Behind the Rothstein Auction: Artists and Political Operators

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Remember this Godfather 3 painting that Scott Rothstein kept at his doorway in the administrative corridor outside the inner sanctum?

Of course you do, especially since it was the inspiration behind the moniker of a hall-of-fame Pulp presence (Godfather 3). But guess who painted it... ah, you'll never get it. It was Patti Morse, wife of car dealer Ted Morse, who was both Rothstein's best friend and apparent victim, him and his family (including dad Ed, who actually made the money) having been defrauded out of more than $100 million.

I like Patti's painting. When I saw it during Kendall Coffey's tour of the office, I searched for it, expecting it to have come from a known artist. But no, it's the work of Patti, who is also somehow connected to a small Christian book publishing company.

UPDATED: The Godfather painting, I learned, sold for $500, not quite as much as the works of New York artist Charles Fazzino, an apparent Rothstein favorite, fetched at the auction. The Ponzi schemer had two pieces commemorating Yankee Stadium by Fazzino that went for $1,600 and $3,500, respectively.

The more interesting action, though, came on the political stuff. For instance, dark and devious Republican campaign operative Randy Nielsen was there bidding up on the Crist photos and other Republican-related memorabilia. I'm told he snapped up several items of that ilk.

Nielsen is an attack-ad specialist with

close ties to numerous state Republicans, including state Senate President Jeff Atwater and local Republican Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff. He's adept at getting money from big oil companies, Big Sugar, and other large and powerful special interests and putting it in 527 committees with names like "People for Fairness and Equality," "Floridians for Integrity in Government," and "Floridians for a Brighter Future."

More like "Committees for Cronies in Government." 

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I don't know if Nielsen has taken sides in the Charlie Crist-Marco Rubio primary fight in the U.S. Senate race yet, but another political buyer at the auction has. Miami developer Sergio Pino snagged the famed Crist-Rothstein "Scott You're Amazing!" photo for $2,100. What is interesting about that is that Pino was once Crist's campaign finance director.

So what's he going to do with it, burn it? Hell no; Pino was parading it around to the media after his purchase. Why? Well, he's flipped over to Marco Rubio and has cohosted fundraisers for the sudden leader in the polls. For Crist, that's gotta sting, huh? You think that photo might show up in some Crist attack ads?   

Speaking of the auction, the "Jewish Avenger" suit that former state senator and current Broward County Commission candidate Steve Geller had made as a gift for Rothstein was not put up on the block. Apparently, it was decided that most of Rothstein's religious belongings wouldn't be put for sale. I don't know, but that suit doesn't seem to really be about religion. More political than anything else (Geller told me he was inspired to do it because he loved Rothstein's stand against your benevolent Pulp host here). Rothstein, for his part, wrote a $50,000 for Geller's slush fu-- er, campaign committee, so it was a pretty good deal for the former senator until he had to give it back because of that unfortunate Ponzi business.

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