January 26, 2016

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo says he raised $450K and has $1.5M on hand

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's campaign says it raked in nearly half a million dollars in the last three months of 2015 for his contested reelection campaign.

He raised $459,000 and has $1.51 cash on hand, campaign spokeswoman Nicole Rapanos told the Miami Herald. She said 45 percent of donations "came from South Floridians contributing $200 or less."

"We are confident that we will have ample resources to share Carlos' record of effective, bipartisan work in Congress on behalf of the people of South Dade and the Florida Keys," she said in a statement. Curbelo has been among the most prolific freshman Republican fundraisers.

Curbelo, who represents Westchester to Key West, is running in a redrawn swing district that now favors Democrats by a wider margin than when he ousted Democrat Joe Garcia in 2014. Garcia sounds like he wants to run again.

Democrat Annette Taddeo, who has lagged behind the incumbent's fundraising so far, has the party's backing in Washington D.C. She'll have to report her latest contributions by the end of the week; several House Democrats hosted fundraisers for her before the quarter ended Dec. 31. She has another one scheduled for Saturday -- in the new fundraising period -- with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján on Miami Beach.

 Andrew Korge, son of Hillary Clinton donor Chris Korge, has said he intends to seek the seat as well.

 

January 22, 2016

Joe Garcia says he'll decide on Miami congressional run in next week

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia told the Miami Herald on Friday that he expects to make up his mind in the next week about whether to run for his old Miami congressional seat.

"I'm seriously considering it. The polls look very good for me," he said. "I'm going to make a decision in the next few days, in the next week."

The Democrat has been mulling a run for months. Some of his former aides -- and now Garcia himself -- have been working the phones to reach activists, donors and party leaders on what a campaign could look like.

A couple of markers suggested to party insiders that Garcia was seriously contemplating another campaign. The first was that the statute of limitations expired in early November in a federal investigation that led to the conviction of Garcia's former political adviser and chief of staff -- which meant Garcia himself could campaign without the shadow of the feds hanging over him. 

The second was that Garcia left his job at a Miami Beach investment bank in December, a move that was seen as potential preparation for a candidacy. He'd held the job for less than a year; Garcia said he's now working as an independent consultant.

One Democrat, Annette Taddeo, is already running, and another one, Andrew Korge, intends to seek the 26th district as well. It's currently represented by Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who ousted Garcia in 2014. Since then, the district has been redrawn to benefit Democrats.

January 11, 2016

Joe Garcia spotted in D.C., but not because he's running for Congress (at least, not yet)

@PatriciaMazzei

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia fuels speculation that he wants to run for his old Miami-based seat every time he visits Washington D.C. -- as he did Monday.

Garcia was spotted at a Capitol Hill bar near the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee offices, where he was meeting with former staffers and friends. But he says he wasn't in town to meet party leaders about launching a candidacy.

Instead, Garcia was a panelist at a National Press Club talk led by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. The discussion was about the impact of the recently signed Paris climate deal on electric utilities. Garcia is a former chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission.

Garcia has said he's thinking of running again for Florida's 26th district, a seat now held by Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Here's a selfie Garcia took at the Bullfeathers bar. He sent it to the Miami Herald with permission to post.

IMG_3247

This post has been updated.

Son of Hillary Clinton donor to run for Congress in Miami

@PatriciaMazzei

Andrew Korge, the son of Hillary Clinton campaign donor Chris Korge, will run for Congress, setting up a Democratic primary against Annette Taddeo to see who will challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's preeminent swing district.

"I intend to file at some point in the future," Korge said, without giving a date. "I'm running for office because we need new leaders who have a 21st-century vision."

Korge had planned to run for Florida Senate. But a court-approved map appointing new district borders left the political novice without a clear way into office. His impending announcement was first reported by Politico Pro.

Taddeo, the former Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chairwoman who ran as Charlie Crist's running mate for governor in 2014, jumped in the race early. She had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which hoped to avoid a contentious primary to instead focus on unseating the freshman Curbelo.

"Annette came to this country fleeing violence, not speaking English, and was denied admission to college," her campaign manager Shaun Daniels told the Miami Herald in a statement. "She taught herself English, put herself through school working minimum wage jobs. She abandoned her career plans to help her parents rebuild their home after Hurricane Andrew, and then built one of the best small businesses in Florida from scratch, while raising a daughter. Thousands of South Floridians share those experiences and they are all inspirational. Annette's story is America's story."

