Is that an emergency siren/beacon I see in that flier and ad in the city-funded faux newspaper?Why yes it is, thanks for noticing.
Well, you know what that means don't you?
"Outside" political money is here in Hallandale Beach's elections.
To be specific Roger A. Pennington's Committee to Protect Florida.
He just loves the red siren/beacon graphic, using it over and over in various campaigns he's been a shadowy figure in throughout the state.
(See the St. Pete Times story at the bottom.)
Trust me, Pennington's money is NOT here on the side of the angels, or increased reform or accountability at Hallandale Beach City Hall, or even a dollar of service for a dollar of taxes.He's here to elect Alexander Lewy.
Even Bill Julian -yes, even Bill Julian- has told numerous people around town that he has nothing to do with the ads and fliers, and finds it offensive.
Which, using deductive reasoning, leaves us with exactly one suspect, doesn't it.
Yes, Code Name: Lewy the Liar.
While I have no proof of it myself, there are plenty of usually well-informed people in town who strongly suggest that we all look closely for the hidden hand of Lewy's mentor and campaign rainmaker, mayor Joy Cooper.
The reasoning is simple and well-understood.
Cooper is as desperate, if not more so, to get Keith London and his reasonable questions about finances, policies and accountability out of HB City Hall, as her protoge Alexander Lewy is desperate to sit there on the dais alongside her and be her newest puppet.
And paid-in-full member of the Cooper Rubber Stamp Crew.
Plus, which Hallandale Beach city official goes to Tallahassee more than Joy Cooper?
Tallahassee, where Pennington and his 527 are based.
For a very liberal Democrat like Lewy, it's rather curious that he'd be in bed with the sort of deliberatively shadowy outside money types that's usually railed against by his soon-to-be-unemployed boss, Kendrick Meek.
But as I've already told you, Alexander Lewy is desperate, desperate, desperate to get elected here.
Not out of any great magnanimous desire to help the citizens of this city, mind you, but rather to help himself and take his first step in becoming a career politician.
(Which, naturally, is part of why I won't ever vote for him, besides him being such a loathsome character, and a genuine back-stabber who's completely untrustworthy. But then you already knew that.)
Besides, shadowy financing of negative ads against Tim Ryan and Ken Gottlieb worked for Eleanor Sobel's Florida Senate campaign to replace term-limited Steve Geller, didn't it?
Still, even if Cooper isn't involved, I have some very good hunches who is, based on a number of conversations with well-informed people who know about ECOs, including some reporters, who gave me a head's up on some information I didn't originally have.
Quick story about Roger A. Pennington, who in 2006 was charged with five counts of violating Florida's campaign elections law while serving as Chair of an Electioneering Campaign Organization (ECO) called -if you can believe it- the Committee to Restore Integrity in Politics, CRIP.
No doubt because creating an ECO called "Entrenched Interests Committed to Remaining Insiders" just wouldn't have sounded so appealing publicly.
Well, even more comically, Pennington signed a consent decree with the Florida Ethics Commission that he was guilty, admitting that he did illegal things, DESPITE having been given copies of the applicable rules beforehand.
He also admitted that he never contacted an attorney about the matters.
That's both a humorous and ironic admission because he's repped the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers for many years.
You'd think that if there was a lobbyist in Tallahassee who'd know the name of a good attorney, or know when to contact one, it's him.
Pennington, head of Committee to Protect Florida, seems to be yet another member of the pro-Alexander Lewy Dream Team, a grab-bag of ill-mannered sad sacks, malcontents and self-enrichment types who hope to continue to feed on the city's teat if Lewy gets elected.
Which is to say, via your wallet and purse.
Think of their help to Lewy as their insurance policy.
Lewy: pro-Diplomat LAC, pro-Red Light camera expansion in HB, pro-Ben Gamla Jewish Charter high school in quiet single-family NE HB neighborhood, and anti-Amendment 4... the list goes on and on...
Have you seen many of the ardent Lewy supporters, who are eager for things to get better? Their definition of better, of course, is far, far different than mine, and I suspect many of you who are reading this as well.
