TALLAHASSEE — A well-known political campaign consultant and former aide to a Florida governor is tied to a federal corruption investigation touching the highest levels of state government, the Times/Herald has learned.
Stephen D. Hull, a Tallahassee-based lobbyist and consultant, helped establish a political committee whose records were seized by the FBI before Wednesday's indictment of Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a Broward ophthalmologist and high-profile fundraiser for dozens of current and former state lawmakers.
Hull, a lobbyist for the Florida Society of Ophthalmologists, did not return messages to his cell phone, office phone or e-mail. He worked as the press secretary to then-Gov. Bob Graham for seven years in the 1970s and '80s.
Two of the political committees under investigation — the Alliance for Florida's Future and the Alliance for Promoting Florida's Future — share a phone number or address with Hull's offices, records show.
An officer with one of those groups told the Times/Herald that Hull directed payments from its accounts. Both committees paid thousands of dollars in consulting fees back to companies controlled by Hull in Tallahassee and Georgia, according to records and interviews.
Hull is not named in the indictment, which accuses Mendelsohn of using those two committees and a third to illegally shuffle money to himself and his mistress, and to help pay for his children's education. Mendelsohn also told some committee donors — falsely, prosecutors say — that he was using some of the money to bribe state officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist.
The indictment refers to an unnamed "accomplice #1," described as a lobbyist and businessman who works in Florida and other places. The accomplice helped Mendelsohn set up political action committees and corporations to disguise the movement of campaign funds to Mendelsohn, his children, politicians and others, the indictment says.
The indictment casts a harsh light on the flow of special-interest money between lobbyists, political consultants and campaigns. The most sensational charge: that Mendelsohn steered $87,000 in illegal payments to an unnamed public official from 2003 to 2006.
In total, prosecutors say, Mendelsohn solicited more than $2 million from several unnamed donors seeking the doctor's help to influence legislation or quash other investigations. Mendelsohn, who faces 32 felony charges, has pleaded not guilty.