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Miami’s Developers Pour Cash Into Mayor Suarez's Presidential Campaign Committee

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced he is running for president last Thursday, and South Florida’s developers are lining up to help fund his long shot bid for the nation’s highest office. 

A super PAC backing Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, pictured at a Bisnow event in 2018, received around $2.6M from developers in December alone.

A super PAC backing Suarez called SOS America raised $6M ahead of his announcement last week, according to federal campaign finance reports reviewed by The Real Deal, with roughly $2.6M coming from Miami’s development community in December alone. 

The developers gave the donations, which ranged from $5K to $500K, before Suarez came under intense scrutiny for the payments he received from developer Location Ventures

The revelations, which were first reported by the Miami Herald, forced the mayor to defend his right to have outside employment. The FBI has opened a criminal probe to investigate the developer, and the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is conducting a separate investigation.

SOS America’s largest donor is Jorge Mas, the billionaire chairman of the construction company MasTec, who provided $500K to the super PAC through two separate entities, TRD reported.

Mas is part owner of the Major League Soccer team Inter Miami, which recently signed Argentine superstar Lionel Messi. The club, whose ownership includes the soccer legend David Beckham, has for years been planning a new soccer stadium and mixed-use development on the site of a county-owned golf course near the Miami International Airport. The golf course has closed, but zoning issues remain at the development site.

The Miami-based real estate investment firm Gencom and the developer Moishe Mana each donated $100K to the Suarez PAC, per TRD.

Gencom is awaiting Miami City Commission approval to enter a new ground lease that would allow it to redevelop the Hyatt Regency and James L. Knight International Center in Downtown Miami. The developer is partnering with Hyatt on the project, which was approved by Miami voters in November but has stalled at the city commission.

Mana is the largest landowner in Downtown Miami, where he has at least 70 properties, and Wynwood, where he has another 17 properties and is planning a 24-acre mixed-use development.

Related Group Chairman Jorge Pérez, Property Markets Group principal Ryan ShearOKO Group founder and Chairman Vlad Doronin, New York-based developer Alex Sapir and Dacra CEO Craig Robins all donated $25K or more to Suarez's PAC, TRD reported.

"[Suarez] is an amazing person, and he has done a great job for Miami," Robins told TRD in an email. "I’m happy he has thrown his name in." 

Suarez's relationships with the real estate industry has embroiled him in controversy.

The FBI opened a criminal investigation into the $10K-per-month payments the mayor was receiving from Location Ventures as it sought approval for a condo project in Coconut Grove, the Miami Herald reported. Suarez, who worked as a real estate attorney before becoming mayor, was paid at least $170K by the development firm while in office.

The mayor’s office said he was being paid to introduce investors to the developer, while Location Ventures CEO Rishi Kapoor said the mayor gave advice about the mix of stores and restaurants at the company’s projects.

Location Ventures is facing a separate Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that began earlier this year and is examining whether Kapoor and his company were selling investment contracts without registering them as securities, misrepresenting potential profits to investors or misappropriating funds for personal expenses, the Herald reported.

In an ad announcing his candidacy last week, Suarez said he was running for president as a Republican to give the children of America “the future they deserve.” He touted Miami’s low taxes, low unemployment and growing economy, noting that “construction is everywhere” in the city. 

Suarez is one of three prominent politicians based in Florida aiming to win the Republican nomination to try and unseat President Joe Biden: Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump previously announced their bids for the White House and are polling as the two leading candidates.