Give Money, Get Contracts, Part II

The Banana Republic of Miami-Dade County is a place where scandal doesn’t keep a man down for long. Consider the good fortune of North Miami Beach-based über lobbyist Ron Book. Twelve years ago, former New Times staff writer Jim Defede wrote perhaps the most definitive, and darkly insightful, profile on Book, who at the time had just pled guilty to four misdemeanor charges and was fined $2000 for violating state election laws. According to prosecutors, Book funneled more than $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions to various local and state politicians. Book really loved the article.

More than a decade later, Book’s unsavory ways haven’t stopped him from getting clients, including local governments.

He lobbies state legislators on behalf of 38 cities and counties, including Aventura, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Palm Bay, and Miami-Dade County. And he doesn’t come cheap either. For example, the city of Tallahassee pays Book $100,000 for his services. Miami-Dade County gives Book an annual $650,000. His private sector portfolio includes companies like Bombardier, Dolphins Stadium, Florida Power & Light, Flagler Dog Track, and Lincoln-Marti Schools. Representing so many clients, one would think that Book may run into a conflict of interest or two from time-to-time.

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Of course, Book knows the game well. In order to receive the pork, he knows he has to grease the pols. So I wasn’t surprised to see his name, his wife’s name and his daughters’ names on the campaign contribution reports for three county commission incumbents and Gwen Margolis, the former state senator and county commissioner aiming to be Miami-Dade’s first elected property appraiser. When you add them all up, the Book clan showered $13,000 on Audrey Edmonson, Carlos Gimenez, Natacha Seijas and Margolis.

This is the second part of an ongoing series profiling political campaign donors who do business with government. In case you missed it, check out the first edition.

-- Francisco Alvarado

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