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Controversial 'Blue Card' raises political ruckus

Democratic Party denounce endorsements as deceptive

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Thousands of voters have received a "Blue Card" in the mail, and the endorsements-filled card has gotten Broward County Democratic Party Chairwoman Cynthia Busch up in arms.

"Based on the calls we're getting ... people are confused," Busch said.

Busch said the card "is meant to deceive Democrats."

The card, which endorses candidates from numerous federal, state and local races, was distributed by a political committee called the Florida Democracy Project, not the Florida Democratic Party, which has officially denounced the card headlined as "Official Democracy Project Approved Slate Cards."

"Nobody knows who's funding that card," Busch said. "Nobody knows what the motivation is behind that card."

The man behind the Florida Democracy Project is Dan Lewis, a veteran political consultant in Fort Lauderdale.

"Is the Blue Card a dirty political trick?" Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman asked Lewis.

"No, absolutely not," Lewis answered. "It's almost a tradition now in Broward County."

He said the card, like so many so-called "palm cards" handed out at election sites, is perfectly legal. He said that he put them out the past two elections with much less fanfare. He said his Blue Card was so effective in 2012 that it led to the Democratic Party copying him.

"I'm not sure that the Democrats have patented or copyrighted the color blue," he said. "This is a progressive card. They have disagreements on it? Terrific."

Coming out most strongly against the card has been Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has put out voter robo-calls and posts on social media denouncing it and claiming that Republicans are behind it.

One of Israel's opponents in the upcoming Democratic primary, Jim Fondo, is endorsed on the Blue Card, and Fondo happens to be a client of Lewis who has paid his consulting company at least $10,000.

Other Lewis clients, including Broward County Clerk of Court candidate Mitch Ceasar and school board member Robin Bartleman, are also listed on the card, but Lewis denies it's pay to play.

"There's no way for any candidate or campaign to buy their way on the card," Lewis said.

Lewis said the sheriff had no problem with his Blue Card in 2012 when Israel's name was featured on the top of it.

"He was delighted to be on the Blue Card," Lewis said. "Now, because he's not on the Blue Card, (he's) all of a sudden aghast."

Lewis said that in 2012, Israel campaign volunteers actually distributed thousands of his Blue Cards to voters. Israel refused comment on the controversy, but his campaign manager, Amy Rose, told Local 10 News that the campaign was not involved in distributing the Blue Cards in 2012.

While the cards do indeed appear to be legal, Lewis's consulting firm was fined $500 by the Florida Elections Commission for failing to report expenditures related to his 2014 card.

He said it stemmed from a dispute in the law and that it won't happen again. 

Further causing controversy with this year's version of the cards is that Lewis included contact information for a Hillary Clinton campaign organizer, Joanne Reichin Goodwin, who has also denounced the card.

Lewis said he was given the contact info at a Hollywood Democratic Club meeting with a request to distribute it, but admits he didn't ask for permission to put the information on the Blue Card.

"That's the one thing I regret," he said.