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Gutter Politics in WPB City Commission Race: Power Players Fund Shanon Materio's Smear Campaign

Hoping to keep her seat on the WPB City Commission, Shanon Materio led off her re-election campaign with the class envy card, trying to paint her opponent, Gregg Weiss, as a dilettante and an elitist.

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Her camp followed that up with a political reverse flip, suggesting Weiss was in bed with revolutionaries, while one of her leading supporters labeled him an anarchist and a Scientologist. All the while, Materio's own list of campaign contributors grew top-heavy with real-estate interests, lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and other insiders. 

Tuesday's election -- a non-partisan affair between two Democrats -- will reveal whether the citizens of West Palm Beach see through her muck.





The golden rule of political reporting, as everyone knows, is "follow the money." Materio had raised $47,305 through February 15. Here's where it came from:

-- $1,500 from executives of the Related Group, which built CityPlace and wants to build a controversial condo project that Materio has waffled on and that Weiss opposes -- Materio having misrepresented his position.

-- $1,000 from "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, Broward land baron and lately an entrant to the waste disposal field, in alliance with the notorious Sun Recycling

(Materio has been a vocal advocate of privatization of municipal services, pushing WPB to consider outsourcing its sanitation services. When New Times asked if she would recuse herself from voting on measures that might impact Bergeron's interests, her campaign declined to give a definitive answer. 

Both campaigns received contributions from sanitation giant Waste Management -- $1,000 to Materio, $500 to Weiss. Weiss told us he is opposed to privatization of municipal sanitation services.)

-- $500 came to Materio from Michael Masanoff, a lawyer/developer caught up in a very ugly legal battle and a massive WPB development scheme

(When New Times asked if Materio would recuse herself from voting on measures that might impact Masanoff's interests, her campaign declined to give a definitive answer.)

Materio received:

-- $500 from Barrett Welles, realtors handling luxury properties on the West Palm Beach waterfront.

-- $500 from water supply/engineering giant CDM Smith.

-- $500 from real estate title company Property Transfer Services.

-- $500 from John Bulfin, general counsel of private prison operator/serial human-rights abuser GEO Group.

-- $500 from Palm Beach banker/real estate investor Alfred Cinque.

-- $500 from Tallahassee power broker Paul Mitchell (brother of WPB City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell).

A big bundle of Materio's support came from out of town, in nearby Lake Worth, where Materio has roots: $2,000 from the family of former Lake Worth Mayor Rodney Romano, $500 from banker John Deese, and even farther afield, $500 from Party City gazillionaire Gerry Rittenberg. The many other construction and real-estate interests in Materio's camp include the sugar barons of Florida Crystals... But you get the idea.

 

Weiss' campaign contributions -- a total of $57,450 through February 15 -- are markedly different. He is largely self-financed, with $25,000 of his own money on the line. The police and firefighters' unions are in for a total of $1,500. 

A significant portion of Weiss' support comes the legal community, particularly criminal defense and personal injury attorneys.

About $5,000 of Weiss' funding comes from individuals and firms involved in real estate and construction (not including $500 from the Florida Realtors PAC, which represents a general interest rather than any particular individual). These are the individuals and firms most likely to do business with the city or to suffer or benefit from its actions. Real estate and construction-related entities coughed up roughly three times as much for Materio as for Weiss.

Those who contributed to both campaigns include the law firms Carlton Fields, Greenberg Traurig and Shutts & Bowen, and local fixtures like the Palm Beach Kennel Club and City Place Retail.

On Weiss' campaign contribution list is something that's almost entirely absent from Materio's: a great many contributions of $50 and less -- some as small as $5. They reflect the base of support Weiss has built among those of modest means, rank-and-file labor and in the Democratic Party, where he has been a leader.

Materio played the class card early in the West Palm Beach race, whining to the media that Weiss' success in business (he's a retired tech executive) frees him to engage in public affairs, while she's merely a struggling businesswoman (she owns an art glass company) and homemaker. Dabbling in a 2010 municipal election in Lake Worth, where she has a business, she originated a macabre and inflammatory hit piece against City Commission candidate Christopher McVoy. In the current contest against Weiss, she refused to distance herself from GOP lobbyist Anita Mitchell's bizarre and stupid "exposé" of Weiss' alleged anarchist, Scientologist leanings, defending Mitchell's grotesque outburst with an "everybody does it" defense.

When her campaign learned that Weiss had neglected to register with local authorities an e-commerce venture as one would a bricks-and-mortar enterprise and had fallen behind on $400 of fees, Materio tried to frame it as another Teapot Dome. (When Weiss learned of his oversight, he promptly acknowledged the error and ponied up.)

Materio supporters have tried to link Weiss to the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, as though that would make him an enemy of the state. Weiss attended and observed some of the local group's early assemblies last year -- along with former Mayor (now U.S. Rep.) Lois Frankel, local union leaders, and hundreds of ordinary citizens. He helped open lines of communication between the protesters and city officials. The occupation had its day in the sun and gradually fizzled out, in contrast to the hard edged approach and resulting chaos in other cities.

To be fair, the Weiss campaign on one occasion employed a questionable tactic, a push poll that painted Materio in an unfavorable light.

Campaign styles are matters of character, not policy, though the two candidates differ on those too -- water supply, zoning matters, a police radio system. But policy positions can change; character is forever. 

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.



 


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