Alan Mendelson, a former close Charlie Crist aide and fundraiser, has resigned his post as treasurer of the Florida Medical Association PAC, a powerful political fund that has raised about $10 million in the past 12 years.
While the Hollywood ophthalmologist -- who is probably the top political fundraiser in Florida medical circles -- claimed he made the abrupt move to spend more time with his family, there is rampant speculation the stepdown was precipitated by the revelation that Mendelsohn was tied to Joel Steinger, the convicted felon and alleged Ponzi schemer behind the billion-dollar Mutual Benefits viatical fraud.
Steinger is facing a felony fraud and money-laundering trial in Miami, but the federal investigation is continuing. More facts are expected to emerge about the involvement of Mendelsohn, who has not been charged with any crimes (and has not responded to interview requests). Might some of the story be hidden in the now famous sealed documents in the Steinger case?
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As you read here in February, Mendelsohn assisted Steinger in his efforts to pass legislation in Tallahassee to keep regulators and investigators at bay. Steinger's main lobbyist, Russ Klenet, testified in a 2007 deposition that "Mutual Benefits raised a lot of money through Dr. Mendelsohn."
It's still not clear just how much money the Republican Mendelsohn raised for Steinger, or who received it. It is apparent that the fundraisers he holds at his home, primarily for Republican candidates, have been very effective. Mendelsohn raised huge amounts for Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, for instance, which was one reason Crist -- in a case of blatant political payback -- put Mendelsohn on his transition team after he was elected governor. Crist was also personally involved in a 2007 scandal at the University of Florida where Mendelsohn's son was accepted to the school's medical school despite an apparent lack of qualification.
But Mendelsohn is apparently no Crist loyalist, despite the governor's help to get his son into medical school. In another eyebrow-raising move, Mendelsohn took a fundraising job with former state House Speaker Marco Rubio for his U.S. Senate campaign. Rubio, of course, is squaring off against Crist in what promises to be a hard fight for the nomination. And he began his campaign with a fundraiser at Mendelsohn's Hollywood home.
So Rubio, at least, doesn't seem very concerned about any political fallout that may come as more facts emerge about Mendelsohn in the Steinger case. Either Rubio knows something the rest of us don't or he doesn't mind risking his reputation for some serious campaign dough.