They live in the strange and perplexing upside-down universe of Joy Cooper and Alexander Lewy.
For them, better is a 5-0 vote where no reasonable questions are asked, much less, answered by highly-paid city employees, and any of their cronies can always count on their support in the future when they have a hare-brained idea that can't just can't get funded by a bank.
But when you are on the HB City Commission, because of the CRA, it's like being a member of the Loan Committee of a bank, isn't it?
It doesn't have to actually make sense, or even conform to the existing city rules, which you can always vote to over-ride anyway, right?
No, it only has to get the majority of votes cast by the City Commission.
Which is why the Rubber Stamp Crew positively HATES questions.
Because questions have to be answered.
In some ways, Lewy's own supporters are almost like a paid commercial for the pro-reform and pro-transparency elements in this city with which I am so strongly associated with, as well as Michael Butler, Mary Washington, Csaba Kulin, Louis Pellegrino Jr., John Pearson,Comm. Keith London and many others I could name here, but won't.
I'm only too happy for Lewy supporters to publicly identify themselves, since it makes it much easier for me and everyone else paying attention to know whom to take seriously in this community about making it better FOR EVERYONE.
Not just the friends, cronies and lackeys of HB City Hall.
And, conversely, whom, NOT to take seriously, of which there is already quite a long list, now that you mention it.
Frankly, I only wish that more Lewy supporters would publicly disclose their allegiances, so we ALL would all know who they are, but many of them are keeping it close to the vest. And that's easy to understand.
They don't want people to know they support Lewy, since they also know so many people in this city justifiably loathe him.
It's far easier to keep it quiet.
You know, like where that money is coming from to run those scurrilous and untrue anti-London ads and fliers?
Speaking of the opposite of reform, transparency and accountability, has anyone seen Lewy supporter Joe Kessel on any of his campaign fliers?
If they exist, I haven't seen them.
Kessel as you'll recall, was a member of a very odd group that held its collective hand out for some city money, despite not being in compliance with many of the city's own requirements on their application.
They received tens of thousands of dollars from the city's CRA fund for a completely preposterous idea, which still makes many otherwise level-headed people in this city see red at the thought of the money being wasted -intentionally.
You can find more about HB City Hall spy and Lewy supporter Kessel here, thought he was actually part of more stories that i could sometimes mention because of space limitations.
Or this March 4th, 2009 post in particular:
Hallandale Beach insiders to offer goodies/new propaganda TV channel to HB City Hall for $200k CRA loan Wed. morning
Tell me, was Kessel legally registered as a lobbyist with Broward County, for the City of Hallandale Beach, while he was under contract to them, when he publicly spoke before the Broward Planning Council and the Broward County Commission in favor of the Diplomat LAC proposal pushed by the city, his employer?
Did he at least publicly disclose his financial arrangement with the city during his public comments?
The answer to both questions is an emphatic NO.
(Just as he hadn't publicly revealed his conflict of interest during the public meeting the Diplomat was required to have at the HB Cultural Center.)
There are many members of the Broward County Commission and the South Florida news media who know this already.So how's that investigation going, exactly?
Personally, I'm not usually one to question well-worn idioms like "Don't judge a book by its cover" but in Alexander Lewy's case, I'm afraid circumstances force me to, so I will.
He is exactly what he acts like -The Devil You Don't know.
In my opinion, based on the stone-cold facts and what I have observed of him in-person for a few years, Alexander Lewy deciding your future with a vote will cause Hallandale Beach's besieged citizens to "Pay through the nose."
And pay in ways they can't even imagine now.
You can find out more about Roger A. Pennington's clients at the Florida Senate homepage:http://www.flsenate.gov/
Committee to Protect Florida "527" Political Organization Filing Information http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/527/committee-to-protect-florida.asp
Consultants are lobbyists, too, in Tallahassee
St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau
March 22, 2009
TALLAHASSEE — The unlimited special-interest cash streaming into Florida legislators' political accounts has enriched a small group of influential consultants who received $19.5 million from political committees and campaigns in the 2008 election cycle.
