Over the weekend, Broward Democrats loudly complained about the latest version of the”phony” blue endorsement card. As REDBROWARD previously reported, the card is the handiwork of the long-winded Democrat consultant Dan Lewis. On Sunday, Broward Democrat officials denounced, “the deplorable campaign tactics of political operative Dan Lewis, Florida Democracy Project, and the attempt to mislead voters with the “Blue Card” slate.” Acting Broward Democrat Chair Cynthia Busch said, ““I want to make it very clear to voters that the Democratic Party is in no way connected to the “Blue Card”. This is an underhanded tactic that tarnishes the Democratic process.” Busch added, ” “I have no knowledge that anyone who appears on the card is responsible for the actions of Mr. Lewis. Candidates should not be unfairly associated with this type of behavior.”
Delighted with the modicum of publicity, Lewis claimed there was nothing wrong with his card. “We are in compliance with all rules,” Lewis told Buddy Nevins of Browardbeat.com. “I’m into transparency,” Lewis said. “Everything will be disclosed.”
However, State investigations dating back to the year 2000 show Lewis has not always complied with the law.
Eleven years ago, a Broward/Palm Beach New Times story detailed Lewis’ flouting of Florida elections law. Reporter Trevor Aaronson wrote, “[S]ince leaving the Miramar City Commission in 1997, Lewis has dodged complaints of unethical behavior, moved to Fort Lauderdale, and refashioned himself as the go-to techie for Broward’s political machines, both Democratic and Republican.” According to Miramar resident Sherry Abdin, “Dan Lewis was the puppet master of Miramar.”
During the election of 2000, Lewis composed a mailer entitled “Miramar Local.” The mail piece promoted his favored candidates while attacking their opponents, Mayor Lori Moseley and Marjorie Conlan. Lewis’ wrote, “Heaven help us all if [Moseley] is elected….We suggest Moseley is putting her political campaign and personal agenda above the need for excellent legal representation for all of our taxpayers, as usual.”
Lewis described Conlan as a “do nothing” crony of Moseley. He had glowing words for Conlan’s opponent, Fitzroy Salesman. Lewis wrote, “[N]ewcomer Fitzroy Salesman who has little or no governmental experience, is fiercely independent and will represent an important diversity on the city commission.. Most people believe the city suffered with Conlan for six years, its time for a fresh new voice.”
Just days after he was elected, Salesman was hit with elections violations. He was fined $2,566.62 for not submitting his campaign treasury report on time. Salesman claimed the notice to file from the City Clerk was, “buried in junk mail and other pieces of mail.”
(FUN FACT: In 2010, Fitzroy Salesman was arrested in a public corruption sting. He spent three years in prison. So much for Lewis’ “fresh voice.”)
One month earlier, the Florida Elections Commission [FEC] found probable cause to believe Lori Moseley’s opponent, former Commissioner Jim Cundiff violated election laws. Cundiff faced a $115,215 fine.The commission also found basis for two of six campaign violation complaints against Dan Lewis, who was Cundiff’s campaign manager.
The FEC found probable cause Dan Lewis “violated Sections 106.143(1) and 106.19(1 )(c), Florida Statutes, when [Lewis] ‘ published and distributed the ‘Miramar Local’.” FEC investigators determined Lewis failed ‘to mark all political advertisements as a ‘pd. pol adv’ or a ‘paid political advertisement’ and to identify the sponsor.” Investigators also found “probable cause to believe that [Lewis] violated Section 106.19(J)(c), Florida Statutes, prohibiting a person or organization from falsely reporting or failing to report information required by this chapter.”
According to the Miami Herald, “Political consultant Dan Lewis failed to label as a political
advertisement a 1999 newsletter that criticized Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley and promoted her opponent, Jim Cundiff. He also failed to report the $1,693 he spent on 5,000 newsletters as an independent expenditure with the city clerk.”
In March 2001, Lewis told the Sun-Sentinel, “I believe there is no probable cause. They will not find that I broke any law….I think these laws on technical infractions have to be revisited sometime.”
LEWIS ADMISSIONS TO FEC
In his response to the FEC, Lewis appeared to admit his guilt. His lawyer submitted this statement:
On or about February 25, 1999, Dan Lewis published a direct mail piece identified as the “Miramar Local” which was mailed to registered voters in the City of Miiamar. The publication supported the candidacy of Jim Cundiff~ who was a candidate for the office of Mayor of Miramar at the election of March 9, 1999. The publication also opposed the candidacy of Lori Moseley, who was also running for mayor at that election A copy of the “Miramar Local” is attached as exhibit.
The FEC determined candidate Cundiff had made numerous payments to Lewis and his company, even though Lewis claimed he paid for the publication and distribution of the pamphlet with his own money.
While neither denying or admitting guilt, Dan Lewis signed a consent order with the FEC on April 23, 2002. No fine was levied and Lewis paid his own legal costs.
Lewis moved on from the Miramar Local pamphlet when he came up with his blue endorsement card. A comment on a BrowardBeat story signed by Dan Lewis states, “‘The Blue Card’ by design and purpose is to advance democratic progressive candidates, and has been distributed in each of the last 3 election cycles including five (5) elections, including this one. It is neither illegal, nor ‘fake’ as the Sheriff Israel political machine would suggest.”
