Mitch Ceasar's political palace is falling apart.
The Democratic chairman lost big on Election Day. Broward laid down for the Republican push on Tuesday, with voter turnout in the supposed Democratic powerhouse county a meager 40 percent -- eight points under the state average. This comes as no surprise since the local party is a dysfunctional mess that was missing in action throughout the election season.
Marc Sultanof, president of the Kings Point Democratic Club and a longtime Ceasar crony, was arrested election morning by state prosecutors on bribery charges for accepting $30,000 from dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait for new Honda Accord.
Make no mistake, it's not just the fact that the Democratic Party has become inept during the reigns of Ceasar and Thurman that they must be stripped of their power but because the party has become incredibly corrupt. Sultanof is just the latest in Ceasar's circle to be snagged in the investigation involving the Chaits, a father-and-son team who are
cooperating with prosecutors in wide-ranging investigation that has already led to numerous arrests.
Ceasar's right-hand woman, Democratic Executive Committeewoman Diane Glasser, admitted in a sworn statement with prosecutors that she'd taken $4,000 in cash from the same developers. Glasser, who received immunity for her testimony, was managing the campaign for another of Ceasar's chosen candidates, Patte Atkins-Grad, who also faces bribery charges in the Chait case.
Another one of Ceasar's loyal Democratic soldiers, area leader Barry Harris, is also caught up in the investigation. He set up an electioneering committee to secretly funnel money from Chait sources to pay for attack ads on Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco's opponents. Ceasar was also close to Talabisco, who remains under investigation for her dealings with the developers along with two of veteran Democratic politicians and Ceasar allies, Broward County commissioners Ilene Lieberman and Stacy Ritter.
The Chaits definitely excelled at finding corrupt folks who could help get their controversial housing project going -- and Ceasar's empire proved to be loaded with willing marks.
No wonder. Ceasar is himself a lobbyist who has been trading on his power with local politicians to get government contracts. Former Democratic Executive Director Donna Greenberg recounted how, after he helped to get Talabisco and Atkins-Grad elected in Tamarac, he told her he had just guaranteed his lobbying contract in that city. "He said that now that he had Atkins-Grad and Talabisco in there, his lobbying contract with Tamarac would be renewed," Greenberg told me. "I asked him about it, and he said, 'That is how the game works.'"
How any Democrat can support Ceasar or his corrupt regime is beyond understanding, unless, of course, they are riding the gravy train themselves. Ceasar's legacy as Democratic chairman, a position he's held since 1996, has for years been a disgrace to the party and to Broward County. I've had the displeasure of reporting on the "Ceasar Mob" much more often than I'd like to -- but the chairman and his cronies just keep committing outrageous acts that demand public notice.
Dedicated Democratic activists have known the truth about Ceasar for years, but when they challenge him, the chairman simply uses his power to run them out, often using his close alliance with Florida Democratic Chairwoman Karen Thurman to get the job done. He's left a trail of bitter former executive directors like Greenberg, people who could have been great assets to the party had they not been alienated by Ceasar's self-serving -- and at times personally disturbing -- ways.
Perfect case in point is Patti Lynn, one of the hardest-working and most ethical Democrats you'll ever find. When she was elected president of the Tamarac Democratic Club, Ceasar went to work to crush her.
Understand that it was Lynn who had run against the crooked Atkins-Grad, the candidate Ceasar boasted would guarantee his lobbying contract. Lynn would have none of that kind of "game." Instead, she set out to expose Ceasar's shenanigans.
Lynn lost that race but was elected president of the Tamarac Democrat Club that Ceasar had founded. When that happened, Ceasar resorted to his old tricks -- he disbanded the club and raided its bank account. And how he did it shows just how the insidious and secretive the collusion between Ceasar and Thurman works.
First Ceasar contacted the state party and said that the Tamarac club had broken the rules and must be terminated. Thurman, on April 22, did just that, ending the club's existence with no investigation whatsoever.
