More money: Rishi Kapoor’s firm donates $50K to support Miami Beach mayoral candidate 

It’s the largest contribution by any developer to electioneering communications organization that backs Michael Góngora

Mayoral candidate Michael Góngora and Location Ventures' Rishi Kapoor
Mayoral candidate Michael Góngora and Location Ventures' Rishi Kapoor (Michael Góngora, Location Ventures)

Rishi Kapoor pumped $50,000 into a group supporting a Miami Beach mayoral candidate in the upcoming election, thanks to a loophole in the city’s ban on political contributions from developers, The Real Deal has learned. 

On March 20, Kapoor’s Location Ventures donated  the funds to A Better Future for Miami Beach, an electioneering communications organization, or ECO, backing former city commissioner Michael Góngora’s aspirations for the city’s top elected post.

It’s the largest contribution that A Better Future has received from any of its donors, including entities tied to other developers with pending government business in Miami Beach. The ECO was established in 2021, state records show. 

In its organizing document, A Better Future states its purpose is to engage in statewide, county and municipal elections. The ECO does not list any specific candidates, but Góngora has admitted that he expects A Better Future to support him, according to published reports. 

Kapoor did not respond to two requests for comment. 

In recent weeks, Kapoor has faced intense scrutiny regarding Location Ventures allegedly paying Miami Mayor Francis Suarez at least $170,000 as a private consultant since 2021. The previously undisclosed business arrangement is being investigated by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. 

Location Ventures also has a business relationship with Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago. The firm is leasing space for $12,410 a month in a Coral Gables retail building partially owned by Lago, the Miami Herald reported. 

A glaring loophole

In Miami Beach, a campaign finance ordinance prohibits developers, lobbyists and vendors with pending matters before the city from making political contributions to candidates’ individual campaigns and their political action committees, or PACs. Candidates are also barred from directly or indirectly soliciting prohibited donors for campaign contributions. 

But the rule does not apply to ECOs, which are slightly different from PACs. An ECO can run ads supporting or attacking a candidate, but it cannot explicitly tell voters to cast a ballot for or against a candidate. Furthermore, ECOs can only run ads within 60 days of an election, and they can’t give money directly to candidates or PACs.

In February, Góngora filed a mandatory disclosure form with Miami-Dade County’s elections department stating he’s soliciting contributions for A Better Future, county records show. He filed a similar disclosure document with Miami Beach’s city clerk on May 30. 

Góngora, a condo association lawyer who served three terms on the city commission from 2017 to 2021, is among five contenders vying to replace termed out Mayor Dan Gelber in November. Other candidates include current city commissioner Steven Meiner and ex-state senator Michael Grieco.

On Wednesday afternoon, Góngora said he was tied up in condo association Zoom meetings, and requested that TRD text him questions about A Better Future and Location Ventures’ $50,000 contribution. He did not respond to two subsequent text messages and a voicemail by deadline. 

Other developers with pending city business that are financially supporting A Better Future include Crescent Heights co-founder Russell Galbut, New York-based developer Michael Shvo and Vlad Doronin’s OKO Group. Twenty entities with ties to Galbut gave a combined $10,000 in November of last year, campaign finance records show. Affiliates of Crescent Heights and Galbut’s GFO Investments have several projects in Miami Beach with pending zoning and building permit approvals or denials. 

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OKO Group, which is going through the permitting process for its Aman Hotel project currently under construction in Miami Beach, gave A Better Future $15,000 in February. A Shvo entity redeveloping a commercial strip on Alton Road into a 250,000-square-foot mixed-use project kicked in $10,000 for A Better Future on March 29. 

Location Ventures is ECO’s largest donor

Coral Gables-based Location Ventures represents A Better Future’s largest donation, which was made eight days prior to the city commission’s March 27 first reading vote on legislation that would expand the city’s co-living and micro-units designation for portions of Washington Avenue in South Beach. 

Location Ventures is currently developing Urbin Miami Beach, a six-story coliving project at 1260 Washington Avenue. The firm is also under contract to acquire two commercial properties at 1509 and 1515 Washington Avenue from Miami Beach-based real estate investor Jimmy Resnick. Kapoor wants to redevelop the buildings into another co-living project with micro-units as small as 275 square feet. In a brief phone call, Resnick said he could not comment on the pending deal due to a confidentiality agreement, and that he doesn’t know anything about Location Ventures’ $50,000 ECO contribution. 

Sources at Miami Beach City Hall who requested anonymity claim that Góngora bragged about his close friendship with Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez when he hit up Kapoor for the donation. Góngora allegedly told Kapoor that he could convince her not to voice objections to his projects, the sources claim. 

In a February interview with the Miami Herald, Góngora described Rosen Gonzalez, an ardent opponent of co-living and micro-units in Miami Beach, as his “political wife.” 

Rosen Gonzalez votes against Location Ventures

However, Rosen Gonzalez was the lone commissioner to vote against the co-living legislation on first reading, and against it again during the second reading vote on May 18. 

In a text message exchange, Rosen Gonzalez suggested it was unlikely that Góngora would try to leverage their friendship to solicit donations for A Better Future. “Well, Michael knows me,” Rosen Gonzalez texted. “And he knows better than [to do] that.” 

She was also “disappointed” her colleagues voted in favor of allowing “awful micro-units that are so small, you could almost cook a meal while lying in bed,” Rosen Gonzalez texted. She hopes that one of her colleagues sponsors a measure that would “reverse this terrible zoning at the next [city commission] meeting,” Rosen Gonzalez added. 

It is not a crime and it is not an ethics violation for Góngora to tell potential donors that he can sway current Miami Beach elected officials, said Caroline Klancke, director of the Tallahassee-based Florida Ethics Institute. 

Góngora and Kapoor would have a problem if Góngora had promised to use his official decision making power to benefit Location Ventures if he is elected, Klancke said. Simply playing up his friendship with Rosen Gonzalez is not proof of improper conduct, she added. 

“There is no evidence that it has influenced any decision by a public officer,” Klancke said. “It didn’t come to fruition. And [Góngora] doesn’t have the power to manifest that.”