Mike Fernandez has raised millions of dollars for mostly Republican politicians, but he says no one seeking public office will get his money if they don't support gun control.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, he has pledged to stop supporting "any politician that does not revisit their value system as it pertains to weapons."
Fernandez is the chairman of MBF Healthcare Private Equity based in Coral Gables. He has been a prolific political donor and fundraiser, mostly to Republican candidates. Since the 2014 election cycle, he or the companies he controls have donated almost $7 million, according to state and federal election contribution records. He spread the money across more than a dozen candidates, more than a dozen different political action committees and across at least 10 states.
"I will not give one cent to anyone who does not support major change regarding military-type weapons being sold," Fernandez told WLRN last week before Gov. Rick Scott and Florida legislative leaders announced their proposals to increase safety in schools, including changes in Florida's gun laws. Fernandez also voiced support for raising the age limit to buy rifles and limiting magazine capacity.
"It's impossible not to be touched by what happened and moved into action," he said.
Fernandez joins another mega-Republican donor in linking their future contributions to gun control policies. Real estate developer Al Hoffman Jr. from North Palm Beach wrote in an email to Republican leaders that he would not "write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons," according to the New York Times. Hoffman contributed more than $1 million to the political action fund that supported former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's 2016 failed presidential campaign. Fernandez contributed more than $3 million to the same group.
Fernandez also donated heavily to Gov. Scott's 2014 reelection bid, contributing at least $1.4 million to Scott's campaign or the political action committee supporting it. The governor received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association for his position on guns. Fernandez said he thinks "a few very radical thinking people have convinced a lot of NRA members like myself that this is the first step towards outlawing our ability to have a weapon. It's a long way from it."
Scott is expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in his reelection effort this fall and gun policy is among the litmus tests Fernandez now has for those seeking his financial support.
"Those of us who are active in the political system have an obligation to use the tools we have, and the tool that we have that they understand the most is money. They have to understand that if they're going to act in response to the very few, such as the NRA and their outdated position, they are not going to get a penny from me."
And neither will the NRA. Fernandez said he will not renew his annual membership when it expires.