Today's arrest of Hollywood eye doctor Alan Mendelsohn, who raised more than $2 million to influence Florida lawmakers, came as politicians for state and federal office furiously scrambled to boost their second-quarter fundraising totals before the reporting deadline.
"You're always surprised at stuff like that,'' said Republican state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, who is running for the Florida Senate. "It's not something I feel comfortable talking about. He's a friend.''
In a rare example of his involvement in a Democratic primary, Mendelsohn raised money for a secretive campaign group tied to Eleanor Sobel -- the wife of a dermatologist -- that ran attack ads against her 2008 state Senate rivals, lawyers Tim Ryan and Ken Gottlieb. Mendelsohn is not named in the lawsuit filed by Ryan against People for a Better Florida Fund but was slated to be deposed about raising $50,000 for the group, Ryan said.
"I think the indictment is a reflection of the way he operates campaigns to do whatever is necessary to accomplish his goals...to have his candidate win at all costs and to pay little attention to the truth,'' Ryan said.
Mendelsohn was well known in Tallahassee, where he lobbied for legislation that would benefit medical doctors over less-educated and less costly healthcare professionals. For example, he pushed for legislation that would require eye-surgery patients to get follow-up care only from an ophthalmologist or licensed doctor, not an optometrist.
"His major play was at the state level,'' said former state Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach. "His biggest issue was that if you want to practice medicine, you should go to medical school.''