Miami's Questionable Diaz de La Portilla Dynasty Ready For Another Chapter
In 1994, Alex won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives on his third try. He beat incumbent Carlos Manrique by a three-to-one margin despite Manrique's disclosure that Alex's driver's license had been suspended 16 times since 1982. He had been accused of speeding, improper turning, and failing to yield. He had also repeatedly missed court hearings.
That impressive driving record didn't stop Alex from getting elected to the state senate in 2000. Political analysts credited the victory partially to his brother Miguel's reputation, but it turned out there were other reasons as well. In 2001, the Florida Elections Commission levied an astounding $311,000 fine against Alex after finding his senate campaign violated election reporting laws several hundred times by failing to report $29,670 in campaign contributions, a cash deposit of $10,000, and a transfer of $15,000 from his personal account into his campaign account. He was also charged with more than two dozen criminal misdemeanors for filing an unlawful campaign report.
Six months after the ruling, an appeals court reduced the fine to $8,750, and in 2002 a jury acquitted him. Alex always maintained he did not intentionally break the law and accused the elections commission of playing dirty politics. One of then-Gov. Jeb Bush's handpicked commissioners, he pointed out, was a legislative lobbyist who represented the Marlins franchise when he killed a sales tax proposal to help pay for a new baseball stadium.
Indeed, voters and colleagues seemed to accept that claim. Alex was elected senate president pro tempore from 2002 to 2004 and senate leader from 2008 to 2010. He was term-limited out of the senate and then ran for the house in 2012 and lost. (He's been less financially successful than Miguel. According to his last financial disclosure form in 2012, Alex earned $60,000 from his campaign consulting firm W Strategy Group, and his personal net worth was $95,056.)
Renier completed the family's political trifecta in 1996, when he was elected to the Miami-Dade County School Board. Controversy quickly followed. He proposed a bible studies course that went down in flames, but he succeeded in implementing a controversial pilot program to drug-test students. To get the latter measure passed, though, he had to back down from a component that would have allowed children to be placed in rehabilitation programs without parental consent. He lost re-election to the school board in 1998, then won the house seat Alex had vacated, but lost it in 2002. Four years later, voters put him on the school board a second time.
In 2009, then-state Rep. Julio Robaina filed a complaint with the inspector general. He alleged Renier had used school board funds to pay for a thinly veiled campaign piece meant to help Miguel, who was competing against Robaina for a state senate seat. Two years later, the county's inspector general concluded Renier had unintentionally violated procurement rules.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's public corruption unit reviewed the case and decided not to press charges but in a 2011 close-out memo concluded, "It is clear that false and/or misleading statements are contained in the invoices... and that information was reviewed by [Renier]."
Says Miguel: "This was all started by a political opponent to make political hay. The investigation found there were no ethical violations."
Renier ran for the house again and lost in 2012. Florida's Republican Party then blocked him from becoming a state committee member, alleging he had failed to file a party loyalty oath. He recently announced the run for judge, which -- if he's elected -- could help solve his sorry state of personal finances. According to a disclosure statement, he makes $38,900 per year between a private law practice and work as a sales director for De Mattress. His debts include two loans that total almost $200,000. His net worth is -$161,450.
In a January interview with Political Cortadito's de Valle, Renier said he was no longer interested in being part of the legislative branches of government. "I like the law," Renier said. "And I think it's a good role for me. I've moved beyond the legislature."