Trickster in Chief

Famed political hit man Roger Stone takes a special interest in would-be Broward Sheriff Scott Israel

I told Rothstein that I found it hard to believe. And what about Stone's involvement?

"Here's what everyone misses," Rothstein countered. "Roger Stone, his sole source of business is not my consulting group. He has a business entirely separate from mine, and just because he does something, it doesn't mean I'm involved in it. He gets retained all the time by very strong Republican groups and candidates completely unrelated to my law firm."

He said that when he heard that people from the Israel camp were complaining that he was attacking their candidate, he called lobbyist Judy Stern, who is running the campaign.

Tricky Dick weighs in on the sheriff's campaign.
AFP Photo/Newscom
Tricky Dick weighs in on the sheriff's campaign.

"A couple of weeks ago, I called her and told her to stop spreading lies," he said, before directing his words directly at me. "I don't play this game. I'm not like other people in this community."

Rothstein said he hates negative politics and dirty tricks.

"I don't like negative political banter, and I don't like attacks," he told me. "When it comes to my politics, I am a hard-nosed person to deal with, but I don't like dirty politics. I don't like it, and I don't condone it."

Then why did he hire Stone, an unabashedly amoral political operative who made his bones with Nixon and has created devious — and, yes, sometimes ingenious — attack ads ever since?

"Stone is the guy that no one wants to admit to using," Rothstein explained. "But the second the shit hits the fan, it's 'Get me Roger Stone.' I was telling someone just last night that Roger is a guy we keep locked up in his office, and I'll shove food under the door every now and then to feed him. But when something happens and someone needs his help, we'll open the door. You let him out and let him do what he does. Because when he's out, nobody tells him what to do."

Stone was apparently let out of his office last week when I visited Rothstein's expansive law offices on the 16th floor of the Bank of America tower on Las Olas Boulevard. Stone, who wasn't made available for an interview, has a corner office in the back with election memorabilia — from Nixon to Eisenhower to Kennedy to Reagan — covering the hallways and walls.

There's a photo of a younger Stone with Reagan, with the former president's inscription: "Words can't express my appreciation. Very best regards, Ronald Reagan."

Then there's a signed photo of Nixon dated May 26, 1988.

"Your op-ed piece in the Times today was right on target," Nixon wrote. "I hope the Bush campaign people read it and follow your advice. The strategy needed now is not to get people to vote for Bush but against Dukakis."

And that's Stone's philosophy: Always attack. One can't help but wonder what Israel is in store for if Stone is let out of his lair again as Election Day in Broward County nears.

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