A lobbyist who’s a close ally of Florida governor Charlie Crist has been indicted for allegedly orchestrating a fraudulent fund-raising and lobbying scheme.
Federal prosecutors say that Alan Mendelsohn funneled to himself over $350,000 from contributions to political organizations he controlled. They also allege that, in order to get around lobbying disclosure rules, Mendelsohn had his lobbying clients make $274,000 in payments to third parties — including tuition payments to his children’s schools — on his behalf.
Over the last decade, Mendelsohn, a Hollywood, Florida ophthalmologist, helped raised large amounts of money for Crist, a Republican, and is described as one of the governor’s closest political allies. He has also served as treasurer and chief fundraiser of the Florida Medical Association.
The charges against Mendelsohn go to the heart of his activity as an extremely well-connected player, especially on the fund-raising side, in Florida GOP circles.
From the Justice Department’s press release:
The indictment alleges that in approximately late 2002, Mendelsohn was asked by various lobbyists and businesspeople if he would use his political connections to assist their clients in obtaining and defeating legislation and in obtaining other favorable government action. According to the indictment, beginning in approximately 2002, Mendelsohn allegedly created a series of political organizations and corporations for the purpose of soliciting and then transferring contributions between the entities in ways that would be difficult to trace.
Beginning in approximately 2002, through a pattern of false representations and promises, Mendelsohn allegedly solicited and received more than $2 million in donations to the political organizations he controlled from persons for whom he agreed to provide lobbying and other services. According to the indictment, Mendelsohn allegedly represented to the contributors that their funds would be used for media and other campaigns on political issues of importance to them and to support political candidates. In fact, the indictment alleges that Mendelsohn secretly diverted more than $350,000 in contributed funds to his personal use and benefit through payments made in ways that were misrepresented or concealed entirely in required public disclosure reports for the political organizations. The indictment alleges that Mendelsohn used the diverted funds, in part, to purchase a residence and a car, to pay for tutors and tuition for his children, to pay his personal credit card bills, and to pay bonuses to an employee of his medical practice.
Crist, a moderate, is running for the US Senate in 2010, but faces a strong primary challenge from the conservative Marco Rubio.
More from the indictment itself soon…