Taddeo has lost three races -- she previously ran for Congress and the Miami-Dade County Commission -- and Korge may not be her only opponent. Former Rep. Joe Garcia, who held the seat for one term before being ousted by Curbelo, is also considering a candidacy. The No. 2 House Democrat, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, was recently recorded at a Taddeo fundraiser urging Korge and Garcia not to run.

Curbelo's 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, was already a pickup target for Democrats before another court-approved redistricting map turned the district more Democratic.

January 04, 2016

In secret recording, No. 2 House Democrat calls on 2 potential candidates to sit out Florida race

@PatriciaMazzei

The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives told political donors he doesn't want two potential South Florida candidates to run for Congress because they would compete with the only person who has filed to run so far.

Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who backs Annette Taddeo to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, headlined a fundraiser Saturday at Taddeo's home. He appears to have been secretly recorded. The audio was obtained by America Rising, a conservative super PAC.

In his remarks, Hoyer made reference to former Rep. Joe Garcia and Andrew Korge, son of Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge. Both Garcia and the younger Korge have been mulling their own candidacies.

"I want you to tell Chris," Hoyer begins in the recording, apparently referring to Andrew Korge, "and I want you to tell Joe, 'Look, this is not about personalities. This is about our best opportunity. Annette Taddeo, I tell you, is our best opportunity to win a seat in South Florida... That's why I told you I contributed. Joe Garcia is my friend; I'm not down here against Joe Garcia. But I will tell you, I don't want him to run, because I want to maximize our opportunity."

America Rising posted the audio online, along with an introduction. "While Democratic leaders are struggling to recruit viable candidates across the country, they still find time to push their heavy-handed agenda in local politics," the super PAC wrote. "The Democratic voters in Florida’s 26th District deserve the opportunity to support the candidate who suits them best, not the Washington establishment."

In a statement to the Herald, Korge took a swipe at establishment Democrats -- and Taddeo.

"Leave it to the Washington insiders to think that backing someone who has lost all three of her races is a winning strategy," he said.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Garcia said Democrats "all want the same thing:someone who represents the interests of South Florida. Carlos has voted for Republicans and for Washington. Steny Hoyer, Annette Taddeo, Chris Korge and Andrew Korge are all good friends of mine, but this election shouldn't be decided by the leaders in Washington."

Garcia said he still hasn't made up his mind about the race: "I'm thinking, but I'm not deciding anything. There is no question that I loved representing the people of South Florida."

December 21, 2015

Joe Garcia likely won't face charges in federal case involving 2010 campaign

@PatriciaMazzei

For months, former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia has mulled running for Congress again in 2016. One thing that could weigh on his decision: It looks like he won't be getting charged in a federal criminal investigation into his 2010 campaign.

Prosecutors likely had until early November -- five years from the 2010 election -- to accuse Garcia of any wrongdoing under the statute of limitations. That date came and went without any charges being filed.

"The Force is strong with Joe Garcia," Garcia attorney David O. Markus said in a statement to the Miami Herald that invoked Star Wars. "Justice prevailed."

The office of U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferré declined to comment.

Earlier this year, the feds charged Garcia's campaign manager, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, with secretly funding a ringer tea-party candidate against Republican David Rivera in the 2010 election. Garcia and the ringer, Jose Rolando "Roly" Arrojo, were sentenced to probation and house arrest in September. 

A federal court document filed in the case suggested Jeffrey Garcia had given his boss at least a hint about his illicit plan. He emailed Joe Garcia twice referring to getting a tea partier in the race, and a third time saying "Plan Roli is still moving."

"I am seeking funding," Jeffrey Garcia wrote. "I have till mid-week next week to execute."

Garcia did not respond to any of his campaign manager's emails about recruiting the ringer. If he had, the feds might have charged Garcia as a "co-conspirator," according to legal experts.

Rivera ultimately won the election; Joe Garcia ousted him in 2012. Garcia then lost to another Republican, Carlos Curbelo, in 2014 after Jeffrey Garcia was embroiled in a state criminal case involving unlawful absentee-ballot requests.

A separate federal criminal investigation into a 2012 Democratic ringer candidate tied to Rivera remains stalled.

--with Jay Weaver

This post has been updated to note the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment, rather than did not respond.

September 14, 2015

Aide to ex-Rep. Joe Garcia gets house arrest, probation for putting up ringer candidate against David Rivera in 2010

Garcia+folo+10-22+pool+AM

via @jayhweaver

At first, it looked like the former campaign manger for ex-Miami Congressman Joe Garcia was heading to prison for breaking an election law, even after a prosecutor recommended probation as punishment.

