State campaign records show the political committtee created by controversial Hallandale Beach Mayor Keith London is funded by local developers and casino interests. In July 2018, London created the 27th State political committee. Records submitted to the Florida Division Of Elections list London’s Hallandale Beach home as the address for the committee. These same records list Keith London as the Chairman and Treasurer of the 27th State political committee.
By August 2018, London’s political committee collected $25,000 from real estate developers. The committee received $5,000 from CBV LLC, $10,000 from Force Improvement LLC and $10,000 from RCL Construction Inc. According to State of Florida corporate records, all three companies are owned by Ernesto Benedetti and Maria Claudia Penas.
In March 2018, REDBROWARD revealed Benedetti and Penas contributed money to London through a shady political committee operated by lobbyist Evan Ross.
According to Florida Division Of Elections records, CBV LLC of Hallandale Beach made a $5,000 contribution to the Good Government political committee on November 24, 2017. During the 2016 election, REDBROWARD exposed the political committee was operated by Evan Ross, a staunch ally of Mayor London and Vice Mayor Michele Lazarow. Three years ago, CBV LLC submitted an “unsolicited proposal” to the Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to build a seven unit apartment complex on Foster Road. In order to build the “Foster Square Park” project, CBV LLC asked for 4 parcels of City owned land in addition to a $600,000 construction loan.
On November 16, 2015 Keith London and Michele Lazarow voted to approve the project.
DEVELOPER ADMITS PAC MONEY MEANT FOR KEITH LONDON
In a telephone interview with REDBROWARD, Maria Claudia Penas denied knowing Evan Ross. When asked why they gave to Good Government, Penas said, “For Keith London’s campaign.” Penas became apprehensive when asked who requested the contribution.
REDBROWARD asked if Keith London made the request.
“My attorney told us to make the contribution,” Penas said.
When asked for the name of her attorney, Penas said she did not feel comfortable discussing on the phone. She requested REDBROWARD come to her office before hanging up the phone.
According to Hallandale Beach election records, on October 24, 2017 Ernesto Benedetti gave Keith London a $1,000 campaign contribution. On that same day, Force Improvement LLC, another company owned by Ernesto Benedetti and Claudia Penas, gave another $1,000 contribution to London.
On September 21st, Keith London’s political committee received $10,000 from the Miami-based Hallandale Land Ventures LLLP. Records show developers Paulo Melo, Victor Ballestas and Nelson Stabile are the men behind Hallandale Land Ventures LLLP. According to published reports, the men are building Hallandale ArtSquare. “The 8-acre mixed-use project, on Federal Highway three blocks north of Hallandale Beach Boulevard, will feature six buildings, 358 rental apartments, a fitness center and resort-style pool. The 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space will be ideal for younger residents moving to the area and looking for a vibrant lifestyle destination, said Victor Ballestas, principal with developer Integra Investments.”
“We’re trying to deliver a market-rate project with amenities you’d normally see in a Class A luxury development,” said Ballestas, whose site was formerly a mobile home park. “We hope to pull in people who want to be near Aventura, but don’t want to pay the Aventura prices.”
LOCAL CASINOS PLACE BIG BETS WITH KEITH LONDON PAC
Florida elections records show Keith London’s political committee received large contributions from Hallandale Beach gaming interests. On September 4th, London’s 27th State political committee received $10,000 from the Gulfstream Park Racing Association. Two weeks later, London’s committee picked up 5,000 from the smaller Big Easy Casino on Federal Highway.
REDBROWARD has documented Keith London’s close ties with local gambling interests. In July 2018, REDBROWARD reported sworn testimony showed Keith London introduced his lobbyist ally Evan Ross to Gulfstream Park Casino executives. In early 2017, London and Ross gave sworn testimony to the Broward State Attorney’s Office regarding their roles in an investigation of former Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Bill Julian. London and Ross admitted leaking recordings of Julian to Bob Norman of WPLG. The Broward State Attorney believed Julian was the victim of a political dirty trick and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
The Broward State Attorney asked Evan Ross about Gulfstream Park and its related companies funding political committees he created to help London allies Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub during the 2016 election. The Broward State Attorney asked Ross about the people Keith London introduced to him. “I believe the first person that Keith introduced me to a Gulfstream was Alon Ossip,” Ross said. “He is the CEO of The Stronach Group, which is Gulfstream’s parent company.” Ross said he met Ossip at a community meeting hosted by Keith London at a Gulfstream Park restaurant in 2016. Ross said it was the first time he met anyone involved with Gulfstream Park.
Ross said he met Michael Fucheck, Gulfstream Park general counsel, at a City Commission meeting.
Asked about his relationship with Alon Ossip, Ross testified, “We developed a relationship. We stayed in some level of communication.”
State Attorney David Schulson asked if Ross discussed forming political action committees (PAC) with Ossip. Ross said he discussed Hallandale Beach politics with Ossip. Ross said, “[Ossip] was not the person that I dealt with when it came to discussing money, generally for campaigns.”
