Tallahassee strategist helped boost shadow candidates with black-money ad buying


MIAMI — A longtime political strategist paid more than half a million dollars in deceptive mailers promoting non-party candidates in three key state Senate races in 2020, according to court filings released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade County State’s Attorney’s Office in connection with a public corruption investigation.

Records show Ryan Tyson’s “Let’s Preserve the American Dream” wired $600,000 to “Grow United Inc” on September 29, 2020. A few days later, on October 2, Grow United sent $550,000 to two political committees who paid the deceptive shippers – The Truth and Our Florida – who were set up by Tallahassee consultant Alex Alvarado.

Investigators say the ads were intended to confuse voters in favor of Republican candidates in the races, including two in Miami-Dade and one in Central Florida. Senders featured messages on issues that historically appealed to Democrats and promoted non-party candidates who had not actively campaigned. The ads urge voters to “cut the strings” of party-backed candidates.

Candidates in the three races — Senate Districts 37 and 39 in Miami and Senate District 9 in Seminole County — did not campaign themselves and were announced to voters only through mailers. All three races were won by Republicans.

Ryan Smith, a GOP consultant who owns Tallahassee ’96 Consulting, Alvarado, the son-in-law of the printer who brokered the mail project, and Tyson all received a share of the $550,000 payout.

Until 2019, Tyson served as vice president of the pro-business lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, which denied involvement with the committees.

Prosecutors focused on Tyson and Alvarado as well as Dan Newman, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, and Richard Alexander, the chairman of black money group Grow United. On Dec. 23, 2021, each received what prosecutors call a “before” letter, which typically precedes criminal charges in a case. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed.

Related: Prominent Florida political consultants could face criminal charges in bogus candidate case

It is not illegal to mislead voters or to pay for misleading postal advertisements.

Filings released as part of pre-trial discovery in the case of former Republican Senator Frank Artiles, who faces multiple charges related to the non-party candidate who ran in District 37, were received by the Miami Herald Tuesday.

Court records show Tyson, the executive director of Let’s Preserve the American Dream, told investigators that in his role as director, it was his idea to send money to Grow United in an effort to help candidates “left of center”. He said he was initially approached by Jeff Pitts, a consultant who controlled Grow United and now runs a Tallahassee-based company called Canopy Partners LLC.

Get Florida Politics Info

Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter

Political Editor Emily L. Mahoney will send you previews of local, state and national political coverage every Thursday.

You are all registered!

Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s start.

Explore all your options

Miami-Dade County Assistant District Attorney Tim VanderGiesen asked Tyson during a Sept. 30 interview, “Did you know when that $600,000 was sent to Grow United, that $550,000 went to the two committees policies of Alex Alvarado?”

“I had a hunch they would help them,” Tyson replied.

During the interview, Tyson also told VanderGiesen that Preserve the American Dream has reimbursed Alvarado for legal fees since the public corruption investigation began.

“I don’t think a single donor who ever contributed to Preserve the American Dream would ever believe that Alex Alvarado was committing a crime,” Tyson said.

An ongoing criminal investigation

The candidate for Senate District 37, who shares a surname with the incumbent Democratic and garnered more than 6,000 votes in an election decided by 32, was arrested last year on four campaign finance charges. Auto parts dealer Alexis Pedro Rodriguez later entered a plea deal in exchange for helping prosecutors build a case against his acquaintance, Artiles. Investigators say Artiles paid Rodriguez $40,000 to run as a non-party candidate to influence the election outcome.

The two men were charged with conspiracy to make or accept campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, accepting and making such excess campaign contributions, perjury oaths in connection with an election and aiding (and possibly submitted) false election information. Under state law, each of these charges carries penalties of up to five years in prison if convicted.

Preserve the American Dream has paid more than $125,000 to Artiles’ Atlas consultants for “South Florida research services” dating back to 2017. The last payment to Artiles’ company was on November 15, 2020 , three days after the Democratic incumbent lost to Senate District 37. in a manual recount.

Tyson seeks to block recordings

Tyson’s attorneys have asked a Miami Circuit Court judge to block the release of bank records that would disclose his donors, arguing that releasing such information would violate donors’ constitutional rights and could “chill speech across the spectrum.” Politics”.

Related: Black money group asks judge to block bank records that would reveal donors

Records released Tuesday also show that Tyson’s attorneys emailed Hancock Whitney Bank, asking it to review relevant documents before they were forwarded to the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s Office. .

His attorneys argued that the release of bank statements that would show Let’s Preserve the American Dream’s donations and contributions, from February 2020 through August 2021, is “irrelevant” to Artiles’ case.

No charges have been brought against Tyson or his black money organization, and none have been charged with wrongdoing, his lawyers said. They also said Tyson voluntarily appeared for an interview with prosecutors to “demonstrate that the LPAD complies with all state, federal and local laws.”

Unlike political committees, which are legally required to disclose their donors, black money groups are not required by law to do so, making them useful for funders who do not want their identities revealed. when they support certain campaigns or causes.


Comments are closed.