Federal agents question Senate President Jeff Atwaterby Dara Kam | December 9th, 2009
Federal agents investigating the corruption case against Broward County political kingmaker Alan Mendelsohn questioned Senate President Jeff Atwater this morning, Atwater’s spokeswoman confirmed.
Federal Bureau of Investigations agent Brian Szczepanski and four others met with Atwater this morning for about 45 minutes, Atwater’s spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said.
They asked questions about the “committee process and structure,” Emhof said.
“We cannot comment as to the specifics of the questions, as this is an ongoing investigation,” Emhof said.
The agents from the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service have been poking around the Senate all week and have visited with at least five GOP senators, including Atwater.
Atwater’s spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof did not say what the agents asked the North Palm Beach banker about but others interviewed said that they were asked questions about former Sen. Mandy Dawson, Mendelsohn and other senators whom Mendelsohn had held fundraisers for at his Broward County home.
Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, spoke with four federal agents briefly on Monday. Sen. Paula Dockery said she spoke with two agents yesterday for at least an hour. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said he was questioned on Monday as well.
The agents asked questions about how committee chairmanships are assigned, Dockery and Jones said.
Former Senate President Ken Pruitt picked Dawson to chair a health care committee, an unusual move because she is a Democrat. She also became ill during the 2008 session and was frequently absent but Pruitt allowed her to remain on as chairman of the committee in the GOP-dominated Senate.
The investigators include a lawyer who works in the public integrity section of the Department of Justice in Washington.
They asked questions about how committee chairmanships are assigned and about Dawson’s relationship with Mendelsohn, who was indicted in October.
Mendelsohn was the chief fundraiser for the powerful Florida Medical Association and played a major role in channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to political parties and candidates.
The federal indictment includes the claim that Mendelsohn used three political action committees to funnel $87,000 to a former public official.
The indictment doesn’t name the official. It says the money was passed through an intermediary — also unnamed in the charging document — and disguised as payments for consulting services. The indictment details 10 of the purported payments, totaling $72,000 between May 2004 and December 2005.
The largest alleged payment was $25,000 on June 21, 2004 from “PAC #1.”