphins' stadium, a Miami political consultant has paid for an automated call urging listeners to vote "no" in the May 14 referendum.
The robocall, paid for by David Custin's DRC Consulting firm, began targeting likely voters Saturday, Custin said. Absentee ballots were mailed to domestic voters last week, and early voting began Monday.
Custin said he plans to call more than 160,000 voters over the next few days with calls in English and Spanish opposing the proposed renovation to Sun Life Stadium. Pending approval by the Florida Legislature, the Dolphins would receive up to $289 million from increasing the Miami-Dade mainland hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent and $90 million from a state sales-tax subsidy, both over 30 years. The football club would refund the county up to $120 million and the state $47 million at the end of the three decades. (Read a breakdown of the deal here.)
Custin said he financed the robocalls because the Dolphins were campaigning "unfettered" for an off-year election that will likely result in low voter turnout. Opponents of the renovations -- particularly Miami auto magnate Norman Braman -- have decided to lobby lawmakers against the deal rather then fund a political campaign. Meantime, the Dolphins have reported raising $1 million for their outreach efforts, from team owner Stephen Ross' stadium coffers.
The robocalls have a disclaimer saying they were paid for by Custin's firm. State campaign-finance rules allow independent expenditures advocating for or against issues on the ballot. Expenditures under $5,000 do not have to be publicly disclosed; Custin said he does not plan to meet that threshold.
"There's so many things that a penny tax increase should go to than a billionaire's stadium," he said, referring to the hotel-tax increase.
State law limits the uses of county tourist taxes, but the state sales-tax dollars the Dolphins have asked for would otherwise go to Florida's general fund.
The text of one of the calls is below, or listen to it here.
Hello. Sorry for this call, but the politicians are at it again. Now it's the Marlins stadium deal part two. This time it's billionaire Stephen Ross paying $4.8 million for this election to get $310 million in taxpayer funds. Yes, a billionaire is spending money on lobbyists, consultants and advertisements to secure nearly $310 million of your public money for his private stadium renovation. Miami-Dade needs money for improvements to our infrastructure, programs that help special-needs children, vulnerable seniors and to improve our quality of life. Taxpayer money should be used to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce toll roads and SunPass lanes, not for corporate welfare. Vote no to this special election. Billionaire Ross should do what former Dolphins owner Joe Robbie did: Use his own money. Vote no on Ross' Sun Life Stadium referendum. Thank you.