Angry Pol: Campaign Consultants Are “Lizards”


Retiring Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is intent on going out with a bang.

With less than a year left in his term, the Über-outspoken Howard still knows how to shock. Imagine what a condo crowd filled with Democrats in Tamarac thought when Finkelstein told them earlier this month: 

“When Republican governors appoint better judges than we in Broward elect, there is a problem.”

The problem is campaign consultants and community leaders who will peddle any candidates for a price, he said.

“By and large, they are lizards,” Howard quipped.

Howard Finkelstein

What did he mean?

He said about consultants:

“They will support anybody for $20 or $30,000, regardless if they are qualified.” 

In contrast, judicial appointments are a two-step vetting process. The Judicial Nominating Commission and then the governor’s office vets each candidate before anyone is appointed a judge.

When asked to name a political consultant he thought would turn down an unqualified candidate, Howard said he couldn’t. 

After Howard was questioned about his comments, he followed it up with this e-mail to Browardbeat:

The Broward courthouse is “an institutionalized racist system in a very liberal county-where elected judges led the way in our disgrace…Quite an accomplishment for a liberal community.My point being the political consultants and club presidents are in it for themselves and con the people into believing they are voting for someone who represents their values when that is not the case.” (The bold-faced emphasis was inserted by

Howard didn’t name the judges or the consultants.

The Public Defender has long criticized Broward’s judges. He contends they sentence minorities and the poor to much longer sentences for minor crimes than white middle-class and well-to-do individuals.

Candidates with real Democratic sentiments would remedy the unfair sentencing, which Howard calls “racism.”

He was in full-rant mode at the Tamarac meeting. None of the candidates running to replace him have the outspoken passion and the ability to talk in sound bites that he does.

But just because it was a rant doesn’t make it untrue. In fact, much of what Howard said about political consultants, party club and community leaders is absolutely true.

Many are 100 percent phonies. 

They hypocritically spout platitude about how they screen candidates for qualifications and suitability. But in the end they will work for anybody short of Hitler for the right money.

In the case of party and community leaders, let’s label taking money for political support for what it is: A bribe. Bribing party and community leaders has been the rule for, ah, forever. 

Political consultants know that party and community leaders often are cheap to buy. 

A dinner. A gift to their kid’s wedding. A trip to Disney World. Even a basket of bagels. 

Consultants themselves are more expensive. 

They are guns for hire, plain and simple. 

They often shoot blanks, but so what? Win or lose, what’s the dif for the consultants They end up lining their pockets either way.

Philosophy is not part of the equation for many of these political insiders. Money is the driver and they will work against Democratic Party principals if it pays.

Just like Howard said. 

Everybody who has been around politics knows that consultants and many of the club and community leaders are political whores. Only Howard had the guts to say it publicly.

Maybe because Howard never needed the consultants, party hacks and community leaders to get elected. He has a ginormous group who know and trust him from his TV “Help Me Howard” segments on WSVN Channel 7.

Boy, will we miss Howard.

When Howard is just another gray-haired retiree sitting around the pool, who will have the guts to speak truth to power?

12 Responses to “Angry Pol: Campaign Consultants Are “Lizards””

  1. Chaz Stevens, Loved To be Retired says:

    Dear Dems in charge of Broward;

    Do you remember a few years ago when I was bitching about William Rankin? Truly a sleeze running for Florida CFO.

    Remember how I screamed holy hell … remember how you ignored me, as you couldn’t obviously blabber about my right-leaning ways.

    Unlike others in town who proclaim to be truth-hunter but are in actuality paid-guns … I want the right man or woman or fish for the job.

    Rankin sucked balls. Giant monkey balls. You knew that, yet you looked the other way, merely because he’s got a (D) after his name…..

    Buddy, doing the right thing has always been in short supply.

  2. Poor Howard says:

    I guess Howard needs to deflect attention away from the failures of his chosen successor, Gordon Weekes, whose campaign is floundering.

    Don’t worry Howard, iif not Gordon,Ruby Green or Lynch will treat you and your legacy with the same level of reverence and respect that you gave Al Schreiber when he left

    oh wait….

  3. Just Saying... says:

    This is not inaccurate or untrue. However, isn’t that why serious candidates no longer hire the old guard politicos and community people and can run their campaigns largely by using professionals who offer an actual quantifiable service? As Broward becomes more and more diverse, and the success formula for elections no longer requires the support of individual community people, the valuable consultants are the ones who could do virtually the same job anywhere. They run the campaigns based on scientific data, they identify and target voters. They are not reliant on paying small amounts of money to people who are believed to have an influence over voters and instead spend that money on targeted advertising — direct mail, digital advertisements, text messages and so forth.

  4. The Truth About Howard says:

    Poor Howard, the reality of your lack of legacy and inability to bring positive change has caused you to become a little unhinged.

    Howard for years, thought he was above politics and believed his solution was to write letters against those he felt were wrong.

    Howard, if you dont like the Judges, maybe you should have run good candidates from your office like you did with Betsy Benson and Mindy Solomon. In your want to do nothing like Al Schrieber, you missed the opportunity to use your office to bring about change and do more than write letters that were largely ignored. Heck, Schrieber was able to use the office to get Oliphant elected, you imagine if you had marshaled the power of your employees and supported candidates for Judge, they would have been quite successful.

    Why didn’t he do this? Howard is too scared to lose. His attempts to run candidates like Olga Levine against Luzzo amd Rocque against Ross were huge losses. One thing the insiders in town have all learned and said, Howard can get himself elected until the end of time but he cant lift the boat for others.

    In the end it is easier to just send letters the recipients will throw in the trash and then say “well I tried, everyone is a racist”.

