Bill McCollum: M.I.A. on RPOF
FEBRUARY 10TH, 2010, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
As the Republican Party of Florida implodes over new allegations of profligate spending, first revealed at The New Argument in November of 2008, Attorney General Bill McCollum is M.I.A.
Despite evidence that at least three party leaders – Chairman Jim Greer, his deputy Delmar Johnson, and former House Speaker Ray Sansom – abused their RPOF American Express cards, McCollum told reporters today that he does not support the release of party-Amex records.
McCollum doesn’t believe the evidence against RPOF leaders rises to the level of a criminal investigation, a spokesman told the St. Pete Times. Why would he?
As the Miami Herald wrote on Monday, “Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican gubernatorial front-runner, has been deeply involved in the controversy, while trying to keep it quiet.”
How could McCollum know if RPOF misdeeds warrant a criminal investigation without ever examining the evidence?
McCollum is walking a tightrope here between his own interests as AG, which is to be for full disclosure, and the interests of the Republican legislature.
Gov. Charlie Crist and Paula Dockery, McCollum’s primary opponent for Governor, have both come out in favor of releasing the Amex records.
Dockery has an obvious interest in making McCollum look bad, so her position is hardly surprising. Crist has come out for disclosure after realizing that he’s not in the shit like the Republican legislature or – we can assume – Marco Rubio.
With party finances in shambles, the hefty contract given to hefty Delmar Johnson has produced much outrage. Why hasn’t there been similar outrage over the contract signed between Greer and George LeMieux?
LeMieux was paid $150,000 by RPOF as a consultant over the 13 months before he was appointed to the U.S. Senate and after he had resigned as Crist’s chief of staff. What exactly did LeMieux do for RPOF again?
Read more about the burgeoning RPOF scandal and Crist’s cronyism here.
Meek and Ferre Battle for Headlines
FEBRUARY 8TH, 2010, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
Florida Democratic Senate candidates are finding that grabbing attention opposite the hottest political race of the primary season is no easy feat.
The high-profile contest between moderate Gov. Charlie Crist and former State House Speaker and conservative poster-boy Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate has obscured the primary race between U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and former six-term Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre.
The Democrats have mostly focused their efforts on attacking the Republicans rather than defining each other.
“There is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party going on and Florida is ground zero for the fight,” said Kenneth Quinnell, New Media Director for Meek’s campaign, in an email. “That may grab headlines, but it doesn’t help Floridians meet the challenges they face in this tough economy.”
A source within the Ferre campaign said, “Ferre has shot his way into the media by being more aggressive in attacking Crist, his ethics, and policy failures than Marco Rubio has.”
Neither Democrat has produced optimal results with this strategy; both candidates would lose today to either Republican by nearly identical, double-digit margins, according to a Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates poll conducted between Jan. 27-28.
Ferre and Meek must develop new strategies to break into the news cycle and reach more voters statewide in order to win the Democratic primary nomination on Aug. 31.
Meek is widely considered the favorite, with the strong support of the Democratic establishment and a huge money advantage, having raised $1.2 million last quarter and holding $2.7 million cash on hand.
Ferre raised $100,000 in his first quarter and has about $60,000 left, according to FEC reports, but has a potential fundraising base in Puerto Rico because of his strong support of statehood, a position favored by businessmen in the territory, and the legacy of his uncle, former Puerto Rican Gov. Luis A. Ferre.
A recent poll by Schroth Eldon & Associates found Meek leading Ferre 27 to 12 percent. The same polling firm found Meek leading Ferre 26 to six percent when Ferre entered the contest in November. Ferre has doubled his support, but the big story here is that the race remains wide open.
Meek, 43, and Ferre, 74, are launching new efforts to gain traction and increase their name identification. Meek’s campaign announced last week a bold public relations move: Meek, a longtime fan of racing, will be the lead sponsor of NASCAR driver Mike Wallace’s race car at the Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13.
“NASCAR is an industry with strong ties to Florida that generates significant revenue for our economy,” said Quinnell. “This sponsorship is a recognition of that fact and a sign that Kendrick intends to speak to and for all Floridians.”
