Politics

Miami-Dade GOP Chair Nelson Diaz to Ron Paulers: I'm No Liberal, Let's Work Together

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: January 8, 2013 3:55 AM
Nelson Diaz and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

New Miami-Dade GOP chair Nelson Diaz and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

The weeks following historic electoral gains by the Ron Paul “liberty movement” in the Miami-Dade County GOP have not been smooth ones for new chairman Nelson Diaz, accused by some of the Texas congressman’s libertarian supporters of being a “closet liberal” and “Democrat collaborator.”

Diaz’s greatest offense? A 2009 donation of $250 to the re-election campaign of a Democratic congresswoman from Florida. And not just any Democratic congresswoman.

Diaz’s contribution  was to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who since 2011 has been chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Two emails outlining that and various other charges of closet liberalism have gone viral in the days since Sunshine State News told the story of the gains made by the “liberty movement” at the Dec. 18 Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee (REC) election.

In an exclusive interview with the News, Diaz defended himself against the principal charges.

“Over the past five or six years, I’ve given almost $25,000 to Republican candidates, from Mike Huckabee to Marco Rubio to John McCain, all the way down to Senator [Anitere] Flores and others down here in South Florida,” he told the News. “If anyone wants to talk numbers or question my Republican credentials ... I’m not rich, I’m not a millionaire, but I’ve given almost $25,000 of my money to Republicans.”

Sunshine State News has confirmed that Diaz has personally contributed at least $22,849 to state and federal Republican candidates and organizations since Nov. 29, 2005. Diaz insists his 2009 contribution to Schultz – made the same year he gave $1,000 to Marco Rubio’s Senate campaign – was a fluke, something he did to appease his colleagues at Becker & Poliakoff, the law firm for which he works as an attorney and a lobbyist.

“I work for a law firm that raises money for both parties; we’ve given tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans,” he tells the News. “Every now and then, they ask me to participate in a Democratic event and I say, ‘No.’ Finally, at one point they insisted they needed help with one particular race: Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s. They asked me to contribute $2,500 and I said, ‘No way in hell; that’s a real check, and a real check means you believe in her.’ But a tiny check, 10 percent of what they asked for, was a way of getting them off my back.”

Diaz, 34, says he’s been registered Republican his whole adult life and has spent every summer since 1995 working to get Republicans elected to higher office, campaigning for the likes of presidential candidate Bob Dole and now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. He emphatically disclaims any sympathy for the ideas or political agenda of Wasserman Schultz.

“I share absolutely nothing in common with her. She’s wrong on everything; her philosophy is going to destroy this country,” he insists. “I don’t believe in anything she stands for. The only reason I gave that check was to help out my law firm, which had helped me thousands and thousands of times over again, giving thousands of dollars to Republicans at my request.”

One of the other allegations circulating is that Diaz has lobbied for “green energy” companies to receive taxpayer-funded corporate welfare. Diaz tells the News he has never personally lobbied for such, though he admits his firm has.

And he says the claim, contained in one email, that he “lobbies for ... exclusive gambling rights for certain companies,” is just plain false.

“I represent a pari-mutuel company that owns a casino in Broward County,” he clarifies. “My client is very much in favor of allowing open competition in the gaming market and allowing whomever is licensed and regulated properly to open up.”

Diaz does concede the truth to at least one of the allegations circulating: he does indeed lobby for county and municipal installment of controversial red light cameras, which are the bane of civil libertarians and privacy advocates of both the political right and the left. And he does so proudly.

“There was an article in the Miami Herald [recently] about how accidents at red lights have decreased significantly in my home town, Miami; and I think that speaks for itself,” he tells the News. “Yes, I do represent the red light camera people – and for the record, a Republican Legislature passed that bill and a Republican governor signed that bill into law. So they can’t tell me that’s a Democratic cause. And people's lives are being saved as a result of it.”

Grassroots activist Manny Roman, a former district committeeman whose term expired Dec. 1 and and who ran the Miami-Dade component of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in Florida, has emerged as the de facto leader of the “liberty movement” in the county. He distanced himself from the incendiary emails circulating about Diaz, but suggested they might be due to efforts made by Diaz and others over the last several months to unseat most of the 48 to 51 Paul supporters who were elected to the REC in August.

