By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
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By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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Daoud concedes, "The romantic scenes probably got much more romantic in the retelling."
Even more tantalizing is his exhaustive description of political sleaze. Chapter after chapter describes how he pocketed cash and accepted "retainers" in exchange for favors or votes.
Among those whom he claims paid him off:
• Abel Holz: Daoud says the former chairman of Capital Bank kept him on a $1000-per-month retainer for doing political favors; Daoud wore a wire for the feds to help implicate Holz, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a felony. He served a month and a half in jail and four months of house arrest.
• Charles Hermanowski: He allegedly paid the Miami Beach mayor $10,000 to vote in favor of his cable TV franchise. When a federal grand jury indicted Hermanowski in 2001 on tax evasion charges, he fled the country.
• Chris Korge: Daoud claims Korge, who is his first cousin and an influential lobbyist and fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, tried to bribe him with $50,000 to vote on a hotel project on the Beach, but Daoud refused. (Korge denies the claim.)
• David Paul: The former chairman of CenTrust Bank wanted the city commission to allow him to build a dock for his 120-foot yacht. He agreed to give Daoud $20,000 a year in exchange for voting for the dock and garnering commission support.
• Egmont Sonderling: The wealthy broadcasting magnate gave Daoud $3000 for renovations to his Sunset Island mansion in exchange for attending one of Sonderling's parties. (Sonderling testified that Daoud approached him and asked him for cash; Daoud was acquitted on that count.)
Daoud says he almost killed himself after his trial. When he left prison, he felt bitter and depressed. He lost his Sunset Island mansion and his Corvette. His political cronies spurned him. But perhaps the most difficult thing for the loquacious extrovert: He wasn't the mayor. He was nobody. "I went from being the most popular person in the world to being ostracized," he says. "The lessons were very painful."
These days Daoud has gained some weight but still looks surprisingly young for his 64 years. He survives on his social security check, doesn't really have a job, and lives in a guest room in his daughter's house. He does, however, have a girlfriend half his age.
He still follows Beach politics, and this year's campaign was no exception. "Running for office is one of the most painful things in Miami Beach," he says. "As a candidate, you just give so much of your soul to the public."
One candidate — he won't say who "because of the baggage" — called him for campaign advice. "Take the high road, I told them," Daoud says. "Smile, shake hands, and meet the people." Daoud says that Jonah Wolfson ran a "brilliant campaign" — he slimed his opponent by claiming he had business ties to Cuba. (Daoud did something similar during his first run for mayor.) "Beach politics are still rough-and-tumble," he says.
As to the superclose race between Michael Gongora and Ed Tobin, which required a recount, Daoud was surprised at the nastiness. Gongora, a lawyer, was accused of being an unethical louse — with some justification.
But the top seat drew most of the ex-mayor's attention. Cruz outfundraised Bower by seven times, but she still bettered him at the polls. There were some claims of dirty politicking — minor misuse of a political action committee, "but nothing like in my day," Daoud says. Even though he voted for Cruz, he was impressed at the number of supporters Bower had at the polls on Election Day. "Matti Bower ran a phenomenal campaign," he says.
For old times' sake, Daoud drives by a couple of polls on Election Day before heading for Books & Books in Coral Gables. "Pardon me," he says to a clerk with a goatee behind the front counter. "Do you have the book Sins of South Beach?"
The clerk nods and picks up a copy sitting near the register. The jacket shows a cheesy, Miami Vice-style photo of Ocean Drive, all neon and glitz. "The author is actually a really good writer," the clerk says. "Just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover."
A grin spreads across Daoud's face. "Especially when it's written by a corrupt politician."