Ferre’s campaign expressed doubts about this strategy. “No one will confuse Kendrick Meek for a redneck just because he sponsors a NASCAR,” said the Ferre insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meek’s campaign will likely continue to disregard Ferre’s candidacy. Asked if the primary race would be competitive, Quinell said, “That type of thing is for the pundits and bloggers to decide. Kendrick Meek is focused on being a champion for the people of Florida and defeating Crist and Rubio — the very people who got Florida into the fiscal mess it’s in now.”
Ferre, a moderate Democrat, has spent considerable time attacking Crist and much less attacking Meek, but his campaign appears to be getting more aggressive and moving to the left.
Ferre’s campaign has looked to foster an outsider image, drawing distinctions with Meek on hot-button issues by coming out against both the troop escalation in Afghanistan and the healthcare reform bills in Congress. Ferre said in a recent press release that the House and Senate healthcare bills “do not live up to the promises that President Obama and Democrats sold the American people in 2008.”
Meek supports the troop increase in Afghanistan and voted for the House Democrats’ healthcare plan.
Ferre also plans to attack Meek on his relatively thin legislative record and reports that he attempted to divert more than $5 million in federal money to his mother’s lobbying client. His mother, Carrie Meek, held his House seat for 10 years before entering the private sector.
Florida journalists have jumped at every opportunity to write Ferre’s political obituary. News that Ferre’s campaign manager, Todd Wilder, resigned in early January to care for his sick mother prompted a probing headline from Beth Reinhard in the St. Petersburg Times: “Time to put a fork in Maurice Ferre’s Senate campaign?”
Six months ago, the Miami Herald’s Adam Smith wrote that Rubio’s low initial fundraising numbers “cast doubt on [his] Senate bid.” But today Rubio leads Crist by 14 points among Republicans, according to a poll conducted by Fabrizio from Jan. 27-28. Six months from now, the Democratic primary will be a fundamentally different race.
Will Cronyism Take Down Charlie Crist?
FEBRUARY 8TH, 2010, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS, THE FRAY
In November of 2008, I posed a question: will Jim Greer take down Charlie Crist?
With Governor Crist’s once seemingly inevitable Senate bid in dire straits and the the Republican Party of Florida publicly imploding before our eyes, it is time to revise and revisit this question.
Will cronyism take down Charlie Crist’s Senate campaign?
The Orlando Sentinel reported this week that soon-to-be former RPOF Chairman Greer secretly paid his hand-picked Executive Director Delmar Johnson, a former Crist field organizer who is miraculously as rotund as Greer, roughly $405,000 in 2009. I’d be shocked if a large percentage of that money wasn’t sent back to Greer, which might explain why Johnson’s contract was confidential.
And after cutting up his own Party American Express card to appease critics calling for an audit of RPOF records, Greer used Johnson’s Party-issued Amex as if it were his own to pay for his travel and trips taken by Crist campaign staffers and some state legislators, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“We’re done. I hope I never hear American Express again,” Greer said at the card-cutting ceremony, according to the Associated Press. “For those people who want to keep talking about the issue, they’re doing it for one reason and that is to cause trouble.”
The discussion did not end, nor did Greer’s excessive spending. In fact, he only got so reckless and desperate as to use his campaign for re-election as a slush fund. Greer’s paid himself $150,000 through his campaign, which also doled out more than $90,000 to Johnson.
RPOF records would not hold up to an IRS investigation. Greer and Johnson would be roasted. The million dollar question is, who else would go down? I have to wonder why Crist remained loyal to Greer as calls for his resignation grew. Did Crist have an RPOF Amex? He expressed “extremely high” confidence in Greer as late as November.
Many (and arguably most) politicians are guilty of cronyism. The problem for Crist is that he picked the wrong cronies. They are too blatant; they can’t help themselves. It’s easy to follow the money.
George LeMieux – who had a hand in every pot during his short stay in the private sector, between his job as Crist’s Chief of Staff and his new gig as an appointed U.S. Senator – was paid $350,000 by RPOF over the same period of time that Seminole gaming interests were injecting $580,000 into the State Party and another $100,000 into the Conservative Values Coalition, an ECO that supported Crist in his gubernatorial bid.
Crist, who had opposed expansion of gambling during his 2006 campaign, quickly changed his tune. LeMieux acted as the chief negotiator for Crist with the Seminoles and offered them an unbelievable compact that would give them an unusually low tax on slot machine revenue and access to card games blocked by Florida law and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
This compact was never ratified by the State Legislature and was later struck down by the Florida Supreme Court. Yet, Crist and LeMieux had done their part, as the Seminoles have been allowed to continue operation of these prohibited card games while the law remains in limbo.
