In the lead story on this morning's local section, the Sun-Sentinel took off its little white glove and slapped Mutual Benefits' mastermind in the face with it.
The newspaper reports that the Ponzi scheme called Mutual Benefits poured $1.4 million into political coffers to help keep state regulators from knocking down its doors. Reporter Scott Wyman did some good decent digging and, in a true kettle meets pot moment, quotes former legislator Skip Campbell getting all indignant about the tawdriness of it all.
I'm sure that Steinger, the life-long con man who lives on virtual house arrest in his waterfront mansion, was a little bit redfaced after reading it. Not because it exposed him, but because he knows he was responsible for a lot more than $1.4 million going into the political process and that number makes him look like less of a big shot than he actually was.
The truth is that number is a long way from being determined, thanks in large part to the work of Alan Mendelsohn, the Hollywood ophthalmologist and GOP bag man who raised untold amounts of money for Steinger and his criminal operation (Russ Klenet said only that "Mutual Benefits raised a lot of money through Mendelsohn" and that he was "very helpful" to the company). Because of Mendelsohn's role, the true amount of money raised by Mutual Benefits for Republicans is going to be quite a little mess to untangle. I'm trying to figure out whether Mendelsohn's favorite customer, Charlie Crist, benefited while he was running to be attorney general, the top lawman in the state.
The money was raised in all kinds of clandestine ways. Example: One of Mutual Benefits' sales agents, John Trombino, started one of those alphabet soup companies Steinger is famous for. It was called J.P.T./JMJ. That company gave the Democratic Party $2,500, $500 to Dave Aronberg, and, for good measure, $100 to Mutual Benefits friend and pawn Steve Geller, the former Senate minority leader who is now running for county commission against Suzanne Gunzburger. (Make no mistake, Geller was as thick as thieves -- literally -- with Joel Steinger).
The Sentinel in this morning's newspaper finally brings state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff's name into the picture, noting the half million dollars Mutual Benefits poured into her 2004 race against Oliver Parker. Writes Wyman, "Bogdanoff said she had no connection to the PAC's spending in the race."
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Yeah, what does that mean? That she didn't move the checks? The question is what influence did Mutual Benefits have on her. We know she voted on a key piece of 2004 legislation designed to shield Mutual Benefits from regulators, but what else might she have done for that half million?
The man who knows all the answers is, of course, Klenet, the husband of Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter. Stacy Ritter's husband. Klenet admitted in depositions that he directed the campaign contributions. So he's all wet when he denies the depth of his involvement, again, quite literally. In one deposition, Klenet said he would take his kids to Steinger's Las Olas estate and swim in Steinger's pool, cooking up plans.
"I would go over to the [Steinger] houise and sit there and we'd sit out in the back patio and swim with the kids, and you know, do those kinds of things and come out dripping wet and I'd say, 'What do you think about this,'" Klenet said of his relationship with Steinger.
More to come.