Renier Diaz de la Portilla paid $75K to his brother’s neighbor — for what?

When he ran for county commission two years ago, Renier Diaz de la Portilla paid an inactive corporation $75,000 for “canvassing” voters in Miami-Dade District 5.

It’s already strange because the company, CruisePort Destinations, doesn’t seem to have any canvassing or election experience. It’s a D/B/A for a larger corporation, America’s Gateway Inc., that provides portside operation and logistics for several South Florida cruise companies.

Then there’s this: It is owned by Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s neighbor.

Jeannette Rodrigues owns the house across the street from the house where ADLP and Renier — now a judicial candidate for the second time — grew up. It’s the house on 19th Street that Alex Diaz de la Portilla has run many campaigns out of. It’s the house he bought at a bargain price from his parents and is now losing to foreclosure.

Read related: Jenny Nillo campaigned for Renier Diaz de la Portilla while on the public job

The house is listed as the address for Cruiseport Destinations.

After a 1999 divorce, Rodrigues went back to her maiden name, Jeannette Piñeiro. She was interviewed in 2020 in “A Business Minute with Lily Lopez” for the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And there was no talk about canvassing. It was all about the port and how lucky Piñeiro was to work in the industry, which at the time was surviving the COVID crisis.

Piñeiro’s company, when it was known as America’s Gateway Transportation, actually won part of a $21 million county contract awarded by commissioners in 2013 as a member of a pool of vendors recommended by Miami-Dade staff to service cruise companies at PortMiami.

Read related: andidate Renier Diaz de la Portilla doesn’t meet judicial canon standards

Fast forward back to 2020, when Cruiseport Destinations was paid $75,147.50 in nine separate checks from the two brothers’ political action committees from September to November, according to Florida campaign finance records. The checks came in every few days — in two instances, two checks were written with the same date — and for varying, uneven (read: suspicious) amounts: $8,192.25 on Sept. 10, then $6,982 eleven days later, then $9,050 five days after that.

Two of the nine payments came on the same day from Alex DLP’s PAC, for a total of $17,286.

Was it money for a cruise? Campaign finance laws do not allow candidates to use campaign funds for vacation or personal expenses, even though lots of politicians do it all the time. They pay their phone bills, their gas, their meals with campaign money.

Were these checks payments for kickbacks? This seems more likely.

Either way, it’s something for the authorities to look into. Something else. Authorities are already reportedly looking at his financing of that 2020 campaign, anway, and whether or not he was extorting contributions from city of Miami interests who wanted to influence his commissioner brother.