After leaving the Governor’s office at the end of 2007, LeMieux continued to negotiate the compact between Crist and the Seminoles while managing the law firm Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, where he had previously worked from 1994-2002. The next gaming compact drawn up by Crist and LeMieux – which was dead on arrival in the legislature – would have given the Seminoles even more: a total monopoly on gambling.
When he rejoined Gunster in January 2008, LeMieux already had a plush first assignment: he was paid $500 an hour as part of a brand new contract with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in which his firm advised the state on its attempts to purchase right of way to the tracks owned by Florida East Coast Railroad (FECR).
It has been my contention that this work posed a conflict for LeMieux, as his firm simultaenously listed FECR’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), as a client. Mark C. Thibault has filed a bar complaint against LeMieux regarding his apparent double-dipping, as was first reported by Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald/St. Pete Times.
The back-and-forth between LeMieux and Thibault is quite interesting in that LeMieux never refutes any of Thibault’s supporting evidence and instead just repeatedly asks for the matter to be dismissed and attacks Thibault for his consulting work. LeMieux provides no explanation for why his firm’s website listed FECI as a client until August 2008.
Thibault appears to have caught LeMieux lying to the bar, too. LeMieux and Gunster claimed that he first began working on the FDOT project in March 2008, and Thibault forwarded the bar emails which show LeMieux working on the project two months earlier.
It’s possible that Thibault, a Democratic political consultant who ran a Miami-Dade slot machine referendum for Flagler Dog Track, filed the complaint as retribution for the ridiculously stilted Seminole compact. But Gunster’s repeated mention of his consulting work has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of his complaint, as Thibault has noted.
Crist’s unending loyalty to the shameless George LeMieux – who thinks he is a real Senator now, placing holds on appointments and co-sponsoring legislation – and thieving slob Greer has alienated many in his 2006 support team, which is why Crist’s campaign is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Crist has a reputation as a tireless, hard-nosed campaigner, but the damage to his Senate candidacy is already done. It’s time to stick a fork in him.
LeMieux’s Got Conflicts
JANUARY 11TH, 2010, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
Before he was appointed to the U.S. Senate, George LeMieux benefited from a contract awarded in December 2007 by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to his law firm, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, to advise the state on the purchase of right of way on the tracks of the Florida East Coast Railroad.
Gunster Yoakley obtained the contract on Dec. 20, 2007, just eleven days before LeMieux left his position as Gov. Charlie Crist’s Chief of Staff and rejoined the firm. LeMieux’s name was listed in the fee schedule in the contract signed on Dec. 20.
On Jan. 1, 2008, attorney Robert Hackleman scheduled a meeting between LeMieux and FDOT General Counsel Alexis Yarbrough, according to FDOT email records. Nine days later, LeMieux emailed Yarbrough to discuss adding attorney Bill Perry to “our team.”
It must have been convenient to leave government only to step through the Revolving Door and immediately into a government contract. But Gunster Yoakley should never have been awarded this contract because it was publicly available knowledge that the firm also represented the railroad’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI).
Gunster Yoakley has denied that a conflict of interest exists, asserting that the firm’s relationship with FECI ended two years prior to the contract being signed.
However, by using the Internet Wayback Machine, it’s easy to find archived versions of Gunster Yoakley’s website and find that the firm’s website listed FECI and its real estate arm, Flagler Development, as clients as late as August 22, 2008.
While other clients were removed from the list and the page’s copyright year changed, FECI and Flagler remained on the list.
It’s not believable that Gunster Yoakley would accidentally showcase these companies in their Representative Clients section on its website for three years after the firm had stopped representing them, especially if they were concerned at all about the appearance of a conflict.
Gunster’s current website and the Aug. 2008 archived clients section, which features a 2007 copyright, both list Franklin Templeton as a client. Franklin Mutual Advisers was FECI’s largest shareholder when the company was purchased by Fortress Investment Group in July 2007, according to South Florida Business Journal.
If Franklin Mutual still held a stake in FECI when Gunster Yoakley obtained the contract with FDOT, then the firm is swimming up to its eyeballs in conflicts.
