Auto Insurance Political Committee Flexes Muscle In Miami Judicial Races
|By David Ovalle, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The large infusion of money from
United Auto's efforts have also sparked unusual campaign drama -- with one candidate's own treasurer resigning in protest over the perception that a special interest group is spending exorbitantly before the
"It's ground-breaking. It's never happened before," lawyer
"It's worrisome when you have an industry that is constantly in court exercising its financial muscle in the election for those who are going to judge it," Lombana said.
The committee is supporting Smith against upstart candidate
He points out that elected judges have long enjoyed legal donations from individual lawyers who appear before them.
"You have to fundamentally believe anyone who gets elected is going to be impartial, no matter who endorses them," Levy said.
But political committees have not traditionally been major players in
In the other hotly contested race -- an open seat pitting ex-
But the United Auto committee, which has sent out mailers supporting Smith and Saenz, has drawn the most scrutiny. This is the first election in which the company has created a committee.
United Auto said Tuesday that it is also supporting a slew of other candidates, though no mailers have been sent yet on their behalf.
"These are candidates that we feel have been fair and unbiased," said
The company has nearly 300 cases before Saenz, according to docket records requested by her opponents. In recent weeks, a slew of lawyers have asked that she recuse herself from cases involving United Auto.
That includes lawyer
"It is crystal clear ... the appearance of impropriety and undue influence on behalf of
On the flip side, the personal injury lawyers have created
"They, of course, have the right and ability to accept help from whomever they wish and run for office. Nevertheless, their criticism of our involvement is hypocritical," Colon said.
In the Smith race, he has broad support from
Smith, once a
His opponent, Carrazana, says he ran against Smith because the judge sided with insurance companies.
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