Ross said discussions about the PAC were with Michael Fucheck and Tim Ritvo, the COO of The Stronach Group. Ross said he helped form the Ethics Matter political committee which ended up “being involved exclusively was [sic] issues surrounding Hallandale Beach.”
Ross said, “Gulfstream funded that PAC almost exclusively.”
Asked why Gulfstream funded the Ethics Matter PAC, Ross said, “Gulfstream felt very strongly that they were not being treated fairly by the City Of Hallandale Beach, that they were being almost extorted by the city and they wanted to see a change in the way that the city was run.” Ross said Gulfstream contributed $75,000 to his political committee.
Ross said Gulfstream made contributions to other political committees he created including Public Service, Good Government, Citizens For Public Service and Progressive Principles.
When asked to describe Keith London’s relationship with Gulfstream, Ross said, “Commissioner London…had a reasonable view of the issues and just wanted to treat Gulfstream fairly.”
GULFSTREAM BACKED PAC FUNDED LONDON ALLIES
REDBROWARD previously exposed Ross’ role in shadowy political committees funded by gaming interests in Hallandale Beach.
According to April 2016 campaign treasurer reports, Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow received $3,000 from the Village At Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park and Orchid Concessions. Taub received the same exact contributions in September 2016.
In October, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub recorded large contributions from out of state gaming interests.
Just days before the November election, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub received maximum contributions of $1,000 from several political committees created by Evan Ross. On October 31, Lazarow received a $1,000 contribution from each of the following committees: Good Government, Public Service, and Progressive Principles.
On November 3, Anabelle Taub received $1,000 contributions from Good Government, Public Service, Progressive Principles.
Lazarow and Taub also received $1,000 each from the Ethics Matter political committee.
In his sworn testimony, Evan Ross said Keith London was Anabelle Taub’s campaign manager.
State records show Keith London’s 27th State political committee received a $1,000 contribution from Phyllis Lazarow.
LONDON PAC PAYS DISGRACED FORMER COUNTY COMMISSIONER SCOTT COWAN
State records show Keith London’s 27th State political committee made a September 2018 payment of $9,840 to the Sun-Sentinel. London does not list the required purpose of the payment. London does not list a purpose for the October 1, 2018 payment of $1,250 to Scott Cowan, a lobbyist in Hallandale Beach.
SCOTT COWAN SERVED PRISON TIME FOR CAMPAIGN FUNDS MISUSE
In the 1990s, Scott Cowan was a powerful Broward County Commissioner. Then, in November 2000, Scott Cowan plead guilty to misuse of campaign funds. The plea came just before Cowan’s trial was set to begin. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Cowan admitted to making phony campaign expenditures.
Buddy Nevins reported Cowan paid nearly $8,000 to his daughters for campaign work, spent over $7,000 on furniture and accepted a $25,000 contribution after he had been re-elected. “Cowan explained he didn’t know he was violating election laws,” Nevins wrote.
Cowan was sentenced to six months in prison. While on work-release, a Broward Judge refused to allow Cowan to work as a lobbyist. Instead, Cowan worked at a local pizza restaurant.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, “Cowan was an $80,000-a-year law firm business development director, or rainmaker, before his arrest for election law violations.”
As REDBROWARD a previously reported, Evan Ross’ Good Government paid Scott Cowan $3,000 for consulting fees in January 2018. Hallandale Beach records show Scott Cowan is the registered lobbyist for Gold Coast Companies of Davie.
Hallandale Beach election records show Keith London’s mayoral campaign received $1,000 from Gold Coast Advertising on July 31, 2018. On that same day, London received another $1,000 from Gold Coast Companies. Both contributions use the same Davie post office box as their address.
City records show Keith London’s mayoral campaign paid Scott Cowan for consultation. Cowan received $2,500 in August 2018 and $1,250 in September 2018.
During a July 31, 2018 Mayor forum at Deicke Auditorium, REDBROWARD spoke with former Broward County Commissioner Scott Cowan. Known for running Plantation political campaigns, Cowan confirmed he was advising mayoral candidate Bart Berger.
Cowan told REDBROWARD he was a friend of London and Ross.
Unlike Keith London, Bart Berger tried to distance himself from Scott Cowan. In response to our story, Berger wrote, “I do not condone what Mr. Cowen did almost two decades ago. Mr. Cowen is not on the ballot. Mr Cowan is not responsible for my campaign, I am.
Mr Cowan is not a candidate for Mayor, I am.
Mr Cowan will have no more input with me as Mayor than he had with Mayor Bendekovic whose 2 mayoral campaigns he was similarly involved.”
Why is Keith London operating a political committee? Why is Keith London taking big contributions from developers and gambling interests? Why is Keith London so closely allied to controversial lobbyist who appear before the Hallandale Beach commission?
Hallandale Beach voters deserve answers before the November election. Keith London is running against Joy Adams for Mayor of Hallandale Beach.