actsofsedition video: WPLG-TV/Miami's story on the first reading of the proposed puppy mill ordinance on April 4, 2012. Contrary to what is stated here, the ordinance was actually passed weeks later after the second reading.
BrowardBeat's Buddy Nevins' reminder of the recent past in Broward County with respect to shadowy third-parties in Tallahassee carpet-bombing us with fake facts and specious lies, serves as a sobering warning of what we can expect in Hallandale Beach in the Joy Cooper vs. Keith London mayoral showdown this Fall
If an apple-a-day keeps the doctor away, Broward County Commission candidate Tim Ryan better get a bushel.
Angry over Ryan’s three-year old lawsuit against a shadowy political committee funded by the Florida Medical Association, state doctors are preparing to throw money against him in his commission race.
(See the July 2009 South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald articles on the lawsuit at bottom.)
Mayor Cooper does this because she knows from experience that if the most-important agenda items are not heard until after 10 p.m., it WILL discourage HB citizens and other interested parties wishing to speak, from actually participating in important decisions that they and every other HB resident will have to live with forever.
Clip from the April 4, 2012 Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting, part of which was used by Channel 10 at top. http://youtu.be/SSfVppptAm0
(FYI: If after reading the article above you haven't already figured it out, reader "Drew" is Andrew Markoff. Who else in this area would think to write 38 sentences via three separate comments to what was just an 18-sentence story? And then, merely to criticize the public and defend the mayor? Yes, defend Mayor Cooper, the very person who appointed him to the HB Charter Review Comm., where he was a minority of one in writing the dissenting view.)
The past is prologue.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Broward Politics blog
In Eleanor Sobel’s winning bid for a state Senate seat last year, she had no bigger supporter than a politically-connected Hollywood ophthalmologist who once served on Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team, new court records show.
Alan Mendelsohn, then treasurer of the Florida Medical Association’s political action committee, aggressively raised money for Sobel and hailed her Aug. 26 victory in the Democratic primary as the FMA flexing its might, according to a string of e-mails.
*Alan Mendelsohn later pleaded guilty in June of 2011 to one count of conspiracy for, among other things, trying to hide $82,000 in political contributions to former State Sen. Mandy Dawson, and was sentenced to four years in prison, which he began serving in January.
Campaign, attack ads linked
"I have no control over those groups," Sobel told The Miami Herald in August as People for a Better Florida Fund filled mailboxes with last-minute missives just before she defeated Tim Ryan and Ken Gottlieb.
But new court documents provide clear links between Sobel's campaign and the attack ads.
Sobel's political consultant was also a paid consultant for an affiliate of People for a Better Florida Fund and helped coordinate the attacks and plot strategy, according to e-mails and a deposition taken in a defamation suit Ryan filed against the group. Another campaign vendor also was paid in the effort.
Ryan contends the group unfairly alleged improprieties. People for a Better Florida Fund denies the claim. Sen. Sobel would not return repeated calls for comment.
Though Ryan's lawsuit is in its infancy, the case is already providing a rare glimpse into the world of shadowy political groups and the big money that special interests spend to ensure they have a supportive vote in the state Legislature.
People for a Better Florida Fund is closely linked to the Florida Medical Association, with the address listed for the group on the state's election website matching the doctors' organization. Sobel, the wife of a dermatologist, drew much of her financial support from the medical field. While a state representative, she was among a handful of Democrats to side with the medical industry on medical malpractice legislation.
Ryan and Gottlieb, also former state representatives, have at times sided with the political enemies of the doctor lobby: the trial lawyers.
"Eleanor Sobel was someone who had a better voting record on issues that concerned our contributors," Tim Stapleton, People for a Better Florida Fund's deputy treasurer, said in a deposition July 20. Stapleton is executive vice president of the FMA.
While Sobel spent about $400,000 in the entire campaign, Stapleton testified that his group spent about $600,000 to help Sobel in the primary.
"That is the cost of doing business," Stapleton said. "We had a clear friend running, someone who understood the issues that we care about. So we wanted to help that person."
