Follow the (Political) Money

Low-hanging fruit for federal investigators in the Scott Rothstein case might just be the political money.

The millions of dollars that Rothstein pumped into the political process was clearly a big part of the fraud. It created the image of Rothstein as the politically connected friend of Republicans like Charlie Crist, John McCain, and Arnold the Guvenator, among many others. 

You might even trace Rothstein's switch from lawyer to scam artist through his voter's registration. I checked with Broward Supervisor of Elections' Manager Mary Cooney today and learned that Rothstein switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2004, just before he went Ponzi.

Yes, the supposed belief in Crist, McCain, and Sarah Palin was of course just as much a hoax as everything else.

We now know that almost all the money he put into politics was stolen from rich investor friends. But what about his Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm partners, Stuart Rosenfeldt and Russell Adler? Rosenfeldt and Adler -- and their respective wives -- became high-rolling campaign contributors of epic proportion after hooking up with Rothstein, particularly during the last two years.

Accept that Rosenfeldt and Adler somehow didn't realize Rothstein's investment scheme -- on which he was an account signatory -- was fraudulent. Accept that they believed that Rothstein had somehow come up with the

greatest business of all time, capable of making hundreds of millions of dollars out of thin air.

Can you accept that Rosenfeldt and Adler had the wherewithal to pump about a million dollars into the political process between them?

That's an amazing sum of cash, people, and it came from a guy who before knowing Rothstein wasn't very politically active at all.

I have reported in the past that a former Rothstein lawyer told me that Rothstein regularly reimbursed $500 contributions to various campaigns with cash. But what about the big boys? What about Rosenfeldt?

Look at the state campaign contribution database and punch in Stuart's name; you come up with $113,729.80 in state contributions alone, including a whopping $90,000 to the so-called Common Sense Coalition, which was supporting sheriff's candidate Scott Israel. He gave the money when Rothstein suddenly became panicky about whether Al Lamberti, his first choice, was going to win. 

That's right, Rosenfeldt put $90,000 in the sheriff's race in one big chunk.

But that's just the chump change. He also plunked $171,000 into federal campaigns during the 2008 election cycle, the brunt of it going to the John McCain's campaign.

Let's not stop there. His wife, Susanne, a homemaker, gave $145,000 to John McCain last year. In all, she put $155,000 into last year's federal election cycle. Included in that was $9,250 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Hey, if the money's laying around the house.

Throw in another $10,000 that Rosenfeldt put in during the 2006 and 2004 election cycles and you have Mr. and Mrs. Rosenfeldt throwing nearly a half million dollars -- about $450,000 -- into federal and state campaigns alone. I haven't been able to add it up, but I assume his largesse in local campaigns might put him over the hump.   

And here's the kicker. They live in a modest middle-class home in Boca Raton assessed right now at $250,000.

I'm not here to pick on Rosenfeldt. What about Russell Adler? He gave $335,000 during the federal election cycle last year, the vast majority of it, again, to McCain. His wife, Katie, also got into the act with $126,900 in federal contributions, all of it going to the Arizona senator.  

Think Rothstein put a major investment in McCain?

You're right. Rothstein's own wife, Kimberly, apparently became passionate about Republican politics. She put about $103,000 into the last two election cycles, the brunt of it going to McCain and the Republican Party. Rothstein's dad, Harvey, gave $66,000 to McCain during the election. His mom, Gay, put in only a few thousand. Maybe she didn't have the stomach for it -- Rothstein told me, after all, that his parents were lifelong Democrats.

Rothstein went easy on himself -- he contributed only $139,000 in last year's federal election cycle that I can find. Of course, he gave more than $300,000 in recent years in state races to pick up the slack. And let's not forget the $538,000 Rothstein generously donated to state races -- again the brunt of it went to the Republican Party on behalf of Crist -- in the name of the law firm. Add those numbers together and you're talking about $1 million just for this paragraph.

(And again, we're not even getting into local campaigns here, which would surely add hundreds of thousands more, all told.)  

Then you have RRA general counsel David Boden, who (red flag alert!) isn't licensed to practice law in Florida. He gave $70,000 to the Common Sense Coalition for Israel. He also gave $4,800 to Charlie Crist's Senate campaign.

How about his uncle, Bill "Brock" Boockvor? Well, he too contributed $4,800 to Charlie Crist's U.S. Senate campaign on June 30 of this year.

Wonder if Charlie's planning on giving the Boockvor and Boden money back?

His chief operations officer, Debra Villegas, who handled Rothstein's finances and had an office in his "inner sanctum" at the law firm, coughed up $52,500 in the federal election cycle as well.

The list goes on and on. The point is that Rothstein pumped a lot of stolen money into the election process through a whole lot of willing vessels.

Now you hear all the election law violations are rampant when it comes to employers reimbursing employees for campaign contributions. Lobbyist Ron Book got caught running campaign contributions through his secretaries back in 1995 and just got slapped with a couple of misdemeanors.

So it will be interesting to see what happens in this case, which is unprecedented in its magnitude.

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