At that time, I was (naively) astonished that the state party would kill a club based solely on Ceasar's request. I spoke at the time with Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff, who was almost apologetic about Thurman's action. He told me that Thurman had "no choice" but to kill the club because it was Ceasar who has control over the Broward party, not the state.
When lawyer Randy Fleischer filed a grievance on behalf of Lynn, there was a hearing with the party's "Grievance Committee." The three members of the committee:
-- The aforementioned Diane Glasser, Ceasar's longtime right-hand woman, whose son, Lloyd Glasser, is married to Ceasar's sister.
-- Attorney Harry Boreth, a former Ceasar law partner who is also a partner of Glasser's son and Ceasar's brother-in-law, Lloyd Glasser.
-- And Ceasar's state committeeman, Michael Moskowitz, a lobbyist deeply tied to the culture of corruption that has rocked Broward County. Currently Moskowitz is suing the Broward County School Board on behalf of a contractor who is accused of gouging taxpayers after Hurricane Wilma.
To say the deck was stacked against Fleischer during the August 31 hearing at Ceasar's law office is an understatement. And almost immediately, Moskowitz started in with the Catch-22 flim-flam that has been run between the county and state Democratic organization for years.
"[I]t appears that the Tamarac Democratic Club was dissolved by a letter from Karen Thurman, who is the State Chair, on April 22, 2010," Moskowitz said to Fleischer, according to the official transcript of the hearing. "And if your position is that it was improperly dissolved, and I'm not saying you're right or wrong, that's just an issue that it was improperly dissolved, then it appears that your grievance would be with Karen Thurman in the State Party, because she's the one that dissolved it."
Remember, Thurman, through her spokesman Jotkoff, had already stated publicly that she dissolved the party at Ceasar's request and that the state party had no jurisdiction over the club. Yet throughout the meeting, Moskowitz repeatedly said it was a state issue.
Ceasar, who initiated the fall of the club because he couldn't tolerate reformer Patti Lynn, continued the sham. First he said that Fleischer had filed the grievance only to "harass" him personally, and then started on one of his numerous attacks on Fleischer by saying his conduct was marked by "untruthfulness."
Then he engaged in the kind of flim-flammery that has marked his self-serving, imperious, and ultimately destructive tenure as chairman of the Democratic Party from its inception. Ceasar first said the controversy over his killing of the Tamarac club is "frankly a joke, and, frankly, a pathetic joke." Then he really let it fly.
"As much as Mr. Fleischer would like to make me the target... that was an action by the State Chair [Karen Thurman], which under the Florida Statute she is allowed," Ceasar testified at the hearing. "I may have had to alert her to certain things. I did not influence her. I simply alerted her. It was up to her. I was notified just like everybody else in this room... Unfortunately the State Party took the action, the State Party then rejected an appeal, the item is dead, and we as a County Committee have no jurisdiction nor did we before to hear such an item to overrule the State."
Somebody in the Democratic Party is lying. The spokesman for the state party, Jotkoff, said that Thurman was simply following the dictates of Ceasar when she dissolved the club. And now Ceasar, in an official proceeding, is saying he had no "influence" on Thurman's decision.
Welcome to the Democratic Party in Broward County and the Sunshine State, where the buck keeps going and fraudsters like Rick Scott are elected governor.
You expect anything good to come from leadership that employs Banana Republic committees to play circular games to crush the best and brightest within its own party?
Again, this is just a small bit of the behind-the-scenes chicanery played by the charlatans. It's a pattern that plays itself out over and over again. Remember the 2008 election in which Ceasar weeded out his enemies, ran a dubious election, and then hid the ballots? Well, Thurman and the state party covered for Ceasar in that sordid affair as well. It's business as usual for these particular Democrats.
There is a movement afoot in light of the dismal election for the Democrats to oust Thurman. State Sen. Jeremy Ring made a call for it. Well, now is the time to clean house of the party of both Thurman and Ceasar and everyone else part of their double-dealing cabal.
Ceasar and Thurman have violated the public trust. They have failed. Now they must fall.
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