Bob Abbott walked away from a mortgage. But he can lend his campaign $600, and he can line up developers to do the rest. One developer in particular: Daytona Beach’s Mori Hosseini, who’s bankrolling $2 of every $5 in Abbott’s campaign under a variety of corporate names. A vice president in Hosseini’s principal company, ICI Homes, is David Haas, the former Flagler County administrator who oversees development for Hosseini in northeast Florida, including Flagler County, where Hosseini’s development holdings own properties.
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There isn’t much of a money race in the campaign for the District 4 seat of the Flagler County Commission. First-term incumbent Bob Abbott has raised $4,940 so far. His challenger, Nate McLaughlin, has raised $5,275.
Both candidates are Republicans running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and job creation, though both are in foreclosure and hold no jobs, other than Abbott’s part-time efforts on the county commission. That job pays some $50,000 a year. (Since no Democrat is running in the race, the Aug. 24 primary vote in this race is open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation. The winner will be county commissioner for the next four years.)
Similarities end there.
McLaughlin’s campaign is clearly more grass-roots driven. He has a total of 86 contributors. Overwhelmingly, the contributions are small, with many in the $15 to $75 range. His three biggest contributors: The Florida County Association of Realtors ($500), Jean Taylor, a real estate agent in Palm Coast ($500), and Gus Ajram, the automotive business owner now in Bunnell ($375). McLaughlin has donations from across the spectrum, including a $25 check from the local tea party organization and a $30 donation from Jim Manfre, a Democrat (and a former sheriff). The Clerk of Court’s duo, Gail Wadsworth and Tom Bexley, also donated $75 and $45, respectively.
Almost all of McLaughlin’s donors are local. His own contributions aside, Just $440 of Abbott’s donations, or 10 percent, are from Flagler County.
Out-of-area donors are nothing unusual in political campaigns. The difference in Abbott’s case is the disproportion of his out-of-county donors (it is, after all, a Flagler County commission seat), and the nature of his donors.
When his 11 local donors (himself among them) are excluded, Abbott is left with just eight donors. All eight are corporate donors, each giving $500. They are Hunter’s Ridge Residential Co. of Ormond Beach, England-Thims & Miller, a development project management firm based in Jacksonville, Bayard Consulting of St. Augustine, a company whose directors are almost identical to England-Thims & Miller’s, and then the four Hosseini companies.
Those companies are listed under four different names on Abbott’s campaign-finance reports (MHK of Volusia, Multilink Communications, Breakaway Trails, Venture Development Realty). But they’re all owned by Hosseini, according to filings with the Florida Department of State’s division of corporations.
When first contacted Monday afternoon about the developer-dominated donors’ list, Abbott said he had “no idea” why it was so. “That’s the absolute truth. There’s nothing that they’re ding that I know of in front of us, and even if there was, it wouldn’t affect me because anybody that donates to me, I have told them that that means absolutely nothing other than a thank you, which I’m in the process of sending.” But when asked about the dearth of local donors, he explained that during his campaign he placed calls to raise money from a few donors–developers–and got their help. “I’m not somebody that likes to go out there and ask people for money. I’m really not. But I did ask a couple of people if there was some possibility, he said.” “Developers need representation also. They’re not all bad people. I said this four years ago. I said everybody deserves the right to be represented.”
The incumbent commissioner said he would disclose the fact that he’s received money from developers who would appear before the commission–or abstain from voting.