Records for a mysterious South Florida political committee show close ties between Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief and several high-powered Democrat lobbyists. Active for less than a year, the “Friends For A Better Broward, Inc.” committee spent more than $36,000 during the 2014/2015 election cycle. Most of the committee’s money went to those who worked on Commissioner Sharief’s 2014 campaign.
During her bitter 2014 campaign against Miramar Commissioner Alexandra Davis, Sharief employed Rosa Mendoza as her “director of campaign operations.” Mendoza was paid nearly $14,000 for her work on the Sharief campaign.
Sharief paid nearly $30,000 to Mercury Affairs of New York for “mailers.” While Sharief listed the Mercury Affairs New York office on her campaign financial reports, she made no mention of Ashley Walker, the managing director of Mercury’s Fort Lauderdale office. Published reports stated Walker, a former Obama campaign official, was running Sharief’s campaign.
Commissioner Sharief paid $4,690.94 to Brian Goldmeier’s BYG Strategies of Miami. Goldmeier is a former fundraiser for failed gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. According to Saint PetersBlog, Goldmeier is currently raising money for a committee backing Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Last June, the Florida Bulldog reported Goldmeier, “expanded into heavily-Democratic Broward County where he’s in charge of enlisting political donors to show up at County Mayor Barbara Sharief’s upcoming $1,000-a-pop fundraiser….”
POLITICAL COMMITTEE PAID SHARIEF’S POLITICAL TEAM
Campaign financial reports show The Friends For A Better Broward, Inc. paid all three members of Sharief’s political team.
Rosa Mendoza was paid $5,000 for “field assistance.” BYG Strategies was paid $1,100 for “professional services.” A payment to Walker’s Mercury Public Affairs isn’t clear to a casual reader.
In July 2014, Friends For A Better Broward reported a $5,500 to “Mercy Public Affairs” for “consulting/professional services.” It lists Mercy’s address as “250 GreenWhich Street” in New York City. New York business records show no “Mercy Public Affairs” in NYC.
However, the Mercury Public Affairs website lists a New York City office located at 7 World Trade Center 250 Greenwich Street.”
TIES TO EVEN MORE LOBBYISTS
According to its website, Mercury Public Affairs’ Fort Lauderdale office is located at 1512 East Broward Blvd, Suite 101.
In January 2014, this reporter revealed several local lobbyists were sharing office space located at 1512 East Broward Blvd. Floridian Partners is located at the same address as Mercury Public Affairs. Lobbyist Russ Klenet, husband of Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter used the same office space as well.
Ritter’s 2012 financial disclosure form, filed June 24, 2013, was notarized by Samantha Senne, a lobbyist with the Floridian Partners.
According to Broward County employment records, Senne served as Ritter’s aide from December of 2008 until January of 2010. Campaign treasurer reports show Ritter paid Senne nearly $9,000 for “professional services” during her 2012 campaign.
According to State of Florida records, Friends For A Better Broward, Inc. filed corporation paperwork in March 2014. The official paperwork was notarized by Samantha Senne.
Broward GOP Chairman Rico Petrocelli’s attempt to place a non-BREC member on an important congressional district committee embarrassed local GOP leaders including the co-chair of the Republican National Committee. The move came at last weekend’s Republican Party Of Florida meetings in Orlando. Petrocelli, members of the new BREC board, State Committeeman Ryan Anderson and RNC co-Chair Sharon Day made up the Broward delegation. One of the major items on the agenda was elections to fill congressional district committees across Florida. Local party chairs and state committee persons can nominate individuals from their counties.
A printed list of Petrocelli’s nominations was circulated before the meeting began. However, once the proceedings began it was clear Petrocelli planned to abandon his list. First, he nominated Michael DeGruccio, the polarizing former secretary of the Broward GOP. State Committeeman Anderson nominated longtime committeeman Chad Lincoln to challenge DeGruccio. A vote by the RPOF leadership handed Lincoln a decisive victory over DeGruccio.
According to several insiders the real fun was about to begin. For the next opening, Petrocelli nominated an individual who was not even a member of the Broward GOP. In fact, this person no longer resides in Broward county. Petrocelli never disclosed this information. Only after the votes were taken did it become public knowledge. The nominee admitted to presenting BREC membership paperwork that very morning. The RPOF was forced to table the vote until the next quarterly meeting. Witnesses say Sharon Day was incensed that Petrocelli allowed Broward’s “dirty laundry” to be aired in front of the entire RPOF.
Why Petrocelli would pull such a questionable maneuver at his first RPOF meeting as Broward GOP chairman.? Some insiders speculate Petrocelli was attempting to curry favor with Florida Governor Rick Scott. The nominee in question has close ties to the Governor’s office. Petrocelli currently serves as chairman of the Broward County Housing Authority. Nominated by Charlie Crist in 2009, Petrocelli’s term ends this year. Petrocelli, a Crist loyalist, would need to be re-nominated by Governor Scott.
Others wonder if Petrocelli has come under the influence of DeGruccio. A longtime Broward Republican volunteer, DeGruccio did not seek re-election as party secretary after it became clear he had lost the support of many party activists. These activists were upset by DeGruccio’s actions during the November elections.
First, DeGruccio decided to ignore the Broward GOP endorsement of school board candidate Rochelle Solomon by issuing his our written endorsement of her opponent Abby Freedman. Ms. Freedman, a close political ally of Democrat Sheriff Candidate Scott Israel, used DeGruccio’s letter to convince voters that she had the support of the Broward GOP. Freedman ended up defeating Solomon and Israel beat Republican Sheriff Al Lamberti.
Then, during early voting, pictures surfaced of DeGruccio hanging out at a polling place with a militant Democrat activist. The photograph of DeGruccio and Michael Rajner was featured on Buddy Nevins’ BrowardBeat.com. Ranjer was behind the August 2011 boycott of Congressman Allen West. Earlier this year, Rajner revealed personal information regarding a member of State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff’s family.
Despite the outrage from grassroots Republican activists, Petrocelli named DeGruccio his “Director of Party Development.” The duties of this newly-created position have not been made public. It is unclear if this is a paid position.
After returning late Saturday night from Orlando, Petrocelli took to Facebook to thank DeGruccio for his “knowledge and contacts.” While he did thank Sharon Day for her “help”, Petrocelli never mentioned his fellow BREC board members.
This is the latest misstep in Petrocelli’s one-month reign as Broward GOP chairman. RED BROWARD previously reported on Petrocelli’s controversial plan to hold as few as six BREC meetings in 2013.
Maybe “the Chairmen” were on to something?
Local Republicans are working hard this Saturday for Mitt Romney, Connie Mack and local GOP favorites. Early this morning the Broward Republican headquarters filled with volunteers stuffing mailers into envelopes and making phone calls. Broward Republican chairman Richard DeNapoli emailed thousands of activists and flooded social media with a call to action. Over at Broward Beat, Buddy Nevins wrote how the Republicans are eclipsing the Broward Democrats under the lackluster leadership of Mitch Cesar (D-Comedian):
“The question will be if the Obama ground operation here — an operation that has remained largely invisible to this voter so far — can produce the big turnout that Democrats need.
Local Democratic activists candidly say they doubt whether Broward can deliver. The excitement is gone and the local party is divided.
Meanwhile, Broward Republicans are on fire.”
In addition to the GOP HQ, volunteers are working at the Romney offices in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.