In case you haven’t heard, the Democratic Party in Florida is a scam.
If you want proof, all you have to do is look up how Stephen Bittel BOUGHT his way into becoming chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. You see, the whole point of having a political party is to build upon a foundation for people with common IDEAS and VALUES to push efforts and gain control of the government to enact and govern under those ideals. That’s why people support them and that’s why people (and the STATE) give them MONEY. People TRUST that these parties are conducting themselves in a manner that reflects their voters’ best interest, because, after all, we are a TWO party nation that relies on ONE party to be in direct opposition to the other, right?
And like all things in the world, a political party has agreed-upon rules and bylaws that are SUPPOSED to keep the leadership not only conscious of the will of its base, but also DEMOCRATIC in the way it transfers and retains its positions and seats to effectively avoid nepotism and corruption.
Well, fuck all of that because Stephen Bittel recently used rule-bending shenanigans and his ties to big-money lobbyists to BUY his way into becoming the Florida Democratic Party chairman and now the party is getting sued for it.
If Bittel’s name sounds familiar, this is because he is the same South Beach real-estate mogul and major donor who Wikileaks showed was hosting fundraisers for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, featuring then-Vice President Joe Biden during her “contest” against Tim Canova for DNC chair last year. He’s also the idiot who was hilariously given the ‘shittiest seat in the corner’ at another fundraiser with Obama because that’s how much everyone actually likes him.
According to the lawsuit, Stephen Bittel, along with his buddy Stephanie Grutman, a lobbyist for Ballard Partners (former Donald Trump lobbying firm), conspired with Miami-Dade County Democratic Party (MD-DEC) insider Bret Berlin and Florida Democratic Party insider Bill Rettinger to deliberately bend rules and ignore bylaws to ultimately win Bittel’s seat for chairman of the party. And in return, Bittel rewarded Grutman, Berlin and Rettinger with FDP statewide appointments.
In other words: PAY TO PLAY.
The lawsuit, filed by civil rights activist and life-long member of the Democratic Party, Dr. Mae Christian, and Bernie Sanders delegate and lifelong Democratic Party member, Bruce Jacobs, not only demands relief—by judicial process—to prevent the Florida Democratic Party from ignoring their obligation to enforce their own bylaws, but to REMOVE Stephen Bittel and his illegitimate appointments from the party. Because it’s one thing to be the unpopular winner of a position – it’s an ENTIRELY different thing to be GRANTED that position by insider schemes and having leadership complicit in allowing it.
To be eligible to run for Florida’s State Party Chair in the first place, you have to be a County State Committeeman first. Stephen Bittel recruited HUNDREDS of new, out-of-nowhere people to suddenly apply for and BECOME Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) members. This accomplished two things:
• Inflate the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party membership (without loyalty oaths)
• Force the DEC to have NO CHANCE at reaching a quorum (minimum vote) to conduct ANY business whatsoever
There’s actually a word for this. It’s called “Stuffing the Ballot” and it’s a form of FRAUD. What makes this even more outrageous is that there is PROOF that this was done INTENTIONALLY with the sole purpose of electing Stephen Bittel as Committeeman BEFORE there was even a VACANT seat FOR the County State Committeeman.
Look at the email, which was leaked to the Miami New Times, from lobbyist Stephanie Grutman. In it she says, “We need to sign up 100 new DEC members before Tuesday. These can be registered Democrats anywhere in Miami-Dade County. You do not need to worry about what precinct they live in. They need to physically complete these membership applications then scan and emailed back to you or me. They also need to be available to attend a meeting on the evening of Monday, December 19 and they need to be people you can trust so you can ask them to vote for Stephen Bittel.”
IMPORTANT REMINDER: Notice how the email was written December 4, 2016. That seat that she wants those new DEC members to vote Stephen Bittel for, at the time of the email, was STILL OCCUPIED by a guy named Brett Berlin, who LATER inexplicably RESIGNED from his position as State Committeeman on December 10 – paving the way for Stephen Bittel to slither his way in (which he somehow did 4 days BEFORE Berlin left his spot).
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In other words, Stephanie Grutman KNEW that Brett Berlin was going to resign BEFORE she requested 100 new DEC members to vote for Bittel 4 weeks later. So Berlin dropping out was part of her plan all along – either that or she’s some kind of PSYCHIC WHO CAN PREDICT THINGS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.
And it’s not like there aren’t any rules to this kind of situation. The Miami-Dade DEC Bylaws §3-3.3 states:
“Declaration of Vacancy. In the event a vacancy is declared, the Chair shall notify the Credentials Committee of the vacancy. The Credentials Committee shall verify that all candidates are registered Democrats residing within the appropriate precinct and submit the names of all verified candidates to the County Executive Committee. The vacancy shall be filled by a majority vote of those present at a County Executive Committee meeting at which a quorum is present. The vacancy shall be filled within sixty (60) days of the position being deemed vacant. Whoever is elected to fill the vacancy shall be elected for the unexpired portion of the term.”
