For months, Fort Lauderdale voters have seen signs and mailers touting the campaign of Dr. Ben Sorensen. Nearly all of his literature is branded as “Dr. Ben Sorensen.” At a candidate forum last week, Sorensen mentioned his mother was a nutritionist and his father did HIV/AIDS related work. Sorensen said he “spent a lot of time with them in the hospitals.” Could the average voter reasonably believe Ben Sorensen is a medical doctor?
There is a medical doctor in the Fort Lauderdale City Commission District Four race but it’s not Ben Sorensen. His opponent, Warren Sturman is a cardiologist. (Water Duke is the third candidate in the race.) Ben Sorensen did not go to medical school. He uses the “doctor” title because he holds a doctor of ministry degree from Amridge University.
According to its website, Amridge University, “has been a long time leader in online education. Distance learning is the primary instructional delivery system for all our programs and with that in mind we focus on supporting you from your first point of inquiry all the way through your academic degree program.”
Sorensen would not be the first politician to bolster his resume with a degree from an online university. More troubling is Sorensen’s claim to be an “independent voice.”
AN INDEPENDENT VOICE?
At the same candidate forum, Ben Sorensen claimed to be an independent voice with no ties to developers. When asked about ties to lobbyists or consultants, Sorensen used a popular dodge. He said he was his own campaign manger with a “team of volunteers.”
Last month, REDBROWARD reported on Sorensen’s ties to the controversial Fort Lauderdale lobbyist Judy Stern. In 2014, Sorensen was a Democratic Party candidate for the Florida House District 100 seat serving Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and parts of Miami.
Published reports from 2014 documented how shadowy political action committees attacked Sorensen’s Democrat opponent, Joe Geller. When asked about the PAC support, Sorensen told the Sun Sentinel, “I want to be the representative of everyone in District 100…not just the Democrats.”
In 2014, Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat wrote the PAC attack mailers were “full of lies.” He wrote, “These mailers were done by a group that has done a pro-Ben Sorensen ad.” Nevins wrote the same group behind the mailers had done work for Broward County Commissioner Tim Ryan. In 2012, this reporter revealed the close ties between Tim Ryan and Judy Stern.
Judy Stern signed a large advertising contract on behalf of Tim Ryan’s campaign for the Broward County Commission, showing Ryan was misleading voters when he tried to deflect attention from a campaign scandal by saying Stern “is not on my payroll.”
SPECIAL INTERESTS FUNDED STATE HOUSE RACE IN 2014
Despite his claims to be an “independent voice,” Ben Sorensen funded his 2014 State House race with thousands of dollars from special interests and political committees. According to campaign treasurer reports, Sorensen received $1,000 contributions from Disney companies including Walt Disney Travel, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Disney Photo Imaging and Magic Kingdom, Inc.
Would an “independent voice” defend south Florida over the needs of Orlando after taking so much money from Walt Disney companies?
Sorensen’s 2014 campaign received three contributions from gambling companies tied to Gulfstream Park. He received $1,000 contributions from Orchid Concessions, GPRA Thoroughbred Training Center and Gulfstream Park Racing Association.
Would an “independent voice” fight expanded gambling in Fort Lauderdale after taking contributions from the casinos in Hallandale Beach?
Sorensen received $6,000 from political committees representing Florida insurance agents. According to their website, the Committee of Florida Agents promotes “the free market concept in the Florida insurance industry though support of legislators who share that philosophy.”
Would an “independent voice” side with Fort Lauderdale residents if their goals conflicted with the goals of the Florida insurance agents groups?
Coincidentally, Communities First, the group BrowardBeat reported was behind pro-Sorensen ads, received thousands of dollars from the same insurance agents groups.
How does an “independent voice” get hooked up with shadowy PACS funded by special interest groups?
FORT LAUDERDALE 2018
Today, even though he claims no ties to developers, lobbyists or consultants, Sorensen’s Fort Lauderdale campaign has taken contributions from insiders tied to them. Democrat lawyer Mitchell Berger hosted a fundraiser for Sorensen. He received a maximum contribution from Charter Schools USA founder Jonathan Hage. Sorensen received a maximum contribution from Debbie Orshefsky, a prominent lawyer for local developers.
Sorensen’s campaign is using these contributions to pay for services from a Jacksonville firm with ties to the Republican Party. Sorensen has paid nearly $12,000 to The Whitson Group for consultation, palm cards and yard signs. The Whitson Group (aka TWS Technologies) usually works for Republican candidates such as State Senator Jack Latvala.
As Buddy Nevins reported three years ago, Democrat Ben Sorensen has a knack for getting money and support from Republican sources. In the 2014 Democrat primary, Sorensen was endorsed by right-leaning groups such as The Florida Chamber of Commerce, a builders political committee and a pro-school vouchers group.
“We need someone who is able to have their door open to other ideas,” Sorensen told Nevins. “We need someone who is not a line-in-the-sand Democrat. Someone who will talk to the other side.”
However, Nevins wrote that Sorensen removed signs of these groups from his website after he was asked about them. Nevins wrote, “But if Sorensen was so proud of the endorsements, why did he minimize them on his website after I questioned him about them?”
Was Sorensen trying to fool voters in 2014? How does a Democrat with an “independent voice” and “no ties to developers” keep getting money from Republicans and special interest groups? How does an “independent voice” get the support of shadowy political action committees?
Will any shadowy political committees support Ben Sorensen’s Fort Lauderdale Commission campaign?
Fort Lauderdale Voters deserve answers before the January primary.