To build a new mall near Doral, Turnberry Associates first needs Miami-Dade commissioners to move the county’s commercial development boundary closer to the Everglades. While pushing for the change, the Aventura developer also has given generously to commissioners’ reelection efforts.
Turnberry, the company behind the Aventura Mall and Fontainebleau Resort, stands as the No. 1 donor in this election cycle for the Miami-Dade County Commission, contributing about $70,000 since 2013, according to a Miami Herald analysis.
While Turnberry’s giving puts it at the top of the contributions list, its business dealings with Miami-Dade make it a typical major donor to county commissioners.
Virtually all of the big dollars designed to keep commissioners in office come from businesses pursuing favorable decisions from those commissioners, according to a Herald review of nearly 3,600 donations to the six incumbents up for reelection this year and the political committees supporting them.
Of the Top 25 donors in the Herald analysis, 22 either employ lobbyists at County Hall or are lobbyists themselves, according to county records. Of the remaining three, two conduct business with Miami-Dade; the other is a developer. Since the Top 25 donors account for a third of the more than $2.3 million given to commissioners’ reelection efforts, their outsized roles makes them a key source of cash for incumbents.
“You hope to get your calls returned,” said Ron Book, No. 8 on the list and a top lobbyist whose 79 registered clients for state work includes Miami-Dade County itself. “I like to get my calls returned.”
For its analysis, the Herald crunched data from about 3,600 donations made to campaign accounts of the six commissioners up for reelection in August — Lynda Bell, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Jean Monestime, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto — as well as to county-level political committees supporting four of them.