It’s the last week in October of 2010. The highly contested election of Florida’s governor is coming to an end. Waiting. Reading. Watching. Listening. Waiting. Will it be Alex Sink or Rick Scott? That’s when I received a call from the Florida’s Democratic Party, Director of Party Affairs who was working out of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party offices during these final stretches in the race and had just received a monetary contribution for the local party. As the 2008-2011 Miami-Dade Democratic Party Treasurer, I would be responsible for the $10,000 check from a local South Florida business, Wayne Rosen, Inc.
Being Treasurer was an honor for me and I appreciated the importance of my role. Managing the capital account of the Democratic Executive Committee meant that I was in charge of authorizing expenditures, monitoring contributions, keeping records and signing all reports and statements on time. As an active, licensed insurance agent with the Florida Department of Financial Services and the business owner of a highly regulated organic wine importing and distribution business at that time, I took (and continue to take) all of my appointed fiduciary positions very seriously.
In Miami-Dade County, there is no law that limits how much an individual or corporation can contribute to a Political Executive Committee (Local Political Party). This is a loophole that is often leveraged by the special, big-money interests that are otherwise capped when contributing directly to the political campaign of a local, state or federal candidate.
“In Miami-Dade County, there is no law that limits how much an individual or corporation can contribute to a Political Executive Committee (Local Political Party).”
In the case of this $10,000 check, over $9,850 was already indirectly earmarked two days after I received the contribution with invoices provided to me by the FDP Director of Party Affairs. These invoices were from Williams & Associates Consultant Group, Inc. for canvassing and consulting services. The fact that these expenditures had never been discussed or approved at a previous Steering Committee board meeting, which I sat on, is what raised a red flag. I immediately began research via the Florida Department of Corporations website to discover who the registered agent(s) was for the two entities.
Here’s what I discovered:
The registered agent (President) for Williams & Associates Consultant Group Inc. was Jimmie L. Williams, 111 a sitting Councilman for the City of Homestead in Miami-Dade County.
The entity was incorporated on October 25th, 2010.
That's (2) days before the Party was invoiced for its services.
The registered corporation had no previous history of rendering the services for which it was invoicing.
The registered agent for Wayne Rosen, Inc. was Wayne Rosen, a South Florida businessman and developer.
Wayne Rosen had extensive business interests in the City of Homestead, including property outside of the Urban Development Boundary.
In conclusion, not only did I refuse to execute the checks for the invoices, I informed the FDP Director of Party Affairs that I was refunding Wayne Rosen, Inc.’s contribution of $10,000. Late in the evening of November 1st, 2010, after I discussed my decision with the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairman. I drove to our offices on Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach and I personally handed back the refund check to the FDP Director of Party Affairs.
It was in that very moment as a public servant when I realized that Campaign Finance Reform would start with me.
By Gabriel Mendoza
How a political start-up took two competing legacy brands (Bush and Clinton) out of business while disrupting an industry that was in need of change. It’s initial marketing teaser campaign not only left millions of impressions, it successfully converted them to tens of millions of votes, and it won the coveted award of President-elect of the United States of America. That startup is Donald Trump Inc, its very successful teaser campaign was the “Birther Movement,” and its brand positioning was “Make America Great Again.”
As in any industry that is ripe for disruption, understanding its target market and providing a solution to that market’s problem is a vital factor. Its plan of execution zeroed in on a niche market that never embraced the progressive and innovative startup Barack Obama Inc that was within the Democrat holding company. The outsiders felt left out from the usual startup parties while the typical insiders toasted their returns with their investors. Some of these insiders included a legacy brand that held a strong position in the market because of its name recognition. The brand lacked innovation, had experienced several political market crashes, and in 2003 made a terrible investment in the Iraq War. Lack of judgment by Hillary Clinton Inc allowed for the Barack Obama startup to not only disrupt it but also acquire it and appoint it to run the Department of State. Who better than an industry veteran, Hillary Clinton, to visit other legacy global brands around the world, which yearned to have access to the most innovative and transformational startup that the American political industry had ever seen. With its international success also came its domestic critics, as it rolled out one progressive measure after the other, beat analyst expectations and increased its political market share and value. Competition fosters innovation and advances opportunities for brands that are willing and ready to disrupt the status quo with the right solutions.
The latest startup to disrupt Washington politics is not its first; it is version 2.0, and half of the U.S. already has a serious problem with it. Targeted outsiders have already been left out, and Donald Trump and his insiders have just begun the usual celebratory toast of a startup’s successful launch. I’m ready to invest in version 3.0 with the following conditions: The next disruptor offers all outsiders the opportunity to invest in their futures and will collectively and creatively collaborate to advance a teaser campaign that will leave a positive impression on all Americans. It will also understand that the United States of America’s brand position has always been extraordinary. Let us all celebrate together because exclusivity to only insiders and marginalized outsiders is not a smart long-term strategy.
The question I pose is the following: Which startup is getting ready to seize the incredible opportunity to advance the next version of political innovations in an industry that once again is ripe for change? The opportunity for the next startup is a groundbreaking one not only for our nation but for a disruptor who embraces competition and is ready to advance the innovation that version 2.0 lacks. If Donald Trump won the presidency, I have no doubt that a private sector individual, such as Howard Schultz, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, etc., is ready to compete, win, and advance positive disruption as president of our United States of America in version 3.0.
By Gabriel Mendoza