The war over House District 25 just keeps getting hotter, with the latest accusations involving a former aide to Marco Rubio, a 19-year-old college student, and an alleged attempt to “smear” Democrat Joe Garcia for the benefit of Rubio “disciple” David Rivera.
From the Miami Herald today:
A 19-year-old Florida State University student says a Republican lobbyist conned him into sending mailers attacking Democratic congressional candidate Joe Garcia.
The fliers, which try to tie Garcia to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, were sent by a political group recently formed by student Matthew Slider. But Slider said he never saw the fliers featuring Garcia’s picture over a Cuban flag with the universal “no” symbol over it. Slider had declined to comment on the mailer last week when a story first appeared in The Miami Herald.
Then, over the weekend, he sent out a sworn statement saying he had been tricked by Tallahassee lobbyist Evan J. Power into believing he was helping the campaign of Luis Meurice, a lesser-known Democrat also running for the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
“Certainly this makes me look like an idiot,” Slider said, adding that he felt badly that mailers with “racist overtones” were sent out under his name.
Slider also sent The Herald a screenshot of the political action committee’s bank account, showing a balance of $100 — not enough to fund the mailers.
Power was fired from his job at Gomez Barker and Associates Monday after the lobbyist’s boss, Fausto Gomez, learned about Power’s involvement with the mailers.
Slider said he now believes the mailers were designed to help the campaign of state Rep. David Rivera, the leading Republican in the race. Power is a former staffer for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, a close friend and ally of Rivera’s.
“Evan Power told me that despite the difference in their political parties, he was supporting Luis Meurice and cited polls, which I never saw, that supposedly claimed Mr. Meurice would be a strong general election candidate versus David Rivera,” Slider said in his sworn statement.
… Slider said he met Power through a friend, fellow FSU student Chris Spencer. Spencer and Power told him they needed a registered Democrat to head the political group and showed him copies of a positive mailer they planned to send out that outlined Meurice’s best qualities. That mailer was never sent.
… Power is also the ex-boyfriend of Erin Di Cesare, a former FSU student with no political background who was set up to front another political group that sent racially tinged attack mailers in 2009.
Here’s a picture of the mailer, which went to voters in Collier County:
The Garcia campaign blasted the Rubio-Rivera axis Wednesday, and the campaign even alleged that there may be criminality at work:
This makes David Rivera supporter Evan Power an accomplice in a serious federal crime, since the mail piece was directly funded using private dollars and circumvented the organization that’s listed in the mail piece’s “paid for” disclaimer.
More details from the Naples Daily News:
A Florida State University junior and registered Democrat, Slider said he has been involved in student government and wants to go into politics after college.
“Which is why I was intrigued by this prospect (of starting a so-called 527 political group),” Slider said. “I expected to run a PAC, put that on my resume and meet a couple of people in Tallahassee.”
In an affidavit provided to the Daily News, Slider said he met with his friend, Chris Spencer, and Republican lobbyist Evan Power at Power’s Tallahassee office on Monday.
The meeting, Slider said Saturday, was set up at the behest of Spencer — someone he trusted. At the meeting, Slider said Power told him about the District 25 race and suggested he should form an organization, under the name Progressives for Prosperity, to support Luis Meurice’s campaign.
Slider said Power told him that despite the difference in their political parties, he was supporting Meurice and cited polls claiming Meurice would be a strong general election candidate against GOP hopeful David Rivera.
Slider said he was assured that he would get to see and approve any piece of mail sent out by the 527 group and that no mail had yet been distributed.
“With those assurances in mind, I signed documents to form the organization, provided to me by Evan Power,” Slider said in the affidavit.
A few days later, Slider said he got a call from the Miami Herald regarding a negative mailer by his group that had been received by voters in Collier.
“I just didn’t believe it,” Slider said.
…What struck him most about the mailer, he said, was that it was sent from Miami on Saturday July 17, but the group wasn’t formed until Monday.
“It all just clicked,” Slider said. “I realized I had been duped.”
However on Saturday, Power denied knowing anything about who sent the anti-Garcia mailer.
“I have not approved a mailer or sent a mailer on behalf of that organization,” Power said. “That organization has not raised money and not spent money. Someone has sent the mailer without the knowledge of the organization. It was as much a shock to me as to Matt.”
Both the Meurice and Rivera campaigns deny any involvement, and the Garcia campaign is reportedly considering legal action.
The 25th Congressional district is one of the largest in the state, and its changing demographics (including a relative decline in the share of older, hardline Cuban-Americans,) is making the seat more competitive. Garcia came within about 5 points of winning it two years ago, and lots of political watchers believe that’s why Mario Diaz-Balart fled to the safer seat his brother Lincoln bequeathed to him.