Investigating Alphonso…Scott Keller and the Floridians for Family Values scandal

Alphonso_2

Yesterday I wrote of the investigation of HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson focusing on William Hairston, a friend and golfing buddy of Jackson whose receipt of a nearly half million dollar no bid contract is a focal point of the investigation. That post outlined the history of Hairston, a man who made a small fortune in the stucco construction biz using illegal Mexican labor. Hairston’s fortune turned though when those workers formed their own businesses and undercut Hairston’s bids causing his business to severely decline by 2005.

While the question of whether Jackson threw a contract to Hairston is a focal point to the investigation, evidence is emerging that the central figure in the investigation is the former“right arm” to Jackson and his deputy chief of staff, Scott Keller. Keller resigned from HUD in August amid investigation, ostensibly of course“to provide for his family” by returning to lobbying.

Scott Keller: If Past is Prologue

Keller

National Journal reports that “Keller played an important role in a decision” by HUD/HANO to award a $127 million project to a team which included a firm that owed between $250,000 – $500,000 to Alphonso Jackson “for past services.” Federal investigators are examining whether Keller aided Jackson in awarding that contract as well as another for managing the Virgin Islands Housing Authority to the close friends of Jackson. NJ reports that according to sources “a federal agent served a search warrant at Keller’s home in Alexandria, Va.” last month.

Like Hairston, Keller comes to this story with an interesting past, though murkier than Hairston’s somewhat hapless history.

In1994 Keller joined the Greenberg Traurig lobbying firm and rose to the director of governmental affairs at the Tallahassee office of Greenberg Traurig. If that name sounds familiar, think Jack Abramoff. Similar to Abramoff, it appears Scott Keller had a forray into the murky and ultimately illegal world of an Indian gambling lobbying scandal.

In April of 2003 theSt. Petersburg Times reported that a newly formed group with mysterious financial backing, called the Floridians for Family Values, was mailing out brochures to Floridians “aimed at derailing a Senate proposal to allow slot machines at parimutuel facilities.” The group was formed by lobbyist Cory Tilley, the former communications director and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush. Tilley refused to disclose the financial donors of the group. The SPTimes found that 2 women were listed as officers of the group. Tilley claimed not to know them. One woman, Robin Peraldo, claimed to have no knowledge of her name having been used for the group.

The SPTimes dug further into it anddiscovered Scott Keller…

Public records in Orange County indicate that Peraldo is Kathleen
Keller’s daughter.A brother, Scott Keller, is a lobbyist with the
Greenberg Traurig Law Firm in Tallahassee. The firm filed the
corporation papers last month for Tilley, using names supplied by
Keller.

That of course refers to Jackson’s future “right arm.”

Needless to say the group’s actions were not popular with interests who advocated for the gambling measure andseveral months later one of them filed a complaint against the group with the Florida Elections Commission, an action which eventually would lead to the unmasking, of some but not all, of the details behind the mysterious group.
 

The Unmasking

In August of 2004 it was reported that the Tilley/Keller group had been“charged with 13 counts of violating Florida elections law.” As a PAC, they should have disclosed who gave and received money, but Tilley had refused to do so and instead“filed a letter with the state Division of Elections saying the
group did not receive contributions or spend any money to influence an
election” so it should not be considered a PAC at all.

Tilley’s ploy failed and in October of 2004 the group was found to have willfully violated Florida elections law to the tune of 13 counts and $1000 fine per violation (PDF of Consent Order here signed Oct and filed Dec ’04)

It is the Florida Elections Commission investigation, outlined at the above link which details in part, though not in whole, who was behind the group.

Here’s how it worked. On April 7, 2003 the groupreceived a wire transfer for $160,000 from Chesapeake Enterprises. Then on April 9, $159,701 was wiredout to Advocacy Technologies. Similar transactions occurred on April 15 ($76,000 coming in from Chesapeake Enterprises) and April 17 ($75,120 going out to Advocacy Technologies).

Basically the Tilley/Keller group was set up to funnel money from Chesapeake Enterprises to Advocacy Technologies. The former provided the funds for the latter to do the work of sending the mailings and running phone banks… the aim of which was to“create an illusion of public opposition” to the proposed slots measure.

It would appear this was all conducted to further rival Indian casino gambling interests opposed to racetracks getting slots, though the Elections Commision was never able to prove the source of the money provided by Chesapeake Enterprises (p.5 footnotepdf

What points to Indian lobby interests? Well Chesapeake Enterprises is the lobbying firm ofScott Reed. At one time, Jack Abramoff’s chief rival for Indian casino clients was Scott Reed. (Aside-with Jack gone, the Indian gambling lobby concern was considered to be“Reed’s industry now.”)“According to Senate filings, at one time or another” Reed’s firm lobbied on behalf of the Florida Seminole Indian tribe. Further in August 2004, the St. Petersburg Timesreported in regard to the Tilley/Keller group…

The Florida legal work for Tilley’s committee was handled by Greenberg
& Traurig, attorneys for the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, Md., which
is helping the Seminole Indians build hotels and casinos in Hollywood
and Tampa.

So we find both Scott Reed and Scott Keller’s firms linked to the Seminole Indians and both deeply involved in Floridians for Family Values. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as to the original source of the money though my bet would be the Seminole Indian tribe. (More on Advocacy Technologies role can be found here–scroll down to “Dynamic Duo”)

All of that is a very long route for saying that former HUD Deputy Chief of Staff Scott Keller–the man at the center of the Alphonso Jackson corruption investigation–may not be the most scrupulous of men. His involvement with Floridians for Family Values would in my opinion not place him on my list of candidates for public service. And it is interesting to note that his HUD “nomination languished in the Senate” before he ultimately resigned anyway last August amid investigations. That Keller managed to drag his mother and sister into the Floridians for Family Values scandal shows some strange family values indeed. If Keller did so unbeknownst to them…well that’s just super sleazy. I mean your mother and your sister?

It will be interesting to see what comes next for Keller and the Jackson investigation…

6 thoughts on “Investigating Alphonso…Scott Keller and the Floridians for Family Values scandal

  1. emptywheel says:

    Great work Scout.
    Two questions. Any idea whether Keller is involved with the decision to get rid of the public housing in NOLA?
    And any idea who the HRI Partners and Development team–that competed for the NOLA contract–is?

  2. scout says:

    HUD took over HANO pre-Katrina. My understanding is all decisions are made by HUD. I don’t know what Keller’s role specifically in “the decision” would have been. Demolition of the Big 4 was announced well over a year ago and he was with HUD then.
    I haven’t been able to track anything down on HRI

  3. oyster says:

    I echo emptywheel. Great research, Scout.

  4. Eric says:

    Did anyone notice the first photo and how bush seems to be petting his little pet negro. That much condescending arrogance is sickening and disgusting.

  5. Eric says:

    Did anyone notice the first photo and how bush seems to be petting his little pet negro. That much condescending arrogance is sickening and disgusting.

  6. free says:

    I agree Eric ..ddisgusting it’s the right word.

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