However State investigators may feel differently about Lewis’ “blue card.”
BLUE CARD 2014
Last May, the Florida Elections Commission (FEC) once again dealt with an investigation into Dan Lewis’ campaign tactics. The FEC unanimously voted to fine a company owned by Lewis for violations of Florida election law. The FEC investigation focused upon “blue cards” and “red cards” produced for the 2014 election by The Democracy Project, a fictitious entity created by Lewis’ STAR, Inc. In a 5-0 vote, the FEC determined Strategic Technologies & Research, Inc (STAR, Inc.) violated Florida Statutes sections 106.071(1) and 106.19(1)(c). Investigators determined failed to file expenditure reports and “deliberately failed” to include required information on expenditure reports.
REDBROWARD reported STAR, Inc claimed they solicited no funds to pay for the “blue cards.” The state believed they listed expenditures for $399 (just below a $400 threshold) instead of the actual cost.
In October 2014, Dan Lewis bragged about his “blue card” scheme to BrowardBeat.com. He said he was using the cards to oppose the Broward School Board bond issue. Lewis said, “It comes down to trust, and I just don’t trust the School Board to act in either a responsible or professional manner or neither should you.” Lewis claimed he printed one million cards, with 500,000 to be mailed to Broward voters. Lewis told BrowardBeat he would send the card to 750,000 email address as well.
THE ONE MILLION BLUE CARD MYTH
But State investigators found Lewis did not print one million “blue cards.” Investigators obtained invoices from Lewis’ printer, The Printer’s Printer, and cancelled checks. Robert Zelinka of The Printer’s Printer told investigators he had printed just 200,000 cards for Lewis. Zelinka said just 117,000 cards were mailed to Broward voters. On October 9, 2014, the company submitted an invoice for $12,499 to Lewis’ Strategic Technologies & Research, Inc. Lewis was billed $10,126 for 3 versions of “postcards’ and $2,373 for three different mail “drops.” This invoice was received one week before Lewis told BrowardBeat he had printed one million cards.
“COUNTERFEIT” UNION LABEL ON BLUE CARDS
State investigators also determined the “blue cards” were stamped with a phony union label. Many Democrat candidates display a union label on their mailers out of respect to unions’ longtime support of Democrat causes. In July 2015, State investigator Keith Smith spoke with Tom Schatz, a chief investigator for the Teamsters Union in Washington, D.C.
Smith had faxed a copy of the mailer to Schatz to determine the validity of the union label on the “blue cards.” According to Smith’s notes, Schatz said, “that after reviewing the copy of the union-label and asking around, it was determined that the union-label was definitely not theirs and was a ‘counterfeit’ union-label. He said it appears that someone ‘made up’ the union-label and ‘stuck it on’ the mailer.”
ATTEMPT TO FOOL VOTERS?
Did Dan Lewis hope to fool voters with a fake union bug on the “blue cards?” While that’s not clear, many local Democrats believed Lewis’ “blue cards” were indeed a dirty trick meant to fool Democrat voters. In early November 2014, Palm Beach Democrat officials warned voters about the cards. The Palm beach Post reported, “The palm card, called ‘The Blue Card 2014 Voting Slate,’ appears to target Maria Sachs, the Democratic candidate for State Senator (District 34) and Andy O’Brien, the party’s choice for County Commissioner (District 4), wrote the county’s party chair Terrie Rizzo, in a party email alert. The Blue Card lists legitimate Democratic candidates in other races, but for Sachs’ and O’Brien’s districts, it lists their Republican opponents instead — Ellyn Bogdanoff and Steven Abrams.”
“The cards are blue in color, sent by something called ‘The Democracy Project.’ The Democracy Project is the brainchild of a Broward County-based political strategist who has used the same technique in prior years to influence voters,” Rizzo wrote. “The purpose of these Palm Cards seems to be to confuse Democratic voters into voting for Republican candidates. Please don’t be fooled.”
In Broward County, the Lewis “blue card” listed Republican Chip LaMarca instead of his Democrat challenger Ken Keechl. Sources told REDBROWARD Broward Democrat leaders were incensed when party chairman Mitch Ceasar failed to rebuke the Lewis “blue card.” Now, Dan Lewis is the main consultant for Ceasar’s campaign to be Broward County Clerk of Courts.
LEWIS ATTACKS THE MESSENGER
Attorney Colleen O’Loughlin represented STAR, Inc in the FEC matter. She used many legal tactics to stop the investigation, including a claim that STAR, Inc’s relationship with The Printer’s Printer involved “trade secrets” which were confidential. O’Loughlin even urged the FEC to seek criminal charges against the Broward resident who filed the complaint.
BLUE CARD 2016
Dan Lewis continues to attack the critics of his campaign tactics. On BrowardBeat Lewis arrogantly boasts, ““I’m upset that these (critics) view the voters as being that easy influenced….I am overjoyed that The Blue Card added some excitement into the primary.”
NEXT: BUZZ SURROUNDING BLUE CARD STINGS CANDIDATES