South Florida, and Miami-Dade in particular, is a smorgasbord for political bloggers: Mayors arrested for public corruption of differing varieties, FBI kick back stings, influence peddling, absentee ballot fraud, hidden bank accounts, missing monies, land grabs, contracts for cronies and Congressmen who eat their ear wax.
“I feel like it’s Christmas every day,” said de Valle, who spent 18 years at The Miami Herald and was on two Pulitzer Prize winning teams there before becoming “Ladra,” the government watchdog at PoliticalCortadito.com.
This month, Political Cortadito was named Best Blog by Miami New Times in their Best Of 2014 issue.
“Elaine de Valle has pulled off a rare feat in this town: She’s treated with the same respect afforded to credentialed journalists employed by the dead-lumber media companies,” the publication wrote. “And it’s no surprise why. The hard-nosed, old-school reporter tallied 18 years at the Herald before founding Political Cortadito, where she’s become a go-to online watchdog sniffing out the latest shenanigans of South Florida’s elected officials…Her relentless nature and work ethic have made her blog a must-read for thousands of followers who still care about changing Miami’s banana republic political culture by using a healthy dose of transparency.”
Political Cortadito was created in 2010 after de Valle left the Herald during one of its downsizing periods.
“I kept getting tips from my sources, kept seeing connections in politics that I would send to my friends who were still there. Pero nada,” she said in the same Spanglish style she uses in the blog.
The lack of much local “inside” coverage led her to start Political Cortadito.
“I like to describe it as pulling the curtain to reveal the Wizard of Oz behind the scenes, the players and financiers who are pulling policy strings, usually to their benefit,” de Valle said. “The politicians and their consultants, the lobbyists and the people who contribute to campaigns in bundles – they all know more than the voter does. That’s not right.”
De Valle’s credibility (she also won an Emmy for a piece she produced with Univision 23 on absentee ballot fraud) has helped the blog draw a loyal following of readers – activists, public employees, civic and business leaders, politicians and journalists looking for the inside baseball track to South Florida politics. And that audience is growing rapidly as more platforms increase.
A frequent guest on local news talk shows in English and Spanish, de Valle is a regular collaborator on veteran radio and TV journalist Roberto Rodriguez-Tejera’s Prohibido Callerse show on Mira TV.
“Elaine’s ‘gotcha’ style is perfect for our format. She has more sources than anyone I know and helps give the show more authority with the number of scoops and the government investigations she brings,” Rodriguez-Tejera said. “It is always a better show when she contributes.”
Political Cortadito has scooped the mainstream media in Miami’s competitive market on several stories. It was first to report the name of Hialeah boletera busted by police, Deisy Cabrera; candidates who were filing for office, the firing of Doral City Manager Joe Carollo, and the plea deal arranged for the sentence for the chief of staff to Congressman Joe Garcia on absentee ballot fraud charges, among other scoops.
But more important than being first in a media world where everyone is being fast is being smart in a world where few are.
In a sarcastic and often humorous way, still rooted in her two decades of journalism experience, Ladra’s analysis – based on public records and interviews – often provides a little more context and perspective on important issues that impact the lives of South Florida residents.
De Valle also feels strongly that underserved or underreported (read: underwatched) communities deserve Ladra’s eye and was the first to put a spotlight on the absentee ballot fraud and abuse of power that was going on in Hialeah. For that, she’s been thrown out of public events by police at the mayor’s behest and issued, illegally, four trespass warnings she proudly hangs on her home office wall.
In Political Cortadito’s first-ever survey last year, Ladra’s readers – which were highly educated, affluent and engaged – echoed the sentiment of the people who have left her thousands of comments on her posts: That her unique voice is needed.
This year, Political Cortadito has also begun to take advertising and launched a newsletter to alert readers and fans to the newest stories. Sponsor and partnership opportunities are available and being sought.
But Ladra is more excited about the Florida governor’s race, which looks like a real nail-biter, and the Congressional race in District 26 – one of the most watched races in the country.
Oh, and the heated commission race in District 8.
Oh, and the multiple investigations into political shenanigans in Doral and Sweetwater.
Oh, and the upcoming trial of former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi on federal bribery charges.
“Yay,” de Valle cheers. “I must have been a very, very good girl this year.”
For more information on Political Cortadito, or if you have a tip to report, call (con toda confianza) Elaine de Valle at 786-853-8724.