By Francisco Alvarado, BrowardBulldog.org
Since helping elect Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez three years ago, Brian Goldmeier is South Florida’s least known, yet most sought after political rainmaker.
Goldmeier, a 31-year-old professional fundraiser, has collected $627,359 in consulting fees since 2011, according to campaign finance reports submitted by his clients. He has raised money for Gimenez, three Miami-Dade County commissioners, and promoted a slew of successful referendums that included a $1.2 billion bond issue for Miami-Dade Public Schools and an additional half penny sales tax to help operate Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Goldmeier also has expanded into heavily-Democratic Broward County where he’s in charge of enlisting political donors to show up at County Mayor Barbara Sharief’s upcoming $1,000-a-pop fundraiser “per person, business entity & PAC.” The event is set for June 25 at YOLO restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The hustling Goldmeier’s meteoric rise signals a new trend in the local realm of political fundraising. Candidates and political action committees are turning to Goldmeier to do the dirty work of picking the pockets of lobbyists, non-profit groups, and companies doing business with county government.
“Raising money is the thing every candidate hates to do,” says Miami public relations consultant Ric Katz. “Having someone brazen enough to get people to open up their wallets takes the pressure off them. Brian is very good at that.”
FIRST JOB WITH ALEX SINK
Alex Sink, who gave Goldmeier his first political job raising money for her failed 2010 gubernatorial bid, says he is one of the most tenacious people she’s met.
“He doesn’t take no for an answer,” Sink says. “You can’t be shy in the world of political fundraising.”
So who is Goldmeier? Despite his high-profile status and in-your-face style, he shies away from the public eye. He did not respond to two emails and two voice messages on his cell phone requesting comment.
Goldmeier, the son of Miami-based shopping mall and hotel developer Barry Goldmeier, graduated from Cheshire Academy, a Connecticut boarding school, and then earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Endicott College in Massachusetts, according to online newsletters for both academic institutions. Following his college graduation in 2002, Goldmeier worked several years as an events coordinator and tennis coach for Endicott.
Sink met Goldmeier in 2008. He had returned to Miami as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton during her failed bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. A year later, Sink hired him to raise money based on a friend’s recommendation. He sought donors from the office of Brian May, a Miami-Dade lobbyist who was subsequently fired from the Sink campaign after he broke the rules of a debate prohibiting electronic messages being sent to the candidates.
“Brian has no problem asking people for money,” says May. “In the Sink campaign, he pushed hard. At times, donors would get a little ruffled and the higher-ups in the campaign would get upset at him.”
Sink acknowledged that she or others had to reign in Goldmeier’s aggressiveness on occasion. “Oh sure, I had complaints about him,” she says. “Sometimes, you have to tell him to wait a minute and hit the pause button.”
GIMENEZ’S FINANCE DIRECTOR
After Sink’s narrow defeat, Goldmeier stayed in Miami, landing a job as finance director for then-county commissioner Gimenez’s political action committee, Common Sense Now. His first payment was for $5,750 on Dec. 1, 2010.
Four months later, voters recalled then-Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Gimenez decided to throw his name on the ballot for a special election in May 2011 to elect a new mayor. With Goldmeier continuing to raise campaign donations, Gimenez entered a crowded field that included then-Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente.
“With Gimenez, it was tough at the beginning for Brian,” May says. “By the time Gimenez made the runoff, Brian had refined his approach, using a softer touch with donors.”
Goldmeier continued dialing for dollars immediately after Gimenez beat Robaina in the June 2011 run-off. The mayor had a short window to amass another war chest before the next election in August 2012. Common Sense Now collected close to $2 million in a one-year span, mostly due to Goldmeier’s relentless soliciting of campaign donations from people doing business at County Hall.
For his efforts, Gimenez’s political action committee paid Goldmeier’s firm, BYG Strategies, $220,076 in consulting fees, plus a $20,000 bonus. In addition, Goldmeier got another $44,919 from Gimenez’s re-election campaign.
One lobbyist, who asked to remain anonymous, says he disliked Goldmeier from the moment he met him. “I promised Gimenez I would raise a few bucks for him,” the lobbyist says. “That led to Brian calling me every half-hour. The guy’s a jerk, but he is effective.”
Goldmeier has parlayed Gimenez’s victories into more fundraising jobs. Building for Tomorrow, a political action committee organized to promote a successful $1.2 billion bond issue for Miami-Dade Public Schools in 2012, paid BYG $74,507.
During the same election cycle, he pocketed $9,000 in fees from another political action committee that pushed a referendum to expand the Key Biscayne Tennis Center. Goldmeier made $154,046 in fees raising money for last year’s Jackson Memorial Hospital campaign for an extra half penny sales tax. The Miami Dolphins also retained him, doling out $9,000 in consulting fees for a referendum that never happened because the Legislature rejected owner Stephen Ross’ attempt to put public financing of Sun Life Stadium improvements on the ballot.
RACKING UP CONSULTING FEES
Today, Goldmeier is working the phones on behalf of the re-election campaigns of incumbent Miami-Dade county commissioners, Lynda Bell, Jean Monestime and Jose “Pepe” Diaz. So far, Diaz is running unopposed.
Commissioners’ campaign finance reports show that Goldmeier’s firm to date has racked up $43,451 in consulting fees. Political action committees supporting the commissioners have paid BYG another $52,360. He’s mainly been tasked with corralling prominent donors for events featuring Gimenez and politically connected hosts.
For instance, Goldmeier set up an April 2013 fundraiser for Bell hosted by the mayor at the house of Rafael and Vicky Garcia-Toledo. Rafael Garcia-Toledo was Gimenez’s campaign finance chairman and chauffeured the mayor to events during the 2011 special election and the 2012 re-election campaigns. Garcia-Toledo’s wife is a high-powered lobbyist whose clients include Genting Group, the Malaysian casino giant and owner of the old Miami Herald headquarters.
The host committee included some prominent Democrats, such as attorney Alex Heckler, who has raised tens of thousands for the Clintons, and Freddie Balsera, a political consultant who is President Obama’s main pitchman to Hispanics in Florida. Interestingly, Bell is one of the most conservative Republicans on the county commission.
Bell, Monestime, and Diaz did not return phone calls seeking comment.