The torrent of money flowing through the Capitol has also fueled an industry of consultants who lobby.
Of the 60 political consultants for lawmakers' political committees, at least 12 work as lobbyists, according to a Times/Herald analysis. The consultants-lobbyists are hired by corporations to influence the same legislators who pay them for political help.
This circular network ties together special interests, lobbyists and lawmakers in a tight web of money and insider access. The lobbying clients seek legislative help. The legislators seek cash, for re-election or pet causes. The common link: the consultant.
Roger "Rocky'' Pennington, a veteran Republican consultant, says he and other consultants must strike a careful balance when special interests want to hire them because of their relationships with specific lawmakers.
"Once they start hiring you because they want influence with one person, you aren't a lobbyist — you're an influence peddler," Pennington said. "You have to ask yourself, are you lobbying because of the merits of the issue or are you lobbying because of your friendship or relationship with the elected official?"
Pennington was paid $2.1 million over the past two years to serve as political adviser to a host of lawmakers and to buy expensive TV ads for them. He says he minimizes problems by refusing to take clients halfway through the session, when clients most try to influence the votes of individual lawmakers, and he now is semiretired with only one client, the Municipal Electric Association.
Just last week, Altria, which manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, hired one of the Capitol's newest lobbyists, Todd Richardson. He's a political consultant for Republican Rep. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale.
Bogdanoff chairs the House Finance and Tax Council, where Altria hopes to kill a plan to raise the cigarette tax.
"What I'm doing is completely legal," Richardson said. "Relationships are the name of the game. I have more relationships than with just Ellyn. I have relationships with a lot of freshmen and with almost every member of the House."
Richardson was paid $126,000 in wages and reimbursements in his role as a consultant for Bogdanoff's campaign and political committee, Creating Possibilities. Bogdanoff opposed a cigarette tax hike long before Altria hired Richardson. She said she had no problem with his other work as a lobbyist for the cigarette company.
As the full force of term limits takes effect in the Legislature, more lobbyists are becoming consultants to increase their access to new legislators, said consultant and lobbyist Joe Perry.
The lobbyists can build up "sweat equity'' by acting as consultants for legislators, said Perry, a Democrat who has been paid $209,000 for fundraising and consulting work since 2007.
Perry acknowledged that when special interests hire people who have been on the payroll of lawmakers, they hire a unique commodity.
"There's no doubt we have access to these folks and probably more so than the rank-and-file lobbyists," Perry said.
But he said there's a downside, too. Perry lobbies for insurance giant FCCI Insurance Group, which seeks workers' compensation legislation opposed by many Democrats — the same people who hire Perry for political work. Perry said he can't afford too many conflicts like that.
"If I were to take too many lobbying clients and create a lot of enemies, I'll kill my fundraising business," he said.
Political committees — called committees of continuing existence — have become the cash cows of Florida's political process. They can be formed by legislators and used to collect unlimited amounts of so-called soft money from special interests, as these contributions are not subject to the typical cap of $500. The money can be rolled into other committees called "electioneering communication organizations,'' which spend money on attack ads and direct-mail pieces.
The 12 consultants-lobbyists were paid about $374,000 in total by the 40 committees they worked for, and received an additional $3.5 million from other political groups and campaigns during the past election season. The 60 consultants altogether received about $1 million from the committees and $18.5 million more from virtually every campaign and political group.
Not all consultants-lobbyists worked for a lawmaker's committee in the past election cycle. Still, the political committees — and the relationship they foster between lawmakers and consultants — offer a window into the world of Capitol insiders.
For example, the committees give lawmakers the opportunity to steer business to allies and friends. Consultant-lobbyist Esther Nuhfer earned most of her $201,000 from the campaign and political committee of her friend, Republican Rep. David Rivera of Miami.
Rivera's committee, Future Leadership, also paid $10,000 to Bridget Gregory Nocco, a prodigious Republican fund-raiser and Rivera friend.
