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Mega-wealthy lawyer, businessman, and political backer Scott Rothstein called me recently and told me he was the "Jewish Avenger" and was out to destroy me.
Rothstein wasn't joking during the August 25 phone call; he was seething. He told me he was going to sue me and my wife and bankrupt our household. Rothstein, managing partner of the law firm Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler, said he would throw all his legal might at me until I could never "participate in the journalism community again." He even said he was going to throw a news conference about me for the TV stations.
"Most people figure if you're left alone, you'll go away," Rothstein told me August 25. "They figure they should let a sleeping dog lie. I like to jab the dog in the eye. And if it bites me, I'll jab its eye out."
Rothstein once told me he had 43 voices in his head, ranging from lawyers to businessmen to guys from the Bronx streets where he grew up. I felt like there were about five of the latter type berating me. It was sort of the phone-call version of being mugged by a gang of hooligans in Central Park.
And I wondered how Rothstein, a major political donor with vast business interests, had so much time for me. The guy had just purchased the Versace mansion. And what I had written about him in the past was fair to the point that people had remarked to me that I was soft on him, a complaint I don't often hear.
Don't worry; I didn't roll over. I told him that I didn't know who he's used to dealing with but that he couldn't bully me, that we weren't on a New York playground, and that he was acting like a small-timer. And I told him that if he wanted to come at me, he should come at me square-on but leave my wife alone.
This really isn't personal, certainly not for me, and I don't think for him either. It's about politics and money and who influences the people you elect. It's about the nature of power in Broward County, and it's about Rothstein's not wanting me to document the connections between his interests and taxpayers' money. His phone call, after all, was sparked by my conversation earlier that day with state Rep. Evan Jenne of Dania Beach.
I phoned Jenne after a little digging into Edify LLC, a health-care firm that pays him as a consultant. Rothstein is part-owner of Edify and also sits on its board of directors.
Jenne had told me in July that the companies he worked for didn't do business with the state, a statement I noted at the time on my blog, the Daily Pulp. Then I learned that Edify has two lobbyists in Tallahassee to influence state government.
When I contacted Jenne about that apparent discrepancy, he said that Edify does no business with the Legislature but that it has some interest in certain state agencies.
I also mentioned to Jenne that it seemed he was becoming increasingly linked with Rothstein, who has contributed many hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, mostly of the GOP variety. Jenne, of course, is a Democrat.
Jenne's ties to Rothstein don't stop there. An attorney for Rothstein's law firm serves as the registered agent for Jenne's company, Blue Banyan. Rothstein hired Jenne's father, former sheriff and convicted felon Ken Jenne, to work at his law firm after Jenne was released from prison.
And one of those Edify lobbyists is Grant Smith, a lifelong friend of Evan Jenne's who works at Rothstein's law firm.
Evan Jenne told me last week that he got the $30,000 gig with Edify after randomly bumping into Edify CEO Howard Gruverman, a partner in Rothstein's firm. Jenne said he was hired to help the firm administratively and to help "chart a path" for its future. "Right now in this economy, you work where the work is," said Jenne, who previously worked for a local bank. "They needed help, and I was able to give it to them."
Edify has worked closely with the state Department of Health to develop wellness programs and also influences certain health-care legislation, lobbyist Grant Smith told me. He said the company has never had a monetary contract with the state, though he said it may try to procure one in the future.
The company does business with other governmental bodies, including the Broward County Commission and the Palm Beach County School Board (each contract is worth about $300,000 a year).
There is no indication that Jenne has done anything unethical, and he says he contacted the Florida Commission on Ethics before accepting the job. But his work for Edify was worth reporting, as was Rothstein's stake in the company and its efforts at the state level and its work with Broward governments.
A couple of hours after the Jenne call, Rothstein rang me up and quickly went on the attack.
He told me that he was aware of my call to Jenne and that he was tired of my "harming" good people, his friends, who didn't deserve it. He then said he was going to put an end to my career.