“The problem is, this type of crime strikes at the very core of our democracy,” U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez declared on Monday, noting that he found it “infuriating” the way outsiders think of Miami as a “Banana Republic” because of all its fraud and corruption.

But in the end, after telling the defense attorney for Jeffrey Garcia that he was confronting an “uphill road,” Martinez gave the defendant a two-year probationary sentence with eight months of home confinement and a $1,000 fine.

Martinez cited prosecutor Kimberly Selmore’s support for the lenient sentence, along with defense attorney Henry Bell’s arguments that his client cooperated extensively with the FBI investigation, including testifying before the grand jury, and had already been severely punished after losing his solid career as a once-respected political strategist.

“We felt we were on high ground arguing for no jail time,” Bell said after the hearing.

Garcia, convicted of a misdemeanor in a plea deal, faced up to one year in prison for illegally financing the campaign of a ringer tea party candidate whose role in the 2010 congressional election was designed to help the Democratic bid of Garcia's boss, Joe Garcia, against Republican David Rivera.

More here.

Photo credit: Alvaro Mata, pool photo (Miami Herald file)

June 12, 2015

Joe Garcia insists he knew nothing of 2010 ringer candidate

via @jayhweaver

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia is sticking to his longstanding position that he knew nothing about his onetime campaign manager's recruitment of a ringer tea party candidate in a 2010 Miami congressional election   -- despite just-disclosed emails suggesting otherwise.

"I've been clear on this, and the emails are pretty clear," Garcia told the Miami Herald on Friday.

Not exactly. On Thursday, a federal court document was disclosed that suggests Garcia’s former campaign manager, Jeffrey Garcia, communicated with him by email in February 2010 about his illicit political strategy to recruit a "shadow" candidate to draw votes away from the GOP's David Rivera in the 2010 race.

“If I got a Tea Party candidate in the race, that will improve your odds,” Jeffrey Garcia emailed Joe Garcia, identified as “Candidate A” in the court record.

A week later, Jeffrey Garcia sent Joe Garcia another email entitled: “YOU WILL WIN IF,” followed by a bullet point stating, “Tea Party Candidate (will happen.)”

In April that year, Jeffrey Garcia wrote to the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, stating that “Plan Roli is still moving. I am seeking funding. I have till mid-week next week to execute.”

Continue reading "Joe Garcia insists he knew nothing of 2010 ringer candidate" »

June 11, 2015

Ex-Rep. Joe Garcia may have known about 'shadow' candidate, court record shows

via @jayhweaver

For nearly five years, former Miami Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia has denied that he knew his onetime campaign manager recruited a “shadow” tea party candidate to run in the 2010 congressional election against Garcia’s Republican nemesis, David Rivera.

But a federal court document disclosed Thursday suggests that Garcia’s former campaign manager, Jeffrey Garcia, communicated with him by email in February 2010 about his illicit campaign strategy.

“If I got a Tea Party candidate in the race, that will improve your odds,” Jeffrey Garcia emailed Joe Garcia, identified as “Candidate A” in the court record.

A week later, Jeffrey Garcia sent Joe Garcia another email entitled: “YOU WILL WIN IF,” followed by a bullet point stating, “Tea Party Candidate (will happen.)”

In April that year, Jeffrey Garcia wrote to the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, stating that “Plan Roli is still moving. I am seeking funding. I have till mid-week next week to execute.”

Joe Garcia, who lost his congressional seat last year, has long denied any involvement in his former campaign manager’s violation of federal election laws. He has not been charged in the FBI-led case brought against Jeffrey Garcia and Arrojo.

“Thank goodness that the emails were finally released,” Joe Garcia's defense attorney, David O. Markus, told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “A review of all of the emails proves that Joe had no knowledge of any illegal activity. As we have said from day 1, Joe has done nothing wrong.” 

More here.

April 24, 2015

Feds charge ex-chief of staff to former Rep. Joe Garcia with secretly financing ringer candidate

@PatriciaMazzei @jayhweaver

Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that inspired a more serious copycat case two years later.

Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as another challenger to David Rivera.

Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.

Rivera is suspected of following a similar playbook in 2012 to prop up a Democratic candidate against Joe Garcia. Rivera has not been charged, although two others in that case — the straw candidate and Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — were convicted.

Jeffrey Garcia himself confessed his actions to prosecutors three years after the fact, his attorney said. The charge, filed in U.S. District Court, paves the way for Garcia, 44, to surrender to authorities next week and then plead guilty in the hope of receiving a light sentence. The same outcome is likely for Arrojo, 41.

More here.