For those of you who don't follow Miami Beach politics, let me bring you up to speed.
Three candidates are running to become Miami Beach's next mayor: former comedian Steve Berke, current Miami Beach commissioner Michael Gongora, and millionaire businessman Philip Levine.
This is Berke's second attempt at becoming Beach mayor and Gongora's first. Levine is a political novice....who's acting like a political novice, and some say, a total dork.
Being a complete stranger to the world of politics, and a babe in the woods when it comes to talking to the press, Levine has surrounded himself with some very sleazy people who apparently have never heard of the First Amendment.
In the past couple of weeks, Levine's attack dogs have gone after a blogger, threatening him with a lawsuit and lodging complaints against him with the Florida Elections Commission and the Miami-Dade Commission Ethics and Public Trust.
In another instance, one of Levine's handlers, political consultant David Custin, threatened former Miami Herald writer and political blogger Elaine de Valle, after she tried to contact Levine for a piece she was writing.
Levine campaign attorney, JC Planas, followed up on Custin's threats with a threat of his own: He told de Valle he was going to call the State Attorney’s Office and file stalking charges against her.
Today, on her blog Political Cortadito, de Valle goes into more detail on Levine's clumsy, ham-fisted attempts to silence his critics using threats of lawsuits.
It’s not new or specific to the 305. The lawsuits also happen in California and other states. It has become so commonplace there is a term to describe it: “SLAPPs,” or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”
It’s always easier when the person doing the SLAPPin’ has loads of money to spend on burdensome and frivolous lawsuits that are only there for the sake of misdirection and distraction. In Levine’s campaign — where the man has spent over $1 million for a job that pays $10,000 a year — it’s probably a budgeted item under legal expenses.
Yesterday, the Miami Herald's Christina Veiga tried to sort all this out by writing a story that attempted to examine the accusations that Levine was trying to silence his and bully his critics.
When Veiga tried to contact Levine for his side of the story, he refused to talk to her.
Instead, Levine - a millionaire who's used to getting his way - got the last laugh on the Herald, using the paper like his little bitch and bullying the paper's editors into complete and total submission.
Veiga writes, "Through his campaign consultant, Philip Levine refused to answer questions about his response to political attacks on the telephone. Instead, his campaign manager, Alex Miranda, emailed this statement to a Miami Herald reporter, which is reprinted here in full."
Miranda sent his email with these instructions:
You are only authorized to write the answers below, verbatim. You are NOT allowed to edit or paraphrase these on the record answers. You can reference the responses as, 'Philip Levine’s campaign responded in writing for the record citing concern that The Miami Herald’s bias in this election would result in a distortion of his answers.
The Herald published Levine's unedited answers - in full - both online and in this morning's paper.
|Miami Herald, Oct. 30, 2013, page 4B.|
Click here to enlarge.
I asked one veteran South Florida journalist for his opinion of the Herald's handling of this.
This is highly unusual and the Herald handled it improperly. By rolling over and abdicating its journalistic prerogative, the Herald just established a damaging precedent - every candidate for every race now can demand similar treatment: "Print my statement in whole because you did it for that other candidate."
The proper way to handle it would have been to report the candidate's demand and then ignore it, with an editor's note explaining why it had to be ignored.