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Jim Stork 2004 cafe ads draw $30,000 election fine

Stork_2 BY AMY SHERMAN, asherman@miamiherald.com

Candidate Jim Stork baked up more than ads for pie and coffee at his cafes when he aired commercials about his business during his bid for Congress in 2004, according to federal election officials.

Advertisements for Stork's Bakery and Café were essentially campaign pieces paid for with bakery dollars -- skirting federal rules that ban corporate donations in elections, the Federal Election Commission ruled.

The FEC's punishment: a $30,000 fine, which Stork paid this month.

The bakeries, famous for their apple pie, lemon blueberry scones and coffee, spent about $112,000 for cable TV and direct mail featuring Stork during campaign season in the summer of 2004, according to the FEC agreement with Stork.

The ads, including more than 25,000 pieces of direct mail, were distributed within the 22nd Congressional District spanning coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties.

''I'm Jim Stork,'' the TV ad stated. ``Come find out why Stork's Bakery and Café means quality you can trust.''

Stork, who dropped out of the race with little explanation, told the FEC the ads were not political but were intended to coincide with the opening of his Las Olas location in Fort Lauderdale.

''The advertisements talked about nothing other than the bakery,'' Stork attorney William Oldaker wrote the FEC. ``They did not touch on any political issues, nor did they talk to Jim Stork's credibility or character.''

But the locations of the ads seemed to suggest that they were reaching out more to voters than diners. The ads included the Boca Raton area -- which is within the congressional district but at least 20 miles from the Las Olas location.

Stork and his attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

This type of violation is relatively uncommon because federal candidates are typically familiar with the rules, said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee-based attorney who specializes in election law.

''If you can use corporate dollars to do an ad that puts your face in front of the electorate you are circumventing the federal ban on corporate contributions,'' Herron said.

In 2004 Democrats rallied around Stork -- a former Wilton Manors mayor -- when he raised $1 million in his bid to replace longtime Republican Clay Shaw. But Stork's campaign mysteriously screeched to a halt, and he eventually announced he was dropping out due to an unspecified heart condition less than two months before election day.

Shaw easily won the 2004 race against replacement candidate Robin Rorapaugh. Two years later Shaw lost to Democrat Ron Klein.

Since then, Stork has not been a major player politically. He has donated money to local and national candidates and was part of the Florida Red and Blue campaign, which opposed the amendment to ban gay marriage voters approved in November.

Stork's have been popular eateries in Broward. The Las Olas location in Fort Lauderdale shut down a few months ago and still has a sign posted stating that it is closed for renovations during hurricane season. But an employee who answered the telephone at the Wilton Manors spot said the Las Olas site won't re-open.

Miami Herald staff writer Dan Christensen contributed to this report.

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