BY BUDDY NEVINS
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is getting some major GOP help.
Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein, one of the Florida Republican Party’s deepest pockets, threw his support to Sink on Thursday.
Sink wooed Rothstein during three phone calls and four personal meetings.
“You can not sit with her and talk to her without realizing that she is very, very bright and qualified,” Rothstein says. “I’m absolutely behind her all the way.
“I’m a Republican and I will back 95 percent Republicans in this cycle,” he says. “I’m backing Alex because she is the most qualified in this race.”
He added, “Sometimes you have to do what you believe is best for the state, regardless of the party.”
Rothstein says he particularly admires Sink’s more than two decades of business experience, which culminated in running Florida’s largest bank with more than 800 branches and 9,000 employees.
She currently is Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, overseeing 3,000 employees and handling the state’s financial affairs.
“She knows how to make a payroll. She knows the value of a buck,” he says.
By snaring Rothstein, Sink is robbing Republican candidate Bill McCollum of thousands of dollars. Maybe hundreds of thousands.
Not only is McCollum a loser in this transaction, but Sink is an unexpected winner. Rothstein’s money is GOP money Sink never expected to get.
Although Rothstein doesn’t criticize McCollum, he says: “Bill McCollum is a good enough guy, but Alex is a moderate, like Charlie Crist.”
The statement suggests that Rothstein believes McCollum too conservative to win the race. McCollum is very conservative, even for Florida Republicans.
Rothstein predicts he would not be the only Republican fund raiser to support Sink.
“You’ll be seeing a lot of Republican fund raisers holding events for Alex,” he says.
It would be hard to find a Florida GOP fund raiser as big as Rothstein.
Rothstein and his Las Olas Boulevard firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler gave the Florida Republican Party $476,000 in the past two years. He gave mostly Republican candidates another $13,000, for a total of $489,000.
That figure doesn’t include the 60 or so lawyers working at RRA.
For instance, state records indicate Russell Adler gave $2,500 to candidates, Stuart Rosenfeldt donated around $5,000 and Les Stracher and his wife Beverly, a Democratic campaign consultant, contributed $700.
Of course, Rothstein’s support of Sink won’t stop his lawyers from giving money to McCollum or any other candidate. But Rothstein is the 800-pound gorilla at his firm.
Rothstein would be most influential by pouring money into a third party committee benefitting Sink.
Committees lie outside laws setting limits on campaign contributions. Thus, Rothstein could donate any amount. His generousity would only be limited by the size of his wallet….and his wallet is huge.
The Fort Lauderdale lawyer, or his associates, have been connected to third party committees in past elections.
For instance, Rothstein strongly backed Sheriff Al Lamberti in last year’s election. Tony Bova, a Rothstein partner in a restaurant venture, put $150,000 into a committee which attacked Democratic sheriff’s candidate Scott Israel.
Unlike the governor’s race, there will be no surprise on who Rothstein backs for U. S. Senate.
Rothstein is close to Gov. Charlie Crist, the likely-Republican nominee. The governor benefitted from his support in 2006 and consults with the Fort Lauderdale lawyer regularly.
Laughing at recent reports that he might run for Florida Attorney General, Rothstein says, “You can influence more from the outside than by running for office. . . I have no desired ever to run for public office.”