FDOT paid Gunster Yoakley $562,813.00 between February 22, 2008, and June 8, 2009, according to FDOT invoices. Roughly $12,350 of this figure went to LeMieux.
Here is a video demonstrating how to access the client list featured on Gunster Yoakley’s site on August 22, 2008:
And here is a screenshot taken of the site as it appeared on August 22, 2008:
TNA has previously reported on this story here and here.
The Case for Ferre
JANUARY 1ST, 2010, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS, THE SPIN CYCLE
Maurice Ferré, former Mayor of Miami and nephew of legendary Puerto Rico Governor Don A. Luis, could be the surprise winner of the 2010 Florida Democratic U.S. Senate Primary and the first Puerto Rican Senator if the extensive Hispanic voter registration plans of three non-profit voter registration foundations are successfully executed by August of 2010.
Democracia USA, a tax free foundation that specializes in Hispanic voter registration, has an ambitious plan to register 100,000 new Hispanic voters in Florida next year. In 2006, Democracia USA (D-USA) registered over 56,000 new Hispanic voters in Florida. In 2008, the organization successfully registered 88,000 new Hispanic voters in Florida. Their 2010 voter registration plan has a fully funded $2.5 million budget and a target of 100,000 new Hispanic voters who will be, based on their plan, overwhelmingly Puerto Rican.
Democracia USA is a national, multi-year, non-partisan Hispanic voter registration, civic engagement and leadership development organization that seek to increase the prominence and participation of Latinos in the American democratic process. They have a proven track record of registering and turning out Hispanic voters in Florida.
In less than five years, Democracia USA has grown from an operation of six full time staff to a thriving organization of more than 50, with eight offices across six crucial states and Washington DC, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. By the end of 2010, D-USA will also have established new offices in Texas and New Mexico.
Democracia USA was originally launched in Florida in 2004 to address the civic participation needs of the rapidly growing Hispanic population of the United States, and its potential impact on the American electorate.
From the Florida 2010 voter registration plan obtained by TNA:
Democracia knows that a large part of our success in engaging Hispanics in civic engagement in Florida has come from the participation of the Puerto Rican community. There are an estimated 690,000 Puerto Ricans living in Florida and 220,000 Puerto Rican registered voters throughout the state.
While these numbers are already substantial, we believe that our work has just begun. There is an estimated 230,000 Puerto Rican Floridians eligible but still unregistered to vote that we still need to engage in civic life. Furthermore, Democracia is also keenly aware that the Puerto Rican community has a distinct history and relationship with the political process that warrants targeted outreach and speaks to those cultural and historical traditions.
Since our inception in 2004, Democracia has understood the importance of the Puerto Rican community in Florida and has invested in a sustained presence in Central Florida with a field office in Orlando. This office has registered an estimated 60,000 Puerto Ricans to vote since 2004 and has engaged Puerto Ricans throughout the I-4 corridor area of Central Florida.
In 2009, Democracia bolstered its commitment to the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida by opening a Field Office in Tampa to directly serve the Puerto Rican/Latino community in the Tampa Bay area. In South Florida, Democracia USA works closely with Puerto Rico community, particularly in the largest community located in Broward County.
Democracia USA plans to register 100,000 new Puerto Rican/Latino voters in Florida during the 2010 electoral cycle. Regionally, the total voter registration goals are as follows:
2010 Voter Registration Goals
- Orlando area (Primarily Orange and Osceola Counties)
- 50,000 Voter Registrations
- Tampa area (Primarily Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties)
- 20,000 Voter Registrations
Sources: voter registration figure are a combination of the Florida Department of Elections and B&A estimates; population figures are from the 2007 American Community Survey of the US Census and B&A estimates.
Primary Election Get Out The Vote targets
- Orlando area
- 30,000 voters
- 20,000 voters
- South Florida
Latin American Partnership
Democracia USA works closely with another well-heeled not-for profit foundation; the Latin American Family Partnership. This is a model program for voter registration and civic participation that was formed in Miami as collaboration between People for the American Way Foundation and Unite for Dignity, a National union organization, in 2005. The Latin American Family Partnership is funded largely by the Ford Foundation and was integral to the success of the Democracia USA voter registration drives in 2006 and 2008.