According to Roman, a high-ranking party employee tipped him off in early December that party leaders were seeking to disqualify as many of the August electoral victors as possible, over hyper-technicalities. One was the fact that most of them, following instructions on the party website, only filed their Republican loyalty oaths with the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections office, failing to file an additional copy with the party as the official party rules require.

Secondly, the employee told Roman that party leaders would attempt to disqualify elected commiteemen on the grounds that they were not registered Republicans for a full 365 days prior to the start of the candidate qualifying period. Several of the Paul sympathizers had no party affiliation before throwing their hats in the electoral ring, and Florida law does require that primary candidates not have been a member of “any other political party” for one year prior to the qualifying period; but Roman obtained a letter from an attorney at the Department of State confirming that “No Party Affiliation” is not, in fact, a political party for purposes of the statute.

Sixteen district committeemen-elect sent a letter to now-former Miami-Dade GOP Chairman Ben Powell on Dec. 5, respectfully warning him against disqualifying candidates on either of these two grounds, and days later received assurances they wouldn’t be.

Diaz did not deny that he sought enforcement of official GOP rules, which he says would have disqualified some of his own supporters as well, but says he’s let bygones be bygones and is no longer seeking to unseat the Paul supporters.

“I let it go; what we did was basically grant them amnesty,” Diaz tells the News. “The Ron Paul people are good people. I’m not trying to disqualify them. I’m not going to pursue it. I could have filed a legal challenge or grievance, but I’m not going to do any of that stuff. We need quality, energetic people like them.”

Roman suggests that one other factor fueling conservative discontent over Diaz is the latter’s disputing the December election of Paul-supporter Rosa Palomino as REC vice chairwoman. Despite her being announced the winner on Dec. 18, and being sworn in by Diaz himself, opponents of her candidacy insist she was not the true winner because she received only a plurality of the votes instead of the required majority. They’re insisting she face a runoff election.

Diaz tells the News he’s not fueling opposition to Palomino.

“I will abide by whatever our general counsel says; I’m a neutral party in this,” he says. “All I care about is the welfare of the party and adherence to the rules.”

Diaz insists there’s not much ideological difference between himself and the Paul supporters, and urges some of their more vocal members to tone down their rhetoric and work for party unity.

“At the end of the day, I consider myself relatively libertarian,” he tells the News. “I’m very much in favor of people doing with their money what they wish, for doing in their bedroom what they wish, with as little government intervention as possible. I was opposed to the lousy fiscal cliff bill that Congress just passed, raising taxes on us, and I'm very disappointed it passed in a Republican House. I don’t think the Paul people and I are very far apart at all.”

Roman has had several meetings with Diaz since the Dec. 18 elections, which Roman says have left him optimistic that a rapprochement between the local “liberty movement” and the local Republican establishment is on the horizon.

“I appreciate Nelson's expressed openness to the message of liberty; he has expressed a good-faith effort in working together and making the local party a change vehicle for energized libertarian-Republicans,” Roman told the News. “As we work together to help Republicans win election, I hope that the party will see that liberty is the core value holding together the Republican coalition.”

Diaz echoed those hopes.

“I don’t want to belittle what the Paul people feel and what they represent; they’re good people, they want the same things I want,” he tells the News. “My No. 1  priority is to get young people more involved in the party, increasing our voter registration, and getting Rick Scott and Jennifer Carroll re-elected in 2014.

“I’m not going to give away the secrets or the plan, but we have a lot of hard work to do in making being a Republican cool again.”



Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

Comments (9)

Juan Selaya
9:39AM AUG 31ST 2014
Story just read is history. We learn from history.What we have from this
story is that Republicans welcome new ideas from groups and persons
that can strengthen, and conserve the basic ideology of the Republican
Party regardless of the name they come with. I am always willing to listen to anyone who comes in good faith, with an idea to better our
message without changing our message. A change of ideology as has
been forced down the people of the United States by the extremist left
liberals of the Democratic party during the last administration is what
in addition to have been proven a failure is not acceptable by even
the real Americans of the Democratic Party who are now senior former
veterans and members of the so called baby boomers who worked to
live a safe and decent retired life. Lets hope they realize the country
needs to be re-directed before it is lost. To socialism.
Spooner
7:42AM JAN 9TH 2013
Another establishment fraud with a very clear conflict of interest, who has ADMITTED to letting that conflict of interest influence his decision making? I was just thinking the other day, you know what politics needs more of.... LOBBYING!
Anti-Lobbyist
11:12AM JAN 8TH 2013
There's always going to be a problem with lobbyists openly controlling political parties. The lobbyist will always have a conflict of interest and have to put business interests ahead of ideology.

Elected officials don't like it either because it just that much more leverage that the lobbyist can use to influence the elected officials.
Voltaire
10:56AM JAN 8TH 2013
It's called the 'liberty movement' and it is nothing more than a resurgence of the core values that are supposed to distinguish us from Democrats. I would suggest that people who identify themselves as 'conservatives' or 'tea party' get on board with this.

I do have one problem with what Diaz has said here. He says that traffic light cameras are a Republican issue on the reasoning that it passed a Republican legislature. Well, the fiscal cliff deal passed a Republican House - by his reasoning that deal is also Republican. He also justifies it by saying 'it saves lives.' This is liberal reasoning: that government inaction kills people. The same argument he makes can justify banning guns.

Liberty is the reason we don't ban guns, and liberty is the reason these cameras are a terrible idea. I don't think Mr. Diaz really understands these matters, but I truely hope he engages the liberty republicans on an intellectual level as well as on a practical 'doing the party work' level.
RQB
3:59PM JAN 8TH 2013
Don't be stupid. If you don't want traffic control signals or speed limits, then get to work doing away with them. If you do see some rational need for them, then why on earth would you oppose any measure that ensures both the traffic signals and the speed limits are adhered to? It seems there's a huge disconnect between people who preach less government, more efficient government, then opt to have laws on the books that are widely ignored or opt to spend fortunes on ineffective hit or miss enforcement by individual enforcement officers. Go figure. Hypocrites are hypocrites on every issue and in every venue..
Voltaire
5:30PM JAN 8TH 2013
You're name-calling indicates that you are not a rational person seeking an honest discussion. That being said, I will respond just this once to show the readers the trouble with your arguments.

You are fine with traffic light cameras to enforce traffic signals and speed limits. My question to you would be where is the line? How about little gps devices in your car that fine you every time you go 0.01% over the speed limit? How about radar machines all over our town that will catch you everytime you go over the speed limit? You also ignore constitutional questions, such as do you have a right to defend these fines in court. For a time you didn't and that was ruled unconstitutional. I am not sure what the status of that is now, but there are several issues involved. How about issues of crony-capitalism - who gets the contracts for all this stuff? How about the studies that show that these programs actually reduce revenue because of their expenses to instal and administer?

I draw the line at having traffic laws and having them enforced by officers who catch the violation. You apparantly set no line for which you say to the government 'you can only go this far an no more.'

BTW, you sound like a progressive - you should note that these cameras are put in the poorest areas of town and most tickets go against lower middle class to low income individuals. Way to stand up for them!
Really?
9:41AM JAN 8TH 2013
"The weeks following historic electoral gains by the Ron Paul “liberty movement” in the Miami-Dade County GOP"

Really? Historic gains?

"some of the Texas congressman’s libertarian supporters"

Is Ron Paul still in Congress?
Chris Rodriguez
10:42AM JAN 8TH 2013
I think that its lazy on part of both Establishment folks and the Media to label everyone who wants to enter into the GOP as a "Ron Paulers."

It's ridiculous... and like you mention, Ron Paul is no longer in Congress. Don't worry I'm sure someone is thinking up a name to call newcomers to the Party that'll put them in their place...
bea thomass
7:21AM JAN 8TH 2013
These people never want to admitted that there are talking with a forky tongue I had problems with both of the daiz not one would work with me this is all a big fat joke digging. Pits with firmly tongues don't work

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