Basically, neither Bittel nor his brand-new army of recruits should have been allowed to become committee members without loyalty oaths, without a quorum present or without being qualified by a Credentials Committee. Yet, that didn’t stop him from getting endorsements from party insiders. So take a guess what happened when those pesky rules got in the way. Yeah, you guessed right: Bittel’s co-conspirator, Brett Berlin, SUPSPENDED the rules and allowed all those new DEC members to VOTE Bittel in WITHOUT any loyalty pledge. And when appeals for this came forth, Florida Democratic Party insider, Bill Rettinger, RULED IN FAVOR of Stephen Bittel and his little scheme.
And they got away with it too. Bittel’s appointees are already making their faux-progressive rounds around our South Florida community.
Some real-estate big-money donor is now the head of the Florida Democratic Party. You did it, Democrats. You’re definitely going to defeat all those Republicans THIS time! All joking aside, this is crippling for anyone still holding on to the idea that the party will be magically reformed if enough Berniecrats run against establishment Democrats to ultimately defeat Trump and run his right-wing goons out of every seat in office.
Not to mention that Bittel’s own collogues can’t get along with him and his racially-fueled chauvinism—in which he literally told a fellow lawmaker: “They’re like children, these black lawmakers. They just don’t get it.” He is literally saying this as his shenanigans have caused the DEC to lack the quorum necessary to conduct ANY business for over SIX MONTHS.
Despite all that, at the State Central Committee hearing on June 18th, Bittel’s entourage convinced a crowd of establishment Democrats to “MOVE FORWARD” for the sake of the party. They think that LOBBYING and getting some random idiot with deep pockets seated in the main leadership—by bypassing rules and bylaws— is somehow a GOOD THING.
Remember that time when Bernie Sanders ran to become the party nominee for the Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee deliberately sabotaged his efforts by colluding with the media and using dumb ass tactics like super delegates, closed primaries and voter purging to secure the nomination for the shittier candidate: Hillary Clinton? Of course you do.
No matter how much mainstream media tries to shove the Russian meddling conspiracy down our throats, progressives are well-aware (thanks to Wikileaks) that the real reason we have a Trump presidency right now is because the nation was systematically forced to choose between two Republicans.
The Democratic Party gambled with our country and lost.
Stephen Bittel is EXACTLY the embodiment of what the Democratic National Committee defense lawyers said during their defense hearing on April 25th, 2017 for the DNC Lawsuit filed by Elizabeth and Jared Beck who are representing Bernie Sander supporters:
“[I]f you had a charity where somebody said, Hey, I’m gonna take this money and use it for a specific purpose, X, and they pocketed it and stole the money, of course that’s different. But here, where you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter who runs. You can run Tim Canova (who just announced his rematch campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz), you can run Justice Democrats, you can run Bernie Sanders again, shit, you can even run motherfucking Noam Chomsky – there is absolutely NOTHING preventing the democratic party from pulling rule-bending shenanigans to ultimately take down any and all anti-establishment candidates wanting to reform the party.
THAT is why we have “DEMOCRAT” Senator Bill Nelson saying absolutely NOTHING about the Sabal Trail Pipeline that just started pumping gas through Florida wetlands in June 14th, 2017. THAT is why that same senator voted to give weapons to Saudi Arabia.
THAT is why we have “DEMOCRAT” Debbie Wasserman Schultz who REJECTS single-payer and recreational marijuana – who takes money from big energy, big sugar, big pharma, pay-day loans and even OPENLY THREATENS CAPITOL POLICE OVER HER STAFF MEMBER BEING CRIMINALLY INVESTIGATED AT A FREAKING BUDGETARY MEETING.
THAT is why we have “DEMOCRAT” Gwen fucking Graham who votes (along with the GOP) to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, to gut Dodd-Frank, to keep Guantanamo Bay open and reject clean-water regulations for the EPA.
And the list goes on and on…
Florida is literally sinking into the water. People can’t afford rent. Our older residents are losing coverage. Our immigrant brothers and sisters are living in FEAR of being deported. We have an opioid epidemic. Gun violence is becoming NORMAL in South Florida. We have little to no protection against the next major hurricane.
And when you look at our officials and who they get money from and how they conduct themselves, you come to one simple conclusion: IN FLORIDA, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
You want to elect real progressives for 2018? You want to defeat Trump in 2020? Sorry to disappoint you, but the Democratic Party is not the place to do it from.
Chairman Bittel did not immediately respond to TATM’s request for comment.