Maurice Ferré is the former six-term Mayor of the City of Miami and was the first Hispanic Mayor in any major US city. He was the first Hispanic elected to the Florida State House of Representative and also served on the Miami Dade County Commission. Ferré was considered a visionary Mayor who made Miami an International hub of commerce and technology and transformed Miami into a modern city. Ferré has long been active in the Puerto Rico statehood movement in both Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
At 74 years old, Ferré is in excellent physical condition and his doctor has certified his fitness to serve a full term or two in the U.S. Senate. Ferré works a 14 hour day and travels extensively on International business as a business consultant. He is married to the M. Mercedes Malaussena.
Maurice Ferré enters the Primary as a contender. While there is no evidence of collusion or coordination between Ferré’s campaign and Democracia USA, the Latin American Family Partnership and the Ford Foundation, Ferré is uniquely positioned to benefit from a substantial increase in the number of Hispanic and Puerto Rican voters in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate.
Scheduled in the hottest month of August, voter participation is expected be light. There is no Democratic Primary for the Governor to increase interest and turnout. Hispanic participation is expected to be disproportionate because of the historical nature of Ferré’s candidacy; he is the first Puerto Rican to seek a Senate seat in U.S. history.
The $2.5 million budget of Democracia USA is likely to exceed the campaign budget of both Congressman Meek and former Mayor Ferré. Additionally, an African American State Representative from Miami-Dade is weighing entering the race, further splintering the African American Primary vote. Again Ferré could be the beneficiary.
The last statewide Democratic Party Primary election showed that 19% of voters were African American, 14% were Hispanic and 67% were White. The increased participation of Hispanics could easily swell the Hispanic percentage to surpass African Americans.
Ferré faces African American Congressman Kendrick Meek in the Democratic Primary and is expected to do significantly better among White voters than Meek.
Ferré could end up facing a fellow Hispanic if Republicans nominate Cuban-American and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is in an increasingly competitive Primary with Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist.
Ferré has emerged as the chief critic of Crist on the burgeoning issue of corruption, in which Crist has been tied to alleged sale of Judicial appointments by his Administration to Fort Lauderdale lawyer, and billion dollar Ponzi schemer, Scott Rothstein. Ferré’s attacks on Crist on the issue were featured on page one of the Miami Herald and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on December 1, 2009.
A recent Ameristat poll showed Meek with only 26 percent of the vote in the Democratic Primary after Meek spent $1.5 million over the last year and half in which he has been campaigning. Ferré entered the race only 30 days to go but registered 12 percent. Currently, 62 percent of voters are undecided, making this a wide open race.
Ferré has reportedly raised significant money in South Florida and San Juan and is not required to file his financial total with the United States Federal Election Commission until today.
The seat Ferré is running for was held by Cuban-American Mel Martinez until he resigned September 9th 2009. Governor Crist appointed his former Chief of Staff George LeMieux, a French American to the seat. LeMieux is not running for reelection.
Spanish translation here: El Caso a Favor de Ferre
Who can get a room in the Big Tent?
DECEMBER 27TH, 2009, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
William Daley took to the Washington Post on Thursday to implore the Democratic Party to “keep the Big Tent big.” But in Daley’s Big Tent, there is only room for one type of dissident – the kind whose views incidentally align with special interests.
There is room for so-called “moderates” like Joe Lieberman who seek the failure of key Democratic initiatives like a public health insurance option for the simple reason that liberals want to see such an option created; yet there is no place in the tent for liberals or progressives who, after accepting compromise after compromise, voice their displeasure on policy grounds with a Democratic Party that has veered sharply from the platform which brought it a resounding victory last November.
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.
For liberals to accept that inescapable reality is not to concede permanent defeat. Rather, let them take it as a sign that they must continue the hard work of slowly and steadily persuading their fellow citizens to embrace their perspective. In the meantime, liberals — and, indeed, all of us — should have the humility to recognize that there is no monopoly on good ideas, as well as the long-term perspective to know that intraparty warfare will only relegate the Democrats to minority status, which would be disastrous for the very constituents they seek to represent.
Shorter Daley: the Democratic Party is in splendid shape, as long as it continues its long march to the mythical center. But if it moves back the left, closer to the platform which Obama ran on, then the Democratic Party will instantaneously become a minority party.
More mystifying than this argument is Daley’s apparent lack of short-term memory. He writes:
Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year’s off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents — many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.
Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama’s approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower — 41 percent — among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup’s generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.
Ask any Republican: what’s the only thing worse than having a party beholden to its activist base? Answer: having a lack of enthusiasm in the base.
The enthusiasm gap among Republicans in 2008 has dissipated. Now it is Democrats whose base is unhappy with the direction of its party. If the Democratic establishment continues to take liberals and progressives for granted, the 2010 election cycle will be especially painful.
RRA: Inside the Belly of the Beast
NOVEMBER 23RD, 2009, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS, WASHINGTON TO FLORIDA
My first day of work at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler was a unique experience. Scott Rothstein, now-accused Ponzi schemer extraordinaire, carted me around town in his Bentley Continental, stopping first at a local elementary school, where we met with Governor Charlie Crist, after he gave a short press conference.
Next, we ate lunch at Capital Grille, where Scott dined daily and had his own table. Afterwards, Scott reserved a bike at Eddie Trotta’s Thunder Cycles. Three years ago, Scott was on top of the world and wanted everyone to know it, including me, an eighteen-year-old intern.
I was told that the rest of my time at RRA would not be like this, which was true. From that point on, I actually worked and my contact with Scott was fairly limited. He would strut loudly through the halls almost daily to check in with the firm’s lawyers and staff and generally make a small scene all over the place, again, just to make sure you knew who you were working for.
I rarely had a real conversation with him or spoke with him for more than a minute, yet he somehow made me feel like I and everyone else were part of his family; he would regularly refer to the firm’s employees (including high-paid attorneys) as his “kids” in emails. And plenty of employees were, in fact, Scott’s relatives. I often privately described RRA as the House of Nepotism. That was, after all, how I got my job.
Scott was a close family friend, having represented my parents in a labor employment case after they sold their business some years ago. In those days, Scott still made house calls. By the time I started at RRA more than three summers ago, Scott had moved up in the world: he was close friends with Gov. Crist and Sen. John McCain.
He managed the business side of a rapidly growing law firm which claimed lucrative clients overseas and had an innovative business model. The firm had brought in a number of successful, specialized law firms under the guise of RRA, so the firm was capable of handling all of a client’s different legal needs. And all of these attorneys were, in my experience, extremely sharp.
Also, RRA was the first “paperless” law firm in the nation, I was told, which cut down on costs and made it easy to keep client matters organized.
These features lended plausibility to the firm’s supposed grand success, but by the end of this summer I started to have my doubts, namely because Scott’s spending had grown out of control. The most absurd example would be his replacing his recently-purchased yacht with an even more grandiose 87-foot yacht. Scott was spending money like it wasn’t his, and it wasn’t.
In September, I ate dinner with close friend of mine, who also interned at RRA, and his older sister, who works at a more prestigious South Florida law firm. My friend and I inquired as to what his sister was hearing about Scott and RRA.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, a few years from now, we find that he’s been running a massive Ponzi scheme,” I half-jokingly remarked.
Without missing a beat, she responded, “You know, I’ve been hearing a lot of that lately.”
I shit you not.
Neither of us deserved any sort of medal for prescience. It was easy for me to see, as someone who was not engaged in the idol worship of Scott that so many close to him were, that something was clearly up. This was much more apparent to other attorneys in the area who belonged to well established firms and had seen more than their fair share of cons in South Florida.
One of Scott’s drivers told me over lunch during my last day of work that he believed most of Scott’s money was derived from hedge funds and that he was regularly dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars. I believe that this explanation for Scott’s spending – which made some sense (an awful lot, as it turns out) – had dispelled most of the concerns of the firm’s lawyers.
It’s easy to say now that they should have been more suspicious, but I think that the supreme confidence with which Scott threw around money was disarming. It’s hard to fathom that anyone would continue to run a Ponzi scheme after the whole world watched the Ponzi scheme of a true financial genius – Bernie Madoff – implode right nearby.
Only a sick, demented individual could live so lavishly on his friends’ and investors’ dime as if their money didn’t even matter; or dupe his best friend out of $57 million to keep the wheels turning for another moment. That’s what makes this so unbelievable, so appalling, and so utterly fascinating that none of us can turn away.
