Odebrecht Is Portuguese for "Big Money Donor"

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For the past two days, I've noted all the work Miami-Dade County awards Brazilian engineering and construction firm Odebrecht. Despite a history of completing jobs behind schedule and over budget, the company continues to get the nod to build county-funded projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Part of the firm's success has hinged on the ability of Odebrecht's man in Miami to navigate the county's political heirarchy, which usually means ponying up for campaign contributions every election cycle. And Chief Executive Gilberto Neves does it well. During the 2008 primary election, Neves donated $500 apiece to incumbent commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Barbara Jordan, Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, and Natacha Seijas. He also gave $250 to Audrey Edmonson.

What's more, Neves is a big supporter of the YMCA of Greater Miami, which coincidentally employs Seijas as a vice president. Odebrecht's top exec is the Y's board chairman and has also chaired the committee in charge of the nonprofit's annual fundraising gala. Neves's company donated more than $130,000 to the YMCA between 2005 and 2008. On previous occcassions, Neves has told New Times and the Miami Herald that his support of the Y has nothing to do with Seijas. Nevertheless, his involvement creates the perception he is currying favor with his favorite commissioner.


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