Miami Mayor Suarez, a former 2024 GOP candidate, now subject to ethics investigation over undisclosed expensive gifts received

September 29, 2023
Ben Marquis

Though former President Donald Trump obviously garners all of the attention, for a brief few months over the summer there were actually two Republican presidential candidates facing federal investigations, with the other being the Republican mayor of Miami, Florida, Francis Suarez.

Now, in addition to a federal corruption probe, Mayor Suarez is the subject of a state ethics investigation into allegations that he illegally received and failed to properly disclose a number of extravagant gifts, according to the Washington Examiner.

Those gifts include, among other things, expensive tickets and exclusive VIP access to the Formula 1 Grand Prix race in Miami in May as well as the 2022 Men's World Cup tournament in Qatar.

Ethics complaint filed against Miami mayor

The Miami Herald reported this week that a local activist named Thomas Kennedy filed a formal complaint against Mayor Suarez with the Florida Ethics Commission over the alleged improper gifts, and the commission has since confirmed that the complaint was received and is currently "pending investigation" until a lead investigator is appointed to begin the probe.

The outlet noted that Florida law requires elected officials like the mayor to disclose the source of any and all gifts valued at more than $100 and outright prohibits accepting any gifts whatsoever from any employers, paid lobbyists, and city-contracted vendors.

Yet, according to the complaint, Suarez failed to disclose how he came to possess an expensive all-access three-day VIP pass to the Formula 1 event in May, nor did he report on his trip to Qatar in 2022 to attend the World Cup, where he was spotted enjoying the soccer tournament from a luxury box alongside former star player David Beckham.

Questions raised about who paid for tickets to Formula 1 race, World Cup tournament

According to the Herald, Suarez's three-day VIP access to the Formula 1 race, which included his attendance at expensive dinners and parties and seating in the exclusive Paddock Club, would have cost more than $14,000, and there are questions with regard to who actually paid for all of that.

Billionaire hedge fund owner Ken Griffin initially acknowledged that he had invited the mayor to attend the race but, when faced with questions from the media, claimed that Suarez had reimbursed him for the costs of the expensive tickets.

However, Suarez has provided no receipts to show that he paid for anything, has refused to answer any questions, and has been called out for previously claiming that he attended the race in his official capacity as mayor when his official schedule had that entire weekend in early May blocked off as "personal time."

As for his undisclosed trip to the World Cup in Qatar, questions have also been raised about who paid for those expensive tickets and travel, as well as his palling around with Beckham, who the Herald reported is a registered lobbyist on behalf of Major League Soccer which is currently building a new stadium for its Miami club on city-owned property.

In response to the news that his filed complaint had been accepted, Kennedy told the Herald, "It’s good to see the Florida Ethics Commission taking this matter seriously as residents deserve clear and objective answers," and added, "It’s become clear they won’t get them from the mayor or his administration."

Also under federal investigation for alleged corruption

Meanwhile, The Miami Times reported in June when Mayor Suarez announced his short-lived candidacy for the GOP nomination -- he dropped out in August after he failed to qualify for the first primary debate -- that he was under investigation both locally and federally over alleged corrupt dealings with a local real estate developer.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, along with the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission, were reportedly investigating allegations that developer Rishi Kapoor, who is working on a $70 million development project, hired Suarez for a $10,000 per month consulting gig with his firm in exchange for help in obtaining the necessary permits from the city for the Coconut Grove development.

The Herald noted that Suarez declined to comment about the new ethics investigation about the gifts but did recently comment to other reporters about the other investigations and downplayed them as "old news," as he said, "We’ve talked about this multiple times, again, this is the same story being recycled over and over again and I have been very clear and candid on this in which I had no influence whatsoever" with regard to his alleged employment with the developer and zoning permits approved for the development.

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