NOVEMBER 05, 2009
The third major donor of a U.S. Senate candidate who is currently Florida’s governor has been criminally charged in a large scale corruption scheme, illustrating a pattern of shady fundraisers for the veteran Republican politician who may soon represent the Sunshine State in Congress.
As he campaigns for national office, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is conveniently trying to distance himself from the crooked money men who have generously donated big bucks to his campaigns over the years. All three were close friends who socialized regularly with the governor and two were rewarded with prominent positions in his administration.
The latest to be arrested and indicted, distinguished south Florida attorney Scott Rothstein, raised at least $675,000 for Crist’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign and donated close to $80,000 during the first 50 days of Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign. The governor appointed Rothstein to a state Judicial Nominating Commission and Rothstein identified himself as a “close friend and advisor to the governor” on his law firm biography.
This week Rothstein was arrested and federally charged for masterminding an investment scam that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars. Dozens of federal agents raided his Ft. Lauderdale office this week and seized documents and computer records related to the fraudulent operation. Crist maintains that he’s not that close to Rothstein, although the men attended each other’s weddings last year and his Senate campaign will not in any way be affected by the relationship.
A few months ago, south Florida ophthalmologist Alan Mendelsohn, a prolific fundraiser and political power broker, was charged with fraudulently using money from political action committees to pay for a mistress’s love nest, a luxury car for himself and his children’s education. Mendelsohn was so tight with Crist, a former Florida attorney general, that the governor gave him a spot on his coveted gubernatorial transition team in 2006.
In February a Jordanian businessman (Ala’a al-Ali) was indicted for making tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions to various political candidates, including Crist, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Arizona Senator John McCain. Ali, who lives in the Dominican Republic, circumvented federal limits on individual contributions as well as a ban on foreign donations by using bogus donors that he later reimbursed.
A fourth Crist donor embroiled in scandal but not formally charged is a prominent Delray Beach defense contractor (Harry Sargeant) who bundled hefty sums for Crist’s gubernatorial campaign, much of it from foreign donors in California who insist they never gave a dime and, frankly, don’t have the resources to. Sargeant and Crist are old college buddies and Sargeant’s political ties have landed him lucrative Pentagon contracts that have earned him a fortune.
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