We’ll Do It Live
NOVEMBER 22ND, 2009, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
TNA is back from an unofficial hiatus, prompted by an increased workload and an interesting turn of events at the law firm where I interned the past three summers. You see, the boss is accused of running a massive Ponzi scheme. I’ll ellaborate on this in a post momentarily. I’ve also been working on bringing more writers into the fold here once again, which is why we’ll be putting up a post written by a one-time TNA writer and real-life Republican today for your reading pleasure.
OCTOBER 29TH, 2009, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: MEDIA, POLITICS
We all know Politico always delivers the most original angles that no other establishment media outlet even considered publishing – like the important scoop that a few friends of Roman Polanski gave some dollars to President Obama, which (I hope) was too trivial for even Jake “I smell cigs” Tapper.
Today’s most Serious scoop out of Politico centers on the number of pages in the House’s health care reform bill:
It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story.
The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word. .
And for some members, that may not be enough.
You may want to know what’s actually in the bill, but I don’t. I’d rather know, what can you do with the bill other than read it?
North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, 34 years old and a few inches taller than 5 feet, said a print-out of the bill could act as a ”booster seat.”
Most importantly, what does the House’s biggest moron think?
But Republican Rep. Joe Barton, who is Texan, said the bill is “about four reams of paper” that add up to the American public “getting reamed.
You know, if Politico was around to cover the lead-up to the Iraq War, I firmly believe we’d live in a safer world.
They would have told us that the Iraq War Resolution – which prints out at 3 pages and contains less than 2,000 words – would eventually cost more than $281 billion a page, as of 2008. The Bush administration initially projected that the war would cost roughly $16 billion to $20 billion per page.
These statistics would have piqued my interest much more than questions like, does Saddam Hussein actually pose a threat to the international community? Yawn!
The Senate’s Biggest Sellout
OCTOBER 26TH, 2009, AUTHOR: ANDREW PEREZ, CATEGORIES: POLITICS
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid almost has the votes for cloture on a health care bill that includes a public option, which, as Jane Hamsher notes, means that there a few members of the Democratic caucus who will not pledge to vote for cloture and are threatening to participate in a Republican filibuster of the bill.
Extra emphasis has been placed on keeping the vote of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who was the lone Republican vote on the Finance Committee in favor of a bill but adamantly opposes a public option. The thinking here has been that her vote for the bill would make it safer for conservative Democrats to support the bill as well as cloture.
The status of Snowe would be no more than a sideshow if Reid could whip together the 60 votes in his caucus. Bob Cesca sees this as a failure of leadership, but it’s more than that.
There are (at least) two fat sellouts in the Democratic caucus who (supposedly) will not vote for cloture despite pressure from Reid, liberal groups, or the seeming inevitability of reform. These sellouts are a bigger obstacle than leadership because they are willing to torpedo genuine reform – it’s in their best interests.
A number of Blue Dogs who have spoken out against the public option indicated last week they were not keen on joining Republicans in a filibuster – these include Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
There are a few whose positions on cloture are not immediately clear, such as Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
And then there is one whose position on the public option has been clear from the beginning yet who has faced surprisingly little public pressure: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), the Senate’s biggest sellout.
Bayh recently refused to commit to voting for cloture on a bill with a public option,telling Politico, “It’s not fair to ask people to facilitate the enactment of policies with which we ultimately disagree.”
Why might Bayh disagree with the enactment of a public option? And why might this difference in opinion provoke him to vote against cloture?
True Slant’s Rick Ungar may have it figured out: Bayh’s wife Susan sits on the board of directors at Wellpoint (a position coincidentally awarded after he was elected to the Senate) and the Bayh family thanks Wellpoint for much of its income.
Susan Bayh earned more than $2 million from Wellpoint between 2006 and 2008 and holds stock options worth between $500,000 and $1 million. What’s good for Wellpoint is good for the Bayhs, and a public option would not be good for Wellpoint. Susan Bayh has publicly opposed the creation of a public health insurance option.
And to think – Evan Bayh was a top contender for the Vice Presidential nod. What a sorry selection he would have been.
Late Update (8/29/09):
I’d look like a fool if I didn’t follow up on this post and explain that Joe Lieberman has proven himself to be the Senate’s biggest sellout. There hasn’t been much movement in the Senate since he announced he will not vote for cloture on a bill with a public option, but I bet he’ll have some competition soon.