    The other thing, finally, after all of these years, even Broward has become tired of Howard’s act, the little fella has cried racism one to many times and most are immune, since he has made the same argument forever.

    Howard, for once, stop blaming everyone else and look in the mirror. If there are racist Judges on the bench, then you are as responsible as the reptile consultants you call out. You could have used the power of your office to elect better Judges and you were to scared to do it. Similar to “they came for the (fill in black) and I said nothing”…

    The sad thing, after the election, the Office will not only survive you but no one will remember you fondly or even miss you. It will just be a little quieter without the incessant whining and letter writing.

  5. Out of politics forever says:

    Amy Rose is a good example of a consultant will WORK? for anyone willing to pay her price

  6. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Candidates NOT consultants win or loose elections.

  7. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @1 – Dear Chaz, nobody was going to defeat Atwater for CFO. Atwater was and still is highly competent, and CFO is just a technocrat position anyway. Atwater was easily re-elected, 59-41.

    But there’s also another William Rankin, and this one is far more interesting! He is the only known person to actually survive a fall to Earth from the top of a cumulonimbus thunderstorm cloud. It took 40 minutes from the moment he ejected from his failing plane to the moment he hit the ground. On the way down he got violently tossed around by huge updrafts and pummelled by rain and hail, and he got to see big bolts of lightning up close!

  8. Chaz Stevens, Pain in the ass says:

    >> even Broward has become tired of Howard’s act

    Isn’t he retiring? One could safely presume he’d win another term.

    And to your point about bringing change … I’m presuming you’re just plainly ignoring Satz on purpose.

  9. Chaz Stevens, Pain in the ass says:

    >> Amy Rose is a good example of a consultant will WORK? for anyone willing to pay her price

    We call that capitalism.

  10. George Brummer says:

    I don’t disagree with Howard Finkelstein, although there have been some exceptions to his characterization of judicial campaign consultants and supporters – too few perhaps, but some exceptions nevertheless.

    On the other hand, he apparently neglects to address serious shortcomings in the campaign process.

    How are voters to know which judicial candidate to vote for? Asking meaningful questions to determine how a candidate feels about issues before the public is a waste of time. Candidates can tell you whether they are married, how many children they have, what law school they attended, which branches of law they practiced, and whether they are AV-rated, (whatever that means to the voter), but all that doesn’t indicate how knowledgeable, intelligent or competent they are. And they are always sure to say they will always adhere to the law and that they are “fair,” a highly subjective word that can defined any number of ways.

    But ask about their feelings regarding a controversial issue – voting rights, religion in public schools, abortion, to name just a few – and the response, whether to a group or in one-to-one meetings, is that the canon of ethics prevents them from answering because, if elected, they may be confronted with such issues in the courtroom. Never mind the reality that such issues are never resolved to finality in county or circuit court, but would invariably be appealed to higher courts.

    So, how are voters to get the information they need to make a decision, if not from consultants, club presidents and other activists, all of whom may have their own preferences and prejudices? Finkelstein provides no solution to this problem, and unfortunately neither does anyone else.

  11. Matt Destry says:

    Buddy, you give Howard too much credit. Howard is a politician and, like any politician, he has an agenda which he is just as crafty in advancing as any paid consultant. His appears to incorporate a real antipathy towards law enforcement and, in particular, our State Attorney, Mike Satz, who is retiring at the end of this year after more than forty (40) years of public service. For many of those years, Mr. Satz has endured a steady stream of criticism from Howard’s soap box. I suspect that Howard’s attitude towards law enforcement dates back to 1987 when, inebriated, he plowed his Cadillac into a parked police car. Howard was not a twenty-something who lost his way, but a well-known member of the Bar with the reputation of a flamboyant litigator – an officer of the court. Howard’s arrest was big news. So were the cocaine and prescription drugs found in his car and the charge that he somehow obtained a court order to retrieve drugs held in evidence – drugs he was alleged to have pocketed. You need connections, cunning and real chutzpah to pull that off – facts that were not lost on Jeff Marcus, Mr. Satz’s rather reserved chief assistant who prosecuted the case. Marcus had him dead to rights and wanted convictions and prison time, but with the aid of a very skillful defense attorney and a nod from a sympathetic judge, Howard pled to probation, avoiding felony convictions, prison time and being disbarred. I wonder if Howard thinks he got his break at age thirty-four (34) because he is white and was a member of the Bar or if he somehow deserved it as he argued back then. Two things we know for sure: (1) Howard has frequently accused the State and judges of disproportionately punishing minorities; (2) Howard is not a minority. Have you ever heard Howard cite his own case as an example of disproportionate punishment? Howard got another break when Al Schreiber, Broward’s Public Defender at the time, took pity on him and hired him as an investigator. Howard began cultivating his image as a defender of the downtrodden, eventually succeeding Mr. Schreiber as our Public Defender. Along the way, as you noted, Howard became somewhat of a TV personality, appearing regularly on Channel 7 in “Help Me Howard.” Mr. Satz’s stoic forbearance over the years stands in stark contrast to Howard’s loud, bombastic pronouncements. Howard’s approach has certainly brought him much publicity and made him a bit of a local celebrity or, as you put it, garnered him a “ginormous” following many have been reluctant to take on – which brings me back to my original point. Buddy, you say Howard speaks truth to power. I would argue that: (1) what Howard speaks is his truth – that which is convenient to him; (2) that Howard is often the heavyweight in the fight and (3) that maybe you have a blind spot where he is concerned. You are spot-on though in one respect: Broward will miss Howard for the entertainment value.

  12. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    That voters kept electing BOTH messrs Satz n Finkekstein shows the voters have a sense if the absurd.