Stapleton testified that his group's "point of contact" with Sobel's campaign was her consultant, Steve Vancore. He said the consultant's firm, VancoreJones Communications Inc., conducted the research that gathered material for the campaign ads.
Vancore was paid about $19,000 through People for a Better Florida Inc., the affiliated group. Sobel's campaign paid him more than $230,000.
Vancore said in an interview Wednesday he did not talk to Sobel about the group's activities, though she knew he was a consultant to it. "We said, 'We're not showing Eleanor,' " Vancore said, citing the Ryan mailers. "She knew we were working together."
Stapleton testified that the group's mail vendor, Dylan Sumner, was also a mail vendor for "the campaign."
The group attacked both Ryan and Gottlieb, with each ad depicting the candidates surrounded by a pile of money. The Gottlieb ad targeted a failed redevelopment project in Hollywood.
The Ryan flier said taxpayers paid $12 million for Davie land worth $1 million.
Ryan contends an appraisal actually showed the land's value at $15 million. The $1 million figure refers to the assessed value on one slice of the property, say Ryan and his attorney, former state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, a veteran trial lawyer.
The group stands by the gist of its ad.
"People for a Better Florida Fund went out and hired highly qualified consultants to obtain accurate information to educate the voters -- and that's what they did," said L. Martin Reeder, attorney for the defendants. "What was published we believe was accurate in all material respects."
Although there were "some technical discrepancies" by Vancore's firm assuming that one parcel was the whole site, the ad's message -- that Ryan sold it for higher than what the property appraiser listed it at -- was true, Reeder said.
The day after Sobel won the August primary, Stapleton sent an e-mail to supporters declaring Sobel's win "one of the most significant, and most rewarding victories for FMA PAC in the last 10 years!"
Sobel then sailed to victory in November to represent the Broward district, which stretches from Hallandale Beach and Hollywood to parts of Plantation.
Ryan sued in October. He said the negative pieces not only helped Sobel win but spread false information.
While it is too early to tell which side will prevail, the Ryan lawsuit is shedding light on ECOs, or electioneering communication organizations, third-party groups that can sidestep contribution limits and have played a major role in recent elections.
The groups are highly secretive and powerful because they can raise huge sums, often have vague names and send attack ads close to election day, making it difficult for voters to discern who is behind them.
That could become even tougher now that a federal judge recently declared that Florida's regulation of the groups was unconstitutional.
In the Ryan case, Sobel is not named as a defendant and, by law, could have had contact with an ECO attacking her opponents.
But the Stapleton deposition raises the question: If voters knew some members of her campaign team were actively involved in last-minute attack ads, would it have made a difference?
"The e-mails did indicate that she did have communication with those consultants that were working with this group," Ryan said. "So it's really for Eleanor to explain what her involvement was with this group."
Attempts to reach Sobel through her cell phone, offices in Hollywood and Tallahassee and her Senate e-mail were all unsuccessful.
As Ryan's lawsuit -- which seeks unspecified damages but does not seek to overturn the election results -- progresses, Campbell said he plans to depose Sobel, among others.
To be sure, Sobel faced campaign attacks too.
Another ECO -- the Integrity Counts Committee, run by political consultant Russ Oster -- sent mailers targeting her 2006 promise involving the School Board.
When running for the School Board, Sobel told a reporter: "I'm going to commit four years to the School Board." Nine months after taking office, she announced her Senate bid, saying she felt she could do more for the district as a state senator.
In one flier, a girl writes "I will not tell a lie" on a chalkboard. "Our Kids Learn To Tell The Truth, Shouldn't WE EXPECT BETTER From ELEANOR SOBEL?" it asked.
"Lies, lies and more lies," Sobel said at the time.
Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
Read these to see what's what
- E-mail from Timothy J. Stapleton
- Read the lawsuit Tim Ryan filed
- Read the defendant's answer and defenses
- Read Tim Stapleton's deposition
President Obama motorcade Hallandale Beach, Florida