SOLE FUNDER: Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, is the sole funder of the SpaceSuperPAC. Her son Gabriel Rothblatt is running for Congress in Florida.
By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A congressional candidate in Florida is getting a boost from a super political action committee with one donor, which happens to be his dad.
But there’s a twist.
Gabriel Rothblatt’s father, Martine, used to be Martin Rothblatt before undergoing gender reassignment surgery. She — Martine — founded Sirius Satellite Radio and a Maryland-based biotech company that paid her $38 million in compensation last year, according to Forbes.
Martine Rothblatt was rated the second-highest compensated executive in the Washington, D.C., region in 2007, according to the Washington Post.
The 8th Congressional District, in which Rothblatt is running, includes Kennedy Space Center.
Such vast, available resources, coupled with elite connections, could go a long way toward unseating the incumbent Republican with little outside name recognition, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.
Interestingly, Rothblatt’s super PAC is called SpacePAC.
“We are SpacePAC Space Political Affairs Committee, based in Washington D.C. with primary intent to make man’s access to space not a destination but a regular activity,” reads the super PAC’s website.
Rothblatt is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Entries on the candidate’s site call for a 21st century space program and accuse Posey of lying about a NASA project during a U.S. House Subcommittee on Space, of which Posey is a member.
According to a financial disclosure statement, SpacePAC “intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts,” and “will not use those funds to make contributions, whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications, to federal candidates or committees.”
Records show Martine Rothblatt contributed $225,000 to SpacePAC last quarter. Additionally, SpacePAC’s treasurer is a former federal regulatory lawyer and now influential attorney associated with United Therapeutics Corp., Martine Rothblatt’s pharmaceutical company.
Federal election laws prohibit super PACs from coordinating with candidates, but the close familial ties in this case could easily complicate those restrictions — and already may have.
Russ Lemmon, a reporter for the area newspaper Treasure Coast Palm, took Rothblatt to task over SpacePAC-funded political signs.
“First, they are out way too early. Second, they are in places where campaign signs simply aren’t allowed,” Lemmon wrote.
But if the candidate’s campaign removed the PAC’s signs, it could constitute an improper coordination, Rothblatt admitted.
Watchdog.org contacted candidate Rothblatt’s campaign for comment but did not receive a response. A spokesman for Bill Posey’s campaign told Watchdog.org that he was aware of SpacePAC’s connection to Rothblatt, but declined to comment further.
Nearby progressive U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., is an outspoken critic of super PACs and unlimited political spending. Deutch is co-sponsoring a proposed federal constitutional amendment to overturn recent changes in campaign finance laws that allow them. The legislation has the support of many House Democrats, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The Democracy is for All Amendment will reverse highly controversial Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, which have given corporations and the wealthiest donors the right to buy unlimited influence in our elections,” said Deutch in a statement.
“Our electoral democracy is based on the premise that the voice of a billionaire is worth no more than that of a school teacher,” said Deutch.
Rothblatt is endorsed by the Teamsters, a powerful labor union, and the National Organization for Women, a feminist group. The district includes Brevard and Indian River counties, and parts of Orange County.