With his fraudulent viatical company Mutual Benefits coming under fire from state regulators, convicted felon Joel Steinger decided he needed to buy the influence of the state legislature. To do that he first purchased the people who had their ears -- the lobbyists.
We know that Steinger's right-hand man in his quest to buy influence was Russ Klenet, husband of then-state rep and current Broward County mayor Stacy Ritter. Also hired by Mutual Benefits was Alan Mendelsohn, the Hollywood ophthalmologist and Florida Medical Association official who has Charlie Crist's ear and the ability to raise huge amounts of money from GOP political donors.
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Steinger also scooped up Peter Antonnaci, another Crist appointee, former statewide prosecutor, and the state's former deputy attorney general. That's right, one of the state's top lawman signed on to work for a convicted felon and a company that had already been banned by five states for its fraudulent conduct. Oh, he also served four years as a member of the state's Commission on Ethics.
Rounding out Steinger's lobbying dream team was Will McKinley, the former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. McKinley is a former partner of Broward-based lobbyists Jim Blosser and Justin Sayfie who now works for the large Dutko Poole McKinley lobbying firm. Klenet names McKinley as a Mutual Benefits hire in a 2007 deposition.
Interestingly, Klenet joined the Dutko firm with McKinley in early 2007 shortly after his wife Ritter was elected to the Broward County Commission. While Klenet claimed (dubiously) to stop representing clients before the commission at that time, his new firm, and specifically McKinley, was hired by health care giant Vista to lobby (successfully) for the county's health insurance contract (on which Ritter voted). Klenet has since left the Dutko firm.
Small world, and when it comes to politics in Florida and Broward County, small and dirty. How a convicted felon and known con man was able to buy -- and you can bet he doled out well over a million dollars for his cadre of cronies -- a veritable Who's Who of Tallahassee heavyweights lays bear the amoral ethos permeating the state capital and county seat.