Rubio won. If not for Lorenzo, the guy many are tapping as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate might never have gotten out of West Miami. Rubio acknowledged as much after becoming Florida's first Cuban-American House speaker in 2007; he thanked just two political mentors during his inauguration: Jeb Bush and Al Lorenzo.
Lorenzo's wins kept coming. In 2001, he guided Manny Diaz to Miami's mayoral seat. But his debt over the failed Overtown apartments never disappeared, and soon came back to haunt him.
The same year as Diaz's win, the city rejected Yuken's attempt to swap property to erase the debt. By 2005, Lorenzo's tab was $1.1 million. That's when Diaz's administration stepped in, conveniently transferred the debt to Yuken, who received another $1.2 million loan to build townhouses. (His pledge to repay the money remains unfulfilled today.)
Did Lorenzo use his political clout to eliminate his debt? That's exactly what the Herald charged in its award-winning 2007 "House of Lies" series, which slammed Lorenzo and Diaz in multiple stories and editorials. "I acted in good faith," Lorenzo insists.
The consultant has had other points of contention. Some opponents accuse him of dirty tactics — such as former Miami mayor Maurice Ferre, who claimed in 2001, when running against Diaz, that Lorenzo bombed voters with calls linking Ferre to hated Attorney General Janet Reno.
Other candidates blame him for expensive losses. In 2004, Joe Cancela paid Lorenzo $166,750 to get out the vote in a county mayoral race — only to finish fifth. Then, in the runoff, Lorenzo received $65,000 from ex-commissioner Jimmy Morales, who also lost. Lorenzo disappeared in the last week of the race, claims one consultant who worked for Morales and asked not to be identified. "No one could find Al," he says. "There was not much Jimmy could do about it either."
A similar tale was repeated in 2007, when Linda Haskins, who was running against Marc Sarnoff for a Miami commission seat, paid Lorenzo $152,297. Haskins lost, and one associate close to the race, who asked to remain anonymous, says the candidate wasn't happy with the investment. "He didn't do shit," the source claims. (Haskins declined to comment.)
Lorenzo scoffs at claims that he has run away from losing efforts. "I've been on many Titanics," he says, "and I've always stayed, even after we hit the iceberg." Haskins, he says, lacked the charisma to win: "She is a very good lady and extremely bright, but she was more of an administrator."
In recent years, Lorenzo has been tied to two of the most unseemly politicians in Dade.
In 2002, he was hired by David Rivera to win a hotly contested state House seat against venture capitalist Rainier Gonzalez. Four days before the election, Rivera slammed his car into a truck delivering flyers accusing him of domestic violence; he claims it was an accident, and Lorenzo denies knowing anything about the incident. But Gonzalez also accused Lorenzo of trying to sway the election through illegal absentee ballots, a charge Lorenzo denies.
Lorenzo was also involved in Rivera's most recent scandal. In 2007, he was hired to consult on an effort to legalize slot machines at parimutuels. That campaign sparked an investigation by the FDLE and Rundle's office into $500,000 paid by the owners of Magic City Casino to a company controlled by Rivera's mother. (Rundle and the FDLE announced last month they wouldn't press charges, though Rivera remains under investigation by the FBI and IRS.) Lorenzo, whose firm was paid $725,185 by the parimutuels' PAC, hasn't been investigated in the case.
In 2011, he consulted on North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre's re-election run, despite the fact that Pierre was perhaps the most indictable man in Miami-Dade County. During his first term, Pierre had attempted to give away the city's most valuable land, Biscayne Landing, to a firm owned by his former law partner; cruised around the city in a borrowed $100,000 Porsche without reporting the gift; given fake police badges to friends; and watched his nephew and campaign manager get arrested for allegedly accepting bribes.
Lorenzo still stands by Pierre, even comparing him to Rubio. "That's all nitpicky stuff," he says of the claims. "Andre could be a national figure one day."
This summer, Lorenzo's past — from Pierre and Rivera to the Overtown deal — could put Rundle in a sticky wicket as she looks to the consultant to guide her to victory in what could be her toughest race since becoming Dade's top prosecutor in 1993.
Over the past year, she's been under fire for botched public corruption efforts — including muffed chances to indict Pierre and Rivera, and a dropped charge against Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. For the first time, Rundle faces an August primary closed to Republican voters, who have traditionally been a base.