November Surprise: Keechl Camp Hits Gutter
Broward Mayor Ken Keechl appears to be getting desperate. He's certainly getting dirty.
A new low
But Keechl can't run away from responsibility for it. Called the Broward Good Government Committee, the 527 sent out mailers across Keechl's district on this final weekend portraying his opponent, Lighthouse Point Commissioner Chip LaMarca, as a prison inmate with the words, "LAMARCA: CONVICTED CRIMINAL."
LaMarca's Photoshopped orange-jumpsuit-wearing body holds a booking plate with the words "Crook! LaMarca for Broward County Corruption."
This is the kind of ad that gives negative campaigning a bad name. The only thing on the 42-year-old LaMarca's criminal record is a DUI in 1989 when he was in college.
So what is "Broward Good Government Committee"? Well it was opened by Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron -- who has a thriving practice defending accused politicians before the ridiculous Florida Commission on Ethics. Herron basically serves as a sort of agent for lots of these sludge funds. The address is only 100 S. Birch Road -- the Jackson Tower Las Olas condo building on Fort Lauderdale Beach. It doesn't even specify a suite.
So far, $19,000 has been reported in contributions to the Keechl committee, according to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. Inside, see who paid for this stuff.
OK, so you were probably trying to guess the name of the "megalobbyist." It's the guy at the top of the list: Ron Book. He has a contract to lobby for Broward County while he simultaneously brings clients before the commission. Book has also contributed heartily to Keechl's campaign. Keechl has, of course, voted to give Book his county contract and has also cast favorable votes for his clients. Interesting fact: Book was once booked himself. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges for funneling illegal campaign contributions through his secretary. In other words, Book is a convicted criminal, and his crimes actually involved the public trust and happened well after he left college (c'mon, Ron, you put yourself up there for that one). Book gave $2,500 to Broward County Good Government on August 18, records show.
Paridies Broward, which has the lucrative airport concessions contract, put in $500.
Real estate company JRH Properties added another $500.
Pompano Beach construction firm Hewett-Kier Construction added another $500.
And the biggest check came from "business consultant" John Ottino, who is affiliated with a development firm called the Berkley Group, which builds and manages timeshare resorts and relies on local governments for approvals. Ottino is a onetime major contributor to former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne and a sizable Democratic donor who once hosted a fundraising party at his home for Joe Biden. In 1997, an Ottino company called Travel Opportunities that was selling vacation packages was hit with lawsuits from regulators in New Jersey and Connecticut for deceptive marketing practices, according to a Sun-Sentinel report, which began, "Con artists slink in through consumers' mail slots, leeching away millions of dollars each year through misleading travel offers, bogus bills and deceptive sweepstakes."
Not exactly the kind of guy who should be throwing stones for an adolescent mistake.
Ottino gave the Keechl committee $15,000 on September 15.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.