The big money washing through the Capitol stands out in a year when the budget is in the red and large numbers of Floridians are losing jobs. Against that backdrop, the idea of consultants who lobby makes even the king of Florida political consultants uncomfortable.
Randy Nielsen, a top Republican consultant, said he didn't want to "cast aspersions'' on his colleagues, but he warned that "you can do a disservice to the client if you lobby them."
Nielsen is not a registered lobbyist.
"I don't see how you can give clear, unfettered advice if you're paid to lobby your clients," Nielsen said.
Nielsen's firm, Public Concepts of West Palm Beach, raked in the most consulting money this election cycle: $4.1 million over the past two years. In the 2000 cycle, Public Concepts earned $390,000. Not all that money went to Public Concepts. As with other consulting companies, some of the cash paid for media buys, lawyers and investigators to do opposition research.
Public Concept's most high-profile client is Senate President Jeff Atwater, a Republican from North Palm Beach who calls Nielsen "my consultant'' and made sure the firm reviewed his speech to the Senate that opened the legislative session March 3.
Consultant-lobbyist Bill Helmich collected $297,000 from a variety of lawmakers and political groups for consulting and hiring help. Helmich acknowledged there is a risk in mixing lobbying and consulting.
"Theoretically, if you get involved in a race where you end up losing, the person who won could hold a grudge," he said.
Lawyer and lobbyist David Ramba represents 37 clients and sells legal advice to 40 political committees, many controlled by legislators. Ramba said his legal adviser role doesn't give him much of an advantage. "Most of the time I'm delivering bad news," he said. "I tell them what they're not allowed to do with their money."
For instance, Ramba told Republican Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton that money from one of the lawmaker's two committees was off-limits to help pay for a Jewish community dinner.
Bennett has raised $528,000 through his two political committees since 2007 and he acknowledges the dicey balancing act legislators engage in when their closest political advisers are also paid lobbyists.
"You're going to give your buddy as much leniency as you can until you hit that ethics line … wherever that line is. It happens in any friendship," he said. "If I had my druthers and you didn't need soft money to play the game, I would like to see all this disappear."
12 Political Consultants* Who Lobby
(Total amount received/Number of clients/Notable client)
1. Roger Pennington, Republican
$2.1 million/1 client/Municipal Electric Assn.
2. Christian Ulvert, Democrat
1 $522,290/9 clients/Dosal Tobacco.
3. Bill Helmich, Republican
$297,100/9 clients/Miami-Dade County
4. Joe Perry, Democrat
$209,744/2 clients/FCCI Insurance
5. Esther Nuhfer, Republican
$201,618/1 client/Evidence-based Assoc.
6. Bridget Gregory Nocco, Republican
$181,973/4 clients/U.S. Sugar
7. Todd Richardson, Republican
$126,006/2 clients/Altria Tobacco
8. Amber Stoner, Republican
$116,026/1 client/HCA Healthcare
9. Jerry Wayne Bertsch, Republican
$55,417/1 client/American Cancer Society
10.Randy Enwright, Republican
11. Thomas Grigsby, Republican
$23,763.73/3 clients/Florida State Fraternal Order of Police
12. Screven Watson, Democrat
$22,644.36/4 clients/U.S. Sugar
Source: Division of Elections data
St. Petersburg Times
In Florida House District 45 race, flier recycles old tactic
By Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer July 4, 2010
Back in 2007, a political group called the Committee to Protect Florida hammered a state Senate candidate named Richard Corcoran.
In its arsenal was a mailer that accused Corcoran of making false allegations about an opponent in a previous race.
The mailer showed an image of a flashing police beacon along with a warning: "BEWARE! Richard Corcoran is back in the area looking to buy a seat in the Senate." Corcoran dropped out of the race, citing the negative campaign.
Now, as he runs for the state House District 45 seat, the Committee to Protect Florida has returned — and paid for a familiar flier that just hit mailboxes in Pasco and Pinellas counties. The flashing police beacon is back.
Read the rest of the article at: